December 2, 1825|
Ārlava parish, Russian Empire (now Valdgale parish, Courland, Latvia)
|Died||December 7, 1891
Moscow, Russian Empire (now Russia)
|Occupation||Editor, politician, folklorist|
Krišjānis Valdemārs (in Germanized spelling as Christian Waldemar or Woldemar) (December 2, 1825 at "Vecjunkuri" in the Ārlava parish (now Valdgale parish, Courland, Latvia) – December 7, 1891 in Moscow, Russia) was a writer, editor, educator, politician, lexicographer, folklorist and economist, the spiritual leader of The First Latvian National Awakening and the most prominent member of the Young Latvians movement.
Krišjānis Valdemārs was born in December 2, 1825 at "Vecjunkuri" homestead, Ārlava parish (now Valdgale parish, Courland, Latvia). He was the son of a Lutheran curate Mārtiņš Valdemārs. He graduated from local parish school and worked as a teacher in Sasmaka (now named Valdemārpils in his honor). Later he worked as a parish secretary in Rundāle and Ēdole parish.
In 1854 he graduated from gymnasium in Liepāja and started his studies at the University of Tartu (then Dorpat). His main subject and interest were economics. While studying there he became known with the first public declaration of Latvian nationality. He affixed a carte de visite to his door that read "C. Woldemar stud. cam. Latweetis." At the time, it was almost unheard of for an educated person to call himself a Latvian; education meant Germanisation, and Valdemārs' act has been compared with Martin Luther's posting of the 95 Theses at the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg in its importance for the birth of Latvian nationalism. Valdemārs is seen as the spiritual father of the First Awakening. With Juris Alunāns, he led Latvian student gatherings while in Tartu and advocated the study of folklore.
After graduation in 1858 he moved to St.Petersburg and worked as a clerk in Ministry of Finance. Also he was a correspondent in local German language newspaper "St. Petersburgische Zeitung".
In 1862 he became editor and main publisher of the Latvian newspaper Pēterburgas Avīzes which was hitherto the most radical Latvian newspaper. It strongly opposed Baltic German rule and the remnants of feudalism in Baltic provinces. The newspaper became the main platform for Young Latvian ideas. It was closed by Russian authorities in 1865.
In 1864 Valdemārs helped establish the first Latvian naval school in Ainaži as a way of making Latvians rich. At its opening he uttered the famous phrase "Brauciet, latvji, jūriņā, krājiet zeltu pūriņā!" (roughly: Latvians, sail the seas, stuff boxes with gold). Many other Latvian naval schools was established during the next years in the coastal towns of Latvia. It had big influence on local economy and culture because hundreds of Latvian peasant sons had a chance to get education for free and become captains or steersman's. It led to the Age of a sailors in Latvia as active shipbuilding started in coastal towns and villages and those Latvian built, Latvian owned and crewed ships became the first national merchant fleet which was even involved in trans-Atlantic voyages.
In later life Valdemārs was mostly involved in polemics with Baltic Germans, popularized seafaring and edited the first Latvian naval dictionary.
Valdemārs died on 7 December 1891 in Moscow. He is buried at the Riga Great Cemetery. One of the main streets in Riga is named after him.