Letter on Birch Bark from Siberia by Voldemārs Mežaks, October 17, 1955
On August 5, 1940, the independent country of Latvia was forcibly incorporated into the Soviet Union, after having been occupied by the Red Army in June of that year. Estonia and Lithuania suffered a similar fate. Thousands of Latvians were arrested for having anti-Soviet views, taking part in resistance movements, being farmers, belonging to political parties, or refusing to join a collective farm. Many were deported to Siberia. People who were in prisons, concentration camps, or settlements in Siberia wrote letters to friends and relatives on birch bark, which was often the only available material at places of deportation. This was particularly the case during World War II, when paper was very scarce. Only 19 such letters, dating from 1941 to 1956, survive in Latvian museums. They are important documents for the history of Latvia and of the Soviet era and a vivid record of the effects of mass repression on individual lives. This letter was written in October 1955 by deportee Voldemārs Mežaks (1914–85) from the reeducation camp of Taishet, in the Irkutsk region of Siberia, to his acquaintance Tekla Rivara in Riga. Mežaks was a member of a Latvian Central Council. The councils were part of a movement to resist the German occupation, prevent the return of the Red Army, and plan a future for Latvia as an independent democratic state.
Type of Item
1 letter : ink on folded birch bark ; 14.6 x 10.9 centimeters
- This document forms part of the collection of letters on birch bark from Siberia assembled for the World Digital Library by the National Library of Latvia. This letter is from the Occupation Museum of Latvia.
Last updated: August 18, 2014