Daily Archives: November 16, 2013

Coat of Arms of Latvia

The Coat of Arms of Latvia

The Coat of Arms of Latvia

In conclusion of describing the Latvian national symbols, the coat of arms of Latvia needs its attention. Latvia was a new country on 1918 without no sovereign heraldic traditions like Lithuania had. Therefore, it took time to make concept of how the new coat of arms would look like. During the War for Freedom the Latvian Provisional Government used  unofficial coat of arms that rather looked like emblem than Coat of Arms. It was  a flaming sun enclosed in round shape. In the middle a capital “L” resembles word “Latvia” and three stars – Courland, Vidzeme and Latgale – the three Latvian regions. Below a Latvian national flag. It was a simple yet powerful state symbol that included three important elements Sun- the Symbol of The Latvian Riflemen, The Three Stars as the Latvian regions and the Flag of Latvia. However, according to heraldic rules this was in no way as legitimate coat of arms. So when Latvia won the War for Freedom the plans were set to make a new official Coat of Arms.

The first unifocial emblem of the Republic of Latvia

The first unifocial emblem of the Republic of Latvia

The designer of the Coat of Arms was well-known  Latvian graphic artist Rihards Zariņš. His project was made official by the Constituent Assembly on July 16 1921.

The sun in the upper part of the coat of arms symbolizes Latvian national statehood. A stylized depiction of the sun was used as a symbol of distinction and national identity by the  Latvian Riflemen during World War I. During the war, the sun figure was fashioned with 17 rays that symbolized the 17 Latvian-inhabited districts. The three stars above the coat of arms embody the idea of the inclusion of historical districts (Vidzeme, Latgale and combined Courland-Semigalia (Kurzeme-Zemgale) into the united Latvia.

Culturally historical regions are also characterized by older heraldic figures, which already appeared in the 17th century. Courland and Semigalia (Western Latvia) are symbolized by a red lion, which appears as early as 1569 in the coat of arms of the former Duke of Courland and Semigalia. Vidzeme and Latgale (Eastern Latvia) are symbolized by the legendary winged silver creature with an eagle’s head, a griffin. This symbol appeared in 1566, when the territories known today as Vidzeme and Latgale had come under Lithuanian control. Base of the coat of arms is decorated with the branches of an oak tree, Quercus robur, which is one of Latvian national symbols.

The three versions of the Coat of Arms of Latvia.

The three versions of the Coat of Arms of Latvia. From the left the major Coat of Arms, Small Coat of Arms and Middle Coat of Arms

Coat of Arms is used in three versions. The large version with all details, Middle Version and Small Version. Large version is used by is used by the President of Latvia, the Parliament, the Prime Minister, the Cabinet of Ministers, government ministries, the Supreme Court and Prosecutor General, as well as Latvian diplomatic and consular missions. Middle version is used by The Small Enhanced Coat of Arms is used by the Parliament agencies, the Cabinet of Ministers and other institutions under direct or indirect supervision of the government ministries. And the small version by The Small Coat of Arms is used by other government institutions, municipal authorities and educational institutions on official documents.

After the occupation of Latvia on 1940, the coat of arms was forbidden to use. Soviets tried to remove all images of the Coat of Arms as much as possible. For instance in the Brothers War  Cemetery the Coat of Arms on the main gate was removed and all the pre-WW2 coat of arms of the various Latvian cities were removed. Right now the Coat of Arms of Latvia has been restored on the main gate and other coat of arms of the Latvian cities are placed back. The Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic had its own coat of arms featuring hammer and  sickle, wheat and the Baltic sea. On February 15 1990 together with national flag and the national anthem the  Coat of Arms was restored as official symbol of the Latvian Republic.

The Latvian Coat of Arms was made according to Western European heraldic traditions. Its symbolic code involves heraldic symbols from the Latvian past and national symbols such as sun and oak tree. The Coat of Arms shows Latvian special identity a western nation who was under foreign rule and unique nation with its own history and desire for freedom.

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