Tag Archives: Latvia

Ukrainians in Latvia

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Latvia despite somewhat far from Ukraine has always shared common connections with Ukrainian people. In the Middle Ages the Vikings or Varyags came down from river Daugava to river Dnieper to the Kievan Rus. The territory of Latvia and Ukraine were united within the Poland -Lithuania and the Empire of Russia. Some Latvians moved to rich Ukrainian lands to gain their own farming land. Many Latvian nationals were sent on military duty to Ukrainian lands. In the same matter the first Ukrainian people appeared in Latvian lands on 19th century.

Ukrainians served in Russian garrisons, students went to Riga Polytechnic Institute  and various specialists and teachers. According to national census of 1897 1000 people called them as Ukrainians, most of them were from Russian  army. On 1910 Ukrainian students  in Riga Orthodox cathedral held a church service on the day of death of the Ukrainian writer Taras Sevchenko. This became a tradition until 1940. On 1911 first Ukrainian national organization “Gromada” (Alliance) was formed. Despite being short of members it had its own choir, dramatic ensemble and support cash desk. On 1914 Tsarist authorities forbid Ukrainians to  celebrate openly the 100 birthday of Taras Sevchenko and the celebration was held privately at the Gromada office. Latvian organizations were invited also.

On 1915 the German army invaded the Latvian territory.  The work of the national organizations were stopped. Factories were evacuated and the Riga Polytechnic institute was closed. Many Ukrainians were  sent to Latvian rifleman battalions. After the February revolution of 1917 within 12th army stationed within Riga of whom many Ukrainians served, created their national organizations. The newspaper “Ukrainian voice”, the Ukrainian socialists-revolutionaries  (esers), and the Ukrainian Rada of the 12th  army with Aleksandr Blonsky as the leader. On May 6 the congress of the Ukrainian soldiers were held in Riga. A nationalistic goal was set to “Ukrainianaze” the 21 Corpus of the 12th army and send it to Ukraine. The congress ended with march trough the streets of Riga with Ukrainian songs.  The Rada worked until January 1918 when most of the Ukrainian soldiers came back to homeland.

On November 20 1917 in Kiev the Ukrainian Peoples Republic was proclaimed. Ukrainians tried to make contacts with Latvian counterparts. From 1919 to 1921 a diplomatic and consular connections between UPR and the Republic of Latvia were established.  On September 1 1919 the UPR  Consulate in Riga begun its work. Consulate supported the Ukrainian refugees. Also the Ukrainian as well as Belorussian Peoples Republic citizenship served as a loophole for some who wanted to avoid serving in the Latvian army during the War for Freedom. Both national countries did not survive the Russian Civil War. In result on August 3 1921 a treaty with the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic recognizing its sovereignty was established.  The treaty regulated the exchange of refugees and disregard any other form of government within Ukrainian SSR. Therefore all relations with UPR were canceled and their citizens within Latvia had to find a new citizenship. Ukraine was divided between Soviet Union, Poland and Romania.

Ukrainians in Poland had uneasy relations with the nationalist minded Polish government, in Romania the existence of the Ukrainian minority was officially denied. In Soviet Union at first the politics were quite friendly towards Ukrainian language, but after start of the Stalin’s collectivization it turned into national genocide or Holodomor killing at least 5 million people.

Latvia meanwhile has its one of the most liberal national minority policies. Jews, Germans, Russians and others enjoyed an autonomy in their schools and took part in politics. On 1925 there were 512 Ukrainians, on 1930 – 1629 and on 1935 1844. Most lived in Daugavpils district – 166, at Rezekne district and Liepaja 90. The rise of the Ukrainian numbers can be explained by the fact that first national census of 1920 counted Russians, Belorussians and Ukrainians together as Russians, and also many who before were unaware of their nationality counted themselves as Ukrainians.

In contrary to vast masses of Russian and Belorussian peasants, the Latvian Ukrainians were city dwellers and middle class citizens. Most of them not born in Latvia, with good education worked as businessman and state employees. Some took important posts within Latvian Army like Captain Vladimir Romachenko in Topographical department. Andrei Cibulsky from 1919-1935 was deputy of the chief of the Riga Police District. Before 1934 some Ukrainians took part in Latvian politics, Latvian Tuberculosis hospital nurse Olga Markovich was active within Latvian Social Democratic Workers party, while Lubova Lejiņa within Latvian Farmers Party. Retired Riga District Court chief executive joined the Democratic Center on 1932. Some Ukrainian intellectuals like Jakub Kastiluk worked with the Belorussian culture society “Batyakaushina” and took lessons in the Belorussian schools.

From 1921 to 1922 the Ukrainian political refugee – emigrant committee was  established but closed after the pressure from the Latvian Ministry of Interior Affairs. On 1932 a “Latvian-Ukrainian society”was established by Ukrainian nationals mostly business owners.  On 1938 it had 111 members. On 1934 it established library and organized culture events. At the end of the 3oies the Latvian authorities wanted to limit the number of the national organizations and requested to join it with “Cultural contacts establishment with the nations in USSR”. It was never done as after the Soviet invasion the society was closed.

Soviet power restricted Ukrainian national life as much as other national minorities were repressed. On August 6 1940 the former leader of the Ukrainian political refugees Maxim Didikovsky and other past UPR representatives were arrested. Most people who had some connection with UPR were sent to Siberia or executed.

On 1943 Nazi German occupation made local cenus and counted 11339 Ukrainians within  Latvia part of Ostland. The sharp increase was made because of deported Soviet prisoners of war and people sent on compulsory  work. Nazi occupation had no special policy towards Ukrainians due to their small numbers. Captain V Romachenko on 1941 joined the anti-soviet partisans within Ventspils to fight against Red Army. Pyotr Abramchenko was one of the first to join self-defense unit to assist German invaders. It was because of the common belief that Germans will give back independence both to Ukraine and Latvia. Many Ukrainians were mobilized in Latvian Waffen SS Legion. At least 549 Soviet Ukrainian POW’s joined or were forced to join the German Army support service. Some Ukrainians took part in Soviet underground resistance.

During the Soviet occupation the amount of Ukrainians sharply increased. On 1959 294, 4 thousand, on 1989 92, 1 thousand making them 3,5% of the Latvian SSR population. This was because of the unrestricted immigration boosted by forced industrialization.  Ukraine was devastated by Stalin’s genocide and WW2. Those who came from Eastern Ukraine deeply affected by Russification could not speak Ukrainian and only added to massive amounts of “Russian speakers” in Latvia.   The Russification of the Ukrainians, Belarusians and Jews disguised as creation of “unified Soviet nation” with one common Latvian language left deep scars within Latvian society.

