Values in Latvian culture and their relationships with the dimensions of sustainable society

Ojars Rode

The experience of Latvian values education has a very long history. Considering the cultural and the social dimensions of sustainable development, it is particularly important to establish that several thousands years old evidences of human aspiration for very high ethical and aesthetic norms are typical for the culture of the peoples living the Latvian territory. The analysis of historical experience reveals the understanding of universal values and the persistence of values in the time and in the context of European space, as well as the holistic perceptions of the unity of the world and humans being found in the ancient culture.
The article reveals a correlation of the dimensions of sustainability in terms of values, and analyzes the organization of values orientated learning process in primary school in the multicultural society.
Keywords: values, values education, sustainability, cultural context.


The present day merging of cultures causes revaluation of values thus actualizing values education in a multicultural society. It is essential to define generally human values acceptable to all cultures or at least to European culture space. The present article provides an overview on the sphere of values education and investigates the opportunity to locate constant values for sustainable education common for European nations.
The final part of the article sketches out the potential school model in sustainable society built on the bond between values education and self-affirmation.

Values education models in the world

There is a certain contradiction in the society between internationally oriented cosmopolitization on the one hand and striving for preserving national values of each nation on the other. Similar processes take place in education as well - there is a unification of academic standards and assessment, at least in Europe, and at the same time there are attempts at creating personality oriented education. The same concerns values education. Hence, Christopher Drake (Drake, 2007) presents his international values education model Living Values Education used in approximately 80 countries. This model is based on twelve generally human values - Peace, Respect, Cooperation, Freedom, Happiness, Honesty, Humility, Love, Responsibility, Simplicity, Tolerance, and Unity.
Similar values education model "Education in Human Values" (EHV) (Bala, 2006) is practiced in India, Sweden, Australia, Brazil, Canada, UK, etc. EHV is based on five values - Right action, Peace, Truth, Love, and Nonviolence. According to its authors, this model is compatible with all religions or agnosticism.
The act of education in Russia defines personality values education and sustenance and development of regional ethnic cultures. In Russia diverse values education models are created, both national values based models reaching generally human through the national (Остапчук, 2005) and the so-called "polycultural" values education models (Гелло, 2005) according to which values education is realized by means of folklore of the respective region. There is another polycultural values education variation that parallely introduces values of other national cultures (Манойлова, 2006).
The symposium "Values education in Europe" states (Valbis, 1995) that in European countries values orientation and values education problems differ. Hence, in Belgium it is believed that contemporary youth's poverty of feelings is the source of all problems; in Portugal values orientation is characterized by individualism, pragmatism, ideological eclecticism; in Hungary - by family and security, whereas in Slovenia - by human rights, majority democracy, solidarity, legal rights and tolerance (Zupančiča & Justins, 1997).
In Latvia the notion of multiculturalism is rather interpreted as coexistence of different cultures, their mutual enrichment and dialogue, instead of unification (Mūrnieks, 2001). There is no contradiction between generally human and national values here, therefore it is considered necessary to preserve the national component in education.
J. Davidova and M. Jakubova (2002) in their research carried out at ethnic minority school in Latvia by organizing teaching Latvian folklore in annual cycle of traditional ethnic festivities state that it is possible to form culture environment that does not conflict with the dominant culture environment in the country. 
Values orientation studies among higher education students (Tunne, 1997) and junior form school learners (Līdaka, 1998) show the significance of the components of personality development, self-determination and self-realization in values orientation.
Līdaka (2006) in her analysis of values education significance in Latvia sets two major tasks for it:
  • to reveal the objective values significant in a democratic society;
  • to help to understand, interiorize and set them in action.
These tasks may be attributed to the space of Europe as well. It is reasonable to accomplish them investigating the basis of the culture origin of European nations.

