In and Out for Our Christmas ConcertDecember, 2007

More about this trip in my daily diary album pages following. I was only going to be in Rīga a few days for our choir concert—my only other "artistic" objective was to get good pictures of the Freedom Monument to improve the article on Wikipedia.

Brīvības Piemineklis, Latvia's Freedom Monument

Our descriptions of the monument's themes, components, and symbolism are based on the 1935 booklet published by the original Freedom Monument Committee, authored by artist and art critic Jānis Siliņš. We've reproduced and translated it as part our CfBH library.

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For Fatherland and For Freedom, Tēvzemei un Brīvībai, very likely patriot, poet, and author Kārlis Skalbe's most well known three words. You'll usually find this translated as For Fatherland and Freedom, but that doesn't communicate the same feeling as in the Latvian grammar. For us, our version preserves the nobility and solemnity of service to nation and people, and, quite frankly, sounds less like a political slogan—or name of a political party, which it was for a time following restoring independence from the USSR.
The Strēlnieki, Latvian Riflemen, embody the ideal of freedom, commemorating the sacrifices of Latvian warriors and leaders from ancient times to modern. Here, they return to their homesteads after years in battle to return to their work.
Latvju tauta — dziedātāji, The Latvian people — singers, portray the spirit of Latvian life. Men, women, sons, daughters, parade in traditional costumes, united in song.
Darbs, Work — features the figures of a farmer, fisherman and craftsman, expressing the virtue of work and tireless dedication. The farmer stands at center holding a scythe, its handle entwined with oak leaves with acorns—symbolizing masculinity and success. Kneeling are a craftsman with his tools, and a wizened fisherman with a net over his shoulder.
Tēvijas sargi, Guardians of the Fatherland, are at the ready to defend Latvian honor and rights. An ancient warrior grasping his sword stands at center, flanked by soldiers of an independent Latvia, rifle and grenade in hand.
Mother — guardian of the family, Māte — ģimenes sargātāja, is the source of the people's moral strength. She holds an oak leaf garland and drooping palm frond in her right hand, and stands between the next generation, kneeling beside her.
Spiritual guides, Gaŗa dzīves veidotāji, at center, walking-stick in hand, stands a seeker of knowledge, at his feet, a wizened soothsayer and a scholar seeking knowledge in writings.
1919 Battle on the Iron Bridge, Cīņas uz Dzelzs Tilta 1919. gadā, Latvian heroes push forward across the bullet-ridden bridge, shrapnel and soldiers' caps flying.
1905, 1905. gads — the first proletariat revolution, Latvian workers rise up against their enslavers and assault a Cossack with his whip astride his horse.
The Chain-breakers, Važu rāvēji — in the middle the elder, the younger at both his sides, have grasped the the heavy chains binding them together and strive to break their bonds of subjugation.
The Heathen priest, Vaidelotis, has sung his song of longings and deeds, one hand on his kokle, another on the shoulder of a shepherd boy, kneeling at his feet. Before them lies a horse's skull, a witness to the past. The shepherd holds a weapon, readying for battle.
The Bear Slayer, Lāčplēsis, vanquishes the ruler of the forest—the bear—in battle. He channels the primordial power of Nature to protect his homeland against hostile powers.
Latvia, Latvija, wearing a wreath, holding a sword over her shield, protects the fruits of her labor—spikes of wheat in her left hand. She is flanked from behind on either side by a young woman and man raising the flag of their homeland to the sky, swearing to protect it.
The statue of Freedom, Brīvības tēls, stands heroically atop the monument pillar, holding three stars of Freedom in her uplifted hands, revealing the people's deepest strivings: freedom and the right to build and fulfill their cultural mission. The statue's "Milda" appellation is not original to the monument, and appears to have come from a 1930's cigarette rolling papers brand "Milda," whose packets featured the image of a Latvian folk maiden.

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