Monthly Archives: December 2013

2013 of Latvianhistory.wordpess.com in review

 

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 87,000 times in 2013. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 4 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Latvia 2013 The Year of Struggles

Another year is coming to an end and as always I will gather all what was important in Latvia during the 2013. The year 2012 was labeled by me as the year of quarrels, now in 2013 these quarrels have become a full time struggles. Struggles between various political forces and forces within the society have resulted in many calamities like the burning of the Riga Castle, the Zolitūte disaster and the breakdown of the Valdis Dombrovskis government. The results of these struggles are yet to be foreseen for next year as they are still unfolding in full strength. This was truly the year of Snake as the unpridicatbaly of the Snake was the eminent within the events of Latvia and elsewhere.

Municipal elections with a record low turnout

Municipal elections took place on June 1 a very hot summer day. Was this the reason for such a low participation of voters – 686 097 or 45,85% of all eligible voters? More possibly it was a political passivity within the towns and rural areas, the lack of new voters because of emigration. In such almost in every major city there were no big surprises. Cities such as Ventspils, Liepāja, Jēkabpils kept their mayors who had been in office for some 20 years. There were major changes in Daugavpils. The old leadership by Žanna Kulakova was voted out, as she made a poor move by joining the declining Reform Party and was caught up in corruption scandals. She was replaced by old time mayor of Daugavpils Jānis Lāčplēsis from the Unity. However, the most votes were acquired by the Harmony Center party. While securing stable win within the center of Latgalian region – Rēzekne, Harmony Center still is unable to take a clear lead over the second largest city of Latvia with the mayor Russian speaking population. Also the resort town of Jūrmala, favored by Russian millionaires, with one of the most unstable municipality with more than 4 mayors in four years, finally got a “stable” municipality with “just” five parties and Gatis Truksnis as the mayor. Despite his flamboyant arrogance and attempts of making a cult of personality he managed to secure leadership of the resort city. Harmony Center was unable to seize power in the major parts of Latvia, but one point of the Latvian map became their stronghold – the city of Riga, also known as the capital of Latvia.

Riga Municipality – a state within the state with a Tzar Nil Ushakov

When the young journalist Nil Ushakov from First Baltic Channel entered the politics he was portrayed as the new political hope of the pro-Russian parties. Seemingly good intellect, perfect Latvian knowledge skills and magnetic personality were what convinced many to elect him into parliament in 2006. However, the work in the  opposition was boring for him and so on the 2009 he was placed as a first runner for the Riga municipal elections. With the help of the massive election campaign, using the 9th May celebrations, assisted by the advisers from the Russian Embassy, he secured a first great victory for the Harmony Center. He however had to share his power with Ainārs Šlesers an experienced businessman and a political gambler. By leaving the New Era party and the Civic Union who later united in Unity party, Ushakov and Šļeser had a stable dual leadership. Some said that Ushakov will be just a puppet in the Šlesers hands. But, on 2010 Šļesers made another gamble to gain entry into the new parliament that proved to be a political disaster for his party. The Vice Mayor Šlesers was replaced with his party member Andris Ameriks an experienced politician. Ushakov now gained a upper hand in all the deals within Riga and started to rule as sole Tzar of the city with Ameriks as his faithful First Advisor.

The power changed the actions and the personality of the Nil Ushakov. After the failure of his party in 2011, when it failed to enter the coalition despite gaining the most votes, he made a crucial step by supporting the two language referendum initiated by the Russian nationalist radicals. He now alienated himself from the leading Latvian parties and set path to long run hostile opposition in the Harmony Center. With Harmony Center in hapless opposition within the parliament, Ushakov made Riga as a fortress that disobeys the central government. While Dombrovskis government desperately pursued the austerity policy looking to lower the state budget deficit, Ushakovs made populist moves like giving free public transport for pensioners and school students. A multi million flower pavilion with no toilets and screeching doors, enormous andministarive resource spending on boosting on political advertising. Also dark cases such as assault on freelance journalist Leonīds Jākabsons who uncovered Ushakov association with the Russian Embassy. There is no proof of Ushakov has been involved in this crime against Jākabons, but the cynical tweet by Ushakovs – “I have an alibi!” at the time of the assault showed the face of the Tzar of Riga.

With all this on 2013 municipal elections the coalition parties should have to devise a way to topple him from his throne. Instead all was done to allow Ushakov to gain victory more easy. Instead of making a united election list each party went on their own. The Unity first runner was Sarmīte Ēlerte a notable figure from the times of Third Awakening, former editor of the newspaper Diena and former Minister of Culture. She however picked up a poor election strategy by centering on the nationalist slogans, “If we loose Riga, we loose Latvia!” a slogan more preferred by the National Alliance. National Alliance took advantage of this and made Baiba Broka as the first runner a jurist, working in the Ministry of Justice. A charming, calm but also a cunning woman Broka instead of emotional nationalist slogans put forward argumented social policy and in the end National Alliance won more seats than Unity. However, Ushakov’s Harmony Center unified list with Ameriks new party Honor to Serve Riga gained 54% of votes and secured the fortress of Riga.

