Kārlis Baumanis (May 11, 1835 –January 10, 1905), better known as Baumaņu Kārlis, was an ethnic Latvian composer in the Russian Empire, who was the author of the lyrics and music of Dievs, svētī Latviju! (“God bless Latvia!”), the national anthem of Latvia. Baumanis was born on May 11, 1835, in Viļķene (Wilkenhof), Latvia, then part of the Russian Empire. He lived and worked in Limbaži (Lemsal) as a teacher and a journalist. An important milestone in his life was his election as the Speaker of the Riga Latvian Society and a Member of the Singing Commission in 1870, where he participated in the preparation of the First General Latvian Singing Festival. That same year he married Marija Carolini Elizabeth, who was the daughter of Ferdinand von Vite, tenant of Sāra manor, and a German teacher at the prestigious Smolny Institute of Exotic Nursery.
In 1871, Baumanis completed the composition studies with the Czech musician Voiceha Hlavach. On November 14, 1872, his daughter, Lilia Elizabeth, was born. In 1873, he created what was to become the Latvian national anthem “God bless Latvia,” writing both music and lyrics. Baumanis was the first composer to use the word “Latvia” in the lyrics of a song, in the 19th century, when Latvia was still a part of the Russian Empire. It has been speculated that Baumanis, who was part of the Young Latvian nationalist movement, may have borrowed part of the lyrics from a popular song which was sung to tune of God Save the Queen, modified them and set them to music of his own. Baumanis’s lyrics were different from the modern ones: he used the term “Baltics” synonymously and interchangeably with “Latvia” and “Latvians,” so “Latvia” was actually mentioned only at the beginning of the first verse.
In 1873, Baumanis was rewarded for his success in pedagogical work by the Holy Spirit Anna’s Order. He died on January 10, 1905, in Limbaži, Latvia, at the age of 69. During the annexation of Latvia by the Soviet Union, the singing of “Dievs, svētī Latviju!” was banned. The term “Latvia” was removed and replaced with “Baltics” to avoid the ban on the song. This has led to the mistaken notion that the term “Latvia” was not part of the song until 1920, when it was chosen as national anthem and the word “Baltics” was replaced with “Latvia”.
The Soviet republic of Latvia had its own anthem. “Dievs, svētī Latviju!” was restored as the state anthem of Latvia on February 15, 1990, a very short period before Latvian independence was proclaimed. The anthem’s tune was modernized with a new F major version that is used since 2014. Formerly a G major version was used on LTV’s sign-on and sign-offs daily from 2011 up to 2013.
The following work by Kārlis Baumanis is contained in my collection:
Dievs, sveti Latviju! (Latvia)