For the first time since restoration of country's independence, a comprehensive post-war decade music scene has been revealed against the backdrop of political and public conflicts in the Soviet Latvia. The work of Dr. art. Arnolds Laimonis Klotiņš "Music in Post-War Stalinism: Latvian Music Life and Creativity 1944–1953" (“Mūzika pēckara staļinismā: Latvijas mūzikas dzīve un jaunrade 1944–1953”) has been recognized as one of the most significant scientific achievements in 2018.

In his book, the author describes the 10 post-war years of music and creativity, bearing upon the hardest period of Stalinist totalitarianism. This is a continuation of the book "Music in Occupation" (“Mūzika okupācijā”).

Early period of Stalin’s rule

“The totalitarian art model assumed that art was a means of political communication, that it had to be ideology’s propaganda. A perpetual tension between spirit and power prevailed in striving to maintain Latvian art at some level under such circumstances. The power demanded one thing, while the artists – another. Of course, the Soviet ideological regime relentlessly stimulated, relying on artists, also musicians, that they would rebuild society, but it was a rather naive belief,” explains A. L. Klotiņš.

In post-war Stalinism, great hope was vested in amateur art, as it was an opportunity to hold control over those people who were not involved in state institutions, armies, or any other organizations. However, people were eager to participate in the choirs, finding Latvian environment there. During the first two years of the post-war period, the state was in transition period, and the national culture was promoted, thus, it was initially difficult for Soviet power to gain loyalty of intellectuals. It was still possible to celebrate the Midsummer, the Christmas day was a holiday, works like “Daugava” by the poet Jānis Rainis, and “Touched by eternity” (“Mūžības skartie”) by Aleksandrs Čaks were staged.

During the post-war period, the Song Festival was not mentioned without the epithet “bourgeois”. In 1946, the Central Committee issued a statement that a Latvian choir Olympics would be held, which in effect was just like the Song Festival – a repertoire was selected, the best choirs were chosen, rehearsals took place in the regions of Latvia, while the main events dedicated to song were held in Riga, including a festive march, song wars, an open-air stage was constructed in Esplanade. Deeply patriotic songs like "Castle of Light" (“Gaismas pils”) and "Broken Pines" (“Lauztās priedes”) were also permitted. The stage was surrounded by portraits of the Soviet Union leaders, and the loudspeakers blasted the slogans of the Soviet Union.

“Propaganda was just an outward appearance. It was important for people to feel the Latvian shoulder, a sense of community and sing the songs of before. The choirs became an influential force in society that could not be disregarded. In the period of Gorbachev, when the national revival approached, the choirs were the most organized part of society,” emphasizes A. L. Klotiņš.

 

Cruel regime

Soviet power longed for an opera with a Sovietic storyline and topical scenes of everyday life played out on the stage, but this had to wait until 1954. After Stalin's death, Marģeris Zariņš staged the work of Vilis Lācis “Toward the New Coast” (“Uz jauno krastu”).

Stalinist censorship was imposed on many artists. People were not permitted to perform songs written earlier by Jāzeps Vītols or Alfrēds Kalniņš. “Then there was an indirect corruption of artists and musicians. The association of composers was founded, its purpose was to keep the composers under control to stimulate them to work in the Soviet spirit. Composers organized numerous song competitions, three to four song contests per year. However, the prizes were awarded not only to those who received award-winning places, but also to reward participation. It was a bribe,” says A. L. Klotiņš.

During Stalin's time, instrumental music was written, where the theme of the song might not be fully exposed and understood. However, 1948 saw the issue of a statement by the USSR Central Committee on the so-called formalism in music. It was a prosecution of innovation, and as a result, either simple, pragmatic pieces had to be written, or, before performing the composition, an explanation in writing or orally had to be provided, clearly explaining the meaning of that piece.

Latvian artists and musicians had to undergo a great deal of censorship, there were those who ceased their creative activities due to censorship, nevertheless, Latvian national art still weathered the Soviet times.

“We can thank many artists that Latvian national art survived the Soviet era. As it is now proven around the world, numerous leading opera singers in major opera theatres are Latvians. The school, which was also maintained during Soviet Latvia, helped national art to persist,” the researcher admits.

Share