Latvian Army
I Wars of Independence, First Independance, II WW2

On January 5, 1919, the first largest national military unit was established - the Separate Latvian Battalion under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Oskars Kalpaks. This unit, which was transformed into a brigade in March, together with the Northern Latvian Brigade, organized in Estonia and commanded by Colonel Jorgis Zemitans, formed the Latvian Army. The newly formed army grew and hardened in the battles against the Bermontians near Riga and Kurzeme, as well as in the battles against the Bolsheviks on the Latgale front.

One week after the end of World War I and the conclusion of the Compiegne armistice on November 11, 1918, the establishment of an independent Latvian state was proclaimed. The new caretaker government had hoped to do without a regular army, as no one was going to attack. On November 13, 1918, Soviet Russia revoked the Brestlitov Treaty of Peace, which had renounced Baltic territory in favor of Germany, and began moving west. Expectations that the German army would fulfill its commitment to defend Latvia against the Bolshevik invasion did not materialize.

Meanwhile, troops loyal to the Provisional Government of the Republic of Latvia were formed in Riga. In the spring of 1919, the Latvian Armed Forces consisted of the Landeswehr (German-Baltic National Guard), the Northern Latvian Brigade and the Southern Latvian Brigade. On July 10, 1919, General Dāvis Sīmansons united the two brigades, becoming the first Commander-in-Chief of the Latvian Army. This day is considered to be the day when the Latvian army was established.

In 1919, the Latvian army was rapidly armed and developed, and armaments and equipment were received from England, Poland and other countries. At the beginning of 1920, about 52,000 soldiers served in the Latvian Armed Forces. The War of Independence ended on August 11, 1920, when a peace treaty was signed with Soviet Russia. Immediately after the War of Independence, the Latvian army began to move to a peacetime state. The Latvian army consisted of four infantry divisions with three infantry regiments and an artillery regiment each. The infantry regiments were numbered and named after Latvian cities. The Latvian army also had a navy consisting of the flagship Virsaitis, a submarine division with two submarines "Ronis" and "Spidola", as well as a mine division with two minesweepers "Imanta" and "Viesturs" and several support ships.

The composition of the army was formed on the basis of the general military service to which all Latvian citizens were subjected. Until 1931, the service period was 18 months, later it was shortened to 12 months for infantry, 15 - for other weapons classes. The army and navy were administered by the Ministry of War. The army commander was in charge of the army, who was responsible for training and preparing the army.

On June 1, 1940, there were 30,843 men in the Latvian army. On June 17, 1940, during World War II, Soviet troops took control of all of Latvia and Estonia. The Latvian army was gradually disbanded, retiring in reserve, arresting and deporting Latvian soldiers. On September 27, 1940, the position of the Minister of War of Latvia was abolished, but on October 9, 1940, the position of Commander of the Latvian People's Army was abolished.

On June 17, 1989, the founding conference of the Latvian Riflemen's Association was held in the Great Hall of the State University of Latvia in Riga. After which, in a few weeks, more than 500 former soldiers joined the Latvian Riflemen's Association. In the autumn, branches and groups were established in Jelgava, Tukums, Liepaja, Bauska, Balvi, Livani, Moscow and elsewhere. Active work is beginning on the creation and development of laws, regulations and various documents that will be necessary for the establishment and existence of the army.

On September 10, 1991, a law on compulsory military service was passed. Due to this law, all male citizens of Latvia, aged 19-50, must perform compulsory military service. Shortly after the adoption of this law, on November 11, the Brothers' Cemetery is given the first oath of soldiers since the restoration of Latvia's independence.

More information sources

1. 100 events in the history of Latvia. People and processes 1918-2018. JSC “Latvijas Mediji”, 2018.

2. The blizzard of souls. Digital Museum. Available: [accessed: 08.05.2021.].

3. National Armed Forces website. Available: [accessed 08.05.202

Related objects

Exposition of military bikes in the Bicycle museum in Saulkrasti

The Bicycle Museum is located in Saulkrasti not far from the A1 highway and the railway station Pabaži, near the White Dune. Museum’s collection is made up of technically the most interesting examples of bicycle development history in Latvia. It is the largest bicycle collection in the Baltics with about 60 bicycles made and used in Latvia, including army-type bicycles. In the beginning of the 20th century many armies started to widely utilise the availability and benefits of bicycles. Special bicycle units were formed because of their mobility. Bicycle units were able to gather intelligence and launch unexpected attacks more easily, and were more mobile than regular infantry when it came to operations over a wide area. After World War I the Latvian Army also had bicycle units who used Latvian-made army bicycles. Any soldier who was in such a bicycle unit had to meet strict requirements. Good stamina, eyesight and hearing, as well as a healthy heart and lungs were a must. They could not weigh less than 80 kg and their height had to be 165-180 cm. The standard in the Latvian Army was that a well-trained cyclist should be able to cover 80-100 km in day, and up to 150 km in forced conditions. In winter, when bicycles could not be used, skis were used. A soldier from a bicycle unit had to be able to ski 50-60 km per day. Many soldiers from bicycle units would later become professional athletes.

