Rainis
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Rainis
J?nis Pliekns
Rainis.jpg
Born(1865-09-11)11 September 1865
Died12 September 1929(1929-09-12) (aged 64)
OccupationPoet
Playwright
translator
politician
Aspazija

Rainis was the pseudonym of J?nis Pliekns (September 11, 1865 – September 12, 1929), a Latvian poet, playwright, translator, and politician. Rainis' works include the classic plays Uguns un nakts (Fire and Night, 1905) and Indulis un ?rija (Indulis and ?rija, 1911), and a highly regarded translation of Goethe's Faust. His works had a profound influence on the literary Latvian language, and the ethnic symbolism he employed in his major works has been central to Latvian nationalism.

Early life

Rainis at age of 15.

Rainis was born on "Varslav?ni" farm, Dunava parish in J?kabpils municipality. His father, Kri?j?nis Pliekns (ca. 1828-1891), was a tenant farmer. His mother was D?rta, née Grikovska (ca. 1828-1899), and he had two sisters, L?ze (1854-1897) and Dora (1870-1950). During his education at the Riga City Gymnasium he met and befriended P?teris Stu?ka, Dora Pliekne's future husband, who later become a prominent Latvian communist.[1][2]

Early career

Rainis studied law at the University of St. Petersburg, where he shared a room with P?teris Stu?ka. While still a student, Rainis was already collecting folk songs, writing satirical and lyric poetry, and translating literature. Together with Stu?ka he edited a collection of epigrams and satire, Mazie dunduri (The Small Gadflies) and published Apdziedanas dziesmas (Mocking Songs) about the third All-Latvian Song Festival. The two men, however, would later split because of the differences between socialist and communist ideologies.

After completing his studies, he worked at the Vilnius regional courtrooms and with Andrejs St?rsts in Jelgava. Rainis wrote for Dienas Lapa (The Daily Page), T?vija (Fatherland)[3] and the Latvian Conversational Dictionary.

From 1891 to 1895 Rainis was editor in chief of Dienas Lapa (Daily Page).[4] The Dienas Lapa scene was mostly a group of young Latvian liberal and socialist intellectuals who came to be known as the New Current. After attending the congress of the Second International in 1893, Rainis began to emphasize socialist ideology and news of socialist events in "Dienas Lapa." He is recognized as the father of Latvian socialism. It was during this period that he met Aspazija (pseudonym of Elza Pliekne, born Rozenberga), another Latvian poet and playwright active in the New Current.

Because of their social criticism and calls for various reforms, the New Current was viewed as a seditious movement and was the subject of a Tsarist crackdown. In 1897 Rainis was arrested and deported first to Pskov, and later to Vyatka guberniya (now Kirov Oblast). It was during this period of internal exile that Rainis translated Faust and other works from classical literature. Here he also produced his first collection of poems, T?las noska?as zil? vakar? (Far-Off Moods on a Blue Evening, 1903).[4]

Foreign exile

Rainis and Aspazija on 2015 Latvian stamps

Rainis was also socially active and politically prominent, being one of the national leaders of the Revolution of 1905 in Latvia and the New Current that foreshadowed it. With the failure of the Revolution, he emigrated to Switzerland together with his wife Aspazija, settling in Castagnola, a suburb of Lugano. As an émigré, Rainis wrote:

  • plays -- Zelta Zirgs (The Golden Horse) (translated to English 2012), J?zeps un vi?a bri (Joseph and His Brothers), Sp?l?ju, dancoju (I Played, I Sang), Daugava (The Daugava, 1916), and ?irts Vilks;
  • poetry -- Klus? gr?mata (The Quiet Book), V?ja nesta lapas (Leaves Upon the Wind), Tie, kas neaizmirst (Those, Who Do Not Forget), Gals un s?kums (The End and the Beginning), Ave sol, and Sveika, br?v? Latvija (Hello, Free Latvia).[4]

His dramatic ballad Daugava contained the first explicit demand for Latvian sovereignty:

Land, land, what is that land demanded in our song? Land, that is a state.

