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Documenting the queer self: Kaspars Aleksandrs Irbe (1906-1996) in between unofficial sexual knowledge and medical-legal regulation in Soviet Latvia

Documenter le rapport à soi en tant que sujet queer : Kaspars Aleksandrs Irbe (1906-1996), entre un savoir sexuel non officiel et la régulation médico-légale en Lettonie soviétique
Ineta Lipša
p. 415-442

Résumés

Se fondant sur l’analyse narrative du journal intime qu’un Letton queer, Kaspars Aleksandrs Irbe (1906-1996), a tenu régulièrement de 1940 à 1996, l’article étudie trois thématiques sur lesquelles Irbe se fonde pour documenter son rapport à soi en tant que sujet queer. La première est un savoir sur la sexualité dont il se dote à partir des années 1950 en lisant des ouvrages de sexologues du début du xxe siècle, publiés en allemand avant la Seconde Guerre mondiale, mais depuis inaccessibles au public letton. Une deuxième thématique se dégage : l’auto-identification ainsi que l’identification des autres auxquelles Irbe procède à partir de ce savoir sur la sexualité qu’il s’est constitué mais en puisant aussi dans la mythologie classique. Enfin, une troisième thématique apparaît quand il interprète son expérience en recourant à la notion de pulsions qui, soit relèveraient de force obscures (sexuelles) soit de la clarté (spirituelle).

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Texte intégral

This article was written with the financial support of the Latvian Council of Science, project lzp-2018/1-0073. I would like to acknowledge Dan Healey, Francesca Stella and Arthur Clech, who assisted me in writing the final version of this article.

  • 1 In autumn 1994 the Consistory of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia adopted a resolution “On (...)

1On 22 September, 1994 at the age of 88 Kaspars Aleksandrs Irbe wrote in his personal diary that an article by the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Consistory had been published in a newspaper, in which homosexuality was condemned and, in accordance with biblical verses, was recognized as a mortal sin.1 He commented briefly:

  • 2 Kaspars Aleksandrs Irbe. Dienasgrāmata [Diaries of Kaspars Irbe], 22.09.1994. Autobiogrāfiju krājum (...)

Homosexuals should not boast too openly about their misfortune – by holding demonstrations, etc. – but one should not be punished or persecuted, because a person is not guilty for being tormented with great force by such urges. After all, this has been acknowledged by prominent scientists around the world.2

  • 3 06.03.1995.
  • 4 Richard Mole, “Nationality and sexuality: homophobic discourse and the ‘national threat’ in contemp (...)
  • 5 Wait, “Sexual citizenship in Latvia: geographies of the Latvian closet,” 178.

2Later he commented on news in the press of pride events abroad. Although Irbe puts a question mark at the end of the sentence, thus questioning the statement, he refers to homosexuality as “an abnormality – a misfortune”. “Should one’s abnormality-misfortune be demonstrated in this way?”3 – he questioned this himself. Despite accepting his queer sexuality as normal since the very beginning of its practice in the 1930s and despite his persistent covert advocacy for decriminalization of male homosexuality in his diary from the 1960s onwards, again and again throughout his life he simultaneously doubted whether it was normal and sought to convince himself of its normalcy. Finally, when the “pederasty” article in the law was repealed in 1992, after Latvia regained statehood, Irbe had seemingly not even noticed the fact and had seemingly rejected the idea of homosexual visibility in public space. One might reply that Irbe was so advanced in age that his main channel of information was the media, which at the time was not sympathetic to the idea of homosexual visibility as a political issue. Nevertheless, his sense of discretion in his management of knowledge about his homosexuality was a principal reason. A difference between notions of gayness among Latvian and western homosexuals in relation to attitudes towards their political visibility and sexual identities continued to exist in the late 2010s, despite the fact that from the late 1990s Latvian homosexuals have become increasingly visible.4 Gordon Wait has even recognized in Latvian realities “a culturally specific focus for the social struggles for sexual rights” and has suggested rethinking the idea that “the western model of sexual politics surrounding liberal capitalism” has to be regarded as universally appropriate.5

  • 6 Igor´ Kon, Seksual´naia kul´tura v Rossii: klubnichka na berëzke [Strawberries in the birches: Sexu (...)
  • 7 Rita Ruduša. Forced Underground: Homosexuals in Soviet Latvia (Riga: Mansards, 2014); Lipša, LGBTI (...)
  • 8 Irina Roldugina, “Half-Hidden or Half-Open? Scholarly Research on Soviet Homosexuals in Contemporar (...)
  • 9 Irina Roldugina, “‘Why Are We the People We Are?’ Early Soviet Homosexuals from the First-Person Pe (...)
  • 10 Arthur Clech, “Between the Labor Camp and the Clinic: Tema or the Shared Forms of Late Soviet Homos (...)
  • 11 Healey, Russian Homophobia from Stalin to Sochi, 73-89.

3Research on the history of homosexuality in the Soviet Union began and has continued with an examination of its socio-political contexts and discourses in Soviet Russia.6 Meanwhile, no academic study has been published on homosexuality in Soviet Latvia. What knowledge exists, has been revealed in popular histories. The lives of LGBTI people in the Soviet Latvia of the late 1980s were documented in a collection of 11 in-depth interviews; as well a brief account of the 20th century’s legal and social past of LGBTI people has appeared.7 One may reasonably apply to the situation in Latvia historian Irina Roldugina’s comment on contemporary Russia that “the only notable publication on the subject is Dan Healey’s Homosexual Desire in Revolutionary Russia, written more than a decade ago”.8 In recent years, the historiography on homosexuality in the Soviet Russia has been broadened through research on homosexual subjectivity – the identities of the early Soviet homosexuals have been analysed through their correspondence,9 and late Soviet homosexual subjectivities have been researched through in-depth interviews.10 Dan Healey has studied queer subjectivity in 1950s Russia through the 1955-1956 diary of “a survivor of Stalin’s anti-sodomy law and punishment in the Gulag,” Soviet singer Vadim Kozin (1905-1994) whose queerness was a known fact to the people among whom he worked and lived.11 However, a diary written by an ordinary queer during the whole Soviet era has never been used as a source for historical research. Thus, the diary of Irbe constitutes an exceptional source in the context of the Soviet Latvia and the post-Second World War Soviet Union as well.

  • 12 22.06.1993.
  • 13 The most significant chronological lacunas in the diary are the absent volumes from August to Decem (...)
  • 14 Irbe did not write every day. During the summer and autumn of 1940 he made entries several times a (...)
  • 15 Ainārs Radovics, the owner of Irbe’s diary, has published the story of Dubulti, Irbe’s place of res (...)

4The earliest surviving entry is dated 24 February, 1927. It is followed by ten entries in 1928 and eight entries in 1929. In 1993, Irbe destroyed diary entries written from 1929 to 1935 to prevent anybody from reading about the most emotionally difficult years of his youth.12 However, from the 1950s onwards, he remembered in his diary the events of that period, thus providing the researcher with an opportunity to construct these events from his memories. His writings from late 1935 up to late 1938, as well as from early 1940, have survived in greater number (34 entries). Regular entries survive starting from 1 June, 1940, i.e., 16 days before the Soviet occupation of Latvia.13 Thus, the diary of Irbe, written regularly for 56 years, from 1940 to 1996 in 72 volumes,14 becomes of special importance, as it documents his sexual experiences and observation through the whole era of the Latvian SSR and beyond.15

5The diary is archived in the Autobiography Collection of the Archives of Latvian Folklore (ALF), affiliated by the Institute of Literature, Folklore and Art, University of Latvia. It is a special collection which includes diaries, written life stories and memoirs, and letters in Latvian, Russian, German and English. At the beginning of 2021, it contained 185 subcollections. Almost all of them are digitized and publicly available in the digital archive http://autobiografijas.lv/​en for research and general inquiry. Irbe’s diary was discovered accidentally after the author of this article made a Facebook post in early 2016, sharing an article by sociologist Lukasz Szulc about Operation Hyacinth in Poland in 1985.16 I reacted by commenting that it would be great if we could learn more about the past of homosexuals in Soviet Latvia. Ainars Radovics replied to my remark by informing me about a diary in his possession, one he had taken six years to read. So, Kaspars Aleksandrs Irbe’s diary became the subject of a historical research project. In 2018, when the Institute began the project, Irbe’s diary was fully digitized (8 630 manuscript pages), leaving the original in the owner’s possession. Access to Irbe’s diary is granted for research purposes only because it contains sensitive information about people whose descendants are living today.

  • 17 Justin Spring, Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward, Professor, Tattoo Artist, an (...)
  • 18 For example, the project of publishing the diary of Mr Lucas (1927-2014), which can be characterize (...)
  • 19 Matt Cook, “Sex Lives and Diary Writing,” in David Amigoni, ed., Life Writing and Victorian Culture(...)
  • 20 Alex Belsey, Image of a Man: The Journal of Keith Vaughan (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2 (...)
  • 21 Ibid., 27.
  • 22 Pavel Golubev, “Konstantin Somov. Zhizn´ v dnevnikakh [Konstantin Somov. A Life in diaries],” in Ko (...)

6Irbe’s entries on sexual experiences demonstrate incredible candour, even though he might be thought to have had a need for self-censorship to protect himself as a homosexual man. Nevertheless, such openness was not unique. From time to time in the USA and Great Britain, diaries written by male homosexuals living in eras when homosexuality was a criminal offence become publicly available. They have been used to write books about the lives of the authors17 or have been published on social networks.18 However, there are only a few studies that focus on the homosexual self of the diary’s author. Historian Matt Cook published significant research on the diary of British writer George Ives (1867-1950), who kept a journal for 64 years, producing 122 volumes,19 as well as by Alex Belsey on British painter Keith Vaughan (1912-1977), who produced 61 volumes in 38 years. Belsey has chosen the term “self-construction” as his analytical tool “by realizing that journals and diaries are continually in the process of making and remaking the image of the subject that their author wishes to reflect back to their reader (who is usually only the author-subject themselves).”20 In 1939 Vaughan started a diary as a tool for conscious self-construction of his identity of “an objector, an outsider resisting political and social consensus.”21 Recently, the introduction to a diary written by painter Konstantin Somov (1869-1939) in early Soviet Russia briefly highlighted the homosexual part of Somov’s personality.22

  • 23 Healey, Russian Homophobia from Stalin to Sochi, 81.

7One may presume that Irbe’s 1994 suggestion against boasting too openly “about their misfortune” was an outcome of Irbe’s 60 years of internalized caution under various political regimes that criminalized male same-sex acts and stigmatized homosexuality. Nevertheless, his statements were situational, depending on the specific time and context of the situation, and there is no reason to generalize them. I will argue that this is demonstrated by the queer self of Irbe, which was in continual creation for 60 years. There is a polyphony of voices in his written self-reflection while he tries to navigate between official medical-legal discourse and unofficial sexual knowledge. Thus, I will use the approach of recognizing complex and multiple voices in reading Irbe’s queer self that has proved successful in Healey’s study of the diary of Kozin.23

8Irbe documented his queer self through reflection on at least three issues. First, he applied what I call unofficial sexual knowledge gained since the 1950s by reading works by early 20th century sexologists in German published before the Second World War. Drawing on these works Irbe advocated the decriminalization of male homosexuality, and also argued that his sexuality was normal. Second, he developed his self-identification and identification of others on the basis of this unofficial sexual knowledge and drawing on Classical mythology. Third, he continually applied the concept of dark (sexual) and light (spiritual) drives to his experiences enabling him to imagine a ‘light’ side to balance the ‘dark.’

