Latvia remembers its fallen freedom fighters

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

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 Russian forces was won in the fledgling republic, which had declared independence a year earlier.

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.     

In a message delivered while he attends international Armistice commemorations in France, President Raimonds Vējonis paid tribute to the armed forces and stressed that it stands as ready to defend the country today as it did all those years ago.

"We know and appreciate the price of freedom. We continue to strengthen our defense capabilities every day. We are very aware that we can protect the independence of our country only with strong, modern and combat-capable National Armed Forces," Vējonis said.

The evening will be marked by the traditional lighting of candles at Riga Castle, with similar candle-lighting ceremonies taking place in towns and villages and military cemeteries across the country.

As well as marking the fight for freedom from 1918 to 1920, Lāčplēsis Day is also used to express appreciation for the service and sacrifice of all those who have served in the armed forces since.

More details about the meaning of Lāčplēsis Day can be found on this helpful explanation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

A military parade also took place in Rīga with parliamentary speaker Ināra Mūrniece deputising for President Vējonis. You can watch it below (may be subject to geoblocking in some territories).

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