Germans in Latvia
By Leo Dribins,
(Institute of Philosophy and Sociology)
From the beginning of the 13th
century to 1939, a considerable number of Germans lived in the territory of Latvia. At the beginning of the 14th
century, approximately 15,000 Germans lived in the Latvian part of Livonia - that is, about
5% of the local inhabitants. At the turn of the 18th-19th
century, there were approximately 60,000 Germans, or 7% of the population; 35,000
of them lived in Kurzeme (Courland)
and Zemgale and constituted 8.4% of the population.
According to the census of 1897, there were 120,191 Germans, or 6.2% of the
population. After that, the number of Germans decreased. In 1925
approximately 70,000 Germans (almost 4% of the inhabitants) lived in Latvia, but by 1939, before their exodus from Latvia,
there were only about 62,000 Germans (3.2%).
Although Germans were a minority in Latvia,
they were the ruling class until the end of the 19th century. The
German gentry, clergy, and urban high society constituted this ruling class,
which subjugated the native inhabitants - Latvians, Livs,
and others - for more than 600 years. German economic influence lasted even
longer, until 1919, when the large manors were liquidated.
The German-formed states of the Livonian
confederation and the Duchy of Kurzeme have left an
indelible mark in Latvia's
history. For a short period in the 15th and 16th
century, Livonia was associated with the
German part of the Holy Roman Empire.
For these and other reasons, the German group
developed as the legal ruling class. Until the second half of the 19th
century, Germans were in the majority in the large cities of Vidzeme, Zemgale, and Kurzeme, but Latvians were a distinct minority both in a
demographic and legal sense.
of German Inhabitants in Latvia
Period (12th-16th century)
The first period began in the second half of
the 12th century, when the first commercial ships from Bremen, Lubeck,
and half-German Visby arrived at the mouth of
River. At first the
traders stayed only during the summer months, but later they wintered here
and established permanent dwellings. Christian missionaries arrived in 1180
and established contact with the native Latvians and Livs.
The monk Meinhard from Bremen, together with his assistants and
bodyguards, founded the first German colony and built the castle and church
at Ikskile. His successor, Bishop
Bertold, called on the Crusaders to aid in his
mission and protect him, but he was killed by the spear of Imants in 1198. The third bishop from Bremen
was Albert Buxhovden, who recruited approximately
500 Crusaders and merchants, chiefly from Westphalia and north-western Germany,
and transported them in 23 ships to the mouth of the Daugava
in the summer of 1200. The following year the foundations of Riga were laid. Sea
traders, sailors, craftsmen, soldiers and their aides flooded into Riga. The Crusaders'
campaign resulted in the forcible conversion of ancient Latvian and Liv tribes by the end of the 13th century.
Castles for the conquerors were built near the villages and homes of native
inhabitants. In the Middle Ages Germans built seven cities and walled towns,
as well as many castles, in the Latvian section of the Baltic region: Riga, Cesis, Valmiera, Limbazi, Koknese, Straupi, and Ventspils.
The attitude of the conquerors and immigrants
toward the local population was not violent and domineering. Until the 16th
century, German barons and their officials invited native farmers to their
celebrations, often frequented Latvian and Liv
homesteads as wedding guests, and exchanged gifts. About half of the army of Wolter von Plettenberg, the
eminent statesman and master of the Livonian Order, were of Latvian or
Estonian origin. Together with German mercenaries, they bravely repulsed an
attack by the troops of Ivan III and saved Livonia.
Period (16th-17th century)
The second period lasted from the 16th
century to the end of the 17th century. It is chiefly
characterised by the manorial system composed of the knights of the Order,
wealthy German city dwellers, and officials. Country squires gained
possession of the land, as well as the farmers, and dictated their residence
and responsibilities on the estate. A sharp division between German landlords
and Latvian farmers developed during this period; the word "German"
became synonymous with "oppressor." However, not all Germans
supported or participated in the exploitation of Latvians.
