Part of the Russian Empire

History of Latvia between 1722 - 1918

In 1700, the Great Northern War broke out. The course of this war was directly linked with today's Latvian territory and the territorial claims of the Russian Empire. One of its goals was to secure the famous and rich town of Riga. In 1710, the Russian Tsar, Peter I, managed to secure Vidzeme. Through Vidzeme to Riga, Russia obtained a clear passage to Europe. By the end of the 18th century, due to the Partitions of Poland, all of Latvia's territory was under Russian rule.

In 1812 Napoleon's troops invaded Russia and the Prussian units under the leadership of the field marshal Yorck occupied Courland and approached Riga. The governor-general of Riga Ivan Essen set the wooden houses of the Riga suburbs on fire to deflect the invaders and thousands of city residents were left homeless. However York did not attack Riga and in December the Napoleon's army retreated. Serfdom was abolished in Courland Governorate in 1818 and Governorate of Livonia in 1819. However all the land stayed in the hands of the German nobility. Only in 1849, a law granted a legal basis for the creation of peasant-owned farms. Reforms were slower in Latgale which was part of Vitebsk Governorate, where serfdom was only abolished in 1861 after emancipation reform. In the middle of 19th century industry developed quickly and the number of the inhabitants grew. Courland and Vidzeme became one of Russia's most developed provinces.

Latvian National Awakening

In the 19th century, the first Latvian National Awakening began among ethnic Latvian intellectuals, a movement that partly reflected similar nationalist trends elsewhere in Europe. This revival was led by the "Young Latvians" from the 1850s to the 1880s. Primarily a literary and cultural movement with significant political implications, the Young Latvians soon came into severe conflict with the Baltic Germans.

In the 1880s and 1890s the russification policy began by Alexander III was aimed at reducing the autonomy of Baltic provinces and the introduction of the Russian language in administration, court and education replacing German or Latvian (in regard to schools).

With increasing pauperization in rural areas and growing urbanization, a loose but broad leftist movement called the "New Current" arose in the late 1880s. Led by Rainis and Pēteris Stučka, editors of the newspaper Dienas Lapa, this movement was soon influenced by Marxism and led to the creation of the Latvian Social Democratic Labour Party.

1905 Revolution

Following the shooting of demonstrators in St. Petersburg on January 9 a wide-scale general strike began in Riga. On January 13 Russian army troops opened fire on demonstrators in Riga killing 73 and injuring 200 people. During the summer 1905 main revolutionary events moved to the countryside. 470 new parish administrative bodies were elected in 94% of the parishes in Latvia. The Congress of Parish Representatives was held in Riga in November. Mass meetings and demonstrations took place including violent attacks against Baltic German nobles, burning estate buildings and seizure of estate property including weapons. In the autumn 1905 armed conflict between the German nobility and the Latvian peasants begun in the rural areas of Vidzeme and Courland. In Courland, the peasants seized or surrounded several towns. In Livland the fighters controlled the Rūjiena-Pärnu railway line. Altogether, a thousand armed clashes were registered in Latvia in 1905. Martial law was declared in Courland in August 1905 and in Livland in late November. Special punitive expeditions were dispatched in mid-December to suppress the movement. They executed 1170 people without trial or investigation and burned 300 peasant homes. Thousands were exiled to Siberia. In 1906 the revolutionary movement gradually subsided.

German occupation World War I

On August 1, 1914 Germany declared war on Russia and by 1915, the conflict reached Latvia. On May 7 the Germans captured Liepāja and on May 18, Talsi, Tukums and Ventspils. On June 29 the Russian Supreme Command ordered the whole population of Kurzeme evacuated, and around 400,000 refugees fled to the east. Some of them settled in Vidzeme but most continued their way to Russia. On July 19 the Russian War Minister ordered the factories of Riga evacuated together with their workers. In the summer of 1915, 30,000 railway wagons loaded with machines and equipment from factories were taken away. In August the formation of Latvian battalions known as Latvian Riflemen started. From 1915 to 1917, the Riflemen fought in the Russian army against the Germans in positions along Daugava River. In December 1916 and January 1917, they suffered heavy casualties in month-long Christmas Battles. In February 1917 Revolution broke out in Russia and in the summer the Russian army collapsed. The German offensive was successful and on 3 September 1917 they entered Riga. In November 1917, the Communist Bolsheviks took power in Russia. The Bolshevik government tried to end the war and in March 1918, the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was signed which gave Kurzeme and Vidzeme to the Germans. By February the Germans had occupied all of Latvia. However after the German Revolution, on 11 November the armistice treaty between the Allies and Germany was signed thus ending World War I. Great Britain declared its de facto recognition of Latvia in writing on that day as well, confirming a prior verbal communication of 23 October to Meierowitz by the British Minister for Foreign Affairs, A. J. Balfour.

