Saules mūžu Latvijai! Long live Latvia!

Edited by Anna Popper

Latvian Independence Day commemorates the declaration of independence and proclamation of the Republic of Latvia on 18 November 1918. This historic event took place 105 years ago in the Latvian National Theatre in Riga. The annual celebration of this highly important holiday in the country provides an opportunity to honour the legacy of those who sacrificed their lives for independence and those who continue to preserve it today, upholding the values of freedom and sovereignty.

On this occasion the Embassy of Latvia in Budapest hosted a diplomatic reception with a concert in the House of Traditions (Budai Vigadó), attended by Hungarian officials, members of the diplomatic corps, friends and nationals of Latvia.

The event started with the national anthems of Latvia and Hungary,

and was followed by the address of H.E. Agnese Kalniņa, Ambassador of Latvia to Hungary:

“Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my great pleasure to welcome you tonight for the celebration of Latvian Independence Day here in beautiful Budapest, the historic Hungarian Heritage Building!

Dārgie tautieši, labs vakars – man ir liels prieks jūs sveikt šovakar valsts svētku svinībās Budapeštā. (Dear compatriots, good evening – it is my great pleasure to welcome you to the national holiday celebrations in Budapest this evening.)

November is a very special month in Latvia’s history, when we declare our independence and commemorate those who lost their lives in freedom fight in 1919. This year we celebrate the 105th anniversary of Independence of Latvia. The state of Latvia was proclaimed on the 18th November 1918. However, its existence had to be defended against the then German and Russian Empires as well as the Red Army of the Soviet Russia at that time.

Time between the Republic of Latvia’s Proclamation of Independence on 18 November 1918 and 11 November 1919 is considered one of the most challenging periods in Latvia’s history, as battles were still fought for the independence of the newly established country.

Latvia only became de facto independent in 1919, when the Russian Army was expelled from Riga during the Latvian Independence War. An important fact: the Latvian freedom fighters were less in number and worse equipped than their enemies. But thanks to their bravery and heroic spirit, and the support of the Allies, they earned victory. We commemorate those brave freedom fighters and their victory every year on the 11th November.

This being said – as a small nation we have always valued our freedom, we fought for it three times in the last century alone and we won. But as we see again and again, these victories are not granted, and as we see today, freedom and independence can be very fragile. Given the ongoing Russian aggression towards Ukraine, we see that for some countries internationally based rules and principles are worthless. Territorial integrity can be threatened even now, a century after our freedom fight, and we must stand against these types of actions, united, until Ukraine wins, for all of us.

Today, however, regional and global cooperation within the EU and NATO provides tools and means to counter potential aggressor. We value our cooperation with Hungary, especially in the field of security. We appreciate Hungary’s efforts in protecting the Baltic airspace, which is important for the region as well as the whole Europe.

Bearing all this mind, tonight I would also like to make a special reference to the fact that Latvia has officially started its campaign for a seat in the United Nations Security Council. Latvia aspires to become a first-time member of the UN Security Council at the elections in 2025 (for the term 2026-2027, Group of Eastern European States). Latvia had already submitted its candidacy in 2011. Latvia’s bid confirms our readiness to contribute to international peace and security, protect international law and advance effective multilateralism more directly. Having experienced a comprehensive reform process and transitioned from an aid recipient to a donor, Latvia now is an active member of the European and global community. Latvia is present in various international institutions and UN bodies, participates in international peacekeeping and civil missions, and provides development cooperationand voluntary contributions to UN structures and funds.

Latvia intends to bring its unique perspective to strengthen the resilience of the multilateral system – from building peace and preventing conflicts to increasing the collective ability to address the full spectrum of existing and emerging challenges. We believe in the importance of doing it together with UN Member States, regional organizations, civil society and youth. Hence our campaign slogan: Together for Peace and Resilience!

We would pursue three main goals or priorities.

  • As I already noted, as a small country, we know the value of freedom and independence from our own history. We think that all should rely on the rules-based international order and international law for their sovereignty. Latvia is applying to the UN Security Council at a transformative period in the international arena. Russia’s unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine continues to challenge the world in many ways, including testing a rules-based multilateral system. In this context, our most important task, our number one priority, is to defend the principles of the UN Charter, the rule of law, peace, sovereignty and territorial integrity of UN member states.
  • The second priority area is promoting women’s empowerment. Latvia is among the top countries in the world that fully guarantee legal equality between women and men in employment and business. We have one of the highest rates of women in science, technology and engineering: 51% of scientists are women. Latvia recognizes the crucial role of the ‘Women, Peace and Security’ agenda for global peace and sustainable development. If elected to the SC, we will continue to stand up for women’s participation and empowerment as well as for the elimination of gender-based violence.
  • The third priority area is finding common solutions for security, sustainability and development.

Our campaign was officially launched in New York at the beginning of November 2023 and we look forward to working with our partners in achieving our goals in the broadest possible international cooperation.

Thank you! Saules mūžu Latvijai! Long live Latvia!”

The official part was followed by a concert that gave a meaningful touch to the celebration. Music has been an integral part of Latvian culture and history, and even in the everyday life of Latvians.

The concert featuring Katrīna Gupalo, a captivating singer, and Edgars Vilcāns, a talented pianist from Latvia, was truly delightful. The duo showcased their extensive repertoire, which spanned Latvian folk music to musical, jazz and pop genres. Their passionate and emotive performances resonated well with the audience, leaving a lasting impression.

To enrich the overall experience, the reception included a diverse array of samples from both Latvian and international cuisine. It was an evening filled with musical brilliance and gastronomic delights, creating a memorable cultural experience for everyone present.

Source: Embassy of Latvia to Hungary

Photos by the Embassy of Latvia and DPA