Monthly Archives: January 2014

Latvia in The Winter Olympic Games

Latvia enters the first winter Olympics i Chamonix France 1924

Latvia enters the first winter Olympics i Chamonix France 1924

On January 25 1924 the first ever Winter Olympic games begun in Chamonix, France. Latvia also sent its national Olympic team. Despite the fact that winter is longer than summer in Latvia, our sportsman have less Olympic medals than in Summer games. However, Latvian sportsman have gained success in the winter games under Latvian and the Soviet many times and we hope to win at least one medal in 2014 Sochi.  This is short story of Latvian participation in the Winter Olympics.

On 1924 Latvia in Chamonix France sent its first two representatives. Only two sportsman were sent as it was the first time for Latvia to participate in Olympics as sovereign state. 41 people took place in Paris Summer Olympics. Alberts Rumba a speed skater gained 7th place, while skier Roberts Plūme carried the flag of Latvia. On 1928 in St Moritz Switzerland only Alberts Rumba took part he gained 14th place in 1500 meter distance. On 1932 Latvia skipped the Olympic games in Lake Placid because of economic crisis that prevented to send delegation to United States. However, in the same year in Los Angeles during the Summer Olympics Latvia managed to sent two sportsman of one managed to gain first Olympic medal. The enthusiasm for Olympics grew stronger. On 1936 The Olympics took place in Nazi Germany, Garmisch-Partenkirchen at the Bavarian Alps. Latvia sent 26 sportsman of which most were the Latvian hockey team. With Latvian hockey still in grassroots our team took parted 13-15th place. The Latvian skiing team took 13th place. That was the last of the Olympics before World War II.

After WW2 Latvia was under the grip of the Soviet Union. Before World War II Soviet Union refrained from taking part in the Olympics seeing them as capitalist celebration. However, after World War 2 Soviet Union had become the new superpower and wanted to prove their superiority in sports field. As Latvian Socialist Republic was unable to participate as  a separate team (thankfully, because that would justify its illegal annexation by the USSR) Latvian sportsman took part in the USSR Olympic team. First Latvians were sent to Grenoble, France on 1968. The only Latvian national Lāsma Kauniste who was the world’s champion in speed skating gained 5th place in 15oo meters. An exile in US Visvaldis Nagobads was the doctor for US Olympic hockey team.

On 1972 Olympics took place in Sapporo, Japan. Soviet team did not include any Latvian. Meanwhile Canada sent 18th year old speed skater Sivija Burka. She also took place in 1976 and 1980 Olympics.   Her highest achievement was 4th place in 1976 in 1000 meter distance. Also known as a track cyclist she is included in the Mantioba Hall of Fame. On 1976 in Insbruck Austria Soviet delegation  sent five Latvians all in the luge field. Soviet Union had begun to discover the luge and bobsleigh discipline and Latvians were one of the first to score first success.  Vera Zozuļa, Rolands Upatnieks, Valdis Ķuzis, Dainis Bremze and Aigars Kriķis where the founders of the USSR luge and bobsleigh industry.

Vera Zozula the first Winter Olympic champion from Latvia

Vera Zozula the first Winter Olympic champion from Latvia

In 1980 the Olympics took place in Lake Placid US. While US ignored the Summer games in Moscow, USSR sent its team to US Winter Games. Five Latvians were sent along and it turned into great success for them. Vera Zozuļa won golden medal in luge, becoming first sportswoman from Latvia to gain Winter Olympic Medal.  Latvian hockey star Helmuts Balderis gained silver medal along with his USSR hockey team. Since Latvians played hockey on the international level before Soviets ever did, many Latvians helped Soviets to become leaders in ice hockey. Ingrīda Amantova gained 3th place in luge. On 1984 the Olympics took place in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia. 11 Latvians were sent. Only one, but very important Bronze medal was gained by bobsleigh duo Zintis Ekmanis and Vladimir Alexandrov from Russia. Latvians were one of the first to introduce bobsleigh to USSR. On 1986 in Sigulda a luge and bobsleigh track was finished pawing way for own Latvian luge, bobsleigh and later skeleton industry. At 1988 Kalgari Olympics in Canada 11 Latvians of which 1o were from Soviet Bobsleigh team. Jānis Ķipurs and Vladimir Kozlov won gold medal in bobsleigh duo. Bronze was gained by bobsleigh four including Guntis Osis and Juris Tone. A rather ironic was the golden medal for hockey goalie Vitālijs Samoilovs who was in the reserve in every game, but since the Soviet team won he got the medal as well.

Janis Kipurs Gold and Bronze medalist in Calgari

Janis Kipurs Gold and Bronze medalist in Calgari

The 1988 Olympics were the last ones for the Soviet Union. On 1992 Albertville, France there was no more Soviet Union, but again there was Latvia as sovereign state. 23 sportsman were sent. Jānis Ķipurs carried the flag. No medal was won, highest marks were gained by luges Aivars Polis, Roberts Suharevs. 11th place was scored by a female luge Anna Orlova. On 1994 Lillehammer, Norway Latvia sent 27 sportsman in 6 disciplines. Latvian figure skater duo Eļena Berezhnaya and Oļeg Šlahovs gained 8th place. A seemingly promising pair was disrupted after Berežnaja was badly injured during training. She was paralyzed and speech impaired, however she managed to recover and emigrated to Russia. With new partner under the Russian flag she scored silver in 1998 and on 2002 gained the Gold Medal. Latvian poor figure skating industry could only wonder what would happen if that accident on 1996 would not take place and Elena would stay in Latvia. Zintis Ekmanis carried the flag in the ceremony, but it was evident that new generation is needed in luge and bobsleigh.

Latvia returns to Winter Olympics in 1992

Latvia returns to Winter Olympics in 1992

On 1998 Nagano, Japan Latvia sent 29 sportsman. in 6th fields. Latvian bobsleigh duo lead by Sandis Prūsis gained high marks. Latvian biathlonists Ilmārs Bricis and Jēkabs Nākums gained 5th place in some disciplines. However, that was not enough to gain medals. On 2002 Salt Lake City Latvia sent 47 sportsman in 8 disciplines. The size doubled because the Latvian Hockey Team finally managed to qualify for the Olympic tournament. The first two attempts in 1994 and 1998 ended in failure. Latvia defeated Austria and Ukraine, had 6:6 tie with Slovakia, but failed to defeat Germany and ended at 9th place. Sandis Prūsis had good chances for medals, however he was accused of using doping, he managed to prove that he did not used it intentionally and gained entry in to Olympics. However, since his starting position was shorthanded because of scandal he gained 7th place. Latvia also gained great attention from  US television, because Latvian exiles and the president of Latvia Vaira Vīķe Freiberga demanded not to show commercials during the Latvian entry into Olympic ceremony. Some televisions made special reports about Latvia and showed the team entry.

