Between Ethnicity and Professionalism: Problem of Personnel in the Establishment of the Latvian Conservatory in 1919-1921

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For the first time in the Russian-language historiography, there is examined the correlation of two approaches - ethnic and professional - in the formation of the teaching staff of the Latvian Conservatory in the first years of its existence (1919-1922). The research is based on materials of periodicals of that and later periods, letters from conservatory director Jazep Vitols, as well as documents of the Latvian Conservatory record stored in the conservatory fund in the Latvian State Archives and in the fund of the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Latvia in the Latvian State Historical Archives. The article considers the tasks that the state and its leaders set for the conservatory, as well as the dominant principles of staffing. The author reveals a fundamental contradiction between the desire to make the conservatory in the Latvian style and the need to set and keep a high bar of the higher music school of the European level. The author comes to the conclusion that the political circumstances and national aspirations hindered the formation of the teaching staff of the conservatory on a strictly professional basis. In turn, the requirement to ensure a high quality of teaching forced the conservatory to resort to services of non-Latvian musicians and thereby limited the manifestations of Latvian national egoism. At the same time, in the post-revolutionary years it was Soviet Russia that served as the main source of staff for the Latvian Conservatory, both Latvian and foreign.

About the authors

Alexander D. Malnach

Institute of Russian Cultural Heritage of Latvia

Author for correspondence.
ORCID iD: 0000-0001-7695-6795


30-77, Anniņmuižas bulv., Riga, LV-1067, Latvia


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