The dissemination of the teachings of Martin
Luther throughout the Baltic region brought great changes to the Germans.
Most of them became Lutherans. The new Lutheran ministers began to preach
also in Latvian and to publish religious literature in Latvian. This
initiative culminated at the end of the 17th century in the
translation of the Bible into Latvian by Ernst Gluck, a minister from Aluksne. Thus, thanks to the German clergy, a certain
degree of co-operation began between the German and Latvian clergy.
Previously, the farmers had been only nominally Christian because their
families adhered to the pagan traditions of their ancestors.
At the end of the 16th century and
the beginning of the 17th century, many Germans died in wars. That
caused a new wave of German immigration, this time from the Protestant
regions of northern and central Germany; Catholics were not
interested in coming to the Baltics. The majority
of the newcomers settled in the Duchy of Kurzeme;
they included merchants, shipmen, various professional craftsmen,
manufacturers, apothecaries, doctors, teachers, and clergy. The number of
German immigrants to Vidzeme was smaller. Great
changes occurred in the language of Baltic Germans - Low German was replaced
by High German, which prevailed in the Lutheran regions.
Period (18th century)
The beginning of the third period was
determined by the outcome of the Northern War - Sweden's
defeat by Russia
and the annexation of Vidzeme to the empire of
Peter the Great. By the terms of Riga's
capitulation in 1710 and the Treaty of Nystad in
again confirmed the privileges of the German elite in town and country. As a
result, the 18th-century German elite gained more power over the
native Latvian inhabitants than it had ever had.
Still, even among Germans there were those who
opposed this slaverylike regime and sought to help
their Latvian compatriots. For example, the Herrnhuters
from Saxony were models of humanitarianism
as they strove to educate farmers and encouraged them to be socially active
and to defend their self-respect. Among the leading supporters of Latvians
were German philosophers in Vidzeme, such as Johann
Georg Eisen (1717-1779), Heinrich Johann Jannau (1753-1821), Karl Philip Snell (1753-1806), and
especially Garlieb Merkel (1769-1850), the first
notable awakener of Latvian self-consciousness. In the second half of the 18th
century, many local German literati published books and calendars in Latvian.
Gothard Friedrich Stender
(1714-1796), a minister in Kurzeme, was
particularly loved and respected among educated Latvians.
On the whole, however, the inhuman aspects of
serfdom determined the relations between Latvians and Germans. That
relationship was not materially affected by changes in demographics. After
losses in the Northern War and the plague epidemic, a new wave of immigrants
came into Vidzeme and Kurzeme,
many of them from the lower stratum of society who had to work for a living.
They constituted a rural class of poor Germans - the so-called Kleindeutsche who lived near a manor and worked at
various trades. In Kurzeme alone there were
approximately 15,000. In the cities, the number of apprentices and unskilled
workers increased; a low-income class of intelligentsia also developed.
An unusual event in the annals of 18th-century
German history was the formation in Vidzeme of a
colony of German farmers from Pfalz; they came at
the invitation of Empress Catherine II. The Hirschenhof
colony was founded in 1766 by 85 German families, but by 1914 there were
approximately 8,000 residents. These German colonists established friendly
relations with neighbouring farmers. The colonists also learned and sometimes
adopted Latvian life style and traditions. This camaraderie was possible
because the Germans and Latvians were of the same social class.
Even when many of Baltic Germans moved to St.Petersburg and became high-level government officials,
generals, and ministers, they did not forget their estates in Latvia and Estonia and sought to preserve
the privileges of German landlords.
Since the days of Peter I, German landlords and
city homeowners (Burgerschaft) enjoyed autonomy in
using their native language and establishing their own legislative and
judicial system. This autonomy prevailed also in KUrland
and Zemgale, and it strengthened German power in Russia's
Period (19th century – 1914)
The fourth period in Germany's
social history in Latvia
began at the turn of the 18th and 19th century and
ended in 1914 with the start of World War I. It commenced with the
unification of all Baltic Germans within the Russian empire. A strong sense
of community was forged among them. They regarded this region as their
homeland and felt responsible for it. A regional Baltic German association
expressed this nationalistic stance while, at the same time, remaining loyal
to the Russian tsar.