References: Wikipedia

Popular sites founded between 1722 and 1918 in Latvia

Laidi Palace

The neoclassical Laidi Palace was completed in 1810 by a nobleman von Manteifel, who aqcuired the estate to his daughter Johanna von Lambsdorff. The history of estate began however from the 16th century, when it was owned by the bishop of Courland. The palace has housed the Laidi primary school since 1921.
Founded: 1808-1810 | Location: Laidi, Latvia

Jelgava Palace

Jelgava or Mitava Palace is the largest Baroque style palace in the Baltic states. It was built in the 18th century based on the design of Bartolomeo Rastrelli as a residence for the Dukes of Courland in their capital - Mitava (today Jelgava). The palace was founded by Ernst Johann von Biron in 1738 on an island between the Lielupe river and its branches. The site had borne the residence of the former Courland dukes of th ...
Founded: 1738-1772 | Location: Jelgava, Latvia

Ivande Manor

Īvande Manor, also called Lielīvande Manor (Schloß Groß-Iwanden) was built in the second half of the 19th century according to a design by architect Teodors Zeilers. It was severely damaged by fire in 1905, but later repaired in 1912-1913. Unusual to estates in Latvia, an earlier 18th century manor house still stands nearby.
Founded: 19th century | Location: Īvande, Latvia

National Opera House

The National Opera House was constructed in 1863 by architect Ludwig Bohnstedt from St. Petersburg, for the then German-speaking City Theatre. It has been refurbished several times; 1882-1887 (following a fire in 1882), 1957–1958, 1991-1995 (following independence). A modern annex was added in 2001 with a 300-seat New Hall.
Founded: 1863 | Location: Riga, Latvia

Great Cemetery

The Great Cemetery (Latvian: Lielie kapi, German: Grosser Friedhof) was formerly the principal cemetery of Riga in Latvia, established in 1773. It was the main burial ground of the Baltic Germans in Latvia. Between 1771 and 1772, Catherine the Great, empress of the Russian Empire, decreed that from that point onwards no-one, regardless of their social standing or class origins, was to be buried in a church crypt or church ...
Founded: 1773 | Location: Riga, Latvia

Cere Manor

Cēre Manor (Cēres muižas pils) was established in 1352. The current manor house was converted into its present form in the 1860s according to a design by architect Teodors Zeilers. Since 1921 the building has housed the Cēre primary school.
Founded: 1860s | Location: Cēres, Latvia

Riga Luther Church

Completed in 1891, this neo-gothic church was belatedly built to commemorate the birth of Martin Luther (1483 - 1546) – founder of Latvia’s most popular faith. Although its yellow brick façade, soaring steeple and imposing location atop a hill are all impressive, the church’s main claim to fame is its beautiful timber ceiling. A cemetery is located next to the church. Take tram N°10 from Gr ...
Founded: 1891 | Location: Riga, Latvia

Latvian National Theatre

The Latvian National Theatre (Latvijas Nacionalais teatris) was built between 1899-1902 by the design of architect Augusts Reinbergs, becoming Riga's second (Russian) theatre. It closed during the First World War; on the 18th of November 1918, Latvia's independence was declared in the theatre building. In 1917 the first shows in Latvian were held in the theatre. The Latvian National Theatre was founded 30 November, 1919, ...
Founded: 1899-1902 | Location: Riga, Latvia

Rundale Palace

Rundāle Palace is one of the two major baroque palaces built for the Dukes of Courland in what is now Latvia, the other being Jelgava Palace. The palace was built in two periods, from 1736 until 1740 and from 1764 until 1768. It was constructed to a design by Bartolomeo Rastrelli as a summer residence of Ernst Johann von Biron, the Duke of Courland. Following Biron's fall from grace, the palace stood empty until the ...
Founded: 1736-1768 | Location: Rundāle, Latvia

