Special Island. Latvian Highschool in Munster – Notes from Previous Student

Ojārs J. Rozītis

The article is a personal memoir outlining the experience of the author as a student at Minsteres Latviešu ģimnāzija (MLĢ; Latvian Highschool Münster) throughout the 1960s. From 1946 to 1998 this school was the only secondary education institution in the Western world with specifically Latvian subjects and teaching language.

As a boarding-school, it was also one of the few places outside Latvia where students could experience being Latvian on a 24/7 basis – while not blending in with the surrounding German society. This, the author argues, was the breeding ground for an informal Latvian consciousness beyond the traditional rituals of the exile society. Hence the term “special island” in the Latvian title of the article, which also refers to the failure of the school’s officialdom to take note of current trends, for instance, in Latvian literature, both abroad and in Latvia, or to take up the impetus of the youth revolt in the late 1960s.

The author contrasts the patriotic expectations of the Latvian exile community with regard to the school (“Castle of Light”) with his own more down-to-earth experience as a teenage student and uncovers traces of petty clandestine Cold War operations in Minsteres Latviešu ģimnāzija. Also included is a glossary of MLĢ student slang.