Dr. V. (Vaira) Vīķe-Freiberga

foto Dr. V. (Vaira) Vīķe-Freiberga
Naar de grotere foto (verschijnt in een nieuw venster)

Dr. Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga (1937) is the former president of Latvia and is, to this day, involved in global political affairs through various organisations. When Latvia acceded to both the EU and NATO in 2004 many attributed that success in part to dr. Vīķe-Freiberga's leadership. After two terms in office (1999 to 2007) dr. Vīķe-Freiberga co-founded the Club of Madrid and became involved in a number of other initiatives that promote democratic development, as well as organisations that stimulate the arts and culture.

Dr. Vīķe-Freiberga was an official candidate for the post of UN Secretary General in 2006, and was unofficially considered for the post of permanent president of the European Council in 2009. Dr. Vīķe-Freiberga is well-respected internationally, and has received close to a hundred honours, awards, honorary doctorates and orders of merit of the first class.

Dr. Vīķe-Freiberga's involvement in Latvian and international politics surprised many. In 1944 the Vīķe family fled the Soviet occupation of Latvia. Via refugee camps in war-battered Germany and a stay in French Morocco her family arrived in Canada, where Dr. Vīķe-Freiberga finished her education. She became a professor of psychology and linguistics at the university of Montreal, a position she held for 33 years. In all this time Dr. Vīķe-Freiberga maintained ties with her native country. Dr. Vīķe-Freiberga is also known for her studies of Latvian folksongs.


Personal data

Name and surname

Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga

Date of birth

1st of December 1937

Place of birth

Riga, Latvia


Imants Freibergs (spouse, former professor of computer sciences)

Kārlis Freibergs (son)

Indra Freibergs (daughter)

Selected honours and distinctions: orders of merit

  • Commander with Grand-Cross and Collar of the Three-Star Order (Latvia), 1999
  • Grand Cross of the Order of St. Olav (Norway), 2000
  • Collar of the Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana (Estonia), 2000
  • Grand Cross of the Order of White Rose with Collar (Finland), 2001
  • Commander of the Legion of Honour, 1st Class (France), 2001
  • Grand Cross of Merit, Special Class (Germany), 2003
  • Order of Merit of the White Eagle (Poland), 2003
  • Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of Merit (Italy), 2004
  • Order of the Netherlands Lion, Grand Cross with Collar (The Netherlands), 2006
  • Officer of the National Order of Quebec (Canada), 2006
  • Order of Wissam al-Mohammadi, Exceptional Class with Grand Collar (Morocco), 2007
  • Grand Cordon of the Order of the Chrysanthemum (Japan), 2007. Note Dr. Freiberga is one of the very rare recipients not of royal blood
  • Grand Cross of the Cross of Recognition (Latvia), 2007
  • Grand Cross of the Order of Viesturs / Vesthardus Rex (Latvia), 2007

And 20 other orders of merit from Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malta, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Sweden, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and the Patriarchy of Russia.

Selected honours and distinctions: awards, medals and prizes

  • Pierre Chauveau Medal for distinguished work in the humanities, Royal Society of Canada, 1995
  • Grand Medal of the Latvian Academy of Sciences for distinguished work on oral literature and Latvian folksongs, 1997
  • Grand Prize of Folklore, Ministry of Culture, Republic of Latvia, 2003
  • Hannah Arendt Prize for Political Thought, 2005
  • Europa Prize of the Coudenhove-Kalergi Foundation, Pan-Europa Union, 2006
  • UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s Ceres Medal for her contribution to social justice, moral values and democracy, 2007
  • Emperor Otto Prize for contribution in defining European identity and future, 2007
  • Hayek Medal for promotion of freedom and free trade, 2009
  • Konrad Adenauer Prize, 2010

And over 20 other awards and medals ranging from the academic institutions in Europe and North America to civil society. These were awarded mostly for her political work and the benefits to the Baltic states in particular, but also for academic pursuits as well as the advancement of women.

Dr. Vīķe-Freiberga also holds 16 honorary doctorates, given by Canadian universities (six), by universities from various west European countries, universities from the Baltic states as well as universities from countries in the Caucasus.



Secondary school

Collège de jeunes filles de Mers-Sultan, Casablanca, French Morocco

High school, Toronto, Canada


Psychology, Victoria College of the University of Toronto, B.A. in 1958, M.A. in 1960


Experimental psychology, McGill University, Montreal, Canada, PhD. in 1965


Political affiliation

Independent, non-partisan



  • Employee, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, mid 1950's (one year)
  • Part time teacher and translator (Spanish), late 1950's
  • Clinical psychologist, Toronto Psychiatric Hospital, 1960 to 1961
  • Professor of psychology and linguistics, Université de Monréal, Canada, 1965 to 1998
  • Honorary professor, Université de Montréal, since 1998
  • Director, Latvian Institute, October 1998 to June 1999
  • President of the Republic of Latvia, July 1999 to July 2007
  • Founding member of the Club of Madrid in October 2001, elected president of the World Leadership Alliance - Club de Madrid as of January 1st 2014
  • co-founder (together with her husband) of VVF Consulting

