My, your, our Riga 100 years ago

By 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.

Rīga. Aleksandra ielaNational Library of Latvia

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 RigaNational Library of Latvia

Events in Europe and in Riga

Events in Europe and in Riga

Events in Europe and in Riga

Events in Europe and in Riga

Plan von Riga vor Abtragung der Festungswerke (1864)National Library of Latvia

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

Rīga līdz ar apvidu (1. lapa) (1896) by M. SiliņšNational Library of Latvia

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

Rigasches Adress-Buch 1898/99, 1898, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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Berga Bazaar's promotional material

Rigasches Adressbuch 1910, 1910, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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Advertisments of Riga's points of sale

Списокь абонентамь на телефонное сообщенiе вь РигѢ, 1904, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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Telephone usage instruction

Bau-Instruction für die Stadt Riga, 1867, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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Building Regulations in Riga

Ofenkatalog von Zelm & Boehm Gypsfabrik, Schlämmkreidefabrik, Ofen- und Tonwarenfabrik, 1909, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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Ovens catalog

Ofenkatalog von Zelm & Boehm Gypsfabrik, Schlämmkreidefabrik, Ofen- und Tonwarenfabrik, 1909, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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Ovens catalog

Ofenkatalog von Zelm & Boehm Gypsfabrik, Schlämmkreidefabrik, Ofen- und Tonwarenfabrik, 1909, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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Ovens catalog

Иллюстрированный каталог Общества Рижского чугуно-литейного и машино-строительного завода, бывшего Фельзер и Ко, РигаNational Library of Latvia

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

Товарищество "Проводник", Рига: хирургические предметы, 1911, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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Society's "Provodnik" manufactured surgical instruments catalog's cover

Товарищество "Проводник", Рига: хирургические предметы, 1911, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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Society's "Provodnik" manufactured surgical instruments catalog's cover

Товарищество "Проводник", Рига. Ч. 2, Хирургические и разные резиновые предметы: [прейскурант, 1 янв. 1912 г.], 1911, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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Society's "Provodnik" manufactured surgical instruments catalog: breast couplings, baloons, cupping-glasses

Иллюстрированный каталог Общества Рижского чугуно-литейного и машино-строительного завода, бывшего Фельзер и Ко, Рига, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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Boilers of Riga's Cast Iron and Mechanical Engineering Factory Society (formerly Felzers & Co) catalog

Оптовый прейсь-куранть фабрикь товарищества Л.В. Геггингерь Рига, 1912, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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Riga Canned Goods and Chocolate Factory's price catalog

Оптовый прейсь-куранть фабрикь товарищества Л.В. Геггингерь Рига, 1912, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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Riga Canned Goods and Chocolate Factory's price catalog: Choholate products

Прейс-курант винам: 1912, 1912, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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Otto Schwarz's foreign wine and cigar catalog for year 1912

Отто Шварць заграничныя вина и сигары 1913/1914, 1913, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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Otto Schwarz's catalog of drinks for years 1913/1914

Кофе Тумь Штрейфа вь усовершенствованномь видь, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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Promotional material of coffee quality improvement

Оптовый прейсь-куранть фабрикь товарищества Л.В. Геггингерь Рига, 1912, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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Riga Canned Goods and Chocolate Factory's price catalog: Canned food

Rīga. OrmanisNational Library of Latvia

Cabman

Rīga. Gaisa tiltsNational Library of Latvia

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

Rīga. PontontiltsNational Library of Latvia

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.

Rīga. PontontiltsNational Library of Latvia

Pontoon bridge

Ielu dzelzsc. reklamas pieņem "Indra", From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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Advertising poster

Тво "Проводник": галоши, линолеумь, 1897, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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Society's "Provodnik" poster

Каталог галошам и ботинкам, 1910, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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Rubber, Gutta-percha and Telegraph Accessories Russian-French Factory Society's "Provodnik" galosh and boot catalog

Каталог галошам и ботинкам, 1910, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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Rubber, Gutta-percha and Telegraph Accessories Russian-French Factory Society's "Provodnik" galosh and boot catalog

Каталог галошам и ботинкам, 1910, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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Rubber, Gutta-percha and Telegraph Accessories Russian-French Factory Society's "Provodnik" galosh and boot catalog

Wiener Handsghuh Fabrik un Riga: Preis-Courant, 1904, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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Vienna Glove Factory in Riga commodity price catalog

Wiener Handsghuh Fabrik un Riga: Preis-Courant, 1904, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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Vienna Glove Factory in Riga commodity price catalog

Ebreju studentu korporācijas "Vetulia" ekslibriss (1902)National Library of Latvia

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.

Rīgas Latviešu biedrības namsNational Library of Latvia

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.

