New Current
The New Current in the history of Latvia
History of Latvia
The History of Latvia began when the area which is today Latvia was settled following the end of the last glacial period, around 9000 BC. Ancient Baltic peoples appeared during the second millennium BC and four distinct tribal realms in Latvia's territories were identifiable towards the end of the...

 was a broad leftist social and political movement that followed the First Latvian National Awakening
Latvian National Awakening
The Latvian National Awakening refers to three distinct but ideologically related National revival movements:* the First Awakening refers to the national revival led by the Young Latvians from the 1850s to the 1880s,...

 (led by the Young Latvians
Young Latvians
Young Latvians is the term most often applied to the intellectuals of the first Latvian National Awakening , active from the 1850s to the 1880s. "Jaunlatvieši" is also sometimes translated as "New Latvians," but "Young Latvians" is the more accurate term because it was modeled on the Young Germany...

 from the 1850s to the 1880s) and culminated in the 1905 Revolution. Participants in the movement were called jaunstrāvnieki.


The beginning of the New Current is usually given as 1886, when the movement's newspaper, Dienas Lapa
Dienas Lapa
Dienas Lapa was a Latvian newspaper published from 1886 to 1905. In 1893 Dienas Lapa became orientated towards Marxist and Social Democratic ideas. Dienas Lapa became a rallying point for revolutionary intellectuals in Latvia. The editors of the newspaper were Pēteris Stučka and Jānis Pliekšāns...

("The Page of the Day"), was founded by Pēteris Bisenieks, who ran the Riga
Riga is the capital and largest city of Latvia. With 702,891 inhabitants Riga is the largest city of the Baltic states, one of the largest cities in Northern Europe and home to more than one third of Latvia's population. The city is an important seaport and a major industrial, commercial,...

 Latvian Craftsmen's Credit Union. Pēteris Stučka
Peteris Stucka
Pēteris Stučka, sometimes spelt Pyotr Ivanovich Stuchka ; b. in Koknese parish, Governorate of Livonia — d. January 25, 1932 in Moscow) was the head of the Bolshevik government in Latvia during the Latvian War of Independence, one of the leaders of the New Current movement in the late 19th...

, who later headed the Latvian Bolsheviks, became the editor of Dienas Lapa in 1888. From 1891 to 1896, the paper was edited by Bisenieks and Rainis
Rainis was the pseudonym of Jānis Pliekšāns was a Latvian poet, playwright, translator, and politician. Rainis' works include the classic plays Uguns un nakts and Indulis un Ārija , and a highly regarded translation of Goethe's Faust...

 (the nom de plume of Jānis Pliekšāns). Rainis, who became Latvia's foremost dramatist and the literary figure "inseparably linked to the birth of the independent Latvian nation and the struggle for freedom" [Aivars Stranga], was also the leading figure in the New Current). Under Rainis and Stučka -- the latter was again editor in 1896-97 -- Dienas Lapa turned to socialism
Socialism is an economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy; or a political philosophy advocating such a system. "Social ownership" may refer to any one of, or a combination of, the following: cooperative enterprises,...

; shut down by the Ministry of the Interior in 1897, the paper took a moderate turn under the editorship of the philosopher and publicist Pēteris Zālīte (formerly an editor of Mājas Viesis -- see the Young Latvians
Young Latvians
Young Latvians is the term most often applied to the intellectuals of the first Latvian National Awakening , active from the 1850s to the 1880s. "Jaunlatvieši" is also sometimes translated as "New Latvians," but "Young Latvians" is the more accurate term because it was modeled on the Young Germany...

 article) between 1899 and 1903; despite its moderation under Zālīte, the paper was again shut down by the censors, re-emerging in 1905 as the Social Democratic newspaper before its permanent closure.


The historian Arveds Švābe describes the New Current as "connected to the political awakening of the Latvian working class, its first organizations, and the propagandization of socialist ideas.". Most historians point to what the painter Apsīšu Jēkabs called "the beginning of a cleft between the Latvian farmer and his farm hand" in the 1870s , and by 1897 there were 591 656 landless peasants in what is now Latvia (compared to 418 028 smallholders and their dependents). Their partial urbanization led to a growing proletariat, fertile ground for the ideas of western European socialism, and this coincided with a loss of momentum for the Young Latvians, whose ideas had been enfeebled by national romanticism as a gulf grew between the bourgeoisie
In sociology and political science, bourgeoisie describes a range of groups across history. In the Western world, between the late 18th century and the present day, the bourgeoisie is a social class "characterized by their ownership of capital and their related culture." A member of the...

 and the poor, the leading nationalists of the era having been arrested and exiled. Rainis smuggled German Marxist literature into Latvia in two pieces of luggage in 1893: the work of Karl Marx
Karl Marx
Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. His ideas played a significant role in the development of social science and the socialist political movement...

, Friedrich Engels
Friedrich Engels
Friedrich Engels was a German industrialist, social scientist, author, political theorist, philosopher, and father of Marxist theory, alongside Karl Marx. In 1845 he published The Condition of the Working Class in England, based on personal observations and research...

, and Karl Kautsky
Karl Kautsky
Karl Johann Kautsky was a Czech-German philosopher, journalist, and Marxist theoretician. Kautsky was recognized as among the most authoritative promulgators of Orthodox Marxism after the death of Friedrich Engels in 1895 until the coming of World War I in 1914 and was called by some the "Pope of...

. This "luggage with the dangerous contents," as the historian Uldis Ģērmanis called it, was the seed of the Latvian Social Democratic Party
Latvian Social Democratic Party
The Latvian Social Democratic Party was a political party in Latvia formed by a reformist wing of the Communist Party of Latvia.On 14 April 1990, a pro-independence faction under Ivars Ķezbers split off from the LKP to form the Independent Communist Party of Latvia . The main body of the LKP,...

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