Kristaps and Zinta Zariņš

The long-term support from Honorary Foundation of Richard Zariņš to the University of Latvia (UL) Faculty of History and Philosophy (FHP) has resulted in a significant contribution to advance the studies of history. The UL Foundation has received a new $ 25 000 donation enabling historians to fulfill their aims and develop the research field with success. This is the first and for the time being the only regular support of this kind enabling development of Latvian history studies.

Honorary Foundation of Richard Zariņš was founded in 2013 to commemorate an exiled Lutheran cleric Richard Arthur Otto Zariņš (1913–2006). The founders of this institution are his children Kristaps and Bertram Zariņš, Antra Zariņa-Thrasher. The patrons living in the US aim to expand and support the importance and topicality of historical issues within Latvian state and society. The patrons regard the maintenance of Latvianness and support for their homeland as a completely natural and honourable duty. They are a part of the American Latvian charity organization “Friends of the University of Latvia” (founded in 2012), raising the quality of education in Latvia. So far, Zariņš’ Honorary Foundation has donated more than $ 105 000 to support history studies. The UL Foundation administrates all the donations.

Life in two worlds: Zariņš family

Richard Zariņš’ roots extend into the historical region Vidzeme, Gaujiena. In 1938, he graduated from the UL Faculty of Theology and was ordained a pastor, soon to serve in the Evangelical Lutheran cathedral of Riga, remaining in this position until leaving Latvia. In 1944, with his family – wife Maria and three young children – went to Sweden as refugees, and from there to the United States, where the family arrived in 1946. The Zariņš family was among many thousands of Latvians who left their homeland in the aftermath of the Second World War. From 1946 to 1998, Zariņš led the largest Latvian congregation in the Western world, preserving the great New York Latvian Evangelical Lutheran congregation (founded in 1896) for more than half a century, uniting them in a hope to return to free Latvia.

In the USA, Zariņš family received a good education and developed successful careers, all the while continuing to contribute to the social life of exile Latvians to this day. Doctors – surgeon, orthopaedist and sports doctor Bertram Zariņš (born in 1942 in Riga) and vascular surgeon Kristaps Zariņš (born in 1943 in Tukums) are among the most prominent and globally recognised specialists in their fields, and Antra Zariņa-Thrasher (born 1941 in Riga) is a bacteriologist, at the same time having a profound interest in culture.

Establishment of support to studies of history

In 2012, Dr. hist. Ēriks Jēkabsons, UL FHP Professor of History, received a Fulbright scholarship to study the archive of Latvian documents in the United States. There he became acquainted with the society of the Northern Diaspora in Northern California, including Prof. Dr. med. Kristaps Zariņš, who hosted Jēkabsons during his studies.

Informal discussions of Latvian history, and the lectures of Ē. Jēkabsons given to the Latvian society in San Francisco engendered the idea of a new direction of research support. Patron Zariņš explains his family's motivation to donate to higher education and calls on others to join this initiative: “We are pleased to support the University of Latvia, because we appreciate the importance of education – especially the higher education. We support studies of history, because we respect family and national history. This aim was strengthened through our acquaintance with Prof. Ēriks Jēkabsons, established during his research at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, where the Latvian document archive is located. We were impressed with his high-quality work, the broad perspective and the capable students, who were studying hard and implementing research, often with limited support. We appreciate that Prof. Jēkabsons has been able to accomplish his task and continues his earnest, dedicated efforts in leading the studies in history, supporting students and colleagues and attaining very good results – numerous publications, theses, books and lectures. When we got the reports of the completed work, we saw that our investment brings fruit. Our idea is based on the principle that good, diligent and capable people will do good things in the future. We can recommend others to follow this aspiration by supporting the cause.” As a result, in 2013, Honorary Foundation of Richard Zariņš was established, which continues to support talented historical students, publishing new books and their visits to foreign archives, as well as providing conferences for Latvian scientists abroad and supporting other worthy causes.

Altruism is at the foundation of Zariņš family

People emphasize that beneficence of Zariņš family is a unique example of bringing change to people's lives. In the 1990s, Dr. med. K. Zariņš regularly visited Riga to effect his business ventures. Once, ascending in elevator, he was approached by a desperate mother with a little baby who had a heart disease. At that time, there was no chance to undergo the necessary operation in Latvia. Desiring to help, Zariņš provided for a heart operation of a child in California and for more than a year the little patient stayed in his home, and thus the child’s life was saved. “He is a man who never demands anything. A true example of selflessness, which extensively experienced both by the Latvian movement in America, and the homeland, Latvia,” says Ē. Jēkabsons, speaking about his collaboration with the patron. Kristaps and Bertram Zariņš became involved in the establishment of the Latvian Medical Foundation in 1990, and continue their support, as well as act on the board of the fund.