However, already on  1988 as the independence movement started the Latvian Ukrainian national cultural society “Dņipro” was founded. With the leadership of Viktor Prudiss and Volodomir Stroy the society had 300 members. The politically active Ukrainians joined in society “Slavutich” and the Ukraine patriotic organization “RUH” Riga branch for the first time in Soviet Union went to streets with the Ukrainian blue and yellow banner. The flag of Ukraine first flew in Riga before it appeared in Kiev.

Despite that large parts of the Latvian Ukrainians did not support the Latvian independence, 8 elected Ukrainian nationals within Latvian Supreme Soviet ranked with communists in who voted against the Declaration of the restoration of the independence. After 1991 24 thousand Ukrainians left Latvia for Ukraine and Russia. Ukrainian integration in Latvian democratic society was obstructed by the fact that large part of them became non-citizens. At first Ukrainian organizations made mistakes by cooperating with pro-Kremlin political parties. Gradually the connection with Latvia was established however it caused rift within Ukrainians as many still supported pro-Kremlin opposition. On 2006 the many Ukrainian national    organizations joined within Union of Ukrainian Societies. On 2012 the Latvian Ukrainian Congress was formed as part of the World and European Ukrainian congress.

According to 2011 national census 45 798 Ukrainians are living in Latvia. However, only 1 774 people are using the Ukrainian language at  their homes. That means that most of them use Russian language as the size of the Russian speakers greatly exceeds the size of the ethnic Russians. Many Ukrainians have very loose national identity and are still part of former “Soviet nation” with different national outlook. However, in last 20 years the connections with independent Ukraine has greatly increased. During the events in Ukraine the Latvian Ukrainian society and the Ukrainian Congress organized many support actions and showed support towards Ukrainian revolution. On March 2 2014 after Russian invasion in Ukraine the Ukrainian society organized anti-war protest gathered about thousand people most of them Latvians. This is a sign of a Ukrainian national revival and great support from Latvian society. As mainland Ukraine is under foreign invasion the more support and unity between Latvians and Ukrainians is essential to  the survival of the both nations.

Selected Sources:

Jēkabsons, Ēriks. (2007) Ukraiņi Latvijā 19. gadsimta beigās – 1988. gadā. //Mazākumtautības Latvijā. Vēsture un tagadne. Rīga. 2007.

Dribins Leo (2007) Ukraiņi atjaunotajā Latvijas republikā. //Mazākumtautības Latvijā. Vēsture un tagadne. Rīga. 2007.

http://ukrlatvian.lv/%D0%BE%D1%83%D1%82%D0%BB/

http://www.ukrkongress.lv/lv/

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Latvia and the New Cold War

Caricature by Gatis Šlūka

Caricature by Gatis Šlūka

On 1985 when Mikhail Gorbachev started his perestroika policy few could imagine that after few years we will live again in independent state of Latvia. And after some 20 years again few could imagine that we are heading towards new kind of Soviet Union. The president of Russia has fully exposed his covertly long run anti-western agenda by annexing Crimea and unleashing a rhetoric of confrontation. We are entering an era of instability and security chaos possibly resulting in war. To answer who is to blame for this? We all by our own.

When Soviet Union collapsed on 1991 the new government by Boris Yeltsin was unable or unwilling to make cardinal revolutionary changes not just in Russian economy, but within every aspect of Russian society. The old soviet elite kept their position the so-called nomenklatura adapted to  new “wild capitalism” environment. In result an oligarchy controlling Kremlin politics  appeared that made the things the old soviet ways and were above anyone else. Truly a shock reform policy was needed to switch to free market economy, but in society with less experience of free market policy the reforms served only small part of the society. A shock reforms were needed in Russian political ranks- complete de-sovietization – where all forms of communist parties are forbidden, the communist rule is condemned and unmasked at full-scale. Instead for many the collapse of the Soviet Union was a major geopolitical disaster not a beginning of the liberation for the Russian people.

An important thing that was not achieved was the shake up or even liquidation of the KGB – the Soviet Secret Service. Also old soviet army leaders kept its positions. The KGB a guardian of the Soviet power did everything to save USSR from collapse even 1991 August coup. After it was shamefully divided as Federal Security Service (FSB) and the External Intelligence Service (SVR) its employees were scared of being persecuted or fired. But Boris Yeltsin administration did nothing – on 1993 Yeltsin brutally crushed his political opponents with tanks and year later started war in Chechnya against  national separatists. True the 1993 White House defenders waved Red Banners and Chechnya separatists used terrorist tactics, but this again made the Russian security services on the top. Yeltsin was dependent on so-called siloviks – the security elite and the oligarhs and to gain his reelection a lot of he had to sacrifice. On 2000 to keep his family safe from corruption charges he had to succumb to security elite and choose Vladimir Putin a ex KGB agent his new successor.

We may say that Putin has no personality and he seemed plain and shallow. So they spoke the same about Stalin and Hitler. What he and his close KGB veterans wanted is to regain the lost legacy of the KGB and the Soviet army. They did not believe that the collapse of the Soviet union was a result of the peoples will for freedom and democracy – no it was done by the western secret agencies and shallowly forces of the western capital elite. Putin on 1996 in TV interview had warned about the dangers of over powered security apparatus as a threat to civil liberties. Now he was working to prove this.

Meanwhile the Western world looked at Russia with either amusement or positive interest. Some political annalists like Francis Fukuyama rote major books about the end of the history, where the whole world will turn to liberal democracies and reach greatest progress. The US president George Bush issued a time of the New World Order where US will take the leading part. Instead the 1990ies were marked strong US will for isolationism. US Democrat President Bill Clinton wanted to avoid the direct force of the US military. In result the failed military actions  in Somalia and Afghanistan showed the Islamic radicals that US is vulnerable to  attack. US still had abnormal fears about Russia, based on the lack of insight and understanding. Both US and EU wanted from the former soviet countries to do things they were unable off. The point made by Samuel Huntington that eastern countries can successfully modernize, but not necessarily westernize became the ultimate reality. Macdonalds in Moscow, Russians riding German BMW’s and using Microsoft Windows did not change the fact that Russian politics are still ruled by ex-soviet elite. Who also modernized – mansions in UK and Italy, children in western schools, but the same old anti-western view.

