Commemorating the Imperial Past in Post-Soviet Latvia: Between Occupation and Colonization
In 2000, the successful Latvian businessman Evgenii Gomberg financed the reassembly of a Russian Imperial monument to Peter the Great that in the prerevolutionary era had graced the central plaza of Latvia’s capital, Riga. Following the recreation of the monument, Gomberg offered it as a gift to the city of Riga. The gift was refused. The convoluted history of the monument, up to this latest episode, mirrors the upheavals of the Baltic twentieth-century experience as a whole, in an allegory of local history and memory. The paper presented for discussion takes the story of Gomberg and his monument as an entry into analysis of post-Soviet history and memory of Latvia’s place in the Russian Empire and Soviet Union. It both applies post-colonial terms of analysis to the post-Soviet Latvian situation and seeks to critique those terms in light of the specificities of that situation. The paper is a draft chapter of a book in progress, tentatively titled Near Abroad: Russian Culture in 21st-Century Latvia.
Kevin M. F. Platt is Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Term Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Russian and East European Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. He received his B.A. from Amherst College (1989) and his Ph.D. from Stanford University (1994) and taught at Pomona College before joining the University of Pennsylvania faculty in 2002. He has been the recipient of grants from IREX, NCEEER, Fulbright-Hays and other programs, and was a Guggenheim Fellow in 2011-12. He works on representations of Russian history, Russian historiography, history and memory in Russia, Russian lyric poetry, and global post-Soviet Russian cultures. He is the author of Terror and Greatness: Ivan and Peter as Russian Myths (Cornell UP, 2011) and History in a Grotesque Key: Russian Literature and the Idea of Revolution (Stanford, 1997; Russian edition 2006), the editor of Global Russian Cultures (Wisconsin UP, 2018, forthcoming), and the co-editor (with David Brandenberger) of Epic Revisionism: Russian History and Literature as Stalinist Propaganda (Wisconsin UP, 2006). He has also edited and contributed translations to a number of books of Russian poetry in English translation, most recently Hit Parade: The Orbita Group (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2015). His current projects include a critical historiography of Russia, study of contemporary Russian culture in Latvia, and a study of history and memory of Stalinist collective violence in Soviet and Post-Soviet Russia.
Friday, September 14 at 5:00pm to 6:30pm