Latvia pays its respects to soldiers on Lāčplēsis Day

Memorial services and other ceremonies are taking place across Latvia November 11 to remember those who have fallen in defense of the Latvian nation and its freedoms.

Lāčplēsis Day is the day upon which Latvia's soldiers are honored, and though it coincides with the day upon which the end of the First World War is commemorated in many other countries, the Latvian events are subtly different, officially marking the day in 1919 when a crucial victory against allied German and White Russian forces was won in the fledgling republic, which had declared independence a year earlier. 

During the battle, Latvia lost 743 soldiers, of whom 57 were officers, according to the Latvian Army.

It is often observed that though 1918 is regarded as the final year of World War One, in Latvia military conflict continued for a considerable period after that date.     

Lāčplēsis Day is also used to express appreciation for the service and sacrifice of all those who have served in the armed forces since.

Speaking on LTV in the morning, Latvian Army defense chief Lieutenant General Leonīds Kalniņš said: "Armed forces soldiers and national guards aren't from Mars. We come from the people and we fulfill our primary mission, which is to be ready for defense."

He invited members of the public to a torchlit procession in Rīga in the evening "with patriotism in the heart and a smile on the face."

 

The evening will be marked by the traditional lighting of candles at Rīga Castle, with similar candle-lighting ceremonies taking place in towns and villages and military cemeteries across the country. As well as the torchlit procession, Rīga will be the site of a military parade and concert.

More details about the historical context and meaning of Lāčplēsis Day can be found in this helpful explanation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and this excellent independently-made online timeline.

The Rīga city municipal website has posted an image gallery online of some of the day's events.

President Egils Levits was also out and about, with more images available via the link below.

Similarly, Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš was also attending various functions in an official capacity.

  

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