Zur lettischen Literatur in der Sowjetzeit: Strategien des Widerstandes aus postkolonialer Perspektive

Benedikts Kalnačs


The article provides an interpretation of the development of Latvian literature during the Soviet period. In order to grasp historical connections, an overview of the literary, cultural and social development in the territory of the present day Latvia in a comparative perspective is attempted as well. The historical processes in Latvian literature are dealt with against the background of the colonial experience from the beginning of the Latvian letters in the 16th century onwards. The literary development during the Soviet era is seen as a repetition of an earlier pattern of colonial experience with foreign models gradually being appropriated and transformed in the creative output of representatives of the local cultural elite. To describe the cultural logic of Soviet colonialism and its gradual overturn, postcolonial critical methodology is used as a research tool and its applicability to Latvian literature discussed in the context of contemporary scholarly discourse. Investigations of Soviet colonialism undertaken by researchers of Baltic literatures and cultures (Violeta Kelertas, Epp Annus) as well as East-Central European researchers (Cristina Șandru, Andrei Terian, Madina Tlostanova, Nataša Kovačeviḉ) are involved in the discussion alongside various perspectives upon global colonial relations (Edward Said, Bill Ashcroft, Walter D. Mignolo, Jürgen Osterhammel et al.). The impact of Soviet ideology and colonial presence upon Latvian literature is discussed while providing a three-step pattern in the development of literature of the Soviet period. The early phase of the Soviet ideological presence (till approximately the mid-1950s) with its emphasis on a complete renewal of literary process is followed by two periods where critical appropriation and inversion of the Soviet model become dominant. The final part of the article provides a case study of the work of the Latvian dramatist Gunārs Priede (1928–2000) whose formative years reveal the impact of the Soviet ideological pressure while, on the other hand, Priede’s dramaturgical output from the mid-1950s onwards initiates new trends which are marked by latent manifestation of anti-colonial self-consciousness of the Latvian nation.


postcolonial criticism; Soviet colonialism; Latvian literature; Gunārs Priede

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.12697/IL.2013.18.2.18


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