Suiti cultural space

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Inscribed in 2009 (4.COM) on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding

© 2009 by Ethnic Culture Center "Suiti" Foundation (Biedrïba EKC "Suiti") and Ltd. Labvakar.

The Suiti are a small Catholic community in the Protestant (Lutheran) western part of Latvia. The Suiti cultural space is characterized by a number of distinct features, including vocal drone singing performed by Suiti women, wedding traditions, colourful traditional costumes, the Suiti language, local cuisine, religious traditions, celebrations of the annual cycle, and a remarkable number of folk songs, dances and melodies recorded in this community. Older forms of extended family structures are still common here, and such families, where the transfer of skills from generation to generation takes place, are important bastions of Suiti cultural heritage. The synthesis of pre-Christian traditions and religious rituals has created a unique blend of intangible cultural heritage in the Suiti community. The pillar of Suiti identity – the Catholic Church – successfully recovered following the Soviet period and as a result, the Suiti cultural space has experienced a gradual renaissance. However, today only a few, mostly old people, have a good knowledge of Suiti cultural heritage, and thus there is an urgent need to disseminate this knowledge and to involve more people in its preservation by recovering elements preserved only in written documents, film archives and museum depositaries.

Periodic reporting

A. Cover sheet

A.1. State Party

Name of State Party


A.2. Date of deposit of the instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession


A.3. Element inscribed on the Urgent Safeguarding List that is the subject of this report

Name of element

Suiti cultural space

Inscribed in


A.4. Reporting period covered by this report

01-10-2013 - 01-10-2017

A.5. Other elements inscribed on the Urgent Safeguarding List, if any

A.6. Executive summary of the report

Cultural traditions which are practiced in an area populated by the suiti community and are of significance to suiti, alongside the traditional drone singing, folk songs, and suiti dialect, also cover annual festivities, cooking, wedding rituals, playing of musical instruments, dances, wearing traditional costumes, and also the Catholic faith. The annual festivities related to the Catholic faith – Festivity of Saint John the Baptist in Gudenieki, Saint Anne’s Day in Basi, Herb Day ["Zāļu diena"] in Jūrkalne and especially Saint Michael’s Festivity in Alsunga every autumn – unite different generations and facilitate a strong link between popular traditions and the Catholic faith and inheriting thereof.

The number of people residing in the suiti cultural space which, at the time of submitting the nomination for UNESCO, was estimated to be approximately 2000 people has decreased, and also the number of newborn infants is small. Reduction in the suiti community causes justified concern regarding inheriting of the suiti traditions and safeguarding of the cultural space. Suiti reside in the western part of Latvia, near the Baltic Sea, and after the administrative reform the suiti cultural space has been divided into three municipalities – Alsunga municipality, Gudenieki rural territory [or "pagasts"] in Kuldīga municipality, and Jūrkalne rural territory [or "pagasts"] in Ventspils municipality. There are still different opinions in the community as regards the decision to divide the community into separate administrative units. This spatial division has resulted in far-reaching consequences. Currently it affects the everyday life of the community in such essential issues as education.

The links between different generations of the community are strengthened by ethnographic ensembles and folklore groups. Moreover, their range has diversified, and men have joined suiti women in singing and playing of musical instruments. Ensembles "Suitu vīri" [“Suiti men”] and "Suitu dūdenieki" [“Suiti bagpipers”] have been created, master classes have been implemented in order to improve the knowledge and experience in playing bagpipes, and several members of the group have mastered making of the bagpipes and play self-made instruments. Suiti have purposefully and successively looked for opportunities to restore several traditions which have historically discontinued. Concurrently with playing bagpipes, also the skills of playing kokle, making traditional costumes and wedding traditions are being restored. Suiti have managed to have continuous progress towards achieving the selected objectives by individual initiatives and initially local small-scale projects, and currently suiti may be proud of self-made traditional musical instruments and costumes. Restoration of several traditional trades – tailor, shoemaker, hatter, and jewellery designer – is still intended, and the subsequent steps of safeguarding the suiti cultural space will be dedicated thereto. It is also intended to strengthen the co-operation of local entrepreneurs and to promote recognisability of products created in the suiti cultural space and rooted in its traditions.

As recognised by representatives of the suiti community, inclusion in the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding has provided a significant take-off for resolution of the community to become more knowledgeable of their own cultural heritage and to preserve it, to share their experience, and to become acquainted with experience of other communities in safeguarding their culture both in Latvia and in other countries. Over the course of time it has also meant significant strengthening of their abilities for successfully defending the suiti cultural space safeguarding initiatives both in national and international cultural, regional development and cross-border co-operation programmes. Suiti are characterised by relentless attempts to safeguard their cultural environment, and it can be also seen in restoration works of secular and sacred heritage; Alsunga medieval castle which is located in the suiti cultural space is still waiting for its restoration.

A.7. Contact person for correspondence

Title (Ms/Mr, etc.)


Family name


Given name



Director of the Latvian National Centre for Culture


Pils laukums 4, Riga, Latvia, LV-1365, Latvia

Telephone number

(+371) 67228985

E-mail address

Other relevant information

Contact person of the suiti community

Title (Ms/Mr, etc.): Ms
Family name: Martinova
Given name: Dace
Institution/position: Chairperson of the board of the Ethnic Culture Centre (ECC) “Suiti”
Address: Ziedulejas iela 1, Alsunga, Alsungas nov., LV-3306, Latvia
Telephone number: (+371) 29222103
E-mail address:

B. Status of element inscribed on the urgent safeguarding list

B.1. Social and cultural functions

The meaning of the suiti cultural space and its cultural function for the community is mainly related to being aware of suiti cultural identity, and belonging to the suiti community. Both the expressive and splendid suiti traditional costume worn on special occasions and the use of the characteristic linguistic dialect in everyday life, as well as singing and other traditions serve as symbols attesting to such belonging. Suiti identity is concurrently a source of strong self-confidence which is related to resolution and perseverance characteristic to the suiti, and also concern over well-kept cultural environment.

Alongside the meaning of cultural identity the suiti cultural space has a significant social function in promoting a link among different generations, the sense of responsibility and respect towards the knowledge and experience of the older generation in inheriting cultural traditions. Ethnographic ensembles and folklore groups of the suiti community are mainly based on experience of the older generation, and concurrently it means permanent involvement of the older generation in the public life of the community. Stable roles of different generations have emerged within the community where the older generation provides advice, opinions, evaluations, and shares experience. In turn, the middle and younger generation contributes its energy in planning and implementing different activities of safeguarding traditions. The youngest members of the community are involved in especially designed events of becoming acquainted with the suiti culture. Owing to active participation of the younger generation in the cultural life, revitalisation of suiti traditions is taking place – the customs which had disappeared from the everyday use are returning in families. Therefore, representatives of each generation have a significant role in activities of inheriting cultural traditions as they provide a different contribution for continuation of traditions.

The cultural heritage in the suiti community serves as the cultural identity and co-operation support, and also as a development resource. The community is becoming increasingly aware of its significance and possibilities of its diverse application. It adds an economic function to this heritage by promoting welfare of the community which, in turn, is of crucial importance to safeguarding of the cultural space of the community.

Safeguarding of the suiti cultural space is a personal responsibility of each suits. In turn, persons who have a special role in relation to joint cultural events of the community are participants of suiti ethnographic ensembles and folklore groups, also non-governmental organisations and interest groups, and members of suiti Catholic parishes.

B.2. Assessment of its viability and current risks

Significant events which have received a positive feedback from the community, for example, restoration of several cultural traditions (singing of men, playing of bagpipes) and gradually increasing number of participants, achievements of the community in researching their traditions (history of wearing and making of the traditional costume), as well as deepening of the knowledge and acquisition of the necessary practical skills (strengthening of weaving skills), may be observed in safeguarding of the suiti cultural space. Gradually the interest of suiti in their wedding traditions has increased, and they have been implemented several times in the suiti cultural space during the preceding years.

Also children and young persons display interest in mastering suiti traditions (school of suiti traditions, dance camp), and inheriting of traditions among generations can be observed. Activities of formal and non-formal education (mastering of suiti dialect, drone singing) offer to once again make the traditions as part of the family life. Also co-operation between persons tending to different traditions (playing music by suiti as accompaniment to dances), as well as co-operation in selling products related to the heritage (craft and designing of a uniform mark of product identity) is developing. There is also a support of suiti Catholic priests to care for the cultural environment and local traditions.