A major factor in forging this sense of Baltic
German unity was the fact that in 1802 Tartu University
gained the status of an autonomous German institution of higher learning. The
cream of Baltic German intelligentsia studied there. Some of the graduates
went to Russia,
but others remained to serve in their homeland. Thus, Baltic Germans gained a
powerful intellectual corps.
In the first half of the 19th
century, a significant change occurred in relations between Baltic Germans on
one hand and Latvians and Estonians on the other. The conservative landlords
wanted to maintain their power over farmers even after the abolition of
serfdom in 1817 and 1819, and they achieved their aim by establishing the corvee system; consequently, social friction grew and
became increasingly confrontational. Meanwhile, the Baltic German
intelligentsia tried to establish contact with Latvians in the spheres of
culture and education in order to help them become knowledgeable and free.
German ministers and teachers were especially active in this regard. In 1822
they established "Latweeschu Awizes" ("Latvian Newspapers") in Jelgava (editors were K.Watson,
J.Koeler, J.Richter); in
1849 they formed the Latvian Literary Society, also called "The Latvian
Society of Friends". The German minister August Bielenstein
(1826-1907), together with like-minded colleagues, contributed greatly to the
study of the Latvian language, as well as its folklore, ethnography, and
The Latvians' chief demand was radical agrarian
reform. In the 1840s farmers began to organise protests against laws that
curtailed their right to own private property and
against the policies of German landlords in general. This crisis precipitated
a split of the landlords into conservatives and reformers. The leader of the
reformers was the land marshal of Vidzeme, Hamilkar von Folkersahm
(1811-1856), an outstanding personality who has also been called "the
Mirabeau of Vidzeme". In 1847 he succeeded in
getting the provincial assembly to pass a new land law which separated the
property of landlords and farmers, which allowed farmers to pay rent instead
of being subject to corvee, and which gave farmers
the right to acquire their own property from the landlord. With the
construction of factories and industry in the mid-19th century,
there was an influx of new German immigrants - factory owners, businessmen,
engineers, technicians, experts, and foremen.
Educated Latvians who had become germanised
swelled the number of German inhabitants. Such a trend first became evident
in the 18th century and increased markedly in the first half of
the 19th century. By the end of the 19th century, these
assimilated Latvians constituted approximately 10% of the total number of
Baltic Germans. This percentage would have continued to increase if it had
not been countered by a strongly nationalistic movement among Latvian youth
in the 1860s. This movement awakened and strengthened Latvian self-consciousness
and began to shape the country as an independent national entity. Step by
step, from 1870 to 1890, the autonomy of Baltic Germans was curtailed by the
edicts of the Russian tsar. City and regional administrative and legal
affairs passed into the hands of Russian officials.
The Revolution of 1905 in Russia triggered tragic social and political
changes for Baltic Germans in Latvia.
Armed conflict broke out between Latvian revolutionaries and Baltic German
landlords; also, about 500 manors were burned. In retaliation, the tsar sent
a punitive expedition, which the landlords used to carry out their own
vengeful acts. Harmonious coexistence was shattered; as a result, many
landlords and their families fled to cities or relocated to Germany.
At the same time, two German landlords in Kurzeme - Karl Manteuffel and Silvio Broederich- organised a
party of German farmers to immigrate to the vacated estates. Between 1906 and
1914, approximately 15,000 German farmers, chiefly from the Ukraine and Wolin,
settled in Kurzeme. This action aggravated the
social and national conflicts.
In the pre-Revolution years, Baltic Germans
achieved notable commercial success in cities. As German enterprises grew,
profits increased. In Riga,
German apartment owners constructed magnificent new dwellings in the
fashionable Art Nouveau style. German cultural life also flourished.
