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Ernests Brastiņš (19 March 1892 – 28 January 1942) was a Latvian artist, amateur historian, folklorist and archaeologist. He is known as the founder and driving force behind the neopagan religion Dievturība, which he started in the 1920s and which was re-established after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Ernests Brastiņš
Ernests Brastiņš 1892-1942 (2006.), Kronvalda parks, Rīga, Latvia - panoramio (1).jpg
Portrait of Ernests Brastiņš on his memorial stone in Riga
Born(1892-10-15)15 October 1892
Died28 January 1942(1942-01-28) (aged 49)
EducationStieglitz Art Academy
OccupationArtist, museum director, religious leader



Ernests Brastiņš was educated at the Stieglitz Art Academy in Saint Petersburg from 1911 to 1915. After military service in World War I and the Latvian War of Independence he became the director of the Latvian War Museum. During his time at the museum he studied Latvian history, Latvian ethnography, folk art and symbols, and investigated around 300 Latvian hill forts and the folklore connected to them.[1]

In 1926 he officially founded the first Dievturība organization together with his sculptor brother, Arvēds Brastiņš. Dievturība is a neopagan religion based on the old Baltic religion, Latvian folk culture, and especially the folk songs known as dainas. The word Dievturība roughly means "the people who hold or live according to God's laws". With its fokus on folklore and national character, the Dievturība movement carried on a cultural inheritance from the 19th-century Young Latvians movement.[1]

Brastiņš' published works include three books on Latvian folk songs (1928–1929) and Dievturu cerokslis ("The Intentions of Dievturi") (1932) which outlines the principles of Dievturība, modeled on Luther's Small Catechism.[1][2] Having attracted prominent artists and intellectuals to the movement, Brastiņš unsuccessfully tried to have Dievturība adopted as the official state religion of Latvia.[3]

After the 1934 Latvian coup d'état the movement was forced to re-register as a secular organization. Brastiņš' research as well as his religious engagements were terminated with the Soviet occupation of Latvia in 1940.[1] He was arrested by the Soviet security services on 6 July 1940. On 24 May 1941, he was sentenced to eight years in a correctional labour camp in Russia for having founded and led the Dievturība organization. He was put on another trial in Russia on 27 January 1942 and was sentenced to death.[2] The execution was carried out the following day.[1]


The southern side of the Ernests Brastiņš monument in Riga

During the Soviet era the Dievturība religion primarily lived on abroad in Latvian émigré communities. These varied in their view of it as a religion or just as a way to preserve Latvian traditions. The movement was officially re-registered in Latvia on 18 April 1990. Its contemporary adherents recognize Brastiņš as its founder and leading ideologue.[1]

On 26 October 2006, a monument to Brastiņš was unveiled in the Kronvald Park in central Riga, close to the Riga Congress Hall. The four and a half meter tall stone monument features an embedded bronze disc with a relief portrait of Brastiņš on its northern side, and on its southern side a sun symbol and the words "Tautai" (Folk), "Dievam" (God) and "Tēvijai" (Fatherland). It was made by the sculptor Uldis Sterģis in collaboration with the stonecutter Robertu Zvagūzis and the medal artist Jāni Strupuli.[4]


Year Title Publisher
1923 Latviešu ornamentika
1923-1930 Latvijas pilskalni (1. Kuršu Zeme - 2. Zemgale un Augšzeme - 3. Latgale - 4. Vidzeme)
1925 Latviešu dievturības atjaunojums
1925 Latvju rakstu kompozīcija
1927 Daiļa sēta
1929 Latvju gadskārtas dziesmas Latvju dievtur̦u draudzes izdevums
1932 Dievturu cerokslis Latvijas dievtur̦u sadraudzes izdevums
1936 Latvijas zvaigznes
1936 Tautības mācība
1938 Samulsuma pārspēšana: pareizības filozofijas pamatdomas Zemnieka Domas


  1. ^ a b c d e f Gatis Ozoliņš. 2014. "The Dievturi movement in Latvia as invention of tradition". Modern Pagan and Native Faith Movements in Central and Eastern Europe. ISBN 9781317544616
  2. ^ a b Anita Stasulane, Gatis Ozoliņš. Transformations of Neopaganism in Latvia: From Survival to Revival. Open Theology 2017; 3: 235–24.
  3. ^ Suzanne Pourchier-Plasseraud. 2015. Arts and a Nation: The Role of Visual Arts and Artists in the Making of the Latvian Identity, 1905-1940. p. 76. ISBN 9789004300286
  4. ^ Piemineklis etnogrāfam un dievturim Ernestam Brastiņam (1892-942). Riga monument agency.

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