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zieds1mazs.gif (257 bytes) Foundlings and murdered babies

6 Names: Freimanis, Kulagins, Pavasars, Sikaters, Toms, Zaļums


I am sure you know about the old European tradition of exposing extramarital babies secretly somewhere near the house of a rich childless family or in a place where somebody could easy find it and sometimes also somewhere in the hope that nobody should find it.

The tradition was also known in the Russia Empire. In general the care on foundlings was the problem of local communities. The first orphanages in the Empire were established at the beginning of the reference period around 1800, and the foundlings were gathered there, if nobody wished to adopt the child. Unfortunately, the mortality of babies in these orphanages was very high, and in 1828 the establishing of new orphanages was stopped.

In the Baltic provinces it was allowed to baptize the foundlings in the Lutheran faith. They had the legal status of persons chosing their way of life.

The exposure of a baby was a criminal deed in the Russia Empire. If the exposed baby could be found by other people, the offender was punished by arrest till 3 months, if the baby was exposed in a place where not great hope existed that somebody would find it, then the offender was imprisoned.

I think, however, that the exposure of babies was practiced more in urban regions rather than in rural regions, where it was relatively difficult to hide the fact of disappearing of a newborn baby.

The practice of exposures also continued in independent Latvia. In an issue of the newspaper Iekšlietu ministrijas vēstnesis (Messenger of Ministry of the Interior) for 1928 I have found information that in the previous year (1927) totally 60 foundlings were registered in the police offices of Riga city. In 1928 the babies continued being found. Here some cases of findings follow with the names of foundlings or founders mentioned in the newspaper:

Alma Sikaters informed Police that on March 5 a man has brought her an one month old baby (boy). She desired to keep this baby as her own.

Alma Kulagina living in Dzirnavu 102 informed the Police on April 21 that she has found a newborn girl in the cellar of the house, and she wished to keep the baby.

On March 10 a newborn baby (boy) was found in a staircase on Marijas street. In the Police office he was named Ansis Pavasars and delivered to the orphan asylum.

On March 17 an approximately 2 weeks old boy was found in a staircase of the house Valdemāra str. 5. He was named Voldemārs Pavasars and delivered to the orphan asylum.

An exposed boy was found on March 26 on the stairs of the house Kuģu str. 13. The boy was named Visvaldis Pavasars and delivered to the orphan asylum.

To understand why these three foundlings acquired the same name Pavasars, you may know that pavasars means spring in Latvian and March is a spring month, of course.

In Čiekurkalns about March 10 a boy was found with a written massage in cloth:  "A present for Freimanis and his spouse. Born February 11, not christened". The baby was delivered to the orphan asylum of Rīga.

About June 1 Kārlis Toms found an one month old baby (boy) on a street. In the police office it was named Voldemārs Zaļums. The name mean greenness. Evidently in June the summer began and everything around was green.

Later in this year the system of the naming of foundlings was changed, and they acquired names in the orphan asylum. For this reason the newspaper continued to inform only about cases of findings without the names the foundlings acquired.

Whatever you think of the mothers who exposed babies, they seem more human than those who simply murdered their newborn children immediately after the birth. According to the available criminal statistics, there were approximately the same number of murdered babies as the number of foundlings. The newspaper "Iekšlietu ministrijas vēstnesis" April 27, 1928 presented the statistics of murder cases in Rīga city for the first three months of 3 subsequent years with motives of the crime. For comparison I added in the table the total number of criminals punished for murders in these years from the Yearbook of Statistics 1930. This book informs neither about the number nor motives of the murders and does not tell the share of solved murder cases.

Reasons 1926 1927 1928
robbery 7 8 3
revenge 4 9 2
romance 3 8 7
drunkenness or quarrel 10 10 22
newborn babies 11 17 11

Total for 3 months

35 52 45
Percentage of murders
of newborn babies
31.4% 33.3% 24.4%
Punished murderers for the year


One can estimate that about 40-50 newborn babies were killed in these years. It seems that the number of newborn baby murders did not decrease in the 1930s, as the statistics taken from Tautas veselības statistika 1934 (Statistics of public health) inform that 49 babies were murdered in 1933 and 35 in 1934.

© Bruno Martuzāns. 1995-2002