Monthly Archives: April 2012

Latvian Orders and Medals

The three most famous Latvian Orders. The Order of Viesturs (left) The Order of Lāčplēsis (center) and the Order of Three Stars (right)

Awarding people for high merits of the state has been a noble tradition for many centuries. Even the most revolutionary countries like United States of America and the Soviet Union have and had the most complex system of state awards.

Latvia is no stranger for Orders and Medals and since its foundation it has introduced many notable state awards. The first award was the Order of Lāčplēsis (Bear Slayer) named after the Latvian epic war hero. The order was founded on  November 11 1919 the day when the Latvian army fought the battle of Riga. Only after complete liberation of Latvia at 18 September 1920 the requirements for the order were made. The order was to be awarded only for war merits and only for those who served the duty to act of valor for the honor and glory of Latvia. The other recipients were members of the Latvian Army, the members of the former Latvian rifleman corps and foreigners who took part in the War of Freedom.  The Order statutes included 62 points and the questions of awarding were decided by the Council of the Order of Lāčplēsis.

The Order of Lāčplēsis

The president of Latvia awards soldier with Order of Lāčplēsis

The order is a stylized swastika with white enamel coating and red and aureate enclosing. In avers in the center of the cross on the medallion is the depiction of Lāčplēsis. At the corner of the cross two crossed swords. On the reverse its written in medallion ” 11 November For Latvia”. The order has three classes. The order was designed by J. A. Libert. The first class also had its own star.

The first class was awarded to high rank officers like General J. Balodis, K, Berķis. O. Kalpaks the first commander of the Latvian army and F. Briedis the famous leader of the Latvian rifleman was awarded posthumously. The first class was also awarded to foreign leaders. The king of Belgium Albert I in 1923 the Estonian general J. Laidoner who fought on Latvian soil, Polish marshal J. Pilsudsky, two French generals, one British general and the king of Italy Emanuele III. Also the dictator of Italy Benitto Mussolini was later awarded. The second class was awarded to 18 Latvians and 43 foreigners, with 3th class 1600 members of the Latvian army. And 271 foreigners (the Estonians, Poles, French, Finns, Czechs, Lithuanians and the fortress of Verdun.). Three women were awarded with the third class.

The Order of The Three Stars

The Order of Lāčplēsis was a strictly a military order. It took some years before the highest civilian award was introduced. The Order of the Three Stars was founded in 1924. The order has five classes and three decorations of honor. The council of the Order was led by the president of Latvia and parliament members along with two high awarded members. The Order was given to all Latvian soldiers who voluntarily joined Latvian forces and took part in battles (excluding those who received the Order of Lāčplēsis).

The first class was given to 285 people, second to 391, third 1323, fourth 2194 and fifth 4417. The last order was given in  May 11 1940. The honor decorations were given in three classes. First class 2834, Second class 3624, Third class 1515.

The Order of Viesturs

In 1938 a new military decoration was founded the Order of Viesturs named after the ancient Latvian war leader. The order has five classes and three class decorations of honor. It’s a rare award because it was only awarded few times from 1938 to 1940. The first class was given to six Latvian army generals. Including J. Balodis, K, Berķis and J. Kurelis. The second class was given to 28 people, third in 126, fourth in 390 and fifth to 701 persons.

The Cross of Recognition

In the same year the Cross of Recognition was founded as the award for highest Latvian elite members. The Order was first was founded by the Duke of Courland and Semigallia Friedrich Wilhelm (1692-1711) in 1710. The eighteen year old king took over the throne and issued the new order. However, the Order existed only for a year as the young king died on his return from the wedding in Petersburg. The restored order was meant for people with great love for the fatherland and for the merits in state, social and cultural work. First who received the first class was historian the director of the Latvian State institute professor A. Tentelis. The next ones were the foreign minister V. Munters, professor V. Purvītis, J, Vītols. The last awarded to the third class the chief of Civil Guard K. Prauls. The second class was given to 21 persons including opera singer E. Laube, poet Aspazija, and many other high merit cultural workers. The fourth and fifth class was given to many notable members of various professions.