Ushakovs now a comfortable leader with two cats living in his cabinet to show his good side made two poor choices. First an attempt to make a special Riga resident card for people registered in Riga. People with such cards would have a cheaper public transport prices, while others registered in other parts of Latvia would have to pay more. A wave of protest soon followed against such segregation of the people of Riga. After all many people who live in other towns have a daily work in Riga, or those who live in Riga, but have declared address in other municipalities. Despite governmental disapproval, protest campaigns Ushakovs went against all odds, even by openly bypassing the law issued these Riga Citizen Cards. On December 18 the Riga Town Council issued a budget deficit of 35 million Lats. Obviously a Riga Card was a vain attempt to fix the deficit issue. Free public transport for elders and school children is not exactly free, but funded by Riga tax payers. Another mistake by Ushakov was an erratic response to Zolitūde disaster. First showing sings of strong leadership and responsibility, after the resigning of Dombrovskis, Ushakovs showed an erratic behavior of calling the Dombrovskis resignation as the act of populism and aggressively denied any calls of resignation for himself. In the end Ushakov just showed that he is just another Eastern type politician who sees the resignation as a sign of personal weakness and taking responsibility as a sign of humiliation. Just like Vladimir Putin in Russia whose party United Russia has signed a cooperation agreement.

The fight within the coalition that lead to collapse of the Dombrovskis government

Already in 2011 after the emergency elections were over the new Dombrovskis government were seen as short lived by some. There were simply too many different parties with different aims. Unity party kept their Prime Minister seat, the Chairman of the Parliament, Finance, Defense and tried to lead the coalition. The Zatlers Reform Party already loosing six elected members in the first of parliament working day was badly traumatized. The leader Valdis Zatlers soon lost his control over the party because of his illness. So the party was simply renamed to the Reform Party. But, the reforms pushed by the ambitious Minister of Education Roberts Ķīlis that met a strong resistance right from the start finally ended when he resigned April on behalf of his poor health. Later he was caught in making drunk driving which resulted in a car crash. His replacement Vjačelavs Dombrovskis is more known for his scandalous press secretary Anna Kononova who previously worked for Ushakovs. Another Reformist Edmunds Sprūdžs also faced his defeat against the oligarch mayor of Ventspils Aivars Lembergs in vain attempts of removing him. He resigned and later left the party as the new leadership was now looking to work with the Lembergs Green Farmers. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Edmunds Rinkēvičš, Minister of Economy Daniels Pavļuts and the Minister of Interior Rihards Kozlovskis had better results, but since the Reform Party ratings are below 5% the Reformist struggle started by Valdis Zatlers has suffered a mayor defeat.

Meanwhile the third coalition partner the National Alliance was playing a partisan warfare against the Dombrovskis. Constantly threatening the bring down the government if their demands are not met, they never came close to actually do it. Fight against the residence permits in return of investments for non EU citizens, resulted only in partial victory. The Minister of Culture Žanete Jaunzeme Grende a business lady tried to instore order over the Latvian National Opera. Despite Latvian Opera artists being famous all over the world, the Opera had financial problems. Jaunzeme Grende decided that the only way to save the opera was the change Opera leadership. But, the longtime director of the opera was wealthy Andrejs Žagars, with too many connections with National Alliance rivals and vast support base of the artistic society. In the end Valdis Dombrovskis dissatisfied with the Opera scandal dismissed Žanete Jaunzeme Grende sparking anger from the National Alliance. However, Dombrovskis also decided not to cancel the removal of Žagars. In such he shot two rabbits with one shot. Opera was then taken over by famous composer Zigmārs Liepiņš known for his conservative views and connections with the National Alliance. A pyrric victory for the National Alliance.

The NA defended Žanete Jaunzeme Grende in the most aggressive way, but in this same way they wanted to remove their own minister of Justice Jānis Bordāns by excluding him from his party and asking him to resign. The official reason was his affiliation  with the Democratic Patriots an offshoot movement from NA. However, the real reason was the Bordāns desire to reform the insolvency process. Many of the NA leaders including the General Secretary Aigars Lūsis where an experienced insolvency administers boosting the party profit. Bordāns soon became involved in conflict with the NA jurist clan lead by Gaidis Bērziņš his predecessor. In the result he was excluded, despite his desire to continue working with the NA. But, NA could simply fire Bordāns from his office and replace him with Baiba Broka. Valdis Dombrovskis could only fire his ministers and he decided to keep Bordāns as the Minister of Justice. Confused NA declared the coalition agreement no longer in effect. Despite such calls, the coalition continued to work and even managed to issue a state budget for 2014. The coalition was like breaking building with unstable foundations and one great trigger was needed to destroy it completely- and that was the disaster of Zolitūde.

Latvia 2013 A year of disasters

When Latvia is mentioned on the first page of any international news page? A) Election event, B) major sports victory, C) a major disaster. Sadly enough on 2013 C) variant was the most frequent. The first event was in March during the Good Friday on March 30 223 under ice fisherman became stranded on the ice cap that was washed away from the coast. Navy ships and army helicopters were involved to get them back on the land. Fishing on frozen ice is a tradition in Latvia for decades, and every year at least 2 fisherman is lost because of unstable ice. But, when they start to fish on the ice of the frozen sea the trouble begins. Rūdolfs Blaumanis already at the end of the 19th century wrote a novel called “In the Shadow of Death” of ice stranded fisherman in the open sea. This shows how long Latvia had dealt with this issue. For news agencies like CNN this might had been amusing, but for Latvia nothing unusual and rather shameful.

