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Evangelic Lutheran Church

This was the most popular religion in Latvia during the reference period. It was the main religion in Vidzeme [Livland] and Kurzeme [Kurland] where the majority of Latvians and Germans served this religion.

The highest authority of the Lutheran church in the Russian Empire was The General Consistory in St. Petersbourg, which was created in 1832 as a state office. There were 8 (later 6) Consistories in the Empire that consisted of dioceses. There were 8 dioceses in Livland and the same number in Kurland. Other dioceses were situated mainly in the regions of Russia, where Germans lived, for example, in the Volga region and in southern parts of Ukraine.

Each diocese consisted of parishes. The full list both of the Lutheran parishes of Russia and the Pastors of these parishes was published in "Rigascher kalender" 1863. I typed the list for this Site in its full extent, because after studying the list of names I decided that many of Lutheran Pastors were from the Baltics even if they were working in other regions. I also have the lists of Lutheran parishes in Latvia with the names of the Pastors for the 1920s and 1930s. These lists will be published in the ROOTS=SAKNES later.

It is rather clearly seen that the Pastors could be regarded like State clerks of the Empire. The parish may be considered as an administrative unit including several pagasti. The Pastors were responsible for distribution and announcement of laws and rules issued by various levels of state bureaucracy, they kept all civil registers, they were responsible for the education of children, the behavior of parish members was controlled by them also etc. etc. Historians estimate that Vidzeme's [Livland] Pastors had more duties of this kind than those in Kurzeme [Kurland]. On the other hand, all of them were less busy with these activities than Orthodox priests, who quite frequently even received salaries from the State budget.

A.Švābe in /Švābe/ mentioned that the Pastors in practice were the clerks of the Patron. The Patron was the landowner, who had the right to supervise the local church, mainly because the church was built on his land or at his cost. He was the person who had the crucial role in choosing the Pastor for this church. The chosen Pastor was to be approved by the highest Church authority in a province - the General Superintendant. Not all churches were the patronat churches, however, in towns the landowners had no influence.

Unlike Priests of some other confessions in the Russia Empire, Lutheran Pastors did not receive any salary from the state budget. In the countryside they earned their living from a real estate they had in their disposition - a so called Pastor's manor with about 10 farms including the people who worked in these farms. Quite possibly the farms with the peasants were the former property of the Patron. The income from the Pastor's manor as a rule was good. The fee for some religious ceremonies also brought additional income. At the beginning of the 19th century, the peasants of a parish owed their Pastor dues in kind - mainly grain and sometimes also fish, wool or chickens (the latter is the product most frequently mentioned in this connection).

The main person in a parish was the Foreman (in German Kirchenvorsteher, in Latvian baznīcas priekšnieks), who was one of the manor owners. He was elected by the parish council called - Convent. The Convent members in Kurzeme [Kurland] were local manor owners. In Vidzeme [Livland] after 1870 half of the Convent was elected from the peasants of each pagasts that belonged to the parish. The parish foreman nominated the Guardians (in German Vormünder, in Latvian perminderis). The Guardians were the representatives of the peasants (persons of the peasant estate) of the parish, because the peasants formally were not the members of the parish /Švābe/. The Guardians were obligated to take part in divine services, to control the teaching in schools and at home etc.

The majority of the Pastors in the 19th century were ethnic Germans. All of them knew the Latvian language. A candidate for the position of Pastor was examined in this language by the Consistory. In 1880 there were 99 pastors in Kurzeme and 50 of them were sons of Kurzeme Pastors, 16 grandsons of them, 17 - pastors of the third generation and 8 of the fourth generation /Švābe/. Only at the end of the century did Latvians start to compete with Germans in the labor market for Lutheran Pastors.

One of the problems you may encounter is determining the parish if only the birth place (the pagasts) of a person is known. You should know the parish in order to try to find the church books. Unfortunately, at this moment I have no information sources which allow you to find the parish name if the pagasts is known. For rural areas one can find the nearest center of the parish by studying maps of Latvia. Of course, this will give immediate success if the names of the pagasts and the parish coincide, but it can be rather difficult in the other cases. The finding of the parish for Rīga could be even more difficult, because there were several parishes, and a believer could attend a church far from the home.



© Bruno Martuzāns. 1995-2002