Herder-Monument, Herders Square, behind the Cathedral, Riga
Johann Gottfried Herder (1744 – 1803), a clothmaker's son from the small town of Mohrungen in East Prussia, studied theology at the University of Königsberg, before he in 1764 became a preacher at the two Vorstädtische Kirchen and a teacher at the Domschule in Riga where he stayed for five years. He received some notice after the publication of his Fragmente . Leaving Riga for Strasbourg where he met Goethe he wrote his Journal meiner Reise im Jahre 1769 (Diary of My Journey in 1769, published in 1846), where he under the impression of the infinite sea experiences a revolutionary view on development and education, re-defining his self identity and individuality. His work was the starting-point for gathering people's oral traditions, i.e. folk poetry. When he edited his Volkslieder, or Stimmen der Völker in Liedern (Voices of the People in Their Songs) in 1778 and 1779 (in two volumes) he included both some Sámi yoiks and Latvian and Lithuanian dainos that were adapted among others by Goethe. From Estonia he also received an oral Klage über die Tyrannen der Leibeigenen (Lament over the Tyrants of the Bondmen), ”the true sigh of a moaning people“. Herder's Ideen zur Philosophie der Geschichte der Menschen and its underlying theory – the close connection of people's heritage, language and nation - have been of utterly great importance for the smaller and the suppressed nations, esp. for the Baltic and East European nations and their national awakening.
Herder took a position with Count Wilhelm von Schaumburg-Lippe in Bückeburg, and from 1776 until his death he lived in Weimar where he at Goethe's urging had taken a position as court chaplain and General Superintendent.
In Latvia a critic recently wrote that Herder “was unknown to Latvian reading society until 1995 and, oddly enough, even unnecessary”. The more important it seems to include him in future culture tourism programmes. As he wrote in his Letters for the Promotion of Humanity: “The answer to your question on the future development of our species that in truth requires a whole book, lies in one, single word: humanity”.
Lacplesa iela 48/50, dziv. 14, LV-1011 Riga
Modern Riga is the stage for the poetry of Aleksandrs Caks (1901 - 1950). His work is also representative for the new national state of Latvia, founded in 1918. He stayed in his home town even during the German occupation and the Soviet time, according to the line he wrote: “It is decided I will die on your street's hips”. He died of a “weak heart”.
In 2000 a new museum, the Aleksandrs Caks Memorial Flat was opened in Riga. A unique and authentic atmosphere has been created in the two memorial rooms of the flat where Caks lived from 1937 until his death in 1950. The poet's manuscripts, photographs, books, household objects, clothes and other textiles, furniture as well as autographs, dedications, paintings and works of prominent Latvian artists are displayed. The museum offers guided tours and lectures about Caks' life and creative activity.
Archives and a database are available for researchers. Visitors are welcome to attend series of thematic literary and musical events at the museum, such as: "Friends and Contemporaries of Caks", "Objects Speak" and "Natives of Riga".
The Literature, Theatre and Music Museum at Pils laukume 2, 1050 Riga conveys a broader background to Latvian 20 th century literary life.