Krišjānis Barons

(1835–1923)

The life stories of great personalities have always captivated the interest of readers, within their biographies not only exciting private life details are being searched for, but also explanations for ones own personal lifes’ successes and failures. It seems as if the mistakes, searches and successes of well-known and respected people in society gives strength to the so-called “little man” to not loose spirit in his daily life, to see meaning in ones own existence and work.

The life of Krišjānis Barons encompasses an important time frame in the entire history of the Latvian nation: from the age of corvee until the beginning of the Latvian state. It was Krišjānis Barons who was fated to carry the Young Latvians ideas of the independence of the Latvian nation, education, equality, economic and cultural development, which would allow it not to disappear among larger nations, fight for their independence, motivate the Latvian state during its first years of development, be the unbreakable bond between generations that was the spiritual foundation for the future.

Krišjānis Barons collection, held at the The Museum of Literature and Music, is rich with photographs, letters and other materials. Already in the 30’s, the museum received a lot of memorabilia, letters, documents, handwritten material. A special place among these is for Krišjānis Barons written memories.
He wrote down his memories since 1919. Afterwards his daughter-in-law rewrote them with a typewriter.

It was in Russia, in the Uderevka mansion, where Barons started his life’s work – the systematization of Latvian folk songs for the publication of “Latvju dainas”. Thus, there is a museum dedicated both to Krišjānis Barons and Russian philosopher and poet Nikolai Stankevich (1813–1840), located in the Belgorod administrative region, Muhouderovk village. Krišjānis Barons and the Stankevitch family were friends, during the former’s lifetime.

Krišjānis Barons throughout his lifetime has been followed by the women’s care so integral in Latvian culture. During his childhood, it was his mother Eņģele, who is left with many children after her husband’s death. It is she who teaches her children independence, temperance and austerity, which many in latter years attribute as the main characteristic of Krišjānis worth mentioning.
For many years he had to live economically during his youth, and during studies even meagry.
This life experience teaches Krišjānis to always count and keep track of his finances, be aware of how much money not only he has in his wallet, but also his family members. Later in his life, the organisation of Latvian folk-songs was voluntary work for Krišjānis that nobody paid for, and his funds would shrink even more. Even his son Kārlis, after his marriage, received a letter from his father that states all the expenses of raising and tutoring his son.

Education or lack of it thereof was something Krišjānis Barons never judged a person by, even a closest one. He had a wife, Dārta, a few years younger then Krišjānis, born in Limbaži, having lost her parents at an early age, which is something she sees as a flaw in comparison to Krišjānis’ wide family.
Thus, Dārta finds a strong, stable family as the main value and does everything in her power to maintain and strengthen it. Līna, Krišjānis Barons daughter-in-law, maintains these ideals and looks upon Krišjānis as an inspiration and somebody to help and attend to in his life’s work.
Krišjānis Barons, on the other hand, from the very beginning appreciated her work ability, sense of responsibility, preciseness, open-mindedness. They had many common interests, and even their handwritings were similar.

Līna also supported her husband’s, Kārlis Barons, work. He actively participated in the Riga Latvian Society, held important positions there. He published in press articles about natural science and medicine issues, as well as read articles in the Society. Līna helps transcribe and translate them because she knows multiple languages.

The First World War brings heavy challenges for the Barons’ family – during the Latvian War of Independence, Kārlis Barons (Junior) dies, not having reached his 19th birthday…
After the war, Līna becomes a genuine collaborator in the arrangement of the Latvian folk songs collection. After the death of Krišjānis Barons (father of the dainas), she finishes and prepares the fourth part of the folk song books. As a special responsibility, she sees the publication of Krišjānis Barons memories.

During the latter years of her life, Līna also prepared a selection of dainas for reprinting, which came out in the publishing house of the Riga Latvian Society. She died form heart-disease in October the 10th, 1932.
The life of Krišjānis Barons cannot be imagined without the visible or even just perceptible presence of his peers and family members. They all make up Baron’s life, influence his character, his mode of thinking, relationships and outlook on life.

Let’s mention some of the main attributes of the father of the dainas.
Firstly, tolerance. His judgments were never categorical. He had seen various peoples, cultures, ways of life. Barons learned to see life in all of its colours and varieties. Without loud condemnation or fervent praise. With serenity.

Frugality. He would save objects and furniture, as well as time, clothing, paper and friends…especially the latter were important. After returning from Russia, Barons sadly admits that times, virtues and laws are changing, and that the old friends are in large part already dead. In 1919, moving from Vecmilgrāvis to his son’s apartment, in his room he places objects that had served him for many years: his writing desk that had been taken from the city of Ostrogozsky, his oaken writing-table he had worked at in Moscow. And, of course, the dainu closet. Writing his memories that had begun in Burtnieki, these things were a living reminder of past times and experiences.

Shyness. It could be seen not only in regards to his own work, but also in daily life. Hardly anyone remembers Krišjānis Barons saying a longer speech. He would seldom talk about his youth – whether in the Latvian student evenings in Tērbata or in St. Petersburg. He had a gentle voice, especially pleasant when a song was being sung amongst family and it was joined by the fathers silky baritone…

When he was asked to write something more about his life for a biography, Barons said that more about his life would be possible to read about only after his death…

Andris Ērglis

The main specialist of The Krišjānis Barons Museum

March, 2010

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