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ETHNIC MINORITIES OF LATVIA:

HISTORICAL OVERVIEW

 

 

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.

 

Periods of German Inhabitants in Latvia

First 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 the Daugava 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.

Second 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.

Third 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 1721, Russia 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 Baltic provinces.

Fourth 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 history.

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 in Russia.

Contribution 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 century, Riga 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.

The Baltic German Minority in the Republic of Latvia: A Difficult Transition

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 Estonia's 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 and Estonia. 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 Germans unjustified.

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 independent Latvia.

Participation 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 different organisations."

Forced Emigration

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 annexation.

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.

President Ulmanis' 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 Latvia 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!"

After Latvia's 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 Hitler.

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 of Science.

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.

The 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.

Jacob Kettler (1610-1682) - Duke of Kurzeme and Zemgale (1642-1682). Son of Duke Wilhelm. Studied at University of Rostock and University 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.

Ernst Biron (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.

Hamilkar 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).

Paul Schiemann (1876-1944) - the most famous Baltic German liberal democrat politician of the 20th century. Studied law in Berlin, Marburg, Koenigsberg, and Bonn. 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 "Rigasche Rundschau" ("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: The Latvian Institute (logo)