Jaunā Gaita nr. 128, 1980

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JG 128


The lead article in this issue is the first half of a controversial essay by T. Puisāns, „The Latgallian Problem in Latvian History." One of Gustavus Adolphus' invasion of the Baltic was the separation of Protestant Western Latvia from Roman Catholic Latgallia. This separation lasted for 300 years; Puisāns argues that it has led to hostility and misunderstanding. The founders of Latvian historiography, the Baltic German positivists and their Latvian successors were poorly equipped to understand Slav-ruled Catholics, so they ignored Latgallia in their accounts. The West Latvian administrators of Latgallia refused to use the local dialect in government and education. Following the views of Endzelīns and Blese, early folklorists and linguists regarded Latgallian as an offshoot of the standard dialect, corrupted by slavicisms. Cultural and linguistic evidence shows that this is not true, and Puisāns maintains that it is an early independent dialect that developed in isolation from the influences, especially the Lutheran Bible, that shaped standard Latvian. Under their misconception, the Western Latvians undertook to "purify" Latgallian in the name of ethnic identity. Latgallian placenames were changed, and Latgallian folklore materials were mistranscribed and mistranslated. These abuses, and the misunderstanding that causes them, are still continuing. Puisāns contends that this treatment of Latgallia by the rest of Latvia only helps the Russification process by distorting the Latvian heritage. This article is concluded in the next issue.

This issue also includes the conclusion of Vaira Freiberga's essay, "The Poetic Imagination in the Latvian Dainas," in which she discusses the focusing devices that yield the characteristic tone of Latvian folk poetry . Standard epithets and emphatic repetition are important, but the heart of Freiberga's analysis is her discussion of the manipulation of physical scale. Like the japanese tanka and haiku, the daina is a poetic miniature, and the treatment of subject matter is suitable to the form. The general tendency is to reduce or raise things to the human scale; thus, the wind is presented as an old woman sweeping God's house, and, conversely, a spider is addressed as "little sister". Diminutives, connoting dearness as well as denoting small size, play an important role in this. They are used to create warmth of mood, where appropriate, but they are also applied to deities and celestial bodies to reduce them to human scale, and to dangerous entities and difficult tasks in order to establish emotional distancing. Using these devices, the dainas encompass every aspect of Latvian life and transcend their origins to touch on the central concerns of human life everywhere. Freiberga concludes that critics have underrated these works of art by applying to them criteria that are derived from "centripetal" written literature and that are not appropriate to "centrifugal" products of an oral tradition.

Socialism fell into disrepute among exile Latvians following the Second World War. Since that time the recovery of the Latvian Social Democratic Party and the rise of a leftist movement among young exiles have shown that it is once again a topic for serious discussion. This issue begins a symposium on "The Future of Socialism"which will be continued through the next several issues. In this instalment we print two contributions, "A Few Words about Socialism: Critical Reflections" by Viktors Kalniņš and "The Future of Socialism" by J. Purviņš Jurjāns. Kalniņš argues that socialism is not a recent economic theory but an ancient sociopolitical ideology. He traces the socialist elements in several ancient and medieval societies as well as in Renaissance and modern Utopias and theoretical writings. Jurjāns distinguishes between secular socialism and Christian socialism, and maintains that the former is seriouly flawed by a misconception of the nature of man, while the latter, exemplified in the Hutterite social order, opens the way for a fruitful development of socialism.

Soviet Latvian sports journalist Arnolds Markss appears in these pages with two articles, one on the Latvian hopefuls who will be contending for medals in Moscow later this year, and one on the Latvian medalists at the Winter Olympics at Lake Placid. The Winter Olympics yielded a gold medal for Vera Zozula, and a bronze for Ingrida Amantova. Markss describes the Latvian response to this experience - tense anticipation during the competitions, followed by a jubilant welcome for the returning athletes. Latvians, he assures us, should also do well in Moscow. Latvian athletes have made strong showings at world and all-USSR competitions in recent years in basketball, rowing, sailing, swimming, javelin, ski-yachting, judo, running and volleyball. His essay introduces us to some of these outstanding Latvian athletes.

The literary section in this issue contains a fragment of Lalita Muižniece's ,Melita's Experiences in Riga and the first half of a long story by Gundars Pļavkalns, "Non-return", which will be concluded in the next issue. We also have poetry by Aina Zemdega, Juris Zommers, Jānis Kļavinš, Anita Dzirne, Sarma Muižniece, Lija Brīdaka, and Askolds Krastiņš. Brīdaka and Krastiņš are Soviet Latvian authors, and Krastiņš is a young author who appears here under a pseudonym.

The cover is by Ilmārs Rumpēters.


Jānis Svilpis

Jaunā Gaita