Latvia - best enjoyed in the 1930s

Modern day tourists visiting Latvia are being given a taste of what they might have expected to encounter had they set out a little earlier - 80 years earlier, to be precise.

A new exhibition at the Museum of the History of Riga and Navigation showcases tourism promotion materials from the 1930s when the fledgling state was making a concerted effort to attract foreign as well as domestic tourists.

While some of the draws have disappeared forever, most notably the beautiful Staburags cliffs, which were flooded to make way for a Soviet-era hydroelectric power plant, what's striking is how similar many of the messages are to those used to promote Latvia today - only the older versions generally benefit from much more stylish artwork.

"Be tourists! Beautiful Latvia calls you! " says a slogan devised by Karlis Vanags, the Interior Ministry official responsible for much of the 30s marketing drive.

Today's equivalent is "Latvia - best enjoyed slowly."

"Tourism and tourist propaganda became an important tool for strengthening love of the native land, national unification and patriotic upbringing. From today point of view, tourist propaganda in the 1930s may seem overly educational and even ridiculous; however, it encouraged and taught very important things - to know one’s native land and be proud of it, to honor and remember those who had fought for Latvia independence, those who nurtured its culture," the official description reads. 

The exhibition tells the story of how the propaganda work was organized, what propaganda techniques were used, what was done in the field of tourism development in Latvia and which were the most popular tourist attractions. 

The exhibition features documents, photos, posters, objects and film clips chronicling the rise of tourism as an important part of the economy as the country rapidly moved away from dependence on agriculture and began to catch up with the European mainstream. It runs until the end of the year.

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