The Republic of Latvia was proclaimed on 18 November 1918 but the entire period of celebration of the centenary began in May this year and will continue until the beginning of 2021. The preparatory work for the exhibition started at the end of 2015 and it occupies 700 square metres of the National History Museum of Latvia, with more than 1500 objects, photos, videos and audio recordings that characterise how the country has changed over the century since it realised its right of self-determination.

# Latvia's capital, Riga

It is a period that saw many trials and turbulences, among them a revolution, two world wars, freedom fights, occupations, deportations, refugees and an exodus. The mobile version in Budapest condenses this all into 10 sections:

Land. People. Nation. The idea of Latvia in the 19th century meant the emergence of a new national identity, which was rooted in a much older sense of a common territory and a linguistic and cultural community.

Road to the Latvian State. During World War One 1914-18, Latvia became a home lost. The reality of wartime meant hundreds of thousands of forcibly evacuated refugees, conscription into the Russian army, German occupation and the destruction of the fabric of society. It was against this grim backdrop that Latvia declared its independence.

Defending Latvia’s Statehood. War of Independence 1918-20: Latvia had to fight for its independence in war. The victories won in 1919 bound the nation together.

Latvia in the Making. Democratic Republic 1920-34: In the 1920s and 1930s, Latvia embodied the pride of its newly found independence and people’s hope for a better future.

A Latvian Latvia. The Authoritarian Regime 1934-40: the spread of authoritarian political regimes in Europe influenced Latvia as well, encouraging centralisation, restricting democracy and furthering the national state and culture.

Suppressed State. During World War II 1940-45, Latvia lost its independence and became a suppressed state. The Soviet and Nazi occupation regimes regarded Latvia merely as a territory to be colonised and exploited, whether under the name of the Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic or Generalbezirk Lettland (General District Latvia). The idea of a sovereign Republic of Latvia was banned.

Attempted Destruction of Latvia. Stalinism 1945-53: Using intimidation, repression and propaganda, the Soviet regime sought to destroy the system of norms and values that had once existed in Latvian society.

Latvia as a Personal Space. Under the Soviet System 1953-86: In spite of continued repression and efforts to impose a Soviet identity, Latvians retained values rooted in their own historical, cultural and emotional experiences – their own, their deeply personal Latvia.

Desire for Statehood. Restoration of Latvia’s Independence 1986-91: Soviet reform efforts provided an impulse that gradually galvanised society into an unprecedented drive for the restoration of Latvia’s independence.

Challenge of Democracy. Shaping Latvia’s Future 1991-the present: The 1990s were a decade of far-reaching structural reforms that triggered a variety of responses. In a complex process of change, Latvia transformed itself from an occupied and annexed territory into a member state of the UN, EU and NATO.

The exhibition was opened by the Director General of Budapest History Museum, Péter Farbaky, who said he gave space with pleasure, and the Ambassador of Latvia to Hungary, Vilmārs Heniņš. The ambassador said Latvia is celebrating not only the 100th anniversary of its independence declaration but every one of those 100 years – also other achievements and hopes, as well as commemorating the losses of the most brutal century.

# Ambassador of Latvia Vilmārs Heniņš

Despite the tragic pages of the 20th century, today Latvians could say that they have never lived better – politically, economically, culturally – even though many did not appreciate this in the everyday rush, he said. The exhibition looked at the nation’s history as a whole, including periods of prosperity as well as tragedies and crises.

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It did not show Latvia as a fixed state of things or idea that hasn’t changed during 100 of 1000 years, but rather as a changing relationship between society and power, various inter-crossed cultural and social processes, and values that have shaped today’s Latvia.


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