Address by Mr. Guntis Ulmanis, President of the Republic of Latvia
at the opening ceremony of the Livs festival
Mazirbe, 1st August 1998

Distinguished participants of the Livs festival,
Mr. President of Finland,
Mrs. Ahtisaari,

I am truly happy to be among you today. I think that the festival celebrated by one of the oldest nationalities of Latvia - Livs - reconfirm the belief that the main mission of a nation is to accumulate wisdom and selflessly to hand it over to the coming generations.

The colours of the Livs' flag are the green, white and blue - the colours of forest, white sand and sea. These are symbols interwoven through centuries, symbols of Livs that talk to the soul, inspire the mind and invite to look further than the horizon.

Livs have written an everlasting page in the history of Latvia. The cultural heritage of the history of Latvia cannot be imagined without it. Livonia, Henry (Indriķis) of Livonia, the Liv Imauts, Kaupo, the chief of Turaida, the settlements of Livs in the place where later Riga was built. These names are part of us, our history and the future. Like the pines in the salty wind of the Baltic sea Livs are bound to this land and together with Latvians they have helped it to stand the severest trials of the destiny.

Ten years ago the Awakening brought along the renaissance of Livs. The association of Livs was re-established. The House of the Livs' Society that was opened in Mazirbe on 6th August 1939 again brought together those who were not indifferent to the past of their ancestors and their language which had become almost extinct.

The shared destiny of Latvians and Livs, our shared responsibility to the future of the State of Latvia and our shared will to see Latvia as a democratic and modern state determines the need for the State to take the cultural-historical area of Livs under its protection. The heritage of Livs is a value that Latvia and Europe as a whole should cherish and cultivate.

One can happily observe that the work of the Livs' Association and Livs' Coast has urged not only people from different parts of Latvia but also our friends from neighbouring countries to come to Mazirbe today. The culture of Livs not only enriches our culture, it also links Latvia with the world of values of the Finno-Ugric peoples. I am particularly happy that Mr. Martti Ahtisaari, the President of Finland and Mrs. Ahtisaari are present here at this festival. This demonstrates the deep interest of the Finnish people in the destiny of Livs and in this country. Therefore it is not a coincidence that professor Lauri Ketonen, the head of the Finno-Ugric department of Helsinki University called on Livs in early 20-s to establish an association of their own. This link is symbolised by the fact that the anthems of Finns, Estonians and Livs are based on the same melody.

Distinguished guests,

In less than two years Latvia will step into the next millennium. For all peoples living in Latvia it will be marked by the opportunity to release their positive creative energy in a sovereign and free state, that was denied to them in the previous decades. We have won this opportunity with our tenacity and persistence. The new times have brought new values that have to be understood, sorted out, accepted or denied. At the same time we have to protect and cultivate values which have not lost their importance over the centuries.

Since the beginning of the Awakening Livs have done a great job in identifying and advertising their spiritual heritage, teaching the language of Livs, re-establishing links with the related Finno-Ugric peoples. The new times require ability to come to an agreement on small and big issues. It requires a clear vision of the future.

Latvia is moving towards a spiritual, political and economic return to Europe. Europe which more and more frequently faces processes that increasingly link our daily life with the rest of the world. Human rights, market economy and democracy -these values have entered our daily life. What are the goals and tasks of Livs in this age and how Livs themselves see it? Clear answers should be provided to these questions. It is the task of the State of Latvia to facilitate the fulfilment of the goals of Livs, the native nationality of Latvia.

In the conclusion I should like to thank the Livs' Association, the Livs' Coast, the management of the Slitere reserve and the Livs' Cultural centre for the selfless efforts that are so necessary for Latvia. Let this festival give you additional energy to carry our your plans and dreams!

Chancery of the President of Latvia © '98