The frosty winter took away 23 lives of Latvian citizens. But the hot summer was not only hot in temperature, but also in the flames that destroyed the Castle of Riga. The Medieval Castle surviving many wars, renovations had never caught a fire in his history. But on the night of June 20, when the repair workers had gone away the castle roof erupted in massive flames. The Castle again had renovation works, the Presidential residence was moved to the House of Blackheads in the main Old City Square. But, the Museum of Arts, and the Museum of National History were still working there. The whole night of June 20-21 was spent in the heroic struggle of extinguishing the flames. In the end the museum collections survived, but they will be moved to other places next year. The Presidential block however suffered the most.

The November 18 the Latvian Independence day seemed very happy and full of patriotism. Most could not imagine the calamity that took place on the late evening of November 21. A roof over crowded Maxima supermarket collapsed burying many people under the ruins. Safety services again tried to rescue people from the rubble of blocks, 3 firefighters were lost in the process. 54 people died resulting the biggest disaster in the Latvian history.

The rescue works were not over as the struggle to find the responsible begun. One blamed the Re&Re company that was responsible for the building, others blamed Maxima shopping chain because it continue to work while there was buildups of artificial garden on the roof. And also for making evacuation because of alarms that for some reason went off an hour before the roof collapsed. The Maxima response was a communications disaster when its arrogant and cynical Latvian Maxima director Gintars Jasinskis made comments that angered the whole Latvian society resulting boycott of the Maxima shopping chain. Jasinskis was later fired.

As Ushakovs and Dombroviskis was unwilling to take political responsibility that is where the President of Latvia Andris Bērziņš came in. In his first speech after the disaster he called the event as “murder” and called for political shakeup. And then he realized his words with actions. A week after Valdis Dombrovskis the longest serving Prime Minister resigned after a long conversation with the president.

Andris Bērziņš now turned everything into even greater confusion by his inability to pick up a new candidate. The Unity put forward Artis Pabriks the Minister of Defense, but since Bērziņš disliked the strong anti-Putinist Russia stance by Pabriks he was turned down. Bērziņš then added even more confusion by asking to make people elected president, with full powers over all controlling state offices like the Bank of Latvia, The Anti-Corruption Bureau, Constitutional Defense Service ect. A president with such functions will be almost Vladimir Putin in Russia. After that some even asked about the mental state of the aged president. As Bērziņš is continuing to play games by not calling an exact candidate for the Prime Minister; it makes a question – are his actions dictated by the foolishness or a rafinate political cause. After all Bērziņš was from the Green Farmers party, the party of Aivars Lembergs is looking for revenge after the dismissal of the parliament in 2011. Or an old time Communist Party official is looking for a slick way to allow the Harmony Center in the coalition. The answer for this question will reveal on next year.

The next year may be labeled as the year of changes. The new Euro currency, the parliamentary elections and many other things that will happen along the way. There were many positive things of 2013. The Song and Dance Festival, many achievements of our sportsmen and international cultural achievements. Latvia became more closer to Catalonia by its Prime Minister acknowledging their legitimate struggle for independence. A connection that must kept within the next year as Catalonia will hold a concluding referendum next year. The Dalai Lama visit was inspiring for many.

Next year is the year of the Wodden Horse for it may be a good omen fast victories, unexpected adventure, and surprising romance. It is an excellent year for travel, and the more far away and off the beaten path the better. However, as the Trojan Horse was made from the wood we must let to make 2014 go off that way. Let’s work, act and pray to make the year 2014 as the year of our personal and mutual victories!

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History of Money in Latvia

The Last special issue of the Latvian 1 Lat coin

The Last special issue of the Latvian 1 Lat coin

Only a few weeks left until another currency change takes place in Latvia. This time Latvia joins the Eurozone and replaces its national currency Lats with one of the largest currencies in the world – Euro. But, the history of money in Latvia has been long and many currencies have been used here. This is a concise history of the various currencies in Latvia during the centuries

During the Prehistoric times for the exchange of goods various valuable objects were used. Nauda means money in Latvian and originates from the word cattle, similar to Lithuanian nauda, Norvegian nautr. Also the Indian rupee originates from word in Sanskrit rupa that also means cattle. That’s because the cattle exchange was used before the proper means of currencies were introduced. Other valuable and often symbolic objects were used. The Baltic region was known across the ancient world for its amber a fossilized tree resin was favored by the Greeks and Romans. Used primary for jewelry it was also known to make electricity giving it divine reputation. First signs of amber trade were found Middle Neolithic Stone Age. At the swamp village of Sārnate locals built amber manufacture. They exchanged amber for flint and shale work tools.

