The Grand Coat of arms of Latvia: The sun in the upper part of the coat of arms symbolizes Latvian national statehood. A stylized depiction of the sun was used as a symbol of distinction and national identity by the Imperial Russian Army's Latvian Riflemen during World War I. During the war the sun figure was fashioned with 17 rays that symbolized the 17 Latvian-inhabited districts. The three stars above the coat of arms embody the idea of the inclusion of historical districts (Vidzeme, Latgale and combined Courland-Semigalia (Kurzeme-Zemgale) into the united Latvia.
Culturally historical regions are also characterized by older heraldic figures, which already appeared in the 17th century. Courland and Semigalia (Western Latvia) are symbolized by a red lion, which appears as early as 1569 in the coat of arms of the former Duke of Courland and Semigalia. Vidzeme and Latgale (Eastern Latvia) are symbolized by the legendary winged silver creature with an eagle's head, a griffin. This symbol appeared in 1566, when the territories known today as Vidzeme and Latgale had come under Lithuanian control.
The Latvian national coat of arms was designed by the Latvian artist Rihards Zariņš.
Twenty years ago this month a phenomenon took place here in Latvia that is known as the Days of the Barricades (www.barikades.lv). It was a time when “citizen soldiers” erected barriers around the parliament building in the old city and were ready to battle tanks with their bare hands. It was a time when the people of Latvia felt more united than ever before.
Patriotic feeling all across the Baltic’s had been rising since the late 80’s. The tiny Soviet occupied states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia were growing bolder and bolder in their attempts to gain freedom from the USSR. Needless to say, the Communist Regime was not pleased. While the world’s eyes were turned to the War in the Gulf, Moscow made its move. In Mid-January Soviet troops stormed the TV tower in Vilnius, Lithuania. Fearing the same would happen in Latvia, ordinary citizens flocked to Rīga to stand guard at the parliament building, radio and TV tower. No one really knows how it started. People went to work in the morning as usual on January 13th, but by the afternoon were driving by the busload to the capital to defend a freedom they didn’t even have yet, and to preserve a hope, they could only dream of.
Latvia is a small republic on the Eastern Shore of the Baltic Sea. It is roughly 25,000 sq. miles or 66,000 sq. km (about the size of West Virginia or Ireland).
The capital of Latvia is Rīga (founded in 1201 AD).
Latvia is an Independent Democratic Republic as outlined in the "Satversme" or Constitution.
C.2000 BC — Baltic tribes settle on the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea.
800 AD — Vikings find sea route to Byzantium via the Daugava (Upper Dvina) and Dnieper rivers. Vikings trade with Latvians for amber and furs.
1045 — First Christian church built in Kurzeme by a Danish trader with help from Danish King Swien as chronicled by Bishop Adam of Bremen. Many Latvians are baptized and several tribal chiefs accept Christianity. Funeral practices of the Kurs changes from a "grave of fire" (cremation by funeral pyre) to Christian practice of burial in the ground with the head facing east.
1187 — Priest Meinards (later bishop and first apostle to the Baltics) comes to Livonia to bring the Christian Gospel to the Livonian people. He does this in Christian charity and very soon the Livonian cheiftans are baptized. Meinards teaches them stone masonry and other helpful skill unknown the them. Later, when Bishop Albert came with soldiers the Livonians asked, why do you come with swords, when Meinards came with love? Meinards builds the first stone building in Ikšķile and dedicates Livonia to the Virgin Mary, dubbing the land "Terra Mariana". Meinards is the Patron Saint of Latvia and the first missionary to the Baltics.