However, several risks identified in the previous report are still current.

(1) Reduction in the number of inhabitants can be still observed in the suiti cultural space, and it can be explained with the young generation leaving for cities and regional centres and negative natural growth.

(2) Economic development of the community depends on the State regional policy which is still oriented towards population of regional centres, disregarding rural areas which are not concentrated around such regional centres.

(3) Development of the suiti cultural space depends on the State education policy which envisages closing schools in which the number of pupils is small, without taking into account the significance of such schools as the local culture centres.

(4) The financial support, particularly for implementation of large-scale projects, is inconsistent and insufficient. Apart from individual target programmes, it is mainly granted according to the procedures of project tenders, creating sense of insecurity as regards planning future activities.

Alongside the abovementioned aspects which were topical also during drafting of the previous periodic report, additional risk aspects have been recognised by the suiti community.

(5) Secularisation of the society, as the number of active members of suiti Catholic parishes keeps decreasing, and the number of suiti children attending Sunday schools is quite small. However, the community keeps emphasising the Catholic faith as the pillar of its cultural identity.

(6) Segregation between the persons actively practising suiti traditions and the part of the community which is passive in this regard and for which belonging to the suiti community is determined by other considerations can be observed in the community.

B.3. Implementation of safeguarding measures

B.3.a. Objectives and results

According to the nomination submitted to the UNESCO (2009) and the first report prepared on safeguarding of the suiti cultural space (2013), five primary objectives were chosen for the plan (they have been taken as the basis for sections B.3b, B.3d and B.3e of this report). Upon implementing activities subordinate thereto, the following results have been achieved.

(1) To promote and ensure the safeguarding and transfer of intangible cultural heritage of suiti at the level of pre-school education, general education, vocationally oriented education, interest education, and lifelong education.

Integration of suiti traditions in education process has taken place at different levels, starting from becoming acquainted with the suiti dialect and traditional instruments in a pre-school education institution and ending with acquisition of new skills within the scope of adult lifelong education. The school of suiti traditions has become a popular event among suiti and gathers children of the suiti municipality.

(2) To ensure measures for restoration, acquisition, transfer and promotion of endangered suiti traditions or their elements.

Resuming the traditions of playing bagpipes and kokle, as well as their making, also singing of men has been purposeful and successful. Weaving skills and other skills of fancywork which are necessary for making the traditional costume of suiti have been promoted. It has been the result of an extended and successive work owing to the interest of the community.

(3) To promote the exploration, research and promotion of suiti intangible cultural heritage.

Suiti children and young persons are involved in studies of local history, while representatives of the middle and older generation of the community have prepared new publications regarding different aspects of suiti traditions. Two festivals of suiti drone singing took place as striking events. Success has been achieved in paying special attention to the suiti traditional costumes.

(4) To ensure the recovery and restoration of cultural and historical monuments of significance to the suiti community for activities related to the safeguarding and promotion of the suiti intangible cultural heritage.

The work of restoring Alsunga medieval castle is being continued gradually, carrying out individual works of preservation and restoration. Also the knowledge has been acquired in the suiti community regarding storage of antique textiles which is of use in the work of the Suiti Heritage Depository established by the ECC “Suiti”.

(5) To ensure the safeguarding of the suiti cultural space in long-term, thus promoting economic viability and development of the suiti cultural space.

The sacred heritage of the suiti cultural space has been restored, and dozens of church art objects of the suiti cultural space have obtained the status of State protected cultural monuments, and exploration of the liturgical vestments of suiti Catholic churches has been promoted. An extensive multiannual co-operation between suiti and Liv communities in Latvia, as well as Seto community and community of Kihnu Island in Estonia has been commenced for promoting the economic development and entrepreneurship with the intention of developing tourism in the territories populated by the communities.

B.3.b. Safeguarding activities

(1) The largest number of activities has been implemented in the field of education at different levels. In a pre-school education institution children are acquainted with the traditional musical instruments and playing them, drone singing, suiti traditional costume and fancywork. Teachers keep using the publications "Suitu Miķelīša mazā ābece" [“Little ABC of Suiti Miķelītis”] and "Darba lapas suitu Miķelīša draugiem" [“Worksheets for Friends of Suiti Miķelītis”] dedicated to the suiti dialect. Lessons on the subject of local history continue in the primary school in the form of interest education, and the book "Suitu novada mācība" [“Study of Suiti County”] created by teachers from Alsunga and published in 2014 is used in lessons. Upon initiative of teachers suiti traditions are also being integrated in the content of other study subjects. Alsunga Secondary School is actively participating in the UNESCO Associated Schools Project.

The course of "Suitu tradīciju skoliņa" [“Little School of Suiti Traditions”] every summer is continuous and gathers 30 suiti children from different places. At present, the number of children who would like to participate in camps exceeds the number which can be enrolled. Every year a camp for acquisition of playing the traditional kokle and pipe is organised, and in 2017 also a dance camp was organised. Alongside the suiti camps, joint camps for suiti and Setos children and young persons have been commenced in 2014 and organised every year, and they have become a pleasant tradition for children and young persons.

(2) The skills of making and wearing the traditional costume has been restored. Training in making of the traditional costume has been implemented for adults, children and young persons, and special attention has been paid to weaving, colouring of yarn and embroidery techniques. Training was conducted upon initiative of the suiti community, inviting competent researchers, organising exhibitions, as well as trips of exchange of experience to other locations in Latvia. In order to promote revitalisation of craft traditions, restoration of premises in the creative workshop "Austuve" [“Weaving mill”] in Alsunga was carried out. Also, since 2015 lessons in playing kokle are being organised for all persons interested.

(3) Children and young persons have implemented municipality study expeditions (2017), the suiti heritage depositories in Alsunga and Jūrkalne have been supplemented, as well as the site of the suiti cultural space is being continuously improved, trips of exchange of experience and giving concerts have taken place both in Latvia and in other European countries. Within a time period of four years traditional festivities have been celebrated and international drone singing festivals organised by the suiti community have taken place – in 2014 and 2017 gathering together both Latvian and foreign folklore groups and ethnographic ensembles. Special attention is also being paid to restoration of the dancing tradition and promotion of suiti choreographic heritage. In autumn 2015, suiti dance festival was organised in Alsunga. Also, association "Vēju sēta" [“Court of Winds”] from 2013 to 2015 has organized yearly plein air art events for interpreting suiti traditions.

Several publications prepared by representatives of the suiti community, as well as co-operation partners have been published, for example, the publication "Suit’drān’s. Suitu novada mantojums" [“Suiti Vestments. Heritage of Suiti Municipality”] (2014) which was later updated and supplemented (2017), "Suitu kāzu tērps un tā valkāšanas tradīcijas 19. gadsimtā" [“Suiti Wedding Attire and Traditions for Wearing It in the 19th Century”] (2017, the publication was prepared for eight years creating a full replica of the historical wedding attire preserved in the Finnish National Museum). Continuing paying of special attention to the topic of wedding traditions, part of the suiti folklore material is the album of audio recordings "Suitu kāzas. Precību un kāzu dziesmas" [“Suiti Wedding: Betrothal and Nuptial Songs”] issued in 2016. Each publication has promoted exploration of suiti traditions both in the suiti community and also to a wider extent in Latvia and abroad, also it has promoted the sense of belonging of suiti to their community. A collection of suiti folklore materials has been published in the digital archives of the Latvian folklore depository However, representatives of the community recognise that there is a lack of in-depth academic studies regarding suiti and their culture.

(4) It has been possible to implement only urgent works as regards restoration of immovable cultural monuments. Research, preservation, and restoration of individual parts of Alsunga castle have taken place. However, substantially larger financial contribution is necessary for complete restoration of the castle. Training in preservation and restoration of antique textiles has been successfully implemented in 2015 for restoration of cultural and historical objects. The knowledge and skills acquired are particularly important for the suiti heritage depository in Alsunga where stock consisting of 300 units, including textiles, is being stored.