  • 24 Mario Moussa and Ron Scapp, “The Practical Theorizing of Michel Foucault: Politics and Counter-Disc (...)
  • 25 Sidonie Smith, Julia Watson, Reading Autobiography: A Guide for Interpreting Life Narratives (Minne (...)
  • 26 See: Anatoly Pinsky, “Predislovie [Foreword],” in Anatoly Pinsky, ed., Posle Stalina: pozdnesovetsk (...)
  • 27 Anatoly Pinsky, “The Diaristic Form and Subjectivity under Khrushchev,” Slavic Review, 73, 4 (Winte (...)
  • 28 Rogers Brubaker, Frederick Cooper, “Beyond ‘Identity’,” Theory and Society, 29, 1 (Feb., 2000): 1-4 (...)
  • 29 Clech, “Between the Labor Camp and the Clinic,” 29.
  • 30 01.01.1936, 31.01.1936, 25.02.1936, 05.11.1936, 28.01.1937, 25.03.1937, 19.04.1937, 25.04.1937, 14. (...)
  • 31 The Soviet occupation of Latvia in 1940 imposed Soviet policies and legal norms, and therefore the (...)

9Irbe developed diary-writing into a practice of self-reflection through which he articulated his desires, thus countering “the domination of prevailing authoritative discourses.”24 Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson Such note that “autobiographical narrators come to consciousness of who they are, of what identifications and differences they are assigned, or what identities they might adopt through the discourses that surround them.”25 The term subjectivity has been used in studies of Soviet history in several ways.26 Historian Anatoly Pinsky means by subjectivity “a subject or individual created historically in dialogue with dominant and less dominant political, social, and cultural institutions and phenomena.”27 Thus, subjectivity is formed in a process where self-identification and identification are essential.28 The creation of subjectivity is discursive, it is always in process and always constituted within representation under certain socio-political conditions, which in Irbe’s case were mainly pre-conditioned by the political frameworks of inter-war Latvia and the Soviet Union Arthur Clech examining homosexual subjectivities of the late Soviet period in Russia and Georgia identifies shared laughter, language, and solidarity, as well as internalization of self-censorship as constituting “an ethos of secrecy” that he names as specifically Soviet.29 Irbe’s diary entries for 1935-1940 suggest that shared laughter, language, and solidarity, as well as internalization of self-censorship was characteristic for Latvian homosexual subjectivities during Latvian statehood before Soviet occupation.30 There was no period of decriminalization of male sodomy in Latvia after the First World War as there was in Soviet Russia from 1917 to 1934.31 Therefore the Latvian “ethos of secrecy” was determined by legal regulation that had long criminalized male homosexual intercourse. Thus local practices easily merged and dissolved into the Soviet “ethos of secrecy” brought by migrants from the Soviet Union after Soviet occupation of Latvia in 1940, continuing to provide practices for Irbe’s construction of his homosexual subjectivity.

The author and self-censorship

  • 32 Edmunds Šūpulis, Kaspars Zellis, “20. gadsimta vēsturiskās paaudzes un to identifikācija Latvijas i (...)

10Irbe belongs to the first historical generation of 20th-century Latvia, or the so-called first generation of independent Latvia, born in the late 19th or early 20th century.32 He was a contemporary of five other historical generations. Irbe’s generation witnessed the First World War, the flow of Latvian war refugees evacuated from the provinces occupied by German troops to Inner Russia, the proclamation of the Republic of Latvia in 1918 and the consolidation of statehood through the Latvian War of Independence. Irbe was born in the ethnic Latvian area of the Baltic Provinces of the Russian Empire in 1906. His formative years were the 1920s.

11Irbe acquired a gymnasium education by graduating from the Riga Jurmala City Gymnasium No 1 in the spring of 1927 at the age of 20. He learned three foreign languages – English, French and German, but he also knew Russian, as most of his peers. Irbe was also able to communicate in Yiddish, which he had learned from the tenants (mostly Jewish) in his parents’ house. Irbe’s parents, like many residents of Jurmala, rented out spare rooms before the First World War to city dwellers who wanted to spend summers by the Baltic sea. At the gymnasium Irbe also acquired an introduction to philosophy and psychology. Teachers encouraged students to think independently.

  • 33 Aleksandra Fëdorova (1884-1972), prima ballerina of the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Imperi (...)

12In early 1928, immediately after the graduation, Irbe was drafted into mandatory military service. Afterwards he joined the University of Latvia. For reasons unknown, he stopped his studies after few semesters. At around 1930-1931 Irbe trained in ballet at the private studio of the ballet master and prima ballerina Aleksandra Fëdorova33 of the Latvian National Opera. In 1930 he learned Latin in the language courses of the Latvian Youth Union, while simultaneously taking classes for one year at the Riga Commerce Institute of the Association for the Promotion of Higher Trade Education. From 1932 to 1939 he worked for the National Welfare Ministry. During this time period he learned Braille.

  • 34 Vita Zelče, “The Sovietization of Rainis and Aspazija: discourses and rituals in Soviet Latvia in c (...)
  • 35 28.03.1937.

13Though Irbe did not receive university education, he devoted himself to self-education all his life. Cultural self-education (the Romantic narrative of Bildung) formed the very foundation of Irbe’s practice of self-construction. At the end of the 1930s and in the 1940s he read ancient Greek and Roman lyrics and writing, and studies of Latvian scholars on antique, Renaissance and modern literature. He read fiction from the canonical nineteenth and twentieth-century literatures of Latvia, Russia, Scandinavia, France, Italy, Britain and Germany, plus many classics. He was devoted from the outset of his diary writing to Romantic poetry and explored the works of Latvian Romantics Aspazija (1865-1943), Fricis Barda (1880-1919) and others.34 Romantic sensibility became a leitmotif of his self-construction in the diary, particularly contributing to his sense of sexuality as marked by ‘light’ and ‘dark’ features. He claimed to himself that only what one feels is important, and not what is real.35

  • 36 27.07.1940.
  • 37 21.03.1945.
  • 38 Klinta Ločmele, Olga Procevska, Vita Zelče, “Celebrations, Commemorative Dates and Related Rituals: (...)
  • 39 01.06.1968.

14Irbe explained that “all of us, romantics,” always feel regret for the fading of experience, and that “the time that has passed seems more interesting than the present.”36 He read books about history because this transported him into the past and created “pleasant feelings.”37 He was fond of the History of Rome by Titus Livius that he read in German. In 1943-1944, during the Nazi occupation, Irbe made extra income by transcribing books in Braille for the Institute for the Blind. In this way, Irbe transcribed the Jack London novel Martin Eden (1909). In the late 1950s, Irbe started buying books from Soviet Riga’s main second-hand book store. Mostly he was interested in Classical literature and writing on the history of culture and sexuality, as well as art reproduction and art photo albums. This selection was determined by the store offer and Irbe’s language (German) skills and the gymnasium education. Irbe’s critical mind is especially evident from his interest in and reflection on Second World War discourse (about the Nazi occupation), promoted by Soviet propaganda from the early 1960s. Celebrations of Victory Day became part of the Sovietization of Latvia.38 This narrative clashed with Irbe’s own memories and experience, consequently creating and maintaining his scepticism about the Soviet version of recent history. For example, he reacted to descriptions of the atrocities of Nazi occupation with the phrase – but, “what would have been discovered if they had published materials about Stalin’s regime!”39

  • 40 31.01.1970.
  • 41 The magazine lasted for six months in 1926.
  • 42 17.01.1991.

15From the 1970s, Irbe’s circle of interests was expanded by literature about yoga, autogenic training, self-hypnosis and psychotherapy, techniques he tried to practice on a daily basis. Irbe’s interest in the mystical, the occult and spiritualism had already started while studying at the gymnasium. Then the young Irbe was supported in these interests by one Ms Platais, who before the 1917 Revolution “had spent time in St. Petersburg high society, was involved in its spiritualist club.”40 In 1926, he subscribed to and read the magazine Lucifer devoted to these issues.41 He found the novels by Vera Kruzhanovskaia (1857-1924) inspiring. Even at the age of 85, Irbe broadened his horizons by reading a book on Krishna’s teachings that appeared in Latvia at that time, and by purchasing a book by an American doctor titled Aerobics for Health because it might contain “something useful for me, too.”42

16Politically, he supported the Latvian Social Democratic Workers’ Party and disapproved of the coup d’état by Karlis Ulmanis in 1934 (which installed an authoritarian regime lasting until 1940). He considered himself to be an unbeliever. Along with other countries specified in the secret protocols of the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, Latvia was incorporated into the USSR in 1940. At the time, Irbe looked favourably on the Soviet Union. As the only child and provider for his then sick mother (who died in 1944; his father passed away in 1932), Irbe succeeded in escaping conscription into both the Nazi and Soviet armies. He was eager to see the Soviet army end the Nazi occupation of Latvia. After the Second World War, Latvia was once again a part of the USSR. However, what Irbe experienced and observed in post-war Soviet times made him change his opinion on the political realities of the late 1930s in Latvia, and from the late 1940s his views became more nationalistic. For the most part he worked as a bailiff in the People’s Courts of Jūrmala and Riga (1945-1948; 1952-1956; 1961-1968). In 1968 he retired. For some years in the early 1950s he was unemployed.

  • 43 05.11.1936.
  • 44 Irbe’s diary reveals the mixture of many ethnicities with queer Latvians, including queer Russians (...)
  • 45 Latvian is a gendered language – both verbs and nouns have endings that indicate the male or female (...)
  • 46 14.01.1978.
  • 47 09.01.1968.

17Irbe’s intention was to write a diary for himself, in order to be able to “navigate the past and relive it.”43 However, diary-writing soon became a tool for creating the self. Self-censorship in Irbe’s diary was characterized by several features. Irbe identified his sexual contacts mainly according to outward appearances: most often according to their ethnic origins,44 place of residence or affiliation to various official Soviet institutions, whose employees could be differentiated by their uniforms (military, militia and state security institutions, the railways). When describing potentially compromising observations, Irbe referred to same-sex loving men using female or gender-neutral proper nouns and nouns, or avoided word endings.45 Starting from the 1960s, with the liberalization of the political regime, he would correct the endings from female to male gender while re-reading his diary. In his old age he also indicated the real names of a few men referred to by aliases, which were mostly women’s names. He reported on sexual activities using abbreviations (only the consonants of a word are written, omitting vowels) and sometimes skips the naming of the sexual act by using three to five dots instead. For example, “Gv. into psn in tlt. of new st., gd org …” [I gave in to passion in the toilet of the new station, good orgasm ...]46 “[He had] a beautiful t. [tool] — I cm [came] in his thr. [throat].”47

  • 48 20.10.1969.
  • 49 03.04.1968.