The Roman Silver Denarii found in Latvia

The Roman Silver Denarii found in Latvia

First coin money is known to appear in the 7th  century BC Lydian kingdom in modern day Turkey. As the metal was recognized as the most effective mean of exchange – solid and easily divided and with precise weight. Now the metal was made as a round coin with inscriptions and pictures on the both sides. First coins found in Latvia dates to Early Iron Age 1-4 century AD (according to Latvian specific periodization). The first coins in Latvia came from Roman Empire, the Baltic tribes were reached by Roman traders. They visited Latvia using the so called Amber way from the city of Carnuntum (modern day Austria) to the East Prussia and Courland where the valuable amber was mostly found. Another way was by the sea route from the lower river Rhine and the Gallic provinces to the Baltic coastline. The Roman historian Tacitus in his Germania reported that the Baltic people that he called Aesti receives a money reward with wonder for their amber. It’s probably because local Balts did not know what to do with coin money; they viewed it as just as some pieces of metal. Despite that they kept and made deposits and took them in their graves, believing it could be valuable in the afterlife.

Mostly the Roman silver denaries and bronze semis were found by archaeologists in the ancient grave sites and hidden deposits. After the fall of the Roman empire the territory of Latvia was no longer reached by the Roman coins. The silver was used as the main currency coming from Russia and Scandinavia.

The Arabian Dirham

The Arabian Dirham

During the 8th-9th century in the ascent of the Muslim civilization the Arabian currency dirham became the most valuable across Europe. Dirhams came to Baltic lands from the Kievan Rus, using Volga- Daugava waterway. From Persia to Volga Bulgaria (modern day Tatarstan), from Volga to Ladoga, then trough river Neva to the Finnish Strait. And then with the help of the Scandinavian Vikings reached Courland. Another route was from Middle East trough Caucasus region and then by river Dnepr to the lake of Ladoga. Arab traders never entered the Baltic lands and mostly stopped and the Volga Bulgaria as it was Islamic country. Their goods were then transported by Vikings who had their trade bases in Novgorod, Smolensk and Old Rostov. The national museums in Tallinn, Stokholm, St Perersburg and Moscow holds more Arabian dirhams than in whole Middle Eastern countries. In Latvia 2 473 dirhams have been discovered, originating from Iran, Turkey, Baghdad, Syria and the Central Asia. At the middle of the 11th century dirhams became less used as the Muslim Caliphate collapsed and whole Europe became affected by the silver deficit.

The Western European rulers adopted their own coins and with the help of Vikings the Baltic lands were now reaching by the silver dinars. German phenings were commonly found in Latvia. As the Holy German Empire was not a unified country, but a union of the many smaller states, that had rights to forge their own coins there are many types of denars in Latvia. Also Danish coins from the time of the Knut the Great was found in Latvia.

Ancient Latvian made replicas of the Western European money

Ancient Latvian made replicas of the Western European money

The 11th century was known for its monetary crisis. Again silver bars were used as a currency. There are reports of the ancient Livonian tribes making their own replicas of the Western denars. 39 such local made coins were found in 13 places within Latvia. It was a sign of early state development among Baltic and Finno-Ugrian tribes.

The Phenning of the Bishop Albert

The Phenning of the Bishop Albert

The 12-13th century is the time of the Crusades in Latvia. The first minted coins in Riga were the Bishop Albert Phenings made at the Castle of Mārtiņsala. After the Confederation of Livonia was established on 14th century, Riga started to forge their own silver coins. Every city of state within the confederation that had its own rights for minting issued their own currencies Currencies in Livonia were many. 1 Marc was 4 Verdins or 36 Shillings. Sometimes in Livonia silver Dalders and golden Ducats.

The Dalderis of the Free City of Riga

The Dalderis of the Free City of Riga

After the collapse of the Livonian Confederation and its annexation by Poland – Lithuania in 1561, a new era of money begun in Latvia. Riga for a long time tried to become independent from Poland -Lithuania and rejected the Polish minting rules.  So they issued their own coins for a long time. The Duchy of Pārdaugava issued shillings and verdins at the Castle of Dole in 1572. The city of Riga known for its hostile stance to the Polish king banned the use of these coins. On 1589 Riga convinced the Polish king Sigismund III to become the only city in whole Livonia to mint coins. Riga issued Ducats and Graši.

1780 Dalderis showing Peter Biron the last duke of Courland

1780 Dalderis showing Peter Biron the last duke of Courland

The Duchy of Courland and Semigallia was an autonomous state within Poland and Lithuania with its own royal family. Its capital was Jelgava (Mittau) where the first shillings were made in 1575. On 1577 Polish king Stephan Batory canceled the Jelgava minting rights. They were restored in 1579 in accordance to the Polish-Lithuanian rulers. Despite the economical upswing during the rule Duke Jacob the money was issued on small numbers. Last coins were issued during the rule of Duke Peter Biron called Dalderis.

The Swedish dalderis minted in Riga showing Gustav Adolf the II

The Swedish dalderis minted in Riga showing Gustav Adolf the II

In 1621 Sweden annexed Riga and the region of Vidzeme. Latvian lands became even more divided in the terms of currencies. Sweden hoped to establish unified Swedish currency rules within the new Baltic province, but failed to do so. Riga still kept its rights to forge money according to Polish rules. Only on 1630 Sweden forced Riga to issue silver shillings according to Swedish rules.

