Jaunā Gaita nr. 126, 1979

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JG 126

Much of this issue is unified by a common theme - the changes that have been caused in Latvia by industrialization and technological progress. Paliepu Jānis recalls the old agricultural way of life in a meditation on personal and national identity. A large part of this essay is a fable based on childhood memories and told from the point of view of an ancient ash tree which grew near his home. In it he combines his own biography with the history of his people. The ash tree he remembers here has fallen, cut down by the foreign "progress" that has also destroyed the old way of life, but a piece of it has been incorporated into a sculpture by the late Augusts Kopmanis, and the sculpture as a whole is a representation of the scene described in the fable. Both the sculpture and this commentary on it express the great loss felt by exile Latvians.

Soviet Latvian demographer Bruno Me×gailis touches on the same theme from a different perspective. In his essay, "Some Demographic Problems in Latvia," he points out that many exiles do not understand what their native land has become since the Second World War - the old rural and agricultural society has been urbanized and industrialized. The exiles' concern over russification, he says, is based on a misinterpretation, and he compares the statistics for Latvia with those for other industrial countries to show that they all face the same problems: low birth rate, high divorce rate, and extensive immigration which supplies the labor needed by the factories. Me×gailis argues that these are the natural results of high economic and educational standards. In particular, he attributes the low birth rate to the full equality that women have achieved in Latvia, and he mentions that it was noted already in the 1930s.

Exile Latvian political scientist Dr. Juris Dreifelds criticizes the reasoning of the foregoing work in his "Remarks on Bruno Me×gailis' Essay." He uncovers a number of unjustified assumptions in the Soviet demographer's interpretation of his data, and suggests instead that the low birth rate is a result of unfavorable economic conditions and that large-scale immigration is not merely an indicator of high economic development. If such immigration is no more than that, why, Dreifelds asks, doesn't the Russian SSR solve its labor problems by encouraging immigration from China? The answer is, of course, that the government of the Russian SSR does not want to create problems like those faced today in the Latvian SSR.

Also relevant to this theme is Ņina Luce's short piece on exile Latvian drama, "Dramatist Jānis Viesiens' play Koeksistence (Coexistence)." In part, this is a call for more productions of and critical attention to the works of the younger generation of Latvian playwrights in exile. The rest of this essay is devoted to a summary and appreciation of one such work, which deals with an exile Latvian's perception of his native land. We print a fragment from this play.

The literary section in this issue contains poems by Richards Rīdzinieks, Juris Mazutis, Māra Gulena, Inese Baļķīte, Eduards Salna, Irma Bērziņa, Visvaldis Reimanis, Francis Svilāns, Alma Bēne, Māris Čaklais, Nikolajs KalniņÜ, Ints Cīrulis, and Valda Dreimane, as well as a short story by Eduards Freimanis.


Jānis Svilpis

Jaunā Gaita