18In the late 1960s Irbe explains that he has kept silent about many things he has observed48 in order to avoid potential repression by the Committee for State Security (KGB).49 Nevertheless, Irbe’s self-censorship in regard to the written representations of his queer life over the whole Soviet period changed only a little.

  • 50 10.08.1946.
  • 51 05.09.1947.

19Irbe briefly described the sexual acts he experienced and observed. In the 1940-1950s, Irbe describes his sexual adventures mostly poetically with the word “passion” (“I was caught in great passion”50, “felt a great passion”51), the expression “[we] left” and/or ellipsis to mute but indicate his involvement in sexual activities. Along with kisses and caresses, Irbe mentions sucking and jerking off.

  • 52 11.07.1948.

I had a sandwich with sausage and then went to the seaside where I met some Russian. Half-naked he was walking around and near me. He said he liked my chest very much. Very polite and intelligent. We climbed a hill. He was jerking off while looking at me. He liked it this way. I studied this type. He felt great passion from my presence. I remember his transformed face when [he] came.52

  • 53 02.08.1950.
  • 54 13.07.1967.

20Irbe described the observed moments of orgasm with phrases like “was screaming from passion at the top of his lungs for a long time at the certain moment.”53 On 13 July 1967, when he noted that on that day there were many homosexuals in the toilet of the Riga Central Market Fish Pavilion, he writes: “Somebody moaned loudly at the moment of orgasm in the stall where there was a hole in the wall. I guess a kn. [known] tenor from the [Opera] choir was sucking somebody off.”54

  • 55 03.09.1979.

21From the early 1960s, Irbe puts down brief technical details - the word “fellatio” and the shortening “in the a. [ass]” indicating anal intercourse appear in his vocabulary. At the end of 1970s and in the 1980s, Irbe’s notes become more detailed – during this period he mostly observed others: “Then a certain “priestess” approached the mute but sx [sexually] appealing Lithuanian... Gv [Gave] him a blj [blowjob] and then in the a. [ass]. Another swarthy, completely naked faun walked by, and both... Both had l. t. [large tools]. A young bearded man was watching too.”55

  • 56 20.10.1969; 11.08.1976; 18.04.1992.
  • 57 15.01.1994. “Bez tam taču esmu zināmā mērā arī īpatna personība.”
  • 58 Riikka Taavetti, Queer politics of memory: undisciplined sexualities as glimpses and fragments in F (...)
  • 59 27.01.1978.
  • 60 Alison Oram, “Going on an outing: the historic house and queer public history,” Rethinking History, (...)

22Around the late 1960s Irbe reveals his imaginings about the ideal reader of his diary, whom he wishes to be “a wise human being with a sensitive soul” or even “some capable writer or scholar-psychologist.”56 In early 1994 he reflects that “it would be a pity to destroy my diaries.” He suggests that some serious, intelligent person might be interested in the life of a person who once lived in different times. Irbe concludes: “Besides, I am to some extent also a peculiar personality.”57 The meaning of “peculiar” (as different from the others) in this context could be regarded as corresponding exactly to “queer” in the sense of “sexual and gendered marginalised identifications and practices”.58 In that sense, Irbe uses the word “peculiar” in 1978 to describe his deceased acquaintance, a homosexual ballet dancer, as a man of high culture arguing that “sexual peculiarities do not mean that a person is degraded.”59 However, the word “peculiar” has not been used in contemporary Latvian queer writings. Irbe substantiated his conclusion by pointing out that even such geniuses as Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Tchaikovsky had sexual peculiarities. He refers to historical non-heteronormative figures from the past, using them as a tool for constructing a sense of queer selfhood.60 For the same purpose Irbe identifies some non-heteronormative Latvian contemporaries among theatre directors, actors, ballet dancers, choral conductors and leaders of a folk dance ensemble as having had same-sex relationships.

Before 1935

  • 61 15.09.1960.

23An important part of documenting Irbe’s queer self is the period of his youth up to 1935, which saw his gradual entry into queer circles. Unfortunately, he destroyed all records of that. However, from the mid-1950s he wrote down memories of his youth, reconstructing a narrative so important to himself. Irbe bases it on the idea that by the age of 28 he had devoted everything in his life “solely to creating his own physical and spiritual being in the hope of transposing himself to some glorious dream life where beauty and nobility will prevail.”61

  • 62 25.01.1954.

24Irbe had experienced his first love between the ages of 11 and 16, when he had been so passionately in love with a girl named Zenta that he had moaned in the agony of jealousy on seeing her dating older guys. The passion came to an end unnoticed, but Irbe fell in love with his schoolmate Kurt and regarded him “with a gentle and pure love characteristic of youth – without any sexual desire” for several years before graduating from gymnasium.62 Irbe describes this time in the following words:

  • 63 25.01.1954.

I was creating myself, wanted to get rid of sexual feelings. I was bringing myself up physically and building my character. I was striving only for the good. How much strength and will did I possess to bring about my intentions! [underlined in red here and below by Irbe while re-reading his diaries decades later – I. L.] I restrained my burning drives, my sexual desire which I had felt very strongly from an early age, as long as I can remember my past.63

  • 64 11.08.1940. The strikethrough is Irbe’s.

25He writes that he had struggled to the point of despair. “I wanted to destroy my sexual desire completely. I hoped to reach an overly perfect, pure life. Not even in my fanciful dreams could I deviate from this.”64 After graduation from gymnasium in 1927, the fondness between Irbe and Kurt came to an end.

  • 65 15.03.1994.

26In early 1928 Irbe was called up to compulsory military service. He suffered through it badly. “I was a very spoiled, pampered, sophisticated, educated and girlish young man, and suddenly moving me into a milieu of wild boys, where they are trained to face difficulties and bossed about at every step, where you hear all sorts of rudeness and pranks, etc. It was horrific,” he recalled 66 years later.65 After a month and a half of service, Irbe contracted the measles, was treated in hospital for about a month and spent another month at home on leave. He then complained of weak health and was sent to the ward for nervous diseases of a military hospital. Leave again, hospital again. In September, Irbe was released from military service, and this made him feel absolutely exhilarated.

  • 66 The production (1911) by Aleksis Mierlauks is included in the Latvian Cultural Canon’s (created in (...)

27In 1929 Irbe met the director of the National Theatre, Aleksis Mierlauks66, whose homosexual orientation was no secret in Riga artistic circles. The director spent his summers in Jūrmala and would occasionally visit the National Theatre’s set designer Arturs Cimermanis, who rented some rooms in Irbe’s parents’ house. On one such occasion he saw Irbe:

  • 67 04.01.1977.

After seeing me, it seemed like he had suffered a stroke, because my appearance met his ideal – golden, sun-faded hair, pristine, elegant. In addition, there was my education – a student, etc., good looks, gentle youthfulness. He talked to my parents about letting me live at his place in Riga. He would cover my education costs.67

  • 68 13.01.1948.
  • 69 04.01.1977.
  • 70 09.01.1987.
  • 71 28.02.1982; 28.09.1981.
  • 72 02.03.1982.
  • 73 21.02.1992; Irbe critically studied Soviet Latvian literary scholars on the lives and creative work (...)

28Irbe became involved in a flirtatious relationship with Mierlauks (“parties, an occasional night, the young and beautiful Vītols, etc.”68; “I messed around with him a lot”; “intimate lunch, etc.”69; staying at Mierlauks’s apartment in Riga after a show, spending the night on the sofa70). Irbe has decoded this “etc.”, acknowledging that “yet, I have been kissed – even my legs.”71 He writes “it was in public that I had a close relationship with the well-known M., but there was nothing; I just liked to joke around and was proud of having the attention of such a remarkable person.”72 Even at the age of 85, Irbe was still flattered by his acquaintance with Mierlauks, whom he now referred to as “the longer contact,” and with ballet masters.73

  • 74 29.01.1978.
  • 75 28.02.1982; 28.09.1981.
  • 76 20.11.1969.
  • 77 11.08.1976.
  • 78 22.06.1993.

29Mierlauks tried to talk Irbe into having a sexual relationship, because Mierlauks “needs ‘spermine’ to maintain his strength.”74 However, Irbe turned him down. Later he writes: “how disgusting it would be to remember” if he had allowed a sexual relationship with the director at the time.75 Irbe does not write specifically about which sexual activities he avoided, but the context of the diary suggests that he definitely rejected anal intercourse. Entries in the diary show that at least from the mid-1930s, Irbe imagined himself as a sexual being. Most likely, though, he envisioned it earlier – in his apparently chaste youth when the relationship with Mierlauks took place in the late 1920s – early 1930s – and therefore destroyed the records for that period. In the early 1970s, Irbe destroyed the letters written to him by Mierlauks (only one has survived) because “the memories of this time are too painful,”76 “I don’t want to tell anyone about this time period, not anyone.”77 His intention was also to destroy the diaries from before 1935, but he reread them and burned them only in 1993 – three years before his death. “Anya gave everything to the flames in my presence. I said I didn’t want anyone after my death looking into the time I was dealing with different problems of life, when I had so much faith in dreams, illusions, and expectations.”78 These words could indicate that Irbe had written down details about the flirtatious relationship with Mierlauks within days of their occurrence, while for the investigator he left only memories recorded after decades. The fact that Irbe has recorded sexual activities within days of their occurrence is evidenced by the entries in his diary.

30Being acquainted with Mierlauks brought Irbe a reputation in queer circles. In Jūrmala, where he worked out and swam, Irbe was addressed by certain homosexuals. Irbe writes:

  • 79 23.05.1974.

Everyone was irritated by my reticence and aloofness. I remember a beautiful September evening with charming sunset colours, when the high season was already over. A member of high society, a famous lawyer, told me in German how beautiful it was that I, so reticent and noble, was just walking with a book of poetry to my chest. Speaking about me in the relevant circles: does such a beautiful young man really have no love affair yet?79

31In the autumn of 1934, Irbe appreciates the result of his self-discipline:

  • 80 Only the year 1934 is indicated in the date. The content of the entry shows that it was written in (...)

Wonderful achievements physically. Lovely tanned body. So flexible, beautiful, well-groomed and well-trained. In Riga, in a bath house, a gentleman called me a young god. In summer I had tanned completely dark. There was no one else like that on the seaside. I ate a lot of wonderful fruit: apples, plums, berries, tomatoes and milk. Fed myself almost solely on this. Spent the whole day naked in the seaside woods. Every Saturday in the bathhouse, intense swimming twice a day, plenty of exercise, sports, a strict lifestyle.80

  • 81 31.10.1938; 04.09.1952.
  • 82 15.09.1960.
  • 83 15.09.1960.

