November 11th Embankment
Latvians calls the Daugava the “river of fate”, with many fateful moments in history having taken place on its banks. On January 13, 1991, about half a million people gathered by the Daugava River in Riga to express their support for the Lithuanian people, who were attacked by Soviet special forces the night before, as well as express their support for the continuation of Latvia’s path towards independence.
This was not the first time – on November 11, 1988, on Lāčplēsis Day, a manifestation of the people took place, during which the Latvian flag was raised on the tower of Riga Castle. Pro-independence gatherings were organized here in the coming years as well. Today, the November 11th Embankment is a popular place for strolls or to enjoy a meal. It is still a site of large-scale events – military parades, the celebration of memorial and independence days, as well as where fireworks shows are held. This is the site where the Latvian people celebrated joining the European Union in 2004. Furthermore, the tradition of lighting candles outside Riga Castle on Lāčplēsis Day on November 11, to commemorate those who fell in Latvia’s fight for freedom, is alive and well to this day.
It can also be said that the banks of the Daugava River in Riga is where the 1905 revolution began in Latvia, with people protesting the repressions of the Czar, the Russification of Latvia, as well as the Baltic Germans’ superiority. On January 13 of this year, the Czar’s forces violently dispersed a peaceful rally, killing more than 50 people and injuring another 70 persons. It was during this revolution that Latvians began to strive towards the idea of independence.