(5) In order to preserve the suiti cultural environment, special attention is being paid to restoration of sacred heritage. On the basis of a personal initiatives by priests of the Catholic parishes of the suiti cultural space, the list of State cultural monuments was supplemented in 2014 and 2015 with 31 units of art objects from suiti churches (for example, 18th century textiles), an exhibition of 19th and 20th century liturgical vestments of Catholic priests was created in 2015 in Alsunga municipality museum, and "Suitu lūgšana" [“Suiti Prayer”] was created which has become a part of the liturgy in suiti churches.

Restoration of the road covering is a non-implemented intention as regards improvement of the infrastructure. In 2017 a transboundary co-operation project between Estonia and Latvia “Development and Promotion of Small Ethno-cultural Regions as Tourism Destinations – UNESCO Tourism” was commenced, promoting exchange of experience between suiti, Liv communities in Latvia and Setos, Kihnu Island communities in Estonia in relation to the promotion of entrepreneurial development and tourism based on local and cultural traditions. Measures of exchange of experience have gradually promoted more active use of cultural traditions as a resource for the development of the local entrepreneurship, and it is planned to continue such exchange of experience also in the subsequent years.

B.3.c. Participation of communities, groups or individuals in the safeguarding activities

Safeguarding of the suiti cultural space depends on the suiti community on the whole. During the last years the number of cultural activities organised has increased, however, a comparatively small part of the community participates in them. Members of non-governmental organisations want a more extensive and active involvement of the community in the events organised. Meanwhile, others acknowledge that suiti cultural identity should be viewed more widely, as part of the everyday life of suiti and as a sense of belonging. In comparison with the previous report (2013) the number of those members of the community who are actively involved in safeguarding of suiti traditions has changed.

(1) Participation of children and young persons in ensembles and folklore groups has decreased. It is caused both by reduction in the number of children and also their going to study at schools which are located outside the suiti cultural space. The folklore group in Basi "Krētainie suiti" (2002) has discontinued its operation from 2017. The number of dancers in dance collectives has decreased from 60 to 43 participants. The number of participants of the folklore group "Suitiņi" (1985) has decreased from 8 to 6 participants. Without doubt the range of activities implemented has been extensive and intense for the ensembles which continue their operation.

(2) Reduction in the number of participants has also been observed in several middle generation ensembles – in rural band "Suitu muzikanti" (2010) 5 of 8 musicians keep playing, the in ethnographic ensemble "Maģie suiti" (1959) in Jūrkalne there was a decrease from 13 to 6 participants. In turn, the number of participants in ethnographic ensemble "Gudenieku suiti" (1965) in Gudenieki has decreased from 16 to 12 participants.

(3) The number of participants in the ethnographic ensemble "Suitu sievas" (1955) has remained unchanged – 17, and 9 participants continue involvement in the traditions ensemble "Basu suiti" (2011). There are continuously 6 participants in the creative workshop "Austuve" (2009) and 6 weavers in the weaver’s workshop (2013) in Jūrkalne. Increase in the number of participants, particularly in relation to suiti dancing traditions and involvement of men in singing and music-playing traditions, can also be observed – in the middle generation dance group Suiti (1982), from 18 to 22 participants, the middle generation dance collective "Jūrkalne" (2017) has resumed its operation, and (mainly middle generation) suiti groups "Suitu vīri" (2013, 10 participants) and "Suitu dūdenieki" (2014, 7 participants) have joined, restoring the tradition of playing bagpipes in the suiti cultural space and becoming the largest group playing traditional bagpipes in Latvia.

Number of participants of non-governmental organisations of the suiti community (see section C.3 of the report) is relatively small, however the events organised by them are open to the whole community, as well as other persons interested. Contribution to preservation of the suiti cultural heritage is also provided by parishes of the Roman Catholic Church – parish of St. Michael’s Alsunga Roman Catholic church, parish of St. Joseph’s Jūrkalne Roman Catholic church, and parish of St. John the Baptist’s Gudenieki Roman Catholic church.

B.3.d. Timetable and budget

Safeguarding activities of the suiti cultural space are based on self-initiative and self-contribution of suiti to which co-financing is being attracted. Activities (see section B.3b of the report) are mainly implemented with small-scale projects, and each of them obtains financing from several sources. Projects have been implemented throughout the period presented in the report. State funding for implementation of projects is being granted via project tenders of the State Culture Capital Fund (hereinafter – SCCF). Concurrently with project-based attracting of financing there is a continuous local government and State financing in the form of earmarked grants which is provided to educational and cultural education institutions, also to culture institutions and remuneration of the directors of ethnographic ensembles and folklore groups. The following budget refers to the primary objectives of the safeguarding plan (see section B.3a of the report).

(1) Self-financing of the suiti community (including associations) – 4 100 (hereinafter in EUR, rounded in full hundreds), municipalities (hereinafter – local governments of Alsunga, Kuldīga and Ventspils municipalities) – 61 400, SCCF – 7 600, State budget and earmarked grants – 11 600, European Regional Development Fund – 4 800.

(2) Self-financing of the suiti community (including associations) – 2 900, municipalities – 79 200, SCCF (including Kurzeme regional culture programme) – 30 300, European Agricultural and Rural Development Fund (LEADER Programme) – 44 700.

(3) Self-financing of the suiti community (including associations and entrepreneurs) – 11 200,, municipalities – 53 900, SCCF – 39 400, State budget (Latvian National Culture Centre) – 3 400, UNESCO Participation Programme – 2 800. Currently significant financial resources from the State budget and European Union are being granted to digitalisation of the cultural heritage and provision of digital access, and it also includes the suiti cultural heritage.

(4) Municipalities – 31 300, SCCF – 17 200, State budget (State Inspection for Heritage Protection) – 7 100, European Maritime and Fisheries Fund – 39 700.

(5) Self-financing of the suiti community (Catholic parishes) – 21 000, municipalities – 12 200, SCCF – 19 600, State budget and earmarked grants (including the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development, the Ministry of Culture, the State Inspection for Heritage Protection) – 39 400, European Regional Development Fund – 6 500.

Distribution of the financing from different abovementioned sources during the time period of four years has been even, and in general financing in the amount of 551 300 has been utilised for safeguarding activities concurrently with the contribution of the community which cannot be fully measured in material terms: A) suiti community – 39 200 (including financing from the associations, parishes, and entrepreneurs), B) local governments of municipalities – 238 000, C) State budget – 175 600 (including earmarked grants – 61 500, SCCF – 114 100), D) European Union funds – 95 700, and UNESCO Participation Programme – 2 800.

B.3.e. Overall effectiveness of the safeguarding activities

Inheriting of suiti cultural traditions takes place both in families and everyday life of suiti (use of the dialect of the Latvian language, celebrating festivities, fancywork, etc.) and in joint initiatives which are based on the operation of culture and educational institutions, non-governmental organisations, and interest groups. All these organisations have a small aggregate of human resources. Safeguarding activities of the suiti cultural space have been implemented with limited, however, gradually increasing financing which is directed towards all objectives set.

(1) Efficiency of integrating suiti traditions in formal and non-formal educational programmes depends on the State education policy, as well as on the demographic situation (low birth rate) and individual choices of parents in educating their children. Only Alsunga Secondary School has remained from the three schools of the suiti cultural space. Jūrkalne Primary School was closed in 2016, and Basi branch of Kuldīga Primary School was closed in 2017. In 2017 there was no one to start studies in grade ten of Alsunga Secondary School, therefore, the option of closing the secondary school is under review, intending to leave primary school grades only.

(2) Restoration and continuation of several traditions and skills has been successful (playing and making of bagpipes and kokle, making and wearing of the traditional costume). However, continuation of traditions primarily depends on individual likings of people (traditional music is only part of the repertoire of the local music band) or personal preferences (ancient wedding traditions have been restored in some wedding ceremonies).

(3) Involvement of children and young persons in work of documentation has been of significance. Publications and seminars supporting knowledge regarding suiti traditions have helped to continue the skills (making of traditional costumes). Alongside the accomplishments of suiti themselves, promotion of the suiti cultural space as external initiative has turned out to be influential (documentary "Ručs un Norie", TV series and national e-services advertisement).

(4) The knowledge acquired as a result of training regarding preservation and restoration of cultural objects (antique textiles) has been a purposeful benefit which is of significance for the work with the suiti material heritage depository. In turn, a significantly larger investment of resources is necessary for restoration of cultural monuments (Alsunga medieval castle).

