Jaunā Gaita nr. 129, 1980. g. 3. numurs

JG 129


The first part of T. Puisāns' important essay, "The Latgallian Problem in Latvian History," has already received a varied response from our readership - a letter, a number of cartoons, and a piece of light verse. In the conclusion, printed here, Puisāns discusses perhaps the most important religious, social, political, economic and psychological contrasts between Latgallia and the other Latvian provinces. The ancient heroic tales, fragments of which were preserved in Western Latvia, and out of which Pumpurs, and Rainis fashioned a nationalist epic literature, were wholly lost in Latgallia. Latgallian folklore emphasizes the countryman's sense of blood ties with his land, and in it the female figure, whether mother, daughter, sister, or bride, supplants the male hero. Western Latvians regarded this as one more instance of Slavic corruption, although this may in fact be a native strain lost in the West through contacts with Germanic peoples. Latgallia's position as a kind of buffer zone between the Teutons and the Slavs, Puisāns argues, may have served to isolate it, rather than expose it to influence. The Catholic religion of Latgallia, opposed both to the Lutheranism of the West and the Orthodox Church of the East, unified the people and gave their lives a social, intellectual, economic, and spiritual focus. The Polish priests learned Latgallian, wrote the first works in that dialect, thus establishing an independent literary tradition, and encouraged education and literacy among the people. In this context, the Western Latvian drive toward cultural uniformity is the truly intrusive and foreign element. Puisāns shows that, until historians examine the documents concerning Latgallia which are to be found in Vitebsk, Vilnius, and the Vatican, a genuinely comprehensive history of Latvia remains to be written.

The late Miķelis Bukšs, the philologist and historian whose massive scholarly work, Latgaļu atmūda (Latgallian Awakening), is reviewed in this issue, has begun some of this re-examination, and his findings are in substantial agreement with Puisāns' thesis.

Our symposium on the future of socialism is also continued in this issue. Both of our contributors, J. Andrups and N. Kliečis, distinguish different kinds of socialism, that of the communist countries, in which the individual is subordinated to the collective and to a totalitarian government, as well as more liberal forms, in which the emphasis is on social welfare and the improvement of the quality of life. Both are conscious of the extreme socialist orientation of Soviet Latvia, and both regard the more liberal and less dogmatic versions of socialism as useful ideological tools with which to face the problems of a liberated Latvia, should our homeland ever regain its independence.

In "Thinking about Lešinskis - II," Andrievs Ezergailis addresses the issue of Latvian guilt in the Second World War and the subsequent partisanship and secrecy that this has led to. Some Latvians shot Jews for the Nazis, and some shot other Latvians for either the Nazis or the Communists; and until we examine these facts clearheadedly, Ezergailis contends, many of the misunderstandings and enmities that plague both exile and Soviet Latvian society will not be laid to rest.

Also in this issue, Sandra Bašēna and Laimonis Mieriņš examine the fine arts in contemporary Soviet Latvia. Bašēna introduces us to some of the artists who have brought the poster to a very high level of development in Riga. She discusses Laimonis Sēnbergs, Ilmārs Blumbergs, Gunārs Zemgals, Jānis Borgs, and Gunārs Lūsis, the most important artists working in this form. Mieriņš provides a survey of the main trends in Latvian painting, printmaking, graphics, sculpture, ceramics, textiles, industrial and interior design, architecture, and photography during 1979. He covers the most important exhibitions and shows, and finds that the overall level of professionalism is very high, but that the variety of themes and approaches is so great as to suggest a real lack of communication among artists.

The late Spodris Klauverts (1920-1980) was JG theatre editor and an important force in Latvian cultural life both in Australia and throughout the world. In this issue we print an obituary notice. As a critic, playwright, satirist, member of the Sidney Latvian Theatre Ensemble, and commentator on the modern world, he will be sorely missed.

The literary section in this issue is as rich as always. The prose fiction is the conclusion of Gundars Pļavkalns' novella, "Non-return". This is a thoughtful, compassionate, and allusively rich character study of a cultured, lonely exile. His isolation both from the society in which he finds himself and from his fellow Latvians grows into a symbol both of the Latvian experience and of human experience generally. As well, we have poems by Vilis Zariņš, Valdis Arvis, Jānis Imants Sedliņš, Juris Zommers, Vincents, Lolita Gulbe, Ontons Zvīdris, Inese Baļķīte, Francis Svilāns, Imants Auzinš un Ieva Lešinska.

The cover and the frontispiece are by Vilis Motmillers.


Jānis Svilpis

Jaunā Gaita