The Barricades of Riga – 20 years on

Tomorrow marks the 20th anniversary of the Riga Barricades, an important event in Latvia’s push for independence from the Soviet Union. 

The monument to the Barricades of Riga

In 1991, as Latvia attempted to re-establish its independence, the Popular Front of Latvia called upon the people to defend the city’s most important buildings. This followed an attack by Soviet OMON forces on the the TV Tower in Vilnius, Lithuania, that led to the deaths of 13 people. On the 14th of January, barricades were set up around the Supreme Council (now the Latvian Parliament) and Latvian Radio in the Old Town, the TV Centre on Zakusala and the Telephone Exchange in the centre, as well other other strategic buildings and bridges. 

The barricades were manned by the ordinary citizens of Riga in the freezing cold Latvian winter. People would leave the barricades to go to work, then return after. They slept at the barricades, in schools or other public buildings and people brought them food, blankets and warm clothes. Bonfires were lit to keep warm.

In all 7 people died in the struggle for independence, 5 deaths occurring on the 20th of January when the OMON forces attacked the Ministry of the Interior. In the attack, two militia, two cameramen and a schoolboy were killed. On the 25th of January, following the funerals of the dead, the guarding of the barricades was handed to a public safety department and most volunteers returned home.

Tomorrow Latvia will mark the 20th anniversary of the barricades with a number of events. Below is the program for tomorrow:

9:00 Remembrance bonfire lit in Dome Square

10:00 Flower-laying ceremony in the Forest Cemetery

11:00 to 17:00 1991 barricades exhibition in the Dome Square

14:00 Flower-laying ceremony at the Freedom Monument

14:00 Zigurds Vidin’s movie “Father barricades” in cinema K. Suns

15:00 Remembrance bonfire at the Saeima

6:00 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. Concert “Moments campfire glow” in Riga Cathedral (entrance free).

19:00 Memorial Service at the Dome

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