Scholarship as a springboard for further research

Honorary scholarship of R. Zariņš is awarded to master's study programme students of the UL FHP to promote their scientific activity in studies of the 20th century history of Latvia and Latvians. Up to now, six students have received a scholarship to elaborate their master’s thesis, and all the scholarship holders have defended their final thesis with excellent results, and in many cases continue their career as scholars of history by enrolling in doctoral studies. One of the scholars was Mg. hist. Ginta Ieva Bikše, who received the patron support in the academic year of 2017/2018, and wrote the master's thesis "Relations between Latvia and Spain in 1921 to 1940". The scholarship provided an opportunity to attend the Spanish archives and libraries, obtaining valuable materials and additional research experience. Currently, Bikše is continues her doctoral studies in history and researches the developments related to the Spanish Civil War in the history of Latvia. “In the future, it would also be interesting to study Latvian relations with the Spanish-speaking South American countries. Knowledge of both Spanish and French, as well as the identification and use of Spanish and French archives planned in the thesis will definitely provide ideas and motivation for exploring other topics,” says Bikše.

In the academic year of 2015/2016, the scholarship was awarded to Mg. hist. Zane Rozīte, who developed the master's thesis "Woman in the Latvian Intelligence: Social Portrait of Students at the University of Latvia (1919–1920)". The support enabled to achieve profound research of the topic by supplementing the collections of scientific literature with materials that were not available in Latvia and obtaining the archival materials that were only available for a fee. After receiving the master's degree, Z. Rozīte became a scientific assistant at the UL FHP and has now started her doctoral studies.

Doctoral candidate Mg. hist. Inna Gīle emphasizes that the scholarship awarded by the Honorary Foundation of R. Zariņš has had a positive impact on the academic achievements, enabling the studies and research in the field of military medicine. In 2014, she defended her master's thesis with excellence, and was awarded B. Holander's Prize for the work “Field of Military Medicine in the Latvian Army 1919–1920: Military Medical Institutions.” "Winning the scholarship was a positive turning point in my life, because I did not have to seek additional work and could attend the archives and devote time to research," confirms Gīle. The doctoral thesis is closely related to the ongoing research. Gīle links her future with historical research and would like to publish a monograph on her research topic. Since 2014, she has been a scientific assistant at the Institute of Latvian History, and for several years works at Liepāja Museum.

Printed works filling in the blank spots in history

The support of the Foundation has enabled publication of several unique books and monographs, describing the unexplored aspects of history and its development. In addition, these are the first original, extensive studies dedicated to specific topics or processes and released in Latvian language. These include:

  • Dr. hist. Ineta Lipša, "Sexuality and Social Control in Latvia, 1914–1939" (2014);
  • Dr. hist. Harry Tuman, “Heroes and Heroism in Ancient Greece” (2015)
  • Mg. hist., doctoral degree candidate Ineta Didrihsone-Tomaševska, “Pastor Richard Zariņš. Life in Two Worlds” (2016);
  • Prof. Dr. hist. Ēriks Jēkabsons, "Relations between Latvia and the United States in 1918-1922" (2017);
  • Dr. hist. Uldis Neiburgs, “Threat and Hope Circle: Latvian Resistance Movement and the Western Allies (1941–1945)” (2017).

Achievements to be enabled by the new donation

This year, patrons will continue to support research by historian U. Neiburgs dedicated to the so-called Kurelians, as well as the Latvian Army General Janis Kurelis' group during World War II and its role in the fight for the independence of Latvia. Biographical dictionaries dedicated to Latvian police officers are to be developed in cooperation with the Latvian National Archives. Historian Agris Dzenis will continue to head the studies of Vecpiebalga Church. The expected support would further the research on the history of the First Congress of Latvian Doctors in 1989. A study dedicated to the movement of Latvian refugees to Sweden in 1945–1946 has also been intended. It is expected that an edition of the Latvian Lutheran Church Pastors will be prepared, linking their activities with crucial processes and developments in Latvian history. By 2021, in co-operation with the Valmiera Museum, a publication “History of Otto von Hūns, Valmiera and Valmiera Neighborhood” will be prepared and published. It will be a unique edition encompassing diaries, descriptions, and memories about Valmiera countryside in the early 19th century. The patrons will also continue their support to aspiring students.

About the University of Latvia Foundation

Since 2004, the UL Foundation provides an opportunity to patrons and cooperation partners to support both the University of Latvia and other leading higher education institutions of our country, thereby investing in the future of Latvia. The priorities of the UL Foundation are to support the most outstanding, dedicated students and researchers, to advance creation of a modern study environment, as well as to promote construction and refurbishment of university’s buildings.

About “Friends of the University of Latvia”

Since 2012, the non-profit organization “Friends of the University of Latvia” has been uniting American citizens of Latvian origin – supporters of the University of Latvia. It is the partner organization of the UL Foundation, founded by the initiative of John J. Medveckis. By donating to this Foundation, US citizens can receive tax deduction. The main task of the foundation is to ensure a brighter future for Latvian education.


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