The Story of Latvia—A Historical SurveyArveds Švābe. Latvian National Foundation, Stockholm. 1949

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 Švābe (published in 1949), that we found as thorough a recounting 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 materials.

A few words on Dr. Arveds Švābe, from the Latvian Academy of Sciences web site...with some minor editing...

Arveds ŠVĀBE (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. Today, seventy years later, Švābe's writing style might seem overly impassioned or, at times, chauvanistic and opinionated; Švābe does not spare the "contemplative" Russians or the the Germans, deemed "mentally inferior" because they "regard war and obedience to the Führer as the highest national virtue." 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. If Švābe's writing betrays his emotions, consider the time and circumstances under which this work was written: making a plea on behalf of the homeland Latvians had just lost, as tens of thousands strove to preserve their heritage and make sense of their lives, living in DP camps in Germany and scattered around the globe.

Whatever official Russia attempts to pass off as history, the facts speak as plainly now as they did then.

Additional Reading

"The Story of Latvia-A Historical Survey" reproduced by permission.
The Latvian National Foundation, Box 108, S-101 21 Stockholm, Sweden, retains all rights.

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