Following on the heels of the Second World War era, we now come to the Soviet and modern eras when it comes to name changes in Latvian territory.
The Soviet era brought a huge amount of reorganization to Latvian territory, and it is impossible to encapsulate it all in a small blog post like this. The main reorganization was on a community level – parishes and districts were eliminated, and replaced with local “soviets” – local Communist councils that controlled an area, the first-level administration within the Latvian SSR, which were then later united in parallel with the creation of kolkhozes – collective farms. Forcing Latvians onto collective farms was the biggest change in Soviet-era geography, since prior to that, most of Latvia had individual farms (whether individually owned or owned by a manor lord). Creating these collective farms – and deporting the wealthier peasants, called “kulaks” by the Communists – was a key part of the Soviet plan for Latvia, to break down the independent spirit of the Latvians and create Soviet citizens. This did not work out as they hoped, since Latvia still managed to break free from the Soviet yoke. But if you are ever driving through the Latvian countryside and wondering why there are apartment buildings in the middle of the countryside – that’s a tell-tale sign of where a collective farm used to be.
When Latvia regained its independence, it reorganized territory again, and then again – some parishes look like they have for centuries, others don’t. Some long-standing parishes have vanished from the map, while new ones have popped up. A new territorial division appearing on the map in recent years is a town with its own administration, and then its accompanying “rural territory”. I’m not certain as to how these are administered, but they look a bit odd on a map – why aren’t they just called a parish, like the surrounding parishes are? Nowadays, parishes are also not grouped into districts (apriņķi), but rather counties (novadi). The number of parishes in a county seems fairly arbitrary – some counties have just one parish, others have more than ten. It is possible that these are based on population, but I am not sure about that. These counties transcend the earlier borders of provinces and parishes, creating new territorial divisions to replace the ones that were in Latvia for hundreds of years beforehand.
Is this transcendence a good or a bad thing? I don’t know. Time will tell. Time will also tell how territory is reorganized in the future. For now, that is the end of the territorial divisions posts – let me know what you would like to see next on Mappy Monday!