Jaunā Gaita nr. 225, jūnijs, 2001

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JG 225

The year 2001 is not only the 800th anniversary of the founding of Rīga, but also the 100th anniversary of the birth in Rīga of one of its greatest poets, Aleksandrs Čaks. This issue opens with a quote from Čaks, whose favourite subject was the city of his birth. In an excerpt from his memoirs, Valdemārs Ancītis gives a tongue-in-cheek description of a search by the secret police of his apartment for forbidden books, particularly those of pre-war Latvia. He was able to convince the police not to confiscate a copy of Čaks' epic poem on the Latvian Riflemen by informing them in Russian that Čaks was a sovetskij poet, a "Soviet poet", and hence was acceptable reading matter for a Soviet Man".

Janīna Kursīte, Dean of the University of Latvia, examines how Rīga has been portrayed in Latvian folklore and poetry, focusing on the myths associated with the capture of Rīga by Peter the Great of Russia. Kursīte mentions an interesting fact about Rīga in folklore: it appears more often in Estonian folklore than the Estonian capital Tallinn. .

Lilita Zaļkalne continues her article on the repatriation of World War II refugees (Displaced Persons) from Latvia. Having failed in most of their attempts to forcibly repatriate the DPs, the Soviet Union then tried to use propaganda to convince them to return home, promising them a good life and appealing to feelings of homesickness. Few DPs were taken in by this, however, since their memories of Soviet brutality were still vivid. These efforts ended by the mid 1960s and were replaced with the infamous "Committee for Cultural Relations with Compatriots Abroad".

Juris Dreifelds, a professor of political science at Brock University in Canada, discusses the low birth rate and high death rate of Latvians in Latvia, and concludes that the only reason the proportion of Latvians is increasing is because the birth rate among non-Latvians in Latvia is even worse and they are dying or leaving at a fairly high rate. Dreifelds contrasts the high proportion of Latvia's GDP that goes to support pensioners (18%) with the 1,16% allotted for child support and maternal benefits.

We have two review articles in this issue: Juris Silenieks examines the content and contributors of the avant garde Latvian literary magazine Luna and concludes that now, a decade after Latvia shook itself loose of the USSR, a comparable upheaval in Latvian literature is finally beginning to take shape. Gundars Pļavkalns discusses painter and writer Lidija Dombrovska-Larsena's diary Color Sounds, published in Rīga in 1999.

Two eminent Latvian artists who live in Canada are highlighted in this issue: Biruta Sūrmane looks at the accomplishments of composer Imants Ramiņš, who has achieved international acclaim for his choral works, while Nikolajs Bulmanis looks at the work of painter Visvaldis Reinholds on the occasion of his latest exhibition at the Latvian Centre in Toronto.

Anete Ivsiņa introduces us to the "post-folkloric" group Lini, whose members grew up in Minneapolis as third-generation Latvian immigrants to the USA, but who feel completely at home in the world of Latvian folk music. The President of Latvia, Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga, discusses Latvia's cultural heritage as a component of Europe's common culture. Juris Žagariņš contributes his translation of an article by Jeffrey Sommers on the monetary policies of the Bank of Latvia.

Two of the books reviewed in this issue are by Latvians living in Toronto: Ingrīda Vīksna's latest book of poetry is reviewed by Inta Ezergailis, while conductor Arvīds Purvs' memoir is reviewed by Imants Zemzaris. Anna Žīgure's bestselling memoir is reviewed by Kārlis Zvejnieks, and a commemorative volume on surgeon Dr. Jēkabs Alksnis and his many descendants is reviewed by Auseklis Zaļinskis. Economist Dr. Gundars Ķeniņš-King contributes a review of Latvia Entering the XXI Century, a collection of articles on Latvian macroeconomics.

Poetry in this issue is by Maija Meirāne and lnese Račevska, both of whom live in the eastern USA. Aina Vāvere, who previously lived in Australia but is now in Latvia, contributes an excerpt from her latest novel. Dzintars Sodums discusses epic poetry, a genre not in vogue in these times of lyric poetry in the first person, using as examples translations of the English epic Beowulf and Aleksandrs Čaks' epic poem on the Latvian Riflemen. Rolfs Ekmanis contributes an obituary of poet Valda Mora (19022001) while Biruta Sūrmane remembers poet and teacher Nikolajs Kalniņš (1911-2001).

The cover of this issue is by Vitauts Sīmanis and the frontispiece is by Visvaldis Reinholds. Drawings by Vigeo Saule are on pages 15, 20, 40 and 65.

Ilze Valdmanis

Jaunā Gaita