LKOK, Colonel Jorģis Zemitāns (1873-1928)
I WW1 & Wars of Independence

Pulkvedis Jorģis Zemitāns. Fotogrāfs Jānis Rieksts. Foto: Latvijas Kara muzejs.

Jorģis Zemitāns was born on February 23, 1873 in Skrīveri Parish, educated through self-study. In 1897 he graduated from the Vilnius Junker School. During the First World War, he fought in East Prussia, where he was captured by the Germans in 1915.

Returning from captivity, on December 7, 1918, as a volunteer, Zemitāns joined the Latvian Armed Forces and became the commander of the 2nd Riga Security Company and the commander of the Riga security and Latvian military units. After the fall of Riga, on January 10, 1919, in Liepaja, he was appointed the authorized military representative of the Provisional Government of Latvia in Estonia. With the permission of the Estonian government in Tallinn, Pärnu and Tartu, Zemitāns began to form six Latvian self-defense companies that took part in battles with Bolshevik units in Estonia, but on February 1, 1919, together with Estonian army units, liberated Rūjiena and the surrounding seven parishes. On February 2, the Minister of Defense of Latvia, Jānis Zālītis, appointed Zemitan as the Commander-in-Chief of the Northern Latvia Brigade to be formed. On February 28, he was promoted to colonel (lieutenant colonel), and on March 13, to colonel. Zemitan is credited with the main merits in the formation and unification of the armed forces of Northern Latvia, as well as in the War of Independence in Vidzeme. In June 1919, the Estonian Armed Forces and the Northern Latvian Brigade defeated the German Landeswehr and Iron Division in the Battle of Cēsis. On July 6, 1919, Zemitāns entered Riga on a white horse at the head of the Northern Latvian Brigade.

On July 15, 1919, Zemitan was appointed commander of the 2nd Vidzeme Division and commander of the Southern Front. On July 17, he was assigned to manage the protection of Riga and its surroundings. On October 12, due to a hasty order to resign from Riga, with the onset of the Bermont Army attack, he was relieved of his duties and placed in the reserve of the Army Chief of Staff. From January 1920, Zemitāns served on the commissions for drafting laws and regulations on war, and was a temporary member of the Military Court. In 1921 he was transferred to the Reserve of the Chief of Staff. On April 1, 1922, he was discharged from the army due to downsizing.

Colonel Jorģis Zemitāns died on January 16, 1928, and was buried in the Riga Brothers Cemetery.

Zemitāns has been awarded with the orders of Vladimir IV class and Stanislav III class for participation in the battles of World War I. In 1924, he was awarded the 3rd class of the Lāčplēsis Military Order (Order No. 1678) for the establishment of the Northern Latvian Brigade, the liberation of Northern Latvia and the defeat of the German army near Cēsis. Zemitan has also been awarded the 1st Class 2nd degree Estonian Freedom Cross.

In honor of the colonel's memory, in 1928 the Alexander Gate railway station in Riga was renamed Zemitāni. After the Second World War, the station was renamed Oškalni in honor of the red partisan Otomārs Oškalns. It regained the name Zemitani in 1995.

In 1933, Skriveri Primary School was given the name of Colonel Jorgis Zemitans' six-grade primary school, which existed until 1947, when it was renamed after the writer Andrejs Upītis.

On September 27, 1995, a monument to Colonel Jorģis Zemitāns was unveiled in the Teika district of Riga, in the square named after him.

More information sources

Knights of the Lāčplēsis War Order: Biographical Dictionary. Riga: Jāņa Sēta, 1995. p.

The highest officers of the Latvian Army 1918-1940. Biographical dictionary. (edited by Ēriks Jēkabsons, Valters Ščerbinskis); State Historical Archive of Latvia, p.

