24 July 2006

Notes on 1905

I've started reworking some scattered marginalia on the 1905 Revolution, which was quite different in the Baltic Provinces (i.e., Estonia and that part of Latvia that was Courland and Southern Livland -- Latgola, where I live, was then part of Vitebsk guberniya); in Russia, the revolution (here called "the Latvian Revolution" by the Baltic Germans) was not nearly as organized as it was in the Baltics. This note, originally posted to soc.culture.baltics, regards Akuraters among others -- I had mentioned him in my last Fire and Night post.

Lately I've been reading about the earliest calls for Latvian autonomy (which took various forms and are often disputed), finally acquiring the riveting Latvju tautas politiskā atmoda (The Political Awakening of the Latvian Nation) by Ernests Arnis (Rīga: Jānis Roze, 1934). The book is a study of a few of the major figures in the (small) movement that included the first proponents of an autonomous Latvia, focusing on Valters, Rolavs, Akuraters, and Apsīts-Apsesdēls (Arnis himself was also an important figure -- his real name was Runcis ["tomcat"] until he had it legally changed in 1932...).

Ninety-nine years ago this spring (the chestnuts were in bloom), Jānis Akuraters (the author of the classic The Summer of a Servant Boy, which he wrote in Finland) saw the flower of the Latvian nation marched from the Central Prison in Rīga to Dvinsk Station. He was among the deportees, arrested twice and finally sent to Pskov (Valters was "exiled to Dvinsk" [Daugavpils!], Rolavs "shot while escaping" under the direction of a Baltic German baron). Between arrests (and torture), Akuraters made a pilgrimage to some of the execution sites of the punitive expeditions. In 1905 he had written the principal song of the revolution, "With Battle Cries Upon Our Lips" -- at white heat, after being among the workers and watching the slaughter at the Iron Bridge on January 13th.

All of these people were Latvian eseri, from the Social Democratic Union that became the Socialist Revolutionary Party, the first group to make explicit demands for Latvian self-determination -- all of them came to recognize that Latvia had no future in Russia whatsoever (as Akuraters put it, the revolution brought only the same graveyards and prisons that Tsarist rule had brought -- particularly interesting are Akuraters' despairing writings about/to his fellow Riflemen).

Escaping from Pskov guberniya, he went to Kuokkala, where one Alberts Traubergs was organizing a terrorist group (the "Northern Battle Division") from the remaining Socialist Revolutionaries. This was in August (i.e., after Lenin was there, as far as I know). There was a lecture last year in which Traubergs was called "the Latvian grand master of terrorism from Cēsis" (there is, or used to be, a fascinating 1905 museum in that town, which I visited in the early 1990s... but I missed this lecture, being in exile in Dvinsk...).


Among the ironies of that era -- Fēlikss Cielēns (a leader of the Social Democrats) claims that the very first demand for full independence was actually the poet Linards Laicens' 1917 brochure, The Latvian State (which included fervent demands for Latgalian rights). Laicens, "who could only be in eternal opposition," soon became a diehard Red in independent Latvia, departing for "the workers' paradise" after various stints in the prison mentioned above. Uldis Ģērmanis describes his sorry fate with style (and error) in Zili stikli, zaļi ledi (Green Glass, Blue Ice, an account of his visit to occupied Latvia to research the Riflemen) -- Laicens was murdered together with thousands of other Latvians in 1937, his ashes scattered in the unclaimed remains section of the Don cemetery in Moscow. Ģērmanis wonders whether he thought of his earlier "bourgeois" convictions (Laicens repudiates them in an essay that can be found in his 1959 collected works -- collected minus his nationalistic writings, of course, though he had been "rehabilitated" in the Thaw).

The photograph of Jānis Akuraters is from Arnold Dreyblatt's terrific hypertext, Who's Who in Central & East Europe 1933.


Blogger Pēters Jānis Vecrumba said...

I'll have to get back to my project to put up the 1905 Revolution "commemorative album." :-) Pēters

15 July, 2007 20:44  

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