Woman from Wenden (Cesis), Latvia

What it is:

Carte de Visite (CDV) measuring a bit less than 2.5 x 4.25 inches.

What I know about it:

Photographer is L. H. Borewitz of Wenden (now known as Cesis), Latvia.  Otherwise undated and unidentified.


I figured this post would require some Googling, and sure enough.  I have at least seven photos from this photographer, but I picked this one for now because it’s the only one showing its subject in full length.  There is a Wenden in Germany, and the backs of these cards are in German, but other clues pointed elsewhere.  Searching for images or information about this photographer showed results from Latvia, and some of the advertising on the backs of my photos (but not this one) show medals he won in various Latvian cities.  I finally realized that Wenden is the former name of Cesis (it should have a “-”  over the e, but I can’t figure out how to get my computer to do that particular character).  That led me down the rabbit hole of trying to understand why a Latvian photographer would use German in his work.  Latvia at the time was technically under the rule of the Russian Empire, but its ethnic German population so dominated in cultural and civic affairs that German was the official language.  This despite the Germans being a minority.  (A Russian census in 1897 put the German population at only 6.2 %, though they were concentrated mostly in cities where the percentages were significantly higher and they could have that kind of influence.)  Actual Latvians were essentially an oppressed majority, somewhat like black South Africans under Apartheid.  This ended with a war of independence in 1918-19.  (Germans in Latvia had a rough time in WWII, since they were considered enemies of Russia but traitors to Germany, but that’s another post.)   I hope I distilled all that history down correctly.  Meanwhile, there’s our pretty lady here, standing in this simple but elegant setting, her focus elsewhere as if she’s preoccupied.  Do we assume she is a member of the ethnic German population of Latvia?  Or did Borewitz cater to others as well?

2 comments on “Woman from Wenden (Cesis), Latvia”

  1. Love your little background history lessons.

    • Thanks! I don’t want to sound like I’m giving a tiresome lecture. I just hope that people might enjoy the process of research and discovery along with me.

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