Jaunā Gaita nr. 124, 1979

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JG 124

Two of the articles in this issue commemorate important centenaries in Latvian culture. Modris Zeberiņš contributes a review of a recently issued recording of the opera Baņuta by Latvian composer Alfrēds Kalniņš, the one-hundredth anniversary of whose birth falls on 23 August, 1979. Zeberiņš discusses all aspects of the performance - the vocal talents and stage technique of the performers, the libretto, and the status of the composition itself. Baņuta, he concludes, is world class opera, meeting the high standard set by many better-known composers. Marianna Ieviņa's article, which will be concluded in the next issue, marks the centenary of the composition of a monument of Latvian literature, The Time of the Surveyors (Mērnieku laiki), by the brothers Kaudzītes, Reinis and Matīss. The part printed in this issue examines two films, the first a short documentary on the brothers Kaudzītes, and the second a feature-length dramatization of their great novel.

Two other articles, both to be concluded next issue, concern themselves with the state of Soviet Latvia today. Rasma Šilde-Kārkliņa writes on "The Nature of the Russification Problem", distinguishing several different types of russification, from full-scale cultural genocide to the slow processes of social change under the pressure of foreign populations and ideologies. She shows that all of these types are at work in the Latvian SSR through demographic and statistical data taken from Soviet sources. Andrievs Ezergailis, on the other hand, discusses some personal impressions of Latvia during his recent stay there. On this basis he criticizes the views of many exile Latvians about conditions in their native land. Many changes have taken place since the Stalinist era - no longer are important committees and political groups controlled by uneducated proletarians, nor do the people suffer under a visible poverty and oppression. On the contrary, Ezergailis saw no signs of russification in Rīga., and the arts, particularly theatre and film, while they have developed in almost total isolation from the West, enjoy a high standard of quality and remarkable freedom from ideological control. There are problems, of course: Ezergailis cites the low quality of consumer goods and the crisis in Soviet agriculture.

Concluded in this issue is Imants Lešinskis' lengthy essay, "Between the Past and the Future: Some Reflections on the Fate of my Native Land." In the first instalment, Lešinskis discussed the role of rivalries and hatreds among the minority peoples of Czarist Russia, of far-sighted bolshevik planning, and of the Russian people's deep chauvinism in preparing the way for the events of the Second World War. He argued that the national boundaries of the new states that arose following the First World War contributed to the problem by cutting across ethnographic boundaries, and thus giving rise to conflicts among these states. In his conclusion, Lešinskis cites the inability of these new nations to form a coalition among themselves to combat the strength of Stalinist Russia on one side and Germany on the other as a major cause of the tragedy of 1939-40. Examining the fates of Finland and Poland, he suggests that the fate of the Baltic States might have been quite different had they mounted a military resistance. In his conclusion, Imants Lešinskis turns to possibilities for a new national sovereignty for Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. War between the NATO and Warsaw Pact powers is too likely to result in the end of civilization to offer much hope. A better chance for Baltic independence might grow out of the conflict between the USSR and China. If this combines with increased dissidence resulting from economic problems, especially the Soviet agricultural crisis, the effect may well be a shock comparable to that of the 1917 Revolution. Lešinskis urges Baltic exiles to study Soviet internal politics for signs of such a development, and to join with other exile peoples in making practical provisions for the time to come.

Laimonis Mierinš contributes some "Notes on Artistic Life in Soviet Latvia during 1978." He reviews the main exhibitions, discusses the leading artists, and identifies a few trends. Latvian art, he contends, has returned to realism and representationalism in both forms and colours. Textiles, book design and illustration, poster art, ceramics, and sculpture are all at a very high level of craftsmanship and artistic achievement. Painting is in the middle of a process of change - there is a great variety of works, but many lack emotional involvement.

Andris Vītoliņš reviews some recent Latvian phonograph records, concerning with organ music, primarily with music performed on the great organ of Rīga Cathedral.

The literary section is as rich as ever. Aina Kraujiete contributes a memorial to Dzintars Freimanis (1925-1978), and we print several short poems by him, all but one from the last year of his Life. The themes we find in them all have to do with the approach of death, and with a yearning for a freedom beyond life. The other poets in this issue are Veronika Strēlerte, Ilze Binde, Ontons Zvīdris (writing in Latgallian); Valentīns Pelēcis, Teodors Tomsons, Maija Meirāne, Alma Bēne, and Lolita Gulbe. Daina Šķēle appears with a short story, "In the Garden of Rue," which recounts a crisis in the life of a beautiful woman. Oļģerts Rozītis' "Ignorance, and for all that, Knowledge: another triptych" includes an opening section that is pure science fiction, a pivotal poem, and a final mystical speculation. Tālivaldis Ķiķauka offers us a fable for industrial man, in which a troop of very military centaurs take over a human city.

The cover is by Voldemārs Avens. The frontispiece is by Zigfrīds Jurševskis.


Jānis Svilpis

Jaunā Gaita