“Nation” in Lao Literature after National and Democratic Revolution in 1975.

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Umarin Tularak


The National and Democratic Revolution in 1975 was the period of political reform, which brought about the changes of political system from a kingdom into a democratic republic. Although that period ended a long time ago, it doesn’t mean that the revolution has ended because the National and Democratic Revolution is not the final goal of the revolution. On the other hand, the heart of revolution is changing the country into a socialism, which will bring about developments and changes in economics, society, and culture. Moreover, the changes result in the development of the quality of population. All policies are based on two objectives, namely leading the country to ideal socialism and creating new socialist man.  Social changes, resulted from the changes of political system, causes problems after the war. The open to foreign cultures and the changes of economic system or the New Thinking Policy that lead the country to the capitalism, are the main reasons why the government has to be careful in making decisions so that the stability and the unity of the nation can be created.  The concepts of nation and nationalism are the important mechanisms for developing people’s attitudes, which will be correlated with the national visions with an aim to strengthen the government’s roles. These have been done by defining the Lao nation and national identity differently from the other nations. This implies that the country wants to separate itself from the other countries by creating the feeling of strangeness or the feeling of being foes or friends. These have been done to arouse the nationalistic feelings and the unity of the society. The process of doing these comprises many steps like defining or creating symbols such as monuments, sculptures, national anthem, and national flag, etc. Defining the nation is a part of the process of strengthening the nation. It creates the feeling of pride of one’s own nation and the feeling of unity, which bring about the power and strength of the country in the flow of changes in the period of globalization. Thus, Lao literature after National and Democratic Revolution have played a vital role in defining the “nation” to relate people’s ideas in the society to the main stream of national concepts.  The things that influence the concepts of nation in literature are the party’s and the country’s policies about concepts and culture. The policies influence the socialist realism literature with the creations of unique themes of literature like allowing characters of all social classes to have roles and responsibilities as the country’s population. This is the way to relate literature to the real life. Thus, identities and concepts from this kind of literature are not the real phenomenon, but they are the ideal goals that the country wants its people to reach. As a result, the presentations of images in literature are the creations of national identities for building an imagined community. The identities are created and they are written to be accepted by people in the literature discourse. Thus, it is expected that Lao people will follow these model identities.  The literature that is analyzed in this study is a part of Lao literature after National and Democratic Revolution from 1976 to the present time which is called the socialist realism literature. This includes both the new literature and the literature that is reproduced from the revolutionary literature.  The concept of nationalism is an important concept that has been transmitted through the nation-related themes of literature. Although the Lao government have equally emphasized on both nationalism and socialism, the nationalism seems to be dominantly presented through different types of government’s media. The concepts of nation appeared in every period of the country, but its most powerful definition in discourse happened during the political crisis, which was the National and Democratic Revolution from 1945 to 1975 and during the Socialist Revolution from 1976 to the present time. Although the literature is less reproduced, the concepts of nationalism are still regularly presented.  The emphasis of revolution and the presentations of the concepts of nation are the writing styles of the revolutionary literature, created in the Lao Issara zone, which is a nationality-based literature. The themes of this type of literature are about the roles of people in doing things for the nation and in freeing the country to the better political system. Even though some stories were about love stories, the theme of sacrifying life for the nation is still the main theme of the story. At the end of the story, whether the main characters will be successful in love or not, the hopes for victory and better society will be always presented.  Thus, the word “nation” as mentioned in this study is not the same thing to the word “country” although the word “country” in many contexts is used to cover the meaning of the word “nation.” Apart from showing the differences of Laos from the other countries, the nationhood in literature also consists of many other factors. For example, the definition that Lao is a unique nation, which is the thing that people should be proud of. Lao people need to be Laos and they have to love their own nation. If one forgets that he is a Lao person, it means that he forgets his nationhood. Moreover, the contemporary Lao literature after the revolution presents that national concepts comprise some main factors, namely people’s fondness of their nation, the protection of the nation and its freedom, believing in the main national institutions such as the leader, the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party, the nation, and developing new society and creating new socialist man.  In addition, there are some definitions of the word “nation” or “nationhood” in literature, which cover many things that lead to the construction of national identity. These definitions are that Laos is a beautiful country and abundant with natural resources. It has unique culture that should be proud of. It has its own long history, which is the history of fighting for freedom. The victory of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party brought about the country’s freedom. Normal people become the owners of the country and there is no more oppression as it used to be. Moreover, Laos has the party that will lead the country to the ideal prosperity, and Lao people love their own nation and are conscientious.  As a result, the nationhood in Lao literature is not only a country with specific territory, but it consists of the unity of people in the country and the national identity.   Consequently, the concepts of nation in literature are discourses that are created by the government through a group of writers who are elites in the society. The concepts have been transferred from one generation to another with the purpose to build a sense of belonging in the same nation of the people in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. Then, the concepts of nation are related to the creation of imagined community of people in the society. Thus, it is impossible not to talk about the concepts of imagined community, identity and discourse in the society when considering the definitions of nation in Lao literature.

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Tularak, U. (2013). “Nation” in Lao Literature after National and Democratic Revolution in 1975. Journal of Mekong Societies, 1(3), 121–147. Retrieved from https://so03.tci-thaijo.org/index.php/mekongjournal/article/view/10617