Pārskats par Rīgas Latv. biedrības darīšanām un rēķiniem, 1880, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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Overview of the Riga Latvian Society activities and accounts for year 1878/1879

36. gada=pahrskats par Rigas Latweeschu Beedribas darboschanos un rehķineem 1904. gadā, saweenots ar beedru listi, 1905, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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Overview of the Riga Latvian Society activities and accounts for year 1904

Rīgas Latviešu biedrības namsNational Library of Latvia

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.

Викторiя концерть - кабарэ, 1914, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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Cabaret "Victoria" concert programme with promotional materials

II. (VII.) Kammermusik-Concert. Rigaer Musikschule v. Gizycki. In der Aula der Stadtrealschule. Sonntag, den 4. November 1907, um 1/2 5 Uhr, 1907, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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Chamber music concert in V. Giżycki Riga School of Music

Konzert zur Feier des 25. Jährigen Bestehens des Gesangvereins "Gutenberg" am 12. April 1909, im Saale der St. Johannisgilde: Programm, 1909, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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Singing Society's "Gutenberg" 25th anniversary concert programme

Концерть Э. Я. Мелнгайлиса. Вь среду, 8 сентября, вь заль Большой Гильдiи, 1904, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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E. Melngailis concert programme

Концерть Э. Я. Мелнгайлиса. Вь среду, 8 сентября, вь заль Большой Гильдiи, 1904, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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E. Melngailis concert programme

Amatniecības biedrības (Gewerbeverein) ēdienkarte, 1901, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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Handicraft Society's (Gewerbeverein) menu cover

Rīgas "Zaldātu sinagogas" valdes locekļu saraksti, 1911, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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Riga's "Synagogue of the Soldiers" board members lists. From the collection of the Museum "Jews in Latvia".

Ebreju studentu korporācijas "Vetulia" ekslibriss (1902)National Library of Latvia

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

Deutscher Theater- und Konzertverein in Riga: 1913/14 Saison, 1913, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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German Theater and Concert Association's 1913/1914 season's programme

Vācu teātra un koncertu biedrības 1913./1914. gada sezonas programma, 1913, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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German theater and concert association's 1913/1914 season's programme with listener comments

Rigasches Adress-Buch 1898/99 (1898)National Library of Latvia

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

Rīga. Krievu teātrisNational Library of Latvia

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.

Rīga. Vācu teātrisNational Library of Latvia

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. Sporta biedrība "Kaiserwald" (1904)National Library of Latvia

Mežaparks. Sports Association "Kaiserwald"

Mežaparks. Sporta biedrība "Kaiserwald"National Library of Latvia

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.

Rīga. Mežaparks. Zooloģiskā dārza restorānsNational Library of 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.

Vadonis pa zooloģisko dārzu Rīgā, 1914, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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Guide to the Zoo of Riga: with drawings and plans

Vadonis pa zooloģisko dārzu Rīgā, 1914, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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Guide to the Zoo of Riga: with drawings and plans

Товарищество "Проводник", Рига: непромокаемая мужская одежда, непромокаемая материя, накидки для велосипедистов, траурные ленты: [прейскурант, 15 авг. 1908 г.], 1908, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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Society's "Provodnik" male watertight clothing catalog

Товарищество "Проводник", Рига: непромокаемая мужская одежда, непромокаемая материя, накидки для велосипедистов, траурные ленты: [прейскурант, 15 авг. 1908 г.], 1908, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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Society's "Provodnik" male watertight clothing catalog

Товарищество "Проводник", Рига: непромокаемая мужская одежда, непромокаемая материя, накидки для велосипедистов, траурные ленты: [прейскурант, 15 авг. 1908 г.], 1908, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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Society's "Provodnik" male watertight clothing catalog

Товарищество "Проводник", Рига: непромокаемая мужская одежда, непромокаемая материя, накидки для велосипедистов, траурные ленты: [прейскурант, 15 авг. 1908 г.], 1908, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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Society's "Provodnik" male watertight clothing catalog

Товарищество "Проводник", Рига: непромокаемая мужская одежда, непромокаемая материя, накидки для велосипедистов, траурные ленты: [прейскурант, 15 авг. 1908 г.], 1908, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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Society's "Provodnik" male watertight clothing catalog

Товарищество "Проводник", Рига: непромокаемая мужская одежда, непромокаемая материя, накидки для велосипедистов, траурные ленты: [прейскурант, 15 авг. 1908 г.], 1908, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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Society's "Provodnik" male watertight clothing catalog

Latviešu dziedātāju koru svētku gājiens no Rīgas Latviešu biedrības nama uz Ķeizardārzu, 1873. gada 28. jūnijs [lithography]. In: Atpūta, No. 711 (1938), p. 20 by K. KronvaldsNational Library of Latvia

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

Rīga. V Vispārējo latviešu Dziesmu svētku dalībnieku gājiens (1910)National Library of Latvia

