Eugenics, Race and Psychiatry in the Baltic States

Eugenics, Race and Psychiatry in the Baltic States

Goethe Institute Riga

7-8th May 2009

Please note that only the five papers listed below were recorded.

Download the conference programme HERE

The National Living Power Research Institute in Latvia and its Problems

Juris Salaks

7th May 2009; Goethe Institute Riga, Latvia.

World War One marked a historic turning point for Latvia, and the interwar period was awash with assessments of the country’s perceived demographic crisis and the declining proportion of ethnic Latvians in Latvia. The ‘Institute for the Study of Living Strength’ was set up to battle this moral panic in Spring 1938, and comprised three departments – anthropology, population density, and eugenics. In this fascinating conference paper, Juris Salaks introduces the Institute’s hereditary and public health agendas, and its attempts to engage with the wider Latvian public unto its dissolution in 1940.

Eugenics, Race and Psychiatry in the Baltic States: a Trans-National Perspective 1900-1945

Prof Paul Weindling

7th May 2009; Goethe Institute Riga, Latvia

In his opening address to the conference on “Eugenics, Race and Psychiatry in the Baltic States: a Trans-National Perspective 1900-1945” (7/8 May, Goethe Institute Riga, Latvia), Paul Weindling introduces the themes and ambitions of various discourses on race and racial anthropology more widely, and discusses their relevance to the Baltic states and their ethnic composition in particular. Offering a fascinating insight into the general history of race and eugenics, Paul Weindling discusses the transformation from imperial dynasties to democracies and the intensification of anthropological research locally as well as internationally. During the First World War frequently anthropological traditions turned into biological determinism that although continuously criticized and challenged, nonethess gained great influence - and so too in the Baltics.

Development of Lithuanian Psychiatry 1918 – 1940

Arunas Germanavicius

7th May 2009; Goethe Institute Riga, Latvia.

This lecture offers an analysis of the development of Lithuania’s psychiatric services between gaining its independence in 1918 and the Soviet occupation of 1940. Psychiatric services in Czarist Russian territories belonging to Lithuania had been underdeveloped, and in 1903 the only major regional psychiatric hospital was in Naujoji Vilnia (Vileika), a suburb of Vilnius. But its role eroded during the First World War when it served as military base.

The late works of Emil Kraepelin

Octavian Buda

7th May 2009; Goethe Institute Riga, Latvia.

Emil Kraepelin (1856-1926) is identified as the founder of contemporary scientific psychiatry, as well as of psychopharmacology and psychiatric genetics. Kraepelin believed that psychiatric diseases stemmed  from biological and genetic malfunctions. His theories dominated the field of psychiatry at the start of the twentieth century, despite the later psychodynamic incursions of Sigmund Freud and his followers.

Eugenics and Racial Identity in Latvia: Scientific Transfer and European Zeitgeist

Bjorn Felder

7th May 2009; Goethe Institute Riga, Latvia.

This paper seeks to examine these themes by scrutinising Latvian racial anthropology after 1918 within not only its local, but its European context. A ‘latecomer’ to the club of nation states, the Latvian state founded in 1918 was soon confronted with many of the problems it shared with many Central and East European states seeking to create a national history in the tradition of the European ‘master story’. The process of defining the Latvian nation was influenced by the contemporary European discourse that promoted biological paradigms as ‘modern’, while the Latvian national discourse on nationhood was dominated by ethno-nationalism by the 1930s, and that understood the nation as an organic unity generated by a distinct biological heritage. The introduction of a nationwide eugenic project in 1937 exacerbated the virulence of these biological tenets that came to dominate the definition of what a nation was.



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