Jānis Zelmenis

TWO MALTAS: ONE IN THE MEDITERRANEAN, THE OTHER ONE IN LATVIA

22 August, 2012
If we diligently study the world map, we can find several Maltas. One – the most widely known – is situated in the Mediterranean Sea, and the other one is a small Latvian village. It is 20 km away from Rēzekne, one of the largest Latvian cities and 210 km from the Latvian capital Riga. Jānis Zelmenis is talking about the Latvian Malta.

What are the roots of the Latvian Malta?
The first inhabitants of Malta Island in the Mediterranean Sea – stone age farmers arrived from the nearby Sicily approximately 5200 B.C., while the Latvian Malta dates back to the XIX century, when in 1838 an international Saint Petersburg-Warsaw road was built, and later, in 1861 an important Saint Petersburg-Warsaw railway line was opened. At that time a village of Borovaja was built not far from Rozentova estate to the direction of a newly built railway station Antonopole (Malta), and owing to its advantageous geographical location became the main commercial centre in the region. It should be added that in the XIX century the village of Malta was in the territory of Pskov region of the Russian Empire (later – Vitebsk region). In 1920, after the Wold War I, when an independent Republic of Latvia was founded, Rēzekne county, including the village of Borovaja, together with the rest of Latgale became an integral part of the newly established state.
When did Borovaja turn into Malta?
The year 1936 became the changing point in the history of Borovaja – the largest village in Rēzekne county – it was renamed and turned into Malta. It should be added that after renaming of the village of Borovaja another Malta located in the vicinity lost its original name and turned into Silmala. At that time in the village of Malta there were 139 households with 715 inhabitants and several tens of stores. 
The name of Malta is connected with water mills located on the Malta river. The name of the village derives from the word „maltuve” (flour-mill). At that time in the mills they ground not only grains, but also malt for brewing beer. An interesting fact – an English verb „malt” means brewing beer or other stronger alcoholic drinks.
How did Malta develop after renaming?
During World War II, in 1941, Malta parish, same as the whole territory of Latvia was occupied by the German Nazi troops and became a part of Reichskommissariat Ostland. All branches of economy were subordinated to the military needs. Sown areas, seeds, cattle, poultry, bee-gardens, agricultural implements were strictly registered. Stores and other institutions were turned into military barracks, points of collection of crops and other agricultural products. Farmers lost the right to freely dispose of their property and had to supply the troops.
After World War II – from 1945 till 1991 − Latvia, including Latgale and Malta county, were incorporated into the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republic. In 1950 the village of Malta acquired the status of a working settlement (from 1961 – an urban settlement). From 1950 till 1959 Malta was a district centre, later it was included in Rēzekne district. After Latvia regained independence in 1991 Malta lost its status of an urban settlement and together with its rural territory was reorganised into a civil parish. In 2009 Malta parish was included in Rēzekne county as an administrative territory.
What was the most important time in Malta development?
The most important period in development of Malta was in the 50ies – 60ies, especially from 1950 till 1959, when Malta was a district centre. This period is characterised by extensive construction – a community cultural centre was renewed (built in 1939 as a house of “aizsargi” (literally – guards, Latvian paramilitary organisation)), a dairy plant, an industrial enterprise, a hospital and a school were built. Now in the village of Malta there are more than 2800 inhabitants, in the parish – more than 3600. In the parish there are 42 farm households, 26 limited liability companies, 19 individual enterprises, 7 parish institutions, a brass band, a chess club, a checkers club, a Polish society and a women’s club. It should be noted that Malta parish is one of the most well-kept in Rēzekne county.
What are the most important cultural and historical sites of Malta?
The first stone building in the village of Borovaja was a Malta horse postal station – local architectural heritage. A one-storey building of the ancient horse postal station with a wide access road was built in the first half of the XIX century, when in the 30ies of the same century the Saint Petersburg-Warsaw road was built. The horse postal station was one of the many travellers’ resting places along the Warsaw-Saint Petersburg road, where they changed carts, let their horses rest, and where parcels were delivered.
Another important architectural heritage which is worth seeing is Rozentova (Malta) Catholic Church. It is the largest wooden church in Rēzekne county, the construction whereof was supported by the owner of Rozentova estate Falkerzāms. The church has two rare antique portable wooden altars – pheretrons (processions floats) of the XIX century. Noteworthy is a XIX century painting Golgotha, or Christ on the Cross and St. Mary Magdalene.
The third building is a Malta (Borovaja) Old-Believers’ Prayer House – local architectural heritage. It was built in the 20ies of the XX century under the supervision of the building contractor A. Gruncevičs. It is a simple building with a small bulbous dome. The church has ancient cult relics: the Gospel with engravings in a cover, the icons The Entrance into the Temple and The Holy Trinity.
All Saints Orthodox Church of Malta (Rozentova) is local architectural heritage. It was built in 1928 near the Orthodox cemetery. The church is an example of non-professional building art in rural cult construction. It is a small wooden log building with a rectangular altar extension. A stylized sun motif is used in facades decoration.