When on 2000 Putin came to power his hands were still too short on establishing a dictatorship. Russia still had economic problems from the economic default. But, after 2001 9/11 the oil and gas price started to rise up. When the Republican administration in contrast to light democrats unleashed two full-scale wars in Middle East the oil prices skyrocketed. An invasion in Iraq proved to be unnecessary and poorly planned in the spirit of the Neo-Conservative Tom Clancy novel thinking where US forces easily crushes the enemy and makes democracy failed. But, it was a gift to crisis driven Russia, dependent on  oil and gas exports. It worked for Leonid Brezhnev once and it worked for Putin also- oil price boosted economic growth gained within Russian people. Also the restarted war with Chechnya allowed the FSB to start attacking free press and civil liberties. In the same manner as Stalin purged the members of the Leningrad elite and replaced them with his friends from Tsaritsina front, the Putin purged the Yeltsin supported oligarchs like Berezovsky and Mikhail Khodorkovsky.   Using the legal nihilism – the abuse of laws, Kremlin elite took over nearly all TV, Printed press and radio. However, the old soviet elite underestimated the power of the Russian internet. By capitalizing on oil and gas companies the Putin regime made an authoritarian regime with formal elections and opposition.

At first such situation was ideal for restoration of the Soviet Union. However, Russia was unable to prevent NATO military intervention former Yugoslavia and the collapse of the pro-Moscow regimes in Georgia, Kirghistan and Ukraine.  We can speculate that the western countries did funded the opposition and made foreign funded NGO’s. But, when Russia indiscreetly funds pro-Kremlin movements in post soviet countries and install many pro-Russia NGO’s its described as “brotherly support”. On 1920-1939 the Communist Internationale  made a network of communist parties and legal cover movements within Europe and US looking to overthrow the capitalist governments. And after 1991 the same was done in the name of the Russian speakers outside Russia. This scheme worked in Kazakhstan, Armenia and Belarus. But, it failed in Ukraine on 2004 where large part of people with education and modern outlook managed to prevent ex gangster from Donetsk Viktor Yanukovych to take power. But, according to Kremlin it was not the general will of the people it was the US dollars that caused this. According to soviet leader the people are not supposed to stand against the ruler and are to week to decide themselves.  But, such thinking is generally wrong. If the large numbers of people are ready to stand against tyranny and injustice, support from abroad only boost their will. But, the will to fight against injustice is made by the one who creates injustice.

On 2008 Putin and Medvedev devised a plan to punish Georgia for wanting to join EU and NATO. By making provocations Georgia was pushed into war and lost large part of their territories. But, the goal to cause the downfall of the Georgian government failed. And even the new Georgian leadership has not changed its goal to join EU one bit.

2008 war should had opened the western eyes. Instead last year president of US George Bush who knew the Putin’ s soul only managed to stop Russians from advancing Tbilisi by sending US fleet and the French president Nicola Sarkozy sacrificed Abhazia and South Ossetia to Putin.  The new democrat US president Barack Obama who again tried to make a soft appeasing effort only showed to Russia his weakness and ignorance. First by failing to understand that Medvedev is only de facto ruler of Russia and avoiding Putin, then issuing a “reset” policy. Barack Obama policy was more inclined towards Middle East and the Arab Spring failing to understand the heavy Russian involvement there. Russia was interested in both keeping the Arab dictators and both in disorder as it continually boosted the oil prices. The extensive support for Iran and Syria is needed to keep US in the Middle East as long as possible and have a free hand on the Eastern Europe.

And now we came to Latvia. What Latvian elite and society has done to understand the Kremlin threat. As a country with largest Russian speaker population and Soviet armed forces until 1994, Latvia juggled between harsh nationalistic policies and liberal multiculturalism. In such way the great divide was done within Latvians and Russian speakers and within Latvians themselves who were divided in national conservatives and liberals. Such political divide has kept until this day. While Latvian political elite has successfully managed to prevent from pro-Kremlin forces to take power, the inner struggle has weakened the Latvian political elite. In result a constantly unstable right-wing coalition in contrast to unified pro-Kremlin opposition. Many Latvian parties no longer serve their names they hold. Reform party made no real reforms, Unity failed to unify Latvian politics and the National Alliance serves against the national interests. Green Farmers serves the interests of oligarchs and various radical sectarian movements on both sides only adds to struggle. Latvia is a “small Ukraine” with divided society, corrupt ineffective administrative bureaucratic apparatus  and weakened army.

 In such situation when Kremlin uses force against its neighbors what will happen to Latvia? It’s a rather interesting that despite such divide we have managed to avoid violent outbursts like in 2006 Estonia. But, then again Estonia is a step forward in national policy than Latvia. Latvian army devoid of basic APC’s, airfield still in construction and most of the focus on missions in Iraq and Afghanistan can protect its own citizens. It  always strikes me when on national parade Latvian infantry marches on desert camouflage uniforms – if according to some officials Latvian Army only is needed for missions in the Middle East and Africa then they are at least incompetent. In case of invasion can we only relay on Estonia, Lithuania and Poland and far away NATO forces? But, can our neighbors relay on us? And can our soldiers and people relay on politicians some of them who have very doubtful political views that will make appropriate decisions in case of emergency? These questions are very serious.

US, EU and Latvia must place end to wishful thinking  and deception. Russian investments have overfilled the capital of the UK Londongrad (London) and reached the Westminster palace. Brussels and Strasbourg is full of Russian agents. The sacrifices must be made to prevent further KGB regime advance to Western Europe. Today it is Russian bribes in Paris, tomorrow it will be tanks marching trough the Arc of Triumphe.  The Crimea, Kharkiv and Riga are not that far. A mobilization of society like in Cold War against the common threat against the western values are vital to our survival.

Now about the “common Russian threat”. No the whole Russian nation are not our enemies. Large masses marched in Moscow to protest against the invasion in Crimea. Russia has growing large educated society who wants to enjoy the same way of life as in EU and the US. No doubt that even without the EU and US sanctions Russia will face great economic difficulties. And these people will not want to give away their personal freedoms and money to regime willing to reset to Cold War. The civil resistance against the shallow and old-fashioned neo soviet regime is needed to be supported by Latvia, US and EU. And countries like Ukraine and Belarus that are on the frontline of the new iron curtain requires or support to gain freedom from pro-Kremlin thug regimes. The Putin’s policy of mixing Third Rome idea with Soviet imperialism leads Russia and its neighbors in to collapse. So for next years to come Russia, Ukraine and the Baltic states should and will became the field of struggle between new forces of democracy and personal choice and old forces of totalitarian regimes and collectivism.

We are living in times of great changes. It is our personal responsibility in  every way big or small to take part in these changes, and work for the benefit of the free world. The first Cold War was a fundamental fight between two political systems. This New Cold War is a fundamental fight  to defend what had conquered many years ago and prevent from the return from the empire of evil.

