Janis Rainis

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Rainis, Jānis


(pen name of Jānis Pliekšans). Born Aug. 30 (Sept. 11), 1865, on the farmstead of Varslavāni, now in the Ru-bene village soviet, Jēkabpils Raion; died Sept. 12, 1929, in Majori, Rigas Jurmala; buried in Riga. Latvian poet, playwright, and public figure. People’s Poet of the Latvian SSR (1940).

The son of an estate tenant, Rainis studied at the faculty of law of the University of St. Petersburg from 1884 to 1888. It was in St. Petersburg that his materialist world view was formed.

Rainis began publishing in 1887. From 1891 to 1895 he edited the newspaper Dienas Lapa (Daily Bulletin). His first poems were published in 1895. He was arrested in June 1897; while in prison, he completed his translation of Goethe’s Faust into Latvian. In December 1897 he was exiled to Pskov, and in 1899 to the city of Slobodskoi in Viatka Province. His verse collection Distant Echoes of a Blue Evening (1903), imbued with revolutionary sentiments, was composed here.

In 1903, Rainis returned from exile and joined the Latvian Social Democrats. He wrote the symbolic drama Fire and the Night (1905), a hymn to struggle, life, and life’s eternal progress. In 1905 the collection Crops of the Storm appeared. Late in 1905, Rainis emigrated illegally to Switzerland. There he wrote the verse collections A Quiet Book (1909), Those Who Do Not Forget (1911), and the plays The Golden Steed (published 1910), Indulis and Arija (1911), and I Played and Danced (published 1919).

When reactionary rule was established in Latvia, Rainis continued to advocate struggle, stressing that defeat was temporary. In the narrative poem Ave, Sol! (1910) he glorified the sun as the symbol of freedom. His philosophic collection End and Beginning (1912) is dedicated to the proletariat.

Rainis’ play Blow, Little Breeze! (1913) occupies an important place in Latvian dramaturgy. In Joseph and His Brothers (1919), the first example of Latvian tragedy, problems of love and hatred, forgiveness and vengeance are resolved against a broad historical background.

Rainis returned to his native land in 1920. He utilized motifs from Russian byliny (epic folk songs) in his tragedy Il’ia Muromets (1922) and published the books of verse The Five Sketchbooks of Dagda (1920–25).

Rainis’ life and work were dedicated to the proletariat and its ideals. His works have been translated into many languages. There is a Rainis house-museum in the city of Jurmala.


Dzīve un darbi, vols. 1–11. Riga, 1925–31.
Kopoti rafoti, vols. 1–14. Riga, 1947–51.
In Russian translation:
Sobr. soch., vols. 1–3. Riga, 1954.
Soch., vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1955.
Lirika. Moscow, 1965.


Dauge, P. Ian Rainis: Pevets bor’by, solntsa i liubvi. Moscow, 1920.
Krauliŋš, K. Ian Rainis. Moscow, 1957.
Sokol, E. Zhizn’i tvorchestvo lana Rainisa. Riga, 1957.
Krauliŋš, K. Raiŋa dzīve un darbiba. Riga, 1953.
Sokols, E. Rainis. Riga, 1962.
Hausmanis, V. Tautas dzejnieks Rainis. Riga, 1968.
Hausmanis, V. Raiŋa daiĮrades process. Riga, 1971.

Hausmanis, V. Raiŋa dramaturgija. Riga, 1973.


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