In this series, I am providing pictures of tombstones from Latvian cemeteries, all with death dates prior to 1945. I usually don’t have any more information on the people mentioned, but on rare occasions, I do – like this one.
Jānis Ducens was a member of Latvia’s first Saeima (Parliament), and later the Minister of Defense. He was born in Jaunpiebalga parish, studied at the Rīga Alexander Gymnasium, then Moscow University, and also at the Petrograd Nicholas Engineer-Officer Academy until the Bolshevik takeover in 1917, at which point he left the army and returned to Latvia, joining the Latvian Farmer’s Union. He participated in Latvia’s declaration of independence on November 18, 1918 and later on served in the Kalpaks battalion in the Latvian War of Independence. From 1922 to 1923, he served in the first Saeima, and the following year served as the Minister of Defense. He died of a stroke in 1925 at the age of 37. (Biography from Latvian Wikipedia, summarized and translated by me.)
Photo taken by me, October 2012. Click to enlarge.
Name: Defense Minister Jānis Ducens, born January 17, 1888, died October 7, 1925.
Right Inscription: “Mūžīgā mierā še dus Latvijas zemnieka dēls, kareivju aizstāvis drošs, karavīrs dižens un cēls” (“Resting here in eternal sleep is the son of the Latvian farmer, brave defender of soldiers, a soldier great and noble”)
Location: Meža kapi, Rīga
From the marks on the tombstone, it is evident that there used to be other decorations on it – probably related to the military in some way. These were likely destroyed during the Soviet era, as the Soviet government did not respect the graves of independent Latvia’s military or government personnel, and decorations or portraits that reminded people of independent Latvia were often removed. Some have since been restored, but unfortunately many graves are still in their damaged state.