The Latvijas Banka have issued (3rd May) a new €5 silver collector coin in celebration of the Latgale Congress. As Latvia begins to prepare for their centenary anniversary of statehood in 2018, the Latvijas Banka expresses its appreciation and gratitude to the Latgale for their contribution to the evolvement of the idea of Latvia’s unity and statehood. The Latgale Congress of Latvians took place on the 9th and 10th May 1917 (the 26th and 27th April, old style) in Rēzekne. Delegates from Latgale municipalities and town governments, parishes, and societies as well as Latvian riflemen participated.
For almost 300 years, from 1629 to1917, the Latvians of Latgale had been separated from their countrymen in Vidzeme and Kurzeme, first under the Poles and, since 1772, as part of Russia. The purpose of the congregation was the primary question to be decided by the congress, namely: what path should Latgale take? Should it unite with Kurzeme and Vidzeme or try to establish its own autonomy? In 1917, the Latgalians made their fundamental choice to unite with their fellow Latvians in Kurzeme and Vidzeme. The budding Latvian state was formed, according to the administrative division of that time, of Vidzeme, Kurzeme, and Latgale, the three cultural and historical regions of the Latvian peoples.
The coin is struck by Faude & Huguenin SA (Switzerland) on behalf of the Bank of Latvia. The designer and plaster-modeler of the coin is Ivars Drulle. He was inspired by one of the rare photographs of the congress’s participants (see the video and photos below). The obverse of the coin features images of people who were the driving force behind the congress—Catholic priests, riflemen, teachers, and public figures. The inscription on the red-white-red slogan above them is borrowed from the historical photograph, which, reflecting the yet-to-be-standardised written Latgalian language, expressed the fundamental idea of the Congress: the unification of Latvia. The inscriptions 5 euro and 1917–2017 are placed at upper left and right, respectively.
The reverse features women with children standing at the foot of Christ’s crucifix, against a background of a lake surrounded by a forest. The stylised inscription Latgola is placed at the bottom.
In this video by Latvijas Banka (subtitled in English), Ivars Drulle demonstrates his inspiration for the design:
The historical photo of delegates at the Latgale Congress, with the banner depicted on the coin (which is partly obscured by a tree) enlarged and rotated:
|€5||.925 silver||26 g||32 x 32 mm||Proof with applied colour||3,000|
As part of the celebrations for the anniversary of the Latgale Congress, a coin-presentation event will take place at the Embassy of Latgale “Gors” on the 4th Mayin Rēzekne, shortly before an organised concert dedicated to Latvia’s Independence Restoration Day and the centenary of the Latgale Congress. The governor of Latvijas Banka, Ilmārs Rimšēvičs, will present the collector coins to Ināra Mūrniece, the speaker of the Saeima (parliament), representing the nation; and Anna Rancāne, a renowned Latgalian poetess. Please visit the website of the Bank of Latvia for more information on this and other coins it issues.
Who are the Latvian Latgale?
On the morning of the 26th April 1917, thousands of Latgalian Latvians and representatives of other ethnic groups marched side by side with the congressional delegates from the Rēzekne Trade School to the Catholic church (present-day cathedral). It was at the church that the Latvian anthem “God, Bless Latvia!” was sung publicly for the first time. The congress began its proceedings in a meaningful location, the cinema Diāna (no longer standing), which was festooned with flowers and greenery. Diana was the Roman goddess of fertility and hunting, usually depicted with a crescent moon above her head and a bow and arrows in her hands. Romans considered that those who managed to find refuge in Diana’s temple were untouchable and in safety. During the congress, the building where it passed was surrounded by a crowd of both supporters and opponents of unification. The building was guarded by about 40 riflemen from the Latvian Riflemen Reserve Regiment under Podporucznik (Second Lieutenant) Jānis Rubulis (1893–1960).
The congress was attended by voting delegates and guests. Zigfrīds Anna Meierovics (1887–1925), who later became the first foreign minister of Latvia, had arrived to congratulate the congress. In his speech, he pointed out that Latvians of all regions were the sons and daughters of one and the same mother. The delegates who were against unification expressed their attitude by getting up and leaving the proceedings.
The first half of the resolution adopted by the congress was a declaration that expressed the wish of Latgalians to unite with the Latvians of Kurzeme and Vidzeme while retaining their local government, and the right of self-determination on issues concerning language, faith, church, school, and economy. The second half provided for specific measures to attain these goals. The Provisional Land Council of Latgale was elected, and the proceedings ended with “God, Bless Latvia!” accompanied by an orchestra.
Thus in 1917 the Latgalians made their fundamental choice to unite with their fellow Latvians in Kurzeme and Vidzeme, all represented today by the three stars in the coat of arms of the Republic of Latvia. Independence was declared from the emerging Soviet Russian State on the 18th November 1918 and was finally recognised on the 26th January 1921. In 2018, the centenary anniversary of the declaration will be celebrated with national celebrations during the year. ❑