The collaboration of Ruler Kaupo


Kaupo. Book by Ārijs Geikins

When organized society becomes subjects of foreign invasion it usually splits into three groups. The first is passive, people who accept the situation and goes with the flow; the second is those who actively resist the invasion by all means necessary. But the third group is the collaborationist’s. They seek to make contact with the invaders, support them and even make crimes against own people to sympathize the invaders. This is watched as the act of treason from others. But for such action there are always many reasons. First is naive trust that invaders could bring new hope to his people and help them.  This is one of the most common reasons for collaboration. If man is disillusioned in his present society then he believes that invader could change it. Eventually he becomes disillusioned and feeling used. He may keep his position in agony or try to come back to his old side. But there is certain extent of collaborators who collaborates with the enemy for his own personal subjective reasons. One could do that for his personal profit, the other finds collaborating with the enemy as his only way to get the power of his own. These are the worse kind of collaborationist’s; they will do anything to destroy his own people to keep his power and will never regret it.

The collaboration is the controversial question in every country and enough to destroy one man’s life. During the times of Latvian history especially in 20 century the collaboration has happened in various ways. This man was already mentioned in many previous posts the Livonian Ruler Kaupo.  He is mostly known for his famous trip to Rome where he met the Pope himself and his wars against his own people.  Why he supported the Crusaders when others resisted- this will be discussed in this post.

Kaupo ruled the Livonian lands in Turaida. He was one of the first indigenous rulers to be met by German missionaries. He was one of the first to become baptized. Livonians had no clear knowing of the teachings of Christianity, their rather did for diplomatic reasons, hoping that new strangers would guarantee them protection and other goods. Christian God and Christ were just another Paganic deity to them. However some sources report that Christianity was important for himself so this could be the reason why he agreed to take a journey to Rome. Kaupo was baptized by brother Theodoricus and according to Chronicle of Henry together they visited Rome  1203. To Livonians and early Latvians the geographical aspects of the world could be very plain. In Medieval times there were people who rarely left the area around their home villages and had no perceptions of far away places. The most average Livonians must not even heard of such Rome or Pope who is ruling there. This means that Kaupo was intelligent enough to take such voyage to place of he could only imagine. According to Chronicler Henry he really managed to get to Rome and meet the Pope Innocent III himself. We can only imagine how the glorious Rome looked to the man who lived in wooden fortress and knew nothing of stone castles and churches. The glorious foundation of Rome and its riches blinded the semi-barbaric Livonian ruler. It’s also sounds fantastic that he met the Innocent III the man who was more powerful than any other secular ruler of his time. It was not the only mission of Theodoricus to show first baptized Pagan ruler to the Pope, but to make deals to found the Order of Brothers of Sword.  But it was ideologically important to show the new world order to the Pagan so he would help them at all costs. In the beginning of every invasion it’s important to deceive the natives so they fall easily for the oppression.

However the other aspects say the Kaupo was forced to baptize and follow Crusaders orders, because they took his son as hostage and threatened to take him to Germany. But the voyage to Rome was enough to make him a follower of the Crusaders. In the result he was exiled from his castle by his own people who saw him as a traitor. Kaupo together with Crusaders attacked his own castle killing his relatives and friends. After his castle perished in flames he spent days with the Crusaders in their castle at Cesis. Kaupo took part in Crusader attacks against the Livonians and early other Latvians. In 1216 when Livonian revolted against Crusader rule, Kaupo helped to quell the uprising. He fought for the Crusader cause until  1217 when he was killed in action in castle Vilande Estonia. The Chronicler Henry who eagerly counted all his actions in the name of the Christian God does not give the kind words of Kaupo moving to the gates of Paradise as he would give to the German knights. The collaborator is never truly loved by his owner he is used until he is useful.


Kaupo meets the Pope

However we cannot punish Kaupo as the first Latvian traitor. At first he was Livonian, second there more men like him who were forced to support the invaders.  His actions cannot be considered as positive because he supported the Crusader invasion and attacked his own people. The story of Kaupo is a typical tragedy of one man who becomes victim of invader propaganda and is forced to doom his own people. Such peoples will never be understood completely but their legacy will forever exist.

Selected sources:

Šterns,Indriķis. (2002) Latvijas vēsture, 1180-1290: krustakari. Riga: Latvijas vēstures instūta apgāds.

Boiko. K. (Ed.) (1994) Lībieši : rakstu krājums. Riga: Zinātne.


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