Martins Rubenis the Latvian Bronze Medalist at Torino

On 2006 in Torino, Latvia sent 58 sportsman in 8 sports fields. Again hockey team made entry, but showed miserable results by ending up at last place. But, it was luge Mārtiņš Rubenis who won the first ever medal for Latvian state. It was bronze in luge a historic moment for Latvian winter sports. On 2010 in Vancouver Latvia sent 58 sportsman. The main Latvian hope was skeleton world champion Mārtins Dukurs. A likely candidate to gain golden medal, however at last run he was defeated by Canadian John Montgomery. Dukurs Silver was still an achievement, bur then a surprise silver was gained by luge duo brothers Andris and Juris Šics.  Their were not on the expectations list, but made the Vancouver as the most successful winter games for Latvia.

Martins Dukurs the silver medalist in Vancouver, the current world champion in skeleton

On February 7 Olympic Games will take place in Sochi, Russia. 58 sportsman in 9 sports field will contest for medals. Latvian hockey team will play again. Martins Dukurs has kept his leading positions and is likely to win a medal. Also bobsleigh duo by Oskars Melbārdis and Daumants Dešļers and bobsleigh four is faring well. I will not predict any results, but wish the best for our sportsman in these highly controversial winter games.

On February 12 in Double luge brothers Andris and Juris Šici won bronze medals. On 2010 they gained silver. 

On February 13 in Luge team competition Elīza Tīruma, Martins Rubenis and brothers Šici wins bronze medals.  


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Edward Leedskalnin and his Coral Castle in Florida


The fires and struggles of the 1905 revolution in Latvia made many Latvians to leave their homeland for the first time in masses. Some like Peter the Painter was known for his continued political struggle in the streets of London, but his compatriot and possible brother in arms Edward Leedskalnin is known worldwide for his Coral Castle made in Homestead, Florida. A temple like megalith structure, made from massive coral limestones each weighting several tons. There is many speculation how Edward Leedskalnin or Edvards Liedskalniņs managed to build this magnificent structure all by himself and his interesting theories about reverse magnetism that helped him to build this work of art. A work so famous that even punk rock star Billy Idol made a song Sweet Sixteen inspired by the Edward Leedskalnin legendary love story, about 16-year-old bride in Latvia who rejected him at their wedding and to her dedicated his castle. This article will not attempt to speculate about how Leedskalnin built his castle, its more about his Latvian roots and his connections to revolutionary movement of 1905.

The Liedskalniņš family came from the Latvian region of Vidzeme, around the Liede hills. That is how they got their surname. His father Andrejs rented farm house and land from local Baltic German baron von Wolf who lived in beautiful neo-gothic  castle of Stāmeriena. Edvards as the fifth son in the family was born on 1887 January 12. (Other sources state that he was born on August 10 1887) The house was called “Namsadi”. Edvards learned the stone crafting and masonry. The Wolf family was rich and powerful related to count Potemkin of Russia and count Ferdinand Von Zeppelin. The castles owned by them at Cesvaine and Stāmeriena were the best examples of the neo-gothical architecture. Edvards might possibly inspired by these castles to choose the work of craftsman.

On 1900 Edvards brother Rūdolfs also craftsman lost his life in accident while building German church in Samara Russia. Later Edvards was known as atheist or at least anti-Christian.  On 1902 his other brother Otto married Anna. On route to church the local pastor of Vecgulbene was halted by armed masked men threatening him. The revolution was coming close. On the spring of 1904 the old German baron Von Wolf died in Austria. His great funeral at Cesvaine signed the demise of the great baron family. At the same time Latvian Social-Democratic Workers Party was founded aiming to bring down the Tsarist regime supported by the Baltic German nobility. Edvards brother Ernest joined the local LSDWP group “The Gods Children”. Edvards also might possibly was involved. Agitators from Riga, possibly also Jānis Žāklis later known as Peter the Painter arrived to teach the local farmers the socialist doctrines. Secret meetings took place around Stāmeriena and called to end the war with Japan, the removal of Tzar Nicholas II, and end the church privileges. After another year of poor craft harvest a spring of 1905 came in troubles.

News about the bloodbath in Riga on January 13 1905 after guards fired at workers demonstration reached the Edvards home. To protect the barons a Cossacks from Caucasus were sent. All around the Jaungulbene are where Edvards lived peasants came to protest. Protests often turned into violence and looting. Churches were turned into revolutionary staffs and the harvest storages of the barons burned down. On June 16 nearly two thousand peasants marched towards the castle of Stāmeriena. The local police officer was beaten and then the crowd invaded the local Orthodox church and trimmed the beard of the church priest. Later at evening two masked man attempted to rob the baron Wolf, but were arrested. In struggle to liberate them more were arrested. Wolf’s barricaded their castle. Weapons were gathered and the armed Black Hundreds ride across the country to hunt revolutionaries.

The burned down castle  of Stāmeriena

The burned down castle of Stāmeriena

As the autumn approached the relations between barons became more hostile. The baron Wolf of Vecgulbene opened fire on the peasant meeting summoned by himself. In return  his red castle of Vecgulbene was burned down. On November 18 the Cesvaine castle was taken over by armed men. People joined the peoples militia and engaged the cossacks in battle. On December 1 the peasants joined to attack the Stāmeriena castle where many local barons had barricaded. A war camp gathered around the castle electricity was turned off, but cossacks managed to hold the castle. After a night of fire exchange the barons managed to escape. Despite deciding not to destroy the castle, some local youngsters, Edvards possibly one of them set the castle alight. Soon the dragoon division from Pskov came to stop the uprising. On December 2 both the white and red castle of Cesvaine was set alight. The spirit factory was also destroyed. On December 4 baron Wolf was arrested, but was exiled from Vecgulbene. However, at January the Punishment Squads from Russia came to finally stop the uprising.

18-year-old Edvards said to always walking with rifle behind his coats. The revolutionaries resisted, but were beaten. All year 0f 1906 went with reckless fight with Russian punishment squads and armed peasant gunman. Edvards as remembered by his nephew Arvīds remembers that  Edvards was a convinced atheist who taught him godlessness.  Edvards possibly took part in Forest Brothers movement the partisan warfare against the tsarist forces.

Hermīne Lūsis the Sweet Sixteen of Edvards Liedskalniņš

Hermīne Lūsis the Sweet Sixteen of Edvards Liedskalniņš

On 1910 he left Latvia, only one of the whole Liedskalninņš family to do so. And most of his family took action in the 1905 revolution. The popular explanation was that he was engaged with 16-year-old girl Agnes Scuff who rejected him and left him right at the wedding ceremony. The wedding according to Edvards relatives took place at Vecgulbene church, but no such wedding arrangement was ever found in the register. Many decades later it turned out that the sweet sixteen of Edvards was not Agnes but Hermīne Lūse the cousin of Ernests Brastiņs the Latvian religious leader. Brastiņš is known for his neo-paganic movement Dievturība (the Harmony with God). It was a religious movement based on ancient Latvian pagan beliefs. Hermīne was just 2 years younger than Edvards so she was not sixteen when she broke his heart. One of the reasons why the marriage did not take place was that her father demanded 2000 rubles, that Edvards could not acquire.

