Author: Baiba Tjarve
During the 20th century Latvia experienced several drastic metamorphoses. These include the creation of an independent state in 1918, two consecutive occupations during the Second World War and the regaining of independence in 1990.
During the first half of the 1990s, Latvia passed through a transition period from a totalitarian to a democratic society that brought forth crucial social, political, and economic changes. These changes resulted in the introduction of democratic processes, administrative reforms, liberalisation of the economy and introduction of a free market, stabilisation of the new political and economic institutions through privatisation of cultural enterprises, decentralisation of cultural processes and introduction of new legislation.
Latvia became a member of UNESCO in 1991, and joined the European Cultural Convention of the Council of Europe in 1992; became a signatory to the Berne Convention in 1995. The Memorandum of Co-operation between Latvia and UNESCO was signed in 1998.
Latvia submitted its application on accession to the European Union in 1995. This marked the beginning of considerable work to implement the necessary procedures and laws as part of the accession process. 2004 Latvia became a member state of the EU.
The first cultural policy document The Main Cultural Policy Proposals of Latvia (1995) outlined the most important tasks of state cultural policy for the first 10 years after regaining Latvian independence, i.e.: not to interfere with the regulation of creative process, simultaneously ensuring favourable conditions and necessary resources for the development of cultural process and cultivation of creative initiative.
The next important document was developed in 2000 - The National Programme Culture. The Programme sets more specific aims and serves as a complex long-term target-programme for the period until 2010. The general cultural priorities defined in this document are: provision of continuity of cultural process and encouragement of the development of new cultural processes in the future; improvement of the cultural administration system and infrastructure; decentralisation of the cultural administrative system; improvements in the cultural financing system and diversification of financial sources; promotion of accessibility and participation in cultural life; development and strengthening the role of cultural education; and encouragement of cultural integration. The Programme comprises descriptions of 10 sub-branches: Cultural heritage; Museums; Libraries; Visual art; Traditional culture and amateur art; Theatre; Music and dance; Literature; Film; Cultural education, which fall under the responsibility of the Ministry of Culture. In many points, the programme Culture was appreciated as an ideal, as important totality of guidelines, yet, it lacked linkage to the economic situation and legal procedures in the country, and it was not always harmonised with other normative acts.
The development of each sphere of culture needed to be reviewed and improved, taking into account the new emphasis and the strategic aims of the national cultural policy. The new document – State Cultural Policy Guidelines (2006 – 2015) - calls for a better integrated approach to the planning and implementation of culture policy (see chapter 2.3).