Holy Trinity Orthodox Church

Although an older church dating back to 1453 once stood here, the current 17th-century Russian baroque-style building was completed in 1893. Designed in the shape of the Orthodox cross, its soaring belfry and blue and green onion domes can be seen from quite a distance. Inside you’ll find the smell of incense and hundreds of icons common to Orthodox churches.
Founded: 1893 | Location: Riga, Latvia

Reformation Church

Built from 1727-1733, this is one of the few Calvinist churches in Latvia. After renovations in 1805, its basement was turned into a warehouse, while the Soviets turned the whole building into a recording studio. Now the upstairs is used for occasional concerts and the downstairs is waiting for yet another entrepreneur to open a club there.
Founded: 1727-1733 | Location: Riga, Latvia

Latvian War Museum

The Latvian War Museum is a war museum in Riga, Latvia. It began as the Riflemen Museum in 1916 during World War I. The building that houses the museum was erected in the years from 1937 to 1940. The mission of the War museum is to save collective, historical memory of the nation about political and military history of Latvia, the influence of the military conflicts (especially 20th century World Wars) on the destiny of ...
Founded: 1916 | Location: Riga, Latvia

Snepele Palace

Snēpele Palace was originally built at the beginning of the 19th century as a baronial hunting lodge with two room apartments for guests on the second floor. The building has housed the Snēpele primary school since 1924. The building has decorated columns on both sides of the portico, and the wrought iron railing dates from the first half of the 19th century. The exterior doors are from the second half of the 1 ...
Founded: 19th century | Location: Snēpele, Latvia

Nativity of Christ Cathedral

The Nativity of Christ Cathedral (Kristus Piedzimšanas pareizticīgo katedrāle) was built to a design by Nikolai Chagin in a Neo-Byzantine style between 1876 and 1883, during the period when the country was part of the Russian Empire. It is the largest Orthodox cathedral in the Baltic provinces built with the blessing of the Russian Tsar Alexander II on the initiative of local governor-general Pyotr Bagrat ...
Founded: 1876-1883 | Location: Riga, Latvia

Daugavpils Fortress

Daugavpils Fortress, also known as Dinaburg Fortress is the only early 19th century military fortification of its kind in Northern Europe that has been preserved without significant alterations. For a long time it was a defense base of the western frontier of the Russian Empire. Planning of the fortress began in 1772 by decree of Tsar Alexander I of Russia, shortly after the First Partition of Poland when Latvia ceded to ...
Founded: 1772-1878 | Location: Daugavpils, Latvia

Orthodox Church of the Annunciation

The original church that once stood here was destroyed when the entire area was razed in 1812 to deprive Napoleon’s army of shelter. The army took a different route. Fortunately, some of the historic icons were saved and now adorn the walls of the current yellow wooden church that was built in 1818. Although it looks like it’s falling apart on the outside its simple interior is still worth a quick peek.
Founded: 1818 | Location: Riga, Latvia

St. Saviour's

This little church commissioned by British traders living in Riga was built in 1857 on a shipload of English soil specially imported from the UK. Consecrated in 1859, the church was only full when British warships visited Latvia. Transformed into a student disco during Soviet times, it is once again a place of worship which is attended by Riga's English-speaking expat population. Its pastor and his dedicated flock are als ...
Founded: 1857-1859 | Location: Riga, Latvia

Gaujiena Manor

In 1818 the estate of Gaujiena was bought by Baron Adolf von Wulff. Gaujiena remained the in the possession of the von Wulff family for 100 years, during which more than 16 buildings were put up and the park laid out over an area of 12 hectares. The complete manor ensemble took shape during the 19th century and in the early 20th century, and consisted of 30 buildings and structures, 17 of which have been retained in good ...
Founded: 18th-19th century | Location: Gaujiena, Latvia

Kabile Manor

Kabile manor lands was originally owned by Heinrich von Soblech (around 1580). Duke Wilhelm gave this feud to Matthias II von der Recke in 1619. Manor became the property of Jochan Ditrich von Behr in 1687. Since 1810 it was owned by Count Heinrich von Keiserling, who sold this property to Otto von Lieven in 1854. After the death of his son Kabile manor was managed by widow Baroness von Wolf born von der Recke. She lost h ...
Founded: 1734-1740 | Location: Kabile, Latvia