(5) Initiatives for establishment of protection of movable cultural objects, also small restoration projects have been fruitful for preserving the sacred heritage. In turn, preservations of immovable cultural objects (suiti churches) demands further investment. It will be possible to evaluate efficiency of activities related to the economic development (creation of a joint brand of suiti products, exchange of experience by local entrepreneurs) only after a longer period of time.

The financial resources available have been utilised purposefully and thoughtfully, and most probably it would not have been possible to achieve the same results by other means or smaller resources. Although it has not been possible to implement everything within the scope of the human resources and financing available, suiti community evaluates the work carried out as useful and necessary. Challenges were observed in areas where development does not directly depend on the community, but is related to a more extensive regional and national development.

Alongside the processes attesting to the viability of traditions, the community still recognises safeguarding of the suiti cultural space as urgent because of the risks endangering identity of suiti and inheriting of traditions.

C. Update of the safeguarding measures

C.1. Updated safeguarding plan

The updated safeguarding plan of the suiti cultural space continues the previously commenced direction, and principal objectives have been selected: (1) to ensure regular and methodical documenting and research of the suiti intangible cultural heritage, promoting co-operation between educational and research institutions and the suiti community; (2) to promote educational, practical, and transfer activities of all kinds in all levels of education, particularly among children and young persons, in order to ensure the sustainability of the traditions characteristic to the suiti cultural space and the co-operation of generations in their transfer; (3) to promote recognisability of the heritage characteristic to the suiti cultural space in Latvia and abroad; (4) to use the creative potential of the suiti cultural space for the development of new products and services with added value, ensuring that representatives of the suiti community are the main beneficiaries; (5) to ensure the support infrastructure necessary for safeguarding of the suiti cultural space, particularly promoting recovery and restoration of cultural and historical monuments and artefacts of significance to the suiti community. In order to achieve the objectives defined, the foreseeable results and activities have been determined:

(1) Research and documentation

Co-operation with the institutions of higher education and research will ensure that expressions of the suiti cultural heritage and the persons practising them will be studied. It is planned to pay special attention to the research of traditional celebrations. Several activities will promote access to the suiti heritage online: registers of local parishes will be digitalised, suiti folklore materials will be aggregated and made available, and place names of the suiti cultural space will be mapped. Alongside successful operation of the suiti heritage depositories, it is planned to open tourism and information centres. It is envisaged to ensure issuing of publications in suiti dialect with the objective of promoting the number of persons knowing and practising it in everyday life.

(2) Practising, transfer, education

It is planned to continue integration of suiti culture elements in the process of lessons in pre-school educational institutions, in study subjects in Alsunga Secondary School, as well as in interest education in Alsunga Music and Art School. Several of the planned activities continue successfully commenced practices: acquisition of the music and dance traditions, and wearing the traditional costume. Summer camps for suiti children are planned to be proposed also to diaspora. It is intended to continue the research and to organise training for adults, particularly with the intent of restoring the craft skills of a tailor, shoemaker, hatter, and jewellery designer, and traditions of making musical instruments – bagpipes, kokle, and violin.

(3) Promotion of recognisability

Essential role in forming the identity of suiti is played by traditional festivities and celebrations of suiti which also promote recognisability of the suiti cultural space. The international drone singing festival will continue the promotion of suiti culture. The visual identity of suiti is being considered – it is intended to create a brand for recognisability of products of suiti craftsmen and domestic producers. It is also planned to promote the recognisability of suiti with the help of audiovisual materials. Henceforth digital information resources will also be taken care of: website, as well as profiles of the suiti cultural space in social networks.

(4) Entrepreneurship and creative industries

In order to improve safe socio-economic grounds concurrently safeguarding the cultural environment characteristic to the suiti cultural space, it is intended to develop domestic production and craftsmanship based on suiti traditions and principles of organic farming. Development of entrepreneurial skills is planned with the help of general educational programmes and measures of lifelong education. It is planned to promote the establishment of cooperative societies and to ensure trade in articles of suiti craftsmen, creating an online platform "Suitu amatu māja" ["Suiti crafts house"].

(5) Infrastructure

In order to safeguard the suiti cultural space in long-term, the infrastructure must be developed and tending to the cultural environment must be continued. It is planned to renew roads in order to ensure the reachability of the suiti cultural space. Also work on restoration and renewal of suiti churches and historical buildings of parishes and objects related thereto, as well as of Alsunga medieval castle will be continued. For the purpose of promoting tourism it is planned to create nature and recreational parks, a centre of creative workshops and a suiti ethnographic farm, promoting exploration of the traditional farming and fisheries practices. For attracting entrepreneurship and financing a support fund for the suiti cultural space is to be established.

The safeguarding plan has been developed for 2017 to 2019, with the intent of updating it, upon co-operation of the association ECC “Suiti” with the local governments, the Latvian National Culture Centre, the UNESCO Latvian National Commission, and the Ministry of Culture. Involvement of all the abovementioned parties is intended in implementation of the plan. Alongside the abovementioned institutions, the plan also provides for involvement of the State Inspection for Heritage Protection, the Ministry of Education and Science, the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development, and the Nature Conservation Agency, also the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Transport, co-operating in implementation of the policy related to the maintenance of the cultural environment.

State funding for safeguarding suiti cultural space is planned in the form of yearly State budget earmarked grants for cultural education – 57 450, folk groups and ethnographic ensembles – 3 630, ECC “Suiti” – 10 000. For or a three year period it is 213 240, with possibility of its gradual increase. In turn, for restoration and renovation of the Alsunga medieval castle 281 000 are planned (2018–2019). Concurrently with contribution of State institutions substantial support is expected from the local governments. There is also an attributed funding of the European Union funds – 23 020 for developing entrepreneurship in tourism (2017–2020). Other potential resources are to be attracted based on projects, including from the State Culture Capital Fund.

C.2. Community participation

The safeguarding plan has been developed on the basis of the memorandum of co-operation which was signed on 17 August 2016 between the association ECC “Suiti”, the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Latvia, the Latvian National Culture Centre, UNESCO Latvian National Commission, and three local governments – Alsunga Municipality Council, Kuldīga Municipality Council, and Ventspils Municipality Council. The present memorandum of co-operation is in effect until 31 December 2020. It was elaborated in order to promote implementation of cultural activities, formal and non-formal education and of economic activities which would ensure safeguarding of the suiti intangible cultural heritage. The first such memorandum of co-operation was signed on 20 January 2010, and the second memorandum attests to the continuation of the co-operation already commenced.

In order to update the safeguarding plan, three meetings were organised in September and October 2016 with participation of representatives of the suiti community from ECC “Suiti”, priest of Catholic parishes of the suiti cultural space, teachers from Alsunga Secondary School, and representatives of the local governments, as well as representatives from those State institutions which signed the abovementioned memorandum of co-operation. The plan developed was approved by the board of the association ECC “Suiti” in which representatives of the community individually and the local governments involved are participating. According to the memorandum of co-operation, the parties involved, including representatives of the association ECC “Suiti”, meet once a year in order to evaluate the implementation of the plan and the results achieved and to agree on the next action directions and planned activities.

In relation to gender roles, the operation of the association ECC “Suiti” is characterised by gender equality. The board of the association is periodically re-elected, and concurrently representatives of different genders of the society participate therein. Gender equality is also characteristic to other non-governmental organisations which operate for safeguarding of the suiti heritage and are involved in implementation activities of the plan. Similarly gender equality may be observed in the management and representation of local governments.

C.3. Institutional context

Local governments of three municipalities – Alsunga, Kuldīga (Gudenieki rural territory), and Ventspils (Jūrkalne rural territory) – are involved in the management and safeguarding of the suiti cultural space. Culture houses operate in all three municipalities. Each of them implements activities for safeguarding of the suiti cultural space. Also Catholic parishes are related to safeguarding of the suiti cultural space (see also section B.3c of the report).

The association ECC “Suiti” implements safeguarding activities and promotes co-operation of the community with local governments and State institutions. "Suitu amatnieki" [“Suiti craftsmen”] promote craftsmanship in the suiti community. Several other local associations stimulate the interest in suiti cultural heritage. "Suitu novads" ["Suiti County"] and "Suitu kultūras mantojums" ["Suiti Cultural Heritage"] contribute to the research and recognisability of suiti cultural history.

