Riga Latvian Society Building
The Riga Latvian Society (RLS) is the oldest Latvian organization in the world. It has had an outstanding role in the history of the Latvian nation, and thanks to it several notable Latvian educational, culture and science institutions, which still work today, were founded.
The Riga Latvian Society has also had an important role in the establishment of Latvian statehood. The society was founded in 1868, but its beginnings come from the first half of the 19th century with the first attempts of remarkable Latvians to unite at a time Riga was still a typical German town. Until 1914, the RLS was the initiator, organizer and main supporter of almost all the aspirations of Latvians. In 1873, the RLS organized the first Latvian Song Festival. It was in this building that Kārlis Baumanis’ (1835-1905) song Dievs, svētī Latviju was performed, which later became the country’s national anthem. Already in 1868, the first Latvian theater began work in the building, and on its basis, in 1919, the Latvian National Theater was formed. The foundations of the University of Latvia and the Academy of Music were laid at the Riga Latvian Society as well. Almost all the important activities of Latvian culture history at the end of the 19th and at the beginning of the 20th centuries were connected with the work of the Riga Latvian Society, so it is safe to assert that the Society played a crucial role in the establishment of an independent Latvian state. During the interwar period, the building also hosted lavish balls, receptions and ceremonies, which were attended by the elite of society at the time. When the Soviet authorities occupied Latvia in 1940, the RLS was shut down, but its work was renewed in 1989. Due to its important role in Latvian history, the building is still called Mother by many.
This is the first building in Riga built in the Neoclassicism style, and was designed by the Latvian architect Jānis Fridrihs Baumanis (1834-1891) in 1869. In 1897 the building was expanded, but after it burned to the ground in 1908 it was restored and rebuilt by the Latvian architects Eižens Laube (1880–1967) and Ernests Pole (1872–1914).