Was Edvards leaving his family to get the money, by means of expropriation or robbery as most his revolutionaries did or was he running away from tsarist secret police remains a question. Hermīne Lūse later married Fricis Kadiķis, but without deep mutual love. She never met Edvards again, and possibly waited him to return someday, for the money was the reason for they breakup.

Edvards Liedskalninš before leaving Latvia on 1910

Edvards Liedskalninš before leaving Latvia on 1910

Edvards on 1910-1911 lived in London. Not much is known what he did there. He  might have been involved with local Latvian anarchists led by Peter the Painter, who used to drill holes in the shops walls to steal the goods. As craftsman Edvards Liedskalniņš could possibly assist the gang, but there is no proof of his involvement. But, its remains a fact that after 1911 when the Latvian Anarchist movement was stopped at the Sydney street siege, Liedskalniņš illegally entered Canada.  He briefly stopped at Halifax, Canada and then for unknown reasons entered US on 1912. He was not registered and was illegal immigrant of US for more than thirty years.

For seven years Liedskalniņš was around the states of Oregon, California and Texas. According to what is known he made his living by working in the various lumber camps. According to other more romantic theories Edvards was involved with local anarchists from Mexico and took part in the Pancho Villa uprising. If so he then possibly gained inspiration for his future castle from the ancient Mayan and Aztec pyramids. Also one of the coral stones carved by Edvards called the “Sun Stone” resembles the traditional Mexican sombrero hat.

On 1920 January 1 he was registered in the US national census as Edward Leedskalnin a 32-year-old unmarried resident on Oregon, Douglas county. Worked in sawmill. At the same year he was found in Homestead, Florida by Ruben L Mauser, sick and almost close to death. He had tuberculosis and was rescued by Mauser who took him home. He was underweight and had spent a long time in closed spaces. Either the work in sawmill was too exhausting or he was hiding from something probably indicating his revolutionary activity. Also because of tuberculosis he moved to warmer place like Florida.

He soon recovered and bought land from Mauser in Homestead. His best friend was young Orwell M. Erwin. He was not working and claimed that he is provided by a “dividends from communal enterprises in California” never actually indicating what it means. Communal enterprise resembles communism and could mean that he gained his money by the means of revolutionary activities. For the low paid jobs in wood industry may not ensure his live long wealth.

The tower of the Coral Castle where Edvard lived in his wooden shack

The tower of the Coral Castle where Edvard lived in his wooden shack

In the land owned previously by Mauser Edvard started to build his castle. The land had rich recourses of coral stone and as educated craftsman he found how easy is to work with them. His first coral stone creation was a two ton couch. He worked with home-made instruments, and somehow managed to move large pieces of coral stones. He also made many do it yourself tools like crystal radios. Either he was inspired directly or indirectly by the work of the ancient builders in Egypt and Mexico  who created a massive structures with no modern equipment. If so Edvards had learned the details of the ancient masonry and science still unknown to many.

Homestead a remote place in Florida devoid of tourist attractions soon became famous by his coral stone structures.  Until 1936 fifteen thousand people visited his castle that he called Eds Place. To explain to curious people why is doing all this he always told the story of his sweet little sixteen in Latvia who deceived him in Latvia, but soon will come to him and he is building this castle for her. Was this a true devotion or it was a tourist attraction trick   made by the clever revolutionary veteran? Since the girl he always named Agnes Scuffs or Agnes Skuvst never existed and her true bride was Hermīne Lūse. There was a symbolism in the name of Agnes Scuff. Scuvst is similar to Latvian name skūpsts – kiss and Agnes in Latvian means  – innocent. “Innocent kiss”. Also as Hermīne Lūse was not sixteen when she left him it could indicate that there was a symbolism in the age of sixteen.

Edvards giving lecture about astronomy

Edvards giving lecture about astronomy-

For twenty years Edvards inspired by the space science and other events, built many large objects like 24 ton Saturn  and 23 ton Moon Crescent. Also a Star of David a dedication to his Jewish rescuer Ruben L Mauser was included. Maybe he was inspired by famous scientist Nicola Tesla who was known for many eccentric claims  about his creations. Edvards gave lectures about astronomy and started to design his own ideas about physics. On 1936 he released his first book called “A Book in Every Home”. It contained his story about his sweet sixteen and and family and political values. A book with every left page leaven as blank for personal notes. His views on politics were hard to understand and probably written between the lines. Despite the obscurity of his book it was re-issued many times after.

On 1937 he celebrated his fifty birthday. And he decided to move his castle to newly acquired  land ten miles from Florida City. In three years time he moved his entire castle to new and final location. Maybe he wanted to move to location more available to tourists. Or he again was trying to get away from something as he said himself that someone is trying to get in his way.

By then many people curious of how he all by himself builds the castle. Some said he uses magic powers, or he can alter the laws of physics. Edvards probably used similar ways like the builders of Stone Henge and the Pyramids. But, as the ancients he did not share his secrets leading to speculations. Possibly because of that Edvards later wrote more books about his reversed magnetism theories to boost the tourist attention, but also to mask the real way of how he created the castle. For the mystery was the thing that made attraction and adding more legends to it made his name everlasting.

Edvards standing near his Polar Star telescope

Edvards standing near his Polar Star telescope

The Polar star telescope, the Stone Gate  and 30 ton altar and his own designed solar clock all was part of ancient symbolism. And all of these objects were made with mysterious precision. The Solar Clock was a of unique design not seen anywhere else. Somehow after the move to new place Edvards started to less mention his sweet sixteen. His castle was now more associated with mysteries of science. He created home-made tools, that could provide electricity also crystal radio receivers. After US joined the WW2 against Germany, his scientific experiments attracted the FBI. Reported as possible German spy he was visited by a FBI agent, who was curious about his copper wires. Edvards showed that his copper wires are actually antennas for his home-made crystal radio allowing him to listen to news and music for free. FBI agent was impressed by his antennas, but asked him to register his US citizenship.  He sent application for US citizenship on May 17 1944, the application number was 7129, document number was 6105195  he inscribed both of these numbers on his room wall. It’s not known if his appeal was accepted. Apparently his illegal status did not bother much as he legally published books about the Magnetic Current.

After the end of WW2 some people started to connect his castle with the Bermunda Triangle mystery. Meanwhile Edvards sent on 1950 sent a letter to his brother Harijs in Michigan. The large Liedskalniņš family was spread all around the world because of the war. In short letter in grammatically incorrect Latvian he said he is brother Edvard and attached two photos with him in the castle. On November 9 1951 he attached note on his stone gate “Going to Hospital”. He never came back and passed away on December 7.

