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The Museum of Ainazi Naval School

10.03.2011 09:19

On the Vidzeme seacost, at the Estonian border, there is a place called Ainazi. Small, quiet, thought alive with a Latvian spirit. The name of the town, Ainazi, has come from the Livi word "ainagi" - "solitary". The murmur of the sea and the summer heat as if inivite to walk to the sea where once a merchant port had been. At the end of the 19th century this port was placed third after St.Petersburg and riga, according to the number of the registred ships. The lively coasting between Riga and Pernava called for a shelter port on the Vidzeme coast. Thus, in 1900, after Russia’s Ministry of Communication had carried out research at the ainaþi and Salacgrîva seacoast, it was advised to build the port in Ainazi, for the place was better sheltered from the wind, it had a better anchoring ground, and it froze later in the season. The port and its constructions suffered in the two world wars. In the post-war years it had been left to the destructive impact of waves and ice. It was only fifty years later that the local inhabitants realized the necessity of the port and set about its reconstruction. Seafaring is the outset, the past, and the future of Ainaþi. The Museum of Ainazi Naval School bears withness of the past, as the cradle of Latvian seafaring. The museums is open to visitors cince July 20, 1969.

 

The collections of the museum are on view in four rooms and tell of the origin of the naval school, its activity, building of the siling ships on the Vidzeme coast in the later half of the 19th century. In addition, there is a collection of anchors and a bust of Krisjanis Valdemars in the museum garden. On the way to the museum every visitor is greeted by a small lighthouse, which had been lifted from the sea. A granary, a structure of horisontal logs, is still waiting for its reconstruction. It is planned to house exibition halls and the premises for the collection. Already today the museum keeps over 7,000 items. The most significant are the collections of Ainazi charts, plans, diplomas of the naval school graduates, study notes, books, photographs, navigational instruments, tools for building sailing ships, personal belongings of sailors, etc. The museum keeps vast material on the outstanding public figure of the time, the keen advocate of the naval affairs, Krisjanis Valdemars (1825-1891). He was the first to appeal to the tsarist government to ensure free tuition to ardent, tought poor lads of the seaside, so that they might become fair seamen.

Kr.Valdemars article "On the Seafaring Possibilities of the Latvians and Estonians" was his first essential contribution in the popularization of naval issues and the improvement of the farmers’ living standard in the Baltic region. In 1860 Kr.Valdemars made a tour of the Baltics Sea coast from Klaipeda to St.Petersburg, looking for a place for a new type of naval school. He happened to meet responsive people on the Vidzeme coast, at the Latvian and Estonian seaside, in the small village of Ainazi. Its inhabitants had alredy started cargo transport to Latvian and Estonian ports, using self-made sailing ships, the so-called "wood johnnies". Having made some profit, they could built bigger ships and sail farther. This, again, called for knowledge. That is why the the Ainaþi seamen decided to respond to the appeal of a St.Petersburg-residing Latvian - to found naval school of a new type. (The ones that existed in Riga and Liepaja were expensive, their tuition period was long and provided in the German language.) As the tsarist government was unwilling to support the iniative, it remained to found the school on donations.

The local shipowners Janis Mikelsons, Juris, Andrejs and Otto Veides a.o. polled the money, so that in the autumn of 1864 the first naval school for peasants was opened in the servants’ house, belonging to J.Veide. Admission was free from age qualification; tuition was free of charge and it was offered in Latvian and Estonian. At the outstart, the school was the first (lowest) category of naval school with a preparatory class and a special class. Kristiana Dals , the first techer at the school and its headmaster of long standing, met with a lack of understanding on the part of the government. This explains the fact that for the first tree years the school func tioned unofficially. It was only after the Ainazi students had sucessfully passed the examinations at the Riga Naval School that the tsarist government supported Kr.Valdemars’ project. On June 27, 1867, Russia’s highest Department of Naval Affairs adopted the Regulations of the Naval Classes, approving of a new naval school system in Russia. Owning to this, 41 naval schools were opened in Russia, out of these 13 were founded in the Baltics, including 10 schools in Latvia.

