Volksbildung und Buchproduktion im schwedischen Livland: Johann Fischer und Bengt Gottfried Forselius

Liivi Aarma


Seventeenth Century Livonia experienced an explosive growth of publications in the Estonian and Latvian languages. The Estonian literary language and new spelling rules were worked out and training of teachers for peasent village schools was launched. Some historians have attributed the last-mentioned effort to the goodwill of Swedish King Charles XI, but the changes started actually when Johann Fischer was appointed ecclesiastical leader of the Province of Livonia. Despite all the research done on J. Fischer, we still face some unsolved issues like the financial backing of the activities, his role in the establishment of teachers' training Colleges and the like.
In 1984, the Forselius Teachers' Training College in Tartu celebrated its 300th anniversary. Questions about the founding of the College inspired a search for answers based on historical facts.
The present paper deals with the educational and welfare work of Johann Fischer. The Teachers' Training College was established thanks to his efforts. He was a representative of the early Enlightenment in Livonia. In order to realize his ideas he managed to get financial support from the Swedish Government's revenue: the so-called relief fund from the customs licence on the sea trade. The relief fund enabled him to launch an educational and training programme for villageschool teachers, to publish ecclesiastical literature in the native languages of the province and textbooks for schools. He also used the money to establish the Johann Ernst Glück Teachers' Training College for Latvians and the abovementioned Forselius College for Estonians. This, as well as the Publishing of the Bible and other books, was recorded by the superintendent-general's book-keeper Emanuel Reger. Appraising the efforts of Fischer' s assistants and colleagues, Forselius among them, we can only approve and recognize them. Bengt Gottfried Forselius cannot be denied the honour of ingenuity and energy he applied to establish something that had never existed before. Even though the Organization of the College was rather primitive, the idea to provide trained teachers for village schools was supremely progressive.