32As he hints in his diary, half a year later, however, at the age of 28, he lost all illusions about life. He called it a severe breakdown. Irbe’s dreams were connected with ballet. Perhaps he wanted to become a choreographer, as evidenced by the character ideas in his diary.81 Maybe the reason was the ballet backstage scenes opened up by the new social connections? In this entry Irbe links the loss of his dream world with a phrase formulated in the context of homosexuality: that “it is painful to observe that I often see children already wandering in the swamps of debauchery and fornication, especially in ballet circles”.82 Irbe stated that he began to indulge in flirting and the “sport” of seduction in cruising circles to forget his pain.83

  • 84 Healey, “From Stalinist pariahs to subjects of ‘Managed Democracy’: Queers in Moscow 1945 to the pr (...)
  • 85 See the entry for “shtrikh” in Vladimir Kozlovskii, Argo Russkoi Gomoseksual'noi Subkul'tury: Mater (...)

33Irbe’s statements about the reason why he distanced himself from queer artistic circles are so evasive that they cannot be identified with any particular person or event. However, he constructed his selfhood based on unspecified ideals or elusive dreams that contrasted with the physicality and lust of the queer subterranean world. This makes it possible to hypothesize that the severance of the relationship with artistic circles and entry into queer cruising circles can be perceived as a kind of revenge on artistic circles, thus declaring that he was going to enjoy his sex life with anyone but them. Thus, the Vērmane Park in the centre of Riga – a few blocks from the railway station –became the most important queer site throughout Irbe’s life. Vērmane Park was a popular spot for cruising and socializing; it functioned like the “pleshka” (cruising ground) in Moscow.84 Homosexuals of Irbe’s generation used to call queer cruising sites “štrihs” – a word derived from German “Der Strich” for a “strip” or “line, dash, landing strip”. Russian queers also used it.85

Official discourses: Medical-legal regulation

  • 86 In 1919, the Republic of Latvia adopted The Penal Laws of March 22, 1903 of the Russian Empire. The (...)
  • 87 Lipša, LGBTI People in Latvia, 17, 59.
  • 88 Alexander, “Soviet Legal and Criminological Debates on the Decriminalization of Homosexuality (1965 (...)

34There was no period of decriminalization of male sodomy in Latvia until 1992. Up to August 1, 193386 the punishment for male sodomy in the Republic of Latvia was imprisonment for a period of no less than three months, and subsequently it was imprisonment without a specific duration, which, in practice, usually meant imprisonment for up to three months. In 1940, the Soviet occupation introduced more repressive policies. Until 1961, in accordance with Article 154a of the Criminal Code of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, the punishment for the same “offence” was imprisonment for a period of three to five years. The Latvian SSR Criminal Code came into force on April 1, 1961. In a sense, it was a reduction in the possible punishment, because Article 124.1 did not impose a minimum sentence, but it did determine that a man guilty of male same-sex intercourse should be sentenced to deprivation of liberty for up to five years.87 There was legal and criminological debate on the decriminalization of homosexuality from 1965 to 1975,88 but it remained unknown to the general public, including Irbe.

  • 89 Lipša, Seksualitāte un sociālā kontrole Latvijā, 1914-1939, 457-530.
  • 90 Lipša, “Communication of Non-Normative Sexuality in Inter-War Latvia (1920s and 1930s),” 146-151.
  • 91 20.04.1937.

35In interwar Latvia, the state pursued a policy that generally maintained the notion of sexuality as something inappropriate for public discussion.89 Official discourse on sexuality focused on promoting abstinence and considered sex life only in the context of marriage, while issues of homosexuality were mentioned by the media only in connection with criminal proceedings.90 Thus, Irbe’s diary entries where he links the loss of sexual innocence with self-staining, disgrace and something disgusting show that he had internalized the thesis of official interwar Latvia’s discourse on sexuality as an obscenity. In the late 1930s, Irbe contrasted the reality of sexual experience (“all this stuff is so disgusting that I don’t want to live,” “I can’t accept this”91) to the requirement to seek beauty, love and friendship. The romantic framework of ‘dark’ versus ‘light’ features was characteristic of his sense of sexuality through the whole of his life.

  • 92 Anna Temkina, “Polovaia zhizn´ v pozdnesovetskom brake [Sex life in the late Soviet marriage],” in (...)
  • 93 Vita Zelče, “Dažas 60. gadu (re)konstrukcijas [Some (re)constructions of the 1960’s],” Latvijas Arh (...)
  • 94 Alexander, “Sex Education and the Depiction of Homosexuality Under Khrushchev,” 349-364.
  • 95 Rūdolfs Neiberts, “Jaunā laulības grāmata [The New Marriage Book],” Veselība, no. 8-12 (1970); no.  (...)
  • 96 Jaroslava Pondeļičkova-Mašlova, “Par seksuālo audzināšanu bez kautrēšanās [On Sexual Education With (...)
  • 97 Kazimirs Imeļinskis, “Dzimumdzīves psihohigiēna [Psychohiegene of Sexual Life (1965)],” Veselība, n (...)
  • 98 Alexander, Homosexuality in the USSR (1956-82), 143.
  • 99 Kazimirs Imeļinskis, “Dzimumdzīves psihohigiēna. Nobeigums,” Veselība, no. 5 (1977): 25.
  • 100 Imeļinskis, “Dzimumdzīves psihohigiēna. Nobeigums,” 25.

36After the Second World War, Latvia was incorporated into the USSR. The official Soviet discourse continued to maintain the same notions of sexuality that had dominated in interwar Latvia. Starting from the 1960s in the USSR, the private sphere gradually became a legitimate subject of discussion, yet love and sex were equated to marriage and the family, which was considered to be the fundamental cell of socialist society.92 The sexual education of adults in Latvia was mostly implemented through the popular science magazine Veselība [Health], published by the Ministry of Public Health of the Latvian SSR once a month from 1958. In the 1960s, the magazine mostly published translations of articles by Soviet physicians. There were also books published in Latvian by such authors,93 advocating a puritanical attitude towards sex, without mentioning homosexuality; meanwhile Soviet sex manuals in Russian and translations for Soviet Russian readers addressed homosexuality94. The first Soviet sex manuals that discussed homosexuality – the Russian version of the book Questions of Sex (1960) by Rudolf Neubert and of the book The Youth becomes a Man (1960) by Josef Hynie were not published in Latvian. Starting from the early 1970s, Health included articles by a much wider range of authors, also publishing translations of works by sexologists from the Warsaw Pact countries – the GDR (Rudolf Neubert95), Czechoslovakia (Jaroslava Pondělíčková-Mašlová96) and Poland (Kazimierz Imieliński97) – which appeared in many instalments in Latvian. From the 1970s Irbe was among the regular readers of Health. “Soviet sexopathologists interested in the issue of homosexuality continued to publish their research on the issue, framing it as a treatable disease,”98 although for the broader audience of Latvians publications by Health were more accessible. When publishing a translation of the book Psycho-Hygiene by Imieliński in monthly sequels for two years, the Latvian editor added a reference to the paragraph on perversions that, due to a view of homosexuality as a “congenital defect,” it had been decriminalized in Poland along with other deviations.99 The editor stated that the problem of perversion has been addressed more extensively in Soviet literature. Thus, homosexuality, “if it is not caused by some disease that excludes the possibility of critical treatment of oneself and the ability to regulate one’s behaviour, is punishable by law.”100 Apart from this, the issue of homosexuality was absent from the agenda of Health until 1988, when the AIDS crisis manifested itself. In the Latvian SSR the first articles in newspapers read by Irbe on the issue were published in 1986.

  • 101 Martti Paloheimo, Mauri Rouhunkoski, Mirja Rutanena, Atklāti par laulības dzīvi [Openly About Marri (...)
  • 102 25.01.1977.

37A book by Finnish author Martti Paloheimo and others published in Latvian in 1976 was the first popular manual on sexual knowledge, and included a chapter on sexual deviations, including homosexuality.101 The attitude of the authors of the book was sympathetic; however, they recommended “perverted people” seek treatment for their “perversion” with the help of intensive psychotherapy. Irbe indicates in his diary that he bought and read the book; nevertheless, there is no reflection on it in his diary entries.102 He was ignorant about the works by Soviet authors or else regarded them as not being worth reflection because he had access to unofficial sexual knowledge. Starting from the late 1950s, Irbe’s ability to reflect on (homo)sexuality was expanded by access to works by early 20th century sexologists published in German before the Second World War that he had bought in second-hand bookshops in Riga.

Integrating unofficial sexual knowledge

  • 103 Uladzimir Volodin, “Ugolovnoe presledovanie gomoseksualov v SSSR (1946-1991): tsifry i diskursy [Cr (...)

38The issue of homosexuality was barely discussed in Soviet media discourse on sexuality, but it was analysed in Soviet court practice by Irbe in his diary. Irbe began to develop a counter-discourse against the official legal discourse in 1952, when he was working as a bailiff at the Riga Kirov District People’s Court (1952-1956), which gave him the opportunity to attend court hearings on criminal cases of homosexuals. While he was working at Jūrmala People’s Court (1945-1948) no such case was tried, but archival records show that two men were convicted of homosexual acts in the Latvian SSR; from 1952 to 1956 seven men were convicted. 103

  • 104 13.07.1952.
  • 105 05.09.1956.

39Until then, Irbe did not reflect on the prosecutions, although during the Nazi occupation he records on several occasions that one homosexual or another had been convicted. Thus, in his written self-reflection up to 1952, he does not record the fact that the act of male same-sex was a criminal offence both under the authoritarian regime in the 1930s and during the Stalinist period of Soviet occupation. In 1952 a ballet dancer of the Latvian SSR State Opera and Ballet Theatre was tried at Irbe’s workplace. Irbe distanced himself from the situation with the phrase “I was very sorry for this poor, passion-torn creature”104 and avoided judging the very fact of penalization. In a few sentences, Irbe mentioned the news that a teacher of the State Theatre Institute had been murdered during a situation of casual sex, pointedly commenting: “this is not the first time, but the lesson has not been learned.”105 His attitude shows an internalized need to be discreet and cautious.

40Even after 1952, while describing the cases heard in the court, Irbe does not try to distinguish between male same-sex sexual acts that were formally legal (kisses, caresses, mutual masturbation, oral sex, etc.) and the only act treated by Soviet law as a criminal offence (male same-sex anal intercourse). Such an approach could indicate that Irbe had internalized by default the prevailing view of the illegal nature of homosexuality. Irbe does not even mention the adoption of the new Criminal Code of the Latvian SSR in 1961, although it seemingly offered an opportunity to reflect on why the article on “pederasty” had not been changed in substance.

  • 106 20.04.1958.
  • 107 As Irbe has not provided detailed bibliographic data on the books he had read, here and below the d (...)
  • 108 Paolo Mantegazza. Die Geschlechtsverhältnisse des Menschen (written in1885) in 26.09.1959, 31.01.19 (...)
  • 109 Havelock Ellis. Geschlechtstrieb und Schamgefühl; Havelock Ellis. Geschichte der Prostitution in 09 (...)
  • 110 Magnus Hirschfeld. Geschlecht und Gesellschaft (published in 1921) in 27.12.1974.
  • 111 Healey, Russian Homophobia from Stalin to Sochi, 81-87.

