Newly collected and restudied earlier materials on an enigmatic fish Ventalepis ketleriensis Schultze, 1980 from the upper Famennian (postera – ? Lower expansa conodont zones) of Latvia and central and northwestern Russia support its porolepiform affinities. A new family Ventalepididae fam. nova is established for this genus upon a peculiar combination of characters, including scale structure and dermal bones ornamentation. New records extend the distribution of this genus and the Ventalepis vertebrate assemblage on the whole to a vast geographical zone along the south-eastern coast of the Old Red Sandstone continent. The habitat area of the Devonian vertebrate assemblage over such a large territory within the zoogeographical province of Baltica is established for the first time. Palaeozoogeographical analysis suggests Laurentian affinities of the Ventalepis assemblage demonstrating the major congruency to the Belgian and East Greenland ones. These and Russian localities are separated by a vast ORS continent. Presence of the dipnoan Jarvikia in all three locations, as well as an Ichthyostega-like tetrapod in the Belgian one reveals palaeozoogeographical connections, which might reflect possible dwelling not only in the near-shore continent periphery but also in the river systems of the continent itself.
One of the direct results of the collapse of the former USSR was the emergence of centrifugal ethnic minority nationalisms, which posed a threat to the stability of the then newly-established (or restored in the case of the Baltic democracies) states. In this context, one of the mechanisms introduced by the leading elites in several countries (e.g. Latvia, Ukraine, Estonia, the Russian Federation) in order to address the minority diversity issue, ensure stability, and gain international support (in the case of the Baltic states) was a cultural autonomy scheme, which has its origins in the ideas of the late 19th century Austro-Marxist school of thought. This model was successfully implemented once in the past, in inter-war Estonia. However, its modern application, even in cases when it does not just remain on paper (such as in Latvia and Ukraine), seems to serve other motives (e.g. a restitutional framework in Estonia, control of the non-titular minority elites in Russia) rather than the satisfaction of minority cultural needs, thus making cultural autonomy a dead letter.
Maria Manteuffel letters from the period 1844–1859 offer invaluable insights into the life of Polish gentry in the former Polish Livonia (Infl anty Polskie), incorporated into the Vitebsk Governorate of the Russian Empire. These letters of mother to her son Gustaw Manteuffel, student at the University of Dorpat (now Tartu, Estonia) who was to become one of great Polish historiographers of late 19th century, are an important historical source. Although they deal mainly with family matters, the mundane is interspersed with notes and comments which throw light on the Russian tax burdens and the social life of the aristocracy and the local gentry. An eye-catching feature of that correspondence is a string of Latvian (Latgalian) words and phrases which are interspersed into Maria Manteuffel’s sentences. There is not much we know about her life. Born in Wielony in 1811, she was heiress to the Drycany estate. In 1828 she married baron Jakub Manteuffel. Of their children only four sons survived to adulthood. Born into a Polish-Livonian family, Maria Manteuffel became a Polish patriot, patroness and sponsor of various patriotic initiatives. When the Drycany estate was sequestrated by the Russian authorities after the 1863 January Uprising, she moved to Lesno and later to Riga where she died in 1874. She was buried at Drycany beside her husband; in 1916 her son was buried in the same family vault.