The Bank of Latvia has issued a new silver coin paying tribute to two of the country’s most respected poets and playwrights. The coin marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Rainis (Jānis Krišjānis Pliekšāns 1865-1929) and Aspazija (Johanna Emīlija Lizete Rozenberga, from 1897 – Elza Pliekšāne 1865-1943), remembered for contributing to Latvia’s awakening of nationhood and aiding the movement for Latvian national self-determination.
Rainis was a Latvian poet, playwright, translator, journalist, and politician with a degree in law from the University of St. Petersburg. He was known as one of the most outstanding representatives of the New Current movement, an affiliation that let to his arrest and forced resettlement in Pskov, Russia. Later, he was exiled to Slobodsk where he was joined by Aspazija from 1897 to 1903. Rainis’s involvement in the Russian revolution of 1905 put his life in danger, forcing him to seek asylum in Switzerland, where he and Aspazija lived until Latvia gained independence from Russia.
In addition to his professional literary career, Rainis served his newly established country as a member of the parliament. He also spent a successful year as the minister of education, lending his support to the establishment of the Depository of Latvian Folklore, the Latvian National Opera, and the Open-Air Museum.
Aspazija was a poet, playwright, translator, and public figure. Described as extremely bright, with a controversial personality, she was first published in the newspaper Day Sheet, which included her poem defying society; she signed it with the ancient Greek feminist name Aspasia, the beloved companion of Pericles. After returning to Latvia with Rainis, Aspasia was elected to the Constituent Assembly where she defended the rights of Latvian women. For her contribution to Latvian culture, Aspasija was the recipient of the national order the Three Stars (1926), Class II Cross of Recognition (1938), and—the highest state order—the Fatherland Award (1939). In 2004, Aspasija was ranked 20th on a list of the country’s 100 most influential national personalities.
The 150th anniversary of the birth Rainis and Aspazija is an appropriate time to remember the spiritual landmarks of the nation, as well as remembering a poignant sentence from one of Aspazija’s memorable poems:
“You are your destiny, your fortune and misfortune. Deep rooted in the soil, you are your land.”
The coin, produced by the Lithuanian Mint in Vilnius, is designed by Arta Ozola-Jaunarāja and integrates a design of two detachable halves. The left side of the obverse features the hand-written text of a poem by Rainis and his signature. The right side includes the text of a poem written by Aspazija and her signature. The inscription 5 euro is placed at the top right, and the inscription LATVIJA, with the year 2015 beneath it, is situated at the bottom left. Adorned with red flowers, the upside-down image of a seated Aspazija is featured on the left side of the reverse. The image of a seated Rainis appears on the right. The top central part features the facsimile of Rainis’ signature, and the signature of Aspazija is at the bottom centre.
|Proof & colour
The coin is available directly from the bank of Latvia by visiting their offices in Riga and Liepāja. For more information about this coin and others offered by the Bank of Latvia, please visit their Web site. Information is offered in English and Latvian.