1704 Russian 1 Ruble showing Peter I the Great

1704 Russian 1 Ruble showing Peter I the Great

On 1710 Riga and Vidzeme was taken over by the Russian Empire. During the next decades of the 18th century whole territory of Latvia was annexed by the Imperial Russia. The decimal money system established by Peter I the Great finally ended rather chaotic money times and united whole Baltic region under one Russian currency.

Golden 15 Rubles showing Tsar Nicholas II

Golden 15 Rubles showing Tsar Nicholas II

The Riga money mint was closed. Pleas to restore the minting rights were denied by Petersburg authorities. Slowly the Baltic lands were adopted to the Russian ruble and the Russian unified economic system. In 1786 first Russian paper money called asignatsia (from french assignet- paper money). There were 100, 75, 50 and 25 ruble assignatsias. On 1843 they were replaced by the state credit tickets fixated by silver and gold equivalent. On the end 19th century Russia entered the Gold Standard and minted golden rubles.

1917 postamp-money in value of 3 kopeks

1917 postamp-money in value of 3 kopeks

On 1915 the German army invaded the Latvian territory sparking a new currency chaos. Plagued by the deficit of coins Russia even issued money stamps as equivalent of kopek. The paper money lost its value, after the 1917 February revolution the Provisional government issued paper state cash signs or so called kerenkas after the Prime Minister Alaxander Kerensky. With the old imperial rubles still in effect the money flow was in chaos.

1916 German Ostkopek for Eastern Frontlines

1916 German Ostkopek for Eastern Frontlines

Meanwhile the Germans occupying the Courland and Semigallia issued their own Ostmarks and Ostrubles. Also a iron kopeks and loan sings were issued within the German owned lands. After the German capitulation on 1919 the currency chaos deepened. Some cities like Liepāja, Venstpils and Jelgava issued their own municipal currencies. They were allowed to use until 1925 and was allowed to convert to Lats until 1931.

Riga Soviet of Workers 3 rubles 1919

Riga Soviet of Workers 3 rubles 1919

Meanwhile the Bolsheviks invading Latvia made their own currencies. Cēsis had its Cēsis district Workers Deputy Soviet executive committee loan coupons 5 to 1o rubles. Riga Soviet made its own currency sign 3, 5 and 10 rubles. Even the Baltic German and White Russian army of Bermont issued its own money that was used only for a month.

The money of the Army of Bermont

The money of the Army of Bermont

Northern Latvia was for a long time occupied by the Estonian army assisting the Latvian army in their fight for independence. So also the Estonian money was in effect along the Vidzeme region. Estonian marks were used there until 1920. On 1919 Riga town council issued their own rubles after the city was taken over by the Latvian government.

Latvian 500 rubles 1919

Latvian 500 rubles 1919

The Latvian government had to stop this never ending chaos of currencies. On  January 29 1919 decision was made to release Latvian State cash signs and on March 22 a design competition was called for the new Latvian currency. Even the hostile pro-German government kept issuing these banknotes. After was for freedom was won a work was underway for a a unified Latvian currency. The Latvian ruble was a provisional currency and was in effect during the post war economic stabilization. On 1922 all was ready to adapt the new national currency Lats.

Latvian 100 Lats 1923

Latvian 100 Lats 1923

On August 3 1922 Lats became the official currency. Without taking the loans from abroad Latvia managed to stabilize its currency in short time. On September 19 the Latvian State Bank was founded to issue the new currency. Most Latvian paper lats were made in UK, only in 1939 100 Lats banknote was printed in Latvia. Designed by Rihards Zariņš the Latvian paper money was one of the most beautiful in Europe.

The famous Five Lats silver coin from 1931

The famous Five Lats silver coin from 1931

Latvian Lats and its demoniation santīms were released also in coins minted in Switzerland and UK. On 1937 first Latvian coins were minted in Riga. Latvia was known for its silver 5 Lats coins showing a Latvian woman in traditional costume and the cout of arms of Latvia in reverse. Designed by Rihards Zariņš who chose his employe Zelma Brauere. The coin became famous across the world, Latvians nicknamed it as “Milda” a common Latvian female name. The coin was valued after the occupation of Latvia as the symbol of the independent Latvia.

50 Latvian Lats with dictator Kārlis Ulmanis

50 Latvian Lats with dictator Kārlis Ulmanis

After the 1934 coup by Kārlis Ulmanis, his portrait appeared on 50 Lats banknote. On 1939 Ulmanis was looking forward to make a new five lats silver coin with his face on it. Soviet occupation halted his ambitions however the British minting company received the orders and managed to make a prototype of silver five lats replacing Milda with Ulmanis.

Latvian five lats from 1940

Latvian five lats from 1940

The last Latvian banknote was issued in 1940. The Latvian Soviet puppet government first promised to keep lots. However, soon on August 25 1940 the Soviet ruble was issued as a parallel currency. On March 25 1941 the last was abolished and completely replaced with the ruble.

Soviet ruble of 1937. Showing soviet paratrooper a symbol of Soviet expansionist plans

Soviet ruble of 1937. Showing soviet paratrooper a symbol of Soviet expansionist plans

When Nazi Germany invaded Latvia, some patriots restored the work of Latvian State bank and tried to restore Lats as a national currency by imprinting “Latvia July 1 1941″ on the pre war Latvian Lats. Nazi Germany was no less hostile to Latvian national efforts as soviets and issued the Reichmark as the official currency. After Soviets returned on 1944 ruble came back with them.

