Learning to build a nation: students in the new Latvia

On November 18, 1918, Latvia declared independence from the new Soviet government in Russia.  In November of this year, Latvians celebrated the centennial of that event.  Neighboring Lithuania and Estonia will be celebrating the centennial of their own independence in February 2019.  Finland’s centennial celebration took place on December 6, 2017.

The photo above was likely taken in the 1920s, during Latvia’s first decade as an independent country.  The back provides no information, but I acquired the postcard from a dealer in Riga, the capital.  The photo reminds me of my own experience in “Industrial Arts” class in middle school in the 1980s, although no girls enrolled in the class, and by then most boys were choosing other subjects instead as well.  I suspect the kids above were required to take the class, but at least they were all in it together, just as they were bound together in the larger project of building a nation.


For another post about Latvia, please see Glimpses of Latvian culture.




31 thoughts on “Learning to build a nation: students in the new Latvia

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  1. Despite differences in dress, etc., the photos could have been of the home economics and industrial arts classes when I was in middle school in the 1950s. The boys took shop, and the girls sewed, but sometimes the twain did meet — the boys had to also cook a dinner for the girls, and the girls had to choose a woodworking project in the shop. It was great fun. We were far more ‘progressive’ in those days than some of today’s young people can imagine.

    I’m glad you mentioned the centenary of independence. I wrote once about the Estonian singing revolution, and I might edit that and repost it at some time in the coming year.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. It’s so interesting that “the twain did meet” at your school. That didn’t happen at my school. There was a Home Economics class, which boys didn’t generally take, and I have NO idea what went on in there. That’s sad, isn’t it? The idea of vocational training is making a comeback now, which is a great thing. (One of my Senators, Bernie Sanders, is a particular fan of it.)

      I’d love to read what you wrote about the Estonian singing revolution! I had to make one correction to what I wrote, to say that the Finns celebrated their centenary last December, rather than next month.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. The teacher on the left seems mild and content to me, as though he’s happy to simply be there with his students, engaged in learning to create a new world. I imagine they’ve been chittering away with one another and been asked to pause quietly for a moment to take this. And when the photo was snapped all at once they were truly back at their tasks. Thank you!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. That’s exactly how I imagined them! Like kids everywhere: excited, distracted, focused on their young teenage world, not overly concerned with the world of adults. Their teacher does seem content. I think he took pride in his class, despite the humble setting.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Funny, it looks like the two girls at the back are on their cell phones!

    We have friends with proud Latvian ancestry.

    Shop class looks like it was mostly male, while the girls are sewing? I was one of the first girls to take machine shop at my school in the mid 70s. They had just opened it up to girls that year. I took drafting, too. Good thing because my aptitude was somewhat lacking in cooking and sewing class! Great pic!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks, Andrea! It’s funny that you say that about cooking and sewing, because I’ve often wished I had more skills in those areas. The woodworking experience I got in shop class hasn’t really come in handy, but some cooking and sewing skills sure would have!

      Liked by 2 people

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