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Gustavs Strenga (Stipendiat seit 01.12.2009)

Dissertationsprojekt: “The Social Aspects of the Commemoration. The Remembrance of the Dead in Late Medieval Livonia”


Personal information:

strengaBorn 12.05.1981 in Riga, Latvia

E-Mail: gustavs.strenga@grk-freundschaft.uni-freiburg.de


                  • 1999-2004 University of Latvia, Riga, Latvia—Bachelor’s degree
                  • 2003-2004 Catholic University of Lublin, Poland—Exchange studies
                  • 2005 Christian Albrechts Universität Kiel, Germany—Exchange studies
                  • 2005-2006 Central European University, Budapest, Hungary—Master’s degree
                  • 2007- present Queen Mary University of London, United Kingdom, PhD studies
                  • 2009- present Albert-Ludwigs Universität Freiburg, Graduate school 1288 "Friends, Patrons, Clients. Practice and semantics of friendship and patronage in historical, anthropological and cross-cultural perspectives"—PhD studies




  • Dominikāņu un franciskāņu loma Rīgas pilsētas, arhibīskapa un Vācu Livonijas ordeņa konfliktā (1297-1330). [Role of Dominicans and Franciscans in the conflict involving the Rīga City, Archbishop, and the German Livonian Order (1297-1330).] In: Latvijas vēsture. 1 (53) (2004), 46-56, engl. Res. 55-56:
  • - ‘“Bidden vor myner sele.” The Dominicans as Intercessors between Townspeople and God in late medieval Reval.’ In: Annual of Medieval studies at CEU 2007 vol. 13. Eds. Judith A. Rasson and Katalin Szende.
  • - Rīgas Sv. Jāņa Kristītāja dominikāņu konventa brāļi viduslaiku vēstures avotos. Brāļu no Livonijas izcelsmes problemātika. [Brothers of Riga’s St. John’s Baptist’s Dominican convent in medieval sources. Brothers from Livonia] In: Latvijas Vēstures Institūta žurnāls 2 (2007)
  • - Piemiņa un Atmiņa: divas parādības vēlo viduslaiku Livonijas reliģiskajā un laicīgajā dzīvē. [Remembrance and Memory: Two Phenomena in the Sacral and Profane Life of the Late Medieval Livonia] In: Zeme, vara un reliģija viduslaikos un jaunajos laikos Baltijas jūras reģionā. Latvijas Universitātes Raksti. Vol. 725. Vēsture. Rīga, 2009. 58-70.



The Social Aspects of the Commemoration. The Remembrance of the Dead in Late Medieval Livonia
Supervisor: Prof. Miri Rubin (Queen Mary University of London) Tutor: Prof. Birgit Studt (University of Freiburg)

Following Marcel Mauss’s idea of a gift as a ‘total’ phenomenon, Otto Gerhard Oexle has claimed that memoria- the remembrance of the dead in the Middle Ages was a ‘total social phenomenon.’ Indeed, memoria’s ‘totality’ cannot be challenged, because remembrance of the dead was performed by all social groups and every individual longed for it. Memoria also contained all aspects of human lives: social, economical, religious and political. An analysis of memoria can offer information not only about religious beliefs in the given society, but also about political, economical and social roles of certain groups or individuals within it. Memoria can also serve as a framework for evaluating social relations between groups and individuals in medieval societies. Memoria can thus be a key for research into mental and social structures. The aim of my project is to research social and political structures of one particular European region: Livonia in the late Middle Ages (1400-1530), through the perspective of memoria.

Medieval Livonia was an ethnically and culturally diverse region where German Hanseatic influences met local, indigenous and pagan Baltic ones. From its Christianization in the early thirteenth century until the late fifteenth century it was torn apart by political quarrels between the major political powers— the Teutonic Order and the archbishop of Riga. A study of memoria of important social groups in Livonia, townspeople—elites and non-elites, nobility, clergy and the Teutonic Order, will help to discover the complicated relations between them, to approach their identities and to evaluate the role of memoria in creating these identities. This research is intended as a regional history of memoria that would concentrate not on the phenomenon itself, but more on the social and political contexts in which it was used and which were created by it.

One of the main goals of this study is to research role of memoria within the creation and maintenance of different social networks. Commemoration of the dead as a form of social memory created not only groups or identities, as states Oexle, but also long term relationships between the groups and individuals. Memoria did stimulate an emergence of such relationships that may seem incompatible, for example, close relationships between the elite and non-elite groups within the towns. In Livonian towns during the mid-fifteenth century the non-elite groups of non-Germans (Latvians, Estonians and Livs) involved in their remembrance individuals from the urban elites- town councillors, clergymen, rich merchants and their family members.

The remembrance of the dead was involved also within creation of political networks, by commemorating the rulers and political elites. Memoria was used as an instrument for settling long-term political feuds between different parties. Livonian sources offer a broad scope of examples for the usage of memoria for settling feuds and creating new political networks between the archbishops of Riga and the Livonian branch of Teutonic Order. Commemoration of the urban elites and rulers—the Livonian bishops and the masters of the Teutonic Order, also was a process through which social networks were created between the different individuals, families, groups, and also between the living and the dead.

Besides already mentioned aspects, the thesis will tackle also other important research questions as, for example, how individuals and groups in Livonia chose and created commemorational space; what kind of role gender played in the commemoration and how this role of gender in memoria changed according to the social groups; how the commemoration of individuals was integrated in the memoria of groups; and which material objects were used for the commemoration?




  • Postadresse:

    Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg
    DFG-Graduiertenkolleg 1288
    c/o Historisches Seminar
    Rempartstr. 15 - KG IV
    79085 Freiburg 
  • Besuchsadresse:

    Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg
    DFG-Graduiertenkolleg 1288
    Erbprinzenstraße 13
    79098 Freiburg
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