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Ciltvaira – The Lost Ship of The Latvian National Navy

Ciltvaira_ship

Ciltvaira before WW2

During the times of the Soviet Occupation the Soviet propaganda made movies like “Tobago Changes its Course” (1965) that depicted the mutiny on the Latvian trade ship Tobago on the behalf of the new Soviet government. The story was based on real Latvian naval cargo ship “Hercogs Jēkabs” (Duke Jacob)  whose captain choose to subordinate to the new Latvian Soviet government and from Cavalyo, Peru tried to sail back to Latvia. Despite the attempts of the Latvian Embassy in Washington to cancel its route to USSR and the temporary arrest, it made its way to Vladivostok. It was renamed Sovetskaya Latvia  and used for ammunition transfer. After the war it was used as prisoner transfer ship in the Sea of Okhotsk.  But, this was one of the rare examples that soviets could use. In fact most Latvian trade navy ships defied the soviet order to turn back to occupied Latvia. They still kept its allegiance to the Republic of Latvia and stayed on the western shores. Despite the fact that Latvia had no government in exile, only legitimate diplomatic embassies in US and UK, the western powers refused to turn over these ships to USSR. Most of these ships could not survive the war.  One of them was Ciltvaira.

Latvia as a country with long coast line with the Baltic Sea had long naval traditions. Before the arriving of Crusaders , the ancient Curonian and Livonian tribes made first trade voyages and raiding parties. At the start of the 19th century when serfdom was abolished, Latvians started to form their own naval schools and built their ships. At the start of the 20th century  under the flag of the Russian Empire Latvians had some 550 vessels, stationed at the ports of Ainaži, Rīga, Roja, Pāvilosta, Liepāja and Venstpils. The main Latvian shipbuilding company was Austra, at Ainaži the well-known Latvian intellectual opened a naval school. Liepaja had constant passenger routes to New York. On 1914 within the Latvian ports 333 ships were registered.

The World War I made great damage to Latvian ports, as Germans captured the Liepāja and Ventspils harbors and limited access to Riga port. Third of the Latvian ships were lost. Then on 1918 after World War I ended and Russian Empire had ceased to exist, Latvian sailors had chance to raise the flag of the new-born Republic of Latvia. First vessel to do so was a steamship Maiga, next was Saratov that was used by the Latvian Provisional government. After the end of the War for Freedom, Latvia regained 8 ships from Petrograd (St. Petersburg), but all ships taken by Germany were lost. Latvians begun to form their own trade fleet. Most Latvian steamers were used before WWI, only new built one was icebreaker Krišjānis Valdemārs.   Latvian vessels carried Latvian goods – wood, flax, butter and many other products. Passenger lines went to London, Hamburg and Stockholm.

Latvia was just beginning its naval modernization when the World War I broke out. Latvia had 103 trade ships on January 1939, leaving the ship on duty was forbidden.  On 1939 no ship was lost as many them carried their duties across the seas as usual. On June 1940 Soviet Union occupied Latvia and started took over all Latvian navy. Those who were stationed at Latvian shores had no real chance to resist. But, those who were sailing at the oceans had a choice – go back to Latvia and became part of the USSR navy or keep the Latvian banner within western shores. Both choices were grim. The Soviets could arrest some of the sailors and send the ships far away, but as there was no Latvian government in exile, only still acting diplomatic envoys, staying on Latvian side was dangerous because Latvia was no longer recognized as de facto sovereign country.

The freight steamer Ciltvaira was built on 1905 at the Sunderland, Great Britain. Before it came under the Latvian banner it was known as Twyford, Vironia for Estonia, President Bunge for Belgium and Endsleigh for Great Britain again. On 1935 it was acquired by Latvian owners J Zalcmanis, J Freimanis and K. Jansons. The first captain was K A Kaktiņš, later M A Osis, A P Galdiņš and K Šķenbergs. Ship made numerous long routes to North Sea, Mediterranean Sea ad Soviet Northern harbors. When Word War II started the ship stayed within the waters of the Western Hemisphere.

When Latvia was occupied by the Soviet Union, none of the Western powers did not rush to acknowledge this as legitimate act. The most strongest response was from US , that issued a resolution that condemned the annexation of the Baltic States. Latvian gold assets  worth of 17 890 422 was frozen and Latvian consulates continued their work. 8 Latvian ships were within the American shores and stayed under the Latvian flag-  “Everasma”, “Abgabra”, “Reģents”, “Everelza”, “Evaragra” and “Ķegums”. And also Ciltvaira.

The captain of the Ciltvaira M A Osis received an order from Latvian Soviet government to head to Murmansk, Soviet Union. Osis decided to obey to this. However, Latvian consulate demanded to stop the ship until the change of the captain. This was done at the port of Rio de Janeiro and ship was taken to US. Captain Osis and 12 other sailors went back to Soviet occupied Latvia and were involved in the World War II activities.

Captain of Ciltvaira Augusts Galdins circa 1945

Captain of Ciltvaira Augusts Galdins circa 1945

The new captain of the Ciltvaira was Pēteris Augusts Galdiņš. Born in 1904 at Mazsalaca – a small port town at Vidzeme region. Took part in the War for Freedom within Latvian ranks, wile being only 14-year-old. Was a steerman at Evarlda, and Ķegums from 1939. While at Argentina, he received order from Latvian US Envoy A Bīlmanis to head to Uruguay and take over ship of Abgara, that also was prevented from leaving off to Latvia. On 1941 he was called to captain the Ciltvaira. Galdiņš acquired US  residence permit and later US citizenship and had US long freighter captain diploma. After Word War 2 he worked in Panama-Scandinavian lines and on Chinese ships.

Photo from NY Times - 1/22/1942

Photo from NY Times – 1/22/1942

The Ciltvaira was operating under the US commands, but as Latvian ship. After Germany declared war on US, the German U-boat submarines started to hunt for US trade ships that sent goods to Great Britain and USSR. Since Latvia was occupied then by Germans, they had no respect for the Latvian banner if it was within allied command. On January 19 1942 Ciltvaira was heading from Norfolk to Savannah with a load of paper. At that point the new captain was Karlis Šķembergs. The German U-123 sub led by captain Reinhard Hardegen spotted the ship and struck it with a torpedo at 5:00 AM. Boiler room and room N0.2 was flooded. Two men were killed instantly -  firemen: Carl Gustaefssen and Rolf Semelin. Radio Operator Rūdolfs Musts was left stuck in his room due to the door being after the hit. The ship had no escorts and no arms to defend itself and was not part of the lend-lease program.