41From the late 1950s, Irbe reflected on (homo)sexuality through the eyes of early 20th century sexologists. In 1958, he read Iwan Bloch106, in 1959 Auguste Forel107 and Paolo Mantegazza108, in 1962 Havelock Ellis109 and in 1970 and 1974 Magnus Hirschfeld110. Irbe’s case shows that contemporary statements of Soviet sexology may not have had an effect on a person, while much older notions from early 20th century sexology might be trusted only because they came from the West, so they were not related to the Soviet system. Irbe’s choice of books on sexuality was limited by what was offered on the Soviet secondhand book market. He bought books of all the authors available on the subject. Thus, the acquired books inadvertently became a cultural reference point for him. Similarly during the same era the singer Vadim Kozin assembled random cultural reference points, including second-hand literature, into a set of explanations for homosexuality.111

  • 112 Even though Forel stigmatizes homosexuality as pathological, he nevertheless supports women’s econo (...)
  • 113 25.08.1959.

42Thus, Irbe mainly had at his disposal books by exponents of sexual modernism. Historian Ralph Leck has defined sexual modernism as a movement for social equality, where the key criteria are opposition to degenerative theory and support for homosexual rights.112 In 1959, Irbe regards Forel’s ideas as still being up-to-date “especially, in regards to the perverts, in order that their spiritual lives and souls might be better understood, as well as their status in society.”113 Irbe refers to works by sexologists, as they increased his ability to feel comfortable.

  • 114 21.04.1966.

43Irbe developed his advocacy of homosexuality during the 1960s. The number of convicted homosexuals in Latvia increased between 1961 and 1968, when Irbe was once again working as a bailiff, and a total of 81 men were convicted of homosexual acts. Irbe used the concept of “homosexuals” when writing about the criminal cases he had heard and/or read about in court proceedings, thus choosing to adopt a counter-discourse against the concept of “pederasty” used in law. In his entries on observed court practice he uses the word once, placing it in quotation marks,114 showing his choice to disassociate himself from it. Irbe uses the word a few times to refer to homosexuals whom he personally disliked.

  • 115 11.07.1969; 09.11.1966.
  • 116 21.04.1963.
  • 117 09.11.1966.

44Drawing on the early 20th century sexologists, Irbe questioned on scientific grounds the Soviet legal norm that criminalized consensual homosexual relations. Irbe’s first advocacy for a ban of the article on male homosexuality was formulated in 1963, when an old friend of his called Baroniete (Baroness) came out of prison, having served half of his sentence. Irbe explains that according to the views of cultured people, Baroness had been convicted for nothing. This punishment reminds him of the Middle Ages.115 Irbe emphasizes that scientists had recognised that “a person is not guilty if he or she is born that way.”116 Over time Irbe’s outrage at similar cases even increased, and he asks: “Won’t common sense ever win, and won’t this medieval article of the law ever be repealed, as is probably being done in all countries of culture?”117

  • 118 11.07.1969. Similarly, Vadim Kozin made notes on the promiscuity of his heterosexual colleagues in (...)

45He reflects on the necessity of legal equality between homosexuality and heterosexuality. If the authorities punish particular sexual practices, then lesbians and heterosexuals, who use similar sex techniques, would also be held liable for violating the law.118

  • 119 31.10.1965; 22.03.1966.
  • 120 05.01.1969.
  • 121 21.08.1962.
  • 122 31.10.1965.

46As a fact to be taken into account, Irbe mentions the suffering of imprisoned homosexuals, who are “subjected to ridicule by criminals and scum.”119 Starting from 1962, Irbe reiterates that there is no victim in crimes of consensual male same-sex relationships (“because they do not harm anyone”120); according to Freud, “everything that we want is normal in sexuality” and “sexuality and reproduction are not the same.”121 Irbe uses inverted commas for the word “crime,” thus pointing to the absence of crime.122

  • 123 Alexander, “Homosexuality in the USSR (1956–82),” 165.
  • 124 26.01.1973.
  • 125 26.01.1973.

47Irbe reacted indirectly to official medical discourse. In his written self-reflection on homosexuality, he does not use the word “disease” and does not refer to the treatment of homosexuality. As Alexander puts it, “the advertisement of a medical treatment of homosexuality would be an official acknowledgment” that all preventative measures had failed.123 Irbe mentions only once in 1966 that a certain homosexual known at the cruising places had been sent to a psychiatric hospital.124 Irbe was outraged by such actions and found that “not the slightest attention is given to the human psyche and sexual issues,” and that “doctors have no clue about it, and only have some out-dated, primitive views.”125

  • 126 Oosterhuis, “Review of Leck, Ralph Matthew, Vita Sexualis: Karl Ulrichs and the Origins of Sexual S (...)
  • 127 10.07.1956., 23.07.1956.
  • 128 07.02.1966.
  • 129 07.02.1966.

48Irbe internalized the sexual modernists’ explanations of sexuality that “hinged on biological determinism” and “implied that a same-sex preference was equated with gender inversion.”126 He used gender stereotypes and the hierarchy of active (masculine) and passive (effeminate) roles. He used both the concept of the tribade127 and that of the third sex.128 From the early 1960s Irbe expands his vocabulary with such terms as “psychopaths,” “perverts,” “feminine pathicus” (passives), “psychopathies of sexual drives” and “bisexual.” Using the discourse of “perversions” as an organizing principle of sexual diversity, Irbe pathologized sexual behaviours and stigmatized homosexuals among the ballet dancers and queers who visited public toilets, referring to them as “feminine pathicus.”129

49Irbe interpreted the sentencing of homosexuals as an outcome of a legal norm that lagged behind the times (behind the scientific knowledge of non-Soviet sexologists). However, the main emphasis in his advocacy of homosexuality was on the need to repeal the legal norm. In his diary he does not call for a rebuttal of the idea of homosexuality as a disease as argued in Soviet medicine, but in essence it was in line with Irbe’s call to adopt the findings of the early 20th century sexologists. In this way, Irbe constructed his queer self as a self-confident personality practising his sex life, and basing his self-understanding on what he thought were the latest discoveries in the science of sexology.

Self-identification and identification of others

  • 130 05.09.1977.
  • 131 Clech, “Between the Labor Camp and the Clinic,” 24.

50Irbe never identified himself using the word “homosexual”. There are only a very small number of entries that allow us to discuss Irbe’s self-identification directly. In 1977, after attending an exhibition of dahlias at the Museum of Nature, he signed one review in the review book “with my alias ‘Cleopatra’” and signed another review as Mermaid Sea Rose, the nickname by which he signed letters to friends.130 This episode clearly represents the tradition of shared laughter as one of the constituents of the “ethos of secrecy” of Latvian homosexual subjectivities during and before Soviet era (Clech names it the tradition of khabal´stvo.)131 A vivid example of that is Irbe’s going out in public dressed as a woman on July 12, 1940. He wrote: “I walked along the sea at twilight. It was a beautiful evening. Lonely men thought I was a priestess of love. They followed me, etc. I had two encounters by the ‘Lido,’ in dark alleys. Later I met a priestess of love from a few years back. We both walked together in the soft night. She was very amused about the whole thing. I told a lot of jokes and joked around with men. I danced a few steps for one suitor with my skirt raised up high and so on. It was wonderful. I went home along the seaside.”

  • 132 02.10.1950.
  • 133 23.08.1968.

51Irbe implicitly discovered his alias, used in queer circles in 1950, through describing what others had said. In one situation that amused Irbe at the cruising site, he ran into a “whole bunch of young, well-dressed colleagues” who called after him, addressing him as Cleopatra.132 These are the only two times when he records his alias. There are more entries in which others identify him by female nicknames: as a young actress, a beautiful girl, the sweetest girl in Jūrmala (the entries refer to the 1940s-1980s). The context of the entries shows that Irbe was flattered by these labels, which highlighted his appeal. In the company of colleagues at work, Irbe himself remarks ironically that “I am an innocent fraulein [German “young lady”]”.133 However, Irbe’s entries do not show whether the female nicknames were used in the homosexual milieu as a whole or only in one particular group; it is clear only that such a tradition existed in Irbe’s generation.

  • 134 12.07.1940.
  • 135 29.01.1978.
  • 136 15.09.1974.

52The feminine aspect was important in Irbe’s self-identification. He had even gone out in the first month of the Soviet occupation in July 1940 in public dressed as a woman on several night-time occasions.134 Describing his close understanding with a female friend, Irbe wrote that “It’s as if Zina and I were of the same sex”135. However, Irbe does not explain what he means by this. When his female friend, the notary Zina, found out that Irbe’s friend Baroness had been knifed by a casual sex partner, she condemned Baroness’s promiscuous lifestyle. Irbe concluded that Zina, due to her narrow cultural perspective, “resembled a robust, insensitive man.”136 Subsequently Irbe educated her with insights from the work of Western sexologists and his own experience. Irbe’s confidants, with whom he shared stories about his sexual adventures, were women. Among them were two women, Zina and Lidija, from the 1950s, when they worked together at the People’s Court.

  • 137 30.12.1942.
  • 138 08.08.1967.
  • 139 01.02.1959.

53Several of his entries suggest Irbe’s complicated attitude towards the feminine in male homosexuals. Irbe sensitively perceived certain signs of femininity, from which he distanced himself with ridicule, mainly with reference to homosexual ballet dancers. However, he does not describe exactly what constituted this femininity. His remarks range from the brief statement that “male dancers must be real men”137 to more detailed ones in the 1960s that it is unfortunate that “stately, sexually normal men endowed with natural, beautiful and masculine movements hardly devote themselves to ballet, but only homosexuals with their foolish, unnatural movements”138. Irbe’s negative attitude towards ballet dancers could be related to his unrealized youthful dreams and experiences. Representing his dislike and contempt, Irbe devalued homosexuality versus “normal” sexuality and homosexuals versus “normal” men, thus himself reproducing sexual stigma. However, in some situations, by indirectly describing himself as opposed to a set of other men, Irbe ironizes “normal” men. When commenting on a visit to a sauna, he concludes that “the so-called ‘normal men’ also have a certain interest [in me].”139 By placing the word normal in quotation marks, along with the explanation “so-called”, Irbe shows his ability to criticize the generally accepted “truths”, refusing to accept compulsory heterosexuality as normal.

54Starting from the late 1930s, Irbe’s homosexual affiliation can be understood mainly from entries where he writes about the identification of others. From the 1950s he mostly uses the metaphors “our circles,” “our direction,” “our kind of people,” etc., as well as the term “homosexual,” and sometimes the interwar concept tante [from the German “aunt”], which had long been used in the cities of imperial Russia. From the early 1960s the newly discovered conceptual apparatus of sexual experts gave Irbe reason to switch from poetic terms used in his sexual self-identification to the more neutral, scientific term “homosexual,” hitherto not extensively used. This shift was facilitated by the Soviet legal discourse that Irbe heard in his workplace, the People’s Court. The observations Irbe describes in the mid-1960s were meant to show his alienation from queer circles. He repeatedly notes that he does not speak to “them” and does not establish any relationship.

  • 140 Healey, Russian Homophobia from Stalin to Sochi, 87.