His last will was never found. None of his relatives were able to claim the castle. For many years castle was abandoned, the home-made tools by Edvards were gone. While the property was being investigated, $3,500 was found among Leedskalnin’s personal belongings. Leedskalnin had made his income from conducting tours, selling pamphlets about various subjects (including magnetic currents) and the sale of a portion of his 10-acre (4.0 ha) property for the construction of U.S. Route 1. Having no will, the castle became the property of his closest living relative in America, a nephew from Michigan named Harry. However, he took no care of castle and left it in decay.

On 1953 businessman from Chicago came to Homestead. He wanted to build a fuel depot, but local municipality instead showed him the Coral castle. The man called Julius Levin instantly loved the castle and bought it. The castle became a tourist attraction, the story about the sweet sixteen was picked up and used fully. Castle became a site for many eccentric sci-fi and erotic movies. The 1958 “The Wild Woman from Wongo”, the 1960 “Naked on the Moon” attracted thousands of visitors. Also because no one could properly explain of how the castle was built, it soon became a Mecca of esoterics, alternative scientists and ancient architecture explorers. The writings made by Edvards about magnetic currents were again published and studied with full seriousness.

Coral Castle postcard from 1960ies

Coral Castle postcard from 1960ies

On 1986 the punk rock star Billy Idol traveled to Florida to help gather charity for hurricane victims. Astonished by the Edvards monument to eternal love he made his most famous love ballad “Sweet Sixteen”. The video clip was made in the coral castle. On 1987 it was a top chart single played also in Soviet Latvia where many were completely unaware that this song has Latvian connection.

On 1991 for $175,000 the Coral Castle was sold to Coral Castle Inc. The work of art first known as Eds Place, the Stone Gate and after the death of Edwards Leedskalnins as the Coral Castle was added to National Register of Historic Places. Edvards Liedskalniņš is one of the most known and legendary Lavians of the XX century, that many in Latvia even have never heard off. But, his castle and books is an inspiration, a memorable place to visit to many across the world.

Selected Sources:

Stavro, Andris (2008) Koraļļu pils. Rīga. Lauku Avīze. Edvarda Liedskalniņa kopotie raksti. (grāmatā)

Leedskalnin Index Page – 10/25/97

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First Drama movie made in Latvia in 1913 “Where is the Justice? The Tragedy of the Jewish Student”


Those who have some elementary  knowledge in the history of the Latvian cinema may tell that first drama movie made in independent Latvia was Es Karā Aiziedams (I am leaving for war) on 1920. The movie that has sadly not survived. But, few may know that before WWI when Latvia was a part of the Russian Empire, first three drama movies on 1913 where made by Jewish filmographers. “Where is the truth?  The Tragedy of the Jewish Student”, “Listen Israel!” and “The Shoemaker Leiba”. Of all three only the first one “Where is the truth?” is conserved and can be viewable on youtube.  There is some doubts that “The Shoomaker Lieba” was actually filmed outside Latvia. But, from the first scenes of the “Where is the truth?” it is clear that this movie was shot in Riga and Ventspils. A movie remarkable for its political context and still obscure information about the its  producer and director S. Mintus.

Cinema was the new trend of the XX century. After it first appeared in 1895 Paris, it soon arrived in Riga. On 1901 the first cinema was built-in Riga. A decade later 1910 first documentary of the Tzar Nicholas II visiting Riga were taken. The 2 min footage by Alexander Drankov study were made and still can be viewable today. As Russian Empire allowed private movie screening business and movie making the doors were open to Latvia to make first dramatic movies. And that is where the Jewish photographer and photo equipment seller S Mintus came in. He owned his own company “S Mintus shopping house”. With enough money and connections he went on venture to film his own movies. He also owned his own cinema “The Coliseum” in Riga.  Since films were valuable and were mostly rented, not copied because of the technical issues, Mintus became wealthy by renting films all across the Baltic province. The cinemas rented film to display it on their screens. Copying was possible, but it could damage the original over time.

The large Jewish community in Ukraine and Belarus were the first to make Jewish themed movies. The script was taken from theater plays and were usually based along the ethnic lines of the Jewish life. Because the Russian Tsarist censorship was more touchy about political baselines than ethnic folk stories.  Odessa soon became the center of the Russian Jewish cinema. Despite the political oppression by the Tsarist government and  uneasy relations with other nationals, especially during the pogroms of 1905 Jews managed to stood out before others. And the trendy film making was one of the kind.

It’s not clear was S Mintus from Latvia, or he came from Ukraine, but he was certainly inspired by the movies made by Ukrainian Jews. The 1910 “L’Haim” that was said to based on Jewish traditional song, despite there was not such was a success.  It was the very first Jewish film in Russia. On 1913 the Odessa based company “Mirograf” made the movie “The Tragedy of the Jewish student” (Трагедия еврейской курсистки), also in Germany a seemingly similar movie was made. It seems that both movies from Ukraine and Germany and the one in Latvia was based on the same theater play whose author is yet to be found. Of all three the film made by S Mintus was the most known and conserved until today.

The outside scenes of Riga the Polytechnical institute nowadays the University of Latvia

The outside scenes of Riga the Polytechnical institute nowadays the University of Latvia

The main role of the Adele Vaitzekind was played by Falkher (name not known), Ādams Ozols as her lover Rafail, Lūcija Lilaste in unconfirmed role and Ivan Hudpoleev as the Doctor. The movie was shot in Riga and Venstpils. The opening scenes features the center of Riga during the winter. The Riga Orthodox Cathedral, the University of Latvia main building is within the scenes. At the middle of the movie despite the main character still in Riga, the actual scene is shot in Ventspils. Also many of the interior scenes were actually filmed outside as decorations. Since the scenes were taken during the cold February winds, some of the room scenes shows flowers and carpets moved by the strong wind. It was because the decorations had no roof and were affected by the strong winter winds. As silent movie it had only live piano feature, but also the preserved version had no subtitles. It was because the lines of the movie characters were spoken by actors during the movie display.

The two main characters Rafail and Adele

The two main characters Rafail and Adele

The movie plot has a very complicated and social character. The main heroine Adele is from Bessarabia (Moldova). Without her parents she arrives at Riga to look for higher knowledge. She suddenly meets her old friend Rafail Edelgertz. A love is born as two enjoy sudden rush of romance. But, then a first wave of storm hits: authorities has sent her a notification to leave Riga as her rights of residence has been removed. This was because of the old Tsarist law since the Third partition of Poland. Russian Empire after acquiring vast territories of Poland-Lithuania was not ready to deal with such a large Jewish minority. Afraid from the migration, the Tsars suppressed Jews to live outside the former borders of Poland-Lithuania. And Riga was outside the so-called “Settlement line”. Getting into Riga was tricky for many Jews, but as Russia became more liberal at the end of 19th century it was possible for more Jews to come. But, in this case her residence permit was declined.

