As mentioned in the last Mappy Monday post, now we’ll be talking about interwar territorial changes and names.
After the First World War and the subsequent wars of independence, the world gained the three independent Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Since prior to this they had all been a part of the Russian Empire for a number of decades, borders did not always correspond to the ethnic realities. As a result, some compromises needed to be made between Latvia and its northern and southern neighbours in order to establish new borders.
To the north, with Estonia, lines were drawn through the middle of the Livland province fairly easily, but there were several points of contention in relatively mixed parishes. In the end, Latvia kept the parishes of Ipiķi, Lode, Ape and Jaunlaicene, while Estonia kept the parishes of Lauri, Rotova, Karula and Taheva. The town of Ainaži voted to be a part of Latvia, while the island of Roņi (Ruhnu in Estonian) voted to become a part of Estonia. The city of Valka was divided between the two countries.
The southern border between Latvia and Lithuania became more contentious. Some agreements were made relatively easily – Latvia ceded the territory of Palanga to Lithuania (due to its ongoing border dispute with Poland, Lithuania did not at the time have sea access), and in return gained the mostly Latvian parishes of Aknīste, Panemūne and Ukri from what had been a part of the Kaunas province of the Russian Empire. On more pragmatic levels, Latvia wanted the town of Mažeikai and the surrounding territory because of the railroad links, and Lithuania had eyes on all of Ilūkste county, even going so far as stationing soldiers there during the independence wars, but in the end, Lithuania kept Mažeikai and Latvia kept Ilūkste.
Beyond the border changes, there was also a lot of renaming to be done throughout Latvian territory – while most places did have Latvian names that had been “unofficial”, now they did become official. In some cases, names that were particularly Germanic or Slavic were Latvianized. For example, the abovementioned Panemūne parish was previously called Budberga. Bornsminde became Īslīce, Pustiņa became Robežnieki, Izabelina became Skaista, and so on. This did not, however, prevent members of the international community from continuing to use the old German or Russian names of places – just looking on Ancestry.com shows that Liepāja was still called Libau on passenger lists into the 1920s.
Are we done with territorial reorganization and renaming? Not even close! There’s still the Soviet period and the modern era to discuss! Stay tuned!