Captain Šķembergs ordered to abandon ship. The survivors abandoned ship in both port lifeboats when she settled by the head with a list to port after the boiler room and #2 hold were flooded. About 14.00 hours, the wreck was sighted by the northbound Coamo which avoided the area at full speed as she was in danger of being torpedoed herself, but the American steam tanker Socony-Vacuum stopped and picked up all survivors. Because the Ciltvaira had remained afloat, the master and eight volunteers returned to the ship while the tanker brought the rest of the crew to Charleston, South Carolina. At 16.00 hours, the Brazilian steam merchant Bury arrived and her master agreed to take the ship in tow for Norfolk. Four men from the Brazilian ship went aboard to help the few men with the ropes after the tow parted several times and they finally got underway. However, the following evening the salvage operation was stopped because the ships were only proceeding at 2 knots or less and all men taken off and eventually landed at New York.

The USS Osprey (AM-56) arrived and stood by until the ocean-going tug USS Sciota (AT-30) could resume the tow. What happened next is somewhat sketchy. One report indicates it remained afloat and drifting for two days. Another report states a number of different variations from it be torpedoed a second time to ship while being towed lost in heavy seas. The current location of the wreck is unknown.  Its claimed to be 120 feet under near Nags Head diving center and filled with marine life.The community of Nags Head has a street named after the Ciltvaira.

Latvian sailors who refused to leave the doomed ship as still wanted to save her, were greeted as heroes.  New York Times 22 January issue wrote that Latvian men being two years on the sea still wants to go back to the ships, no matter how many of them could be lost as long as Latvia regains its freedom. The Charleston newspaper “The News and Courier” made interviews with rescued sailors who showed no fear of German subs and said that  next time their ship will be armed. Meanwhile the Nazi controlled Latvian newspapers in Latvia, condemned the Americans for using Latvian ship and placed it on the another successful German U-boat hit list.

The Ciltvaira was not the last German victim. Five of the eight Latvian ships were sunken.   One was sunk by Italian submarine. Many Latvian and foreign sailors abroad the Latvian ship lost their lives. Only two Latvian ships made it to the end of the war. The ship “Regent” lost 14 out of 35 men. Everelza was sunk taking 19 men with it. Ķegums survived the war as convoy ship, but crushed at thick fog on 1948 at the Bay of Biscay. The Evaragra was hit by torpedo on 1943 but survived.

This was a price for lost Latvian independence and the non recognition policy. While US was unable to liberate Latvia from Soviet occupation, it did anything it could to defend  the Latvian patriots and their property from the Soviets. Many of them did not live till 1991 when Latvia regained independence. In the pictures are the personal belongings of the Ciltvaira captain Augusts Pēteris Galdiņš. A silver platter that the crew of the Ciltvaira gave to Gustav in honor of his leadership and heroism for standing up to the Russians, a platter hastily but skillfully engraved by hand with a knife, dated before the Ciltvaira made it to the US but after it defected. It was presented at a time when quite literally the Ciltvaira, the 7 other vessels and the Latvian Embassies in Washington, DC and London were the only elements of the Latvian sovereignty. The platter is stamped and I think purchased in Newfoundland, perhaps as they made their way to the US, and was hand-carved and presented to Gustav before they landed in the US. It now belongs to his close family friend in US. Galdiņš retired on 1970 and lived in Santa Clara California where he died on 1988.  Pictures are posted by his permission. Latvians are said to be a farmer nation, but Latvians are pretty much can be called as sailor nation. The Ainaži naval school was one of the beginnings of the Latvian national awakening and naval carrier was a motivation for many young Latvians to explore the world and gain education. Today Latvian sailors sail on board of many countries ships. Many Latvian owned vessels are under third party country flag like Panama and Cyprus. But Latvian naval life is still active and its history of the heroic Latvian sailors of the WW2 is story to be remembered.

The Ciltvaira silver platter

The Ciltvaira silver platter

 

Ciltvaira platter 3

Selected Sources:

Ilze Bernsone, Inta Sīpola. (2003) Latvijas jūrniecības vēsture : 1850-1950 . Riga.Rīgas vēstures un kug̦niecības muzejs

http://www.diena.lv/arhivs/sos-glabiet-musu-dveseles-11643392

http://sunkenshipsouterbanks.com/ciltvaira.html

http://www.uboat.net/allies/merchants/ships/1267.html

http://www.uboat.net/boats/u123.htm

http://latvianhistory.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=2609&action=edit

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Edward Leedskalnin and his Coral Castle in Florida

leedskalnin

The fires and struggles of the 1905 revolution in Latvia made many Latvians to leave their homeland for the first time in masses. Some like Peter the Painter was known for his continued political struggle in the streets of London, but his compatriot and possible brother in arms Edward Leedskalnin is known worldwide for his Coral Castle made in Homestead, Florida. A temple like megalith structure, made from massive coral limestones each weighting several tons. There is many speculation how Edward Leedskalnin or Edvards Liedskalniņs managed to build this magnificent structure all by himself and his interesting theories about reverse magnetism that helped him to build this work of art. A work so famous that even punk rock star Billy Idol made a song Sweet Sixteen inspired by the Edward Leedskalnin legendary love story, about 16-year-old bride in Latvia who rejected him at their wedding and to her dedicated his castle. This article will not attempt to speculate about how Leedskalnin built his castle, its more about his Latvian roots and his connections to revolutionary movement of 1905.

The Castle of Stāmeriena near Edvards home in Jaungulbene

The Liedskalniņš family came from the Latvian region of Vidzeme, around the Liede hills. That is how they got their surname. His father Andrejs rented farm house and land from local Baltic German baron von Wolf who lived in beautiful neo-gothic  castle of Stāmeriena. Edvards as the fifth son in the family was born on 1887 January 12. (Other sources state that he was born on August 10 1887) The house was called “Namsadi”. Edvards learned the stone crafting and masonry. The Wolf family was rich and powerful related to count Potemkin of Russia and count Ferdinand Von Zeppelin. The castles owned by them at Cesvaine and Stāmeriena were the best examples of the neo-gothical architecture. Edvards might possibly inspired by these castles to choose the work of craftsman.

On 1900 Edvards brother Rūdolfs also craftsman lost his life in accident while building German church in Samara Russia. Later Edvards was known as atheist or at least anti-Christian.  On 1902 his other brother Otto married Anna. On route to church the local pastor of Vecgulbene was halted by armed masked men threatening him. The revolution was coming close. On the spring of 1904 the old German baron Von Wolf died in Austria. His great funeral at Cesvaine signed the demise of the great baron family. At the same time Latvian Social-Democratic Workers Party was founded aiming to bring down the Tsarist regime supported by the Baltic German nobility. Edvards brother Ernest joined the local LSDWP group “The Gods Children”. Edvards also might possibly was involved. Agitators from Riga, possibly also Jānis Žāklis later known as Peter the Painter arrived to teach the local farmers the socialist doctrines. Secret meetings took place around Stāmeriena and called to end the war with Japan, the removal of Tzar Nicholas II, and end the church privileges. After another year of poor craft harvest a spring of 1905 came in troubles.