D. Participation of communities in preparing this report

Preparation of the report was planned and implemented upon co-operation between the Latvian National Centre for Culture, the Latvian Academy of Culture and the association ECC “Suiti”. Participation of the suiti community in development of the report took place with the support of the association. The written report on safeguarding activities of the suiti cultural space prepared by the association served as informative basis.

In order to evaluate the current situation in safeguarding of the suiti cultural space, the initial meeting for planning the development of the report with representatives of the association ECC “Suiti” was followed by more extensive discussion. It gathered representatives of the community from different fields of activity – directors of ethnographic ensembles, representatives of local governments, priest of the suiti Catholic parishes, local entrepreneurs whose activity is related to the suiti cultural heritage – to a conversation at Alsunga Culture House on 2 November 2017. During development of the report several interviews were conducted and individual written opinions were received.

The initial version of the report was prepared in Latvian and disseminated through the ECC “Suiti” to community members. "Suiti dižsapulce" ["Suiti Grand Meeting"] was organised by the association on 20 November 2017 at Alsunga Culture House for discussing it, inviting all interested parties from the suiti community, as well as representatives of the local governments and State institutions. The opinions expressed at the meeting were taken into account in developing the final version of the report.

E. Signature on behalf of the state party


Dace Melbārde


Minister for Culture of the Republic of Latvia




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Cover sheet

State Party

Name of State Party


Date of deposit of the instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession


Element inscribed on the Urgent Safeguarding List that is the subject of this report

Name of element

Suiti cultural space

Inscribed in


Reporting period covered by this report

01-10-2009 - 01-10-2013

Other elements inscribed on the Urgent Safeguarding List, if any

Suiti cultural space (2009)

Executive summary of the report

Intangible cultural heritage of the Suiti community includes traditional drone singing, folk songs and melodies, the Suiti dialect of Latvian language, annual festivities, cooking, wedding rituals, wearing traditional costumes, and the Catholic faith. Over the last years, the number of Suiti community has remained relatively the same, as about 2000 people living in the areas of Alsunga, Gudenieki and Jūrkalne, in the western part of Latvia that borders the Baltic Sea. However, the number of inhabitants of the Suiti land, as community uses to call it, has a tendency of decreasing, which may be explained by the socio-economic situation.
The international recognition for the Suiti cultural space has served as the basis for growing self-confidence and activity of the community to safeguard and develop its cultural traditions. The community involvement and interest to explore its cultural heritage is witnessed by folklore groups and ethnographic ensembles, dance groups and groups of interest in traditional crafts, and several active NGOs. Alongside to general preoccupation with safeguarding of the Suiti heritage, implemented by the Ethnic Cultural Centre (ECC) “Suiti” and the association “Suitu novads”, new NGOs have been established to favour education processes, research on the wearing of Suiti traditional costume and transmitting the skills of making it, as well as the acquisition of the Suiti dialect of Latvian language for children of pre-school age.
Children and youth have participated in safeguarding the Suiti heritage in different levels and types of education, involving pupils in research on their cultural traditions. The contribution and initiative of the youth has significantly increased, and also the older generation of the community takes more active part in cultural processes, sharing the experience and knowledge they have accumulated. Ethnographic ensembles and folklore groups have a special significance in strengthening the link between generations; and all generations participate in annual festivities – Festivity of Saint John the Baptist in Gudenieki, Saint Anne’s Day in Basi, Herb Day (Zāļu diena) in Jūrkalne and especially every autumn Saint Michael’s Festivity in Alsunga. The link that has historically emerged in Suiti culture between pre-Christian traditions and the Catholic faith has become stronger during the last years. It may be observed in religious practices and revitalisation of traditions, for example, May chants in honour of Saint Mary at crosses in farmsteads or at cross-roads, wearing of traditional costumes during services and festivities.
The openness of Suiti has given the possibility of getting acquainted with their heritage at exhibitions and festivities organised by cultural centres, as well as in the form of digital information resources, for example, Several books dedicated to the Suiti culture have been published recently, and well received by readers. They allow becoming acquainted with the life stories of Suiti, their music-playing and cooking traditions.
During the preceding years, the determination and experience of Suiti to protect their heritage has grown. A continuous co-operation between the community, local governments and State authorities has been established, and the efficiency achieved under the conditions of limited availability of resources is commendable. The efforts to safeguard the cultural space have also stimulated the development of new co-operation initiatives of national and international scale, which gives an opportunity to get acquainted with the diversity of cultural heritage and to exchange on experiences, challenges and solutions for the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage (ICH).

Contact person for correspondence

Title (Ms/Mr, etc.)


Family name


Given name



Latvian National Commission for UNESCO/ Communication and Information Programme Director


Pils laukums 4-206, Rīga, LV-1050, Latvija

Telephone number

+371 67 325 109

Fax number

+371 67 222 762

E-mail address

Other relevant information

Status of element inscribed on the urgent safeguarding list

Social and cultural functions

Suiti have a strong sense cultural identity and belonging to the community. Their cultural traditions and the land where these traditions are practiced are equally important to what is being named as the Suiti cultural space. Although only part of community members are actively involved in practice and transmission of cultural traditions – drone singing, playing traditional music instruments as kokle and bagpipes, traditional crafts and dancing, or other – the sense of belonging and interest in Suiti heritage is persistent also for other community members. Also wearing Suiti traditional costume is a source of pride and acknowledgment of belonging that is particularly manifest in various annual festivities. The safeguarding and transmission process largely relies on the shoulders of a few community members: leaders and participants of folklore groups and ethnographic ensembles, enthusiasts interested in transmitting traditional skills, and activists of local non-governmental organisations. Although this part of the community remains relatively small, the number of those actively involved in safeguarding traditions is increasing.
Safeguarding of the Suiti intangible cultural heritage also strengthens the link between generations. Involvement of the older generation in active social activities manifests appreciation of their experience and proficiency. Transmission of traditions is also a source of socialisation of children and youth, giving the sense of stability and trust in a lifestyle rooted in culture. While people of middle and younger generations have significant role in activities related to safeguarding of traditions, by taking active participation in activities of interest groups and NGOs (see Section B.3c).
Suiti community demonstrates an overall care for cultural heritage and personal co-responsibility, where interest in intangible heritage is complemented by due attention to the cultural environment – cultural centres of parishes as significant places of gatherings, and also churches and liturgical heritage. The belonging to Roman Catholic Church has an overarching significance for Suiti community, and various initiatives of revitalisation and recreation of Suiti intangible cultural heritage have been favoured by the church, and the dean of local parishes in particular. The sense of Suiti cultural identity has contributed to the self-confidence and willingness of the community to explore and safeguard their heritage and to develop local cultural environment. Heritage in the Suiti community is increasingly perceived as a resource for community development, including social equality, economic growth and sustainability.

Assessment of its viability and current risks

The intangible cultural heritage of Suiti, as drone singing, traditional festivities, wearing traditional costumes and other, is transmitted, and there are also tendencies of revitalisation of traditions. Several community members practice playing bagpipe again, and Suiti traditional dances are also being revitalised. However, according to the assessment by Suiti, there are several equally considerable and interconnected threats to the Suiti cultural space, to the cultural identity, and to the development and welfare of the community.
(A) Demographics and practitioners
Reduction in the number of inhabitants is observed, including outflow of the new generation to regional centres for the purposes of studies and work. Although they maintain awareness of the Suiti identity, it affects the circle of those actively practicing traditions and endangers their safeguarding in long-term.
Land selling and newcomers have also an influence. Such inhabitants arrive who do not relate themselves to the Suiti culture and do not establish cultural belonging; in turn, a part of them recognise the special meaning of the Suiti culture and become its active supporters and promoters.
(B) Modes of transmission
Transmitting cultural traditions in family is less characteristic as the living of three generations under the same roof does not serve as the basic model anymore, and for a part of inhabitants safeguarding of cultural traditions is not a priority. In turn, education and more active role of schools are emphasised. It stimulates reflection on the formal education content, activities of non-formal and interest education. It is necessary to attract and hold the interest of children and youth according to their age, taking into consideration new methods of education, and also the possibilities offered by new information technologies.
Taking into account the meaning of schools in transmitting cultural traditions, the Suiti cultural space depends on the State policy of education to a large extent - the provision of operation of such schools in which the number of pupils is small, motivation of teachers, including in terms of financial assistance.
(C) Socio-economic factors
Support to the economic development of the area is a priority of local governments, and, inter alia, inhabitants with low income and difficulties of supporting themselves and their family reside in the populated areas. Accordingly, it urges the local governments to direct a part of their funding for the social assistance. Economic development of the community is also related to the State regional policy where promotion of population density is felt to a large extent, neglecting more distant rural areas, which do not cluster around large regional centres. Such priorities for regional support are not always favourable to Suiti areas.
Financial support, including State financing, for the safeguarding activities is unreliable and insufficient and granted according to tendering procedures. This motivates the community to justify their ideas, however, it causes unpredictability and insecurity regarding the funding granted and the future safeguarding activities.