V Latvian Song Festival participants' parade

Rīga. V Vispārējo latviešu Dziesmu svētku estrāde (1910)National Library of Latvia

V Latvian Song Festival's venue

V Vispārējo latviešu dziesmu svētku gājiens (1910)National Library of Latvia

V Latvian Song Festival participants' parade

Cēsu novada dziedātājas Rīgā V Vispārējos latviešu Dziesmu svētkos (1910)National Library of Latvia

Cēsis district singers in V Riga Latvian Song Festival

V. Vispārejee latveesu dzeesmu svētki 1910. g. 19., 20., 21. junijā Rīgā, 1910, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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V Latvian Song Festival poster

Vecrīga. RātsnamsNational Library of Latvia

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.

Городовое положение 11 июня 1892 года, 1892, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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The Law of Riga city (procedures)

Временныя правила объ обществахъ, союзахъ и собраніяхъ: 4-го марта 1906 года, 1906, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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Provisional Regulations on societies, associations and meetings

Vecrīga. RātslaukumsNational Library of Latvia

Town Hall square, Old Riga

Инструкция депутатам для контроля за работами по устройству улиць и дорогь вь предѢлахь Рижской городской территорiи, 1903, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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Instruction for deputies for road improvement control of the territory of Riga

Wehleschanas kahrtiba preeksch pilsehtas domneeku wehleschanahm Rigā, 1893. gadā, apstiprināta no pilsehtas domneeku sapulces 21. decembrī 1892, 1893, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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Procedures for the inhabitants of Riga participating in the electoral process of Riga city

Правила для купальныхь мѢсть Рижскаго взморья, 1911, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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Riga's bathing-place rules

Vecrīga. RātsnamsNational Library of Latvia

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.

Ausstellung von Werken baltischer Künstler aller Zeiten: vom 10. Juni bis 1. August 1901 (1901)National Library of Latvia

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 1901: Catalog der Jubiläums-Ausstellung, 1901, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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Riga's Anniversary Exhibition catalog

Rigaer Jubilaeums Ausstellung 1901, 1901, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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Riga's Anniversary album

Ausstellung von Werken baltischer Künstler aller Zeiten: vom 10. Juni bis 1. August 1901, 1901, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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Baltic Artists Exhibition catalog

Rigaer Jubiläums-Ausstellung 1201-1901 (1901)National Library of Latvia

Riga's 700th Anniversary postcard

Alt-Riga und Wappen aus dem 17. Jahrhundert (1901)National Library of Latvia

Riga's 700th Anniversary postcard

Motiv aus Alt-Riga. Jubiläums-Ausstellung 1901 (1901)National Library of Latvia

Riga's 700th Anniversary postcard

Rigaer Jubiläums-Ausstellung 1201-1901. Restauration u. Industriehalle (1901)National Library of Latvia

Riga's 700th Anniversary postcard

1201-1901. Venedig in Riga (1901)National Library of Latvia

Riga's Anniversary Exhibition. Venice in Riga

Rīga. UgunsdzēsējsNational Library of Latvia

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.

Рижское Пожарное Общество (основано вь 1865 году). Праздничное представленiе 6-го iюля 1913 г. вь бл. Верманскомь паркѢ, 1913, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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Riga's Fire-fighters Society's solemn staging in Vermaņdārzs programme

Rīga. UgunsdzēsējsNational Library of Latvia

Fire-fighter

Уставь Похоронной и вспомогательной кассы цѢха цирульниковь и парикмахеровь вь РигѢ, (Лифляндской губернiи), From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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Relief Society's for Riga Hairdressers statutes

Уставь Общества помощи калѢкамь вь гор. РигѢ, 1913, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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Relief Society's for Mutilated statutes

Уставь Рижской (Лифляндск. губ.) вспомогательной кассы для музыкантовь, пѢвцовь, ихь вдовь и сироть, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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Musicians, Singers, their Widows and Orphans Mutual Insurance Fund statutes

Отчеть о дѢятельности Рижскаго Городскаго Комитета Попечительства о народной трезвости за 1904 годь, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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Report on the activities of Riga City Nation's Temperance Commitee's activities for 1904

Алкоголизмь и рабочiе, 1916, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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Brochure "Alcoholism and workers"

Алкоголизмь и рабочiе, 1916, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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Brochure "Alcoholism and workers"

Алкоголизмь и рабочiе, 1916, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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Brochure "Alcoholism and workers"

Лекцiя д-ра мед. Г. Ф. Энгельмана: Юношество и половой вопрось, 1909, From the collection of: National Library of Latvia
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Material for the lecture "Youth and sex questions"

Rīga. OrmanisNational Library of Latvia

Cabman

Baltischer Jugendkalender 1914 (1913)National Library of Latvia

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.
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