2014

My, your, our Riga 100 years ago

National Library of Latvia

Why talk about Riga? Indeed, why? Can everyone have their own, special, unique intimate image of Riga which reflects their individual thoughts, memories and moments of happiness or grief? Since Riga is so varied, ever-changing, vibrant and dynamic from a historical, ethnic and cultural point of view, this exhibition offers a story about Riga – the capital city of Latvia – and fragments of its past which date back to a hundred years ago.

This exhibition is a reflection of Riga until 1914 – the moment when World War I began in Europe. The war marked the end of the 19th century Riga which meant a caesura, a loud and blood-stained period of silence and refuge when the metropolis along the banks of the river Daugava was frozen by fear of death and pain of the inhabitants of Riga. The composition of this exhibition is not chronological: the story begins with the moment when the medieval fortifications and city walls were demolished, and Riga started growing and developing rapidly. Five thematic branches are offered in this exhibition; they shaped the face of Riga before World War I.

Events in Europe and in Riga

Events in Europe and in Riga

Events in Europe and in Riga

Events in Europe and in Riga

I. Riga develops
The 19th century for Riga, at the time – the city of the Russian Empire, is a restless and dynamic period.The plan to demolish the fortifications of the city was approved in year 1856, construction and territorial administration plans were developed in 1860-1861. A new period started in the city’s development. In addition to the construction scheme subjected to military needs, Riga began to change its appearance by acquiring the features of a rapidly growing city of trade and industry. The urbanization of Riga introduced changes in the composition of its population as well. In 1863 the demolition of the city fortifications was finished, and the city was now able to expand.

Riga's plan before the demolishing of the medieval fortifications and city walls

Riga's plan after the demolishing of the medieval fortifications and city walls

Berga Bazaar's promotional material

Advertisments of Riga's points of sale

Telephone usage instruction

Building Regulations in Riga

Ovens catalog

Ovens catalog

Ovens catalog

Factory scene from catalog of the Riga Cast Iron and Mechanical Engineering Factory Society (formerly Felzers & Co)

Society's "Provodnik" manufactured surgical instruments catalog's cover

Society's "Provodnik" manufactured surgical instruments catalog's cover

Society's "Provodnik" manufactured surgical instruments catalog: breast couplings, baloons, cupping-glasses

Boilers of Riga's Cast Iron and Mechanical Engineering Factory Society (formerly Felzers & Co) catalog

Riga Canned Goods and Chocolate Factory's price catalog

Riga Canned Goods and Chocolate Factory's price catalog: Choholate products

Otto Schwarz's foreign wine and cigar catalog for year 1912

Otto Schwarz's catalog of drinks for years 1913/1914

Promotional material of coffee quality improvement

Riga Canned Goods and Chocolate Factory's price catalog: Canned food

Cabman

Air Bridge at Aleksandra (now Brivibas) Street over the railway opened in 1906 and is the first viaduct in Riga

First Pontoon bridge was opened to traffic in 1896. In springs, at the time of floating ice, it was removed and placed in winter port.

Pontoon bridge

Advertising poster

Society's "Provodnik" poster

Rubber, Gutta-percha and Telegraph Accessories Russian-French Factory Society's "Provodnik" galosh and boot catalog

Rubber, Gutta-percha and Telegraph Accessories Russian-French Factory Society's "Provodnik" galosh and boot catalog

Rubber, Gutta-percha and Telegraph Accessories Russian-French Factory Society's "Provodnik" galosh and boot catalog

Vienna Glove Factory in Riga commodity price catalog

Vienna Glove Factory in Riga commodity price catalog

II. The inhabitants of Riga are so diverse...
Economic development in Riga also had an ethnic culture and community dimension. The population of Riga included Germans, Latvians, Russians, Jews, Poles and other ethnic groups which strived to develop their economic activity in close relation to the development of the ethnic groups they represented. Capital had an ethnic background whereas property had an ethnic identity. Language, traditions and cultural memories played an important role in economic activity.The meaning of the First Latvian Song Festival (1873) to the development of the Latvian national identity and movement could be compared to one of the cornerstones of national consolidation along with the foundation of the Riga Latvian Society in 1868.Biographies of the inhabitants of Riga of various nationalities show an interesting feature – beside a trade or profession that provided income, many of them voluntarily took part in different social activities. Very popular at that time were societies.