The Latvian Liberation War Commemorative badge

The Latvian War of Liberation 10Th anniversary medal

There were also many medals. The Latvian Liberation War Commemorative badge was given to all who served duty during the war of liberation. In 1928 during the celebration of 10th anniversary the Commemorative medal was given to persons who took part in the battles.

 The Civil guard (Aizsargi) was a paramilitary organization that took the role of imposing order and security in towns and countryside after the war. The organization became a popular army like formation that everyone could join in. The Aizsargi became even more prominent after the coup of Karlis Ulmanis where they played an active role. They had their own Cross of merit and medal. The National youth organization “The Hawks of Latvia” had their medals, also the Red Cross of Latvia four classes of awards. The firemen had their decoration, rare decoration was the medal for life saving.

The Aizsargi (civil guard) cross of merit

The Soviet occupation removed all these awards. During the years of occupation Latvians were awarded with Soviet awards. After the restoration of independence the main decorations the Order of Three Stars, The Order of Viesturs and the Cross of Recognition was restored. For now the most popular award is the Order of the Three Stars. The notable members of the Barricade movements have their own award. Many new medals have been made for police, military and firefighters. The awards are given by the president of Latvia. The Latvian Orders and Medals are beautiful and are made in the best Western European traditions.

Selected Sources:

Ducmane, Kristīne, (1993) Apbalvojumi Latvijas Republikā 1918-1940. Rīga : Latvijas Vēstures muzejs : Latvijas enciklopēdija.

Gerts,Oskars (Ed.) (1997) Triju zvaigžņu gaismā. Rīga : Latvijas Vēstnesis.

Grīnberga, L. (1999) Ceļvedis ordeņu vēsturē. Rīga : Zvaigzne ABC.


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The History of the Latvian Radio

The main building of the Latvian Radio

Radio is the first mass media in the world. For many decades since the end of 19th century radio has been an important source of information. Despite the television and the internet people still listen to the radio everyday and everywhere in the world. In the possible event of the natural or industrial disaster radio may be the only source of information as it was back in the days of World war II and early days of the Cold War when millions of people’s turned radio every evening to hear the latest news.

Latvia is no stranger to radio and the Latvian Radio has worked since 1925. It all begun in 1895. When scientists learned to transmit information over large distances using radio waves. It’s still a matter of discussion whether it was Guglielmo Marconi or Alexander Popov who first discovered and invented radio, but both these men made great contribution to radio invention. In the first years after the great invention radio was used for two point communications. Then in the  beginning of the golden  twenties radio signals were transmitted to various locations and the public broadcasting was born.

The first working broadcasting center was opened in London on  February 1 1922. Next one was opened in Berlin year later and many other cities in Germany. Then in 1925 first experimental radio broadcasts were done in Riga, Latvia. From radiotelegraph transmitter at Kuģu street first words transmitted were: “Hallo! Hallo!  The Riga radio test!”

The building of Latvian broadcaster was inspired by engineer Janis Linters. Radio broadcasts were not widely known to public. First Latvian parliament budget  commission rejected the funding of the new project. It was hard to explain to deputies how radio receiver actually works. From available parts found in the Pardaugava radio center a radio receiver was made. A two pair of headphones was included and the radio receiver was demonstrated to the deputies. Astonished statesmen one by one listened to the broadcaster who was reading the “Government Herald”. Linters explained how easy it was to use a radio receiver and told that can also be made in Latvia. Linters calculated that invested funds will pay off in 10-15 years. However he was wrong because of the high numbers of radio subscribers the investments paid off in four years.

The father of the Latvian radio Janis Linters.

Before the final vote. Deputies asked many questions how the electromagnetic waves spread – should doors be opened to let them into the room. The budget commission finally voted yes.  140 000 LVL was given to build a broadcaster. It happened in 1924, March 28.