News about the bloodbath in Riga on January 13 1905 after guards fired at workers demonstration reached the Edvards home. To protect the barons a Cossacks from Caucasus were sent. All around the Jaungulbene are where Edvards lived peasants came to protest. Protests often turned into violence and looting. Churches were turned into revolutionary staffs and the harvest storages of the barons burned down. On June 16 nearly two thousand peasants marched towards the castle of Stāmeriena. The local police officer was beaten and then the crowd invaded the local Orthodox church and trimmed the beard of the church priest. Later at evening two masked man attempted to rob the baron Wolf, but were arrested. In struggle to liberate them more were arrested. Wolf’s barricaded their castle. Weapons were gathered and the armed Black Hundreds ride across the country to hunt revolutionaries.

The burned down castle  of Stāmeriena

The burned down castle of Stāmeriena

As the autumn approached the relations between barons became more hostile. The baron Wolf of Vecgulbene opened fire on the peasant meeting summoned by himself. In return  his red castle of Vecgulbene was burned down. On November 18 the Cesvaine castle was taken over by armed men. People joined the peoples militia and engaged the cossacks in battle. On December 1 the peasants joined to attack the Stāmeriena castle where many local barons had barricaded. A war camp gathered around the castle electricity was turned off, but cossacks managed to hold the castle. After a night of fire exchange the barons managed to escape. Despite deciding not to destroy the castle, some local youngsters, Edvards possibly one of them set the castle alight. Soon the dragoon division from Pskov came to stop the uprising. On December 2 both the white and red castle of Cesvaine was set alight. The spirit factory was also destroyed. On December 4 baron Wolf was arrested, but was exiled from Vecgulbene. However, at January the Punishment Squads from Russia came to finally stop the uprising.

18-year-old Edvards said to always walking with rifle behind his coats. The revolutionaries resisted, but were beaten. All year 0f 1906 went with reckless fight with Russian punishment squads and armed peasant gunman. Edvards as remembered by his nephew Arvīds remembers that  Edvards was a convinced atheist who taught him godlessness.  Edvards possibly took part in Forest Brothers movement the partisan warfare against the tsarist forces.

Hermīne Lūsis the Sweet Sixteen of Edvards Liedskalniņš

Hermīne Lūsis the Sweet Sixteen of Edvards Liedskalniņš

On 1910 he left Latvia, only one of the whole Liedskalninņš family to do so. And most of his family took action in the 1905 revolution. The popular explanation was that he was engaged with 16-year-old girl Agnes Scuff who rejected him and left him right at the wedding ceremony. The wedding according to Edvards relatives took place at Vecgulbene church, but no such wedding arrangement was ever found in the register. Many decades later it turned out that the sweet sixteen of Edvards was not Agnes but Hermīne Lūse the cousin of Ernests Brastiņs the Latvian religious leader. Brastiņš is known for his neo-paganic movement Dievturība (the Harmony with God). It was a religious movement based on ancient Latvian pagan beliefs. Hermīne was just 2 years younger than Edvards so she was not sixteen when she broke his heart. One of the reasons why the marriage did not take place was that her father demanded 2000 rubles, that Edvards could not acquire.

Was Edvards leaving his family to get the money, by means of expropriation or robbery as most his revolutionaries did or was he running away from tsarist secret police remains a question. Hermīne Lūse later married Fricis Kadiķis, but without deep mutual love. She never met Edvards again, and possibly waited him to return someday, for the money was the reason for they breakup.

Edvards Liedskalninš before leaving Latvia on 1910

Edvards Liedskalninš before leaving Latvia on 1910

Edvards on 1910-1911 lived in London. Not much is known what he did there. He  might have been involved with local Latvian anarchists led by Peter the Painter, who used to drill holes in the shops walls to steal the goods. As craftsman Edvards Liedskalniņš could possibly assist the gang, but there is no proof of his involvement. But, its remains a fact that after 1911 when the Latvian Anarchist movement was stopped at the Sydney street siege, Liedskalniņš illegally entered Canada.  He briefly stopped at Halifax, Canada and then for unknown reasons entered US on 1912. He was not registered and was illegal immigrant of US for more than thirty years.

For seven years Liedskalniņš was around the states of Oregon, California and Texas. According to what is known he made his living by working in the various lumber camps. According to other more romantic theories Edvards was involved with local anarchists from Mexico and took part in the Pancho Villa uprising. If so he then possibly gained inspiration for his future castle from the ancient Mayan and Aztec pyramids. Also one of the coral stones carved by Edvards called the “Sun Stone” resembles the traditional Mexican sombrero hat.

On 1920 January 1 he was registered in the US national census as Edward Leedskalnin a 32-year-old unmarried resident on Oregon, Douglas county. Worked in sawmill. At the same year he was found in Homestead, Florida by Ruben L Mauser, sick and almost close to death. He had tuberculosis and was rescued by Mauser who took him home. He was underweight and had spent a long time in closed spaces. Either the work in sawmill was too exhausting or he was hiding from something probably indicating his revolutionary activity. Also because of tuberculosis he moved to warmer place like Florida.

He soon recovered and bought land from Mauser in Homestead. His best friend was young Orwell M. Erwin. He was not working and claimed that he is provided by a “dividends from communal enterprises in California” never actually indicating what it means. Communal enterprise resembles communism and could mean that he gained his money by the means of revolutionary activities. For the low paid jobs in wood industry may not ensure his live long wealth.

The tower of the Coral Castle where Edvard lived in his wooden shack

The tower of the Coral Castle where Edvard lived in his wooden shack

In the land owned previously by Mauser Edvard started to build his castle. The land had rich recourses of coral stone and as educated craftsman he found how easy is to work with them. His first coral stone creation was a two ton couch. He worked with home-made instruments, and somehow managed to move large pieces of coral stones. He also made many do it yourself tools like crystal radios. Either he was inspired directly or indirectly by the work of the ancient builders in Egypt and Mexico  who created a massive structures with no modern equipment. If so Edvards had learned the details of the ancient masonry and science still unknown to many.