In desperate thoughts about going back to Kishinev, Adele asks Rafail for help. He seeks the advise from an educated doctor who also knows the law. He suggests to register Adele as prostitute so she can stay in Riga. To get registered she and Rafial makes a fake date, where Rafail poses as client. Police officers catches them in the intimate situation at  the table with drinks near bed. After that she moves to another apartment to clear off police suspicion.

Scene shot in Venstpils

Scene shot in Venstpils

But, the storm rashes again; Rafiel must visit his sick father. He leaves Adele all alone in Riga. And then the trouble starts. A two robbers with similar look of Adele and Rafiel attacks man on the street and robs him. In fateful coincidence the event takes place near Adele apartment and as they run off the Adele walks out the door. In similar clothes and hat the robbed victim quickly turns her to police.

The first part of the prison cell dramatic scene

The first part of the prison cell dramatic scene

Second Part of the prison scene

Second Part of the prison scene


This is where the movie culminates: in mental breakdown in the prison cell innocent Adele dressed in black recalls her past. In the dramatically emotional moment Adele fades into her childhood home in Kishinev. She sees her parents and the maid. A seemingly happy scene turns into nightmare when the angry mob of men invades their house and kills her parents. It was a clear reference to the Jewish pogrom of 1903 that took place in Kishinev. A more pogroms took place during 1905 revolution. This part is notable for two things. The grandiose gothic like scene of Adele loosing her mind and the  spectacular fading to events in past. A genial dramatic footage for the times of 1913. Also the pogrom scene a – touchy subject sparking the Jewish will of resistance.

The pogrom scene

The pogrom scene

The real criminals are found and Adele is released, but she is sick from her mental suffering. In final scene she dies in the hands of the ruined Rafail. The original footage featured him also dying on her grave, but the 1917 version of the movie had cut that scene out. The movie was a great success, however the Tsarist authorities were not too pleased about the pogrom scene. Many had accused the Russian government on being involved in the Jewish pogroms or doing not enough to halt them. Movie screening was limited. On 1917 after the revolution the movie was re-edited and shown again.

After a year on 1914 the World War I begun. Large numbers of the Latvian Jews were forced to move to Russia. The settlement line was suddenly broken. There is no info of what happened to S Mintus and his photo and movie business. Many details about his biography are yet to be found. The Riga Jewish History Museum and Ventspils History Museum has held events commemorating this historic movie, an academic detailed account is hopefully to follow.

Selected Sources:

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Latvian Anarchism – The Story of the Peter the Painter

Peter the Piatkow or Jānis Žāklis wanted poster on January 30 1911

Peter the Piatkow or Jānis Žāklis wanted poster on January 30 1911

On January 3 1911 the fires of the Russian revolution reached the East End part of London. The British police was trying to arrest a group of politically motivated burglars with anarchist views from Russia. After many hours of erratic gunfight including artillery canons commanded by the Minister of the Interior Affairs Winston Churchill the two men of the gang were found dead, but the third one – supposed as the gang leader Peter the Painter or Peter Piatkow was nowhere to be found. The police started out a search, even placed wanted posters showing a photo of him. But, the notorious anarchist from Russia was nowhere to be found and his true identity was a mystery for many years. Various movies were made about him, many historians tried to find who really was this mysterious man. Yet, there is a reason why this blog post is dedicated to him. For the gang that caused so much trouble in London were not simply  anarchists from Russia. They were anarchists from modern-day Latvia, exiles of the revolution 0f 1905 – 1907. Anarchists were the pioneers of the modern-day terrorism long before Islamic radicals. And Latvians including the Peter the Painter were one of them. Thanks to historians such as Phillip Ruff the identity of the world-famous Peter the Painter became more clearer it was the Latvian artist and revolutionary known as Jānis Žāklis.

Jānis Žāklis was born in Saldus in 1883 a small town in the Courland province. According to Lutriņu parish church register book he was born on July 19. He had older brother Kārlis (1879) and older sister Anna (1880) and two younger sisters Šarlote Marija (1885) and Katrīna (1890). His possible cousin Kristaps Žāklis (1826-1889) was the illegitimate son of the German baron Heinrich von Mirbach and the maid Marija from the Neuhof mansion. She was forced to marry a Latvian called Ādams. A possible reason for the deep hatred of Germans within Jānis Žāklis. His father Jānis was a Latvian, but his mother Margrieta Tālberga according to official documents were a Lutheran Jew. A woman wealthy enough to buy a land from the baron, but disliked by the relatives of his husband because of her Jewish origins. Also a baptized Jew was usually excluded from her Jewish family circles.

Jānis Žāklis had a good education. First he went to Jaunmuiža school until the age of eleven. There he met teacher Gustavs Lācis later recognized as the participant of 1905 local uprisings. Jānis Žāklis then went to Kuldīga, had four years at the private school. At the age of sixteen he went to the German Classical gymnasium of Kuldīga. Money for education was provided by his father Jānis and uncle Juris Žāklis a colonel in the Russian engineer battalion located in Belarus.

A seemingly wealthy young student fluent in German, Russian, French and Yiddish was forced to quit his studies in 1901 and left Kuldīga. A reason was a poor health and not enough money. But, the good reading skills and intelligence lead to him to socialist ideas a common trend within Latvia brought from Germany. In 1901 he went to town of Talsi and met Jānis Linde the bookshop keeper. Together they founded the first illegal social democratic organization. Third man the 27-year-old Jūlijs Kažmers from Riga who made contacts with underground Baltic Latvian social democratic workers’ organization (BLSDWO). On 1902 Žāklis, Linde and Kažmers were leading the Talsi Committee of BLSDWO.

In 1903 the tsarist police caught a good friend of Žāklis Fricis Ratkalns. A 20-year-old student was spreading out leaflets of socialist slogans. He was reported by his schoolmate and arrested afterwards. Police made a search in and discovered his handwritten proclamations. He was tortured and forced to name Žāklis as the one who gave the proclamation text. Police tried to arrest Žāklis and searched him all across nearby areas. But, he was already in Belarus with his uncle in Babruysk. Belarus was no stranger to the revolutionary movement. In 1898 in Mensk the Russian Social Democratic workers party (RSDWP) was founded. Babruysk was a center of Jewish revolutionary party Bund activities. On 1903 Bund was already forming combat units to counter possible pogroms.

On May 1 1904 Babruysk workers made a general strike. The railway station was blocked, a crowd of 800 people with Jānis Žāklis along them. On May 28 he was arrested for spreading out illegal socialist literature. He was taken to local prison. His prison photograph perfectly resembles the man later seen in British police wanted posters. Žāklis wrote pleas of appeal to Courland provincial police. He was however accused together with Fricis Ratklans of anti-governmental activities. Ratkalns however managed to escape to Great Britain before the trial. The local Minsk authorities no longer needed him and set him free on April 27 after he paid the bailout sum of 300 rubles. Žāklis came to Valmiera in Vidzeme, but soon came to rural areas around Sabile in Courland. He was under police monitoring and made money as a house painter. Also to divert police attention he regularly wrote them about his poor health problems. Because he was far from giving up politics.

