From Rezekne to the 1991 barricades

The narrators describe the moods and personal experiences of the Barricade period. Memories illustrate well how information can reach the people of Latvia throughout its territory.

Juris Kudurs: “1991. In 2006 I worked as a teacher at Feimaņi Primary School and was an active folklore. I regularly follow political events in Latvia and in the world. When I heard about the events in Vilnius and Dainis Ivans' call to gather in the "All-Latvian Protest Manifestation" organized by the Latvian People's Front in Daugavmala on the early morning of January 13, I had no doubt - I had to go! Pēteris Viļums and I left for the bus in the early morning to Rēzekne, where buses had already been organized at the district committee for a trip to the demonstration, which was attended by about 500,000 people to express support to the Lithuanians and the Latvian government. After the demonstration, Dainis Īvāns and Romualds Ražuks called on people to stay in Riga to protect the most important strategic objects. My duty was to stay in Riga to participate in these events. It was not easy to make such a decision, because a young woman and a little girl were waiting at home. In the evening, residents of Riga began to build barricades from concrete blocks and also burning heavy equipment to protect - the Supreme Council, the Council of Ministers, Radio Dome Square, the TV center in Zaķusala and the Telephone and Telegraph Center. Suddenly I heard a huge noise from the Daugava side in the Dome Square, it seemed that tanks were driving, they were the first trucks to start building barricades. The first bonfires, where we warmed up on cold winter nights, also lit up. During these troubled days and nights, I visited several objects. The brightest moments were remembered as a militia colonel explained to the men in Dome Square how to stop tanks with crowbars. I saw that bottles of fuel mixture were prepared on the upper floors of the houses. Everyone was preparing for the worst. In the evenings we felt a sense of community - music was playing, we were drinking tea, warming up by the fire, but we were not left all the time by the excitement of tomorrow or tomorrow. There was no real clarity for anyone, so everyone was waiting for what would happen then. These events of January 1991 will always be vividly remembered by me and I will be able to tell my grandchildren as an eyewitness. ”

Antons Reiniks remembers: “Since I was a member of the People's Front, it was obvious to me that I had to go to Riga. The chairman of the parish council Elvīra Pizāne announced that on the evening of January 14, a bus would run from Rēzekne district council to Rīga. Others were also invited, but they argued that small children would stay at home, and that the household should be cared for. Elvira and her from the parish "Moskvich" took me to the Rezekne district council, where men from other parishes had already gathered. On the bus, everyone was advised to write their name and blood type on a piece of paper and put it in their pocket. We knew the bloody events in Vilnius, there was uncertainty about how it would be, but we had to drive. I remember how brave, patriotic men got on the bus in Deksarare and the spirit came to life.

We entered Riga around midnight. We were taken to Zaķusala by the TV tower. Columns of heavy machinery and log carriers stood on the Salu bridge. There were already thousands of people at the television tower, bonfires were burning, music was playing. The firewood had already been brought in and we were lighting our campfire to warm up overnight and be united with the rest of the nation. There were fewer people during the day, but the fields were full in the evenings and at night. Such a strong unity of the people can only exist on the barricades. We must thank God, destiny and the power of the spirit of the people, that today we have our own country and freedom. Let's appreciate it. "

Storyteller: Juris Kudurs un Antons Reiniks
Used sources and references:

https://rezeknesnovads.lv/tavs-stasts-barikazu-dalibnieku-atminu-stasts/ (accessed on 20.07.2021)

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1991 Barricades Museum

The museum is located in Old Riga near the Riga Cathedral. It was founded in 2001 to preserve historical evidence of the events of 1991 in Latvia. A virtual tour of the museum is also available. In January 1991, in Lithuania the Soviet Army opened fire on people who had gathered at the Vilnius TV tower and drove into the crowd with tanks. In response to these events a demonstration of about 500,000 people was organised in Riga to show support to Lithuanians and the readiness of the Latvian people to continue their struggles towards Latvia’s independence. In order to prevent similar events from happening in Latvia, residents began to build barricades in the narrow streets of Old Riga in order to prevent possible attacks of the Soviet Army on the defenders of the barricades. These barricades were also created at various strategic objects not only in Riga, but throughout all of Latvia. Around 50,000 people from all over Latvia participated in defending the barricades. Barricades was a popular movement that helped to regain Latvia’s independence. This is a great example of non-violent resistance in the history of the whole world.