This golden era ended when World War I began.
When the front approached Latvia,
many Baltic Germans were forced to leave. In the cities they were removed
from their administrative positions. When the German army entered the
country, most of the remaining Baltic Germans sided with the occupants,
especially after the February revolution and October coup d'etat
of Baltic Germans to Science
Among the Baltic Germans were many highly
educated persons; they included outstanding scientists who contributed
significantly to the history of science in Europe.
In Latvia they earned a
place of honour because their achievements in research and the dissemination
of their findings played a major role in the development of education in Latvia.
The first scientific treatise on natural
phenomena was published in Riga in 1632 by the
professors of the Dome
School; it was in
Latin. In the 18th century, the centre of science was in Jelgava because in 1775 Duke Ernst Biron
founded the Academy Petrina, which became the
regional centre for the sciences. In 1815 the professors of this Academy also
established the Courland Society of Literature and Art. Their members included
notable natural scientists, such as M.G.Pauker, K.Baer, W.Struve, D.H.Grindelis, G.Parrot, A.J.von Krusenstern, J.C.Brotze, G.Merkel, and O.Huhn. The most distinguished member was the physicist
and chemist Theodor Grothuss (1785-1822). He laid
the foundation of photochemistry, worked out the predicted reactions between
iron and rhodium and between cobalt and rhodium, and made many discoveries.
At the turn of the 18th and 19th
was known as the hub of scientific activity. The leading figure was physicist
Georg Friedrich Parrot (1767-1852), the founder and first president of Tartu University. One of his students was Davids Hieronims Grindelis (1776-1836), the first natural scientist of
Latvian origin; he was a chemist, pharmacist, botanist, and doctor.
Thanks to Baltic German manufacturers and
merchants, the Riga Polytechnicum - later called
the Riga Polytechnic Institute - was founded in 1862. It supported research
in various fields of engineering and technology, as well as chemistry, biology,
and agriculture. Wilhlelm Ostwald (1853-1932), the
son of a Riga
barrel maker, laid the scientific foundations of chemistry and achieved
distinction as a philosopher. As a professor of the Riga Polytechnicum
from 1881 to 1887, he invented numerous pieces of laboratory equipment, such
as the Ostwald viscosity meter, the Ostwald thermoregulator,
and the Ostwald gas stove. He also discovered the basic laws of the
homogeneous catalysis of acids and bases. In 1909 Ostwald was awarded the
Nobel Prize; he was the only Latvia's
scientist to receive this honour.
Another distinguished German from Riga was Friedrich Zander (1887-1933), who graduated from the Mechanics
Department of Riga Polytechnic Institute in 1914 and remained there to pursue
research which culminated in the construction of the first rocket.
Hundreds of Baltic Germans achieved distinction
as scientists and educators in the academies and universities of central
Europe and Russia.
In Latvia itself, there was an impressive array
of Baltic German professors at the University of Latvia (UL), which was
established in 1919: Leonid Arbuzov, Jr.
(historian, at UL 1922-1936); Karl Blacher (heat
engineer and chemistry technologist, at UL 1920-1939); Alwil
Buchholtz (geodesist, at UL 1920-1944); Paul Denffer (mechanical engineer, at UL 1919-1929); Ernst Fehrman (microbiologist, at UL 1919-1939); August Loeber, legal specialist and member of Latvia's Senate.
Baltic German Minority in the Republic
of Latvia: A Difficult
In October and November of 1918, Baltic German
landlords, with the support of the occupying German army, made preparations
to establish their own country in the territory
of Latvia and Estonia. The Allies did not
recognise the legitimacy of the Baltic German scheme; instead, they supported
the desire of Latvia's and
Social Democratic Party to establish independent republics. The Latvian
People's Council and the Cabinet invited all minorities to participate on a
proportional basis in the newly created government. The Baltic Germans
rejected the offer and demanded greater representation in government and
equal status for the German language.
