Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The last earthly voyage and collaboration

Today famous Latvian actress Vija Artmane is laid to rest in eternal peace in Pokrov´s cemetery in Riga. She was a long standing star performer in the Latvian Daile theatre and she became famous due to her acting qualities not only in theatre, but particularly in movies making her famous all over the former USSR. She had to live her last days in the Riga outskirts Murjani summerhouse, which belonged to her deceased husband Arturs Dimiters. The summerhouse formerly belonged to the tragically killed composer Emils Darzinsh, and apparently the prewar house had no central heating system.

Photo: Aivars Liepinsh

Funeral of no other actor has created such a stir in post-independence Latvia. The Russian president sent his condolences, and the Russian media has added a spat in Latvian - Russian relations while accusing the Latvian state allowing``the former star performer to live in unbearable living conditions``. The fact is, however, that last years of her rich life were tarnished due to behavior of her own son Kaspars Dimiters. The latter person questionably managed his mother´s real estate and then started turning from membership of one Christian denomination to other. She followed her son in his path of Christian revelations and the last denomination they ended with was the Orthodox Christianity.

Her biggest fame was achieved in Russia, and several experts reckoned that Latvia was too small for her talent to flourish. The fact is that there were several artists from the Daile theatre who achieved the stardom due to their superb performance in the Soviet movie industry. Nevertheless, her stardom strained relations with other actors of the Daile theatre guild, be they Eduards Pavuls, Elza Radzina or Harijs Liepinsh. The reason for strained relations with other colleagues was the issue of collaboration with the occupation regime. Quasi-totalitarian and authoritarian regimes need artists to help to legitimize the ruling elites. The question of collaboration was particularly painful for the subjugated nations living under the Soviet yoke, and questions about peaceful resistance or collaboration unfortunately were never really discussed in the post independence Latvia.

The fact is that Vija Artmane was not only member of the CPSU but she was also the member of the occupied Latvian Supreme Council. She tried to promote interests of Latvian people during the times of occupation, but unfortunately such people like her were simple pawns in the bigger chess game of the CPSU elites.

Thus, the actress was sent to her last earthly voyage from the Riga Orthodox Cathedral. The magnanimous funeral procession with the traffic closed in Central Riga passed the Daile theatre on the way to Pokrov´s cemetery, and there is a remembrance corner devoted to her on the corner of the theatre building. There are several experts who question reasons for the poisonous Russian media reaction about the last years of the star artist´s life and the exceptional magnanimity of her funeral procession. After all, other star performers of Daile theatre guild were usually taken to the last earthly voyage from the theatre building. Why such an attention to the former nomenclature member commentators in www.diena.lv and www.delfi.lv ask?

An answer is simple. While the issue of collaboration and resistance will continue to simmer in post-independence Latvia without being properly analysed and discussed, there will be ongoing antagonism promoted in the Latvian society. Vija Artmane rests in peace now, and there are fewer and fewer representatives of her generation left under this sun. Can Latvians really afford such internal antagonism to proceed?


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