Project No.: lzp-2021/1-0167
Implementation period: 3 January 2022 – 30 December 2024
Project costs: EUR 299 999.70
Principal investigator:  Dr. hist. Ineta Lipša
The goal of the project is to create new knowledge about the history of sexuality and social control by bringing into focus same-sex sexual subcultures and examining practices elaborated by same-sex loving people responding to surveillance activities of state authorities in Soviet Latvia from post-Stalinism through the late Soviet socialism (1954–1991).

The study will be based on a comparative study of several groups of historical sources:

  1. on the documents of the National Archives of Latvia – the judgments and criminal files of the people’s courts,
  2. on Ego documents – a diary written by a homosexual Latvian man from 1927 to 1996,
  3. on oral history sources – in-depth interviews with same-sex loving people and non-homosexual individuals created by the project team with the oral history methodology.

The objectives of the research project are

  1. researching the interaction between the practices of state authorities in the monitoring of same-sex loving men and the subcultures juxtaposing the data obtained from court judgments and a diary and interviews;
  2. examining the practices of female same-sex subcultures;
  3. analysing the knowledge and perceptions of non-homosexual contemporaries on the practices of state authorities and same-sex sexual subcultures.

We expect:

  1. to (re)construct the experiences of the insiders,
  2. to create the first collection of oral history sources in Latvia with a focus on homosexual experiences,
  3. to contribute to a more balanced and inclusive Latvian history and to the global narrative of history of Soviet same-sex subcultures adding the Latvian case to the debates.

Project team: Dr. hist. Ineta Lipša, Dr. hist. Kaspars Zellis, Dr. phil. Kārlis Vērdiņš, Doctoral student Elizabete Vizgunova-Vikmane and Master’s student Signe Šēnfelde.

On June 30, 2023, the first of two phases of the project, which lasted from January 2022 to June 30, 2023, ended. The project participants have prepared 15 conference papers and informed scientists at nine international seminars and conferences in Lithuania, Germany, USA, Sweden, Great Britain, Latvia and Austria about the research results. One of them – the international seminar "Researching, reworking and representing Soviet LGBT histories – Queer Between Surveillance and Non-Interference of State Authorities under Soviet System: The Practices and the Discourses", which took place on June 2, 2023 at the University of Latvia, was organized by the project a team. The workshop was attended by sixteen researchers who study various issues of queer history during the Cold War period in academic institutions such as the University of Edinburgh, the University of Vienna, Art Academy of Latvia/Institute of Literature, Folklore, and Art, the University of Latvia, Sorbonne University, European Humanitarian University, European University Institute and Leibniz Institute of European History, Vytautas Magnus University, the University of Vilnius, Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre, the University of Tartu, Tallinn University and the University of Latvia. The participants of the Riga seminar shared their latest research on aspects of the queer past of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia during the Soviet occupation. Riga Seminar program pdf

Conference Papers

International seminar “Writing the Soviet Baltic Queerstory: The Sources and Methods”, organized by Vilnius University, September 19-21, 2022 (Vilnius, Lithuania)

  • Lipša I. “Criminal Cases on Hooliganism: An Overlooked Source for Research of Male Same-sex Subcultures in the Latvian SSR”
  • Vērdiņš K. ““Two Peters”: A Gay Couple in Soviet Latvia under Stalinism and the Thaw”

International conference “Aspects of Queer History in Eastern Europe”, organized by Association Homosexuality and History / Fachverband Homosexualität und Geschichte, October 1, 2022 (Berlin, Germany)

  • Lipša I. “Criminal Cases on Hooliganism: How a Diary by a Homosexual Man Kaspars Aleksandrs Irbe (1906–1996) Reveals an Overlooked Source for Research of Male Same-Sex Subcultures in the Latvian SSR” 

International conference “Baltische Biographien”, organized by Academia Baltica / Baltic Academy – Akademie im Ostseeraum, November 11-13, 2022. (Sankelmark, Germany)

  • Lipša I. “Kaspars Aleksandrs Irbe (1906–1996): The life of an ordinary homosexual in Soviet Latvia according to his diary”. Sankelmark Conference Program pdf

2022 ASEEES Convention, organized by the Association for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies, November 10-13, 2022 (Chicago, USA)

  • Vērdiņš K. “Queer Domestic Space in Soviet Latvia: Director Pēteris Lūcis as the Symbol of the Past”

International conference “Queer under Socialism: A Global Perspective”, organized by Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies at the University of Pittsburgh, February 10-11, 2023 (Pittsburgh, USA)

  • Lipša I. “Responding to surveillance of state authorities in Soviet Latvia: male same-sex practices through the diary of a homosexual Kaspars Aleksandrs Irbe (1906–1996)”

European Social Science History Conference (ESSHC2023) organized by University of Gothenburg and International Institute of Social History, April 12-15, 2023 (Gothenburg, Sweden)

  • Lipša I. “Criminal File on Hooliganism as an Insight into the Practices of Male Same-Sex Sexual Subculture: the 1966 Case of Sauna at Ziedoņdārzs (Spring-time Park) in Riga”
  • Vērdiņš K. “Latvian Queers after the fall of the Iron curtain: between fictionality and documentality”

BASEES Conference 2023, organized by University of Glasgow and the British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies, 31 March-2 April, 2023 (Glasgow, UK); 

  • Vērdiņš K. “Ugly feelings of the Soviet Latvian underground queer poet”

International seminar “Researching, reworking and representing Soviet LGBT histories – Queer Between Surveillance and Non-Interference of State Authorities under Soviet System: The Practices and the Discourses”, organized by the project team at the University of Latvia, June 2, 2023 (Riga, Latvia)

  • Lipša I.Under Surveillance of State Authorities: Voluntary Sodomy Convictions and Queer Agency in Soviet Latvia, 1946–1991”
  • Vērdiņš K.Spaces of Queer Domesticity in Soviet Latvia”
  • Vizgunova-Vikmane E. “Narratives of the Perception and Practice of Non-heterosexual Women’s Sexuality in Soviet Latvia, 1954–1991”
  • Zellis K.The Presence of Queer Sexuality in Memories of Latvian Non-Homosexuals on the Soviet Era”

A two-day international workshop “Queering Modernization in Eastern Europe: Deviant Sexualities, Gender Regimes, and the Limits of State Control” organized by University of Vienna, June 29-30, 2023

  • Lipša I. “Queer Agency Responding to Surveillance of State Authorities in Soviet Latvia, 1945–1991”
  • Vizgunova-Vikmane E. “Non-normative Sexuality of Women in Soviet Latvia between 1954–1991: The Narratives”