Latvia was under communist rule for almost half a century. The imposed regime brought not only deportations, imprisonments, grief, and fear, but also the pain of lost independence. The vision of the dreamland taken away, of prosperous and thriving Latvia, was kept alive through personal memories in many Latvian families. The spirit of Latvianness that survived under the socialist regime and a longing for essential freedom were the main driving forces of the nation that stood against the enforced communist plan.
Now, as the European Union faces threats of war, the story of regained independence offers a new perspective. It proves that the spirit of freedom does not cease to exist with the fact of occupation. Despite strict censorship and the control of communication channels in totalitarian political systems, it nevertheless finds its voice. This article looks back at the events of the 1980s that led to the restoration of independence in Latvia and investigates the role of the press, in particular the youth magazine Avots, paradoxically financed by the Communist Party. Could Soviet authority be undermined through artistic expression, and how could the magazine’s covers subvert official ideology? Moreover, could art and design have any impact on politics and foster events to shape the future of a nation?
Keywords - censorship, youth, graphic design, deconstruction, Soviet symbols, Aesopian language, fear, national identity, playfulness, strategic communications, strategic communication
About the Author: Anda Boluža is an art historian and curator at the National Library of Latvia. She holds a Masters from the Faculty of History and Theory of Arts at the Art Academy of Latvia, and studied at the Royal College of Art’s Critical Writing in Art and Design programme in London. She has worked at the Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art and Latvian Museum of Photography. From 2006 until 2011 she was a regular contributor to the design magazine Dizaina Studija (published by Neputns). In 2010 she was awarded the annual Latvian Design Award for journalism by the Latvian Designers’ Society.