55To designate male homosexuals, he also uses vocabulary from the mythology of Ancient Greece and Rome: nymph, faun, priest and priestess, pilgrim of love. (Thus Irbe’s cultural capital stemmed from nostalgia for classical Athens, “a common sentiment in modern European male homosexual mentalities,” as Healey has stated.140) To hint at sexual acts and the places where they took place he used the terms “temple,” “mausoleum,” “altar,” “orgy,” and “cult” dedicated to the Roman goddesses Venus and Vesta, Amor (the son of Venus) and Phrygian Magna Mater Cybele. In using Classical mythological rhetoric until the end of his life, Irbe’s aim was rather to romanticize, not to cypher his sexual adventures:

  • 141 18.08.1950.

I slept in a pose like a nymph on the shore of the sea. In the distance I saw someone in a white (swimsuit) triangle, swimming. Having seen me, he moved closer, jumping around and waving a small, white sheet. He turned out to be a young faun (probably an aspiring ballet dancer). Dark, fiery, very tanned, with a beautiful figure. About 18 years old. But already corrupted, because he immediately recognized the nymph in me and hinted at me with his eyes. I followed him behind the dunes, into the beautiful groves intended for Venus and Amor.141

  • 142 18.08.1972.

56From the early 1970s, under the influence of western sexologists, Irbe created his own classification, separating the nymphs and fauns who practiced orgies of the Phrygian Magna Mater Cybele from the worshipers of Amor and Venus. He denoted the nymphs and the fauns as “lewd” (sexually promiscuous; referring to them as sexual psychopaths) while the worshipers of Amor and Venus he pictured as “restrained persons.” He referred to orgies of the Phrygian Magna Mater Cybele as “lewd acts,” while serving Amor and Venus he linked to a cult that “has some beauty.”142 Irbe used his classification to re-romanticize his queer subjectivity.

The idea of the light and dark drives

  • 143 25.01.1954.
  • 144 Not dated, next entry dated 05.11.1936.
  • 145 04.08.1940.

57The “severe breakdown” of 1935 was characterized by Irbe’s complete isolation from artistic circles, so that henceforth he would socialize only at queer cruising sites in city parks, beaches and public toilets. After socializing there for about a year, he started having sex at the age of around 30. Irbe writes that he fell mildly in love a few times, but meanwhile that he “has gone with others,” and his heart has not suffered much.143 At this time, he develops the basic principle of his queer self: to balance sex life with cultural education, with the goal of developing his spiritual life. He reaches this conclusion from the premise that the consequences of sexual adventures are suffering, but that they encourage the practice of reflection. Irbe explains to himself that suffering (as a result of sexual experience) is better, because in this way I “create myself.”144 By experiencing these feelings, a person can “raise himself up.”145

  • 146 20.08.1948.

58Irbe’s reflection on the causes of sexual behaviour and its assessment was facilitated in summer of 1940, when the presence of the Soviet occupation troops in Riga intensified sexual activity in the nightly public scene. At night, Irbe went specifically to observe it happen. He evaluated sexual drives, primarily using a concept of light and dark drives.146

  • 147 03.08.1940, 20.08.1948, 21.08.1962.
  • 148 03.08.1940.

59Already in 1940, Irbe outlined several discoveries explaining sexual behaviour. The first was that there is nothing reprehensible about satisfying sexual drives, because they are powerful forces that guide and strike the soul “regardless of our will.”147 The second concerned fighting the urges, this struggle being an eternal struggle with oneself, because they can only be “more or less restrained” with great effort.148 This struggle creates a broader perception of the world, crystallizing the “true essence” of man, as evidenced by a sophisticated life of feelings and spiritual struggles. People who do not fight their urges are like “numb creatures.”

  • 149 14.12.1935.
  • 150 14.12.1935.

60Irbe would justify his presence at the queer cruising sites, writing that he was only interested in learning about “characters” and this “direction” more closely, because his “feelings do not allow him to indulge in such obscenities” (worthy “only for a crawler”), and he would “not feel any pleasure” in such relationships.149 He concluded that most likely no cultured member of “our estate” would go there.150

  • 151 27.02.1938.
  • 152 18.08.1950.
  • 153 03.03.1968.

61Soon, Irbe was spending his free time only among the circles of the cruising sites, still finding that his “mates” were less cultured than he.151 Irbe maintained his awareness of his cultural superiority in several ways. First, in his diary, he kept bringing to the fore his imaginary connection with artistic circles. Until the end of his life, Irbe repeatedly re-imagines and describes his early-1930s contact with Mierlauks, the director of the Latvian National Theatre. The same is true of his 1950 sexual contact on the beach with a young “faun,”152 later an actor and director of the Daile Theatre, even romanticizing it as an event similar to the Greek myth (see the quote under footnote no. 141).153 Second, Irbe wrote down statements by persons he respected that matched his belief in his cultural superiority. After a conversation with a Professor of the Latvian SSR State Conservatory “Č.”, Irbe wrote:

  • 154 29.08.1952.

He admired my knowledge and intellectual growth. He said that I rise above everyone else. It is true indeed. They don’t have any intellectual interests, they don’t know anything, they haven’t read anything. I can discuss any question. I know everything that is important in literature, art, science.154

  • 155 27.09.1951.
  • 156 31.10.1935.
  • 157 27.02.1938.
  • 158 04.09.1952.

62Irbe portrayed the queers who socialized at cruising sites as men who do not fight their drives, who are “utterly perverted, frivolous, dirty.”155 Thirdly, although he visited exactly the same places and often for the same purpose, Irbe distanced himself as one who observes, using precisely this verb,156 as well as emphasizing that he likes “to observe different types”157 and spends a lot of time making observations.158

63Irbe portrays his struggle with sexual drives as constant. In August 1940, he shows himself as capable of restraining his “dark sexual drives” to some extent, as he has been trying to do so since childhood.

  • 159 04.08.1940.

I have both extremes, hell and heaven, within me. It must be like this for all souls, but I think heaven prevails in me.159

64In his later writings of the 1940-1950s, Irbe constructs himself as a man who does not give up and longs for sexual reticence but fails to achieve it in his life. A typical example of this is an entry from the 1950s. Irbe writes about his latest sexual affair:

  • 160 02.10.1950.

I loved it. I can’t forget. Yes, Amor knows how to torture. On the train, riding home, I felt life down to the core. The frivolity, passions, depravity. I would like to have bright pure life, true friendship. In my soul, however, I always carry bright images, thoughts, just like I love and observe purity so much physically – but this swamp of sexual desires and sexual life, in which I am drowning! I see that many feel good and are completely satisfied in this mire. I long for a more pure, more beautiful life, but is it possible for me, and would I get it?160

  • 161 20.12.1953.
  • 162 30.08.1948.
  • 163 10.09.1948.

65When recording his sexual adventures, he cultivates two conflicting feelings (dark and light) within himself: sexual acts are “unspeakably disgusting” while “this life of vice” is also romantic. Until 1960, he longs for a constant friend-partner, but these entries are accompanied by the confession that I “do not let anyone near my soul – I do not believe that anything serious can come of it.”161 To his own statement that there is a growing desire to give up the sexually active life, which is disgusting, Irbe immediately adds a corrective remark in the form of a statement that “I like the romance of all these processes,”162 or in the form of a question: will I soon again be “seduced by flirting, compliments, adventures, romance?”163

  • 164 17.08.1955; 21.03.1954; 16.08.1956.
  • 165 Healey, Russian Homophobia from Stalin to Sochi, 84.

66In the mid-1950s, several entries in the diary show that at that time Irbe valued a six- to seven-day sexual abstinence as an achievement.164 Irbe balanced his intense sexual life with an acknowledgment of its romanticism, constructing himself as a man in whom the fight between the bright and the dark side of the soul has been dramatically escalated (not unlike the diarist Kozin who expressed similar ambivalence165).

  • 166 14.12.1953.

I want to get rid of everything dark, but how hard this fight is! How some low drives glow and try to drag me down to the filthy swamp, into the dark passions of hell. But I can never accept that. How I long for clarity, beauty, light! Yet, a lot of circumstances prevent me from enjoying the beautiful sides of life! How I suffer all my life! I can’t accept that I can’t achieve what I imagined and pictured in my thoughts!166

  • 167 17.06.1954.

67Irbe shows himself to be constantly frustrated with his inability to “limit his course” with his mind and “to resist the waves of passion that wash over me and strike me against my own will.”167 Thus, he portrays himself as a personality whose sufferings result in a highly-developed emotional life and reflection that lifts him up spiritually on a vertical dimension. From the 1960s Irbe rarely uses the concept of light / dark drives, replacing them with the findings of the early 20th century sexologists.

68Irbe reflected on the drives of homosexuality not in the context of illness, but in terms of personality as a psychological peculiarity (sometimes called a misfortune). Thus, he documents his own (and other observed homosexuals’) queer self in the framework of a misfortune, the main idea of which was the apparent desire to limit dark drives in constant struggle. In written self-reflection, Irbe never records a desire to get rid of his homosexuality, only to limit it. His dreaming of an elevated romanticism was his way to deal with the lewdness, brutality and insecurity of queer life.

Conclusions

69Until the end of his life Irbe’s self-construction centred around his doubts about the morality of (homo)sexual practices, which constantly alternated with exoneration of these practices. Nevertheless, despite the integration of the notions of early 20th century sexologists into the interpretation of his observations, in his written self-reflection Irbe linked sexual practices to the dirty part of human life. For the most part, Irbe thought, wrote, talked and dreamed about queer sexuality using terms both of the sexual modernists and mainstream sexologists.

70The development of Irbe’s queer self is marked by at least three stages. The first is a time of youthful idealism, in which he tries to suppress sexual drives, hoping to eliminate them. In the second stage, from the spring of 1935, idealism was replaced by the practice of cruising and the balancing of intense sex life based on the concept of light and dark drives with the cultivating of an image of himself as a romantic. In the third stage, starting from the 1960s until the early 1990s, the knowledge gained through the works of early 20th century sexologists, as an informal, alternative discourse to the official discourse of Soviet medicine, forms Irbe’s consciousness and provides a tool for self-reflection. Applying scientific concepts to identify other queers, Irbe distanced himself from others through the practice of conscious observation of queers at cruising places; such observation was also determined by the gradual decrease in the intensity of his sex life. Finally, Irbe constructs his aloofness as superiority, which is also based on the knowledge he has gained about other queers through his observations and the court material he had read and heard. This knowledge also allows him to cultivate a sense of magnanimity, compassion, and sense of power over cruising worlds, for the disclosure of this knowledge could identify individuals hiding their queerness.

71Irbe’s frameworks for understanding queerness were based on the use of unofficial sexual knowledge he had gained since the 1950s by reading works of early 20th century sexology, on his self-identification and identification of others on the basis of this knowledge and on the continual application of the concept of ‘dark’ and ‘light’ drives to his experiences. Some degree of overlap or simultaneity was characteristic feature in the use of these frameworks. There were moments when one framework predominated over others but as time passed they become entangled between each other as layers of the paint constitute the palimpsest. The analysis of Irbe’s diary testifies that an individual could avoid the prevalent stigmatizing discourse of Soviet sexology while building an informal, discreet, knowledge of the self through the cognitive process of diary-keeping.