Jānis Žāklis in Belorussian prison

Jānis Žāklis in Belorussian prison

The Latvian Social Democratic Workers Party was founded in 1904 and had its Talsi-Tukums branch. Žāklis managed to sneak past his police monitoring and made in Riga at the end of 1904. As painter and artist he tried to enter the center of the Latvian political activities. The police finished the investigation, but failed to put him on trial since Ratkalns was gone. His case was closed so as the one in Belarus. On January 11 1905 police returned his personal documents. On January 13 a massive workers demonstration in Riga ended in bloodbath as the tzarist police fired at the crowd. The Revolution of 1905 in Latvia had begun.

Jānis Žāklis vanished from the police’s eyes and became a rogue. He was never again known by his real name, his undercover name was “surveyor”. A possible choice for such cover name was the famous Latvian novel by brothers Kaudzītes “The Times of Surveyors” where during the land reform a viscous bandit Grabovskis poses as surveyor and steals enourmos money and is failing to be caught causing many tragedies. Possibly inspired by the novel Žāklis chose such surname.

After the bloody events of January 13 where 64 people are known to be dead, Žāklis became an active member of Latvian Social Democrats. As the head of the Central Committee technical commission, that was responsible for making terrorist activities, Žāklis was assigned to gather weapons and money. A force of 200 men that robbed magazines and army patrols to gain weapons. In short time Žāklis was the commander of the revolutionary battle units. He was responsible for blowing up the Jelgava-Riga railroad and damaging the telegraph lines. On May 1 1905 a general strike was called. Despite social democrats refused to take an open part in it, fearing the armed tsarist patrols bombs killed police guards around the park of Grīziņkalns. The organizers were Žāklis and Pēteris Lapsa.  Since the official Marxist teachings forbidden the use of individual terror, that was most adjacent to anarchist moves of those times the Latvian Social Democrats on June 1905 decided to put an end to such activities.

Despite the LSDSWP calling not to start an open armed uprising, on the same time the Liepaja war sailors angered by the maggots in the meat begun an uprising, but were defeated. The armed actions were sporadic and caused tsarist authorities to strike back. On August 19 a state of emergency was called and many revolutionaries were arrested. Then on September Žāklis took the command of a rescue operation to release his comrades in the Riga Central Prison. Jūlijs Šleserrs and Jānis Lācis two senior fighters were sentenced to death. The large prison was assaulted on September 7 by 52 men from Latvian Social Democrats and the Jewish Bund. Žāklis was the commander. Four attack groups formed by him infiltrated the prison and managed to rescue Šlesers and Lācis. Under heavy gunfire the attackers made back to their safe houses achieving one of the most notable victories of the 1905 Revolution.

October – November of 1905 was a struglesome period. The general strike of October 13 and following Tzar Nicholas II manifesto promising open elections of the State Duma and the new constitution. The Riga was under the dual rule between the workers Federal Committee and the Tsarist authorities. Local Black Hundred was looking to start up pogroms against the Jews, on October 22 Žāklis with his comrades stopped the pogrom from taking place. Latvians social democrats managed to defeat the Black Hundred on the street battles on the next consequent days. Jews were rescued from the similar fate in Kiev, Kishinev and other cities across the Russian Empire.

A state of emergency was again called in December. Latvian countryside erupted in flames, mansions were burned, towns were taken over in gunfights. On November 24 Žāklis together with Lapsa arrived at Skrīveri from Riga and attacked the mansion of the Riga Regional General Governor August von Henning. The mansion was burned down and Henning was killed by the Žāklis orders. In following counter strike by the general Stern the revolutionaries crushed the tsarist forces. Only on December 1 reinforcements managed to crush the rebellion. But, Žāklis and Lapsa escaped killing the rest of senior tsarist officers. Bloody revenge made by the punitive expeditions killed thousands of Latvian peasants. But, Žāklis was gone was always.

Žāklis became more violent alienating his social democrat comrades not prone to such violence. On December 20 Žāklis organized a night raid on factory Provodnik that was occupied by raging Russian dragoons. To stop the constant abuse of the workers and even rapes, the revolutionaries surprised the sleeping dragoons murdering 17 and injuring 20 of them. All weapons and ammunition were taken away. However, the party leadership was not impressed and noted the anarchist tendencies within Žāklis. He was replaced by Mārtiņš Luters Bobis as commander.

On January 1906 large numbers of revolutionaries were arrested. On January 17 armed group of revolutionaries attacked the Riga Secret Police building releasing Mārtiņš Luters Bobis and Fricis Svars one of the killed gang members in the Sydney Street siege. Together with Žāklis he raided the Provodnik factory. He was arrested on December 31 and betrayed by one of his comrades Ziediņš. In following days police arrested more revolutionaries including Mārtiņs Luters Bobis. Žāklis was not one of them. A plan was devised and it succeeded attacking the main building of the secret police in the city center during broad daylight.

Žāklis with Luters and three other comrades made it to Petersburg. There they immediately started the armed revolutionary activities- attacking post offices, banks and shops. It was called expropriation by them to gather money for underground activities. Despite infiltrating two secret police agents within the Latvian group, tsarist police failed to stop them from attacking the Union bank in Helsingforss (Helsinki, Finland). Bank was robbed stealing 170 thousand rubles. Six Latvians were later arrested, but Žāklis was on his way to Germany…

As the revolution in Latvia and Russia was heading towards defeat, Žāklis was in Western Europe organizing arms contraband to Russia. Then trough Switzerland he went back to Latvia, no longer a social democrat but an anarchist. Rage addict Žāklis was impressed by the anarchist teachings of “invisible cycle of revolutionaries” and the “invisible dictatorship” that would instore order by using force not law and authority. Inspired by the ideas of Bakunin and Kropotkin Žāklis brought their home to Latvia and inspired many others.

In anarchist Latvian  newspaper “Freedom” Žāklis called anarchism a natural way of Latvian life not influenced by foreigners. Žāklis called his group of supporters “Myself – words and action”. Latvian Social Democrats were not sufficient in the views of Žāklis to start a massive revolution. Many who thought so too left the party and became radical anarchists. The party was in the shake-up started by Žāklis. On August 15 1906 a manifesto by the Žāklis group was issued. Žāklis rejected any use of organized orders, party ranks and commitees instead promoting independent action. The state was rejected instead calls for full break up of social society and resources were issued “Let’s go and take all by ourselves!”. Žāklis published his brochures in the summer of 1906. He was the main anarchist ideologue in Latvia.

