It is exactly 190 years ago today that this prominent Latvian writer, editor, educator, politician, economist and folklorist was born in the Ārlava (now Valdgale) parish in the Kurzeme region. He was the son of a Lutheran curate and graduated from a local parish school.
He worked as a teacher and as parish secretary before starting his studies at the University of Tartu in 1854. He studied economics, but became known for his first public declaration of nationality. All it took was a small name card to his door that stated "C. Woldemar stud. cam. Latweetis." The catch is in the last word - at that time it was unheard of for an educated person to call himself a Latvian. This act sparked the Awakening - a movement for Latvian national awareness. He led student gatherings and advocated for necessity to study folklore.
After his studies Krišjānis moved to St. Petersburg were he worked as journalist for the local German newspaper. In 1862 he became editor and publisher of “Pēterburgas Avīzes” [St. Petersburg Newspapers] which became a significant platform for Young Latvian ideas and strongly opposed against Baltic German rule and feudalism in the Baltic provinces. The paper was shut down by local authorities in 1865.
Latvia also gives credit to Krišjānis Valdemārs because he helped to establish the cradle of Latvian professional navigation. It was in 1864 in the little coastal town of Ainaži where he founded a naval school that offered seamanship education to Latvian and Estonian peasants free of charge. Soon many other naval schools followed and altogether left a significant mark on local economy and culture.
Krišjānis Valdemārs died in 1891. To commemorate his legacy one of main Riga’s streets bears his name.