Letter on Birch Bark from Siberia by Ernests Kirķis, May 1, 1948


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 homemade and handwritten postcard on birch bark with wishes for Whitsunday, dated May 1, 1948, was sent by political prisoner Ernests Kirķis (1913–?) from an unidentified labor camp, possibly in the Ural Mountains, to his mother in Riga. Kirķis had been arrested as a collaborator and Home Guardsman by the Soviet authorities in 1944.

Date Created

Subject Date


Type of Item

Physical Description

1 letter : ink on birch bark ; 9.6 x 14 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. The document is from National History Museum of Latvia.

Last updated: June 19, 2017