Soviet banknotes

Soviet banknotes

Despite the original Marxist teachings about the abolishment of money, Lenin and his successor Stalin had no clear idea of how to do it. And again rubles with Lenin replacing Peter the I returned. On 1947 Soviets made a significant currency reform stabilizing the ruble for years to come. However, it failed to thwart the speculation and corruption. Efforts on reforming the soviet economy followed after the death of Joseph Stalin. Nikita Khrushchev made many advancements but failed and lost his power. Leonid Brezhnev a moderate neo-Stalinist perfectly understood that radical reforms in the Soviet social system would mean its collapse. In so the Soviet Union was caught in stagnation for many years to come. In the era of total deficit various vouchers for products became the unofficial Soviet currency. The attempt to cure the plague of deficit and corruption by Mikhael Gorbachev ended in the collapse of the Soviet Union.

A 1991 sketch of the new Latvian lats

A 1991 sketch of the new Latvian lats

As the spirit of regaining independence was in the air, on 1991 the Latvian Cultural Fund issued a design competition of the restored future Lats. Some 20  projects including Sergey Kovalenko from Kharkiv were made. Most of the ideas resembled the past Latvian lats. Some wanted to place Kārlis Ulmanis, while others wanted to add Baltic German writer Garibl Merkel on 2 lat banknotes.

Latvian rubles 1992

Latvian rubles 1992

In 1990 the Latvian government made real steps to replace the Soviet ruble. The Latvian State bank was restored. After full independence was gained a fast moves were made to leave the inflation driven Soviet ruble. On May 7 1992 the Latvian ruble was again in effect. Nicknamed “repšiki” after the first president of the Latvian Bank Einārs Repše the Latvian Lats was introduced successfully. On 1993 Latvian Lats returned as the national currency. Latvian currency survived the hard economical situation during the 90′ies. Despite the relative ecomical upswing during the 2004-2007 Lats was plagued with inflation. Calls of devavation during the 2008-2009 economic crisis, were not met instead an inner devaluation was made.

Special 1 Lat coin. The Middle coin with a salmon is standart 1 lat

Special 1 Lat coin. The Middle coin with a salmon is standart 1 lat

Latvian Bank made a great tradition of releasing the special 1 Lat coins for special events. They became admired by coin collectors for their great design. Many special coins won special international prices. However, when Latvia entered the European Union one of its obligations to enter the Eurozone. Unlike Poland, where the constitution prevents from changing currency, Latvia had no law to prevent the entry into Eurozone. Instead the Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis was pushing to enter the Eurozone despite the crisis and problems within the Eurozone. And it was achieved despite large numbers of Eurosceptics within the government and society. However, their efforts were rather passive. Latvia in the XXI century has only three choices all of them not positive. First is to keep going west with its EU and US allies despite their instability, second is going East with Russia that has become semi-totalitarian and hostile, and third keep full neutrality, that is completely impossible. The third choice was made by Kārlis Ulmanis on 1934-1940 that doomed the state of Latvia. This time the currency change was made by the Latvian government and the people that elected them. The Latvia future with Euro is a story to be told by the next generation historians.

Selected Sources:

Ozoliņa, Anda, Ducmane, Kristīne (2013). Naudas Laiki Latvijā. No mārkas un vērdiņa līdz Latam un Eiro. Rīga. Lauku Avīze.

Ducmane, Kristīne. (2004). Nauda : enciklopēdija par savu un svešu naudu Latvijā no seniem laikiem līdz mūsdienām. Riga : Zvaigzne ABC.
Ducmane, Kristīne and Veciņš, Ēvalds.(1995) Nauda Latvijā. Riga. Latvijas Banka.
Paiders, Juris. (2002) Arābu laiki Latvijā. Riga. Zvaigzne ABC.

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Natural Disasters in Latvia

Destroyed forests by the 1967 super storm

Destroyed forests by the 1967 super storm

Many describe Latvia as rather safe country. We have no volcanos, earthquakes and severe tropical climate. However, nature caused calamities on Latvian soil has always occurred. Storms, floods and severe winters have caused damage and the loss of human lives. And as the climate changes Latvia is more affected by storms and unusual climate conditions. On the time of this writing the storm Xaver has ravaged many parts of Europe, but Latvia seems to have avoided the worst part. This article is a short collection of the major natural disasters that had taken place in Latvia.

Storms

The strongest ever known registered winds reached Latvia on October 18 1967. The port city of Liepāja was hit 48 m/s strong winds. It was October 17-18 when the most powerful autumn season reached the Baltic region. October-November is usual time for cyclones that forms over the Northern Sea and then reaches the Baltic Sea in weaker manner. But, on this time it was called the storm of the millennium. The storm was so powerful because it formed over Denmark from two cyclones at the speed of 30 m/s and the gust at Liepāja was 48 m/s. Storm moved over Courland, from Aizpute to Saldus, and then to Jēkabpils where it weakened. On its way the storm did enormous damage to Latvian forests, bringing down about 12 million cubic-meters of trees. Riga was barely affected with just 20 m/s strong wind. To clean out the forests more than 30 million m³ of wood had to be removed. With all the native Latvian woodworkers available this would take for 10 years. So large numbers of woodworkers were or so-called black brigades were called from Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. Many of them stayed in Latvia for the living.