Riga Latvian Society House was built in 1869-1872. House burnt down in a fire on June 19, 1908. The New Riga Latvian Society House was built in the place of burnt-down house in 1909.

Overview of the Riga Latvian Society activities and accounts for year 1878/1879

Overview of the Riga Latvian Society activities and accounts for year 1904

Riga Latvian Society's new building was built in 1909, in the place of the burned-out building in 1908. Architects: E. Laube and E. Pole.

Cabaret "Victoria" concert programme with promotional materials

Chamber music concert in V. Giżycki Riga School of Music

Singing Society's "Gutenberg" 25th anniversary concert programme

E. Melngailis concert programme

E. Melngailis concert programme

Handicraft Society's (Gewerbeverein) menu cover

Riga's "Synagogue of the Soldiers" board members lists. From the collection of the Museum "Jews in Latvia".

Exlibris of the Jewish student fraternity "Vetulia". From the collection of the Museum "Jews in Latvia".

German Theater and Concert Association's 1913/1914 season's programme

German theater and concert association's 1913/1914 season's programme with listener comments

Riga's German Theatre Great Hall (now: Latvian National Opera)

View from the end of Jēkaba Street to the City's II (Russian) Theater (now: National Theatre), which was built (1900-1902) by the architect A. Reinbergs project. Facade decorated by sculptor A. Folcs.

City's Theatre or the Riga German Theatre (now: Latvian National Opera) was built in the period from 1860 to 1863, by the project of architect Ludvigs Bonštets.

Mežaparks. Sports Association "Kaiserwald"

German Sports Association "Kaiserwald" ("Ķeizarmežs") was established in 1903, in the territory of former Annas mansion, which the Association rented from Riga's Building Society. Before World War I "Kaiserwald" was the largest sports organization in Latvia.

In 1912, concurrent with the issuance of the first building plots in ground-rent in the northen part of Mežaparks, was solemnly opened Riga Zoo as well.

Guide to the Zoo of Riga: with drawings and plans

Guide to the Zoo of Riga: with drawings and plans

Society's "Provodnik" male watertight clothing catalog

Society's "Provodnik" male watertight clothing catalog

Society's "Provodnik" male watertight clothing catalog

Society's "Provodnik" male watertight clothing catalog

Society's "Provodnik" male watertight clothing catalog

Society's "Provodnik" male watertight clothing catalog

Latvian singers choir festival parade from the Riga Latvian Society House to the Ķeizardārzs, June 28, 1873.

V Latvian Song Festival participants' parade

V Latvian Song Festival's venue

V Latvian Song Festival participants' parade

Cēsis district singers in V Riga Latvian Song Festival

V Latvian Song Festival poster

III. Inhabitants of Riga Engage in Policy
Reforms to the governance of municipalities implemented by Alexander II proved to be an important impetus to the development of Riga as a political space.The government attempted to shape in the city a more active society and bring it closer to the model of western civic society. At the same time reforms in the legislation of municipal administration of 1870 presented an attempt to centralize state power and decrease the scope of activity of the elites in the Empire’s Western regions.Instead of the Burgomaster there was planned to be a post of the Head of the City Council, basically – post of the Administrative Manager of the city. The new Riga City Council was an administrative body elected by the citizens and it consisted of 72 City Council Deputies and the City Administration, and Riga Executive Power whose election was ensured by the City Council itself. Citizens of Riga – men from 25 years of age – had permission to participate in elections of the City Council, if they were able to confirm regular payment of property or some other income tax and had no debts.