Homestead a remote place in Florida devoid of tourist attractions soon became famous by his coral stone structures.  Until 1936 fifteen thousand people visited his castle that he called Eds Place. To explain to curious people why is doing all this he always told the story of his sweet little sixteen in Latvia who deceived him in Latvia, but soon will come to him and he is building this castle for her. Was this a true devotion or it was a tourist attraction trick   made by the clever revolutionary veteran? Since the girl he always named Agnes Scuffs or Agnes Skuvst never existed and her true bride was Hermīne Lūse. There was a symbolism in the name of Agnes Scuff. Scuvst is similar to Latvian name skūpsts – kiss and Agnes in Latvian means  – innocent. “Innocent kiss”. Also as Hermīne Lūse was not sixteen when she left him it could indicate that there was a symbolism in the age of sixteen.

Edvards giving lecture about astronomy

Edvards giving lecture about astronomy-

For twenty years Edvards inspired by the space science and other events, built many large objects like 24 ton Saturn  and 23 ton Moon Crescent. Also a Star of David a dedication to his Jewish rescuer Ruben L Mauser was included. Maybe he was inspired by famous scientist Nicola Tesla who was known for many eccentric claims  about his creations. Edvards gave lectures about astronomy and started to design his own ideas about physics. On 1936 he released his first book called “A Book in Every Home”. It contained his story about his sweet sixteen and and family and political values. A book with every left page leaven as blank for personal notes. His views on politics were hard to understand and probably written between the lines. Despite the obscurity of his book it was re-issued many times after.

On 1937 he celebrated his fifty birthday. And he decided to move his castle to newly acquired ten are land ten miles from Florida City. In three years time he moved his entire castle to new and final location. Maybe he wanted to move to location more available to tourists. Or he again was trying to get away from something as he said himself that someone is trying to get in his way.

By then many people curious of how he all by himself builds the castle. Some said he uses magic powers, or he can alter the laws of physics. Edvards probably used similar ways like the builders of Stone Henge and the Pyramids. But, as the ancients he did not share his secrets leading to speculations. Possibly because of that Edvards later wrote more books about his reversed magnetism theories to boost the tourist attention, but also to mask the real way of how he created the castle. For the mystery was the thing that made attraction and adding more legends to it made his name everlasting.

Edvards standing near his Polar Star telescope

Edvards standing near his Polar Star telescope

The Polar star telescope, the Stone Gate  and 30 ton altar and his own designed solar clock all was part of ancient symbolism. And all of these objects were made with mysterious precision. The Solar Clock was a of unique design not seen anywhere else. Somehow after the move to new place Edvards started to less mention his sweet sixteen. His castle was now more associated with mysteries of science. He created home-made tools, that could provide electricity also crystal radio receivers. After US joined the WW2 against Germany, his scientific experiments attracted the FBI. Reported as possible German spy he was wisted by a FBI agent, who was curious about his copper wires. Edvards showed that his copper wires are actually antennas for his home-made crystal radio allowing him to listen to news and music for free. FBI agent was impressed by his antennas, but asked him to register his US citizenship.  He sent application for US citizenship on May 17 1944, the application number was 7129, document number was 6105195  he inscribed both of these numbers on his room wall. It’s not known if his appeal was accepted. Apparently his illegal status did not bother much as he legally published books about the Magnetic Current.

After the end of WW2 some people started to connect his castle with the Bermunda Triangle mystery. Meanwhile Edvards sent on 1950 sent a letter to his brother Harijs in Michigan. The large Liedskalniņš family was spread all around the world because of the war. In short letter in grammatically incorrect Latvian he said he is brother Edvard and attached two photos with him in the castle. On November 9 1951 he attached note on his stone gate “Going to Hospital”. He never came back and passed away on December 7.

His last will was never found. None of his relatives were able to claim the castle. For many years castle was abandoned, the home-made tools by Edvards were gone. While the property was being investigated, $3,500 was found among Leedskalnin’s personal belongings. Leedskalnin had made his income from conducting tours, selling pamphlets about various subjects (including magnetic currents) and the sale of a portion of his 10-acre (4.0 ha) property for the construction of U.S. Route 1. Having no will, the castle became the property of his closest living relative in America, a nephew from Michigan named Harry. However, he took no care of castle and left it in decay.

On 1953 businessman from Chicago came to Homestead. He wanted to build a fuel depot, but local municipality instead showed him the Coral castle. The man called Julius Levin instantly loved the castle and bought it. The castle became a tourist attraction, the story about the sweet sixteen was picked up and used fully. Castle became a site for many eccentric sci-fi and erotic movies. The 1958 “The Wild Woman from Wongo”, the 1960 “Naked on the Moon” attracted thousands of visitors. Also because no one could properly explain of how the castle was built, it soon became a Mecca of esoterics, alternative scientists and ancient architecture explorers. The writings made by Edvards about magnetic currents were again published and studied with full seriousness.

Coral Castle postcard from 1960ies

Coral Castle postcard from 1960ies

On 1986 the punk rock star Billy Idol traveled to Florida to help gather charity for hurricane victims. Astonished by the Edvards monument to eternal love he made his most famous love ballad “Sweet Sixteen”. The video clip was made in the coral castle. On 1987 it was a top chart single played also in Soviet Latvia where many were completely unaware that this song has Latvian connection.

On 1991 for $175,000 the Coral Castle was sold to Coral Castle Inc. The work of art first known as Eds Place, the Stone Gate and after the death of Edwards Leedskalnins as the Coral Castle was added to National Register of Historic Places. Edvards Liedskalniņš is one of the most known and legendary Lavians of the XX century, that many in Latvia even have never heard off. But, his castle and books is an inspiration, a memorable place to visit to many across the world.

Selected Sources:

Stavro, Andris (2008) Koraļļu pils. Rīga. Lauku Avīze. Edvarda Liedskalniņa kopotie raksti. (grāmatā)

Leedskalnin Index Page – 10/25/97 http://www.keelynet.com/leed.htm

http://www.coralcastle.com

http://www.leedskalnin.com/

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First Drama movie made in Latvia in 1913 “Where is the Justice? The Tragedy of the Jewish Student”

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Those who have some elementary  knowledge in the history of the Latvian cinema may tell that first drama movie made in independent Latvia was Es Karā Aiziedams (I am leaving for war) on 1920. The movie that has sadly not survived. But, few may know that before WWI when Latvia was a part of the Russian Empire, first three drama movies on 1913 where made by Jewish filmographers. “Where is the truth?  The Tragedy of the Jewish Student”, “Listen Israel!” and “The Shoemaker Leiba”. Of all three only the first one “Where is the truth?” is conserved and can be viewable on youtube.  There is some doubts that “The Shoomaker Lieba” was actually filmed outside Latvia. But, from the first scenes of the “Where is the truth?” it is clear that this movie was shot in Riga and Ventspils. A movie remarkable for its political context and still obscure information about the its  producer and director S. Mintus.

