Dissidence and Soviet Latvian Poetry: Continuity and Change

Ausma Cimdiņa (University of Latvia)

Theoretical reflections on the attempts of a totalitarian regime to construct a new cultural space play an important role in the history of European ideas and culture. In the 20th century the Baltic States witnessed two periods of particularly active invasion of totalitarian culture: (1) the early years of the 20th century, during the revolutionary dictatorship, and (2) several decades during the Soviet occupation after WW2. Soviet totalitarian culture was subjected to the dogmas of Socialist Realism normative aesthetics which required that life in the USSR should be depicted as a de facto utopia (where freedom, fraternity, equality and happiness thrive), in opposition to the Old Europe that represented a dystopia where man is a wolf to man.

It is important to recognize that in the USSR dissidence was a multinational movement and had a broad political and cultural frame of reference and complex causes. In Soviet Latvian poetry dissidence manifests itself in two ways:

(1)     as political dissidence, i.e., as the great dialogue with power and ideology with a view to actualizing it and then to poetically dissecting it. Political dissidence poetry necessarily implies a dialogue with power, and in a way it means defeating this power with its very own weapons (Ojārs Vācietis, Vizma Belševica etc.).

(2)     as decadent dissidence, i.e., by totally ignoring the thematic framework of totalitarianism and finding a poetic refuge, a possibility to reflect on something else (Imants Ziedonis etc.).

Keyword: Cimdina

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