Related objects

Brothers' Cemetery in Riga

Riga Brothers’ Cemetery is located in the northern district of Riga. The cemetery extends over an area of 9 ha and is the most outstanding and significant memorial ensemble in Latvia dedicated to the fallen Latvian soldiers. About 3,000 soldiers are buried here. The Brothers’ Cemetery was created during World War I after the first three Latvian Riflemen, who fell in Tīreļpurvs in the battle against the German Army, were buried here. Later Latvian soldiers who had died in other battles and wars would also be buried in the Brothers’ Cemetery. The memorial is based on the design of the sculptor Kārlis Zāle, and is the first memorial ensemble in Europe with such landscape, architecture and sculptural value. It uses elements typical to the Latvian landscape, traditional farmsteads, Latvian folklore and history that praise the characteristics of soldiers and tell the story of the way of the soldier. The memorial was unveiled in 1936 and it has three parts: ‘The Road of Though’ which is a 250 m long alley, ‘Terrace of Heroes’ with the Altar of the Sacred Flame and ensemble the Sacred Oak Grove, and the burial ground with the Latvian wall and a memorial of a mother with her fallen sons.

Monument to the liberators of Northern Latvia

Located in the center of Placa by the Inčukalns - Valka highway (A3). Next to the bus stop and Straupe People's House.

The monument made by Teodors Zaļkalns to the liberators of Northern Latvia in 1919 at the Battle of Cēsis can be seen.

There are two limestone supports on the three-step base, on which the limestone block rests. In front of it, the lower part depicts a horse harnessed to a plow and a plow holding reins in his right hand and a sword in his left. A text engraved on the back of the monument, closed by lines by the poet Eduards Virza:



The monument was unveiled on November 8, 1931. President Alberts Kviesis took part in the opening.

Monument dedicated to the liberation of Rūjiena and the fallen soldiers of the Northern Latvian Brigade "Tālava Trumpeter"

Located in Rūjiena Center Square.

The three-meter-high image of an ancient Latvian guardian carved in gray Finnish granite, called the “Tālava trumpeter”, is placed on a three-meter-high granite pedestal, but the total height of the monument reaches 7.5 meters. In the initial sketches and models, K. Zemdega had placed a sword in his hands, which was later replaced by a trumpet. The monument was unveiled on August 15, 1937.

This monument reflects the difficult situation in the formation of our country and army, as well as in the assessment of these events. Immediately after the proclamation of the Latvian state, the Red Army invaded and the interim government of Kārlis Ulmanis established a refuge in Liepāja. In February 1919, with the help of the Estonian army, the liberation of Latvia from the north began and the first mobilization took place in the Rūjiena area for the Latvian troops formed in Tartu, which became the Northern Latvian Brigade under the command of Colonel Jorgis Zemitans. The Northern Latvian brigade fought not only against the Bolsheviks, but also against the Landeswehr and Iron Division in the battles of Cēsis. The soldiers of Northern Latvia, mobilized in the vicinity of Rūjiena, also fought in the subsequent battles for the War of Independence. After the war, the main laurels were won by General Jānis Balodis and the Southern Latvian Brigade he commanded, but he often forgot about the Northern Latvian Brigade. The monument to Rūjiena, which was planned in Rūjiena, was built for a long time, and the monument, unveiled in 1937, was officially popularized as a monument to the liberation of Rūjiena and the memory of fallen soldiers, not to mention the beginning of all regiments in Northern Latvia.

The monument is not only a popular sight for Latvian and Estonian tourists, which is to some extent a starting point for visiting several other places of remembrance of the War of Independence in Rūjiena, but "Tālavas taurētājs" is also a stopping place for Estonian and Latvian officials of various levels.

The monument to the liberation and fallen soldiers of Rūjiena, more commonly known as the “trumpet of Tālava”, was included in the list of cultural monuments protected by the state as an art monument of national significance on October 29, 1998 (monument protection registration number 4522).

Monument to the sea lieutenant, L.k.o.k. Vilis Gelb (1890-1919)

Located in Limbažu Jūras iela cemetery, Jūras iela 56, Limbaži

The monument opened on September 10, 1922 by the then President of Latvia Jānis Čakste, on which the dedication of the poet Viļas Plūdonis to Vilis Gelb is read:

"Compatriots who pass by me, light up in the love of the fatherland,
for the beloved fatherland, I pledge my life."

