“TheCeļotājs” –
 Touring Riga Latvia Is A Journey Though Time
 

History of Latvia

                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

                       National Flag of Latvia                                                                                                                                                                                                                         National Crest of Latvia

Baltic tribes’ people settled along the Baltic Sea and, lacking a centralized government, fell prey to more powerful peoples. In the 13th century they were overcome by the Livonian Brothers of the Sword, a German order of knights whose mission was to conquer and Christianize the Baltic region. The land became part of the state of Livonia until 1561. Germans composed the ruling class of Livonia and Baltic tribes made up the peasantry. German was the official language of the region.

Poland conquered the territory in 1562 and occupied it until Sweden took over the land in 1629, ruling until 1721. Then the land passed to Russia. From 1721 until 1918, the Latvians remained Russian subjects, although they preserved their language, customs, and folklore.

The Russian Revolution of 1917 gave them their opportunity for freedom, and the Latvian republic was proclaimed on 18 November 1918. The republic lasted little more than 20 years. Plagued by political instability, Latvia essentially became a dictatorship under President Karlis Ulmanis. It was occupied by Russian troops in 1939 and incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1940. “In the night between 13 and 14 June 1941, about 15,500 Latvian residents among them 2400 children younger than ten were arrested without a court order to be deported to distant regions in the Soviet Union”. German armies occupied the nation from 1941 to 1944. Of the 70,000 Jews living in Latvia during World War II, 95% were massacred. In 1944, Russia again took control of Latvia.

The Mass Deportation of 25 March 1949.

The deportation began in the night of 24 March. At night, people were arrested at home, during the day at their places of employment. Schoolchildren were sometimes taken to the trains directly from school.

The Mass Deportation of 25 March 1949 between 25 March and 28 March 42,133 people, or more than 2% of the pre-war population of Latvia, were deported from Latvia to places of "special settlement" [mainly in the districts of Krasnoyarsk, Amur, Irkustsk, Omsk, Tomsk and Novosibirsk]. Among these were more than 10,990 children and youths under 16. Women and children under 16 constituted 73% of the deportees.

January 1991, the Latvian people barricaded the streets around the area of Old Riga Centre City to protect the Radio Station, Parliament Building and the Supreme Council as well as the Riga Radio and Television Tower and Television Station. All bridges and streets leading into Old Riga Centre City were also barricaded and guarded.

Latvia was one of the most economically well-off and industrialized parts of the Soviet Union. When a coup against Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev failed in 1991, the Baltic nations saw an opportunity to free themselves from Soviet domination and, following the actions of Lithuania and Estonia, Latvia declared its independence on 21 August 1991. European and most other nations quickly recognized their independence, and on 2 September 1991, President Bush announced full diplomatic recognition for Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania. The Soviet Union recognized Latvia's independence on 6 September and UN membership followed on 17 September 1991.

Because Latvians' ethnic identity had been quashed by foreign rulers throughout its history, the new Latvian republic set up strict citizenship laws, limiting citizenship to ethnic Latvians and to those who had lived in the region before Soviet rule in 1940. This denied about 452,000 of the country's 740,000 ethnic Russians of citizenship. But in 1998, a referendum passed easing the citizenship rules.