Sigulda New Castle

The Sigulda manor center began to develop in the fore-castle area of Sigulda Medieval Castle during the 17th century. There are still a few remaining 18th and 19th century buildings built during the ownership of the Von Borghs and Kropotkins. These are the Summer Castle, the New Castle, the White Castle, the vagar's (supervisor of serfs) house, the servants' house, a barn, a laundry house and a vegetable and fruit basemen ...
Founded: 1878-1881 | Location: Sigulda, Latvia

Ezere Manor

Ezere Manor (Ezeres muižas pils), also called Lielezere Manor,was originally built in 1750, it has been remodeled several times by a series of owners. Since 1922 the building has housed the Ezere secondary school. Capitulation of Courland Pocket was signed here on 9 May 1945.
Founded: 1750 | Location: Ezere, Latvia

Durbe Manor

Durbe as was first mentioned in written sources as Šlokenbeka manor in 1475. Built in 1671, the manor was reconstructed in classical form between 1820 and 1823 according to the project of architect Johann Gottfried Adam Berlitz who rebuilt the façade with a wedding-cake portico and Ionic columns in the 1820s. From 1789 to 1808, Ernst Karl Philip von Groth used the property as a summerhouse. From 1818 to 1838 ...
Founded: 1820-1823 | Location: Tukums, Latvia

St. John's Church

St.John's church was dedicated on August 27, 1900 after the long history before. The first wooden church was built in 1461, the next, also made of wood, was built in 1530 and renovated in 1567. The masonry church was built in 1614-1615 and financed by Wilhelm Duke. The fifth church in Saldus was built in 1737 on the hill where the present church stands. It was reconstructed in 1825. In 1898 the old church was torn down. ...
Founded: 1900 | Location: Saldus, Latvia

Cesvaine Palace

Cesvaine Palace was built in 1896 for the German baron Emil von Wulf (not to be confused with the von Wolf baronial family). Authors of the project were architects Hans Grisebach and August Dinklage from Berlin. The palace is built in the late Tudor Neo-Renaissance style. It is located next to the old medieval castle ruins, remains from the old bishops castle. At the end of the 19th century, Germany abandoned the reprodu ...
Founded: 1896 | Location: Cesvaine, Latvia

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Château de Chaumont

The Château de Chaumont was founded in the 10th century by Odo I, Count of Blois. The purpose was to protect his lands from attacks from his feudal rivals, Fulk Nerra, Count of Anjou. On his behalf the Norman Gelduin received it, improved it and held it as his own. His great-niece Denise de Fougère, having married Sulpice d'Amboise, passed the château into the Amboise family for five centuries.

Pierre d'Amboise unsuccessfully rebelled against King Louis XI and his property was confiscated, and the castle was dismantled on royal order in 1465. It was later rebuilt by Charles I d'Amboise from 1465–1475 and then finished by his son, Charles II d'Amboise de Chaumont from 1498–1510, with help from his uncle, Cardinal Georges d'Amboise; some Renaissance features were to be seen in buildings that retained their overall medieval appearance. The château was acquired by Catherine de Medici in 1550. There she entertained numerous astrologers, among them Nostradamus. When her husband, Henry II, died in 1559 she forced his mistress, Diane de Poitiers, to exchange Château de Chaumont for Château de Chenonceau which Henry had given to de Poitiers. Diane de Poitiers only lived at Chaumont for a short while.

Later Chaumont has changed hands several times. Paul de Beauvilliers bought the château in 1699, modernized some of its interiors and decorated it with sufficient grandeur to house the duc d'Anjou on his way to become king of Spain in 1700. Monsieur Bertin demolished the north wing to open the house towards the river view in the modern fashion.

In 1750, Jacques-Donatien Le Ray purchased the castle as a country home where he established a glassmaking and pottery factory. He was considered the French "Father of the American Revolution" because he loved America. However, in 1789, the new French Revolutionary Government seized Le Ray's assets, including his beloved Château de Chaumont.

The castle has been classified as a Monument historique since 1840 by the French Ministry of Culture. The Château de Chaumont is currently a museum and every year hosts a Garden Festival from April to October where contemporary garden designers display their work in an English-style garden.