Asja Lācis

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Asja Lācis
Born(1891-10-19)19 October 1891
Līgatne, Governorate of Livonia, Russian Empire
Died(1979-11-21)21 November 1979
Riga, Latvian SSR
Occupationactress, theatre director, writer
GenreEpic theatre
SpouseJūlijs Lācis, Bernard Reich

Anna "Asja" Lācis (née Liepiņa; Russian: Анна 'Ася' Эрнестовна Лацис, Anna 'Asya' Ernestovna Latsis; German: Asja Lazis; October 19, 1891 – November 21, 1979) was a Latvian actress and theatre director.


A Bolshevik, in the twenties she became famous for her proletarian theatre troupes for children and agitprop in Soviet Russia and Latvia. She believed that children's theater could be used as the cornerstone for the children's general education, which was especially important with poor, proletarian children who often had little or no other educational opportunities.[1]

In 1922 she moved to Germany where she got to know Bertolt Brecht and Erwin Piscator, to whom she introduced the ideas of Vsevolod Meyerhold and Vladimir Mayakovsky.

In 1924 she met the German philosopher and critic Walter Benjamin in Capri, and the duo would have an intermittent affair for the next several years as he visited her in Moscow and Riga. She has been cited as a factor in Benjamin's embracing Marxism.[2] In 1928, Benjamin dedicated a collection of essays to her.[3]

In 1938 during Stalin's Great Purge she was deported to Siberia. Lācis returned to Soviet Latvia in 1948[3] and spent her old age together with her husband, the German theatre critic Bernhard Reich. 1948–57 she was the main director of Valmiera Drama Theatre and used the leftist avantgarde technics in her stage productions. Her daughter Dagmāra Ķimele depicted Asja in her memoirs in 1996 as a selfish and unloving mother.

Lācis' granddaughter is the acclaimed Latvian theatre director Māra Ķimele.



  • Ingram, Susan (2002). "The Writing of Asja Lacis". New German Critique. 86 (86): 159–177. doi:10.2307/3115205. JSTOR 3115205.(via JSTOR)
  • Latsis, Anna (1984). Krasnaia gvozdika: Vospominaniia (in Russian). Riga: Liesma. OCLC 13003307.(memoirs)
  • Ķimele, Dagmāra and Strautmane, Gunta. Asja: režisores Annas Lāces dēkainā dzīve [Asja: The Stormy Life of the director Anna Lāce]. Riga: Likteņstāsti, 1996.
  • Asja Lascis, Revolutionär in Beruf: Berichte über proletarisches Theater, über Meyerhold, Brecht, Benjamin und Piscator. Munich: Rogner & Bernhard, 1971.