The National Anthem“Dievs, svētī Latviju!” (“God bless Latvia!”) was officially proclaimed Latvia’s national anthem in 1920, but it also played an important role in leading to Latvia’s independence in 1918.
It was written by Kārlis Baumanis in the second half of the 19th century, at a time when the
Latvian people were beginning to openly display strong national sentiments. In fact, it was the first song to use the word ‘Latvia’ in a lyric.
The song was first performed in 1873 at the First Latvian Song Celebration in Rīga. At the time, Latvians were well known as an ethnic group in the Czarist Russian Empire, but a country called Latvia did not exist. Nationally-minded writers and activists had begun developing the idea of ‘Latvia’ as a designation for the territories that had traditionally been inhabited by Latvians.
To use the word ‘Latvia’ in a song was a bold challenge to the Czarist regime and was initially forbidden by Moscow. As a result, the word ‘Baltics’ replaced ‘Latvia’ in this first performance of the song. It was first sung as a national anthem on November 18, 1918 at the proclamation of Latvia’s independence.
The Latvian anthem differs from many national anthems in that it does not mention war, national struggle or victory, but rather describes a land where young girls blossom, young men sing, and where both aspire to dance together in joy.
Text of the anthem of the Republic of Latvia.
God, bless Latvia,
Our dearest fatherland,
Do bless Latvia,
Oh, do bless it!
Where Latvian daughters bloom,
Where Latvian sons sing,
Let us dance in happiness there,
In our Latvia!