CROSSING THE BORDERS OF THE TRADITIONAL CULTURE IN LITHUANIAN AND LATVIAN CHILDREN PERIODICALS (1866–1940)

Kristina Vaisvalavičiene

Abstract


The period between the end of 19th century – the first half of the 20th century had been very important for Lithuanians and Latvians as a time, when the rights of the national language and culture had been strengthened and fortified. The rich sociocultural context, which appears in the children’s periodicals of that time, allows to evaluate the efforts of the nation in order to define and keep the borders of traditional culture. The investigation of children’s periodicals also helps to reconstruct the field of national literature of that time. The aim of the paper is to investigate, what changes of the traditional culture appear in the Lithuanian and Latvian children’s periodicals, published before 1940. Some aspects of the nation’s location in the time and space are being stressed, such as: marking of the nation’s culture and territory borders, institutionalization of the national calendar and construction of the historical memory. The investigation is based on the comparative analysis of the main Lithuanian and Latvian children’s periodicals, which were published before 1940: Lithuanian – “Šaltinėlis” (‘a little spring’, 1906–1914; 1928–1940), “Žiburėlis” (‘a little torch’, 1920–1944), “Žvaigždutė” (‘a little star’, 1923–1940), “Kregždutė” (‘a little swallow’, 1934–1940), “Vyturys” (‘a lark’ 1931, 1935–1940); Latvian – “Bērnu Pastnieks” (‘children’s postman’, 1866–1869), “Jaunības Draugs” (‘the friend of the youth’, 1901–1904), “Jaunības Tekas” (‘the paths of the youth’, 1910–1915; 1920–1930), “Bitīte” (‘a little bee’, 1912–1916), “Latvijas Jaunatne” (‘the youth of Latvia’, 1924–1940), “Cīrulītis” (‘a little lark’, 1923–1940), “Jaunais Cīrulītis” (‘the new little lark’, 1926–1934). Due to the confessional and some historical similarities between Lithuanians and Latgalians, there are also two Catholic Latgalian magazines –“Sauleite” (‘the little sun’, 1926–1940) and “Katōļu Dzeive” (‘the life of Catholics’, 1926–1940) – analyzed, despite the fact, that they were aimed at both children and youth. The theoretical background of the research is based on the works of sociologists and anthropologists of culture (Benedict Anderson, Anthony D. Smith, Orvar Löfgren), as well as on some theories of media (Denis McQuail, Herbert Marshall McLuhan). The binary opposition of the the self and the other (Löfgren 1991: 105, Smith 1994: 20–22) is being used as a border marker of the traditional culture in the texts of children’s periodicals. The borders of traditional culture in the children’s periodicals change depending on the fact, who and when is talking in the name of the nation – priests, teachers, supporters of the different ideological or confessional camps. As a result of the individually made or institutionary censored editorial selection of textual material, the national culture is being institutionalized and subordinated for the realization of different purposes. The language of the ethnic group is the first thing the national press institutionalizes, and that helps the community to imagine itself (Anderson 1999). The symbolic value of the language is absent in such Latvian children’s magazines as “Bērnu Pastnieks” and “Bitīte”, which were edited by the priests of German origin and were published only for the purpose of religious education. The language, as well as nation’s territorial location, had mostly been emphasized in the Lithuanian children’s periodicals. The declarative tendency of self-defining (names of periodicals, maps, lists of the readers’, collective photos of the children, explanations about nationality and the state) indicates the existing mechanism of the nation’s territory and culture defense. The defensive politics in Lithuania was established as a result of the traumatic experience of the long-lasting repressive actions (Lithuanian press ban (1864–1904), the occupation of Vilnius district by Polish nationalists (1919–1939) etc.). The Latvian language as the national symbol was presented in the Latvian children’s magazines “Jaunības Draugs”, “Jaunības Tekas” and “Cīrulītis”, but its symbolic capital was being increased by the actualization of traditional culture (folklore), native literature and national historic memory (the biographies of distinguished Latvians, nation’s relations with antiquity, nobles or saints). The periodicity and cyclic recurrence of the periodicals had institutionalized the time and the rhythm of the readers’ life. In the context of nation’s efforts of self- determination in time and space, the changes of the traditional culture borders are best seen in the traditions of commemoration of the dead. The interpretations of the commemoration of the dead depend on, what is being emphasized – the end of the individual person’s life or the death in the context of nations history. The discourse of death and the commemoration of the dead have been actualized mostly in the issues of children’s periodicals, published during the period between October and December. This period according to folkloristic Baltic tradition was called as a period of souls and was celebrated with the rituals of soul-feeding and gratitude to the souls of forefathers. The Christian liturgical day of the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (in Catholic tradition) or the Day of all Souls (in the Protestant tradition) were not directly included in the calendar of children’s periodicals until 1918. But there were a lot of published texts, actualizing the theme of orphans as well as a lot of traditional genres, which were characteristic to that period of the year, e. g., tales about orphans and beggars, mythological stories about roaming souls etc. In the independent Latvia the traditional mood of the period in Latvian children’s periodicals was covered by the celebration of proclamation of the state (November 18) and the commemoration of the perished in the battles for independence. In Lithuanian and Latgalian periodicals of that time (“Šaltinėlis”, “Žvaigždutė”, “Kregždutė”, “Sauleite”) the Catholic liturgical celebration of Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed was institutionalized (the very name of it appeared in the titles of publications, children were asked to pray for the souls of the dead relatives, etc.), which helped to keep the traditional themes and genres. The necessity to construct historical memory of the children and to educate them in patriotic mood widened the meaning of the commemoration day (children were asked to pray for national heroes and to look after graves of buried soldiers). The tendency to organize official ceremonial commemoration of the dead had influenced traditions in the private field – in the middle of the 30s the children are encouraged not only to pray for the souls of their dead relatives, but also to look after their graves and to take part in the mass celebrations – all that indicated the nations efforts to inscribe history of individuals in the history of the nation. The representation and explanation of the national traditions and rituals in the children’s periodicals not only constructed the national identity of the young readers, but also strengthened their place in the national community and supplemented the understanding of the nation’s whole, its history and future. Children in the periodicals of the time were shown as ones, who inherit and pass on the traditions to the future generations.

Keywords


Lithuanian and Latvian children’s periodicals; national identity; nation’s location in the time and space; changes of the traditional culture; institutionalization of the culture; construction of the historical memory; national calendar; commemoration of

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References


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17770/latg2014.6.1665

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