On November 17, 2011, a day before Latvian Independence Day, Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis and the members of his cabinet presented the Cabinet of Ministers Award to five distinguished individuals. This is one of the highest awards given by the Latvian government for a remarkable contribution to the country’s development. The Cabinet of Ministers Award is presented only once a year, a tradition that stretches back to the 1930s. Nominated by members of the government, recipients of the award have represented a wide array of professional fields, ranging from scientists and doctors to artists and writers. This year, the award will be presented to film director Jānis Streičs, flower expert Jānis Rukšāns, scientist Edvards Liepiņš, Rundāle Palace Museum director Imants Lancmanis, and Occupation Museum of Latvia chairman Valters Nollendorfs.
Brief biographies of the five distinguished recipients prepared in cooperation with Latvian Institute:
Jānis Streičs is undoubtedly the most celebrated and prolific Latvian film director of all time. He has directed more than 20 award-winning films over the course of his more than 40-year professional career. Over four decades, Streičs’s work has both reflected and help to form the Latvian national psyche; memorable scenes and dialogues from his many films have become part of everyday conversation, regularly quoted and passed on from generation to generation in Latvia.
Streičs’s most notable films range from the 1967 comedy Captain Enrico’s Watch, to the 1981 classic tale of rural life Limousine in the Color of Midsummer Night , to the blockbuster 2010 historical drama Rudolf’s Gold. His 1992 film Child of Man was the first and only film ever to be shot entirely in the Latgallian dialect, spoken in eastern Latvia. In addition to his work as a film director, Streičs is also a renowned writer and painter. Most recently, he played in active role in developing the concept for the Letonika and National Identity programs, outlining our national priorities in the field of culture.
Edvards Liepiņš is the head of the Latvian Organic Synthesis Institute’s Physical Organic Chemistry Laboratory and a professor at Riga Technical University’s Department of Material Science and Applied Chemistry. He is also a pioneer in a new field of scientific research in Latvia, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Led by Professor Liepiņš, the Physical Organic Chemistry Laboratory conducts research in several scientific fields: public health (biomedicine and pharmaceuticals), materials science, and clinical diagnostics.
Professor Liepiņš’s research has helped to bring us closer to understanding the processes that are important for maintaining the life functions of organisms. His studies have revealed the mechanisms behind many new reactions and the precise structures of the resulting products. These have been important not only for science, but also for new pharmaceutical manufacturers all over the world. Therefore, his work has worked directly toward improving the lives of everyone on the planet.
Ever since he was twelve years old, Jānis Rukšāns has been fascinated by flowers. Today he is a world-renowned expert on flower bulbs, with numerous publications to his name, including Crocuses: A Complete Guide to the Genus and Buried Treasures: Finding and Growing the World's Choicest Bulbs, both published in English by Timber Press in the United States. To gather his extensive knowledge, Rukšāns has travelled the globe in search of rare flowers, discovering new species on far-flung expeditions to countries ranging Uzbekistan to Greece.
Rukšāns also tends an extensive nursery of flower bulbs near Cēsis, one of the best and largest collections of its kind in the entire world. As a lecturer, he has been invited to speak at conferences and seminars all over Europe, bringing honor to Latvia and promoting international awareness of our country. He has also created various decorative bulbs – new types of flowers whose pure beauty brings joy to whoever lays their eyes upon them. Likewise, Rukšāns’s popular books and academic papers teach others about what he has learned and discovered, effectively passing on his knowledge to future generations.
After a long and distinguished career as a university professor in the United States, where he was an active member of the Latvian community, Valters Nollendorfs turned his efforts to the Occupation Museum of Latvia, where he now serves as chairman of the board. Under his care, the museum has become one of the most popular museums in the country, teaching international visitors to Latvia about our history. He has worked to raise funds for the museum, led the building’s reconstruction project, and overseen the strategy for the museum’s future development.
Since 1996, Nollendorfs has guided numerous delegations of foreign dignitaries through the Occupation Museum, worked together with history teachers and students, edited academic papers by museum employees, as well as lectured on Latvian history at international conferences across Europe. His tireless efforts to interpret and explain Latvia’s history have helped enlighten us about the past. They also ensure that the world knows what Latvia has been through. Nollendorfs has helped kept our history alive, so that we may never forget it.
Imants Lancmanis has devoted his life and work to the Rundāle Palace, where he has served as museum director since 1975, though his connection with the eighteenth-century palace stretches back as far as 1964. Over the decades, Lancmanis has led the efforts to restore and preserve the museum and study its history. An art historian by trade, Lancmanis has received numerous awards and recognitions for his devotion to the conservation of Latvian culture. His passion for the palace has helped keep the building look as beautiful as it did when it was first constructed, in the 1730s, as a summer residence for the Duke of Courland.
Thanks to Lancmanis’s work, Rundāle Palace – one of Latvia’s greatest historical monuments – has become famous throughout the world. The museum not only attracts thousands of tourists each year, but is also the site of important national celebrations and balls attended by foreign dignitaries and officials, becoming a radiant symbol of our country. The restored museum is celebrated by art lovers as an object of sublime architectural beauty, serving as an important window into our collective past.