Lingua Laima

Lingua Laima Lingua Laima language services. Lingua Laima is a translating business, a blog, and a site that promotes awareness of Latvian, one of Europe’s oldest languages, and celebrates Latvian history and culture, as well as Latvia's natural beauty.

Latvian Fricis Gulbis (1891-1956), a professor of physics, founded the Institute of Physics at the University of Latvia,...
09/02/2017

Latvian Fricis Gulbis (1891-1956), a professor of physics, founded the Institute of Physics at the University of Latvia, was a signatory of the Latvian Central Council's famous memorandum ("a call to resist the reoccupation of Latvia by the Soviet Union following the defeat of Germany")*, spearheaded the founding of the Baltic University in Germany after the war, and taught at McMaster University in Canada . *World Digital Library

Birger Nerman (1888-1971) was a famous Swedish archaeologist who excavated the site of an ancient Scandinavian settlemen...
08/19/2017

Birger Nerman (1888-1971) was a famous Swedish archaeologist who excavated the site of an ancient Scandinavian settlement (circa 650 AD) in Grobiņa, Latvia. The Swedes are believed to have arrived from the island of Gotland and the area of Lake Mälaren to the west of Stockholm. Today archaeologists believe that these settlers engaged in trading and crafts and were absorbed into the local Couronian population. The Couronians (Kurši in Latvian) were a seafaring tribe that, like the Vikings, crossed the Baltic Sea in quest of riches and power. (For more on the history of Grobiņa and Nerman’s and other archaeologists’ finds, see: http://hgo.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:537484/FULLTEXT01)

The fate of Latvia has been shaped by the Baltic Sea. “In their spare time the young people of the seaside villages gath...
07/09/2017

The fate of Latvia has been shaped by the Baltic Sea. “In their spare time the young people of the seaside villages gathered [the sandy driftwood], placing it into large piles near the sea. On Midsummer’s Eve, with all the village folk gathered together, they set the mounds ablaze. The bonfire burning in the twilight was a beautiful sight. Its blaze was mirrored in the bonfires of other fishermen’s villages, which appeared as a slightly weaving line from afar. [...] Sometimes an old boat, which had been retired from its seafaring, was sacrificed to the bonfire. The scent of the boat’s ancient resin mingled with the aroma of sweet hay, which the evening breeze carried over from time to time from the meadow’s first mowing nearby.” – Pauls Ludvigs, Mūsu Latvijas ūdeņi, 1967. (Translated by Rita Laima/Lingua Laima. Photographs: Vilho Setälä, 1912. Source: http://www.nba.fi/liivilaiset/Suomi/1Tutkimusmatkat2.html)

The word for STAR in Latvian is ZVAIGZNE. Fantastic traditional Latvian embroidery by Latvian American Līga Korsts Strei...
05/07/2017

The word for STAR in Latvian is ZVAIGZNE. Fantastic traditional Latvian embroidery by Latvian American Līga Korsts Streipa, and a beautiful example of how traditions are passed down from generation to generation.

The word for MOON in Latvian is MĒNESS.
04/29/2017

The word for MOON in Latvian is MĒNESS.

The word for SUN in Latvian is SAULE.
04/08/2017

The word for SUN in Latvian is SAULE.

Knuts Skujenieks was born in Latvia in 1936. He studied philology and history at the University of Latvia and after WWII...
10/09/2016

Knuts Skujenieks was born in Latvia in 1936. He studied philology and history at the University of Latvia and after WWII attended the Maksim Gorky Institute for Literature in Moscow. After returning to Latvia, Skujenieks was arrested on trumped-up charges of anti-Soviet activity and senced to seven years in a prison camp in Mordovia. The poems Skujenieks wrote in Mordovia were published in 2002 as Sēkla sniegā (Seed in Snow). Upon his release, Skujenieks returned to Latvia and worked as a translator. He is a recipient of Sweden's Tomas Tranströmer Prize.

The Daugava or Western Dvina, a river sometimes referred to in Latvian dainas (folk poems) as “dark-eyed” and full of “d...
10/01/2016

The Daugava or Western Dvina, a river sometimes referred to in Latvian dainas (folk poems) as “dark-eyed” and full of “dear souls,” yet in others described as “shimmering” and “singing,” and which Latvians think of as their “river of fate,” rises out of the Valdai Hills in Russia and flows through Belarus and Latvia into the Gulf of Riga. The Daugava is 1,020 miles long, with almost 220 of those flowing westward across Latvia. Once navigated by the tribes that are the ancestors of the Latvian people, Vikings, German missionaries, the sword-wielding Teutonic Knights, Swedes, Russians, and other merchants and would-be conquerers, it reflects Latvia’s precarious geopolitical crossroads between East and West. The Daugava River is also a symbol of Latvia’s beauty and the Latvians’ resilience.