The confiscated weapons and literature of the Latvian revolutionaries including the anarchist magazine "Flame" (Leesma)

The confiscated weapons and literature of the Latvian revolutionaries including the anarchist magazine “Flame” (Leesma)

The police had enough of Žāklis and his anarchists. 110 police officers were killed in the clashes with them. On August 14 1906 on night time; police surrounded the house in Stabu street 65. Two Žāklis comrades Kārlis Krieviņš and Anna Caune were reported of hiding there. Police approached the doors and demanded to open them. In return anarchists opened fire. In the desperate gunfight until four of clocks of August 15 the couple resisted until they were killed. Similar events later took place at the Sydney street. The code of law for the anarchists was never to surrender.

The crackdown on anarchists were long and painful. More gunfights erupted, some were shot on the place, others were arrested. But, Žāklis again escaped together with his mistress Lidija Švarce also known as Marija and Anna, “yours black girl”. He was reported to be in Pskov, on the end of  1906 he left Latvia completely. Posing as Peter Piatkow probably went to US. In 1909 he was reported to be in Philadelphia where the famous photo of him used in police posters was taken. Despite the fact that the president of US William McKinley was assassinated by the polish anarchist Leon Czolgosz, who was inspired by other Baltic anarchist leader Emma Goldman on 1901, US proved to be an easy hideout for anarchists from the Russian Empire.

In US Žāklis met Fricis Svars again, and five others involved in the the Houndsditch murders. There they published Latvian anarchist magazine “Freedom”. But, just writing anarchist ideas was not part of their struggle in the US. The expropriation was again used. On 1908 February 6 Žāklis, Svars and Hartmanis robbed two merchants in Woburn, Massachusetts. In police chase two policemen and one local were shot. The robbers escaped.

In the spring of 1908 Peter Piatkow returned to Europe still hoping to restart the anarchist fight in his homeland. But, the lack of money was the reason for more robberies. On April 10 three armed Latvians invaded the Scottish Royal bank in  in Lancashire  county. In resulting gunfight and chase, two were arrested. Posing as local poor Englishmen the robbers may have been connected with Žāklis. Žāklis in mean time was in Switzerland then in France to study medicine and chemics. In Marseille he was soon under French police watch, but again sneaked out. Posing as a builder and an arts student Žāklis enjoyed the seaside and plotted more anarchist activities.

Jānis Žāklis in the middle on board of the French ship in Marseilles. About 1908-1909

Jānis Žāklis in the middle on board of the French ship in Marseilles. About 1908-1909

Latvian anarchists were still acting in Latvia, where local police still tried to find the mystical “surveyor” who they thought still hides there. Meanwhile in Boston Latvian anarchists caused another gun fight by attacking local pub. One was killed, others escaped. The police investigation showed that the attack had connections with Fricis Svars– Žāklis close comrade.  Many other armed attempts of robberies took place across Europe.

But that was not enough. On July 18 1909 Russian police caught Jānis Lapiņš who was arrested for shooting at some Mr Štāl. While during interrogation he confessed to be sent to Latvia by orders of the Latvian and Russian anarchist rig. Lead by Russian narodnik Alexey Telpov the group summoned him to transport literature and weapons. Along with him four men under false names arrived in Latvia to start an anarchist armed struggle. They called themselves “The Baltic Federation Anarchist group “Avanger”. The group was arrested, but two of them Alfrēds Dzirkalis and Juris Laiviņš managed to escape, two who later were involved in the Houndsditch Murders. On October 1909 Fricis Svars in London was visited by his cousin Jēkabs (Yakov) Peters who was for a long time considered as the real Peter the Painter. A experienced revolutionary during the 1905 struggles, he was still true to the social democrat cause and was angered by the ideological shift of his cousin Svars. He left London after three months to become a famous Bolshevik, a member of Cheka during the Civil War in Russia. He perished in 1938 purges.

In London on 1909 a Latvian anarchist group “Flame” emerged. Svars, Hartmanis and called Max Smoller. Also a Russian – Latvian couple Nina Vasileva and Wiliam Sokolov. The anarchists conducted a similar operations long before the Houndsditch Murders. Similar works of crime were donned before by drilling a hole in the roof they entered the jewelry shops and stole the goods. Three such thefts were recorded in the criminal archives may have been the work of the same gang that did the Houndsditch Murders.

On October 1910 Jānis Žāklis arrived at London and head directly to Fricis Svars. Introduced as Peter Piatkow to Svars mistress Ljuba Millstein. He spent the night at Dzirkalis apartment. On November 4 1910 the trio moved to the Grove street house Nr.4. The Russian secret police made a report of Latvian anarchists attempting to unify the separate groups in one congress along London. On April 14  according to Russian intelligence a special committee was made and led by Jānis Žāklis. The journal “Freedom” issued gratitude of cash flows from the London group. The last issue before the Houndsditch Murders of “Freedom” had an annual financial report made by a “surveyor” or Žāklis. A committee that needed substantial financial funding that could only gathered by use of expropriation according to views of Žāklis.

The Post Morten photo of Hartmanis who died at the night of December 16

The Post Morten photo of Hartmanis who died at the night of December 16

On December 16 Jānis Žāklis gathered his group in the Grove street apartment. The attempt of breaking into the rear of a jeweller’s shop at 119 Houndsditch was discovered by the adjacent shopkeeper who heard constant hammering and informed the police. Nine unarmed officers — three sergeants and six constables (two in plain clothes) — converged on Exchange Buildings. Sergeants Bentley and Bryant knocked at the door of No. 11 Exchange Buildings, unaware that the first constable on the scene had already done so, thus alerting the thieves. The gang’s leader, George Gardstein or Hartmanis, opened the door, but when he did not answer their questions they assumed he did not understand English and told him to fetch someone who did. Hartmanis left the door half-closed and disappeared. Growing impatient, the two sergeants entered the house to find the room apparently empty, before they became aware of a man standing in the darkness at the top of the stairs. After a short conversation, another man entered through the yard door, rapidly firing a pistol, while the man on the stairs also started shooting. Both officers were hit, with Bentley collapsing across the doorstep, while Bryant managed to stagger outside. In the street, Constable Woodhams ran to help Bentley, but was himself wounded by one of the gang firing from the cover of the house, as was Sergeant Tucker, who died almost instantly. The gang then attempted to break out of the cul-de-sac, Hartmanis being grabbed by Constable Choate almost at the entrance. In the struggle, Choate was wounded several times by Hartmanis, before being shot five more times by other members of the gang, who also managed to hit Hartmanis in the back. They then dragged Hartmanis ¾ of a mile to 59 Grove Street, where he died the next day. Constable Choate and Sergeant Bentley died in separate hospitals the same day. Police found dead Hartmanis in the Grove Street apartment and made the connection with Jānis Žāklis or Peter Piatkow who owned the apartment.

London was shocked by the murder of two unarmed policemen. A scare of “murdering foreigners” errputed in the London press. Police soon established the connection with the dead Hartmanis and the rest of the anarchist group. In Fricis Svars apartment they found various documents of communication between anarchist groups. “Flame”, “Fighter”, “Freedom” in the US and also “The Black Flag” in Paris. A plan was to create an international union of anarchists.

