Jaunā Gaita nr. 215, decembris 1998

< JG 214   JG 216 >

JG 215

Much of this issue deals with the sometimes difficult relationship between Latvians in the former exile community and in Latvia. Žanis Šmits, a Latvian from: Canada who has spent much time since 1991 in Latvia, describes his experiences in restoring his wife's family farm and the fact that as a "foreigner", he was often given preferential treatment, while in other instances, this fact caused a negative reaction. Contributing editor Juris Silenieks (USA) reacts with disbelief to recent article in Diena, the largest daily newspaper in Latvia, which states that during 50 years abroad, the exile Latvian community has done "nothing" to introduce Latvian literature to the rest of the world. Silenieks lists a long series of articles in established literary journals, published anthologies of translated Latvian literature and well-known critical works such as Rolfs Ekmanis' Latvian Literature Under the Soviets as proof of the opposite. Gunta Plostniece describes this summer's song festival in Riga with generally positive comments, although she finds it hard to understand why composers of the exile Latvian community were almost completely and undeservedly ignored in the programmes. Janis Gulbītis, on the other hand, is delighted with the results of the collaboration between Andrejs Jansons and his New York Latvian Concert Choir and some of Latvia's top theatrical talents in producing the musical "Laimes reibonī", based on a story by Rūdolfs Blaumanis and performed this summer at Blaumanis' family home in the highlands of central Vidzeme.

This issue's poetry section contains work by Juris Kunnoss, Andris Akmentiņš (both from Latvia) and Rita Gāle (USA). Benita Veisberga (USA), an award-winning author and long-standing contributor to Jaunā Gaita, contributes an insightful sketch of the difficulties that arise between partners in a long marriage. Another long-standing contributor to JG, poet Valentīns Pelēcis' celebrated his 90'th birthday this past August. We mark the occasion with several of his recent poems, while Anita Liepiņa introduces us to poet Margita Gailīte, who has lived all over the world but is now living in Latvia. Gailīte has written and published primarily in English, although she has recently turned to writing in Latvian (see JG issues 177 and 204).

Gundars Pļavkalns contributes a critical study of Laima Kalniņa's latest novel Brīnišķīgas puķes (Fantasy Flowers, Ithaca, 1995) and finds many similarities between Kalniņa's book and Virginia Woolf's Orlando. Kārlis Račevskis discusses the changes in the concept of realism that have occurred since the nineteenth century, when the rationalism of Descartes held sway and it was accepted that humans could completely describe reality through rational means and could subject reality to human will. Since that time, we have realized that it is impossible to separate the observer from the object of observation: "nothing can be natural, objective or self-evident, because [these conclusions] are only the creations of the human mind..."

Rolfs Ekmanis interviews Dr. Guntis Šmidchens on the Baltic "singing revolution", which was both the subject of Dr. Šmidchens' doctoral dissertation and a session he gave at the recent conference in Arizona of the Society for the Advancement of Scandinavian Study, and about his research on the leaders of this revolution - the folklore ensembles "Skandinieki" in Latvia, "Sadauja" and "Ratilio" in Lithuania and "Leigarid" and "Leegajus" in Estonia. Šmidchens concludes that, even though the idealism of the "singing revolution" of the late 1980s and early 1990s has dissipated in the current difficult adjustment to a new political and economic order, it survives underground and in people's hearts: "The Balts even now return to their songs as a source of self-revelation. This has been happening for over 150 years in the song festivals, and it is continuing now for a third decade in the folklore movement."

Ruta Čaupova (Latvia) describes the difficult circumstances in which artists in Latvia must live and work, and the efforts by the Artists' Union of Latvia and other artists' groups to organize shows, competitions and support for the visual arts in Latvia, including lobbying the government for more financial and moral support to bring this in line with the support given by other countries in Europe to their artists.

In Kiberkambaris, editor Juris Žagariņš contributes excerpts from online discussions among Latvians and between Latvians and Russians about the recent awarding of the Order of the Red Star (a Soviet military award) to a resident of the city of Daugavpils in Latvia. The medal was earned for bravery in the war between the Soviet Union and Afghanistan some ten years ago, but only in July did the government of the Russian Federation actually bestow the award.

Dr. Jānis Labsvīrs (USA), the dean of Latvian political scientists abroad, describes the significance of the new Charter between the Baltic states and the USA, signed by President Clinton and the presidents of the Baltic states in January of 1998, and states that "there is no other document in which the USA states so emphatically, sympathetically and with such good-will its relations with another nation or group of nations, as in this Charter." Labsvīrs ascribes the Charter's existence to the wish of the USA to reassure the Baltic states that, even though they were denied membership in NATO in the recent expansion of this organization, they were not "sacrificed" to appease Russia.

We continue our series of transcripts of the letters of Kārlis Ulmanis, the first president of Latvia, to his friend and mentor Hermanis Enzeliņš, with letters written in 1907, while Ulmanis was studying and working in Lincoln, Nebraska. Laimonis Mieriņš describes the new British Library in London, which has arguably the largest document and book collection in the world, while Dr. Ingrida Gutberga describes the biennial camps for young Latvian musicians that were initiated by Mārtiņš Štauvers in Canada in the 1980s. The latest of these camps was held this past summer in Ogre, Latvia, with the par6cipation of many of Latvia's finest musicians as lecturers and teachers.

The frontispiece is by Guna Mundheima (USA) and the cover is by Vitauts Sīmanis (USA).

Ilze Valdmanis


Jaunā Gaita