72For 60 years, carefully maintaining an ethos of secrecy – and ultimately a sense of his own eliteness – Irbe had created his queer self as one who could not exist without these bulwarks. He was flattered by his own queerness and hence he felt doubts about whether to support homosexual visibility in public space, because the publicity could deprive him of his queer self.

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Notes

1 In autumn 1994 the Consistory of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia adopted a resolution “On the pursuit and propaganda of homosexuality,” which banned homosexual people from Holy Communion, or from performing any duties in congregations of the church hierarchy until such time as they “return from sin to the right path”. The Synod accepted the resolution in 1996, giving it the power of law in the church. See: Ineta Lipša, LGBTI People in Latvia: A History of the Past 100 Years (Riga: Association of LGBT and their friends Mozaika, 2018), 95.

2 Kaspars Aleksandrs Irbe. Dienasgrāmata [Diaries of Kaspars Irbe], 22.09.1994. Autobiogrāfiju krājums, nr. LFK Ak [47] [Archives of Latvian Folklore, Autobiography Collection, No. LFK Ak [47], http://garamantas.lv/en/collection/1197727/Diaries-of-Kaspars-Irbe. (Henceforth only the date of the entry will be given.)

3 06.03.1995.

4 Richard Mole, “Nationality and sexuality: homophobic discourse and the ‘national threat’ in contemporary Latvia,” Nations and Nationalism, 17, 3 (2011): 551; Gordon Wait, “Sexual citizenship in Latvia: geographies of the Latvian closet,” Social & Cultural Geography, 6, 2 (2005): 168-171; Dace Dzenovska and Iván Arenas, “Don’t fence me in: barricade sociality and political struggles in Mexico and Latvia,” Comparative Studies in Society and History, 54, 3 (2012): 673.

5 Wait, “Sexual citizenship in Latvia: geographies of the Latvian closet,” 178.

6 Igor´ Kon, Seksual´naia kul´tura v Rossii: klubnichka na berëzke [Strawberries in the birches: Sexual culture in Russia] (M.: O.G.I, 1997); Dan Healey, Homosexual Desire in Revolutionary Russia. The Regulation of Sexual and Gender Dissent (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2001); Dan Healey, “The Disappearance of the Russian Queen, or How the Soviet Closet was born,” in Barbara Evans Clements, Rebecca Friedman, Dan Healey, eds., Russian Masculinities in History and Culture (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002), 152-171; Dan Healey, “From Stalinist pariahs to subjects of ‘Managed Democracy’: Queers in Moscow 1945 to the present,” in Matt Cook, Jennifer V. Evans, eds., Queer Cities, Queer Cultures. Europe Since 1945 (London: Bloomsbury, 2014), 95-117; Dan Healey, Russian Homophobia from Stalin to Sochi (London: Bloomsbury, 2018); Rustam Alexander, “Soviet Legal and Criminological Debates on the Decriminalization of Homosexuality (1965-75),” Slavic Review 77, 1 (2018): 30-52; Rustam Alexander, Homosexuality in the USSR (1956–82). Submitted in total fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, May 2018 (School of Historical and Philosophical Studies Faculty of Arts, The University of Melbourne, 2018); Rustam Alexander, “Sex Education and the Depiction of Homosexuality Under Khrushchev,” in Melanie Ilic, ed., The Palgrave Handbook of Women and Gender in Twentieth-Century Russia and the Soviet Union (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), 349-364.

7 Rita Ruduša. Forced Underground: Homosexuals in Soviet Latvia (Riga: Mansards, 2014); Lipša, LGBTI People in Latvia.

8 Irina Roldugina, “Half-Hidden or Half-Open? Scholarly Research on Soviet Homosexuals in Contemporary Russia,” in Lynne Attwood, Elisabeth Schimpfössl, Marina Yusupova, eds., Gender and Choice after Socialism (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), 3.

9 Irina Roldugina, “‘Why Are We the People We Are?’ Early Soviet Homosexuals from the First-Person Perspective: New Sources on the History of Homosexual Identities in Russia,” in Richard Mole, ed., Soviet and post-Soviet sexualities (London: Routledge, 2019), 2-22.

10 Arthur Clech, “Between the Labor Camp and the Clinic: Tema or the Shared Forms of Late Soviet Homosexual Subjectivities,” Slavic Review, 77, 1 (Spring 2018), 26.

11 Healey, Russian Homophobia from Stalin to Sochi, 73-89.

12 22.06.1993.

13 The most significant chronological lacunas in the diary are the absent volumes from August to December 1949, as well as from July to December 1991 and from October 1992 to May 1993.

14 Irbe did not write every day. During the summer and autumn of 1940 he made entries several times a week. But from 1941 to 1954 the frequency ranges from once a month to several entries a month, becoming more numerous in the summers. However, there were also months with no entries at all, for example, April 1941, February, March, and May 1951, as well as March and May 1952, April and June 1953, October and November 1954. Starting from 1955, he wrote in his diary every month, sometimes several days in a row. From the 1970s, Irbe – now a pensioner – made diary entries almost every day.

15 Ainārs Radovics, the owner of Irbe’s diary, has published the story of Dubulti, Irbe’s place of residence, using his diary as a source. See: Ainārs Radovics. Dubultu vēsture [History of Dubulti] (Jūrmala: Jūrmalas vēstures un mākslas biedrība, 2018), 229-259.

16 Lukasz Szulc (February 2, 2016). Operation Hyacinth and Poland’s Pink Files. https://notchesblog.com/2016/02/02/operation-hyacinth-and-polands-pink-files/

17 Justin Spring, Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward, Professor, Tattoo Artist, and Sexual Renegade (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010).

18 For example, the project of publishing the diary of Mr Lucas (1927-2014), which can be characterized as a psycho-sexual guide to the gay scene in 1960s-1980s London, was launched on 14 September, 2017. See the “Mr Lucas” account on Facebook. I am grateful to Ira Roldugina for the suggestion to look at it.

19 Matt Cook, “Sex Lives and Diary Writing,” in David Amigoni, ed., Life Writing and Victorian Culture (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2006), 195-214.

20 Alex Belsey, Image of a Man: The Journal of Keith Vaughan (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2020), 14.

21 Ibid., 27.

22 Pavel Golubev, “Konstantin Somov. Zhizn´ v dnevnikakh [Konstantin Somov. A Life in diaries],” in Konstantin Somov, Dnevnik. 1917-1923, komentarii P. Golubeva [Diary, 1917-1923, Commentary by P. Golubev] (M.: Izdatel´stvo Dmitrii Sechin, 2017), 66-71.

23 Healey, Russian Homophobia from Stalin to Sochi, 81.

24 Mario Moussa and Ron Scapp, “The Practical Theorizing of Michel Foucault: Politics and Counter-Discourse,” Cultural Critique, 33 (Spring 1996): 89, 88.

25 Sidonie Smith, Julia Watson, Reading Autobiography: A Guide for Interpreting Life Narratives (Minneapolis – London: University of Minnesota Press, 2010), 39.

26 See: Anatoly Pinsky, “Predislovie [Foreword],” in Anatoly Pinsky, ed., Posle Stalina: pozdnesovetskaia sub´´ektivnost´ (1953–1985) [After Stalin: Subjectivity in the Late Soviet Union, 1953-1985] (SPb.: Izdatel´stvo Evropeiskogo universiteta v Sankt-Peterburge, 2018), 10-16; Anatoly Pinsky, “Subjectivity after Stalin: Guest Editor’s Introduction,” Russian Studies in History, 58, 2-3 (2019): 80.

27 Anatoly Pinsky, “The Diaristic Form and Subjectivity under Khrushchev,” Slavic Review, 73, 4 (Winter 2014): 805.

28 Rogers Brubaker, Frederick Cooper, “Beyond ‘Identity’,” Theory and Society, 29, 1 (Feb., 2000): 1-47.

29 Clech, “Between the Labor Camp and the Clinic,” 29.

30 01.01.1936, 31.01.1936, 25.02.1936, 05.11.1936, 28.01.1937, 25.03.1937, 19.04.1937, 25.04.1937, 14.05.1937, 27.02.1938, 14.10.1938, 20.10.1938, 31.10.1938, 05.06.1940, 12.07.1940. See also: Ineta Lipša, “Communication of Non-Normative Sexuality in Inter-War Latvia (1920s and 1930s)” in Kārlis Vērdiņš, Jānis Ozoliņš, eds, Queer Stories of Europe (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2016), 144-173; Ineta Lipša, Seksualitāte un sociālā kontrole Latvijā, 1914-1939 [Sexuality and Social Control in Latvia, 1914-1939] (Rīga: Zinātne, 2914), 66-71, 247-275.

31 The Soviet occupation of Latvia in 1940 imposed Soviet policies and legal norms, and therefore the attitudes regarding homosexuality of early Soviet Russia become important. On legal regulation of homosexuality see chapter “Official Discourse: Medical-Legal Regulation.” See: Lipša, LGBTI People in Latvia, 5, 17.

32 Edmunds Šūpulis, Kaspars Zellis, “20. gadsimta vēsturiskās paaudzes un to identifikācija Latvijas iedzīvotāju dzīvesstāstos [Historical Generations of the 20th Century and their Identification through Latvian Life Stories],” Akadēmiskā Dzīve, no. 55 (2019/2020): 74-76.

33 Aleksandra Fëdorova (1884-1972), prima ballerina of the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Imperial Russia, ballet master and prima ballerina at the Latvian National Opera (1925–1931), owner of a private ballet studio in Riga. In 1937 Fëdorova emigrated to the United States.

34 Vita Zelče, “The Sovietization of Rainis and Aspazija: discourses and rituals in Soviet Latvia in celebration of the two poets,” Journal of Baltic Studies (2020), DOI: 10.1080/01629778.2020.1862265.

35 28.03.1937.

36 27.07.1940.

37 21.03.1945.

38 Klinta Ločmele, Olga Procevska, Vita Zelče, “Celebrations, Commemorative Dates and Related Rituals: Soviet Experience, its Transformation and Contemporary Victory Day Celebrations in Russia and Latvia,” in Nils Muižnieks, ed., The Geopolitics of History in Latvian-Russian Relations (Riga: Academic Press of the University of Latvia, 2011), 115.

39 01.06.1968.

40 31.01.1970.

41 The magazine lasted for six months in 1926.

42 17.01.1991.

43 05.11.1936.

44 Irbe’s diary reveals the mixture of many ethnicities with queer Latvians, including queer Russians and other Soviet nationalities, conforming to the wider context of interethnic same-sex relations sketched by Arthur Clech. See: Arthur Clech, “Des subjectivités homosexuelles dans une URSS multinationale,” Le Mouvement Social, 260, 3 (2017): 91-110.

45 Latvian is a gendered language – both verbs and nouns have endings that indicate the male or female gender.

46 14.01.1978.

47 09.01.1968.

48 20.10.1969.

49 03.04.1968.

50 10.08.1946.

51 05.09.1947.

52 11.07.1948.