In 1798 Johann Christoph Brotze (1742-1823) wrote up and drew a description of Uexküllsche Pastorat (the Ikšķile Parsona...
07/02/2016

In 1798 Johann Christoph Brotze (1742-1823) wrote up and drew a description of Uexküllsche Pastorat (the Ikšķile Parsonage) east of Riga in Livonia. “In the stable of this parsonage can be found a large granite bowl, which was allegedly used by pagan converters as a christening vessel,” and according to Brotze, the resident parson Johann Wilhelm Oxford used this bowl as a water trough for his horses. Apparently later this bowl was transported to Riga and placed in the courtyard of Riga Cathedral (aka St. Mary’s or the Dome). Today it sits in the nave of the cathedral.

Latvians can be proud of their ancestors’ fanciful imagination and folklore. Their country is strewn with gigantic bould...
05/15/2016

Latvians can be proud of their ancestors’ fanciful imagination and folklore. Their country is strewn with gigantic boulders often referred to as velnakmeņi or “devil’s rocks.” Old folk tales “explain” how these rocks got there, and many of these giants are associated with ancient pagan rituals. Lodged in the earth like slumbering giants, they are silent witnesses to Latvia’s dramatic historical events.

Kārlis Baumanis (May 11, 1835 – January 10, 1905), better known as Baumaņu Kārlis, was an ethnic Latvian composer in the...
05/05/2016

Kārlis Baumanis (May 11, 1835 – January 10, 1905), better known as Baumaņu Kārlis, was an ethnic Latvian composer in the Russian Empire. He is the author of the lyrics and music of Dievs, svētī Latviju! (“God bless Latvia!”), the national anthem of Latvia. Kārlis Baumanis was the first composer to use the word “Latvia” in the lyrics of a song, in the 19th century, when Latvia was still a part of the Russian Empire. - Wikipedia

Goodbye Stalin: A True Story of Wars, Escapes, and Reinventions is an extraordinary and riveting memoir by Baltic German...
04/29/2016

Goodbye Stalin: A True Story of Wars, Escapes, and Reinventions is an extraordinary and riveting memoir by Baltic German Sigrid von Bremen Thomas, who died in Potomac, Maryland in 2007. The author was a descendant of Estonia’s von Bremen dynasty and the Teutonic Knights. Once powerful, influential, and wealthy proprietors of an enormous estate called Avanduse (Awandus) and other holdings, the von Bremens along with other Baltic Germans would become a persecuted, loathed segment of society in revolutionary Russia (which Estonia was part of in the early 20th century). After enduring terror under the Bolshevik-induced uprising, the Baltic German nobility lost its estates under the newly independent Estonian and Latvian republics’ agrarian reforms. In spite of these enormous losses, many like the von Bremens bounced back: Sigrid’s father became Estonia’s “Tomato Baron” through hard work. Yet peace and prosperity were not to be: even more dramatic and terrifying upheavals awaited them. In 1941, under Hitler’s orders, the Baltic Germans were forcibly resettled in N**i-occupied Poland. There they displaced Polish landowners, only to end up running for their lives in 1945, as the Red Army rumbled westward over Poland, laying waste to the land, pillaging, stealing, and ra**ng. Published in 2007, Goodbye Stalin describes the volatile history of Estonia in the 20th century and how it affected the German Baltic nobility, which once reigned supreme in this corner of Europe. The von Bremen family went “from feudal glory under the czars through the Soviet revolution to democracy in Estonia, Na**sm in Poland during World War II, then communism in East Germany, and finally freedom in West Germany and the United States.” Goodbye Stalin is a book that also sheds light on the Baltic German nobility’s leading role in the history of Estonia and Latvia. Once an integral part of these societies, only vestiges of their presence remain in manor hourses, churches, taverns, and other beautiful and distinctive buildings

Latvians refer to April as “sulu mēnesis” or “sap month,” because it is the month when sap from the Baltic birch is harv...
04/20/2016

Latvians refer to April as “sulu mēnesis” or “sap month,” because it is the month when sap from the Baltic birch is harvested, bottled, and fermented. Cold birch sap is enjoyed at Midsummer (especially to cure a hangover) and in the summer months as a tangy all-natural beverage. Refreshing and healthy, birch sap is a true Baltic elixir. “Latvians store the birch juice in glass bottles with a few raisins, lemon rind and a twig from a black currant bush as natural preservatives. Some freeze it, others simply store it in cool locations to avoid spoilage,” says famous Latvian chef Mārtiņš Rītiņs (NPR.org).

