Christof Harder

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NameChristof Harder
Name at birthHarder
SummaryChristof Harder (Harder, 1747 –1818) – German origin Lutheran pastor in Rubene (Papendorf). A representative of the Enlightenment, rationalist, writer, publisher, author of the first "Vidzemes' Calendar". He actively worked and insisted in education of Latvian peasants: repeatedly published Latvian ABC written by himself, was an author of the first arithmetic book in Latvian. Harder mainly worked in the field of secular literature, especially introducing peasants to their rights and obligations. He translated the recipes from German and prepared the first cookbook in Latvian. His contribution is important also in the field of Latvian linguistics: he created numerous new words and terms in different thematic fields, as well in contributed to language research. Chr. Harder participated in collection of Latvian folklore and creation of first folk-song collections.
Personal informationFather – Peter Harder – a beer brewer in Königsberg. mother - Anna Tester. Brother - Johann Jacob Harder (1734-1775) – a representative of Baltic Enlightenment, German pastor, educator and translator, researcher of Latvian intangible cultural heritage. His most important work on Latvian cultural heritage is a research article on old Latvian religious services, science, forms of governing and language (In German (original): Untersuchung des Gottesdienstes, der Wissenschaften, Handwerke, Regierungsarten und Sitten der alten Letten aus ihrer Sprache) that was published in newspaper "Gelehrte Beiträge zu den "Rigischen Anzeigen" in 1764. The brothers are often easily confused. He married the daughter of the rector of the Valmiera School J.H. Block, Catherine Elizabeth Block in 1787.

Having finished the studies on Königsberg, Chr. Harder came to Livonia. During his work in Riga, he was a member of so-called Berens circle, where Enlightenment ideas were present and many important people gathered, e.g. later philosophers J.G. Herder and J.G. Hamann, publisher J.F. Hartknoch, historian J.K. Brotze, etc. Presumably, this circle inspired Chr. Harder to collect Latvian folk-narratives, folksongs, as well to research the issues related to the Latvian language.
As he began his work at the Rubene Church, Chr. Harder became friends with V.D. Budberg (1740–1784), a well-educated painter of German-Baltic origin, who was also a poet and the owner of the Ķieģeļu Manor at Rubene parish. In 1781, Budberg in collaboration with Chr. Harder established a printing house in the manor. After the death of the landlord, in 1784, Chr. Harder moved the printing house to Rubene rectory. He published the first 9 issues of the Vidzeme Calendar, including various educational texts of a timely content, promoting the dissemination of the latest scientific knowledge, as well as opinions on socio-political issues (peasant rights, education, etc.).
He promoted numeracy and literacy skills among Latvian peasants, although he saw the aftermath of the peasant unrests of 1777, during which Latvian peasants filed written complaints about the landlords, thus triggering counter strike of the former to peasant education.
Together with M.G. Loder published "The Preacher at the Investigation of the Judges of the Latvian Nation" (1786), under the guise of various Christian texts, he calls upon Latvian farmers who serve as associate judges to become more responsible, courageous, and not to submit to the influence of the supreme power. He continues his discussion on the rights of Latvian farmers in the appendices to the "Vidzeme Calendar". This is probably the reason why "Vidzeme Calendar for 1790" is republished without penalty by J.K.D. Miller, who continues to publish it in the following years.
Despite educating farmers in their rights and teaching them to calculate the bills needed for daily household needs as well as finances related to manors, such as had tax, he considered active peasant unrest a sheer impudence.
In response to the pastor of Jaunpiebalga, C.R. Girgenson’s call to read reflections on the Latvian language at Church Conventions to, Chr. Harder came up with a plan to establish the Latvian Society which created the platform for the "Latvian Friends Society"). Chr. Harder was elected the head of the Latvian Society.

Professional activities

Pastor in Rubene Church,
From 1806: prsest of Valmiera district.

