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sunnuntai 31. tammikuuta 2016

Latvia, Cool Facts #96

<= 95. Estonia                                                                                                              97. Lithuania => 

1. Legend behind the Latvian flag  

The Latvian red-white-red flag is one of the oldest flags in the world. The legend tells about a battle in which a Latvian tribe chief was wounded and he was wrapped in a white sheet. 

The part of the sheet on which he was lying remained of course white but the edges were stained in his blood. During the next battle this sheet was then used as the flag and this time the Latvian warriors were successful driving their enemy away.

Ever since the Latvian tribes have used this flag and finally in 1917 the current flag design was adapted by the Latvian artist Ansis Cirulis. The flag was used in 1918 when Latvia gained independence until the Russian occupation in 1940.

2. Evolution of Latvia

German crusaders arrived in Latvia to convert the people in Christianity from the 1100s and a German crusader state ruled Latvia from the 1200s until the 1500s.

After 1583 the current Latvian areas fell under Polish and Lithuanian rule.
After all the wars between Poland and Sweden, northern Livonia came under Swedish rule in 1629.
After the Great Northern War in 1721 Sweden lost Vidzeme to Russia.

In 1772 Russia got the Latgale region from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
In 1795 Russia controlled the whole area of the current Latvia as it started ruling the Duchy of Courland and Semigallia.

Between 1918-1940 Latvia was independent before becoming occupied for 51 years by Soviet Union. In 1991 Latvia became independent again.

Latvian areas

3. Latvian colonies

The Duchy of Courland and Semigallia was a vassal state of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth between 1561-1795 in the current Latvia. One interesting fact is that this ancient Latvian state had short-lived colonies in Africa and in the Caribbean. 

Between 1659-1661 the Duchy owned an island fort in Gambia river, which was later taken by England. In 1654 a colony was established in the island of Tobago situated in the Caribbean Sea. This colony was also taken by other colonial powers. 

These both colonizations were made by Jakob Kettler, the most successful ruler of the Duchy of Courland and Semigallia. 

Fort Jakob in Gambia

New Courland colony in Tobago island

4. Great Northern War

The Great Northern War was a huge war about the supremacy in northern Europe between Sweden and Russia. The war started in 1700 and ended in 1721 in Sweden's defeat. The war time was especially hard for Latvia where 40% of the population died from famine and plague.

For example half of the residents of Riga were killed by the plague in 1710-1711. As a result of the war Sweden lost Vidzeme to Russia but the rest of the current Latvian areas stayed part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth until 1772, when Russia gained the full control of the current Latvian areas.

5. Singing Revolution

The Singing Revolution is the name of the events between 1987-1991, that led to the restoration of the independence of the Baltic countries Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

During this time there were many demonstrations and song festivals protesting against the Soviet rule and demanding for independence.

One of the most notable demonstration took place on August 23, 1989, the fiftieth anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, a 600 km continuous human chain from Tallinn through Riga to Vilnius was assembled.

600 km human chain from Tallinn through Riga and Vilnius


900 Latvia was inhabited by Finnic Livonians and Baltic Curonians, Latgalians, Selonians and Semigallians
1100s German crusaders try to convert the Latvian people into Christianity
1237 A German crusader state begins their 300 year rule in Latvia
1282 Riga becomes a city of the Hanseatic League
1558-1583 After the Livonian war the current Latvian areas fall under Polish and Lithuanian rule
1600-1629 After the Polish-Swedish wars northern Livonia came under Swedish rule
1721 Sweden lost Vidzeme to Russia after the Great Northern War
1772 The Latgale region was incorporated to Russia from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
1795 Russia got the Duchy of Courland and Semigallia and after this the whole area of the current Latvia was under Russian rule
1817 serfs were emancipated in Courland and in 1819 in Vidzeme
1870 Latvians in the Univercity of Tartu in Estonia used their own flag, nationalism started rising at the time in Latvia
1873 The Latvian flag was already used widely in the first national song festivals in Riga
1881 Alexander III rises in power in Russia and the Russification of the Baltic countries increase
1917 Russian Revolution
1918 Latvia declares independence and starts the war of independence against the Bolsheviks
1920 Soviet Russia recognizes the Latvian independence
1934 Karlis Ulmanis stages a bloodless coup and establishing a nationalist dictatorship lasting until the year 1940
1939 The Baltic countries are in the Soviet sphere of interest in the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact
1940 Soviet troops occupy Latvia and the country is declared as a Soviet Republic
1941 German troops occupy Latvia
1944 Soviet troops return to occupy Latvia, which caused the fleeing of many Latvians to Germany and Sweden
1948 Nationalizing companies started and in 1949 the collectivization of farms
1953 The Latvian SSR got a new flag
1988 The Baltic Republics got a greater autonomy and Latvia got their pre-war flag back in 1990
1990 The Latvian SSR declared independence even though the central power in Moscow regarded Latvia still part of the Soviet Union
1991 After the coup attempt in Moscow, the Latvian independence is recognized and the Soviet Union was dissoluted the same year
1999 Latvia gets the first East European female president, Vaira Vike-Freiberga
2004 Latvia joins both Nato and the European Union 


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