Daugav’ abas malas, mūžam nesadalās, ir Kurzeme, ir Vidzeme, ir Latgale mÅ«su…
(Daugava and both its shores, never divided, here we have Kurzeme, Vidzeme, Latgale ours…)

-“Daugav’ abas malas” (composer J. Norvilis)

There are many iconic images and ideas in Latvian history and mythology, but none have the endurance of the Daugava River. It has been there from the beginning and will endure long into the future. It passes through the entire length of Latvia, entering Latvia from Belarus (where it is known as Zahodnaya Dzvina) in the far southwestern corner of Latvia, flowing along the Latvia-Belarus border until Druja, where it then turns inland into Latvia. It passes through or by the towns and cities of Krāslava, Daugavpils, Jēkabpils, Pļaviņas, Aizkraukle, Jaunjelgava, Lielvārde, Ogre, Ikšķile and Salaspils, and then arrives in Rīga, where it empties into the Gulf of Rīga and from there the Baltic Sea.

Historically, the Daugava river has been the main border between the different Latvian provinces – Vidzeme and Latgale to the north of it, Kurzeme and Zemgale to the south of it. One of the only places where both sides of the river belonged to the same province is the area around RÄ«ga, a city that encompasses both sides of the river. But in the largest city in the Baltic countries, how does it live divided?

Bridges, of course. Bridges unite the two sides of the river, connecting the Old Town and the city centre to what is colloquially called “Pārdaugava” – “Across the Daugava”. This region is predominantly but not exclusively residential, and is home to several important places for a genealogist – the State and Historical Archives as well as the National Library.


Vanši Bridge, July 2015. Photo taken by me.

The northernmost bridge across the Daugava is VanÅ¡i Bridge, located north of RÄ«ga Old Town. It was opened just in 1981 – prior to that, there had been a pontoon bridge in its place. Its position on the Daugava means that large ships – including ferries and cruise liners- cannot pass any further into the Daugava, so accordingly, the RÄ«ga passenger terminal is just north of the bridge. The RÄ«ga-Stockholm ferry services stops here year round, and in the summer, one can see massive cruise ships in port as well.

The first non-pontoon/boat bridge across the Daugava in RÄ«ga was built in 1872 – it was called the Zemgale Bridge, and it was destroyed in the Second World War. It was located south of the modern Stone Bridge, which was opened in 1957. The Stone Bridge crosses the Daugava at the south end of Old Town, and leads to the National Library.


Stone Bridge and National Library, July 2015. Photo taken by me.

Moving further south from the Stone Bridge, there is the oldest surviving (sort of) bridge across the Daugava – the Railway Bridge, opened in 1914. It was mostly destroyed by the Germans in 1944 as they retreated from RÄ«ga, but was renewed by 1955.

Further south, there are two more bridges in RÄ«ga – Island Bridge, which also provides access to the islands of Lucavsala and ZaÄ·usala, and then the appropriately named Southern Bridge, which is the newest addition to the RÄ«ga bridge family, opened in 2008.

This post in the Mappy Monday series, as well as other posts on this blog, are made possible by my patrons on Patreon. If you find the information on my blog valuable, please become my patron and help support the growth of online Latvian genealogical resources!

Mappy Monday – Both Sides of the Daugava
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