Today on this date the 18th November 2020, Latvia has reached the grand old age of 102 yr's old as an Independent Republic. Known as Latvian Independence day or the more official title of, The Proclamation Day of the Republic of Latvia, this date is in essence the most important date in the Latvian calender, for without this date, there simply would be no Latvia, not as we know it today at least.
The journey to Independence for Latvian society was a long and turbulent struggle. In order to be recognized and identified as a Nation state, free to dictate its own future and to carve out for the people of the nation its national boundaries, linguistic values and to shake off hundreds of years of outside control by foreign powers.
Latvia is a relatively new country and the idea of being Latvian really began to form in the 1800s. By the later part of the 1800s, huge reforms across the Russian Empire, allowed serfs (land servants) to essentially become free people. The shift from country living to urban living, brought with it new opportunities both economically and educationally, allowing for Latvian society to move within circles that had not been previously so fluid.
During the early 1900s with the rise of serious decent within the Russian Empire, notably 1905, many groups of various political and ethnic backgrounds began to form and mobilise themselves through protest. By the end of WW1 and the eventual collapse of the Russian Empire, National ideas began to take a more serious position. It is here that the begging of what will become the National Republic of Latvia finds it self in the perfect storm.
Zigfrīds Anna Meierovics was a Latvian Diplomat who visited London in the summer of 1918. Here the first Foreign Minister of a country that did not exist on paper came to Great Britain to seek support for the Independence of Latvia. Upon arranging a meeting with the British foreign secretary Arthur Balfour, Meierovics managed to persuade him that the territory of Latvia should not be seeded to either German or Russian interests but to the Latvian people.
With the 11th November signalling the end of of WW1 the British foreign secretary found time to reply to the Latvians and sent a letter to support De facto Independence of the Republic of Latvia. It is here 1 week before the signing of the declaration of Independence, that Latvia gained international political support for its existence.
On the 18th November Latvia declared itself an Independent Republic. This would just be the start of what was to become years of hardship for Latvia, an internal ideological war (The War of Independence), authoritarian regime under the lead of Karlis Ulmanis, Soviet, Nazi and again Soviet occupation leading up until the May 4th 1990 reclamation of Independence have all shaped this tiny nation of less than 2 million people in the Baltic region.
Latvia as a nation has just begun to form itself and we hope for many more years, Latvia will be able to shape and model its future, by itself and for its people.