Rock Creek Cemetery of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, the oldest church and the only surviving colonial era church in Wash...
04/11/2016

Rock Creek Cemetery of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, the oldest church and the only surviving colonial era church in Washington, DC, "serves as the final resting place for some of Washington's most notable residents, including: Abraham Baldwin, Signer of the U.S. Constitution; Montgomery Blair, Postmaster General in Abraham Lincoln's Cabinet; Gilbert H. Grosvenor, Chairman, National Geographic Society, (etc)." In addition, many Latvians have been laid to rest in beautiful Rock Creek Cemetery, including actress Lilija Štengele, Latvian Ambassador to the United States Anatols Dinbergs, and others. (Source: www.rockcreekparish.org/cemetery)

Happy Easter! Latvians traditionally color and pattern their Easter eggs using onion skins, red cabbage, flowers and gra...
03/27/2016

Happy Easter! Latvians traditionally color and pattern their Easter eggs using onion skins, red cabbage, flowers and grass, and other natural ingredients.

March 18, 2016 marked the 150th anniversary of the birth of Janis (or Jānis) Rozentāls, one of Latvia’s best known paint...
03/19/2016

March 18, 2016 marked the 150th anniversary of the birth of Janis (or Jānis) Rozentāls, one of Latvia’s best known painters from the turn of the 20th century. Rozentāls was an exceptionally talented realist painter and outstanding portraitist whose later works reflected his interest in symbolism, art nouveau, and impressionism. Rozentāls was born near Saldus and studied painting at the St. Petersburg Art Academy, graduating in 1894. He traveled to Germany, France, and Austria with the great Russian painter of Greek descent, Arkhip Kuindzhi. In 1903 Rozentāls married Elli Forsell, a Finnish opera singer. She is depicted in many of his paintings. Renowned Riga architect Konstantīns Pēkšēns built a studio for Rozentāls in one of his buildings, Alberta iela 12. In 1910 Rozentāls painted a mural on the Riga Latvian Society building. As the German army approached Riga in World War I, the Rozentāls family evacuated to Helsinki. Rozentāls, a chain smoker, became sick and died there in December 1916 at the age of 50.

The original Minox subminiature camera, also used in espionage and on view at the International Spy Museum in Washington...
03/17/2016

The original Minox subminiature camera, also used in espionage and on view at the International Spy Museum in Washington DC, was invented by Walter Zapp in 1936. Zapp, a Baltic German, was born in 1905 in Riga, then part of the Russian Empire. The Minox was manufactured in Riga by VEF (Valsts Elektrotechniskā Fabrika) from 1937 until 1943. Wikipedia: “During World War II production of the Minox was jeopardized, as Latvia fell victim to invasion by the Soviet Union, then Germany, and then by the Soviets again. Cameras were produced under both Russian and German occupation nevertheless, and the camera became both a luxury gift item for N**i leaders as well as a tool for their spies.”

Ilmārs Blumbergs (b. 1943), one of Latvia’s most prolific and original artists, died in February 2016. Blumbergs was bor...
02/22/2016

Ilmārs Blumbergs (b. 1943), one of Latvia’s most prolific and original artists, died in February 2016. Blumbergs was born in Riga. He studied painting at the Art Academy of Latvia and went on to work as a set designer at various theaters. Blumbergs also made posters, illustrated books, and painted. His work from the late 1970s and early 1980s is particularly striking in that it had nothing in common with socialist realism, the state-prescribed style of the Soviet era. Blumbergs' iconic image is the silhouette of a human in a hunched or leaning position.

The White Wagtail (Motacilla alba), cielava in Latvian, is Latvia’s national bird. It is recognizable by its running gai...
02/17/2016

The White Wagtail (Motacilla alba), cielava in Latvian, is Latvia’s national bird. It is recognizable by its running gait, as it rushes to catch insects, and by the way it wags its long tail.