Selected honoraries and functions (current)

  • Elected fellow Canadian Psychological Association, since 1979
  • Elected fellow Academy I of the Royal Society of Canada, since 1990
  • Elected full member Academy of Sciences of Latvia, since 1999 (previously elected foreign member in 1990)
  • Member, Aspen Institute (Global leaders council for reproductive health)
  • Member, Council of Women World Leaders
  • Member, European Council on Foreign Relations
  • Honorary board member, European Association of History Educators
  • Honorary senator, European Academy of Sciences and Arts
  • Member of the board, International Criminal Court’s Trust Fund for Victims

And over 20 other memberships of boards of various types of organisations whose focus range from the promotion of democratic values to the arts and the preservation of cultural heritage

Selected honoraries and functions (former)

  • Member board of directors (president in 1980-81), Canadian Psychological Association, 1976 to 1982
  • Member board of directors (president in 1980-81), Social Science Federation of Canada, 1977 to 1982
  • Appointed member (on behalf of Canada) and chair, Special Panel on Human Factors, NATO Scientific programme, 1978 to 1981
  • Member board / executive committee, Canadian Federation for the Humanities, 1980 to 1982
  • Member (vice-president in 1984-89) Science Council of Canada, 1980 to 1989
  • Member board of directors (president in 1984-86), Association for the Advancement of Baltic Studies, 1982 to 1988
  • Member of Council (president in 1998-1999), Academy I of the Royal Society of Canada (1998-99), 1994 to 1999
  • Invited consultant, Commission of constitutional reform of the Brazilian Parliament (1989)
  • Member to Canadian governmental consultative committee on the disposal of nuclear waste (1990 to 1991, 1995 to 1996)
  • Special Envoy to the Secretary General on United Nations reform
  • Chair, European Union's High Level Group on Media Freedom and Pluralism, October 2011 to January 2013


Selected political achievements

  • Became president in 1999 after none of the candidates from political groupings managed to secure a majority vote in parliament. She had to relinquish Canadian citizenship to be eligible for the presidency.
  • Navigated a contentious bill through parliament on the use of Latvian as the only language for official proceedings. Dr. Vīķe-Freiberga blocked a bill that also required all private commercial transaction in Latvian. Due to the large Russian minority in Latvia language was and remains a contentious issue.
  • In part due to the efforts of dr. Vīķe-Freiberga Latvia managed to join the European Union in 2004. During her tenure a wide range of economic and social reforms was implemented. Latvia's economy grew steadily, corruption was reduced and democratic institutions began to take root more so then in the first decade of independence.
  • Similarly, dr. Vīķe-Freiberga was instrumental in Latvia's accession to NATO in 2004.
  • Managed a 70 to 85 percentage approval rating as president throughout her two terms in office, a nearly unheard of feat in most democracies.
  • Official candidate for the post of UN Secretary General in 2006. Eventually the South Korean diplomat Ban Ki-moon became UN Secretary General.
  • In 2009 a presumed candidate for the position of permanent president of the European Council. The Belgian prime minister Van Rompuy was appointed.


Selected references and statements

Books and publications on Vīķe-Freiberga

  • "A Challenge: First woman president of Latvia Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga" (biography, 2003)
  • Le Parcours d’une Vie : Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga, Présidente de Lettonie" (biography, 2005)
  • "Ausma Cimdiņa. Brīvības vārdā [In the Name of Freedom]" (biography, 2006)
  • "Trejādās Saules" or "The Threefold Sun" (hour long documentary, 2008)

Selected books and publications by Vīķe-Freiberga

  • "La fréquence lexicale au Québec" (publication, 1974)
  • "Saules dainas [Latvian Sun Songs]" (book, 1988)
  • "Against the current. Essays on Latvian identity 1968-1991" (book, 1993)
  • "Saules balsi: Latvian Sun Song Melodies" (book, 2005)

Authored more then 150 articles and over a dozen books in total. Most of those publications are scholarly papers on semiotics, poetics and the structural analysis of computer-accessible texts from an oral tradition, viz. Latvian folksongs. As president Dr. Vīķe-Freiberga wrote a number of essays on Europe. These involved a wide range of topics, but the majority focused on the role and the future of the EU in a global perspective.

In interviews and speeches

  • Has referred to the financial sector as 'rotten to the core' in several interviews, and called for sufficient supervisory regulation to prevent excesses by the sector, and to sever the grip of the financial sector on politics
  • Frequently asked why Latvia recovered far more quickly from the financial and eurocrises, while other countries did not. Dr. Vīķe-Freiberga stressed each country's circumstances are unique, but on occasion did refer to success or failure to recover from the economic crisis as a product of the culture of the people, too, meaning people themselves should adopt a healthy attitude towards government, taxation and public goods
  • Has made numerous appeals for the political leadership of Europe to inspire people, and not just to get bogged down in bureaucratic affairs. However necessary, the EU has to be framed in ideals as much as regulation


Online presence

Website of VVF Consulting, owned by Dr. Vīķe-Freiberga and her husband: http://www.vvf.lv/en/

This biography has been updated until October 29, 2014.