Mappy Monday – Territorial Changes in Interwar Latvian Territory

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!

Surname Saturday – Latvian Surname Project Update, October 3, 2015

New format of Surname Saturday here on Discovering Latvian Roots – if you want surname meanings, go check out the Facebook and Twitter pages, here on the blog it will be a summary of what’s new on the Latvian Surname Project, as funded by my supporters on Patreon!

New this week!

Parishes added – Graši, Kraukļi

Names added – Mednītis, Stabulnieks, Upesleja

… and over 20 other names have been updated to reflect their presence in more parishes!

The Surname Project currently includes 1386 surnames from 497 parishes, towns and cities. Many parishes only have a few names listed so far, but I’m working every day to add more for each parish!

Tombstone Tuesday – Anton and Amalie Petersenn

In this series, I am providing pictures of tombstones from Latvian cemeteries, all with death dates prior to 1945. I do not have any further information on the people mentioned.

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Photo taken by me, September 2014. Click to enlarge.

Names: Anton Petersenn, born February 15, 1819, died June 18, 1890; Amalie Petersenn née Apping, born November 23, 1821, died April 4, 1900.

Location: German Cemetery, Cēsis

Mappy Monday – Russian Empire Era Names for Latvian Territory

Back to Mappy Monday – sorry we missed last week, but I was down with a bad cold and headache, so I couldn’t get this out last Monday! But continuing on from where we left off, at medieval to early modern names for Latvian territory, we now move into the Russian Empire age, which started in 1721, 1772 and 1795, depending on where in modern Latvia you were.

As I mentioned in the last post, those three divisions and times that these territories were incorporated into the Russian Empire set the stage for the modern Latvian provinces.

Swedish Livonia became the Russian governorate of Livland (Lifland in Russian, for a time it was also called the Rīga governorate). In Latvian, it was called Vidzemes guberņa. Vidzeme literally means “Middle Land” or “Middle Earth” – something Tolkien fans can really enjoy! I know I like telling people my ancestors are from Middle Earth. The Duchy of Courland and Semigallia became the governorate of Courland (Kurland in Russian), in Latvian Kurzemes guberņa.

As two of the three of the Baltic governorates of the Russian Empire (third being Estland – northern Estonia), Courland and Livland enjoyed various privileges – or should I say, the local Baltic German nobility enjoyed various privileges. While being nominally under the Russian Empire, the Baltic German nobility still maintained most of the control until the late 19th century and the beginning campaign of Russification at that time. The peasantry did gain one advantage sooner than in the rest of the Empire, however, and that was the abolishment of serfdom in 1817 (Courland) and 1819 (Livland). Otherwise, the peasantry were subject to the laws and administration of the Baltic German nobility and not the laws that governed the rest of the Russian Empire.

The third Latvian territory, on the other hand, did become a part of “mainland” Russia so to speak – the Inflanty Voivodeship became a part of the Russian Empire after the First Partition of Poland. After a few territorial changes and divisions, it became a part of the newly created Vitebsk governorate in 1802. This territory encompassed what is now eastern Latvia, northern Belarus and a part of western Russia. It was under the direct rule of the Russian Empire and thus subject to its laws. This meant that serfdom was not abolished there until 1861. After the Russian Revolution in 1917, the three Latvian districts of Vitebsk – Dinaburg (from 1893 known as Dvinsk, in Latvian Daugavpils), Lucyn (Ludza in Latvian) and Rezhitsa (Rēzekne in Latvian) – became a part of the Latvian Soviet territory known as Iskolat, which encompassed parts of Vidzeme as well. After the Soviets were removed from Latvia during the Latvian War of Independence, these three districts would become the Latvian province of Latgale.

And this brings us to post-First World War independent Latvia! Well, for the most part. There are a few territorial changes during the initial years of independence that we will get into next week!

Surname Saturday – Latvian Surname Project Update, September 19, 2015

New format of Surname Saturday here on Discovering Latvian Roots – if you want surname meanings, go check out the Facebook and Twitter pages, here on the blog it will be a summary of what’s new on the Latvian Surname Project, as funded by my supporters on Patreon!

New this week!

Parishes added – Gramzda, Strazde

Names added – Vītolbergs, Žagariņš

… and over 20 other names have been updated to reflect their presence in more parishes!

The Surname Project currently includes 1383 surnames from 495 parishes, towns and cities. Many parishes only have a few names listed so far, but I’m working every day to add more for each parish!

Tombstone Tuesday – Christian and Emilie Boehm

In this series, I am providing pictures of tombstones from Latvian cemeteries, all with death dates prior to 1945. I do not have any further information on the people mentioned.

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Photo taken by me, September 2014. Click to enlarge.

Names: District School Inspector Christian Boehm, born February 7, 1823, died December 14, 1888; Emilie Boehm née Reimers, born March 13, 1830, died August 13, 1902

Location: German Cemetery, Cēsis

Surname Saturday – Latvian Surname Project Update, September 12, 2015

New format of Surname Saturday here on Discovering Latvian Roots – if you want surname meanings, go check out the Facebook and Twitter pages, here on the blog it will be a summary of what’s new on the Latvian Surname Project, as funded by my supporters on Patreon!

New this week!

Parishes added – Ance, Spāre, Valdemārpils

Names added – Akmeņlauks, Arkliņš, Asaris, Bumbulis, Frīdenbergs, Kalviņš, Lode, Pāvilsons, Vecbrālis, Vēzītis

… and over 35 other names have been updated to reflect their presence in more parishes!

The Surname Project currently includes 1381 surnames from 493 parishes, towns and cities. Many parishes only have a few names listed so far, but I’m working every day to add more for each parish!