Vilis Gelbe (1890-1919) was born in Kurzeme, Zemīte parish, but he is also closely related to the Limbaži side, because at the beginning of the Latvian War of Independence, he returned to Latvia from St. Petersburg and joined the North Latvian Brigade.

In May 1919, V. Gelbi commanded Limbaži, he became the military commandant of the area and was able to inspire local men and also very young guys to join the army.

V. Gelbe's activity at that time in Limbaži and its surroundings was very important, his duties included not only maintaining order in the city and its surroundings, but also mobilization, providing food for soldiers and horses, and solving many other issues that cannot be included in orders and instructions. The Commandant's team organized by him acted as a coordinated mechanism to provide the North Latvian Brigade with the most effective assistance possible. The commander's team went to the aid of the regular army in special cases, and he set an example for the new soldiers. V. Gelbe was the first Latvian army officer who proposed to award his subordinates with the III class of the Order of Imanta. There was no order yet. Imanta's name appeared in the open only on March 20, 1920, when the minister of defense, Karls Ullman, was presented with an outline of the establishment of the military order. However, the name of Lāčplėš was chosen for the order.

Vilis Gelbe died during the battles of Cēsis - on June 19, 1919, during a reconnaissance. Later, Gelb was awarded the Láčplēš War Order, however, historians believe that his contribution has not been properly appreciated until now. This is mainly explained by Gelbe's membership in the Northern Latvian Brigade.

The so-called Southern Latvian brigade, which was initially commanded by Oskars Kaplak, later Jānis Balož, competed with the Northern Latvian brigade, which was commanded by Jorģs Zemitāns.

Iron bridge over Gauja in Valmiera

It is located in Valmiera, near the Gīme nature trail on Leona Paegles street.

The steel construction iron bridge over the Gauja was built in 1911. It connected the 114 km long route Ainaži-Valmiera-Smiltene, which was last completed in 1971.

After the liberation of Riga, on May 22, 1919, parts of the Soviet Latvian army, without showing serious resistance, retreated along the entire front. On May 26, the Estonian National Army and the Northern Latvian Brigade led by Colonel Jorģs Zemitān occupied Valmiera. "The bigots blew up the railway bridge around six o'clock in the afternoon. At 7:50 both wooden bridges were also set on fire. This did not prevent Estonian troops from entering the city from the side of the Valmiera manor in the evening of the same day* [..]"

Today, the iron bridge is a favorite place for recreation and walking and a section of the "Green Railway" bicycle route.

* The cadet company of the 6th Estonian Infantry Regiment was the first to arrive, accompanied by several armored vehicles.

Zemitāna laukums

Jorģis Zemitāns (1873–1928) – a graduate of the Vilnius military school, served in the army of the Russian Empire, was captured by the Germans during the First World War. Colonel of the Latvian Army, 3rd Class Knight of the Lāčplēš War Order, Knight of the Estonian Freedom Cross Order, Commander of the North Latvian Brigade during the Freedom Struggle. Skrīveru elementary school, streets in Riga, Skrīveros and Strenčos, a square and a railway station in Riga are named after him.
In 1995, a monument to J. Zemitān created by sculptor Gunta Zemīte and stonemasons Ivars Feldberg and Jānis Metuzāls was unveiled in the square surrounded by linden trees between Brīvības, Lielvārde and Zemitāna streets. Its position is not frontal, but diagonal in relation to the buildings and the approach road. The rainbow-like granite arch placed on the pedestal blocks forms the emblem of the independence struggle recognizable in the archers' cockades and breastplates - the motif of the rising sun. On the left side of the main facade, a dedication inscription is engraved on the pedestal: "Latvian army colonel Jorgis Zemitān". The 1.84m high monument is surrounded by a bed of carefully groomed, magnificently blooming flowers.

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