The Law of Riga city (procedures)

Provisional Regulations on societies, associations and meetings

Town Hall square, Old Riga

Instruction for deputies for road improvement control of the territory of Riga

Procedures for the inhabitants of Riga participating in the electoral process of Riga city

Riga's bathing-place rules

In the place of the old Town Hall, built in the 14th century, until World War II was Town Hall built in 1750-1765, built by the engineer J.F. von Ettinger project. The biggest reconstruction of the Town Hall took place in 1806 and in 1847-1850.

IV. 700th Anniversary of Riga
Censorship in the media and the power of the governor’s administration was still palpable in all areas, regardless of political rivalry and the elections of the city administration. The city’s elite used cultural processes in order to manifest its interests, political priorities and define itself in the multi-ethnic city in the late 19th century.Was there a common Riga?When active debates on Riga’s 700th anniversary celebration started in 1900, discussions about what this festivity should be like emerged in the Latvian and German press. The German press, leaders of societies and German-origin Riga City Council Deputies expressed their desire to illustrate Riga’s cultural heritage, i.e. the links with Riga’s past which was particularly shaped by the Baltic German regional elite for several centuries.The Latvian civic press and culture activists, whose centre was the Riga Latvian Society, were categorically against such a kind of Riga.

Riga's Anniversary Exhibition catalog

Riga's Anniversary album

Baltic Artists Exhibition catalog

Riga's 700th Anniversary postcard

Riga's 700th Anniversary postcard

Riga's 700th Anniversary postcard

Riga's 700th Anniversary postcard

Riga's Anniversary Exhibition. Venice in Riga

V. The Splendour and Shadows of Riga
Becoming a townsperson meant becoming a member of a community which was equal to the one of German inhabitants. The city symbolized progress, cultural development and higher living standards; even the air in the city seemed better than in the countryside.On the other hand, the inhabitant of the city had to face many of the problems of the urban environment – unemployment, diseases, senility, social exclusion, alcoholism; women coming from the countryside were often subjected to the risk of becoming prostitutes. The 19th century Riga City Council spent significant amounts of funds to provide support to the ill poor, alcoholics, homeless children, prostitutes, tuberculosis patients and the elderly.The financial and intellectual elite played an important role in solving the city’s social problems until 1914 by establishing private hospitals, night shelters and educational institutions for the excluded inhabitants of the city.

Riga's Fire-fighters Society's solemn staging in Vermaņdārzs programme

Fire-fighter

Relief Society's for Riga Hairdressers statutes

Relief Society's for Mutilated statutes

Musicians, Singers, their Widows and Orphans Mutual Insurance Fund statutes

Report on the activities of Riga City Nation's Temperance Commitee's activities for 1904

Brochure "Alcoholism and workers"

Brochure "Alcoholism and workers"

Brochure "Alcoholism and workers"

Material for the lecture "Youth and sex questions"

Cabman

1914 Calendar of the Baltic Youth. Previous owner - schoolgirl E. Urdewitsch
What we see is a small book with a brown cover – the so-called “1914 Calendar of the Baltic Youth”. What we don’t see – the visage of E. Urdewitsch, the middle class girl of German descent who, a hundred years ago on July 20, on the 78th page of her journal laconically wrote ‘Germany declares war on Russia’. We won’t find out the first name of E., but this note meant the end of her childhood as well as the end of 19th century Riga.
Credits: Story

Materials from the collections of the National Library of Latvia and the Museum "Jews in Latvia". The exhibition set up in 2014.

Idea and realization: Dr. art. Deniss Hanovs, Anda Lamaša, Kristīne Liniņa, Marta Dziļuma, Kristīne Robežniece. Graphic design: Artis Tauriņš.

Special thanks to:
Friedrich Ebert Foundation for support.
Dr. Werner Rechmann for his help and interest in the history of Latvia and Riga.
Gita Umanovska and Ilja Lensky for their commitment to the dialogue of cultures and promotion of Jewish heritage in Riga.
Foundation "Rīga 2014".

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Translate with Google
Home
Explore
Nearby
Profile