Gints Grūbe: the dangerous substance of history
I remember what Hungarian writer, Nobel prize winner Imre Kertesz, once told me. He said that he was able to write a novel about Holocaust only twenty years after those horrifying events. Now, a hundred years have passed since the World War I, and we can evaluate stories from our historical experience that have emerged in those years in order to continue an intellectual yet contradictory discussion about where Latvia and Riga is at this point. This is our opportunity to discover the shape of our intellectual thinking „muscles” in discussing issues related to history.
For many Eastern European nations as well as for Latvians, World War I was a significant precondition to establish their own state.
When English historian Norman Davies presented his book „European History” in Riga a couple years ago, he particularly pointed out that, for Baltic nations, World War I ended in 1991 when all three states re-established the status of an independend states. We might as well say it ended yesterday.
In 1914, Riga was one of those cities included in the prestige European „circle”. After World War I, Europe lost its splendid brightness leaving permanent consequences in Europeans’ minds. During this war, Riga has always been put between foreign political authorities.
The thematic line „Freedom Street” which is included in the official programme of European Capital of Culture represents the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I. It will reflect the story of collisions experienced in any city and any part of the world.
Pre-war and after-war has captured European culture, homes, places, people, generations, stories, memories, monuments, spirit. It has developed the improvements, always at somebody’s expense.
Freedom Street is the stage for destroyal and renovation. Male and female. Collision and war never ends continuing to search new forms of existence.
In fact, the greatest liberalism philosopher Isaiah Berlin was born in Riga and he was the one who went on walks with his nanny in Esplanāde near Freedom Street. His childhood walking place later became the location for military parades. Freedom is the symbol and value that becomes as one through „force majeure”. When Berlin was asked whether his ideas and thoughts have something to do with the place he was born in, Riga, the provincial city of Russian Empire through its splendid improvement times which he later left in order to experience the revolution in St. Petersburg, he replied positively. The place always leaves its prints, and Freedom is the captured title for this city.
The conference curated by „Rīga 2014” is an attempt to focus on historical story aspects and taboo questions as well as unsolved problems. The discussion in its form defines culture and is an opportunity for Latvia to join the tradition of European discussions. The conversation about history forms identity, so we hope that „Rīga 2014” programme allows us to understand ourselves more in a historical perspective. French poet Paul Valery has written: „History is the most dangerous product that the chemistry of the intellect has invented. Its properties are well known. It engenders dreams, it intoxicates the people, it begets false memories, it exaggerates their reactions, keeps their old wounds open, disturbs their sleep, leads them to delusions of grandeur or of persecution, and makes nations bitter, arrogant, insufferable and vain.”
To find more about the programme, click on: www.riga2014.org