I wanted to write about the new fashion of Latvian nouveau riche already quite some time ago. Aivars Ozoliņš from Diena (08.10.2007)reminded me about the rather peculiar tradition of the Latvian nouveau riche to buy aristocratic prefixes de, Von and Sir. I had forgotten about this topic but todays news reminded me about the way Latvian well off folks change their surnames.
Among numerous obituaries to suddenly passed away entrepreneur Aigars Lūsis(26) there are two rather peculiar last names, de Putāne. Linda and Iveta de Putāne are among many people expressing condolences to family Lūsis. After assassination of the young factory director it was rumoured already yesterday, that Mr Lūsis was gunned to pay for his fathers sins, who rather questionably acquired ownership rights in Jelgava and Cēsis meat procesing factories. The police investigation should certainly give us an answer about shootings in Garkalne. But I wanted to speak about peculiar surnames in obituaries to Mr Lūsis instead.
Information about Iveta& Normunds de Putāns and Linda de Putāne is found also in world wide web. According to www.google.com Iveta de Putāne is real estate developer, and she is among hundred richest women in Latvia. Linda de Putāne graduated from the University of London, she speaks some Spanish and she works in the Ministry of Interior.
Why did I start to speak about aforementioned folks? Because surname de Putāns for any French, Spanish Italian, and Portugese speaker creates rather funny associations to say the least. It might be that de Putāne case is singular, and that their forefathers have acquired their surname during Napoleon's war expedition to Russia in the early 19th century, for example. Napoleon Bonaparte army marched through the easternmost Latvian province Latgale en route to Moscow. It might be the case that ancestors of two ladies got their surnames due to this historic event.
If they have acquired prefix in front of their surname due to this historic event then it is a unique case, because it should have happened thus many years prior the official abolition of serfdom in Latgale in 1861. Also, what were motives of the member of the French army who enabled de Putāns to acquire aristocratic prefix? Finally, I wonder how do these ladies feel when they visit countries where they speak latin tongues? I do comprehend that aristocratic prefix in front of surnames probably rises self-esteem. However, prior choosing prefixes in front of their names I would reccommend such folks to thoroughly research ethimological meaning of their surname in different languages. Case of de Putāns (puta, putain - whore/bitch in French and Spanish) is probably just "an exception", but hypothethical Von Merde (shit in French), de Vitt (pussy in Estonian and Finnish), Dame Razgals (rascal - usual surname in Latvia), or Sir Ass (sharp in Latvian) are examples for nouveau riche to think prior they add aristocratic prefix in front of their surnames.
It is sad that shootings took place in rich Riga suburbia (Garkalne). But in Mexican TV soap operas of the early 1990's it was rather omenously said that even rich people cry. May God bless rich and poor in this country, and also may God give the rich more time to contemplate prior they buy into upward mobility of the post-Soviet society.