January 20: Day of the Barricades

January 20 is a day of remembrance in Latvia, for an event in more recent memory than others – in this case, the time of the barricades, and subsequently, the end of the Soviet Union.

Latvia had already declared independence from the Soviet Union, but there was still fear that the Soviet Union might try to retake the country by force. At the beginning of January 1991, they started to try and do just that.

This is when the barricades were built, across Rīga and in other parts of the country as well. While the barricades took place over a period of days, January 20 is chosen as the remembrance day because it was on this night in 1991 that five people were killed during attacks by Soviet forces, including filmmakers Andris Slapiņš and Gvido Zvaigzne. You can visit the website for the 1991 Barricades Museum here.

Let us all remember those who gave their lives for the cause of freedom. Let us honour their sacrifice, and never take our freedom for granted.

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