Garlibs Merkelis

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Merķelis, Garlībs


(German, Garlieb Merkel). Born Oct. 21 (Nov. 1), 1769, in Lēdurgā, present-day Limbaži Raion, Latvian SSR; died Apr. 27 (May 9), 1850, in Depkina, Muiziņa Katlakalnā, near riga. Latvian educator.

Merķelis was a German by nationality and the son of a Lutheran pastor. While working as a tutor in Nìtaure from 1793 to 1796, he wrote The Latvians, Especially in Livonia, at the Close of the Philosophical Century: Supplement to the Study of People and Mankind. In 1796 he went to Germany and the following year published his book in German in Leipzig. In this work he sharply criticized serfdom and the church and advocated the emancipation of the Latvian peasantry and the granting of land to them through an enlightened monarch’s decree. Merķelis’ book was banned in the Baltic provinces and throughout Russia, although it was circulated in manuscript form in Latvian. The book was first published in Russian in 1870 in Russkii arkhiv (Russian Archives); a Latvian edition appeared in St. Petersburg in 1905 and was last reissued in riga in 1953.

Although much of it was imaginary, Merķelis’ The Remote Antiquity of Livonia (vols. 1-2, 1798-99) was the first historical survey of the life and culture of the Latvians and Estonians in the llth and 12th centuries. Merķelis condemned the brutality of the German feudal conquerors and defended the Latvian people’s right to independent development. In Germany he became a popular publicist and literary critic. In 1812 he wrote several famous anti-Napoleonic appeals and proclamations.

Merķelis had a high regard for Russian culture and called for strengthening the cultural and economic ties between the Baltic peoples and Russia. Naively believing in a “good tsar,”Merķelis glorified Alexander I.


Valeskaln, P. I. “Zhizn’ i diatel’nost’ Garliba Merkelia.” Izv. AN Latv SSR, 1969, no. 10, pp. 44-60.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.