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Do people in Latvia need moral values and why?
Presented by
Deniss Hanovs, Latvian Academy of Culture

Moral values reflect the social, cultural and also economic situation in society. Moral values can be described as a mirror of transition of the Latvian society after 1991, as Latvia became regained its independence and Latvian people had a chance to re-establish moral values of the Christian culture, which, suppressed during fifty years long regime was neglected and for at least two generations also unknown. The cultural memory of the Latvians, without ethnic division, had been changed and moral values had undergone the process of substitution, destruction, ideological impact etc. The fact, that churches, different confessions and new religious movements from East and West brought after 1991 their ideas about moral values shows, that Christian culture in the Baltics was open for the Other, with a capital letter. Manz Young people as well as seniors found their moral values or regained them in dialogue with the so called untraditional confessions, new religions, such as Bahaii, etc.

The question is what are moral values for the Latvian society? No doubt, moral values are traditionally associated with the dichotomy of good and evil, of accepted and not accepted behaviour in society. But the question I am most interested in is do universal values exist and what to do with the so called "other (Terminus brought into discourse by Russian philosopher Michail Bachtin already in the 30 ies), individual or social or religious group that thinks, acts and believes in the way that is not acceptable for the established discourse about values?

The question which I raise is not as abstract as may seem, mainly because the Other if confronted with the established moral values of the society can face discrimination, can be helpless, can be suppressed and destroyed in the name of preserving traditional moral values.

The situation in which the established power can use moral values to act against other moral values asks for more respect towards the Other, who dare not become the Enemy, the Bad, the representative of the Evil. This question is very topical in the modem Latvian society, which is very divided, is influenced by the consumer culture in its vulgar version, is very sensible and intolerant towards other nationalities, ethnic cultures, religious groups. The image of the Other, influenced by tragical historical events in the 20th century became the image of the Enemy and moral values, universal and at the same time very locally formed are used or rather misused in the discourse about the coexistence of different cultures and religious groups in Latvia.

At the same time traditional churches are opposed to new religious groups and support right wing politicians are loosing support in society, but new religious groups offer new forms of integrating Latvian society, of meeting and getting to know other national cultures. Open society in Latvia is still a great problem of the modifying the cultural memory, of forgetting and at also forgiving (Paul Ricoeur ).

Deniss Hanovs

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