The school received material assistance from the ainaþi Association for Fostering Naval Affairs, from the local administration and the owners of the sailing ships. In 1870 the school moved to new building. When these premises became too small, a two-storeyed school building was erected, with the public support (it burnt down in 1944). In 1875 the school was awarded the second category, and in 1880 the third or the highest category permitting to prepare sea captains. In the study year of 1885/86 the total number of students exceeded a hundred. The aquasition of the study material caused great problems, for there was only one source of theoretical knowledge and practical skills - the teacher.

K.Dals (1839- 1904) was e graduate of the Riga Naval School, a sea captain, a Swede by birth. In 1870 another teacher came to work at the school, Nikolajs Raudseps (1848 - 1920). Both of them worked at the school for more then three decades. The result of their work was methodology of teaching and an improved curriculum. K.Dals guided the educational voyages to Western Europe on board the sailing ship "Katarina". Science research expeditions to the mouth of the Ob were made in 1876 and 1877. When K.Dals was transferred to Liepaja, N.Raudseps became headmaster of the naval school (till 1915). At the end of 19th century the school employed alredy six teachers. They provided the foundation for the open-sea shipping. The activity of the Ainaþi Naval School broke on the eve of World War I. From 1915 till 1919 it functioned in evacuation in the district of Herson.

After the war, for a brief moment, the school resumed work in Ainazi; the political confusion made the effort unnecessary. Thus the first Valdemârs’ naval school ceased to exist. From 1864 till 1919 more than a thousand of sea captains and helmsmen had graduated from the school, and they took the name of their school to distant seas. In 1887, the sea captain Peteris Snore took the sailing ship "Rota", built on the Vidzeme coast, on a voyage to America. At the beginning on the 20th century the attention of the world press was focused on a speed record, set by the Ainazi Naval School graduate Janis Zilemans (he crossed the Atlantic Ocean on a sailing ship in 12 days). A rare case in the history of the sailing fleet was the salvaging of the Norwegian bark "Ellen" in the Atlantic Ocean in 1990: this was carried out by the Naval School graduate Martins Lielkalns. The stately Latvian sailing ships, just as in the times of Jacob, Duce of Courland, were again sailing the seas and oceans of the world, thus proving not only the courage of the latvian seamen, but also the durability of the ships, built in Vidzeme.In Ainazi, ships used to be built on the sea-coast, in the open, without any constructuion projrct. The master estimated the shape of the ship by sight. Ships were made of unshaven pine, saturated with tar, to protect it from rot. The lenght of the ship depended on the lenght of the thee , cut for the keel. Shipbuilding on the Vidzeme coast provided not only profit of the shipowners, but also for the labourers, blacksmiths, carpenters, rope-makers and other artisans. Between 11861 and 1913, arround 50 sailing ships, suitable for distsnt voyages, were made in Ainazi.

World War I destroyed most of our sailing fleet. Instead of the white sails the chimneys of the steamers appeared on the seas and oceans. Gradually the seafaring spirit in Ainazi subsided to revive with the third National Awakening at the end of the 20th century. Now it the nearby Salacgriva Naval vocational class that expects the sea loving lads to came and study. The old and weathered breakwater is no more lonely for the ainþi port is lively with the reconstruction works.
The Museum of Ainazi Naval School is open for visitors daily from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

The museum specialists will take you arround the town of Ainazi, the port, the burial places of the seamen. There are facilities to watch videofilms in Latvian or English about the Museum of the Naval School.The Ainazi Museum staff are constantly in the collection process: any information about the former Naval School graduates, offered by their relatives, will be received with gratitude.

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Address: K. Valdemāra iela 47, Salacgriva municipality, Ainazi, LV–4035, Latvia
Contact telephone: (+371)64043349; 29424867
E-mail: ainazumuzejs@apollo.lv

More info: http://www.ainazumuzejs.lv/site/page/en/startpage/

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