New exhibit commemorates 100 years of the Latvian Order of Lāčplēsis

A new exhibit has been unveiled at the National History Museum of Latvia (LNVM). The “11 Heroic Stories” exhibit is dedicated to the military Order of Lāčplēsis, which turns 100 this year. Exhibit attendees will be able to see the history of how the military award was created, testimonies about presenting the award and learn about the cavaliers who were highly respected members of society during the first era of independence.

Latvian riflemen, heroes of the freedom fights and foreign diplomats who uphold Latvian name throughout the world have been awarded the Order of Lāčplēsis by the government. It has also been bestowed upon the Verdun fortress in France. From 1920 to 1928 the order was bestowed to more than 2000 cavaliers.

The symbolic founding date of the order is considered to be November 11, 1919, which is why the National History Museum has opened this exhibit dedicated to the 100 year anniversary. It centers around the stories of 11 cavaliers.

Elza Žiglevica was bestowed the 2073 and last 3rd class Order of Lāčplēsis. She died at 19 years of age during the freedom fights, and is one of three women to receive this award. It will also be possible to view the “Lāčplēsis” awards bestowed to French Army Lieutenant Konrad Deckert, scientist Valdemārs Ginters and Cavalry General Jānis Balodis. The museum usually only displays these once a year on November 11.

LNVM middle ages, 19th and 20th century historical researcher Arnis Strazdiņš explains that the Order of Lāčplēsis was quite an elite group and had various privileges:

 

“They could use public transportation for a reduced price, wear their uniform while not in active service, get a discount at education institutions for themselves and their children, and had priority access to land during the agrarian reform period.”

Part of the exhibit covers the creation of the Order. More than 60 people handed in sketches, however the final model chosen was designed by hobby artist and rifleman Jānis Aleksandrs Liberts. Still, all the awards aren’t visually identical.

On November 9 children will have a special guide for the exhibit, and on Lāčplēšu Day and November 18 museum entrance will be free of charge.
 

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