Jaunā Gaita nr. 164, septembris 1987

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JG 164

Latvians around the world are celebrating the sesquicentennial of the birth of one of the founders of their National Awakening Atis Kronvalds. Kronvalds dedicated his fife to making the Latvian people aware of both their national heritage and their potential for development in the modern world through education. He felt that language and nationhood were inseparable; if its language dies, a nation ceases to exist. JG is marking Kronvalds' anniversary with an article by Valerija Baltiņa-Bērziņa which summarizes Kronvalds' life, philosophy and achievements. An ironic parallel to the need for the development of the Latvian educational system (Because virtually all education past the primary level was in German at that time) that Kronvalds fought for, has been taking place in Latvia recently. Latvians are (finally) starting to insist that the rights of their language be recognized, not just on paper, but in everyday life, beginning with the teaching of Latvian to the children of immigrants from other parts of the Soviet Union. The President of the Latvian Writer's Union, Jānis Peters, recently published an article in Pravda about this referring to the "truly Leninistic relationship" and the desire to learn each other's languages that should exist among the peoples of the Soviet Union! JG has printed portions of this article in this issue.

Atis Kronvalds as the god of thunder
Woodcut by Ansis Cīrulis

The summer of 1987 has been a memorable one for Latvians in exile: another world tour by the "Saules Josta" dance ensemble from Australia, the Song Festival in Muenster, and the first North American tour of the Rīga chamber choir "Ave Sol". The tour of "Ave Sol" was a magnificent success, culminating with their concert before an audience of more than 2500 people in Roy Thomson Hall, Toronto.

Imants Sakss describes his impressions of the concert in this issue, while Juris Mazutis expresses his outrage at some of the underhanded political and journalistic maneuvers before the concert by the extreme right-wing clique of the exile community.

Andrievs Ezergailis continues his series titled "Knots". His theme this time is the failure of Latvians to get political credibility in the American press. Ezergailis attributes this failure to the failure of Latvians to assess their past, that is, their experiences and actions during the Second World War, in a realistic light, and to regret publicly the participation of Latvians in crimes against humanity carried out by the occupying Nazi and Soviet regimes. He feels that a dialogue is needed between the Latvian exile and the Jewish communities, and, in light of past events, that the onus is on the Latvians to open this dialogue in a spirit of frankness and truthfulness.

This issue's poetry section has work by four of our finest poets. Rita Gāle, Baiba Bičole, and Aina Zemdega speak for the generation who were separated from Latvia in their youth and spent most of their adult lives in exile, while Māra Zālīte is arguably the most eloquent voice of the generation born after the war in Latvia. Her poems in this issue conclude with an allusion to Descartes, resonating with the ideas of Atis Kronvalds: "I am. Only you (language) can bear witness to this." Prose in this issue is by Eduards Salna and Juris Silenieks. Silenieks' piece, titled "The Shirt", is about the daily life of a Latvian prisoner-of-war in the notorious Zedelghem camp in Belgium, where Latvian members of the Waffen SS, most of them illegally conscripted, spent a year after the end of the war.

Vilis Motmillers has contributed an article about the history of photography in Latvia, while Margita Gūtmane concludes her article on the childrens' author Alberts Kronenbergs. Brigita Siliņa sends her interview with the members of the State Academic Drama Theatre of Rīga who toured the United States with the play Olivers last winter. Kārlis Ābele has summarized the cultural activities of the Latvian exile community on three continents in 1986, and Nikolajs Bulmanis introduces our readers to the accomplished political cartoonist Māris Bishofs. The work of Bishofs has been seen many times in JG, but this is the first time that he has been featured in an article. One of Bishof's latest accomplishments is his cartoon on the disarmament talks that was printed in Time magazine on Sept. 7. The book review section covers Arno Teivens' superb monograph on mills in Latvia, the official history of the first 35 years of the American Latvian Association (ALA), and the recent work of novelist Alberts Bels.

The cover is by Voldemārs Avens, and the frontispiece is by Laimonis Mieriņš, a frequent contributor on the visual arts in Latvia.


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Jaunā Gaita