Even erudites only know a witty bon mot stating that Latvians don’t need to go to Riga; nothing beyond that. And here, it suddenly turns out that, thanks to Modris Eksteins, a representative of this small Baltic nation, we can learn secrets about the history of the culture—both the high ones and those that are somewhat low, but always present, even at the most dramatic points in the history of humankind, among which we can most certainly count both world wars. The Russian composer, Igor Stravinsky, a French soldier fallen in the trenches of Verdun, a Dutchman, Vincent van Gogh, and lines of German soldiers shining expressionistically with polished steel—these are the signs of the 20th century—signs that attest to the greatness, but also to the smallness of humankind. And, NATO fighters guard the skies over Latvia even today.

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