After the storm of such power, most considered that the storm of such power may occur again in some 300 or even 800 years. However, it just took some 2 years and 14 days to similar superstorm to hit Latvia. On November 2 1969 a cyclone formed over Scotland and moved towards Scandinavia en route to Tallinn – Novgorod. A wind of 35 m/s with the highest extent in Daugavpils with 44 m/s. In Riga 40 m/s. was registered. After that the storm entered second cycle on November 3 with lesser power of 34 m/s. Daugavpils, Saldus and Skulte. The storm became the most strongest within the Gulf of Riga dragging a large amount of water. The water level reached 2,14 m. within Daugavgrīva. Flooding took place, Soviet armored transporter was evacuating people from flooded Vējzaķu island and knocked over by the wind killing the driver and five civilians. Also three more people within Riga perished from the falling objects taken down from buildings by the wind. Great damage was done to the beach of Jūrmala completely devastating the beach buildings. A capes in Jūrmala were destroyed and woods brought down. A coast of Gulf of Riga had to be strengthened to  withstood further storm attacks. Forests were mostly damaged in Northern Courland and Vidzeme coastal areas.   The storm made more damage than the first storm in terms of human lives and restoration expenses.

The 2005 storm Ervin

Many cyclones reached Latvia after that, but most were less powerful. On 1978 winds reached 32 m/s. On 1993 35 m/s. were reached. But, then came the January 8-9 of 2005 when cyclone “Ervin” became the strongest storm in 35 years. The highest point was 40 m/s. The record was reached at the Ventspils harbor, in Liepāja 36 m/s. At Riga 3o m/s. The Grobiņa wind power station even managed to register 51 m/s. Emerged on the skies of United Kingdom the storm became powerful over the Gulf of Bothnia. In its center the pressure reached minimum — 721,9 mm/Hg. As Latvia was in the southern side of the cyclone – the strongest winds took place there. The trouble started January 8 on 16:00 at the western shores. Wind begun at 20 m/s and on 22:00 started to become even stronger. On 2:00 -3:00 wind reached the maximum point. Wind continued until the nightfall of  January 9. The water level in Riga reached 213 cm just 16 cm bellow the 1969 record.

Some parts of Riga were flooded. Bolderāja was evacuated. Large parts of Courland was left without electricity. Capes were fully or almost damaged. Many hydrotechnical defense structures were damaged. Roads were cut off including the Via Baltica highway to Tallinn. Coastal damage and erosion and with the length of 2000 km 8—15 ha. of land was taken by the sea. On October 28-29 2013 storm Christian reached Latvia, knocking out electricity in the city of Ventspils.

The 2011 Tornado of Raiskums village that left significant damage

Tornadoes

Tornado is a rare sighting in Latvia. In recent years the sea tornadoes have been observed at the Latvian beaches. However, at the summer seasons the lighting storms can get violent and form a tornado. Such occurrences took place on 1946 August 20 at Skulte, on 1967 in Ludza district, on July 10 near Jēkabpils. On 1995 July 22 the baroque castle of Rundāle was hit by a tornado that tore off 75 m² of the castle roof, damaging also the interior. Usually the victims of such tornadoes are farms and forests. They are usually weak and short-lived. However, on July 7 1986 in Vidzeme region near the town of Ērgļi on 14:00 the land was surrounded by a haze. It got more darker, as the lightning and wind broke the trees. Then on 14:40 a dark tornado came down from the sky and made his away to village of Ranka within two hours in route of 50 km. Tornado overpassed the lake of Jumurda sucking all the fishes and dropping then off far from the lake. 10 country farms were damaged one was destroyed completely. After the tornado was over a 15-20 min rain shower and hail followed.

Floods

The 1929 floods in Riga

The 1929 floods in Riga

The flooding that happened in coastal areas of Riga was caused by severe storms. However, in past the center of Riga was almost yearly endangered by the moving ice. As the spring appeared the ice started to melt and move to the sea. The depth of river Daugava before the building of the port was just 2-3 meters. Large ice jams and floods were usually bellow the borders of Riga. Riga for many centuries were defended from floods by the heavy fortifications. However, there were people living outside walls and on the islands. They were affected by the flooding. Large floods with loss of life’s  took place on 1744, 1771 and 1807. On 1877 the floods ruined the railway embankment and flooded large areas from Babīte to Spilve. On 1917 after heavy winter the ice jam occurred within both sides of island Zaķusala. The riverside was flooded  within the Moscow district. Houses and trees were destroyed. Riga was flooded again on 1922, 1924 and on 1929.

The summer of 1928 was excessively humid. The rainfall limit was over 80% leaving the half of country farms in waste. The flooding caused by rainfalls destroyed the newly built bridge in Bauska over river Mēmele. The raining was not over until September damaging the harvest production. Latvian farmers learned their lesson and improved the melioration and work mechanization. Soon Latvia became a crop exporter, rather than importer.

