Historic Center of Riga
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Riga was a major centre of the Hanseatic League, deriving its prosperity in the 13th–15th centuries from the trade with central and eastern Europe. The urban fabric of its medieval centre reflects this prosperity, though most of the earliest buildings were destroyed by fire or war. Riga became an important economic centre in the 19th century, when the suburbs surrounding the medieval town were laid out, first with imposing wooden buildings in neoclassical style and then in Jugendstil. It is generally recognized that Riga has the finest collection of art nouveau buildings in Europe.
The historic centre of Riga, while retaining its medieval and later urban fabric relatively intact, is of outstanding universal value by virtue of the quality and the quantity of its Art Nouveau/Jugendstil architecture, which is unparalleled anywhere in the world, and its 19th century architecture in wood.
Riga is located on the Daugava River, near its mouth on the Gulf of Riga (an arm of the Baltic Sea). The city is a major seaport and a cultural and industrial center. Manufactures include ships, electrical equipment, pharmaceuticals, processed food, and wood products. The old section of Riga is surrounded by a moat and contains several medieval structures, including a 13th-century cathedral and guild halls from the 14th century. The city is the seat of a university and of the Latvian Academy of Sciences. It also has a symphony orchestra, several theaters and museums, and a zoo.
Probably founded in the 12th century, Riga was made the seat of the bishop of Livonia in 1201.
The city developed into a commercial and craft center, joining the Hanseatic League in 1282. It subsequently achieved a measure of independence, but in 1581 it was incorporated into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
The city was taken by Sweden in 1621 and was granted self-government. In 1721 it was ceded to Russia after Sweden was defeated in the Great Northern War. By the end of the 19th century Riga was one of Russia's most industrialized cities. During World War I it was occupied by the Germans from 1917 to 1918, when it became the capital of independent Latvia. During World War II it was annexed (1940) by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and then held (1941-44) by the Germans before being returned to Soviet control. The city was the capital of the Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic (LSSR) until 1991, when Latvia again became independent.
In 2007. two different stamps were jointly issued by Latvia and Germany, featuring World Cultural Heritage Sites from the Hanseatic League relations of the two countries. This is the first time ever, the words "UNESCO Cultural Heritage" appeared on Latvian stamps. Scans by courtesy of Mr. Leonards Naglis (Latvia). Below are shown the "House of the Blackheads" in Riga. The Stralsund/Wismar issue can be seen on Germany, Stralsund.
Latvia 2007. World Cultural Heritage. House of the Blackheads, Riga.
Germany 2007. Similar issue from Germany.
Source: Microsoft Encarta 2002.
Some notes about the Latvian national flag
The current design of the Latvian flag was approved in May 1917, at a meeting of the Art Promotion Association. Several proposals were reviewed. Finally the design with red-white-red flag having colour ratio 2:1:2 was accepted. The designer was Ansis Cirulis. The design was officially adopted as the Latvian flag. During the Soviet era (1940-1990) the use and keeping of this flag was prohibited. The governing Communist Party considered it the symbol of forces hostile to Soviet power. Only in the spring of 1990 was the red-white-red flag restored as the official Latvian flag.
Dr. Karlis Ulmanis, first Prime Minister and last President of Latvia before the Soviet invasion in 1940 described the meaning of the colors thus:
"Our red-white-red colors! What do they tell him who loves his native country ardently? White stands for right and truth, the honor of free citizens and trustworthiness. But the red reminds us of the blood that has been shed in the recent past. It has been shed at all times in the remote past and we are ready to offer it again for freedom and independence, for our nation and country."
Other World Cultural Heritage Sites in Latvia (on this web site). Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, Latvia-section, for further information about the individual properties.
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Revised 10 sep 2007