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Aspazija in 1912
Born (1865-03-16)16 March 1865
Zaļenieku parish, Russian Empire
(Now Latvia)
Died 5 November 1943(1943-11-05) (aged 78)
Rīga, Ostland (Now Latvia)
Occupation Poetess
Spouse(s) Rainis

Aspazija was the pen name of Elza Pliekšāne (born Elza Rozenberga; March 16, 1865 – November 5, 1943 in Riga), a Latvian poet and playwright. Aspazija is the Latvian transliteration of Aspasia.


Aspazija was born and raised in wealthy peasant family near Jelgava in 1865, where she studied and was active in youth organizations. In later years she became interested in literature. While participating in New Current (Jaunā strāva) activities, she met one of its leaders, Jānis Pliekšāns (better known as Rainis), a newspaper editor, poet, and lawyer at that time. The couple married in 1897. For a short while they lived in Panevėžys, Lithuania. Rainis was imprisoned and later sentenced to five years in exile in Russia from 1897–1903 and Aspazija followed him. They returned to Latvia and wrote, while Rainis also participated in socialist politics. The1905 Revolution began with protests in St. Petersburg in January. Within days protests spread to Riga and many were killed on January 13, 1905. Aspazijas play "Vaidelote" (The Vestal) opened in January and was interpreted to be a call to break free of Imperialist Russia. (Rainis also published a collection of opens published, Vētras Sēja (The Sowing of the Storm) which were poems of the Revolution.) The czar directed a crack-down and many revolutionaries were arrested and killed in 1905-6. Therefore, Rainis and Aspazija traveled to Switzerland and lived in exile from 1905–1920. When they returned to independent Latvia after World War I, she was active in the feminist movement. Aspazija also joined the Latvian Social Democratic Workers' Party.

Aspazija's home in Dubulti

Literary works[edit]

Aspazija's first works are realistic, but most of her work is neo-romantic. Some are a nostalgic look to the past. For example, the play Vaidelote (a female servant to gods in Lithuanian mythology), written in 1894, takes place in the 14th century Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The plays Simple Rights and Unattained Goals provoked many discussions because of their protest against the patriarchal society. The play Silver Veil (Sidraba šķidrauts) is considered to be her best work. In 1923 she wrote a play titled Aspazija.

In the poetry compilation Red Flowers, simple and ordinary things are viewed in a romantic light. At the same time, her poems are full of light, fantasy, and rebellious moods. In Soul's Twilight (1904), pessimistic moods take over.

While living abroad, Aspazija wrote the poetry compilations Sunny Corner and Spread Wings, which have fewer social aspects and more intimate text, less rebellion against society, and more personal feelings.