However, the rainy summer was followed by severe winter. Whole Gulf of Riga was covered by ice. On April 1929 a storm broke the ice and brought the blocks of ice, jamming the entry of Daugava in to the sea. Icebreakers started to brake the ice along with powerful “Krišijānis Valdemārs”. But, as the ice moved along Riga and became stuck near Daugavgrīva the flooding was imminent. From the islands and low coastal areas people were evacuated. All supplies from Riga export port was taken away to safer place. However, the strong winds pushed more ice and the floods started. Islands, port areas, the Spilve airfield the Bolderāja highway was underwater. Water continued to rise and flooded the islands of Kundziņsala, Zaķusala and Klīversala. On April 23 the highest point was reached 2,8 m above normal level. Ganību dambis, Akmeņu street, Ranķu dambis was flooded. Cars and boats were together. During the  next days the wind changed its direction and moved the ice away from the shore. As the entry of Daugava was clear from ice the water moved away.

Bridge over river Daugava in Riga destroyed by the  ice jam

Bridge over river Daugava in Riga destroyed by the ice jam

The floods on 1924 destroyed the Lübeck wooden bridge, built by Germans on 1917. It was located from Grēcenieki street to Šoneri street at Klīversala. As it was built for military purposes it was built with rush, the ice breakers were placed in wrong angle in front of stream. The bridge was left intact during the War for Freedom, but the floods of 1924 was crucial for the German army bridge. The ice jam was located between  Maruška and Ikšķile. On April 5 this almost 10 km long ice block was blown up by Latvian engineers with four large mines. The explosion caused a huge gust of water and ice heading towards Riga. Four small steamers were dropping ice between the old Iron bridge and the Lübeck bridge and were caught by surprise. Three ships managed to escape, while “Zibens” (lightning) was caught by the strong wave and capsized many times. The wave in fast speed dragged the ship under the Lübeck bridge, knocking off its chimney, captains lodge and the dock surroundings. The steerman managed to hang on the bridge handrails and climbed up the bridge. Other crew members jumped on the ice and were rescued. But, the bridge itself was cut in half by ice blocks. Also the old Iron Bridge was damaged. Pārdaugava was left without electricity, trams stopped and phone cables were cut off.

The flooded city of Jēkabpils in 1981

The flooded city of Jēkabpils in 1981

Riga was no longer affected by the ice jams after the Hydroelectric dam was built near Aizkraukle. However, now the ice became stuck within this dam and now the cities of Pļaviņas and Jēkabpils became endangered by the floods. On 1981 the third of the city of Jēkabils was flooded. 65 streets, 650 buildings were underwater. 45 buildings were needed to be demolished. Some 800 people were evacuated. After that the city authorities of Jēkabpils have built many hydrological defense structures and the floods of such extent have not occurred ever again. However, the town of Pļaviņas are affected by ice jams every year. This year the floods again made damage to the town. There were occurrences when the town hospital was flooded.

Last two years the town of Ogre above the Pļaviņu hydro dam has become severely affected by the ice jams on the local Ogre river that enters the Daugava. As often explained the reason for the flooding is privately built hydro-electric dam. After the regaining the independence, many small rivers were used to be built private hydro-electric dams. As result more and more rivers are affected by the spring floods. The Lielupe river has also flooded many times affecting the city of Jelgava.

Freezing Rain

The Autumn and winter  of 2010 was very light. November and December was mostly warm in contrast to other years. Snow only appeared on Christmas night. But, on December 24-26 in minus temperatures a rain started to fall accompanied with snow. The snowing surface was cowered by frozen snow crust. Trees covered by heavy burden of snow fell on power lines leaving many people without electricity during the Christmas holidays. Restoration works took many weeks involving foreign support. The Freezing rain has become a problem ever since.

Earthquakes 

Latvia is far from seismic fault lines and is not affected by strong earthquakes. However, the tectonic seam within Poland can cause a earthquakes that may cause a small damage. On 1616 a 5-6 EMS -98 scale earthquake shacked Bauska and areas in Courland.  On 1821 the town of Koknese was woken up by 5,5 scale earthquake. Riga was affected by earthquakes on  1853 and 1854 with roaring noise and shaking ground. The earthquake of 1857 that happened in the Strait of Irbe managed to bring down old buildings and roofs. The 2004 Kaliningrad earthquake was so strong it was felt in whole Latvia. Last small earthquake was recorded near Salacgrīva on 2011.

The extent of natural disasters on Latvian soil are nothing in comparison with natural calamities in other parts of the world. However, the human caused disasters in Latvia also were many and took the life’s of many. A separate story is needed to tell about them.

Sources:

http://www.meteo.lv/lapas/visstiprakie-veji-latvija?id=1844

http://neogeo.lv/?p=3653

http://weatherfoto.wordpress.com/virpulviesuli-tornado-latvija/

Grūtups, Gaitis. Dabas Mātes Untumi Latvijā. (2001) Dabas Stihijas. Rīga. Zvaigzne. ABC.

Caune, Andris. (1998) Rīgas Pārdaugava pirms 100 gadiem. Rīga. “Zinātne.”

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