The majority of Baltic Germans were shocked by
the fact that they would no longer be rulers in Latvia but as a minority
would have to bow to the will of the majority--the Latvian nation. Loss of
their privileged status seemed tantamount to annihilation. Many Baltic
Germans feared that the national Latvian government would be intolerant and
would demand reparations for past injustices and offences by the German
barons. Many others doubted the ability of the Latvian intelligentsia to
govern the country without the dominant role of Germans.
At the same time, the Baltic German elite was actively involved in organising armed resistance to
the Bolshevik army. The National Guard - the Landeswehr
- was formed from Baltic German volunteers.
In the Bolshevik-occupied sections of Latvia,
where the Communist regime of Peters Stucka had
control, the Baltic German gentry, clergy, and citizenry suffered grievously
for their anti-Soviet stance. In Riga
almost half of the death sentences of the revolutionary tribunal were
pronounced against Baltic Germans, and many were shot as hostages.
For that reason, the German Landeswehr
and the auxiliary troops sent from Germany
fought against the Bolshevik army in Latvia with exceptional
fierceness. They liberated Kurzeme and Riga, but in these campaigns innocent people were also
killed, especially in Riga.
This "collateral damage" exacerbated Baltic German-Latvian
relations. It also had an adverse effect on the coup d'etat
against President Ulmanis planned by the Baltic
German elite and carried out by the Landeswehr
attack force in Liepaja
on April 16, 1919. The puppet regime of Andrievs Niedra was actually ruled by the Baltic German elite.
Thus began sharp conflicts between the national forces of Baltic Germans and
those of Latvians and Estonians. They culminated in the historic battles of Cesis on June 22-24, 1919. The victory of the Estonian
army and the Latvian brigade of north Vidzeme
secured the national integrity of Latvia
Because the Allies supported the independence of the Baltic States, the
Baltic German elite were forced to renounce their plans for taking over Latvia and Estonia,
and they had to content themselves with finding their place within the Republic of Latvia.
In the summer of 1919, the political leadership
of the Baltic Germans changed. The liberal politician Paul Schiemann became the head of their National Committee; he
was in favour of compromising with Latvian national forces on the basis of
the principles of democracy and tolerance.
Baltic Germans suffered a heavy blow from the
agrarian reforms of September 1920, which expropriated without compensation
the lands of Baltic German landowners and gave them to Latvian farmers. Such
was the climax of the centuries-long confrontation between Baltic German
barons and Latvians; such was the will of the native majority. It should be
noted that in 1925 the United Nations found the complaint of the Baltic
The massive expropriation of German lands,
however, did not cause the collapse of the Baltic German community. It
remained intact and assumed an important role in the social life of
in Building Latvia
On February 12, 1920, Baltic German political
groups formed a new centre for the Baltic German Committee, whose leaders
were P.Schiemann and conservative wing
representative W.von Friks. This centre stimulated
Baltic Germans to participate actively in Latvia's Constitutional
Convention elections in 1920 and the four Saeima
elections between 1922 and 1931. At that time, Latvia's Parliament included a
united Baltic German faction with five or six deputies (out of 100). They
presented many constructive proposals. The Baltic Germans Edwin Magnus and
Robert Erhard served as Ministers of Justice and Finance, respectively, or
the most part, however, the Baltic German fraction was in the opposition.
Many Baltic Germans immigrated to Germany.
According to Edgars Andersons' book on Latvia's
foreign policy, "The German minority had continuously decreased. In
1925, Germans in Latvia
numbered 70,964, but in 1935 only 62,144; in subsequent years their numbers
continued to decrease. 82.2% of Germans lived in cities; in the capital, Riga, they constituted
10% of the total population. Of German workers, 34% were engaged in
manufacturing, 21% in commerce, and 19% in agriculture. Although Germans
constituted only 3.2% of the total population, 18.6% were engaged in the
self-supporting professions and education, and 16.5% were engaged in health
care. Germans in Latvia
were highly educated. In Latvia
there were 72 elementary schools with 6,502 pupils; 30 of them were
subsidised by the state, and 42 were supported by private organisations or
individuals. In 1937 there were also 8 secondary schools (mostly state
supported) with 1,216 students, as well as one private German college - the
Herder Institute. Germans also had the highest percentage of those who
pursued higher education. Five German deputies in the Saeima
delivered their speeches in German although they all knew Latvian. In
general, 80% of Germans were fluent in Latvian. Germans had approximately 150
Beginning in 1933, events in Germany--namely, Hitler's establishing of the
National Socialist Party's dictatorship - affected the integration of Baltic
Germans in Latvia.
