The Times of the Land-Surveyors
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Kencis, with a whip in his hand and a 5 lats banknote under his arm, is featured in the centre of the coin. The following inscriptions and years are placed along the edge of the coin: 1 LATS, 2009, MERNIEKU LAIKI, 1879, and BRALI KAUDZITES.
A wheel hub is in the centre of the coin, with the characters of the novel "Mernieku laiki" ("The Times of the Land-Surveyors") placed around it and their respective names - PAVULS, SVAUKSTS, PIETUKA KRUSTINS, LIENA, OLINIETE, and PRATNIEKS - appearing along the edge of the coin.
The inscriptions LATVIJAS REPUBLIKA (Republic of Latvia) and LATVIJAS BANKA (Bank of Latvia), separated by rhombic dots.
"Mernieku laiki" ("The Times of the Land-Surveyors"), the first Latvian full-length novel, appeared in 1879 and has lost none of its topicality and popularity. The tale of land surveying in the time period from 1867 to 1873 in three Vidzeme country estates and the parishes of Vecpiebalga and Jaunpiebalga (Slatava and Cangaliena in the novel) penned by two school teachers, Reinis and Matiss Kaudzites, may seem an unlikely pot-boiler, yet the vivid characters drawn from life carry the action and, for generations of readers, seem their contemporaries.
Over the past 130 years, the names of the protagonists Svauksts, Pratnieks, Pietuka Krustins, Oliniete, Pavuls, Kencis have come to be used as common nouns to signify buffoonery, avarice, pretentious nationalism, self-righteousness, vulgarity, and other human foibles. The colourfully depicted characters were made even more eloquent by artist Eduards Brencens who illustrated the fourth edition of the novel published in 1913. Brencens spent a whole summer in Piebalga observing the locals, the particulars of their clothing as well as episodes of their everyday life and work.
Artist Laimonis Senbergs, who is from Vecpiebalga, has commemorated the 130th anniversary of the novel by transferring the characters created by the brothers Kaudzisi and Eduards Brencens to a coin.
The reverse of the coin features Pratnieks, Pavuls, Svauksts, Pietuka Krustins, Liena, and Oliniete as six spokes of a wheel: each with its own momentum yet interacting with the others. Senbergs has made clever use of the limited space in which the plot of the novel develops, ceaselessly rotating around the land surveying.
The fact that decades later the redistribution of properties, the so-called times of the land-surveyors and their dubious values are still topical is symbolised on the obverse of the coin by the Kencis character. Only the sheepskin, put under his arm by Brencens, has now been replaced by a 5 lats banknote...
For the first time ever, the Bank of Latvia is dedicating a coin to a work of fiction. The number of human figures depicted and the aspect of satire are also firsts.
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