The Cultural Policy Guidelines 2014-2020 “Creative Latvia” have set the following vision:
Latvia – a country with a rich and nourished heritage, a vibrant and diverse cultural life, creative people, creative industries with high export potential, and improving the quality of life for everyone.
To reach this vision, the following priorities have been outlined:
- preservation and development of cultural capital involving community members in cultural processes;
- a creative life-long learning and cultural education system oriented towards labour employment;
- cultural and creative industries with high export potential; and
- creative territories and accessibility of cultural services.
The Cultural Policy Guidelines 2014 – 2020 use the broad definition of culture that corresponds with the conclusions of the World Conference on Cultural Policies (Mexico 1982), the World Commission on Culture and Development Report (1995), and the Intergovernmental Conference on Cultural Policies for Development in Stockholm (1998). The definition is: “Within a wider sense, aggregate, form and type of all achievements of people and mankind, which pervades any human activity and existence. Culture incorporates socially recognised values, tolerance, external and internal orientation, beliefs, creative spirit and interests of individuals and the society. The language, folklore, customs, rituals, traditions, knowledge and education process, diversity and interest regarding other cultures, as well as contemporary product of creative work are the basis for preservation and development of culture. In a more narrow sense, culture is art, architectural, music, literature expressions and other creative expressions.”
The cultural policy document stresses that the development of the society and the state, as well as the quality of life depends on diversity and richness of culture, its accessibility and participation of creative individuals.
Despite the all-embracing definition, the Ministry of Culture mainly
takes responsibility for the particular art fields, such as copyright,
architecture, libraries, museums, music, fine art, folk art, theatre,
literature and books, film arts, cultural education, and the protection of monuments
and archives. In recent years, there is a tendency to look at culture in a
broader context (development, economy etc.). Moreover, the Ministry of Culture
is also responsible for media policy and integration and society (though each
area having its own separate policies). At the end of 1990s, the concept of
cultural industries appeared first in the studies commissioned by the Ministry
of Culture and the concept has been also included in The Main Cultural Policy Postulates
of Latvia (1995). Later – the
Cultural Policy Guidelines 2006-2015 declared creative industries as a horizontal dimension that enlarges the scope of art, culture and cultural heritage sectors.
Perception of culture as part of broader development processes, including its role in regional development was also influenced by the necessity to develop new arguments for inclusion culture in international funding schemes, EU Structural Funds being one of the most significant in this respect.
A new mid-term cultural policy document “Creative Latvia” has been elaborated for the period 2014- 2020 that corresponds to the main planning documents at national and EU level.
The Latvian cultural policy model is centralised around the Ministry of Culture, which is the main institution formulating and co-ordinating state cultural policy. However, there have been some changes towards decentralisation and involvement of non-governmental organisations and the civil society in the cultural field. The Ministry of Culture has signed several agreements with non- governmental organisations (e.g. The New Theatre Institute of Latvia, Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art), delegating a number of specific functions. There are advisory boards or councils in most cultural sectors, which include culture operators, experts and representatives of other ministries, municipalities and non-governmental organisations, who actively participate in the policymaking process.
The economic crisis (2008-2010) has provoked new developments concerning the governance of cultural institutions. On the one hand, decentralisation processes have been speeded up. The Ministry of Culture is willing to hand over responsibility for amateur art, cultural education and some professional art institutions to municipalities. On the other hand, within the state administration there is a tendency towards centralisation e.g., several state agencies that were operating as arm’s length bodies (National Film Centre, The State Authority on Museums) have been either integrated into the structure of the Ministry of Culture or transformed into budget institutions losing their autonomy.
The establishment of the State Culture Capital Foundation, which started operating as an arm’s length body in 1998, was a major milestone in Latvian cultural policy and changed funding patterns in the cultural sector. The financing of cultural projects, which had previously been the responsibility of the Ministry of Culture was delegated to the Foundation. The budget for most of the national cultural institutions is distributed as subsidies from the Ministry of Culture.
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 went 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, joined the European Cultural Convention of the Council of Europe in 1992 and 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. In 2004, Latvia became a member state of the EU. The first cultural policy document The Main Cultural Policy Postulates 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.