Search for common values

Searching for the common European values it is worth looking into the most ancient procedures of their formation. According to recent findings of philologists, archeologists and other researchers on the formation of the present European nations (Gimbutiene, 1991; Čaterdži, 1990; Paliepa, 2004), their origins date back to 5000 B.C. About that time Indo-Europeans from Eurasia started moving into the coastal area of the Black Sea. They were predecessors of ancient Celts, Italians, Greeks, Germans, and Slavs. Merging with the local peoples, new cultures were formed that were still dominated by common Indo-European material culture elements and common language features that are nowadays used by scholars to prove the unity of Europe. One of Indo-European branches - proto-Baltic people around 3000 B.C. came to settle near the Baltic Sea. Another branch of Indo-Iranians settled in the most distant are of India merging with the local Harappa culture representatives. The ancient Indo-European language has best preserved in the Vedic language of Sanskrit that is not live any more.
In Europe the roots of Indo-European ancient language have been best preserved in Baltic languages (Karulis, 1992). The preservation of ancient features of language and culture is accounted for by Gimbutiene and Chatterjee by the location of proto-Baltic territory far away from intercontinental trade routes and the lands attacked by West Asian invaders.
Being aware of the history of the formation of these European nations, it would be logical to first look for the common European values in the Baltic peoples. Ancient traditions of language and culture are revealed by archeologist Gimbutiene's studies of Indo-European mythology as well as V. Celma's (2008) research on signs and ornaments. Latvian Dainas (folk songs) constitute one of the most unique monuments of the ancient culture. They are basically short quatrains composed according to strict metric regulations and resembling Japanese haiku in their composition. Dainas were passed over from generation to generation orally. Many scholars of Dainas (Kokare, 1987; Zeiferts, 1993; Ancelāne, 1973; Raudupe, 2002;  Čaterdži, 1990; Paliepa, 2004; Celms, 2008) figure that the oldest Dainas appeared as early as 2500 - 3000 B.C.
Another important monument of the ancient Indo-European culture is Vedas (Paliepa, 2004; Čaterdži, 1990; Raudupe, 2002). The comparative research of Dainas and Vedas by Paliepa is of major significance. It reveals not only the kinship of Vedas and Dainas but also the hidden message of Vedic hymns.
The creation of Vedic hymns ceased around 1200 B.C. (Paliepa, 2004), while Dainas are passed over orally even today. The first written records on Dainas appeared in the 17th century, yet their active collection started only in the 19th century. Till the end of the 19th century about 40 000 Dainas had been collected, but by the end of the 20th century - about 1 200 000 (Ancelāne, 1978). The first researchers of Dainas  were the people who collected them. One of the research directions was related to the human values found in Dainas.
Researchers of Dainas have stated the chronology of their creation. Dainas composed after 1200 when crusaders invaded the Baltic territories and those created in Bronze Age form a separate group. More ancient Dainas deal with heavenly deities, the Sun, the Moon, God, Thunder revealing human's relatedness to the Universe and human as an indivisible part of nature (Raudupe, 2002; Gimbutiene, 1994).
Another layer of Dainas that has been constant in time is connected with the image of mother and baptism rituals (doll shuffling being the most widespread ritual during which a doll or a child was held in hands while dancing and singing songs of well-wishing). The values that appear in the wishes people expressed to each other in significant life events are of a great significance.
Quite often values in Dainas appear in the overall context and imagery brought out in content analysis instead of directly defining the good and the bad. We have used Dainas from the collection by Krišjānis Barons (1922). The collection entails 218 000 Dainas, 1891 of them dealing with children's upbringing. The author of the present article has produced a content analysis of comparatively small number of Dainas from Barons' collection - 144 Dainas of doll shuffling, hanging the cradle and 93 Dainas of prayers to God associated with diverse life rites.
Here are some samples of Daina quatrains in the original and their interlinear translations in English:

Dod, Dieviņ, kalnā kāpt,              God, grant me to climb up the hill,
Ne no kalna lejiņā;                      Rather then go down the hill;
Dod, Dieviņ, otram dot,                God, grant me to give to others,
Ne no otra mīļi lūgt. (25746)         Rather than beg from others.

Balta ziedi laukmalē,                  [Something] white is blossoming on the edge of the field,
Vai bij ieva,vai ābele?                  Is it a bird cherry or an apple-tree?
Balta gāja pa celiņu,                   [Someone] white is walking by the road,
Vai bij sieva,vai meitiņa?              Is that a [married] woman or a girl
LD 5590

Here are some fragments from Dainas included in the research: ...Lai sklīd paditei darbi no rokam... [Let the work slip easily from the child’s hands] (1523-1, the number here and henceforth indicating the Daina in Barons’ collection of 1923) ... Lai mana pādite kā saule staigā [let my child walk like the sun] (1533-0), ...Skaidra darba daritaja... [pure work accomplisher] (1538-1), ... Lai ta smudra augumiņa... [let her be tall and slender] (1540-0),  ...Dod' pādei tikumiņu... [make the child virtuous] (1555-0),  ...Tad laimiga dzīvošana...  [then the life is happy] (1851-0) ,... Aptec tēvu, māmuliņu... [take care of your father and mother] (1858-0), ...Klausi tēvu, māmulīti... [respect your father and mother] ( 1858-2), ...Ar gudro padomiņu... [with the wise advice] (1876-0),
In prayers to God: ...Dod', Dieviņi, man maiziti, Es samalšu dziedadama... [dear God, give me corn and I will mill it singing] (664-1), ...Dod, Dieviņi, novalkāt ar godiņu vainadziņu!... [dear God, let me carry my wreath with dignity] (6603), ...Dod, Dieviņi, veselibu,... [dear God, give me good health] (9176), etc.
Most often the wish was connected with the value of labour. Beauty is another most frequent wish followed by good health and fast development of the child, wisdom, well-being, respect for parents, generosity, and virtuousness. Happiness, kindness, joyfulness, industriousness appear on the other side of the assessment scale. This does not mean that these values were considered less important; industriousness was associated with labour and happiness with the whole life. Joyfulness, kindness as the emotional context (indirectly revealed values) appear in each Daina thus proving Maslow's (1968) judgment that there is no point to separate value priorities as they may differ at each particular stage of life. The sequence of language and events is linear while in the real life human exists in wholeness. This is also revealed by the content analysis produced by the author of the present article and other scholars throughout the 20th century (Birkerts, 1937; Jansons, 1973; J.Anspaks, 1987; Raudupe 2002, 2005; Mauriņa, 2003, 2007 etc.). Research findings show that Dainas on the whole are to be perceived as the folk philosophy expressing the human essence and that of the people. The significant is expressed both directly in comparisons and evaluations and indirectly in similes and attitude, thought and emotion contexts. Quite often a quatrain contains several values, ideas revealed in emotional experience (joy, delight, love, etc.). Dainas present completion, beauty, tactfulness, wisdom, worship, integrity. The following Daina is a very characteristic example of expressing integrity as the relatedness of all things:

Netīšami es iegāju                       By chance I entered
Svētas Māras istabā.                   The room of saint Māra.
Svētas Māras istabiņa                 The room of saint Māra
Pilna sīku šūpulišu;                     Full of small cradles;
Vienu pašu palīgoju,                    As I swung one,
Visi līdzi līgojās.                          All of them swung along.

(Māra is the deity who takes care of birth, human's material life course and death)

Both the present research and other scholars' work (Birkerts, 1937; Jansons, 1973; Anspaks, 1987; etc.) bring out labour as the central value of Dainas. The content analysis of Dainas brings out the centrality of this value in relation to all others represented in Dainas. To exemplify this, we will regard several major values expressed in Dainas separately.
Value of work. In Dainas we find all the necessary indications of work to be done: the right attitude for work, how to start, what is the right order of doing the work; work has a rhythm, methods, and means of its own. Dainas of work reveal that the individual expresses him/herself in work. Work is the basis of judgment about its doer and his/her physical, spiritual, and moral traits. Work brings happiness: fruit, satisfaction of completed work, sense of fulfilled duty, pleasure of resting after well done work. Work develops mind, will, persistence, diligence, patience, observation, attention. Zenta Mauriņa (2007) writes as follows: "Work gives expression to the greatest virtue..." To manage everything by oneself is the source of one's strength, ability, skills, joy, and satisfaction.
Value of beauty reveals the beauty of the whole world. It is to be found and created not only in human but also nature and relations. The beautiful is acquired by work.
Value of happiness is revealed in sayings expressing what is happiness and what is unhappiness, how to be happy, what are the prerequisites for happiness. In Dainas happiness is mostly discussed through positive images, yet there is also scathing wit and criticism on negative human traits and action.
Value of wisdom. Wise advice is considered the most valuable human trait. As mentioned before, wise advice was put into the baby's cradle. Wisdom is expressed in wit, intelligence, and resourcefulness. Wisdom of work was highly valued. Wise advice was appreciated more than physical strength, outer beauty and splendour, money and property. Wisdom is characterized by aptitude of observation and assessment, it notices and accounts for processes in nature and work procedures; it recognizes people in diverse life situations, human relations with nature.
Value of virtue is a feature of human perfection. This word in Dainas is a synonym for industrious, diligent, spiritually rich. Dainas condemn vice, sloppiness, laziness, they acknowledge the ability of coping with everything oneself. Virtue is specifically signified by the white colour (see e.g. LD 5590) that denotes not only colour but the totality of positive human values: purity, beauty, kindness, the divine, etc. (Freiberga, 1980).
Value of joyfulness (optimism) permeates all Dainas (Kokare, 1988). Joy and merriment (humour, jokes) occur in songs of work and everyday life, festival and even funeral songs. Joy triggers off desire for life, sustains sense of life, hope, trust in the good even under very hard working and living conditions - the harder the work, the greater the joy with which it must be done (Mauriņa, 2007).
Value of reverence. Z. Mauriņa (2003) seeking for the "primary cell of ethical person" in diverse world cultures has returned to Dainas and found reverence as a common European trait. Reverence is the feeling of heart concerning the divine order and the holiness of everything. Reverence is connected with the sense of respect and gratitude of unclear origin for everything that has been and will be. Reverence is simultaneously worshipping, admiring, compassion, consideration. It is also a moving striving to become like the object of reverence. It is not fear. In Dainas we find reverence for the living and inanimate nature, also self-reverence, reverence for life and death as well as God.
The close bond between values and nature relate them with the sense of life through which human not only secures his/her physical existence but ascertains him/herself as a personality through the aesthetical and ethic components. Self-ascertainment before the world takes place through another prism and that is love.
Love is recognized as a generally human value in the world. This word is rather seldom mentioned in Dainas. Love is revealed as something that entails everything manifesting in relation to oneself and others: compassion, sympathy, friendly and kind attitude to nature and even objects. Love is manifested in compassion to other humans' pain, it incites concrete action, e.g. helping those who suffer, who are weaker. The sense of love according to dainas is in its action, movement, and living.
Another category revealed in Dainas that is related to human existence is integrity both as understanding and feeling (Raudupe, 2005) about the mutual relatedness of everything in natural environment and human society (Zeiferts, 1993; Zālīte, 1923). The sense of integrity is manifested in generosity, kind and aesthetical attitude, seeing analogies in nature events and human relations, their assessment and explanation. It arouses the necessity to cooperate, be mutually helpful, friendly among family members and neighbours, and revere nature on the whole.