Those lines were removed by the censor when the work was first published in Moscow. After the defeat of Bermondt-Avalov's forces at Riga in November 1919, the ballad was given a performance at the National Theater to mark the first anniversary of Latvia's proclamation of independence; many soldiers carried this work into battle.

"Zelta Zirgs" ("The Golden Horse") was translated to English in 2012 by Vilis Inde.

Return to Latvia

Rainis and Aspazija returned to Latvia on April 4, 1920 and received a heroes welcome. They had served as the spiritual leaders for the fight for Latvian independence. Rainis, as a member of the Central Committee of the Latvian Social Democratic Workers' Party, resumed his political activities and was a member of the Constitutional Assembly of Latvia (Satversmes sapulce) and Saeima (Parliament) and of the Ministry of Education Arts Department, founder and director of the Dailes Theater, and director of the Latvian National Theatre from 1921 to 1925, Minister of Education from December, 1926 to January, 1928,[5] and a member of the Cultural Fund and (Military) Order of Lpl?sis Council. During this period he wrote:

  • plays -- I?ja Muromietis (Ilya Muromets), M?la stipr?ka par n?vi (A Love Stronger Than Death), R?gas ragana (The Witch of Riga);
  • poetry -- Treji loki, Sudrabota gaisma (A Silvery Light), M?ness meiti?a (Moon Girl), Zelta sieti (The Gold Strainer), and others;
  • memoirs -- Kasta?jola (Castagnola).[4]

Rainis had the ambition of becoming Latvia's president and became less prominent in politics when this ambition was not fulfilled.

During the 1920s, Rainis was among the candidates considered for a Nobel Prize in Literature. His journals from these years exhibit both his great longing for this international recognition, as well as his bitter disappointment at never receiving the award.[6]

He died in Majori in 1929.

Legacy and commemoration

Rainis' gravesite memorial, Rainis Cemetery
Soviet 1 Rouble coin commemorating Rainis

A number of Rainis' poetry collections were published posthumously: Sirds dev?js, Dv?seles Dziesma, Liel?s l?nijas, and Aizas ziedi.[4]

Rainis' statue at the Esplan?de in Riga is a gathering-place that highlights the complex way his multi-faceted career and works are interpreted. It is the focal point for the national poetry festival, always held on his birthday, as well as a focus for the left wing, from the Social Democrats to the radical opposition to Latvia's education reform (in part because of Rainis' support for minority schools; he was instrumental to the founding of Belarusian schools in Latvia). Similarly, criticism of his work has often been strongly affected by politics; while the Soviets emphasized his socialism (his image even appeared on a commemorative Soviet ruble coin; being buried next to Rainis' grave in Rainis' Cemetery in Riga was an honor reserved for senior Soviet military), Daugava and other patriotic works were omitted from editions of Rainis' texts prior to the Third Latvian National Awakening.

Bibliography

References

  1. ^ Samsons, V. et al. (1970) Latvijas PSR Maz? Enciklop?dija (Concise Latvian S.S.R. Encyclopedia) 3rd ed. Riga, Latvia: Zinatne.
  2. ^ 72-85-Gravere. arhivi.lv
  3. ^ Founded 1884; published in Jelgava from 1886 to 1914. Not to be confused with the daily newspaper of the same name published during the Occupation of Latvia by Nazi Germany in World War II.
  4. ^ a b c d e Un?ms, ?anis. Es Vi?u Pazinu (I Knew Him, Biographical Dictionary). Grand Haven, Michigan: Raven. 1975 reprint of 1939 edition.
  5. ^ Ministri pirmskara neatkar?g?s Latvijas Republik? Archived 2011-03-11 at the Wayback Machine(in Latvian) Website of the Ministry of Education and Science of Latvia
  6. ^ RAINIS. korpuss.lv (in Latvian)

External links


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