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Address of the President of Latvia, Egils Levits, at the Jelgava Gederts Eliass Museum of History and Art


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Dear participants,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Zemgalians,

Inhabitants of Jelgava,

I

Education and science played a major role in the life of President Jānis Čakste. Moscow literary nights, academic student society Austrums, which is also well represented today as was said, active role in the founding of national university and lectures for students despite hard government work - these are just some of the key activities Jānis Čakste undertook as part of his devotion to education and science.

It is deeply symbolic that on 160th birthday of Jānis Čakste we have gathered at the historic premises of Academia Petrina to participate in the academic reading celebrating President Čakste.

It is even more symbolic because these very premises used to house Jelgava Male Gymnasium attended by Jānis Čakste himself among others. We are in the house where future president of Latvia did his learning, where his personality was shaped – we know that personality is shaped during the adolescence or in his case when he walked these very stairs and halls, and where he as the great leader of the nation and the people began his path.

II

There are several reasons why I am particularly interested in today’s topic that I am keen to hear about.

As we celebrate the 160th birthday of Jānis Čakste, we, of course, mostly focus on him as the first president of Latvia. This, however, remains a little-researched part of president’s life. So, I, like others here, am looking forward to interesting stories and probably new discoveries.

Secondly, international representation of Latvia and its foreign policy is a part of history which has been less researched by historians. We must study the history of our country, and the history of statehood, more comprehensively and thoroughly. Historic research is not only a prerogative of historians, everyone interested in history, all of us, should be aware of our nation’s past. Nations are rooted in history. There is no modern nation without history. Historic analysis plays a decisive role in current efforts to ensure continuity of statehood.

Interestingly, historic research is an endless endeavour. Firstly, because there are many events happening every day and hundred years from now historians will retrospectively focus on one of those millions of events. So, the few events chosen by historians will make it into the so-called history and collective memory. More importantly, history is constantly changing because the research of events is usually a product of particular historian and the author of historic research is always viewed through the perspective of his time. Historian always looks at historic events through the eyes of the contemporary, based on the contemporary philosophy and views. Historians may have a different view because they too, like us, are usually the contemporaries of their time. If you revisit the events described by historians 20-50 after they have occurred, you too will discover new, previously unseen factors. That is why historic research is an endless endeavour.

Our today’s speaker also represents the new generation of historians who judge history through the prism of today. I am sure we will discover a lot of new angles, new methodological approaches and maybe even new facts from today’s lecture. So, I wish myself and all of you an interesting lecture. Thank you for your attention!

Valsts prezidents Egils Levits piedalās Latvijas Valsts pirmā prezidenta Jāņa Čakstes 160. dzimšanas dienas atceres pasākumos

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