Leksa Manush (Aleksandr Belugin) was born in Riga, Latvia on 7 February 1942. At that time, Latvia was occupied by the Nazis. He had Russian, Latvian, German, Polish and Romani roots. His grandfather was Jan Marcevič, a Polish Rom from Latgalia, southeastern Latvia. From a very early age, Aleksandr felt especially close to Romani culture.
In the 1950s his family moved to the Far East region of Russia, where his stepfather was the head of an aviation regiment. Leksa Manush finished secondary school there and then entered the Russian Far East State University. The family later moved back to Riga, where Leksa continued his studies at the Faculty of Foreign Languages of the Latvian State University. While a student in Riga, he spent a lot of time with Roma, studying Romani culture and various Romani dialects. He graduated summa cum laude with a thesis on ‘Features of Latvian Romani’, which was written in English.
In 1970 Leksa Manush married Nadezhda Shnurkova and moved to Moscow. For more than 20 years, he worked as a researcher at the Institute of Scientific Information on Social Sciences of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Leksa started publishing his Romani-language poems in the 1970s. His first collections (written in Romani but published in Russian) contained mainly poems for children. This is not surprising given that Leksa’s first child was born in 1971. Although Leksa later wrote poetry mainly for adults, his interest in children’s education did not wane. In the 1990s, he prepared an ABC for children in North Russian and Latvian Romani.
Leksa also undertook several Romani translations of various classical poems – from Russian (A. Pushkin, A. Blok etc.), Ukrainian (T. Shevchenko, I. Franko), Hungarian (Sándor Petőfi, Mihály Babits etc.) and Latvian (J. Rainis, L. Paegle etc.). In 1990 Leksa’s translation into Romani and English of the Indian epic poem Ramayana was published in Chandigarh.
In addition, Leksa published papers on Romani language and ethnography. His academic articles, translations and poems regularly appeared in Romani-related journals outside the former USSR.
Leksa Manush died in Moscow on 24 May 1997.
Мануш, Лекса. 1973. Хочу лошадку. Москва: Детская литература. [Hoču lošadku] [I want a horse]. Moskva.
Мануш, Лекса. 1976. Звёздочка. Москва: Детская литература. [Zvezdočka] [A little star]. [Moskva].
Мануш, Лекса. 1980. Повозочка. Москва: Малыш. [Povozočka] [A little carriage]. [Moskva].
Manus, Leksza. 1980. Cigány Bölcsődal [Romani Lullaby]. Cigány költők versei gyerekeknek. Budapest: Móra könyvkiadó.
Мануш, Лекса. 1990. Valmiki’s Ramayana: Romani/English translation (abridged). Chandigarh: Roma Publications.
Manuš, Leksa. 1996. Romani čhib ābeca: eksperimentāls mācību līdzeklis. [Romani ABC: Experimental teaching aid]. Rīga: Sprīdītis.
Manuš, Leksa; Neiland, Jānis; Rudevič, Kārlis. 1997. Čigānu-latviešu-angļu un latviešu-čiganu vārdnīca. [Romani-Latvian-English and Latvian-Romani Dictionary] Rīga: Zvaigzne ABC.