LITHUANIAN QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
Volume 32, No. 3 - Fall 1986
Editor of this issue: Jonas Zdanys
Copyright © 1986 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.
LITUANUS DATA BANK
BALTS OUTSIDE THE BALTIC
The 10th Conference on Baltic Studies was held May 28-31, 1986 at the Madison campus of the University of Wisconsin. Attended by some 250 scholars of Baltic Studies from around the world, the four-day conference was hosted by the University's Baltic Studies Center and co-sponsored by the Association for the Advancement of Baltic Studies (AABS). "Balts Outisde the Baltic" was the conference's theme.
Dr. John Holzhueter of the Wisconsin State Historical Society was the keynote speaker. His paper, "Wisconsin immigrants around 1900," examined the first Baltic immigrant communities that were established in Wisconsin. All of them came into being shortly before the turn of the century. Adequate records are available about the early Balts since the Historical Society holds vast archives of church records from many Wisconsin parishes.
The second highlight of the conference was the literary reading. Five Baltic authors the Lithuanian poet Vitalija Bogutaitė, the Latvian poet Astrida Ivaška, the Estonian poet, critic, professor, and editor of World Literature Today, Ivar Ivask, the Latvian author and professor Lalita Muižniece, and the Lithuanian poet, critic, and professor, Tomas Venclova read selections from their works in both English and their native languages to a crowd of some 200 listeners. All of the authors were born in the Baltic and write primarily in their native languages.
Three public exhibits accompanied the conference. A montage of drawings, collages, and photographs by Ivar Ivask was exhibited in the conference center. Dr. Valdis Jūris Zeps, coordinator of the Baltic studies center, prepared an exhibit of Baltica at the University of Wisconsin libraries. The library system holds one of the largest Latvian and Lithuanian collections in the West, including Latvian Gulbis and Lithuanian Senn collections. The holdings are especially well endowed in their number of books from the Soviet Baltic, with which the libraries have an excellent exchange program. The third exhibit was prepared by Deb Sommi, the great-grandchild of the first Estonian pastor in Wisconsin. The exhibit in the Historical Society building presented a selection of materials about Baltic immigration history into Wisconsin.
Certain sessions drew great public interest. One of them was the session "Latvia in the Third Reich," where Dr. Stephen Rogers of the Office of Special Investigations commented on Dr. Julius Slavėnas' paper, "The Baltic Area in the Theories of Alfred Rosenberg/' and on Dr. Andrevv Ezergailis' paper, "Who Killed the Jews of Latvia?" and on the United States Holocaust Memorial Film, "The Riga Ghetto."
Another session that was very appealing was "In Search of an Idiom: Baltic Drama in Translation," where excerpts from several recently translated Baltic dramas were staged. Additional, "Economic trends in the Baltic statės," "The Baltic statės and the USSR," "Mass media and the Baltic diaspora," and "Baltic diaspora: attitudes and perceptions" drew more interest than the sessions that focused specifically on academic study.
l n terms of Baltic studies, six sessions vvere devoted to examining the current status and growing prestige of Baltic studies. Theories of scholarship, financing and funding, relationships to other scholarly organizations, the Baltic studies fund, and student issues were examined.
A number of guests were scheduled to attend the conference from the Soviet Baltic republics. Estonian Igor Tonurist and Lithuanian Algis Samulionis did make it. Of the other scheduled representatives, the United States statė department denied them visas six days before the conference, in spite of the excellent qualifications of the scholars.
Three meals were served at the conference. The first luncheon served to honor the organizing committee, which included: Valters Nollendorfs, Prof. Valdis, Bettey and Vilis Zeps, Vilius Dundzila. The second luncheon honored major donors to the Baltic studies fund. Dr. George Farr, Jr. of the NEH spoke at this ceremony. The banquet concluded the conference. Prof. Vaira Vikis-Freibergs, outgoing president of the AABS, analyzed Latvian dieties and awarded Prof. Rein Taagepera with the Vilis Vitolds award for the best article in the Journal of Baltic Studies in 1985.
The conference organizers attempted to draw the interest of Wisconsin public radio, but instead won the unexpected attention of Public Access, one of Wisconsin's several public television stations. Eight sessions, most of them named here, were recorded and were scheduled for release in August 1986.
Composed of 52 sessions, 130 program participants fulfilled 190 scheduled events. Eleven disciplines were represented in the program: advancing baltic studies; art history; bibliography; folklore; history; linguistics; literature; musicology pedagogy; social sciences; and theater and drama. The largest disciplines were literature and history, arranged by Professor Violeta Kelertienė and Professor Andrejs Plakans, respectively. Together, history and literature composed over half of the totai program. In addition, several general sessions and luncheons vvere held.
The next conference is scheduled to take place at the University of Maryland at College Park in May 1988. This is the same location where the AABS was formed in 1968. The conference will attempt to focus on political and social sciences due to its location outside of Washington D.C.