The Bank of Latvia have issued (4th December) a new silver coin which is in remembrance of the-then province’s first session of the Latvian Provisional National Council (LPNC) held in Valka 100 years ago, one of the most significant events which resulted in establishing Latvia’s statehood.
Between a complicated and vast war breaking out in Europe in late 1914 and the abdication of Czar Nicholas II in March 1917, circumstances all over the would-be former empire were about to change significantly. The nationalist sentiments in Finland and the three Baltic states of Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania began to gain greater momentum, and years of underground activity to realise a free homeland was on the rise. Latvians, as a united people, had never known independence as a sovereign nation, and as the Russian Empire was crumbling after a thousand years of rule with the departure of Nicholas II and the crown’s authority, it was time for those who were ardent supporters of Latvian statehood to take the initiative and organise a provisional government and eventually seek recognition from the world. Europe was also in the midst of the Great War in which the world was witnessing three Great Empires: The Russian Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the remnants of the Ottoman Empire, in Europe, all battling each other. Ultimately, all three would collapse onto the scrapheap of history.
The coin was struck by The Royal Dutch Mint on behalf of the Bank of Latvia and is designed by artist Ivars Drulle. The obverse of the coin features the 21st century omni-recognisable Wi-Fi symbol, with an inscription Lai dsiwo brihwa apweenota Latvija! (Long live the free and united Latvia!) arranged in two lines in a semi-circle above it. An inscription, Walka, is featured beneath the symbol, with the year, 1917, placed below that.
The reverse side includes an extract from the Latvian Provisional National Council’s appeal “To all Latvians!” complete in its historical spelling which is arranged in a spiral, starting from the rim. An inscription Latveeschu pagaidu nazionalās (Latvian Provisional National) is seen in a semi-circle above the spiral inscription at the top, and an inscription padomes sesijai – 100 (Council’s session — 100) is placed in a semi-circle below. The coin’s inscription on the rim includes incused lettering which reads: LATVIJAS BANKA and LATVIJAS REPUBLIKA (Republic of Latvia), separated by rhombic dots.
|€5||.925 Silver||31.4 g||38.6 mm||Proof||3,000|
The Proof quality coin is encapsulated and enclosed in a custom presentation box and includes a certificate of authenticity. From the 4th December, the new coin will be on sale at Latvijas Banka Cashier’s Offices (K. Valdemāra iela 1B in Riga and Teātra iela 4 in Liepāja) as well as online via Latvijas Banka’s website, which offers a wide range of collector coins and other numismatic products issued by Latvijas Banka. Purchases can be made by individual customers and companies in Latvia.
Please note: As of the 30th November, numismatic products purchased online are now deliverable to individual customers in most EU countries, the USA, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The number of countries for the international deliveries will be increased in the new year.
Latvia’s Darkest Hour: The Prelude to Independence in November 1917.
The situation of the Latvian nation in November 1917 was, to say the least, precarious. At that moment, the territory of the present-day Latvia had been split by the battlefront of World War I for more than two years. Hundreds of thousands of its inhabitants — refugees from Kurzeme and Zemgale, workers of the plants evacuated from Riga, those mobilised in the army — were scattered across the vast territory of the Russian Empire. In September 2017, imperial German troops captured Riga and plans to annex and “Germanise” the occupied Baltic territories were part of Berlin’s occupation strategy. In Russia, following a year of political turmoil, a new radical force, the left-wing Social Democrats (Bolsheviks), had seized power by way of an armed coup d’état. The huge country once ruled by an all-powerful Czar answerable to no one but God was falling fast into the chaos of civil war.
Valka was the city which had the largest number of Latvians in the territory not occupied by Germany after the fall of Riga. As a result, it soon became the centre of Latvian social, political, and cultural life. Those united by the desire to turn the right of self-determination of the Latvian nation into reality assembled in Valka. On the 29th November to the 2nd December 1917, the first session of the Latvian Provisional National Council (LPNC) was held in Valka, with representatives of almost all major Latvian organisations and political parties taking part.
The congregation included former deputies of Russia’s state Duma Jānis Goldmanis (1875–1955) and Jānis Zālītis (1874–1919), as well as future statesmen of Latvia Zigfrīds Anna Meierovics (1887–1925), Voldemārs Zāmuēls (1872–1948), Ādolfs Klīve (1888–1974) and Francis Trasuns (1864–1926). The council also included noted Latvian personalities such as writers Jānis Akuraters (1876–1937), Kārlis Skalbe (1879–1945) and Edvarts Virza (1883–1940), as well as eminent philosopher Pauls Zālīte (1864–1939). Latvian Social Democrats, who had the real power in the region of Vidzeme, chose to distance themselves from the Council’s work.
In its appeal to all Latvians, wherever they were, the Council stated:
The great call for liberation has resounded – we call for self-determination for all nations! Do not wait for any other liberation! Take the chance that the history offers you and be ready to clear foreign oppressors from your doorway! Take for yourself this land that our fathers have gained with their blood and sweat and toil and build there a better state with more justice than the one which is collapsing now.
With international recognition in mind, The LPNC also issued a declaration which they addressed to countries and nations abroad and affirmed the following:
Latvia, comprising Vidzeme, Kurzeme, and Latgale, is an autonomous sovereign entity. Its position, foreign affairs and home affairs will be defined by its Constitutional Assembly and a national plebiscite.
Thus, a powerful and explicit signal about the desire of the Latvian nation to have a sovereign state was sent from Valka. However, the situation, at that point, was not favourable for its full implementation.
The following year, the LPNC continued its work towards Latvia’s independence, even when imperial German forces occupied the entire territory of Latvia and the Bolshevik regime in Russia increasingly blocked the Council’s work. By summer 2018, Zigfrīds Anna Meierovics, the representative of the LPNC, travelled to various Western European capitals to confirm the desire of the Latvian nation to have a sovereign state with the end of the Great War, which would conclude by the end of 1918. Thereafter, it was not long before the allied forces of Great Britain, France, and the United States would have to decide about the new order in post-war Europe. The statement of the British government, which was of particular interest to the LPNC, was received a week before the proclamation of Latvia’s statehood and recognised the Council to be the provisional government of Latvia until the establishment of the new state. This letter of recognition was a very important argument in the international context in favour of establishing Latvia’s statehood. Declaration of the independent Republic of Latvia in Riga on the 18th November 1918, finalised the course clearly outlined in Valka. Next year, the Republic of Latvia will embark on a yearlong celebration of the declaration of its centenary anniversary of Independence.