“The accords were fig leaves of democratic procedure to hide the nakedness of Stalinist dictatorship,” George Kennan (19...
02/02/2016

“The accords were fig leaves of democratic procedure to hide the nakedness of Stalinist dictatorship,” George Kennan (1904-2005), an American diplomat, political scientist, and historian, once said. “In 1946, while he was Chargé d’Affaires in Moscow, Kennan sent an 8,000-word telegram to the (State) Department — the now-famous ‘long telegram’ — on the aggressive nature of Stalin’s foreign policy. Kennan, writing as ‘Mr. X,’ published an outline of his philosophy in the prestigious journal Foreign Affairs in 1947. His conclusion was that ‘the main element of any United States policy toward the Soviet Union must be that of a long-term patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies.’ Containment provided a conceptual framework for a series of successful initiatives undertaken from 1947 to 1950 to blunt Soviet expansion.” (U.S. Department of State Office of the Historian)
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“Kennan played a major role in the development of definitive Cold War programs and institutions, notably the Marshall Plan.” (Wikipedia)
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Kennan inspired the so-called Truman Doctrine, which he distanced himself from in later years, favoring engagement with the Soviets over isolation.
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George Kennan had a soft spot for the Baltic States, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia: “(…) Kennan was profoundly moved by what he saw in Estonia, by the efforts of the people here to build a free and open society. Looking back on his time in Tallinn, Kennan told a hearing of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee in April 1989 that what he had seen in Tallinn and in the other Baltic capitals in the 1920s convinced him that Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians would eventually escape from the Soviet orbit. He pointed out to the assembled senators that he had lived in the Baltic countries ‘when they were enjoying their independence [’ and] beginning to make a success of governing themselves.’ Kennan said: ‘It was new to them in 1919 when they became independent countries, but they were not doing badly.’ Indeed, his ideas about broadcasting were supported by his lifelong commitment to the principle that Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania continued to exist de jure and without interruption from 1920 onwards. Kennan’s third link to Estonia and her Baltic neighbors came as the Baltic nations were moving to reclaim their proper place on the map of Europe. In 1989, he spoke out on behalf of the recovery of Baltic independence at the Senate hearing mentioned above. In 1990-91, he repeatedly called the State Department to ask about how things were going in the Baltic countries and to offer his advice. And following the recovery of Baltic independence in 1991, he took an active interest in what has been taking place here despite his advanced age and physical infirmities. Speaking to the Senate committee in 1989, Kennan talked about the national movements in the Baltic countries in some detail. He suggested that the three ‘will want to go as far as they can in recovering their independence,’ always mindful of the very real dangers that could occur were they to ‘push too far and too fast.’ And he praised the leaders of the independence movements here for understanding that ‘their best chances lie in a certain gradualness, keeping a certain amount of pressure on, but not too much, not enough to really frighten the Russians into doing drastic things.’” (Paul Goble, http://www.diplomaatia.ee/en/article/george-kennans-estonian-ties)
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George Kennan has described his impressions of Riga, Latvia in his memoirs (1925-1950): “Riga had the advantage of a variegated and highly cosmopolitan cultural life: newspapers and theaters in the Lettish, German, Russian, and Yiddish tongues, and vigorous Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Russian Orthodox, and Jewish religious communities. (…) The politically dominant Letts, becoming increasingly chauvinistic as the years of their independence transpired, were concerned to put an end as soon as possible to all this cosmopolitanism and eventually did succeed, by 1939, in depriving the city of much of its charm. (…) With this development the genial mixing of tongues and faiths that had once given Riga the proud title of ‘Paris of the Baltic’ gave way all at once to the gray, dead shabbiness of isolation behind the impenetrable walls of Stalin’s Russia; and national chauvinism was punished in a degree beyond its greatest deserts. (…)” (George Kennan. Memoirs 1925-1950. New York: Pantheon Books, 1967. Page 29.)

In 1922 the so-called Latvian Refugees Re-Evacuation Society published a unique book of photographs by Mārtiņš Lapiņš (1...
01/23/2016

In 1922 the so-called Latvian Refugees Re-Evacuation Society published a unique book of photographs by Mārtiņš Lapiņš (1873-1954) that documented the return of refugees from Russia in 1920. This rare edition can be found at the National Library of Latvia and the University of Latvia. The compelling photographs depict Latvians returning to their newly independent native land from the expanses of Russia, which by 1922 was in the hands of Lenin and the Bolsheviks. Many Latvians left Latvia in search of land at the end of the 19th century, but about one-fifth of the Latvian population was displaced during World War I. Latvians who had succeeded in putting down roots in Russia were upended by the Bolsheviks.

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