Latvia has of course been around for more than 100 years, however it was not until 1918 that the Latvian Nation declared independence from the red devil next door, Russia. The country has a long history of being taken over & ruled by outsiders, however 1918 was the year it finally worked. In 1940 however, their neighbour came back maintained an illegal occupation within Latvia, Lithuania & Estonia until 1991, when they got rid of Soviet control.
Celebrations take place within the country every year, but with this being 100 years, the Latvian Government threw money towards making this years extra special. Practically everywhere within Riga, there was a reminder. Every shop had souvenirs, every park had an installation of some description and you couldn’t walk more than 100 metres without the flag, pictures or video being projected onto a building.
The main focal point within the city was the concert held at the Freedom Monument. Latvians of all ages, in their traditional dress, spent the evening singing, dancing and listening to speeches. It appeared to have attracted a large portion of the local population with crowded buses coming in as early as 10AM (the concert started at 6.30PM).
Prior to the concert was a Military parade featuring soldiers in uniforms from both the past & present. This, along with a parade of tanks & various ships on the river added to the spectacle.
The evening was closed off with an elaborate fireworks display along the Daugava River. The fireworks display costing an estimated €250,000. Speaking to some locals however, they questioned the decision to spend so much money on the celebrations when the country is not one of the richer members of Europe.
One of the other main focal points was the annual torchlight parade. Organised and led by the right-wing Latvian party, the National Alliance, it has grown over the last 15 years from just 70 participants to 25,000. The route which started with a concert near the Karlis Ulmanis monument ( a Latvian authoritarian) drew people of all ages.
There was no interference which you would expect at this kind of display of Nationalism and pride in your own country. If this was to happen in the UK, Germany or France it would invariably escalate into violence (as saw in the US). The march was peaceful, people were enjoying themselves and passers by waved and also joined the ever expanding line. Nationalists from Finland, Sweden, the US and Germany also came just for the weekend with some bringing their own flags.
Its good to see a small country, which admittedly doesn’t have the resources of Western Europe, not open the door to everyone and anyone. Whilst their are minorities in the country, along with 250,00 Russians, there is not the associated crime which comes with them. With the lack of financial benefits & the ban on the Burqa, there is little incentive for people outside of Europe to settle there. A lesson could be learnt from a country that has seen off Russia more than once.
A video from the procession can be found here.