The radio station was built by  a French company. From Dunkirk to Riga by ship antenna pole and transmitter equipment was sent and was intended to be used in Central Post office along the canal side. Later this street along the canal was named Radio street. Radio equipment working on 200 watts was placed in two rooms. The wavelength was 480, 3 meters. Antenna pole was erected near the Post building.

The Radio Latvia building at the Aspazijas Boulevard 5 with two radio towers nearby

The Radio Latvia building at the Aspazijas Boulevard 5 with two radio towers nearby

Radio broadcaster was opened on November 1 1925. After the short speech by the transportation minister a connection was made to opera theater and the opera by Puccini Madame Butterfly was played on radio.

 In 1929 a reconstruction of the transmitter was made. Its power was raised to 15 kW and antenna towers were extended to 60 m. It was done by Latvian broadcast workers. Radio became popular in Latvia. The Latvian main industrial company VEF produced large numbers of the top quality radio receivers. The air was filled with news, weather news, children broadcasts,  music and many other programs. Radio was used by Karlis Ulmanis authoritarian regime, speeches and propaganda were played in the air.

As the Soviet occupation begun in 1940, the first thing that was captured was the Radio and Post office building. New regime fired many people from radio and changed the programs. The worshiping service broadcasts were removed and changed to Soviet propaganda.

As the new German occupation came the Latvian radio was added to German radio net (Deutche Rundfunk). The Germans again removed many workers and established the Ostland radio broadcast. When the Germans retreated from Latvia they dissembled or destroyed the radio equipment. Just day before leaving Riga the radio tower was brought down and Radio and Post office was set ablaze.

 After the war everything was destroyed and radio broadcasting was to start again from the scratch. In 1944 at Riga radio communication and radio broadcasting direction was established. The first radio studio site was located at Skolas street 6 now a Latvian Jewish society center. The name was changed many times until the main institution was named Latvian Radio and television center in 1972.

Many transmitter stations were built along Latvia. A new technology was discovered as the stereophonic broadcasts were made and the  shortwave band was discovered. Latvia Radio 2 was made in 1949, along with classical music program. For many years Radio was used as a propaganda tool by the Soviet government. The VEF continued to produce state of the art radios. Then in the late eighties after the lift of censorship the radio started to fight for Latvian independence. During the events of barricades and the August coup in 1991, radio was the only source of information. Radio workers went to the secret transmitting site  in case if the coup in Moscow succeeds.

 After the reigning of the independence Latvian radio became a nonprofit organization. The generous state funding from the Soviet time was shortened and Radio had to cancel transmitting in medium waves and shortwaves. Now Latvian Radio is only available in FM band.

Right now the  Latvian radio has 5 stations. LR 1 is the main news, comments and information broadcaster. LR 2 is for entertainment and plays only Latvian music. LR 2 is one of the most popular radio stations in Latvia. LR 3   plays classical music and jazz. LR 4 broadcasts in Russian language. LR 5 Naba is an alternative music station mainly for university students.  LR 1 in Riga is on 90,7 MHz, LR 2 on 91, 5 MHz, LR 3 103,7 MHz, LR 4 107, MHz. Latvian Radio is also available on the internet from the main site.

The radio must compete with many commercial radios that works on the FM band. The most popular commercial radio is Radio SWH that also has a rock station and Russian language version, also the Radio Skonto, Star FM, Radio 101 and many others. There is a Latvian Christian Radio and many Russian language radios along with local radios. Only Latvian station on medium wave is Radio Merkurs. A last shortwave station that transmitted in Latvian was the Vatican Radio. It halted its broadcast in 2012.

Right now Latvian Radio works in Dome Square 8 in Riga. There is a discussion of merging Latvian Radio with Latvian State television to save money on state financing. No matter the decisions Latvian Radio will be in the air as long as the Latvia exists and will be a symbol of the country.

Selected Sources:

Kruks, Sergejs. “Hallo šeit Rīga, radiofons!”

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