The aim of Nazism was to subjugate to the interests of Germany the German minorities
living abroad - specifically, to use them to exert pressure on neighbouring
countries or even to subvert these countries from within.
In the spring of 1933, a Nazist
group led by Erhard Kroeger and officially dubbed
"The Movement" (Bewegung) emerged among
the Baltic Germans in Riga.
The Nazis succeeded in progressively excluding liberal and democratic persons
from Baltic German society, such as P.Schiemann,
and even conservatives. It tried to persuade those loyal to Latvia, such as W.von Riediger, L.Scheler, and W.Wachtsmuth, that Hitler was also the leader of Baltic
Germans and that they had to obey all his edicts.
Many Baltic Germans, such as the famous lawyer Loeber, rejected this viewpoint and affirmed their
allegiance to the Latvian state. However, their voices were increasingly
drowned out by floods of Nazi propaganda. The propaganda intensified in
proportion to Hitler's success in partitioning Europe: the annexation of Austria and the partitioning and annexation of
Czechoslovakia to Greater
Germany, and the Klaipeda
The authoritarian government of K.Ulmanis indirectly facilitated the success of Nazi
propaganda because his administration accented the Latvianisation
of the country's economy and culture; accordingly, the autonomy of German
schools was revoked, the Baltic German Great Guild and Small Guild were
confiscated, 14 German business organizations were closed, acquisition of
real estate was curtailed, and censorship was imposed on the Baltic German
press. At the same time, the Ulmanis administration
did nothing to offend German pride directly, and it treated representatives
of Baltic Germans with respect. Thus, Baltic Germans continued their
educational and cultural activities.
attempts to achieve harmony with the Baltic German minority came to an abrupt
end on August 23, 1939, when Germany
and the USSR signed a
secret nonaggression pact, the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact, which designated
spheres of influence in Eastern Europe - Latvia was assigned to Stalin's
Red Empire. On September 28, 1939, the Foreign Minister of Germany, J.von
Ribbentrop, and his counterpart V.Molotov, the
Foreign Minister of the USSR,
signed a secret protocol regarding German emigration from territories within
the Soviet sphere of influence. On October 30, 1939, a special treaty was
signed between Germany and
concerning the emigration of Baltic Germans and the liquidation of their
educational, cultural, and religious institutions. The Nazis succeeded in
getting the Baltic Germans to abandon their homes and homeland in haste,
disposing of their belongings at cut-rate prices. Between the end of 1939 and
the beginning of 1940, more than 51,000 Germans left Latvia on German ships. However,
approximately 10,000 Baltic Germans chose to remain. P.Schiemann
sent the Latvian government a personal letter affirming his intent remain in
his only homeland because he felt rooted in it. He ended his letter with the
words of the national anthem: "God, bless Latvia!"
forcible incorporation into the USSR,
10,500 more persons left; all together, more than 60,000 Germans and their
families left Latvia
between 1939 and 1941. Only about 1,500 Baltic Germans remained. Such was the
tragic end of the Germans' 700-year-long presence in our land. Such was the
result of the secret pact between two totalitarian powers.
