Tourist Guide
Latvian History
A Brief Chronology
 

Latvian 
Tourist 
Guide


Riga:
An Introduction

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What's New

What's On

Yellow Pages

Other Latvian-related
tourist articles: 

Rave/Dance Music
Latvian Opera
Wine: A Baltic Guide
Jewish Riga
What's in a name?
The Bear Slayer
Riga: No. 1!

Tidbits

Estonian Guide

Lithuanian Guide

Links

 


For a more detailed chronology, including comments from historians and journalists on different eras in Baltic history last century, see CITY PAPER's
20th Century Timeline.

400 Million Years Ago The land that is Latvia today is located near the equator—before continental plates drift north.

10, 000 B.C. Glaciers that had been covering the entire region begin receding north, making human habitation possible.

2000 B.C. Latvian ancestors settle on the Baltic coast. Couronians, Latgallians, Semgallians and Finno-Ugric Livs later assimilate to become Latvians.

1190 The first Christian missionaries persuade some Latvians to convert. But as soon as the Germans left, the Latvians, by one account, jumped into the river to wash off their baptism. Soon, Latvians again submitted—then again renounced Christianity. Germans succeeded in converting Latvians for good 20 years later.

1201 A.D. A defining point in Latvian history: At the Pope’s behest, German crusaders, led by Bishop Albert von Buxhoevden of Bremen, conquer Latvia; Riga is founded and becomes a bridgehead for further German conquests in the Baltics. German domination continues for 700 years.

1282 Riga joins the Hanseatic League, Europe’s powerful trading bloc.

1561 Southern Latvia is conquered by Poland; Catholicism becomes entrenched.

1629 Part of Latvia, including Riga, is conquered by Sweden, which enacts social reforms. Latvians now refer to this era as the good Swedish times. Riga becomes the biggest city in Sweden’s Kingdom.

1640s Latvian Duke Jacob funds an expedition colonizing the Caribbean’s Tobago in the 1600s; 2000 Latvians settled there.

1710 Latvia falls to Russia; Polish-ruled Latvia ceded to Russia 80 years later. Germans regain privileges lost under Swedes.

1812 In a defensive maneuver, fearing an attack by Napoleon, officials order that Riga suburbs be burned down.

1816 Age-old system of serfdom is abolished.

1860-1885 National consciousness among Latvians increases. Russification policies follow.

1905 Poor peasants vent their anger at land-owning Baltic Germans; Latvian rioters kill 600 people, including 100 German nobles. Czarist police quell the violence, and deport thousands who took part.

1918 Latvians had been pushing mainly for autonomy within what they hoped would be a democratically-oriented Russia. But after Soviet heavy-handedness, they declare independence. Latvians beat back German and Soviet militaries. They’re aided by Great Britain; Estonians also help.

1920 Against all odds, Latvia wins independence. Amid post-war economic misery and destruction, land is taken from German nobility and redistributed to the poor.

1921-1940 Latvia prospers, becoming a major exporter of agricultural goods. Riga becomes a favorite meeting place for Western and Soviet spies.

1939 Hitler and Stalin carve up Europe, with the Baltics said to be in the Soviet sphere. Before, the Baltics were able to play Germany and Russia off each other, but they’re now virtually within the clutches of Russia-with Germany’s acquiescence.

1940 As Nazis grab France, Soviets occupy Latvia. Deportations begin.

1941 First mass deportations by Stalinist forces, targeting the cream of society. Others dragged out of detention cells and shot. Later in the year, Nazi Germany occupies Latvia; Latvian Jews are massacred-including some 25,000 in two days outside Riga, at Rumbula.

1944 Soviets occupy Latvia again. Thousands, including over 2/3 of the nation’s intellectuals, flee to the West.

1949 Another wave of deportations. Between 1940-49, Latvia loses 35 percent of its population to war, deportation, exile and mass murder.

1987 First open protests against Soviet rule.

1990 Soviet Latvian legislature declares a transition to independence.

1991 In January, Soviets crackdown on the Baltics.

August 1991 A coup in the Kremlin unravels as quickly as it began. Two days before, it looked like the absolute worst was about to happen. But suddenly, with Moscow’s authority having collapsed, the impossible dream of restoring independence comes true.

1999 Latvia swears in its first woman president, Vaira Vike-Freiberga. Ancient legend had it that the nation would prosper once a woman ruled; annual growth jumps from around 0 to over 5 percent.

2001 Riga celebrates 800th birthday.

March 29, 2004 Latvia is accepted into NATO.

May 1, 2004 Latvia joins the European Union. 


Also see CITY PAPER's 20th Century Timeline.

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