Implementation of safeguarding measures

Objectives and results

Primary objectives and activities for safeguarding of the Suiti cultural space were stated in the nomination, and results have been achieved in relation to each of them.
(1) To enhance and ensure preservation of the Suiti ICH and its transfer at the levels of pre-school, general, interest and vocational education, as well as through lifelong learning.
Pre-school children are introduced to traditional Suiti music, and local cultural studies are established as optional in general education. Pupils are involved in the cultural research work, and Suiti traditions are introduced in music and visual art studies. The camp “Suitu tradīciju skoliņa” [The Little School of Suiti Traditions], organised each summer for children and youth, has attracted increasing interest. Meanwhile, folklore groups, ethnographic ensembles and dance groups contribute significantly for bringing different generations together.
(2) To ensure urgent safeguarding measures for protection, revitalisation and popularisation of the endangered elements of the Suiti ICH.
The significance of wearing a traditional costume, inter alia, for services, has become stronger, and the number of those acquiring the skills of making costumes has increased significantly. Certain traditional forms of music have been revitalised, and Suiti ethnographic ensembles have introduced the use of drone singing in religious chants.
(3) To facilitate research and publicity about the Suiti ICH.
Owing to the initiative of the community, a massive accumulation of testimonies of the Suiti cultural heritage, including ancient elements of the traditional costume, handiworks, has been commenced, surveying the testimonies kept at Suiti homes, stocks of archives and museums. “Suitu mantojuma krātuve” [Suiti Heritage Repository] has been opened in premises of the ECC “Suiti”, offering tangible testimonies of the Suiti culture for public display. In 2010 the third international drone singing festival took place.
(4) To ensure recovery and restoration of buildings representing historic and cultural value necessary for activities of preservation and popularisation of the Suiti ICH.
During the reporting period the renovation of the Alsunga Livonian Order Castle - important Suiti cultural centre - was commenced and the castle is open to visitors, Basi and Jūrkalne cultural centres have been completely renovated, and renovation of the interior of Alsunga cultural centre has been performed, thus restoring significant centres of Suiti cultural life for the acquisition, practising and promotion of Suiti ICH expressions.
(5) To ensure long-term sustainability of the Suiti cultural space.
During the preceding four years activities in relation to long-term safeguarding of the Suiti cultural space, under the conditions of limited financial resources, were mainly implemented in the field of preservation of the cultural environment and protection of sacred heritage. Restoration of Suiti churches as buildings of cultural and historical significance and the cultural values therein were supported, and several cultural objects existing in the Suiti cultural space were recognised as cultural monuments.

Safeguarding activities

Safeguarding activities of the Suiti cultural space during the reporting period were directed towards achieving the primary objectives as stated (see Section B.3a).
Pre-school children have opportunity to acquire kokle-playing (since 2012), mostly based upon contribution of a local tradition bearer. Alsunga Secondary School joined the UNESCO Associated Schools Project Network (2009–2011) focusing on safeguarding of ICH – pupils and teachers participated in seminars and expeditions. Suiti local cultural studies were introduced in school curriculum, every year being acquired by on average 40 pupils. Methodical materials and textbooks are currently being drawn up. Suiti culture is integrated in several subjects – the Latvian language and literature, history of Latvia, geography, culturology, housekeeping and technologies, visual art, music, social sciences, as well as class meetings. However, it is difficult to find appropriate time in curricula for getting acquainted with Suiti cultural elements. Playing of ethnographic kokle was introduced in Alsunga Music School in 2010 in co-operation with Jāzeps Vītols Latvian Academy of Music, and 8 instruments – kokles – were ensured. In turn, the course “Traditional Culture” was integrated in visual art studies, applying innovative methodology.
Each year summer camp for children and youth “Suitu tradīciju skoliņa” [The Little School of Suiti Traditions] is organised, and on average 30 children and young persons mainly from amongst Suiti participate therein. The school offers to acquire Suiti traditions and history by going to museums and having practical lessons. The camp has boosted the interest of children and youth, as well as parents.
Involvement of children and youth in folklore and dance groups is active – they are participating in festivities, concerts and competitions. Suiti ethnographic ensembles and dance groups have vast performance experience in local annual and religious festivities and international folklore festivals. Suiti ethnographic ensembles are very recognisable in Latvia. The performance of liturgical chants in drone singing introduced by Suiti has become popular and performed by the ensemble “Suitu sievas” in various places in Latvia. New participants joined “Suitu sievas”, in turn, the number of participants of ensembles “Gudenieku suiti” and “Maģie suiti” has reduced, due to the change of generations, and decrease of the number of local residents.
The summer solstice traditions and festive gatherings, services and concerts have been jointly organised in Alsunga, Jūrkalne, Gudenieki as well as Basi. Country band “Suitu muzikanti” was created in Alsunga in 2010, restoring the traditional forms of playing music in annual and town festivities. In turn, traditional ensemble “Basu suiti” commenced activities in Basi in 2011. Due to insufficient human and financial resources tradition of playing bagpipes has not been restored, however, certain self-instruction training has been commenced.
Suiti wedding traditions are mainly practised in the activities of ethnographic ensembles. Interest regarding Suiti wedding traditions is observed also outside the community, however, it is less consistent in the community itself, and weddings based on Suiti traditions is rather rare within the scope of the Suiti cultural space.
Creative workshop “Austuve” in Alsunga increased the number of looms, traditional costumes are made, including for local dance groups of children and youth, as well as middle generation. Association “Suitu amatnieki” has organised Suiti traditional costume workshops – sowing of bonnets (aube), knitting of socks, making of pearled collars and wristbands (dūrgali). Permanent exposition of Suiti costumes in Alsunga Museum, and several exhibitions dedicated to Suiti handiwork were organised.
“Suitu mantojuma krātuve” [Suiti Heritage Repository] established by the ECC “Suiti” includes the elements of Suiti traditional costume, and on that basis a detailed publication regarding its wearing practice will be issued. Educating seminars and exhibitions of works of Suiti artisans have been organised, including in community festivities. As for singing traditions, the third international drone singing festival took place in 2010. Comparatively small funding was available for organising it, and it would be preferable to attract wider attendance. The next festival is planned in 2014.
During the last four years, several publications on the Suiti culture have been issued, namely on kokle playing traditions, pupils' participation in field work on Suiti culture, Suiti culinary heritage and dialect use. A catalogue of Suiti traditional costumes is being prepared, and several videos regarding Suiti annual and religious festivity – Saint Michael’s Day – have been taken and shown on the Latvian Television. List of publications see at:
As for periodicals, a column “Suiteņu stāsti” is published in Suiti dialect of Latvian language in the monthly issue “Alsungas ziņas”, available to the inhabitants of Alsunga municipality. Cultural events of Jūrkalne and Gudenieki are reflected in newspapers of the relevant municipalities once a month. The idea regarding a single monthly issue for the Suiti cultural space has not been carried out. However, it depends on the level of interest, co-operation and financial investment of relevant local governments.
The research and renovation of Alsunga Livonian Order Castle was commenced in 2010, and the castle offers informative excursions. Due to the limited financial resources the progress of rescue operations of the castle is slow, and the premises may become dangerous. In 2010 Basi Cultural Centre was renovated, and in 2011 – Jūrkalne Cultural Centre, in turn the internal renovation of Alsunga Cultural Centre was completed in 2012. Additional funding would be necessary for complete renovation of Alsunga Cultural Centre and to landscape its surrounding territory.
The intended State programme for safeguarding and long-term development of the Suiti cultural space was not established, however, the development of roads of local significance is planned for the upcoming years. In 2013 an initiative has been expressed to the State Culture Capital Foundation to establish a programme for supporting the Suiti culture. As regards developing cultural environment of the Suiti community, restoration of Suiti churches – Saint Michael’s Catholic Church in Alsunga, Saint John’s Roman Catholic Church in Gudenieki and Saint Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in Jūrkalne – was continued. Community participated in landscaping of the church territories. The cultural values of churches – including altarpieces, chapels, organs, wood carvings, chandeliers – were gradually restored.

