NOTE: Please click on images for full viewing
It was a simple and enjoyable trip, and now I get to tell you, briefly, about:
Image Legend: The Livonian Confederation was a loosely organized confederation in present day Estonia and Latvia ruled by the Order of Teutonic Knights of Livonia and which existed from 1228 to the 1560s. It contained five small states: the Livonian Order, Bishopric of Ösel-Wiek, Archbishopric of Riga, Bishopric of Dorpat, and Bishopric of Courland.
In 1621 Riga and the outlying fortress of Daugavgriva came under the rule of Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden, who intervened in the Thirty Years’ War not only for political and economic gain but also in favor of German Lutheran Protestantism. During the Russo-Swedish War, 1656-1658, Riga withstood a siege by Russians. Riga remained the largest city in Sweden until 1710 during a period in which the city retained a great deal of self-government autonomy. In that year, in the course of Great Northern War, Russia under Tsar Peter the Great invaded Riga. Sweden’s northern dominance ended, and Russia’s emergence as the strongest Northern power was formalized through the Treaty of Nystad in 1721. Riga was annexed by Russia and became an industrialized port city of the Russian empire, where it remained until World War I. By 1900, Riga was the third largest city in Russia after Moscow and Saint Petersburg in terms of numbers of industrial workers. (SOURCE)
Image Legend: Swedish army bombarding the fortress of Dunamunde, a 17th-century etching. Daugavgrīva was a strong fortress commanding the mouth of the Daugava, hence its name. Since 1959, Daugavgrīva has been a district of Riga.
The Freedom Monument
The Freedom Monument is located on the eastern edge of “Old Town.” It honors soldiers killed during the Latvian War of Independence (1918-1920). It is an important symbol of the freedom, independence, and sovereignty of Latvia. Unveiled in 1935, the 42-metre (138 ft) high monument often serves as the focal point of public gatherings and official ceremonies in Riga. During World War II, Latvia was annexed by the Soviet Union. Soviet propaganda attempted to alter the symbolic meaning of the monument to better fit with Communist ideology, but it remained a symbol of national independence to the general public. On June 14, 1987 about 5,000 people gathered at the monument to commemorate the victims of the Soviet regime and to lay flowers. This rally renewed the national independence movement that culminating three years later in the re-establishment of Latvian sovereignty. (SOURCE)
Image Legend: Top of the Freedom Monument, a monolithic travertine column, topped by a copper figure of Liberty, in the form of a woman lifting three gilded stars, symbolizing the constitutional districts of Latvia: Vidzeme, Latgale and Courland.
Changing of the Guard at the base of the Monument (More pictures from my recent excursion may be seen here).
This memorial is so important to the people of Latvia that I will show more detail of it here (the inserted text is reproduced from the original source):
Main facets at the base: Four corners at the base: Large Panels: Here is the monument in its entirety (please click on the image for more detail):
And now for something a little different: AMBER
Dzintars is the Latvian word for amber. Latvian choral music is brought to audiences abroad by the Dzintars Choir, and dance is presented by the children’s dance ensemble Dzintariņš. The name of Latvia’s perfumery company is Dzintars; Latvians love to put Dzintars cheese spread on their bread at breakfast. Latvians all have somebody called Dzintars or Dzintra among their friends; the name is common among those who live at the shore of Dzintara jūra, the Amber Sea. There are many Latvian songs about amber and the sea that nurtures it. What is this sun-stone caressed by the currents of the Baltic Sea? (SOURCE)
Amber is formed, in its first stage, from resin that oozes from resinous trees. In the second stage, the resin rests up in the soil of an “amber forest”. In the dry, well-aerated sandy soil physical and chemical changes take place in the resin through the action of oxygen. The resin becomes harder and more durable. In the third stage, the resin-bearing deposits are washed out, transported and redeposited in a water-body. Amber is formed when the resin is washed by water rich in oxygen and alkaline sodium compounds. The action of these lead to the formation of succinic acid and its salts. Amber that has been excavated or washed up changes under the influence of oxygen, so unlike the inorganic minerals, amber is unstable and changeable.
In distant antiquity, the people living along the shore of the Baltic Sea not only collected amber for trade, but also made practical use of it as a decorative, curative and religious material. In the territory of present-day Latvia and Lithuania amber processing began in the 4th millennium BC. Amber was widely used as a magical material with curative properties and as a component of religious rituals among the neighboring ancient Slavic peoples in Kievan Rus and Poland. The source of local amber is on the seashore, and part of it is under the sea. The prevailing marine current transports lumps of amber from these sources, to be washed up on the shore of Lithuania and Latvia.
There are amber sellers everywhere in old town, in street stalls and shops, some of the latter more like fine jewelry stores.
The Nativity of Christ Cathedral
The Nativity of Christ Cathedral was built in a Neo-Byzantine style between 1876 and 1883, during the period when the country was part of the Russian Empire. It is the largest Orthodox cathedral in the Baltic provinces built with a blessing of the Russian Tsar Alexander II. The Cathedral is renown for its icons. During the First World War German troops occupied Riga and turned the cathedral into a Lutheran church. In independent Latvia the Nativity of Christ Cathedral once again became an Orthodox cathedral in 1921, although the new government tried to force the change of the liturgy language into Latvian. In the early 1960s Soviet authorities closed down the cathedral and converted its building into a planetarium. The cathedral was restored after Latvia regained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. (SOURCE)
The Cable Bridge (Latvian: Vanšu tilts) in Riga
A cable-stayed bridge consists of one or more columns (towers or pylons), with cables supporting the bridge deck. The cable-stay design is the optimum bridge for a span length between that of cantilever bridges and suspension bridges. Key advantages of the cable-stayed form:
- Much greater stiffness than the suspension bridge, so that deformations of the deck under live loads are reduced
- Can be constructed by cantilevering out from the tower – the cables act both as temporary and permanent supports to the bridge deck
- For a symmetrical bridge (i.e. spans on either side of the tower are the same), the horizontal forces balance and large ground anchorages are not requiredEmbassy of France in Latvia
The tour bus passed by the French Embassy and, after we de-bused in Old Town, we returned to admire the exterior of building at more leisure, along with the nearby Freedom Monument and Orthodox Cathedral.
As the Regina Baltica passed through the portion of the Daugava River leading from the Gulf of Riga to the City, I noticed very little activity in the many industrial installations and, indeed, some were falling into disrepair. There was at least one modern-looking operation that had a lot of activity. In looking at the current demographic statistics of Latvia, I discerned a reason for this: the economy is now mostly in the service sector.
From the most recent information provided by the CIA World Factbook: Latvia’s economy experienced GDP growth of more than 10% per year during 2006-07. The majority of companies, banks, and real estate have been privatized, although the state still holds sizable stakes in a few large enterprises. Latvia officially joined the World Trade Organization in February 1999. EU membership, a top foreign policy goal, came in May 2004.
Gross Domestic Product by sector:
agriculture: 3.3%……….industry: 22%……….services: 74.7%
Labor force, by occupation:
agriculture: 13%………..industry: 19%………..services: 68%
Here is a major excerpt from the CIA World Factbook to round out this look at the renewing country of Latvia:
The name “Latvia” originates from the ancient Latgalians, one of four eastern Baltic tribes that formed the ethnic core of the Latvian people (ca. 8th-12th centuries A.D.). The region subsequently came under the control of Germans, Poles, Swedes, and finally, Russians. A Latvian republic emerged following World War I, but it was annexed by the USSR in 1940 – an action never recognized by the US and many other countries. Latvia reestablished its independence in 1991 following the breakup of the Soviet Union. Although the last Russian troops left in 1994, the status of the Russian minority (some 30% of the population) remains of concern to Moscow. Latvia joined both NATO and the EU in the spring of 2004.
Area: total: 64,589 sq km; land: 63,589 sq km; water: 1,000 sq km
Border countries: Belarus 141 km, Estonia 343 km, Lithuania 588 km, Russia 276 km
Coastline: 498 km
Climate: maritime; wet, moderate winters
Terrain: low plain
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Baltic Sea 0 m; highest point: Galzina Kalns 312 m
Natural resources: peat, limestone, dolomite, amber, hydropower, wood, arable land
Land use: arable land: 28.19%; permanent crops: 0.45%; other: 71.36% (2005)
Irrigated land: 200 sq km. note: land in Latvia is often too wet, and in need of drainage, not irrigation; approximately 16,000 sq km or 85% of agricultural land has been improved by drainage (2003)
Environment current issues: Latvia’s environment has benefited from a shift to service industries after the country regained independence; the main environmental priorities are improvement of drinking water quality and sewage system, household, and hazardous waste management, as well as reduction of air pollution; in 2001, Latvia closed the EU accession negotiation chapter on environment committing to full enforcement of EU environmental directives by 2010
Population: 2,245,423 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 13.4% (male 154,077/female 146,825)
15-64 years: 69.7% (male 760,976/female 803,106)
65 years and over: 16.9% (male 124,658/female 255,781) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 39.9 years; male: 36.9 years; female: 43 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: -0.629% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 9.62 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 13.63 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: -2.29 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female; under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female; 15-64 years: 0.95 male(s)/female; 65 years and over: 0.49 male(s)/female; total population: 0.86 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 8.96 deaths/1,000 live births; male: 10.85 deaths/1,000 live births; female: 6.97 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 71.88 years; male: 66.68 years; female: 77.35 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.29 children born/woman (2008 est.)
Ethnic groups: Latvian 57.7%, Russian 29.6%, Belarusian 4.1%, Ukrainian 2.7%, Polish 2.5%, Lithuanian 1.4%, other 2% (2002)
Religions: Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Russian Orthodox
Languages: Latvian (official) 58.2%, Russian 37.5%, Lithuanian and other 4.3% (2000 census)
The demographic that seems most troublesome is the decline in population due both to out-migration and low birth rate. The out-migration could possibly be due to ethnic Russians leaving the country, but this is a guess. On the other hand, to replace the population, and assuming no net increase or decrease due to migration, the annual fertility rate should be 2.1 or more children born per woman, on the average. It is now only 1.29.
It was a good trip. Eva and I recommend it to you.