Ljuba Milstein arrived at the police station on December 18. Forced by her Jewish family to wash away all the suspicion from her she reported the man blamed for the murders. It was Svars, Hartmanis and Sokolovs.  Žāklis did not take direct part and stayed home at night. She was asked to care of dying Hartmanis which she could not bare it. Consequent arrests were made, Jānis Laiviņš was arrested who was part of the anarchist network. Then mandolin teacher who was present at the Grove Street meeting on December 16 reported Jēkabs Peters the cousin of Sivas. He denied any connection, but was arrested.

500 pounds reward for reporting encouraged a unanimous informant on January 1911 1 to report the possible location of Fricis Svars.  It was Charles Perelman the owner of the house where Svars and Žāklis lived. Svars had given him a letter addressed to his father and the father of the brother Sudmaļi. And also Perelman revealed the location where the Svars was hiding in the Sydney Street 100, Stepney, along with William Sokolov.

Fricis Svars who resisted the British police to the last blood on January 3 1911

Fricis Svars who resisted the British police to the last blood on January 3 1911

The police secretly surrounded the hiding spot. The plan was to get them by force, no talks about peaceful arrest were considered. The house was evacuated, but the surrounded bandits showed no sign of life. At eight of clock police sent officer Benjamin Lyson to throw rocks at the second floor window where the Latvian were hiding. After rocks had no effect, the concrete brick “did the trick” and Lyson was shot Brauning and Mauzer pistols. He was shot down but survived.  A Sydney street siege had begun. For more than an hour police was kept away in significant length from the Latvians. Sporadic shooting did nothing to harm them. The Ministry of War was informed and Secretary of Interior Affairs Winston Churchill was called while being in bath. Churchill called the London Tower garrison. The Lieutenant Hugh “Jack” Ross, two private first class along with 17th men of the 1st Scottish guard. Armed with Lee Enfield guns the soldiers took the both sides of the streets. Driven by “curiosity” Churchill arrived  at the site and took the full operational command work. A never seen before action by the state minister.

Churchill wanted to play out the role of the war commander and asked to bring two machine guns and even artillery cannons. They came too late, when battle was already over. While still figuring out how to enter the building, the bullet hit the gas pipe and the house erupted in flames. The firefighters arrived only to be halted by Churchill who insisted that the building must be burned down to flames with Latvians inside. But, despite the heavy smoke surrounding building two Latvians Svars and Sokolovs still recklessly fired at the police. More Scottish guards were called the Maxim machine gun was mounted. Then Sokolovs was shot in the head and died. Svars put down on the ground still fired his gun until 13:50. British police and Winston Churchill may not know the number one law of the Latvian anarchists – Never, never, never surrender!

After the roof fell in the firefighters finally came in.  And the first and last causality on the British side appeared as the one of the firefighters got hit by massive building block. Two burned bodies of Fricis Svars and William Sokolov were found. Police arrested Jakob Peters, Miljtein,  Trayonsk, Laiviņš  and Fyodorov who were connected to “Flame” group. The closed trial failed to prove their direct guilt and most including Jakob Peters were set free. But, the man who rented the Grove Street apartment where the gang planned the  Houndsditch robbery – Peter Piatkow, Peter the Painter or Jānis Žāklis was nowhere to be found – again….

Posters of Jānis Žāklis showing his photograph made in US were spread all around London. Police however, knew that Žāklis was not present at the scene of the Houndsditch shootings. But, Peter the Painter became an urban legend similar to the Jack the Ripper. According to 1932 MI5 report Žāklis was hiding in some apartment belonging to some Wagner. Also shared with Latvian anarchist named Valdis, who later served at Canada Housman Guard. Žāklis escaped the police search in and made his way to Netherlands. Later he was reported to be in Brussels. His comrades were dead and his plan of starting up the revolution in Latvia had failed. He was on the run again, the Russian secret police reported to London that he is hiding in Germany. The British police decided that they lack enough proof to hunt Žāklis and did nothing.

Ljuba Milstein was pregnant from Fricis Svars when he died on the Sydney Street. Together with Alfrēds Dzirkalis she left for US and raised the son of Svars Alfred Driskol   together. Jakob Peters remained in London and later returned to Russia and became close associate to Vladimir Lenin. Juris Laiviņš returned to Latvia and was arrested by force. He was released on 1917 and not heard until 1926 when he was photographed in 1905 memorial arrangement. Nothing more about him is known afterwards.

Jānis Žāklis was last seen in Germany 1912. Žāklis possible moved to Australia. The Australian police from 1911 to 1917 arrested three persons who they thought they were Peter the Painter. All were released because of the lack of evidence. The distant relatives of Žāklis were know to live in Australia after WW2. Peter the Painter could possibly entered Australia as disguised businessman to more easily pass the naturalization tests. There with his wife Lidija Švarce he spent the rest of life as Australian businessman.

The movie dramatization of the events of January 3 1911. 1960 Movie the Siege of the Sydney Street

Latvian anarchist movement went to decay after the Sydney Street siege. At the end of the WWI Latvia was the battleground between the national independence movement, Bolsheviks and the Baltic Germans. There was no room for anarchists anymore. But, the legend of Peter the Painter moved on. He was featured in many films and songs. The 2012 TV drama Titanic even placed him above on the board of the sunken ship. The first to be wounded on January 3 1911 officer Lyson later claimed that Peter the Painter was no other than Joseph Stalin himself. True, Stalin was also involved in robberies or so-called expropriations. But Stalin is known to never left Russia before 1945 when he arrived at Potsdam. The Peter the Painter was Jānis Žāklis a man from Latvia. One of the most famous Latvian adventurers, anarchists and the man who was never caught by any police force around the world. A true legend of its own.

Selected Sources

Rufs, Filips. (2012) Pa stāvu liesmu debesīs : nenotveramā latviešu anarhista Pētera Māldera laiks un dzīve. Rīga : Dienas Grāmata

Latvijas revolucionāro cīnītāju piemiņas grāmata / redkolēģija: S. Ziemelis (galvenais redaktors) … [u.c.] ; Latvijas KP CK Partijas vēstures institūts – PSKP CK Marksisma-ļeņinisma institūta filiāle, Latvijas PSR Zinātņu akadēmijas vēstures institūts, Latvijas PSR Centrālais valsts vēstures arhīvs ; [pēcvārds krievu valodā]. 2. pārstr. un papild. izd. Rīga : Liesma, 1976-1987. 2 sēj.

Bērzinš, Jānis. (Ed.) (2006) 1905. gads Latvijā: 100 : pētījumi un starptautiskas konferences materiāli, 2005. gada 11.-12. janvāris, Rīga. Riga: Latvijas Vēstures institūta apgāds

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