Participation of communities, groups or individuals in the safeguarding activities

In long-term ethnographic ensembles and folklore groups have had large influence on the Suiti cultural space. Also interest groups of the safeguarding of Suiti craft skills should be mentioned. In Alsunga – ethnographic ensemble “Suitu sievas” (founded in 1955, 17 participants), middle generation dance group “Suiti” (1982, 18), children’s and youth folklore group “Suitiņi” (1985, 8), three children’s and youth folk dance groups, country band “Suitu muzikanti” (2010, 8) and creative workshop “Austuve” (6 participants). In Jūrkalne – ethnographic ensemble “Maģie suiti” (1959, 13). In Gudenieki – ethnographic ensemble “Gudenieku suiti” (1965, 16), tradition ensemble “Basu suiti” (2011, 9), children’s and youth folklore group “Krētainie suiti” (2002, 15).
Non-governmental organisations have emerged in the Suiti community, and they take active part in safeguarding Suiti traditions in their own profile of safeguarding activities.
(A) The ethnic cultural centre “Suiti”, founded in 2001 with the objective to promote the Suiti as ethnic community and the safeguarding, protection and balanced development of Suiti cultural and historical heritage. The centre implements a series of activities, and is the main representative of the community in communication with State authorities. Local governments, the area of which covers the Suiti cultural space, are also members of the centre, and in total the centre has 52 members.
(B) The association “Suitu novads” was founded in 2007 with an objective to achieve the creation of a united Suiti municipality. Its membership includes 30 community members, and one of its activities is research on the Suiti cultural space. The association is the main creator and maintainer of the informative site of the Suiti community
(C) The association “Suitu amatnieki” was founded by 13 artisans in 2011. It was created with the objective to promote craft in Suiti cultural space, Latvia and around the world, and to safeguard the Suiti cultural heritage. Since the creation thereof the association has implemented several activities in the acquisition of crafts, and they have been well received by the Suiti community.
(D) The association “Cultural Education Centre “Riekstiņpļava”” was founded in 2012 with the objective to promote the cultural education processes in Latvia by organising educating activities both for children and youth and for adults and seniors. One of the tasks of the association is to promote sustainability of Suiti heritage. The association is currently working on digital textbook on Suiti culture.
(E) The association “Spārni Alšvangā” was founded in 2013 with the objective to develop initiatives for pre-school educational institutions, as well as to promote adult lifelong education. Upon initiative of the association a book for children of pre-school age “Suitu Miķelīša mazā ābece” was issued for the acquisition of Suiti dialect of Latvian language.
Significant contribution to safeguarding of the Suiti cultural heritage has been made by parishes of the Roman Catholic Church – parish of Saint Michael’s Alsunga Catholic Church, parish of Saint Joseph’s Jūrkalne Catholic Church and parish of Saint John the Baptist Gudenieki Catholic Church which contribute to the cultural identity of the community and the restoration of material cultural heritage of churches.

Timetable and budget

Timetable and budget refer to the safeguarding plan provided and, considering numerous activities implemented, is demonstrated for the activities under the respective objectives (see B.3a). The budget is indicated rounding up in EUR and displaying the total amount for the reporting period. Involvement of the community not financially compensated is mentioned, although this contribution cannot be entirely measurable in terms of money.
To teach playing the kokle at the preschool level; to introduce a specific ICH curriculum and to integrate elements of Suiti ICH into the existing curricula (history, music, etc.) at Suiti community schools; to launch a new curriculum for playing traditional musical instruments at Alsunga Music School; to organize regular ICH summer schools for Suiti children; to ensure operation of Suiti children and adult folk and dance groups. / Since 2009. / Community, 400 – ECC „Suiti”, 200 – association „Spārni Alšvangā”, 8 100 – Alsunga municipality, 2 100 – Ventspils municipality, 1 900 – Kuldīga municipality, 27 600 – State budget and earmarked grant, 6 900 – State Culture Capital Fund, 2 300 – Latvian National Commission for UNESCO (financial assistance of the UNESCO Participation Program), 33 500 – European Regional Development Fund.
To restore traditional ways of celebrating summer solstice, of making of Suiti traditional costumes in the community and facilitate their wearing; to organize and support a band of traditional Suiti musicians; to organize for community members a training course of bagpipe playing. / Since 2009. / Community, 1 300 – ECC „Suiti”, 3 500 – Alsunga municipality, 5 600 – Ventspils municipality, 1 100 – Kuldīga municipality, 7 800 – State Culture Capital Fund, 1 100 – Mortgage and Land bank of Latvia, 1 000 – the Netherlands KNHM Fund.
To organize studies and research of the Suiti ICH; to record, compile and map geographic place names; to digitalize data from the old Suiti church registers and recorded Suiti folk songs; to prepare publications in the Suiti dialect of Latvian language; to develop the Suiti community web page:; to produce a TV documentary; to organize the International Drone Singing Festival. / Since 2010. / Community, 100 – ECC “Suiti”, 2 400 – Alsunga municipality, 700 – Kuldīga municipality, 700 – Ventspils municipality, 11 400 – State Culture Capital Fund, 1 100 – Latvian National Commission for UNESCO (financial assistance of the UNESCO Participation Program), 7 400 – private donors, including enterprises.
To start restoration of the Alsunga medieval castle and to restore Basi and Jūrkalne cultural centers. / 2010–2012. / Community, 52 900 – Alsunga, 184 300 – Ventspils, 122 400 – Kuldīga, 600 – State Culture Capital Fund, 6 400 – State Inspection for Heritage Protection (15 700 – since 2005), 459 100 – European Union funds.
To support restoration of Suiti religious buildings. / Since 2009. / Community, 19 100 – parishes, 6 200 – State Culture Capital Fund, 1 100 – Mortgage and Land bank of Latvia, 4 600 – the Netherlands KNHM Fund.
In total: (A) financing of local governments – EUR 385 100, (B) state financing – EUR 60 600; (C) international financing – EUR 501 600.

Overall effectiveness of the safeguarding activities

After the nomination was inscribed in the UNESCO Urgent Safeguarding List, the safeguarding activities have significantly complemented each other, and mutual stimulation for new initiatives was observed – non-governmental organisations have become more active, home production develops, etc. Suiti have strived to put their knowledge and skills to use, for example, in the field of education and research, in making of traditional costumes, playing instruments, etc. Also the skills in project development and attraction of investments have improved, as well as ability of the community to determine priorities, ideas and to attract funding for implementation.
During the preceding years Suiti have established co-operation with other communities in Latvia (for example, with Rucava women in acquisition of traditional handiwork) and outside Latvia (particularly with Kihnu cultural space and Seto community in Estonia). Such co-operation has become a valuable gain for getting-to-know of cultures, exchange of experience and strengthening of the community, as well as attracting international funding.
Although the funding attracted during the reporting period did not reach the planned amount, the contribution of the implemented activities for safeguarding of the Suiti cultural space should be recognised. Taking into account the limitedness of the financial resources available and the general competition for attracting funding for cultural projects, the utilisation of the funding was as efficient as possible, and majority of activities was based on self-investment by community members, and the same results could not have been achieved utilising smaller amount of resources. The results of safeguarding activities are influenced by several challenges.
(A) Human resources of the community are limited, and contribution of each person is significant. Therefore, the inability of any person to continue work is a loss for the process of transmission of heritage. People outside the community were engaged in implementation of individual activities (for example, teaching of kokle-playing in Alsunga Music School, seminars with participation of experts regarding traditional costumes, etc.), however, the motivation for their contribution is less enduring, and accordingly the community chose to sustain its own human resources and also to involve them, for example, in educational initiatives (kokle-playing in Alsunga pre-school education).
(B) It is necessary to ensure succession for the planned activities. If an activity commenced is not continued due to financial or other considerations, it cannot achieve the anticipated result. Thus, for example, in case of Suiti municipality studies the initial financial support for the development of a curriculum is still pending for continuation in the form of publishing a textbook, therefore, activities do not have immediate efficient yield and their implementation process is lengthy and gradual.
(C) The heritage safeguarding activities implemented by the community are mainly based on specific and short-term activities' projects, with an accordingly focused financial investment. It allows carrying out of individual initiatives, however, a more stable and financially more extensive support programme would be preferable for purposeful long-term safeguarding of the Suiti cultural space, which would promote significance of safeguarding the cultural space and provide the community with an opportunity of planning its development in a more far-reaching way.