We have about 5000 visitors every year.

Monument to the first battle for Latvia's independence

Atroadas, Inčukalns, Atmodas Street 2.

On July 3, 2016, a monument to the first battle for Latvia's independence, dedicated to the Latvian National Guard (Die Lettländische Landeswehr), was unveiled. sides. Eižens Upmanis, the chairman of the Brothers' Cemetery Committee, concluded at the time that this could be the historically first monument to the combined Latvian and Baltic forces in the battle memorials outside the cemetery. At that time, Lieutenant Colonel Oskars Kalpaks was appointed commander of the Latvian units of the Latvian National Guard or Landesver, from whose units the later Latvian army grew and formed during the Freedom Fights.

In 1918, the entire territory of present-day Latvia had fallen into the hands of the German Empire and its troops. However, at the end of the summer and autumn of 1918, the situation began to end badly for Germany, and it was clear that it was only a matter of time before Germany would be forced to concede defeat in World War I. The Russian Empire, which included Latvia before World War I, had ceased to exist earlier, with the revolutions of February and October 1917. On November 18, 1918, the Republic of Latvia was proclaimed. After the ceasefire with the Entente on November 11, 1918, the German army, which was on the territory of Latvia, was no longer motivated for further warfare, and most of its soldiers simply wanted to return home.

Under such circumstances, it was clear that Latvia's defense depended primarily on the national guard formed by the people of Latvia. Initially, due to their education and relatively greater ability to self-organize, the greatest initiative in creating such a national guard was shown by the Baltic Germans living in Latvia. Russian soldiers also joined the National Guard. In order to ensure the supply of the National Guard with uniforms, weapons and other necessary resources, on December 7, 1918, the Provisional Government of Latvia entered into an agreement with the German representative August Vinnig, providing for the provision of the National Guard from the German army reserves in Latvia. This agreement stated, among other things, that the National Guard, officially known as the Latvian National Guard or in German, the die Lettländische Landeswehr, would be the armed forces of the Republic of Latvia.

Two soldiers of the Latvian Red Rifle Regiment (ie approximately 2,000 to 3,000 soldiers) who had previously experienced in World War I and the Russian Civil War faced the Latvian National Guard. Despite the experience and numerical superiority of the Red Army, the Latvian National Guard held Inčukalns for two days in fierce fighting, until finally, in the evening of January 1, 1919, to avoid siege, was forced to retire, losing 43 dead and several wounded, most of whom was taken captive by the Bolsheviks, where they were killed or died of starvation or disease.

Author: Artis Buks. Material: Boulder. The monument is made of large monolithic stone, which was found in Rolls near Jelgava.

Latvian Army Summer Camp in Litene

The Latvian Army Summer Camp in Litene is located in the forest in Litene parish, near the Pededze River. The beginnings of the Litene Camp can be traced back to 1935 when the construction of a summer camp complex for the Latgale division of the Latvian Army was started. From May to autumn, several thousand soldiers learned combat tactics and shooting skills in Litene. In the summer of 1941, Latvian Army officers were arrested by Red Army and NKVD troops at an army summer camp in Litene. Several officers were shot on the spot, while others were deported to Siberia. On 14 June 1941, at least 430 officers were arrested and deported to Siberia in the Litene and Ostrovieši camps about 10 kilometres from Litene. The only historical building that has survived from the camp is a food storage facility. Only the foundations remain from the other buildings. There is a viewing platform with the Latvian flag, benches and a well-maintained place for a fire. A demilitarised cannon was installed with the support of the Ministry of Defence and the National Armed Forces. Information boards are in place. The Wall of Pain memorial in the Litene graveyard is also connected with the events at the Litene camp. The YouTube channel of the Latvian Army features a video named ‘Litene, Katyn of the Latvian Army’.

Latvian military aviation aerodrome

Located in the territory of Vecgulbene manor - in the historical center.

In the interwar period, the garrison of the Latvian Army was located in Gulbene, where the 7th Sigulda Infantry Regiment Battalion was stationed. Aerodromes are especially important in places where important railway and road junctions have been established. In 1937, a newly established unit of the Aviation Regiment was stationed in Gulbene, which became the 6th Division of the Latgale Division Scouts, increasing the number of army units near the eastern border of Latvia.

The conservatory building is visible.

Exposition "Latvian Army in Pļaviņas in the 20th Century"

Located at Odzienas Street 2, Pļaviņas.

