Growing up, Peters got to spend his
Saturdays going to Latvian school, studying grammar, literature, geography,
history... there was a time that Peters could recite the entire history of
Latvia from the Ice Age. Of course, that was quite some time ago, and all in
Latvian from Latvian history books, some mimeographed—remember that
purplish ink on coated paper?
It wasn't until we ran across
"The Story of Latvia - A Historical Survey", by Professor Dr.
Arveds Svabe (published in 1949), that we found as thorough a recouting of
Latvia's history—starting at the Ice Age—and in English. And
concise enough to make for an evening or two of reading. Our thanks to the
Latvian National Foundation for their permission to reproduce it here on
our website. Please note, LNF retains all rights to these
A few words on Dr. Arveds Svabe, from
the Latvian Academy of Sciences» web
site...with some minor editing...
Arveds SVABE (1888-1959) -
historian, lawyer, writer. Professor of the University of Latvia (1932-1940),
director of the History Depository (1941-1944). Emigrated to Germany in 1944,
moved to Sweden in 1949 where he worked in the Archives of the University of
Stockholm. A compiler and editor-in-chief of "The Conversational
Encyclopaedia of Latvia" (Latvijas konversacijas vardnica), vol.1-21,
1927-1940. Has edited "The Latvian Encyclopaedia" (Latvju
enciklopedija), vol.1-3, 1950-1955, Supplements, 1962. Has investigated the
history of Latvia ("History of Latvia. 1800-1914", 1958). Has written on
folklore, literary criticism, history of literature, has prepared biographical
reviews (essays). Also a poet, prosaist, publicist and translator.
Student and lover of history, of the
sciences, of language—for example, translating Longfellow's The Song
of Hiawatha into Latvian. Unabashed champion of Latvians and Latvia. One
would think that the average brain mass of Latvian males and females would make
for dry reading (page 4 in the original); instead, it's at once
engaging, informative, and—most of all—a touchstone for the
thoroughness with which he relates the story of the Latvian people and nation
he so loved.
To today's reader, 60 years later,
Svabe's writing style might seem overly impassioned or, at times, opinionated.
Consider the purpose and circumstances under which this work was
written—making an impassioned plea on behalf of the homeland they had
just lost while and tens of thousands of Latvians tried to rebuild their lives,
living in DP camps in Germany and scattered throughout the globe. The facts
still speak plainly now as they did then.
Arveds Svabe's detailed biography in