B.4. Community participation

Safeguarding of the Suiti cultural space is based on the initiative and contribution of the community. Although not whole community is active in safeguarding cultural identity and traditions, the community has interest in the implemented initiatives – celebration of traditional festivities and religious festivities, traditional music concerts, handiwork workshops, exhibitions, etc. New non-governmental organisations, for example, the association “Suitu amatnieki”, the association “Cultural Education Centre “Riekstiņpļava”” and the association “Spārni Alšvangā”, interest groups, as well as the creative workshop “Austuve” and country band were founded. Their activity includes joint playing music, improvement of craft skills, particularly making of the Suiti traditional costume. Linking of traditions and contemporary cultural processes is also the result of active work of non-governmental organisations in developing the cultural environment. The investment of non-governmental organisations may be observed in research development, and the community has become the most significant explorer of its culture. For particular commitment to the safeguarding of the Suiti cultural space, in 2011 Grigorijs Rozentāls, leader of the association “Suitu novads”, and previously – recognised tradition bearers of the community Ilga Leimane in 2009 and Lidija Jansone in 2008 – received the Order of Three Stars of the Republic of Latvia.
The Roman Catholic Church and particularly the contribution of the dean of Alsunga, Jūrkalne and Gudenieki parishes Andris Vasiļevskis, is important for strengthening the cultural identity and cultural environment of the community, favoring the involvement of the community in safeguarding traditions and the cultural environment (May chants at crosses, restoration of the old crosses and making and erecting of new crosses, involving of youth in taking care of the surroundings of a church, personal professional advice in textile arts and improvement of weaving skills, promotion of wearing the traditional costume, etc.). In 2013 the dean received the Annual Cultural Heritage Award of Latvia in nomination “Labākais saimnieks” [Best Host]. The support of the Roman Catholic Church has stimulated firmer incorporation of Suiti cultural traditions in religious practices of the community. i.e., the drone singing practised by Suiti has become an essential part in catholic services in the Suiti community and the traditional chant is used as the basis for chanting religious texts. Suiti have also performed in churches and services elsewhere in Latvia, and in autumn 2013 such practice was highly appreciated by the archbishop-metropolitan of the Roman Catholic Church in Latvia Zbigņevs Stankevičs who visited the Suiti community for the first time in Saint Michael’s festivity and encouraged to appreciate the link between traditions and creativity.
The Suiti are persistently determined to safeguard their cultural space. ECC “Suiti” initiated community discussions on further safeguarding priorities, and a community plan for subsequent years was drawn up. Concurrently to remaining safeguarding priorities (activities of ethnographic ensembles, interest groups, drone singing festival, etc.), several additional activities are intended (acquisition and development of playing bagpipes, publishing of Suiti cultural space textbook, creation of an open-air museum, development of the infrastructure, etc.), as well as entirely new initiatives (for example, development of Suiti craft product brand).

B.5. Institutional context

The institutional context of safeguarding the Suiti cultural space should be viewed in two basic levels – State and community, including local government, level, and institutions with the relevant functions and competences are involved in each of them.
(A) State administrative institutions
UNESCO Convention for the safeguarding of the ICH, including preoccupation with elements included in international lists, is within the competence of the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Latvia ( The Latvian National Centre for Culture ( is subordinated to the Minister for Culture, and one of directions of its operation is to implement the State policy in the field of ICH, and it supervises cultural education issues. In turn, implementation of the Convention and safeguarding of ICH is promoted by the Latvian National Commission for UNESCO (, providing support to policy-making, activities related to safeguarding the heritage thereof. The work of educational institutions is of great importance to safeguarding of the Suiti cultural space, thus co-operation with the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Latvia ( and the National Centre for Education ( subordinated thereto was established.
The main instrument of State financial support available for safeguarding activities of ICH is the State Culture Capital Foundation (, which has a separate traditional culture sector that examines projects dedicated to safeguarding of ICH. Support is also provided through regional programmes of project competitions, which are directed directly towards local cultural activities in regions of Latvia. Taking into account the link between intangible and tangible cultural heritage in safeguarding the Suiti cultural space, including preoccupation with cultural environment and safeguarding of cultural monuments, the State Inspection for Heritage Protection ( should also be mentioned, and its task is to implement the State policy in the field of material cultural heritage and accordingly preoccupation with activities related to heritage protection.
Also such State administrative institutions should be mentioned in addition to State authorities competent in the field of culture, which are of significance to regional development and directly influence the areas of the Suiti cultural space, i.e., the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development (, which develops the State policy in regional development issues, the Ministry of Transport (, the competence of which includes policy-making and resulting decisions in road infrastructure issues, as well as the Ministry of Agriculture ( and the Rural Support Service (
(B) Local government institutions
The Suiti cultural space is located in the territories of three local governments: in Alsunga municipality (, Jūrkalne rural territory of Ventspils municipality and Gudenieki rural territory of Kuldīga municipality, and the contribution of each referred-to local government is the provision of activities of educational institutions, support to interest education and culture events, as well as contribution to municipality infrastructure.
(C) Institutions within the community
Several groups of institutions provide significant contribution to safeguarding the Suiti cultural space within the community, confirming the significance of non-governmental organisations and interest groups, and religious organisations accordingly.
Currently several non-governmental organisations are actively involved in safeguarding of ICH of the Suiti cultural space, and particularly the contribution of the ethnic culture centre “Suiti” and the association “Suitu novads” ( should be mentioned in implementing the measures for safeguarding and development of the cultural space and in protecting Suiti interests in State and local scale policy-making. During the preceding years new Suiti non-governmental organisations have been created in addition to the referred-to organisations, and they purposefully enrich the range of activities of Suiti culture (see Section B.3c of the report).
It is important to mention the contribution of Roman Catholic Church in Latvia ( and particularly of the dean of Alsunga, Jūrkalne and Gudenieki parishes in safeguarding the Suiti cultural space and strengthening the cultural identity of the community. Residents view the support of the church with great appreciation and gratitude.
After inscribing the Suiti cultural space in the international List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding, in January 2010 several stakeholders involved signed the letter of intent on co-operation in safeguarding of the Suiti cultural space, and it was the ethnic cultural centre “Suiti”, Alsunga Municipality Council, Kuldīga Municipality Council, Ventspils Municipality Council, the Ministry of Culture and the Latvian National Commission for UNESCO. It is intended to supplement the letter of intent by involving the Ministry of Education and Science, the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development and the Ministry of Transport.

B.6. Participation of communities in preparing this report

The Suiti community was involved in drawing up of this report from the beginning and continuously during revision thereof. The report is based on information provided in the report prepared by the ECC “Suiti” on activities, which were implemented for safeguarding of the Suiti cultural space during the time period from 2009 until 2013, on partners involved, funding and evaluation of results.
Report discussions gathered Suiti community (representatives of non-governmental organisations and active community members), Roman Catholic Church dean, local governments (Alsunga, Ventspils and Kuldīga municipalities) and representatives of State authorities (the Ministry of Culture, the Latvian National Centre for Culture, the Latvian National Commission for UNESCO, and the Ministry of Education and Science, the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development). In 2013 meetings took place on 7 February 2013, 23 April 2013, 18 June 2013, and 27 September 2013. The meeting in Alsunga on 23 April 2013 was as a visiting meeting of the Education, Culture and Science Commission of the parliament Saeima of the Republic of Latvia. In turn on 21 May 2013 meeting with the referred-to commission took place in Riga.
The report was prepared in Latvian – entirely spoken within the Suiti community – and thus accessible for exchange of opinions. In order to discuss its first revision, meetings of the Suiti community were organised in Alsunga, Jūrkalne and Gudenieki on 17 and 18 October 2013. The opinions and proposals of the community were taken into account in drawing up the final revision of the report.

C. Signature on behalf of the state party


Dace Melbārde


Ms, Minister for Culture of the Republic of Latvia