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100th Anniversary of the Latvian Anthem

The author of the anthem’s music and lyrics - Kārlis Baumanis

The author of the anthem’s music and lyrics - Kārlis Baumanis

On 7 June 2020, the 100th anniversary  was marked since Constitutional Assembly adopted the Latvian national anthem  “God Bless Latvia!”  The author of the anthem’s music and lyrics - Kārlis Baumanis (1835-1905).

"God Bless Latvia!" is a men’s choir song written especially for the 1st Latvian Nationwide Song Festival in 1873. The first performance of the anthem took place at the grand opening of the Song Festival on June 26, 1873 in the hall of the Riga Latvian Society. But censorship forbade the joint choir to perform this song. For the first time it was published in  1874, immediately after the First Latvian Nationwide Song Festival in the song collection “Austra” by Kārlis Baumanis.

The  joint choir of the Song Festival performed this song for the first time only at the 4th Latvian Nationwide Song Festival in 1895 in Jelgava. However, in the lyrics of the song, but not in the title, the word Latvija (Latvia) was replaced by Baltija (the  Baltics).

Writer Apsīšu Jēkabs after the Jelgava Song Festival wrote: “’God Bless Latvia!’ can worthily stand alongside the best ‘national anthems’; when sung by a large group of singers, this song has a powerful impression, which becomes even greater with the accompaniment of the orchestra”. During the 1905 revolution, the word Baltija was replaced by Latvija  again. There is evidence that the song was sung with these words at the meetings of Latvian public organizations.  Over time “God Bless Latvia!” became a prayer of the whole Latvian nation and gradually established itself as the national anthem, although the Russian authorities did not offcially allow it to be performed as an anthem until the February Revolution. From 1920 to 1940, the people’s prayer “God Bless Latvia” was the national anthem of Latvia. After the occupation and annexation of Latvia by the USSR, it was replaced by the anthem of the Latvian SSR; singing of the anthem of independent Latvia was forbidden, in case of  nonobeservance  severe sanctions were envisaged. On 15 February 1990, the Supreme Soviet of the then LSSR restored “God Bless Latvia!” as the anthem  of Latvia.

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