Cinema was the new trend of the XX century. After it first appeared in 1895 Paris, it soon arrived in Riga. On 1901 the first cinema was built-in Riga. A decade later 1910 first documentary of the Tzar Nicholas II visiting Riga were taken. The 2 min footage by Alexander Drankov study were made and still can be viewable today. As Russian Empire allowed private movie screening business and movie making the doors were open to Latvia to make first dramatic movies. And that is where the Jewish photographer and photo equipment seller S Mintus came in. He owned his own company “S Mintus shopping house”. With enough money and connections he went on venture to film his own movies. He also owned his own cinema “The Coliseum” in Riga.  Since films were valuable and were mostly rented, not copied because of the technical issues, Mintus became wealthy by renting films all across the Baltic province. The cinemas rented film to display it on their screens. Copying was possible, but it could damage the original over time.

The large Jewish community in Ukraine and Belarus were the first to make Jewish themed movies. The script was taken from theater plays and were usually based along the ethnic lines of the Jewish life. Because the Russian Tsarist censorship was more touchy about political baselines than ethnic folk stories.  Odessa soon became the center of the Russian Jewish cinema. Despite the political oppression by the Tsarist government and  uneasy relations with other nationals, especially during the pogroms of 1905 Jews managed to stood out before others. And the trendy film making was one of the kind.

It’s not clear was S Mintus from Latvia, or he came from Ukraine, but he was certainly inspired by the movies made by Ukrainian Jews. The 1910 “L’Haim” that was said to based on Jewish traditional song, despite there was not such was a success.  It was the very first Jewish film in Russia. On 1913 the Odessa based company “Mirograf” made the movie “The Tragedy of the Jewish student” (Трагедия еврейской курсистки), also in Germany a seemingly similar movie was made. It seems that both movies from Ukraine and Germany and the one in Latvia was based on the same theater play whose author is yet to be found. Of all three the film made by S Mintus was the most known and conserved until today.

The outside scenes of Riga the Polytechnical institute nowadays the University of Latvia

The outside scenes of Riga the Polytechnical institute nowadays the University of Latvia

The main role of the Adele Vaitzekind was played by Falkher (name not known), Ādams Ozols as her lover Rafail, Lūcija Lilaste in unconfirmed role and Ivan Hudpoleev as the Doctor. The movie was shot in Riga and Venstpils. The opening scenes features the center of Riga during the winter. The Riga Orthodox Cathedral, the University of Latvia main building is within the scenes. At the middle of the movie despite the main character still in Riga, the actual scene is shot in Ventspils. Also many of the interior scenes were actually filmed outside as decorations. Since the scenes were taken during the cold February winds, some of the room scenes shows flowers and carpets moved by the strong wind. It was because the decorations had no roof and were affected by the strong winter winds. As silent movie it had only live piano feature, but also the preserved version had no subtitles. It was because the lines of the movie characters were spoken by actors during the movie display.

The two main characters Rafail and Adele

The two main characters Rafail and Adele

The movie plot has a very complicated and social character. The main heroine Adele is from Bessarabia (Moldova). Without her parents she arrives at Riga to look for higher knowledge. She suddenly meets her old friend Rafail Edelgertz. A love is born as two enjoy sudden rush of romance. But, then a first wave of storm hits: authorities has sent her a notification to leave Riga as her rights of residence has been removed. This was because of the old Tsarist law since the Third partition of Poland. Russian Empire after acquiring vast territories of Poland-Lithuania was not ready to deal with such a large Jewish minority. Afraid from the migration, the Tsars suppressed Jews to live outside the former borders of Poland-Lithuania. And Riga was outside the so-called “Settlement line”. Getting into Riga was tricky for many Jews, but as Russia became more liberal at the end of 19th century it was possible for more Jews to come. But, in this case her residence permit was declined.

In desperate thoughts about going back to Kishinev, Adele asks Rafail for help. He seeks the advise from an educated doctor who also knows the law. He suggests to register Adele as prostitute so she can stay in Riga. To get registered she and Rafial makes a fake date, where Rafail poses as client. Police officers catches them in the intimate situation at  the table with drinks near bed. After that she moves to another apartment to clear off police suspicion.

Scene shot in Venstpils

Scene shot in Venstpils

But, the storm rashes again; Rafiel must visit his sick father. He leaves Adele all alone in Riga. And then the trouble starts. A two robbers with similar look of Adele and Rafiel attacks man on the street and robs him. In fateful coincidence the event takes place near Adele apartment and as they run off the Adele walks out the door. In similar clothes and hat the robbed victim quickly turns her to police.

The first part of the prison cell dramatic scene

The first part of the prison cell dramatic scene

Second Part of the prison scene

Second Part of the prison scene

 

This is where the movie culminates: in mental breakdown in the prison cell innocent Adele dressed in black recalls her past. In the dramatically emotional moment Adele fades into her childhood home in Kishinev. She sees her parents and the maid. A seemingly happy scene turns into nightmare when the angry mob of men invades their house and kills her parents. It was a clear reference to the Jewish pogrom of 1903 that took place in Kishinev. A more pogroms took place during 1905 revolution. This part is notable for two things. The grandiose gothic like scene of Adele loosing her mind and the  spectacular fading to events in past. A genial dramatic footage for the times of 1913. Also the pogrom scene a – touchy subject sparking the Jewish will of resistance.

The pogrom scene

The pogrom scene

The real criminals are found and Adele is released, but she is sick from her mental suffering. In final scene she dies in the hands of the ruined Rafail. The original footage featured him also dying on her grave, but the 1917 version of the movie had cut that scene out. The movie was a great success, however the Tsarist authorities were not too pleased about the pogrom scene. Many had accused the Russian government on being involved in the Jewish pogroms or doing not enough to halt them. Movie screening was limited. On 1917 after the revolution the movie was re-edited and shown again.

After a year on 1914 the World War I begun. Large numbers of the Latvian Jews were forced to move to Russia. The settlement line was suddenly broken. There is no info of what happened to S Mintus and his photo and movie business. Many details about his biography are yet to be found. The Riga Jewish History Museum and Ventspils History Museum has held events commemorating this historic movie, an academic detailed account is hopefully to follow.

Selected Sources:

http://www.kinoglaz.fr/u_fiche_film.php?num=4597

http://www.kino-teatr.ru/kino/movie/empire/12698/annot/

http://judaica.kiev.ua/Eg_11/Eg1115.htm

http://www.lechaim.ru/ARHIV/100/kino.htm

http://jewishmuseum.lv/en/item/89-Kinovecher_v_muzee_100-letee_pervogo_khudozhestvennogo_filma_v_Latvii.html

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