Documentary examines Latvia's land reform of 1920 and the fate of the manors

LTV has prepared another of its short historical documentary films under the the title 'The Keys', complete with English-language subtitles.

In this episode the year in focus is 1920. Just two years on from Latvia's declaration of independence the mammoth task of equitably distributing what had formerly been the land of the Tsarist Russian Empire got under way. As can be imagined, it was no easy task and disagreements abounded, many of them echoing down the succeeding decades in various forms. 

Old scores were settled -- particularly against the German aristocrats who had controlled much of the land for centuries -- while new rivalries emerged, too. Some people did well, others felt they had been cheated of their rightful share or realised the possession of a parcel of land did not solve all their other problems. 

The fate of the manor houses is a matter of particular focus with the documentary outlinign how new egalitarian principles were in many cases incompatible with the protection of what these days we might call "cultural heritage".  The most striking example is of Rundāle Palace. Now one of Latvia's major tourist attractions, the baroque masterpiece was subjected to numerous indiginities.

According to LTV "The Keys" series tells of the most important or "key" events, personalities and turning points in the history of the Latvian state from 1918 to the present. The purpose is to reveal each selected event from an unusual point of view, as if "unlocking the door" to lesser known and therefore particularly intriguing facts. 

"Such an exploratory approach, bypassing the usual stereotypes of presenting history, will allow viewers to perceive what is known to others and to better understand what has happened in the context of today's experience," says LTV.

The show is made by VFS Films, a long-time partner of Latvian Television and it is hosted by Mārtiņš Ķibilds, a distinguished cultural journalist who sadly passed away late last year.

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