Admired poet, dissident passes away

  • 2005-08-10
  • By TBT staff
RIGA - One of the nation's most well-known and respected poets, Vizma Belsevica, died Aug. 6 ending a long and robust career. She was 74 years old.

During the Soviet period, Belsevica's work was widely admired and translated. "Everybody knows about Belsevica's spirit of freedom, which she kept intact despite the oppression and influence of the Soviet regime," said President Vaira Vike-Freiberga.

Belsevica's popularity rose during the 1950s and 60s in the Soviet Union, where her nature poetry received praise from distinguished poets. It was widely translated into Russian, Ukrainian and other languages across the Soviet Union.

However, after the poem "The Notations of Henricus de Lettis in the Margins of the Livonian Chronicle," contained in the "Annual Rings" collection, was released, her career as a published writer came to a halt. Belsevica was thrown out of the Latvian writers union and banned from publishing for nearly eight years.

The poem takes off from the original Chronicle of Henry of Livonica, a narrative of the Baltic crusades that explores those subjected in the name of Christianity. Said to have violated the socialist realism principles of the day, the poem was censored by Soviet authorities.

Belsevica's son, Klavs Elsbergs, also rose to prominence as a writer. The young poet tragically died in 1987, falling out of the ninth story of a building in Dubulti, not far from Riga. It was widely alleged that his death was a murder.

Belsevica did not publish a piece for two years after the incident.

The writer is survived by her second son, poet and translator Janis Elsbergs, and her husband Zigurds.