The qualitative research „Deceased's Cremation in Latvia: Tendencies, Factors and Explanations” was made with the aim to understand why more and more people choose cremation in Latvia as the burial type of the deceased. In the research has been used a variety of qualitative methods to achieve the study objective. Social theory of Ferdinand Tönnies about Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft (Society and Community) has been investigated and applied in data analysis.
Research goals were:
to provide the cremation process definition and description;
to take an insight into the history of cremation;
to describe the statistical trends of the cremation; clarify what factors (economic, pragmatic, the psychological, aesthetic, religious, etc.) affect the increase of cremation and to provide the classification of these factors;
to find out what factors are most affecting in the Latvian people's choices to be cremated or cremate their relatives.
The research results showed that the rationalization of society and individualization result in the popularization of cremation.
About Cremation in Latvia
As a student of sociology faculty in University of Latvia, in the beginning of 2010 (February -
In Latvia, the common and traditional way 'to utilize' the deceased bodies is to bury it in the underground: to place the body a few meters under the soil -
Riga Crematorium started to be built in 1938 during the first independence period of the Latvian Republic, in consequence of the initiative of Fire BurialThe member of this society -
Despite the fact that the crematorium building started to be built in distant 1938, it was completed in 1994, and starting from 2006 the Riga Crematorium is run by LTD company Centre -
To get the necessary data about cremation tendencies in Latvia, an interview with the representative person of LTD Centre -
In the Lithuanian Republic, which is a neighboring country of Latvia, there is no crematorium, so some residents of this country -
To find the factors which affect the growing popularity of cremation in Latvia, I have made several interviews with experts in cremation business and the academicians; also respondent's interviews were held. To understand the idea of cremation, to make an historical study of cremation expenditure in Europe's territories, to sketch how cremation is viewed by mass media and to compare the situation of cremation in Latvia to other European countries, I made analysis of the Latvian Republic laws, several mass media publications, previously held researches about cremation in Denmark and the United Kingdom. To explain and understand the data, the social theory of Ferdinand Tönnies was used.
Ferdinand Tönnies published the book "und Gesellschaft" (“and Society”) in 1887, where he used a phenomenological approach to the study of the archetypes of social relations, exploring human nature in the social context and analyzing the long-
Tönnies's social theory postulates that the aim of human society's evolution is a shift from "community" to "society", followed by transformation of all the social aspects of life. This process is governed by rationality. The more the role of rationality increases as the norm of the society, the more the particular society has features.
Using Tönnies's theory on the evolution of society and its structure, hypothesis may rise about why the late 19th century Western civilization countries began to legitimize a cremation and in the 20th century it began to spread as one of the main burial types, gradually superseding traditional burial. Based on the theory of Tönnies, it can be concluded that individualism starts to dominate in the society; people are increasingly less interested in the family traditions, usual practices and an emphasis on rational considerations are made in any field of life as well as in the matter of choosing the burial type. The way how the person will be buried stops being a 'family matter' and it is increasingly becoming the 'choice of the individual'. It used to be that the family members were guided by the traditions and community values, but now the individuals base their decisions on rational appraisal and personal convenience. At the same time, we should not forget that Tönnies emphasized on the role of government in the type of society: the government produces rules, norms, laws which become obligatory to obey for members of society. So, once people start to live together, they 'sign the agreement' in figurative sense: they agree to obey some certain rules and laws, but they start to have rights which should be protected. Fortunately or not, but for the human rights people 'pay' with freedom: society members do no longer have all variety of choices, for example, in Latvia, the law gives the member of society two options -
When a person explains his choice to be cremated after death, it sometimes is connected with religious grounds: for example, interest in Buddhism etc. -
Cremation is a product of society. People who choose cremation are mostly affected by rational allegations while they are making their decision, but even such subjective reasons as, for example, 'wanting to become part of Universe by dispersing the ashes' in the end are also manifestation of the society features, because it shows how individualisticsociety is. I cannot judge whether it is positive phenomenon or not, because it is just our reality -