  • the ancient Latvian culture reveals the notions of values and unity common for European peoples;
  • sustainability of general human values revealed in Dainas brings out their probable independence from the change of social formations, society development and compatibility with dimensions of sustainable society.
  • it is possible to find the common for European peoples for the elaboration of unified sustainable education principles.
The following ideas revealed in Dainas may function as the base of European sustainable education:
  • me and the world as a united whole; integral perception of the world;
  • the sense of human life is revealed in the necessity for self-assertion and self-expression;
  • general human values are subordinated to human awareness of the world integrity;
  • general human values express the sense of human life.

Epilogue - values education in multicultural environment
Values education concepts are based on a certain philosophy of the human essence. Its pragmatic branch is based on the conception that human psyche is a historically determined outcome of society (Sardžveladze, 1989), i.e. human essence is expressed in social relations. This branch has for a long time stated that human is the crown of nature and in recent times under the impact of holistic ideas has acknowledged the unity of environment and human. In this respect, the ideas of this branch on the process of human’s socialization and two tendencies of ‘being’ and ‘having’ inherent to the humans are noteworthy. ‘Being’ means being oneself, expressing oneself, while ‘having’ means belonging to a social group. The latter may be extended by the necessity to belong to a certain environment.
The ideas of this branch may be commented by analogy with flora. The formation of a plant is in certain ways determined by environment, but the seed of pine-tree breeds a pine-tree (in case environment is beneficial to it) and not a palm. The environment is necessary for things to happen but it does not affect the essence of the plant.
Another opinion is based on the conception that humans unlike animals are endowed not only with animal instincts determining the sustenance of their physical body but also psychological instincts (forces expressing spiritual essence) or needs – the need to love and be loved, be creative, need for self-expression (Maslou, 1969). This certainty that is grounded on serious study matches the standpoint expressed in Dainas and testify to the necessity to base the concept of sustainable society on the idea of self-actualization. Maslow and Besarabova (2006) argue that the individual’s successful self-realization facilitates a positive social and psychological atmosphere in society in general.
Self-actualization is unthinkable without revising the process of socialization, without removing those conditions that interfere with the manifestations of human spirituality. This means that the social and material environment must facilitate free personality development (Gugaļenko, 2000; Rode 2003). This idea is supported by the educator of Georgian origin, Shalva Amonashvili (2003) who wrote that striving for freedom is one of the forces inherent in child’s nature that is also his/her driving and organizing force. The precondition of freedom is “being oneself” (Celms, 2008), being beyond the limits of socialization (Raudupe, 2002).
The general degradation of values in society suggests placing the blame on school, thus the notion of values education appears. This notion denotes the implementation of certain general human oriented educational instruments in the existing system of education. The suggested methods are mainly based on the idea that it is sufficient to “inject” particular programs, knowledge in learners and develop skills of polite behaviour. These values education conceptions are not based on respect for human existence and justify themselves in the transition period of school (society) when the majority of people have lost their inborn nature of being good, creative, desire for development. Yet these methods do not concern all individuals (at least those 1% mentioned by Maslow, 1969; 0.5% - Rode, 2007); there should be a sufficiently diverse offer (proceeding from the principle: everybody’s doing like this!) that would cover as big as possible division of children and youths according to Gauss’ criterion of freedom. It should include things starting from cramming elementary norms and rules of behaviour up to securing complete freedom for individual’s development.
We may talk of sustainability in education and society on the whole only in one case – if it is formed according to the indices of human and social essence. We cannot today absolutely precisely point out all of these indices but there is a lot of research in this direction to be able to sketch them out at least. General human values cannot be end in itself, they are rather road signs for creating sustainable education. School for sustainable education must be formed so that its environment would provide an opportunity for the person to reveal him/herself in the wholeness of the world and give all the necessary instruments for self-development, expression of one’s individual essence.

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