53 02.08.1950.

54 13.07.1967.

55 03.09.1979.

56 20.10.1969; 11.08.1976; 18.04.1992.

57 15.01.1994. “Bez tam taču esmu zināmā mērā arī īpatna personība.”

58 Riikka Taavetti, Queer politics of memory: undisciplined sexualities as glimpses and fragments in Finnish and Estonian pasts. Academic Dissertation (Helsinki: University of Helsinki, 2018), 34.

59 27.01.1978.

60 Alison Oram, “Going on an outing: the historic house and queer public history,” Rethinking History, 15, 2 (2011): 189; Healey, Russian Homophobia from Stalin to Sochi, 85.

61 15.09.1960.

62 25.01.1954.

63 25.01.1954.

64 11.08.1940. The strikethrough is Irbe’s.

65 15.03.1994.

66 The production (1911) by Aleksis Mierlauks is included in the Latvian Cultural Canon’s (created in 2017) as one of 15 cornerstones of Latvian Performing arts. See: Maija Uzula-Petrovska, “Director Aleksis Mierlauks´ (1866-1943) Production of Rainis´ “Fire and Night” at the New Riga Theatre, 1911, https://kulturaskanons.lv/en/archive/aleksa-mierlauka-uguns-un-nakts/

67 04.01.1977.

68 13.01.1948.

69 04.01.1977.

70 09.01.1987.

71 28.02.1982; 28.09.1981.

72 02.03.1982.

73 21.02.1992; Irbe critically studied Soviet Latvian literary scholars on the lives and creative work of interwar Latvian cultural figures. On January 27, 1974, he commented on the study of Mierlauks’ life saying that the author’s work (Valts Grēviņš. Aleksis Mierlauks. Rīga: Latvijas Valsts izdevniecība, 1956) had some flaws because there was no mention of “some of the most intimate aspects of the character’s [Mierlauks’] soul.” Irbe doubted that the author might not have been aware of them, and stressed that with reference to biographies of Tchaikovsky, Wilde, and others, “in the bourgeois countries, such things have been written about.” Irbe’s awareness of Western biography’s queering of the subject versus the Soviet refusal of the queerness of the biographical subject is unusual for a man who lived in the country dominated by Soviet discourses. On them see: Healey, Russian Homophobia from Stalin to Sochi, 177-194.

74 29.01.1978.

75 28.02.1982; 28.09.1981.

76 20.11.1969.

77 11.08.1976.

78 22.06.1993.

79 23.05.1974.

80 Only the year 1934 is indicated in the date. The content of the entry shows that it was written in the autumn.

81 31.10.1938; 04.09.1952.

82 15.09.1960.

83 15.09.1960.

84 Healey, “From Stalinist pariahs to subjects of ‘Managed Democracy’: Queers in Moscow 1945 to the present,” 100-106; Laurie Essig, Queer in Russia: A Story of Sex, Self and the Other (Duke University Press Books, 1999), 87-89; Dan Healey, “Moscow,” in David Higgs, ed., Queer Sites: Gay Urban Histories since 1600 (Routledge, London: 1999), 38-60; Daniel Schluter, Gay Life in the Former USSR (New York: Routledge, 2002), 89-94; Healey, Russian Homophobia From Stalin To Sochi, 99-100; Yevgeniy Fiks, Moscow (New York: Ugly Duckling Presse, 2013); Clech, “Des subjectivités homosexuelles dans une URSS multinationale,” 95-96; Feruza Aripova, “Queering the Soviet Pribaltika: Criminal Cases of Consensual Sodomy in Soviet Latvia (1960s-1980s),” in Emily Channell-Justice, ed., Decolonizing Queer Experience. LGBT+ Narratives from Eastern Europe and Eurasia (Lanham, Boulder, New York, London: Lexington Books, 2020), 102-105.

85 See the entry for “shtrikh” in Vladimir Kozlovskii, Argo Russkoi Gomoseksual'noi Subkul'tury: Materialy k izucheniiu. (Benson, VT: Chalidze Publications, 1986), 73.

86 In 1919, the Republic of Latvia adopted The Penal Laws of March 22, 1903 of the Russian Empire. The Penal laws expired on August 1, 1933 when the Latvian Penal Law came into effect. However, the article on male sodomy was not debated in parliament nor in public discussion.

87 Lipša, LGBTI People in Latvia, 17, 59.

88 Alexander, “Soviet Legal and Criminological Debates on the Decriminalization of Homosexuality (1965-75),” 30-52.

89 Lipša, Seksualitāte un sociālā kontrole Latvijā, 1914-1939, 457-530.

90 Lipša, “Communication of Non-Normative Sexuality in Inter-War Latvia (1920s and 1930s),” 146-151.

91 20.04.1937.

92 Anna Temkina, “Polovaia zhizn´ v pozdnesovetskom brake [Sex life in the late Soviet marriage],” in S.A. Ushakin, ed., Semeinye uzy: Modeli dlia sborki [Family Ties: Models for Assembly] (M.: Novoe Literaturnoe obozrenie, 2004), 516-517.

93 Vita Zelče, “Dažas 60. gadu (re)konstrukcijas [Some (re)constructions of the 1960’s],” Latvijas Arhīvi, no. 3 (2003): 106-124.

94 Alexander, “Sex Education and the Depiction of Homosexuality Under Khrushchev,” 349-364.

95 Rūdolfs Neiberts, “Jaunā laulības grāmata [The New Marriage Book],” Veselība, no. 8-12 (1970); no. 1-5 (1971).

96 Jaroslava Pondeļičkova-Mašlova, “Par seksuālo audzināšanu bez kautrēšanās [On Sexual Education Without Feeling Uneasy About It (1973)],” Veselība, no. 10-12 (1974); no. 1-11 (1975).

97 Kazimirs Imeļinskis, “Dzimumdzīves psihohigiēna [Psychohiegene of Sexual Life (1965)],” Veselība, no. 11-12 (1975); no. 1-12 (1976); no. 1-5 (1977); Kazimirs Imeļinskis, “Mīlestība un sekss [Love and Sex (1980)],” Veselība, no. 7-12 (1981); no. 1-9 (1982).

98 Alexander, Homosexuality in the USSR (1956-82), 143.

99 Kazimirs Imeļinskis, “Dzimumdzīves psihohigiēna. Nobeigums,” Veselība, no. 5 (1977): 25.

100 Imeļinskis, “Dzimumdzīves psihohigiēna. Nobeigums,” 25.

101 Martti Paloheimo, Mauri Rouhunkoski, Mirja Rutanena, Atklāti par laulības dzīvi [Openly About Marriage (1968)] (Rīga: Zvaigzne, 1976), 201-209.

102 25.01.1977.

103 Uladzimir Volodin, “Ugolovnoe presledovanie gomoseksualov v SSSR (1946-1991): tsifry i diskursy [Criminal Prosecution of Homosexuals in the USSR (1946-1991): Figures and Discourses ],” www.prajdzisvet.org, no. 21 (15.01.2019), http://prajdzisvet.org/articles/review/soviet-gays.html.

104 13.07.1952.

105 05.09.1956.

106 20.04.1958.

107 As Irbe has not provided detailed bibliographic data on the books he had read, here and below the data he has mentioned are given. See: Auguste Forel. Die Sexuelle Frage (published in 1913) in 26.07.1959, 25.08.1959.

108 Paolo Mantegazza. Die Geschlechtsverhältnisse des Menschen (written in1885) in 26.09.1959, 31.01.1970.

109 Havelock Ellis. Geschlechtstrieb und Schamgefühl; Havelock Ellis. Geschichte der Prostitution in 09.11.1962; 02.05.1963.

110 Magnus Hirschfeld. Geschlecht und Gesellschaft (published in 1921) in 27.12.1974.

111 Healey, Russian Homophobia from Stalin to Sochi, 81-87.

112 Even though Forel stigmatizes homosexuality as pathological, he nevertheless supports women’s economic equality and the amatory code of Agape, so Leck includes his work in sexual modernism. Only Mantegazza belonged to the mainstream sexologists, who supported forced heterosexuality. See: Oosterhuis Harry, “Review of Leck, Ralph Matthew, Vita Sexualis: Karl Ulrichs and the Origins of Sexual Science,” H-Ideas, H-Net Reviews (November, 2018): 12. http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showpdf.php?id=51478.

113 25.08.1959.

114 21.04.1966.

115 11.07.1969; 09.11.1966.

116 21.04.1963.

117 09.11.1966.

118 11.07.1969. Similarly, Vadim Kozin made notes on the promiscuity of his heterosexual colleagues in his 1955-1956 diary. See: Healey, Russian Homophobia from Stalin to Sochi, 81.

119 31.10.1965; 22.03.1966.

120 05.01.1969.

121 21.08.1962.

122 31.10.1965.

123 Alexander, “Homosexuality in the USSR (1956–82),” 165.

124 26.01.1973.

125 26.01.1973.

126 Oosterhuis, “Review of Leck, Ralph Matthew, Vita Sexualis: Karl Ulrichs and the Origins of Sexual Science,” 2.

127 10.07.1956., 23.07.1956.

128 07.02.1966.

129 07.02.1966.

130 05.09.1977.

131 Clech, “Between the Labor Camp and the Clinic,” 24.

132 02.10.1950.

133 23.08.1968.

134 12.07.1940.

135 29.01.1978.

136 15.09.1974.

137 30.12.1942.

138 08.08.1967.

139 01.02.1959.

140 Healey, Russian Homophobia from Stalin to Sochi, 87.

141 18.08.1950.

142 18.08.1972.

143 25.01.1954.

144 Not dated, next entry dated 05.11.1936.

145 04.08.1940.

146 20.08.1948.

147 03.08.1940, 20.08.1948, 21.08.1962.

148 03.08.1940.

149 14.12.1935.

150 14.12.1935.

151 27.02.1938.

152 18.08.1950.

153 03.03.1968.

154 29.08.1952.

155 27.09.1951.

156 31.10.1935.

157 27.02.1938.

158 04.09.1952.

159 04.08.1940.

160 02.10.1950.

161 20.12.1953.

162 30.08.1948.

163 10.09.1948.

164 17.08.1955; 21.03.1954; 16.08.1956.

165 Healey, Russian Homophobia from Stalin to Sochi, 84.

166 14.12.1953.

167 17.06.1954.

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Ineta Lipša, « Documenting the queer self: Kaspars Aleksandrs Irbe (1906-1996) in between unofficial sexual knowledge and medical-legal regulation in Soviet Latvia »Cahiers du monde russe, 62/2-3 | 2021, 415-442.

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Ineta Lipša, « Documenting the queer self: Kaspars Aleksandrs Irbe (1906-1996) in between unofficial sexual knowledge and medical-legal regulation in Soviet Latvia »Cahiers du monde russe [En ligne], 62/2-3 | 2021, mis en ligne le 04 janvier 2024, consulté le 30 mai 2024. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/monderusse/12489 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/monderusse.12489

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Ineta Lipša

Institute of Literature, Folklore and Art of the University of Latvia
lipsa.ineta[at]gmail.com

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