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She was born Alida Franzevna Artmane, on July 21, 1929, in a village near Tukums, Latvia. Her father, Franz Artmane, was of Batic German ancestry, and he died four months before she was born. Her Polish mother survived by doing seasonal agricultural jobs. Young Artmane grew up playing in the fields, she was fond of wild flowers and learned to make flower arrangements and dolls. At the age of 10, young Artmane became a shepherd girl. She worked with a herd of cows for five years, and survived until the end of the Second World War. In 1946 she graduated from school and had a dream of becoming a lawyer in order to make the world a better place, but her passion for acting prevailed.
In 1946 she moved to Riga, and changed her first name to Vija, beginning her studies at the Daile Theatre Second Studio. From 1946 - 1949 Vija Artmane studied acting under the tutelage of the legendary Latvian theatre director Eduard Smilgis. From 1949 - 1998 Artmane was a permanent member of the troupe at the Daile Theatre in Riga. Her most memorable stage works were Juliet in `Romeo and Juliet` (1953), and Ofelia in `Hamlet` among other Shakespeare`s plays. Vija Artmane had also created important roles in Latvian plays such as `Indulis and Arija` and `Fire and Night` under direction of by Janis Rajnis. She was critically acclaimed for her passionate performance as Anna Karenina in the eponymous play by Lev Tolstoy directed by Eduard Smilgis; she also played in Tolstoy`s `War and Peace`, in Gogol`s `Dead Souls`, and other classic Russian plays. From 1998 to 2000 she worked with the New Riga Theatre. There she appeared in the title role in stage production of `Queen of Spades` based on the eponymous drama by Alexander Pushkin.
In 1956 Artmane made her film debut in `Posle shtorma` (1957) (aka.. After the Storm). In 1963 she shot to fame in the Soviet Union with her leading role as Sonya, a beautiful and loving mother, in Rodnaya krov (1963). After that film Artmane was nicknamed "Mother-Latvia" in her homeland. Her film career was highlighted with such roles as Veda Kong in Tumannost Andromedy (1967), as Catherine the Great in Yemelyan Pugachyov (1978), as Julia Lamber in Teatris (1978) and other film works. Artmane appeared as herself in documentary on her biography titled `Conversation with the Queen` (1980) which was produced at the Riga Film Studio.
Vija Artmane received the title of National Actress of Latvia, and was designated People`s Artist of the USSR in 1969. In 1999 Vija Artmane was awarded by the Culture Ministry of Latvia for her contribution to the art of theatre and cinema. In 2003 she received a special Theatre Prize for her long-standing contribution to Latvian culture. Vija Artmane has been married and had two children, a son and a daughter. In 2004 she published a book of memoirs. She died on October 8, 2008 of natural causes and was laid to rest in Riga, Latvia.
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Alida Franzevna Artmane
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Alīda "Vija" Artmane (August 21, 1929 in Kaive, Sēme parish – October 11, 2008 in Strenči) was a Latvian theatre and cinema actress.
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