Postal service honors tri-centennial of Latvian enlightenment figure

Take note – story published 9 years ago

Gotthardt Friedrich, or ‘Old’ Stenders, has been commemorated by the Postal Service 300 years since he was born with a stamp and envelope designed by Arta Ozola-Jaunarāja.

Old Stenders, a founding father of Latvian and Baltic national consciousness long before their independent statehood became a reality, was born in 1714 and lived until 1796.

He is known for being a very well-educated pastor in the Baltic provinces, an early comparative linguist and a founding pioneer of Latvian secular literature. He authored such primary works as the New Complete Latvian Grammar, the Latvian Dictionary – which served as the only German-Latvian translation tool for a long time hence, a new illustrated ABC and reading primer and the very first popular-scientific work in Latvian – the Book of High Wisdom from the World of Nature.

Old Stenders was also a geography professor who designed globes and various navigation measures. He was also an inventor of note, designing and launching a washing machine prototype.

The inaugural postmarking of the stamp took place August 27, but the 30,000-issue run is worth €1.39 and corresponds with the current price of registered letters sent within Latvia. The commemorative envelope was issued in 1500 copies.

Ozola-Jaunarāja’s design incorporates fragments of his popular-scientific milestone work, his globe and a navigation instrument of his design.

The design is on virtual display here.

The state Central Bank also launched a commemorative coin in Old Stenders’ honor last week, designed by Aigars Ozoliņš and featuring symbols of the enlightenment.

The coin was launched at the opening of the exhibit and scientific conference dedicated to Old Stenders' life and work Thursday.

The exhibit will be henceforth be open to the public at the National Library.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the country in Sunākste last Sunday a monument designed by Visvaldis Asars in Old Stenders’ honor was unveiled, based on his ABC and trademark rooster. Stenders rests in the bucolic cemetery by the parish’s white church.

“His knowledge, what he gave to the Latvian people is absolutely immeasurable. Though so much else has changed, the foundation he gave us has remained the same,” Sunākste librarian Ilga Lukstiņa told LTV news program Dienas ziņas Sunday.

Asters, the artist who designed the monument said “the most important thing is what a person leaves behind.”

“And this enormous body of work and accomplishment in truth forms the Latvian national identity – writing, the Latin alphabet. Without Stenders it’s likely we’d be writing in Cyrillic,” he remarked.


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