Tag Archives: Poland

Lats – The Latvian National Currency

The famous Five Lats silver coin from 1931

The famous Five Lats silver coin from 1931

Today June 5 Latvia made important historical step- the European Commission and European Central Bank have approved Latvian entry into the Eurozone. Latvia will join the Euro club in 2014 and replace its historical national currency the Lats (LVL) For years Lats was the symbol of the Latvian national sovereignty. It was also one of the most beautiful European currencies. It will be no wonder if in following decades Latvian coins will become the hit among the collectors. This article is about this currency and its history.

When the Republic of Latvia was proclaimed in 1918, it had no national currency. It was a currency chaos Russian Czarist rubles and German Ostmarks were all used at the same time. The first Latvian national currency was the Latvian Ruble that was supposed as the provisional currency until peace and economical stability was to be reached. The law establishing Lats as the national currency was approved in 1924. The law was made after long discussions. The Finance Minister Ringolds Kalniņš (Kalning) desired to remove state treasury notes and use the state gold fund to issue golden Lats. His plan was influenced by banker Izidor Friedman who advised to fill the state treasury with gold. However, the parliament turned down their plans as the Latvian golden reserves were too low and extra golden import was required to make golden Lats. Kalnings was forced to resign. On November 14, the parliament voted to keep state treasury notes and introduced the dual currency system. The Ministry of Finances was responsible for the state treasury notes while the Bank of Latvia emitted the paper currency. There was 10, 20, 25,50, 100 and 500 paper banknotes. And 1,2 and 5 silver Lats. 1, 2 and 5 Santims were made from bronze and 10, 20, 50 Santims were made from nickel. The name Santīms came from French word centime. Centime was used in France and is still used in many of its former colonies.

Latvian banknotes had national motives. The women in folk costumes, national heroes like Krišjānis Valdemārs and Jānis Čakste. The Five Lats silver coins featuring the profile of Latvian women in folk costumes were the most famous of those times. Nicknamed Milda – it became a symbol of the independent Latvia. During the Soviet occupation the 5 Lats silver coins were kept as treasures a symbolic reminder of the past.  On 1939 the Authoritarian leader Kārlis Ulmanis desired to make silver coins with his portrait. The sketch was made and despite coming war British coin mint received orders to issue them. The Soviet occupation halted this, however a prototype of this five Lats coin with Kārlis Ulmanis on it was made.

Latvian 25 Lats banknote

Latvian 25 Lats banknote

The Soviet occupation ended the life of Lats. After full annexation Lats was replaced with the Soviet ruble. Latvian Lats were kept by families as memorabilia. Others gathered them and sold them to collectors. After the regain of independence these old Latvian Lats became even more valuable.

Already in 1988 first calls of restoring the Lats were made. An art competition was made for new Lats design while official currency was still the Soviet Ruble. On July 31 1990 the Supreme Council of the Republic of Latvia (still unrecognized by Moscow) issued law for making the currency system for Latvia. Discussions about the new Lats  lasted all 1900, while Latvia was not still fully sovereign. Latvia was still pretty much dependent on the Soviet Currency. After full independence on August 1991 Latvia again used the old scheme. Before Lats the Latvian ruble was used as the interim currency. People nicknamed them repšiki after the president of the Bank of Latvia – Einārs Repše.

On 1993 Lats again returned in peoples wallets. 5, 10, 20,50, 100, 500 Lat banknotes were issued. Five Lat banknote features oak the Latvian national tree, 10 Lats shows the view of the river Daugava, 20 Lats has the Latvian national housing. 50 Lats has sailing ship and the 100 Lats features Krišijānis Barons the Latvian intellectual worker. 500 Lats features the famous Milda from historic five Lats silver coins. 1 and 2 Lats are coins. 1 Lats coin has salmon on it. Interestingly the 1 Lats with Salmon is very similar to the Icelandic 1 krona that also has fish on it. For years the Bank of Latvia has released many special coins dedicated to national events or sightings. Collecting these coins are the national sport for the collectors. Latvian special coins have won many international prices.

Special Lats celebrating the beginning of the 21th century

Special Lats celebrating the beginning of the 21th century

In 2004 Latvia joined the European Union. Latvian government set path to fulfill the Mastricht criteria to join the Eurozone. It was a long road thwarted by economic crisis however on 2012 Latvian government finally voted for joining the Eurozone. Despite the general distrust on the Euro and political campaigns made by many groups on both political wings, at January 1 2014 Lats will be replaced by the Euro. This time this historic decision is based on the general will of the Latvian people as the majority of the Latvian citizens voted for joining the EU. Estonia had already joined the Eurozone on 2012 and Lithuania will probably do it in 2015. As historian I will not go into speculations about the future of the Eurozone and its positive or negative effect on the Latvian economy, however Latvia had do to this sooner or later. The joining Euroze is a question of geopolitical importance. Even Poland with their Zloty will do it someday and its the historic responsibility of the Latvian government to carry out this transition successfully on the behalf of the Latvian people.

The Future Latvian Euro coin

The Future Latvian Euro coin

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Poles in Latvia

Latvian Polish political poster from 1931

Latvian Polish political poster from 1931

On 1561-1562 the Livonian Confederation was forced to surrender to the kingdom of Poland-Lithuania. It was done to save themselves from even greater foe – Ivan IV the Terrible who invaded Livonia. The Livonian war ended with Polish victory. Poland-Lithuania acquired all territories of Latvia. The Duchy of Courland and Semigallia was autonomous from Polish throne, however the Duchy of Pārdaugava which included Riga, Vidzeme and Latgalia was under the direct Polish rule. After loosing the war to Sweden in 1629, Poland lost both Riga and  Vidzeme, but kept Latgalia until 1772. Therefore Latgalia had the most sizable Polish national population. Most of them were nobles. However, on 19th century because of social economic reasons many Latvian peasants changed their nationality to Polish. Such phenomena even happened during the interwar period. The national census shows unnatural growth of the Polish minority in different places, that can be explained by nationality change. Many poor people still had no perception of their true nationality, many used Polish in work, family and church sermons. Not only Latvians, Belorussians and Gypsies claimed to be Polish. There were even records when a Polish priest registered Gypsies as Polish without telling them. Today there are many Latvians with Polish surnames, including Prime Minister of Latvia Valdis Dombrovskis (Dombrowski). Some Latvians got their Polish surnames because of the Polish landlords who gave them to his peasants, others had some connections with Polish people.

The Polish revival in Latgalia was obstructed by the Russian repressions against the Polish people. However, few notable intellectuals like historian Gustav Manteifel, scientist and revolutionary Boleslav Limanovsky came from Latgalia. Because of industrial revolution many Poles went to big cities to work in a factory. In 1897 in Riga there were 13415 Poles, in Liepaja 6015. In whole Latvian territory there were 65056 Poles. On 1878 the first Polish organization was made – the catholic charity society and in 1879 the Polish singing society “Aušra”. In the main higher education facility the Riga Polytechnic school two Polish fraternities were formed. First Polish theaters were organized. The revolution of 1905 was also very important for Poles. Just as Latvians they wanted more national freedom and was united in common cause against the Czarist regime. Polish society became more active – first national schools were made and Poles got elected in City Councils. For a long time Russia had imposed the ban on printing with Latin letters in Latgalia. That was damaging both for Poles and Latgalian Latvians. The ban was lifted on 1904 allowing the Poles to start their own press and literature.

The punishment chamber in Riga Polytechnic school (modern day University building) with Polish writings on them

The punishment chamber in Riga Polytechnic school (modern day University building) with Polish writings on the wall

The First World War made many Poles as refugees and they found themselves in Russia. Others joined the Latvian Rifleman battalions and fought the German invaders. However, after the war many came back home. Those who stayed in the Soviet Union became victims of the “Polish Action” on 1937. The new national governments of Latvia and Poland were united in their struggle against the Bolsheviks. The Polish victory over Soviet Russia in 1920 was a guarantee for the Latvian independence. Polish forces assisted the Latvian army in the battlefields of Latgalia and chased the Bolsheviks away. The large number of Poles fought in the ranks of the Latvian army. 9 of them received the highest military award the Order of Lachplesis. In the result of Polish-Soviet peace agreement which was signed in Riga, Latvia established a common border with Poland. It was however, no secret that Poland desired to annex whole Latgalia as their old territory. The “Greater Poland” dream never realized, but Poland still acquired the Vilnius region, Western Belorussia and Western Ukraine. That caused the resentment for Stalin, which was one of the reasons for the outbreak of WWII.

In 1920 there were 52244 Poles 3,4% of the population. In Riga there were 7935 Poles, in Liepaja 2904, Daugavpils 8178 and in other cities there were large Polish minorities. Most Poles lived in cities, others were farmers. Poles got a lesser hold on commerce and industry than Germans and Jews. At first only 57,7% Poles were literate, however in 1935 the numbers rose up to 82%. Poles were mostly farmers and factory workers. On 30ies because of shortage of agricultural workforce many Poles came to work in Latvia. Most of them went to work for few months and then returned. On September 1 1939 there were 26000 such people in Latvia. Many of them stayed there.

The state of Poland was very sensitive about the Polish minority in Latvia. There was many diplomatic quarrels between Poland and Latvia. Poland accused Latvians about Polish discrimination while Latvia feared that Poland may try to use the minority rights as a guise for their territorial claims. Polish deputies were represented at the Peoples Council 0n 1919-1920 and in the Saeima (Parliament) 1922-1934. There was a Polish fraction with one or two deputies. Germans, Jews and Russians had more parliament seats. Jaroslav Vilipshevsky was the first non-Latvian who was elected to the Latvian Land Bank board. Jan Vezhbicky was the assistant to the Minister of the Interior affairs in 1928. The main Polish party was the Polish Peoples Union. There was also a Polish section of Latvian Social Democratic Workers Party. The main national society was the Latvian Polish Union with almost thousand members. Poles were elected in the City Councils.

Polish printing press was active and many Polish newspapers came out. From 1922 to 1923 “Glos Polski” (The Voice of Poles), 1925-1928 “Tygodnig Polski” (The Polish Weekly Paper), 1928-1931 “Dzwon” (The Bell), 1931-1934 “Nasz Glos” (Our Voice) and on 1934-1940 “Nasze Zycie” (Our Live).

Polish schools just as other minority schools were autonomous. There was four Polish schools in Riga, three in Liepaja. In whole Latvia already on 1919 17 Polish schools were active. In 1931 there were now 45 Polish schools with 5274 pupils.  Until 1934 in the Ministry of Education a Board of Polish Education handled all affairs of Polish education. After the coup by Kārlis Ulmanis, all minority education boards were removed and replaced by the senior manager. The number of the Polish schools dropped to 16. Most Polish students went to study in Poland, because the entrance examinations in higher education facilities were taken in Latvian.

Poles had active community life. The national organizations like “Polish Union”, and many catholic charity organizations took care for less fortunate. Polish fraternities and academic organizations were active. On the Warsaw street at Daugavpils a “Polish House” was made for many Polish organizations. Polish youth took part in Scout units. Many famous Latvian sportsmen were Poles. Also there was many Polish academics and stage artists.

The Nazi and Soviet invasion of Poland was a deep blow for Latvian Poles. On September 17, when the Soviet Union invaded Poland the Latvian Polish Union made a declaration of unbroken ties with the whole Polish nation and promised to support Poland at all costs. Latvian government was unfriendly to Poland, by closing its embassy in Warsaw. No other Baltic State did that. 1500 soldiers of the Polish army entered Latvia together with 300-400 civil refugees. Polish national organizations did their best to help these people.

The interned Polish air force men in Latvia 1939

The interned Polish air force men in Latvia 1939

The Soviet Occupation of Latvia in 1940 was taken unfriendly by Poles. Soviet Union had helped to destroy the Polish state and was against any kinds of national activity. The Polish national organizations were closed. Many leading Polish persons were arrested and sent to Siberia. The Soviet secret police the NKVD discovered an underground Polish resistance group. Large numbers of Poles were sent to Siberia in June 14 1941.

After the Nazi invasion 38191 Poles were registered in Latvia by the Nazi authorities. This count was artificially downsized because many Poles, registered as Latvians, Belorussians and Ukrainians to escape the Nazi repressions. Some Poles openly resisted the Nazi occupation by joining the Soviet underground. The pro-soviet Polish Peoples Army (Armia Ludowa) was active in Latvia. Many Latvian Poles were mobilized in the Red Army. However, because of the Soviet terror some Poles welcomed the Nazi forces and took arms against the Soviets. At first German authorities refrained from mobilizing Poles in the Waffen SS Legion by sending them to work in Germany. However, many Poles were included in the German ranks because they were registered as Latvians or joined voluntarily. Latvian Poles also formed units loyal to the Polish Government in Exile. The “Armia Krajowa” had special intelligence units in Latvia. More than 150 Latvian Poles fought for the “Armia Krajowa”. Many of them were captured by the German secret police and executed.

After the second Soviet occupation of Latvia, Poles remained in strong numbers throughout the decades.  Poles formed 2,3% of the Latvian population at 1989. Some Poles arrived from Soviet annexed West Belorussia and West Ukraine. The Soviet Union rejected the Polish national education and forced Poles to go to Russian or Latvian schools. In result the major part of Poles became Russianized and forgot their native language. The same thing happened to the Jews, Belorussians and Ukrainians. Only 27% Latvian Poles knew Polish language.

Some Poles continued to resist the Soviet occupation and joined the partisan movement. Poles were the only national minority to do so. Together with Latvian partisans they unsuccessfully combated the NKVD. On March 25 1949 many Polish farmers were sent to Siberia.

The leader of the Polish National revival Ita Kozakevich

The leader of the Polish National revival Ita Kozakevich

Polish national activity was mainly suppressed by the Soviet regime. Polish intelligentsia made unofficial meetings and activities. The main point of unity was the Catholic church that made social services for Catholic Poles. At the beginning of the restoration of the independence Poles took an active role. First Polish national society “Promien” (Ray) was organized by Henrik Svirkovsky. In 1988 the Latvian Polish Cultural Society was founded by Ita Kozakevich in charge.  She however tragically died in Italy on 1990. She stays as legendary figure for Polish national struggle. Polish national Jānis Jurkāns became the first foreign minister in restored Latvia. Latvian Polish Society supported the Barricade movement. Many Poles took part in Latvian Peoples Front.

After the restoration of independence there was 38, 9 thousand Poles in Latvia. Latvian Polish Union is active and is lead by Rishard Stankevich. With difficulties Poles are trying to maintain their own national schools. Poland is giving them some support. Many Poles are taking part in politics and  culture. Ivars Bičkovičs is the chairman of the Latvian Supreme Court. Zbigņevs Stankevičs is the main archbishop of the Latvian Catholic church. Viktors Ščerbatihs was Olympic medalist in weightlifting. Many Latvians will find a Polish roots in their family trees. Latvia tries to make good relations with Poland. Poland exports many products to Latvia and Latvia in return. Polish and Latvian historians are seeking common understanding in WWII history since both countries had similar experience of Nazi and Soviet invasion. Last year the President of Poland Bronisław Komorowski visited the University of Latvia where the Riga Polytechnic school was located and opened the restored punishment chamber for unruly students. Since there were large numbers of Polish students, the infamous chamber had many writings in Polish. Together with the chamber a book about the Polish students in Czarist time Riga was opened.  Many famous Polish people including president Komorowski himself had ancestors studying in Riga. The connection between Poland and Latvia is many centuries old and unbroken.

Selected Sources:

Jēkabsons, Ēriks, (1996) Poļi Latvijā.  Rīga : Latvijas ZA Filozofijas un socioloģijas institūts.

Dribins, Leo (Ed.) (2007) Mazākumtautības Latvijā : vēsture un tagadne. Rīga : Latvijas Universitātes Filozofijas un socioloģijas institūts, 2007.

Janicki, Arkadiusz, Laszczkowski, Michal, Jēkabsons, Ēriks Polentechnikum. Inowroclaw : Ministerstwo Kultury i Dziedzictwa Narodowego.

Polacy na Łotwie : wybór dokumentów prawnych dotyczących mniejszości narodowych = Poļi Latvijā : tiesisko dokumentu izlase, kas skar nacionālās minoritātes. (2003) Warszawa : Stowarzyszenie “Wspólnota Polska”

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The Duchy of Courland and Semigallia

The Duchy of Courland and Semigallia

After the breakdown of Livonia and Livonian Order its member knights did not bother leaving Livonia. Instead they found new ways to keep their property by becoming landlords and collaborating with new Polish rulers. Polish administration decided to make a Duchy of Courland and Semigallia who would be ruled by an old knight elite. The Duchy consisted of whole Courland, Semigallia and Selonia. First Duke of Duchy was the last Master of Order the Gotthard Kettler. He took office in 1562.

The rulers of Courland were nominal vassals of Poland, however throughout the years, Duchy became more or less sovereign from Poland. It’s because Polish government had other important things to do like fighting Sweden, Russia and Ottomans. Duchy became well-governed and economically stable part of Poland. Main political forces in Duchy were 121 strong German aristocrat families.

First Duke Gotthard Kettler was devoted Lutheran so he established Lutheranism as Duchies main confession.  The duchy was free from Polish contra reformation policies, so Courland and Semigallia remain a strong Lutheran territory until this day. There is however the small district of Alsunga in Southern Courland who was owned by Catholic landlords who remains as a Catholic island in mostly Lutheran Courland.

Kettler did much to reconstruct damage made by Livonian war; however he made a mistake to give his two sons equal rights of ruling the Duchy. Oldest son Friedrich would take charge of the economy of Semigallia and youngest son Wilhelm would take care of Courland. This dual rule did not last long as in 1596 the Duchy was divided into two ducal courts and governments. This situation was advantageous for landlord nobility who could promote their interest in both ducal houses. Friedrich was official Duke from 1587 to 1641 but Wilhelm took an important role in states economical matters. In 1617 with the help of Polish mediators the dispute was settled and a new constitution was arranged.

In the time of war between Poland and Sweden both brothers struggled to keep Duchy out of war. Wilhelm however tried to get support from Sweden for his claim on ducal office. But he was defeated and forced to go to exile to Pomerania.

Duke Jacob and his fleet

After Fredrick’s death the heir to the office was Wilhelm’s son Jacob. Jacob is known as most successful ruler of the Duchy. He ruled fourthly years until 1682. He was enlightened mercantile ruler. He made vast improvements to the Courland trade fleet. The Couronian ships were of good quality and could cross oceans. Duchy had trade contacts with France, Netherlands, England and Portugal. He also attempted to involve Duchy in colonial politics. From 1659 to 1661 Duchy owned island fort in Gambia river in Africa. A fort was named by Jacobs’s name. It was later taken by England and renamed as James fort. Another short-lived colony was located in the Caribbean Sea on the island of Tobago. In 1654 Duke sent ship named Das Wappen der Herzogin von Kurland and established a colony there. It was taken later by other colonial powers. Both colonies were short-lived and with little use, but the fact that Courland actually had colonies goes deeply into Latvian historical memory. There was even a theatrical play made about the colonization of Tobago. Duke also maintained Courland itself by building manufactures.

Curonian colony in  Gambia, Afrika

The happy days of Duchy went into the end when the Swedish army invaded Courland and took Jacob prisoner. He was under Swedish imprisonment from 1658 to 1660. After he returned many achievements had been lost and Duchy went into decay.

Jacobs’s son Friedrich Casimir was a failure. He was more interested in life of glamour than in state matters. Production went down and Tobago was sold to England. During his reign Duchy was under high influence from Poland and Russia.

In 1698 at the age of six Friedrich Wilhelm became new Duke. The duchy was defacto ruled by General Ferdinand. After the end of the Great Northern war Duchy now had a border with the Russian Empire. Russian ambassador Peter Bestuzhev became most important man in the Duchy. In 1710 Russian Czar Peter The Great  arranged Fredrick’s marriage with Anna Ivanovna (the future Empress of Russia).  The wedding party in Petersburg was too intense for young Friedrich. Heavy Russian style drinking made Duke ill on his way home and he died in a carriage.

The next heir to the throne was Ferdinand. But he resided in Danzig. The constitution demanded the Duke to live in Duchy so he was not recognized by Duchy Diet. In 1726 Maurice De Saxe the son of Polish king Frederic Augustus the Strong was elected as the Duke. Russia disliked him and sent forces to expel him from the Duchy. In 1737 last titular Duke of Kettler family the Ferdinand died. Anna Ivanovna now Empress of Russia elected Ernest Johan von Biron as the Duke.

Biron was the strongest player in Russian Court. He had a high influence on Anna Ivanovna as one of her favorites. Biron was a rich man so he ordered to build a summer residence in Rundale. The castle was projected by the famous architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli. Biron enjoyed himself much in the reign of Anna but when she died in 1740 good times ended. First Anna before his death appointed him as regent of the Russian Empire. His regency lasted three weeks when he was overthrown by his enemies and sent to Siberia.

Birons castle at Rundale

In 1741 Ludwig Ernst van Brunswick-Lüneburg-Bevern was appointed as the Duke. However he lost the title when the Elisabeth of Russia carried a coup and the title was lost.  In the last years of Duchy it was ruled by the Duchy Council (1741-1758) Carl of Saxony (1758-1763) then again Ernst Johan von Biron (1763.-1769) and Peter von Biron (1769-1795). In 1795 in the result of the Third Partition of Poland Duchy was annexed by Russia. This was the  end of an era of the Duchy of Courland and Semigallia.

The Duchy gave many goods to Latvia lands. Cities and countryside were maintained and enriched. The ports of Liepaja and Ventspils became rich trade points. Jelgava (Mittau) the Capital of Duchy got a marvelous baroque palace. Dukes established new cities like Jekabpils (Jacobstadt) and Jaunjelgava (Friedrichstadt). Otherwise for peasants it was hard times with German landlords who ruled all countryside and owned all peasants. However the Duchy of Courland and Semigallia is one of the landmarks of the Latvian history.

Selectecd Sources

Strods, Heinrihs. (1993) Kurzemes lauksaimniecība 17. gs. beigās un 18. gs. pirmajā pusē : mācību līdzeklis. Riga: Latvijas Universitāte.

Andersons Edgars. (1970) Senie kurzemnieki Amerikā un Tobago kolonizācija. Stockholm. Daugava.

 

Zalsters Arturs, Eižens (2002) Hercoga Jēkaba burinieki. Jumava: Ventspils: Jumava 2002.

Lancmanis, Imants. (1992) Ernsts Johans Bīrons, 1690-1990 : izstāde Rundāles pilī : katalogs. Latvia. : Rundāles pils muzejs.

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Polish-Swedish war 1600-1629.

Swedish army on the pillage

After the Livonian war former lands of Livonia were split between Poland-Lithuania and Sweden. Sweden grabbed Northern Estonia with Tallinn. However as the Empire of Sweden grow stronger its lust for more land in the Baltic region grew. Sweden wanted the port of Riga for its trade supremacy in the Baltic Sea along with rich agricultural lands in former Livonia.

Just as a Hundred years war between England and France in Middle Ages this war broke out because of succession conflict. In 1587 by legal matters Swedish prince Sigismund III Vasa became the king of Poland-Lithuania, in 1594 he was crowned as a king of Sweden.  However this was not liked in Sweden because Sigismund was a Catholic but Sweden was Protestant Lutheran country. He was deposed from Swedish throne. However Sigismund did not give up and decided to start a war against Sweden.  This war crucial for the Latvian nation since the most of the battle action happened in territory of today Latvia.

In the first two years of war Swedes captured a large part of Polish owned Duchy of Pārdaugava. The Swedes took unsuccessful raids on Riga and were forced to retreat.  Polish forces led by Jan Zamoyski made counterattacks on Swedes and routed them back to Northern Estonia. At this time Vidzeme suffered an outburst of famine and bubonic plagues. Thousands died in war caused calamity.

Swedish army bombarding the fortress of Dunamunde. A 17th-century etching.

Sweden however was able to reassemble its army and send to Riga once again. Their army was highly trained motivated and well-trained. Poland lacked originality and funds to support its troops. Swedish forces at 1605 reached Riga and started the siege. The fortress of Dünamünde (Daugavgrīva) was surrounded and bombed by the Swedish army. At  September 23 main forces of Sweden reached Riga. Poles arrived at the spot and one of the famous battles at that time the battle of Kircholm (Salaspils) started. The Swedes was led by King Charles IX who took command of 10 800 men and 11 cannons. Most of the Swedish fighters were actually mercenaries from Germany and Scotland. Poles had 1 300 men of musketeers and pikeman. It also had a crushing force of 2 600 cavalry of Winged Hussars. These well-trained men with lances and decorative wings on their backs were the finest that Poles and Lithuanians could offer. Swedish cavalry had only pistols and poorer horses.

The Swedes were superior to Poles by 1:3 so Polish commander Jan Chlodkeiwitz devised a feint maneuver to move Swedes out of their high position.  Swedes thought that Poles were retreating and advanced only to get in line of fire by Poles. Then the Hussars unleashed their attack. 300 Winged Hussars charged and destroyed Swedish positions. After 20- 30 minute battle ended with Swedish defeat. Sweden lost 9000 men Poland only 1000. This was the most famous of all Polish victories.

Battle of Kircholm (Salaspils)

Victory however could not end the war quickly. Polish army did not receive payments and left the ranks for plundering. Victorious Hetman Jan Chlodkeiwitz was forced to lead a handful of mercenaries funded from his own pocket.  In 1608 Swedes returned to Livonia in 1608-1609 Swedes captured the fortress of  Dünamünde and Kokenhusen (Koknese). However at 1609   Jan Chlodkeiwitz again relived Riga and defeated Swedes near river Gauja. A truce was signed in 1611. During this time Poles were occupied in their war in Russia.

War restarted when “Swedish Meteor” Gustav II Adolphus at 1620 again set war path to Riga. Famous for his successes in Thirty years war Gustav II was one of the most talented commanders in that time. He at last captured Riga. Poles were unable to send reinforcements since their war in Russia ended in failure and more serious war was fought in the same time with the Ottoman Empire. So a truce lasting till 1625 was signed.

In 1625 Gustav’s forces captured all of Livonia. He did a crushing victory in battle of Wallhof (Valle) at January 7 1626.  Swedes stated that they had not lost a single man in battle when Poles lost 1 5000 men. Then war turned to East Prussia. The final battle was fought near Trzciana, Prussia. The battle was won by the Poles; however this does not prevent the Poles from signing a ceasefire.

The Truce of Altmark gave Sweden Riga and whole of Estonia and Vidzeme. Latvian lands now were split between two empires. Peace in the Latvian territory only lasted until 1655 when it was hit by First Northern war.

Swedish territorial gain at the result of war

Selected Sources

Dunsdorfs, Edgars. (1962) Latvijas vēsture, 1600-1710. Stockholm: Daugava.

Lagerqvist, Lars O. (2001) A History of Sweden. Stockholm: The Swedish Institute.

 

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Calendar Revolt in Riga

During the Livonian War Riga was a tasty bit for nations that attempted to conquer Livonia. Russians and Poles needed the rich Riga port for their economic interests. However there was no attempt to capture Riga from all sides of the war. Russian army came close to Riga three times (1559, 1560,1577) but at most times they only pillaged the city outskirts.  Despite that Riga merchants suffered financial losses because other cities in Vidzeme were bitterly damaged. The war prevented trade ships to enter the port of Riga at full-scale. After the end of the war Poland started to pressure Riga to surrender to them.

On 1561 October Poles first demanded Riga to surrender but Riga declined the demand. Poles finally took Riga under control in 1582.  March 12 when Polish king Stephan Batory entered Riga. Riga kept their privileges and rights. When Poles entered they started to restore Catholic faith in the city. Before that much of the city converted to Protestant Lutheranism. Poles took the Church of St. James and admitted Jesuits to Riga. This sparked anger within the Riga Lutheran citizens.

Poles ruled Riga until 1621. It was a time of conflict between Polish king and City autonomy. Trade was weakened and city financial status became worse. Polish soldiers did damage to the city by pillaging the citizens and city property. Poles imposed heavy taxes on Riga worsening the financial situation.  This caused a rebellion against Polish rule which was triggered by international calendar reform.

Calendar reform started when church officials attempted to fix the bug in the Julius Caesar calendar which had 365 days six hours that did not match with real tropical year calendar with 365 days five hours and 48 seconds.   The error became more visible during the centuries and at 16 century 10 more days appeared on the calendar. Catholic Church was dissatisfied with this because the holy celebration days did not match with seasonal changes. Catholic Church finally attempted to fix it at 1582 with the reform of Pope Gregor XIII. But the reform was not welcomed by Protestants and Orthodox Church (Russia only abandoned the old calendar in 1917). Poland issued the new calendar and ordered it to be used in its Baltic provinces too.

The town council of Riga however decided not to announce the new calendar because of fear from protests against it.  Polish king was not satisfied with this and ordered to announce the calendar immediately or pay a penalty of 10 000 golden ducats. The town council was forced to agree and at 1584 new calendar was announced in Riga.

Town council tried to explain to the citizens that new calendar has nothing to do with religion. But Lutheran citizens saw reform as Catholic propaganda and sign of Riga government close collaboration with Poland.

Christmas was celebrated only by city officials and Catholics. Protestants continued to work.  Those who celebrated at St. James church was attacked by an angry mob. The church was demolished but town guard dispersed the crowd.  This started the calendar revolt. The revolt was active between 1584-1589.

The revolt was organized by the rector of the Riga Dome-school Heinrich Meller who opposed the Riga main priest Neiner. Meller organized many protests and celebrated the old New Year day. He was arrested and accused of insulting the royal majesty.

This only strengthened the protests and angry mob attacked the Town Council and freed Meller from his captivity. Main revolt force was low-income citizens who attacked homes of city authorities. The town Council lost its authority and city shifted to anarchy. This was used by powerful city guilds that organized opposition and elected Martin Gize as opposition leader. Gize shut all gates in Riga to prevent the Polish army from entering the city.

Finally at 1585 guilds forced the Town Council to admit its power. Guild secretariat became the main power in Riga. The new calendar was cancelled. Town Council member left Riga and complained to the Polish king. King started to order guild to cancel revolt. Martin Gize denounced all kings’ demands and executed two Town Council members. After this king declared Gize an outlaw. Guilds feared that king may order a military attack on Riga which could result extermination of all high-class citizens. Guild made a new deal with Town Council which took back its old rights but all rebels need to amnestied.

But king rejected the offer and demanded to punish rebels. Then Gize searched help abroad, he asked for Swedish king Juhan III help, but he did not give clear promises. Juhan’s son Sigismund was a candidate for the Polish throne so he had more serious things on his mind. Gize even asked for help from Russia.

1586 December 2 Stephan Batory died. This stated interregnum time in Poland when no serious action was done. Swedish Prince Sigismund and Austrian Duke Maximilian battled for the Polish throne.  Because of help from Polish oligarch Jan Zamoisky Sigismund won the throne in 1588.

Sigismund was fanatical Catholic. He supported the Town council. Gize took action by exiling all Jesuits from Riga and took St. James church back to Lutherans. He did everything to stop all means of resistance.

In 1588 Gize was elected as Grand member of Great Guild. But opposition against him became stronger because tradesman feared that king may close the Daugava trade route. This caused treason by Riga Representative David Hilhen who started secret talks with Jan Zamoisky. The Polish party started to gain strength and in 1589 traitors opened the city gates to the Polish troops.

This marked the end to the revolt. Polish representatives took over. Leaders were trialed and Martins Gize and his college  Hanss Brinken were sentenced to death. Town Council took back all rights and new calendar was issued again.

This was one of the longest revolts in Latvian history. Although low-income citizens mainly Latvians were actively part of the revolt this was mainly a struggle between middle class tradesman and high-class Town rulers.

Selected Biography

Zeids, Teodors (Ed.) (1978). Feodālā Rīga. Riga: Latvijas PSR Zinātņu akadēmija. Vēstures institūts.

Dunsdorfs, Edgars. (1964) Latvijas vēsture, 1500-1600. Stokholm. Daugava.

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