Address by Kārlis Eihenbaums, Ambassador of Latvia Ottawa Art Gallery Baltic-Nordic Film Festival Bright Nights 23 February 2020

24.02.2020. 20:52
  • Join in Centenary celebrations together with the Latvian Foreign Service

Dear Friends!

The Latvian historical drama “1906” by Gatis Šmits tells the story of the idealist-minded teacher and poet Violeta and the social democrat and militant Pelēkais, whose fate interlace in the dramatic final stages of the 1905 Revolution.

Under Russian control, Latvia was at the vanguard of industrialisation and abolition of serfdom. By the end of the 19th century, it had become one of the most developed parts of the Russian Empire. Our capital - Riga was a true metropolis of the whole western region of this vast colonial empire. The increasing social problems and rising discontent that this brought meant that Riga also played a leading role in the 1905 Revolution.

Some, especially media in German, even called these events the Latvian Revolution - Lettische Revolution.

During 1905, the focus of revolutionary events moved to the countryside with mass demonstrations and meetings.

470 new parish administrative bodies were elected in 94% of the parishes in Latvia. The Congress of Parish Representatives was held in Riga in November. In autumn 1905, armed conflict between the Baltic German nobility and the Latvian peasants began in the rural areas of Vidzeme and Kurzeme, the peasants seized or surrounded several towns and railroads.

Martial law was declared. Special punitive expeditions called Black Hundred were dispatched to suppress the movement. They executed 1170 people without trial or investigation, and burned 300 peasant farms. Thousands were exiled to Siberia. Many Latvian intellectuals only escaped by fleeing to Western Europe or the USA, and Canada as well. Most of the latter settled in Winnipeg and Manitoba where you still have Latvian towns, streets, roads, community halls, schools, and cemeteries.

In 1906, the revolutionary movement gradually subsided.

The Revolution of 1905 was a wave of mass political and social unrest that spread throughout the Russian Empire. Russia was a multi-ethnic empire that saw cultures and religions in a clear hierarchy; non-Russian cultures were not respected.

Russian administrators, for the decades of restrictions on ethnic groups, only succeeded in producing feelings of disloyalty. There was growing impatience with their inferior status and resentment against Russification - cultural assimilation on a vast scale against Latvians, Estonians, Poles, Lithuanians, Jews, Ukrainians, Finns and others. The culmination of this cultural diversity created a cumbersome nationality problem that plagued the Russian government.

Anyway, enough about history. I believe that this is a very beautiful love story, enjoy and thank you for coming!