The subsequent fate of Baltic Germans was grievous. During World War II, approximately 8,000 Baltic
Germans died - many as soldiers, others as refugees. Among Baltic Germans
were those who supported the Nazi regime and those who actively opposed
In 1963, there were approximately 42,000
Germans from Latvia and Estonia in West
Germany, and approximately 10,000 in East Germany. At the beginning of
the Awakening Movement, many of them visited their homeland; after the
regaining of independence, they did so even more frequently. They have been a
valuable resource in matters of education and culture. Although he lived in Hamburg, Andrew Dietrich Loeber
was so active in Latvia
that he was elected as a foreign member of the Latvian Academy
Currently, the Baltic German community consists
of approximately 400 persons. Close to 500 persons from mixed Latvian-German
marriages have expressed their allegiance to the German cultural sphere and
are active in various Latvian-German cultural associations. In addition, more
than 3,000 Russian Germans have made Latvia their home. Their leaders
have formed an association called "Wiedergeburt
in Lettland" ("Rebirth in Latvia").
However, these people, who were banished from their homeland on the Volga,
need to find a way to become integrated into the society of independent Latvia.
Most Notable German Statesmen and Politicians in Latvia's History
Wolter von Plettenberg (c.1450-1535) – military commander and
statesman. Born into a noble family in Westphalia.
Since 1482 the responsible official of the Livonian Order - advocate for the Rezekne region, land marshal of the Order. Since 1494
grand master of the Order. Caused heavy casualties to Russians in 1501-1502
war with Moscow, especially in battle at Molina Lake on September 13, 1502. Signed a
truce with Moscow which ensured Livonia 56 years of
peace and prosperity.
(1610-1682) - Duke of Kurzeme and Zemgale (1642-1682). Son of Duke Wilhelm. Studied at University of Rostock
of Leipzig. Became
governor, promoted the development of manufacturing and commerce. With the
help of experts from Holland built the harbour
and shipyard at Ventspils, created a powerful fleet,
acquired St. Andrew's Island in Gambia
and Tobago Island as colonies. Became vassal of Poland
in 1658, captured by Swedish army, deported to Ivangorod
after the war, returned to Jelgava in 1660 but was
unable to rebuild the shattered economy.
(1690-1772) - Duke of Kurzeme and Zemgale (1737-1769). Born in Kalnciems
into a military family. Studied at Koenigsberg.
Began his brilliant career as the secretary and favourite of Duchess Anna and
became the manager of her affairs. In large measure conducted the empire's
policies when Anna ruled as Empress of Russia (1730-1740). Arrested in 1740
and exiled. Released in 1761 and with the support of Catherine II regained rulership of the Duchy of Courland in 1763. Promoted the
development of the duchy's capital and general economy. Initiated the
building of Jelgava
Castle and Rundale Castle according to the design of
Italian architect B.Rastrelli. In 1769 turned power
over to his son Peter.
von Folkersahm (1811-1856) - leader of the
liberal wing of Vidzeme landowners. Studied
philosophy in Berlin
(one of his professors was Hegel). From 1847-1856 was country councillor of Vidzeme. From 1848-1851 was land marshal. As the official
representative of landowners, succeeded in securing the passage of
legislation favourable to farmers in the Baltic. In 1850 became the first
president of the farmers' tenancy bank (financing for buying back land).
(1876-1944) - the most famous Baltic German liberal democrat politician of
the 20th century. Studied law in Berlin,
Received doctorate (J.D.) in 1902. Since 1903 active in journalism in Tallinn and Riga.
Combated chauvinism and violence. In 1919, member of Latvian People's
Council; in 1920 elected to the Constitutional Assembly; elected as deputy in
all Saeima sessions between 1922 and 1933; also
member of Riga's City Council for a time. Managing editor of the newspaper
("Riga Review") from 1919 to 1933. From 1925 vice president of Europe's Minority Congress. Lived in Vienna
from 1933 to 1938, advocated unification of Europe
on the principles of democracy and tolerance. Opponent of Fascism, Nazism,
and Bolshevism. During the German occupation, sheltered in his apartment the
Jew Valentine Freiman, who subsequently became a
well-known film critic.
Originally published by: