'Christmas battles' remembered after 107 years

Ceremonies took place January 6 to mark 107 years since the 'Christmas Battles', which mark an important milestone in Latvia's national history. President Edgars Rinkēvičs was in attendance alongside other high officials.

The Christmas battles took place between the German 8th and Tsarist Russian 12th army units, which consisted of eight Latvian rifle regiments. Under the leadership of General August Misiņš, the Riflemen without artillery support managed to break through the German front despite extremely difficult conditions and dangerous terrain.

Casualty rates were high, but at the same time they boosted burgeoning national self-confidence and confirmed the ability of Latvians to defend their interests with military force when necessary.

The Christmas Battles are so named because they took place from December 23 to 29, 1916, according to the old style Julian calendar in use across the Russian Empire at the time, or from January 5 to 11, 1917, according to the modern Gregorian calendar.

You can learn more about the Christmas battles and the complex political situation in Latvia at the time they took place at this excellent website which outlines various miltary-themed tourist sites in Latvia. 

The Christmas battles also formed the background to the acclaimed film 'Blizzard of Souls', renamed 'The Rifleman' for some markets.

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