The permanent exposition "Latvian Army in Pļaviņas in the 20th Century" can be seen.

The building in Pļaviņas, Odzienas Street 2, has a long history - from the time when Stukmaņi wholesaler Hugo Apeltofts started active economic activity in it, thus promoting the development of Pļaviņas city, until the headquarters of the Latvian Eastern Front was established here during the War of Independence. In 1919, the activities of Latvian army units against the Red Army in Latgale were commanded directly from Pļaviņas.

In 1934, a memorial plaque was unveiled near this house with the inscription: "In 1919, the headquarters of the Eastern Front was located in this house, and here General Jānis Balodis took over the command of the Latvian National Army." It was removed and destroyed by the Soviets in 1940, but on June 16, 1990, with the support of the LNNK Plavinas branch, it was restored.

Now, next to the former headquarters building, there is a memorial stall dedicated to 15 cavalry of the Lāčplēsis Military Order born in Pļaviņas region. In Pļaviņas, as well as provides an insight into the life stories of the Knights of the Lāčplēsis War Order.

Not far from the exposition building is the Latgale Division headquarters building, which was built in 1913 by Count Teodors Medems as a Stukmaņi liqueur factory. In 1919 it was taken over by the regime of P. Stučka, where it had also established a prison. After the expulsion of the Bolsheviks, in 1925 the building was taken over by the Latvian Army, which housed the headquarters of the Latgale Division. 10 generals and other officers of the Latvian Army spent their military careers in this building. In 1940, the building was taken over by the Red Army. In the post-war years, it housed a school as well as a municipality. Around 1970, the building was started to be used by the production association "Rīgas Apīrsbs".

Visits to the exhibition must be booked in advance by calling T. 28442692.

Memorial Wall of Pain

Artrodas Litene cemetery.

On June 14, 2001, the memorial “Wall of Pain” created by architects Dina Grūbe, Benita and Dainis Bērziņš, stonemasons Ivars Feldbergs and Sandra Skribnovskis was unveiled in Litene Cemetery, it symbolizes the resting place of the soldiers killed in 1941. In October 1988, the ashes of 11 officers killed in June 1941 by the Soviet Army were found in the territory of the former Latvian Army summer camp in Sita Silila, Litene Parish. Although they could not be identified, on December 2, 1989, at the consecration service in Gulbene Evangelical Lutheran Church, Litene Cemetery was solemnly reburied.

11 white crosses, memorial plaque and information stands.

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For the first Commander-in-Chief of the Latvian Army David Simanson

The essays of the book "Latvian Army Commanders" convince that history is significantly influenced by specific people. Although at the epicenter of the most important historical events for a short time, the true Latvian patriots, with their rich military experience, managed to accomplish a lot in the formation and strengthening of the Latvian army and the turn of historical events.
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In memory of Pēteris Radziņš, General of the Latvian Army, two-time Knight of the Lāčplēsis War Order

General Pēteris Radziņš, born in Lugka Parish, Valka District, in a simple farmer's family, where he learned to do field work. He was a very smart young man, after graduating from school he decided in favor of the war and it started his army rescue of Latvia from Bermont's troops. P.Radziņš was one of the most outstanding officers of the Latvian Army and was awarded with numerous Latvian and foreign orders and memorials.

Army presence in Mangalsala

I remember vivid impressions about the presence of the Latvian army in Mangalsala. The forts as well as the reinforced concrete fortification built by Sapieri are described. Memories describe the daily life of soldiers, the rhythm of life and illustrate the environment in Mangalsala. Visit of soldiers of Mangalsala and Latvian army

Memories of the beginning of the establishment of the War Museum

The narrator describes the conditions under which the War Museum was established. Problems and collection work are mentioned.

United Aviation Festival - a real national holiday

The narrator describes one of the most popular and widely attended events in Latvia - the Aviation Festival in Spilve. Describes the course and scope of the festival. The popularity of aviation in Latvia is emphasized.

Par Sudrabkalniņa atklāšanas svētkiem

Atmiņu stāsta izvilkums no ģenerāļa Jāņa Baloža uzrunas Sudrabkalniņa pieminekļa atklāšanas dienā. Pilnā tekstā ir atstāsts par atklāšanas pasākuma norisi, Valsts prezidenta Kārļa Ulmaņa un ģenerāļa Jāņa Baloža uzrunas. Atmiņas izvēlētas, jo spilgti parāda to kādā stāvoklī bija Latvijas armija, kura cīnās Sudrabkalniņa apkaimē.

About Daugavgriva fortress

The narrator describes an event in the Daugavgrīva fortress during World War I, when it was bombed by an air force in the German army. The fortress was one of the strategic objects that remained important until the end of World War II.