This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Barricades – a non-violent protest campaign which took place in Riga and several other towns across Latvia in January, 1991. The events of those fateful January days are a prime example of the tremendous courage and solidarity Latvians felt as they were striving to restore their country’s independence.

After Soviet forces had brutally clamped down on protestors in Vilnius on January 13, hundreds of thousands of Latvians took to the streets protesting the aggressive and unwarranted attacks on peaceful demonstrators. Fearing a similar scenario in Riga, the Popular Front encouraged people to erect barricades around government buildings and other strategically important locations. During the next couple of days the barricades and thousands of unarmed guards proved to be an indispensable defence against the Soviet forces. Clashes, however, were not deterred and 7 people died and over 14 were injured in the days following the construction of barricades. Their sacrifice was not in vain as the soviet forces failed to undermine the independence movement and just two months later a referendum was held in which people, regardless of their ethnicity, overwhelmingly supported independence. On August 21, Latvians made the final push and passed a Constitutional Law declaring Latvia a de facto independent democratic republic.

Honouring the 25th anniversary, the Latvian Institute has perpared an informative site “The Barricades” which allows everyone to learn more about the events that unfolded 25 years ago and get a general feel of the overall atmosphere of those tumultuous times.

For those interested in something more tangible, several commemorative events are organized for public. For example, on January 20 everyone is welcome to gather around bonfires next to the Saeima building at 16:30. There will also be a dedicated concert at the Riga Dome Cathedral at 7 pm. It will convene Latvia’s best musicians and choirs in a heartfelt concert to commemorate the anniversary.

photo by Gunārs Janaitis
Latvian Institute, 17.01.2016, History, independence