Literary activities

Original works
1781-1790: "Vidzeme calendar", with supplements. The issues of the first editions are closely related to the publisher's personal attitude to the events in Livonia and feature work in Latvian linguistics, as well as educational articles. The articles published in 1787-1790: “Patents and Orders that Farmers Have to Know”, where Harder arbitrarily inserted his thoughts and explanations into the official text might have been the reason why the publisher from Riga, J.K.D. Miller, continued to publish the calendar. Several literary scholars consider the fall of "Vidzeme calendar" into other hands to be the first literary theft in Latvian literary history
1782: " New Holy Songs"
1782: leaflet "For pub visitors" - poetry with anti-alcoholism propaganda, not preserved
1784: "Latvian Alphabet" (reprints 1785, 1796), with the first addition of a multiplication table
1786: Co-author of J.G. Loder's work "The Preacher at the Investigation by Associate Judges from the Latvian Folks", which emphasizes the responsibility of associate judges - Latvian peasants
1788: "Explaining the teachings" - Lutheran Catechism for peasants of Rubene Parish
1790: "Anmerkungen und Zusatze zu der neuen lettischen Grammatik des Herrn Probst Stender" ("Notes and Supplements to Stender's New Latvian Grammar), work in Latvian linguistics, reprinted in 1809.
1795: "The First Cookbook", for the chefs of manors
1806: "The Book for Counting not for those dark minds, but for the those who appreciate wisdom and bright minds
1809: contributed to the editing of Lutheran hymnal "Christian songs, sung in churches and at home" in Vidzeme. It contains 22 songs written by Chr. Harder. Only the pastor of Jaunpiebalga K.R. Girgenson contributed more songs (87).

1804: "Laws for the peasants of Vidzeme" explaining the duties and rights of peasants"

Handwritten additions to G. F. Stender’s dictionary were published by A. Wellig in "Beitrage zur lettischen Sprachkunde" ("Articles in Latvian Linguistics", 1828).

Contribution in folkloristics

Harder collected Latvian folklore. His collection of folk songs is included in the folk song collections "Erste Sammlung lettischer Sinngedichte" and "Zweite Sammlung Lettischer Sinn-oder Stegreif Gedichte" published by Rujiena pastor G. Bergmann. In total, his contribution to the two collections comprises about one hundred texts. He might have been one of the collaborators who, with the help of J.B. Fisher, sent Latvian folk songs to the philosopher J.G. Herder in the mid-1870s. He also collected beliefs, stories and tales of the Latvian people.
"Harder was a profoundly intelligent man with a strong social sense, who followed closely the spiritual currents of the age."
Apinis A. Soļi senākās latviešu grāmatniecības un kultūras takās: apcerējumi. R .: Press House, 2000, p. 326. lpp.

Chr. Harder in response to Vidzeme Superintendent K.G. Zontag's question about pastoral proposals for school reform:
" If you cannot give anything particularly good, then it is better to leave the old one in place; do not tear down an old building until funds have been collected and a plan for building a new castle has been worked out”
Schwab A. Kāda mācītāja dzīve. Stockholm: Daugava, 1985, p. 53.

Quote from K. Harder's "Calculus book" (1806):
Believe me, too, that calculating gives you some true fun. When a good, quick witted lad who loves to count, spends a few good hours at this book doing these equations; when he has solved those, and the correct answer comes to light, indeed, sometimes he would rather refuse a glittering dalder for the joy he feels over these calculations, while others were looking for joy in the pubs and got a blue eye and cracked bones there.

K. Harder on his work at the Latvian Society, when writing to C.G. Sonntag:
"I have neither gold nor silver, but what I own, some knowledge of the Latvian language, I'd be happy to share [at this wonderful event]."
Schwab A. Kāda mācītāja dzīve. Stockholm: Daugava, 1985, p.63.
LinksJohans Jakobs Harders (1734–1775) - Brother
Occupationsfolklore researcher
folklore collector
Birth time/place06.12.1747
Kaliningrad, Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia
EducationKneiphof Gymnasium, lat. Schola cathedralis, lat. Domschule
Kaliningrad, Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia

1764 – 1767
University of Königsberg
Kaliningrad, Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia

At the very start of his studies Chr. Harder attended courses in philosophy and mathematics. He participated in lectures of professor Buck who taught metaphysics and logic and as regards religion and natural sciences used an approach of philosophy. Prof. Buck was a source of Chr. Harders' knowledge in mathematics and astronomy. Later influenced by brother Chr. Harder focused on studies in theology.

Working place1768 – 1772 (Date is approximate)

Influnced by brother Chr. Harder came to Livonia. Initially worked as a private teacher in a Baltic-German family. Brother introduced him to the so called Berens society, where attitude inspired by enlightenment ideas was dominant, including ideas of philosopher J.G. Herder.
During this period Chr. Harder started to learn Latvian language.

1772 – 1817
Rubenes baznīca

Priest in the Rubene (Papendorf) parish.

Since 1806 also dean of Valmiera (Wolmar) county.

Place/time of death16.08.1818
Places of death and burial are unknown.

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#LocationDateTypeType of place
(Kaliningrad, Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia)
06.12.1747Birth time/placeCity
(Kaliningrad, Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia)
(Not set)EducationCity
(Kaliningrad, Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia)
1764 - 1767EducationCity
1768 - 1772Working placeCity

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