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(rē`gə), city (2011 provisional pop. 657,424), capital of Latvia, on the Daugava (Western Dvina) River near its entry into the Gulf of Riga. A major Baltic port, it is also a rail junction, a military base, and an industrial and cultural center. Among Riga's industries are machine building, metalworking, shipbuilding and repairing, woodworking, food processing, and the manufacture of diesel engines, streetcars, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, electrical apparatus, radio and telephone equipment, meteorological instruments, textiles, building materials, and paper.

Points of Interest

Riga is the site of Riga Technical Univ. (est. 1862), the Univ. of Latvia (est. 1919), the Latvian Academy of Sciences (1946), and numerous other educational and cultural institutions. The old section, or Hansa town, of Riga is circled by a park-lined moat and includes the ancient castle of the Livonian Knights (rebuilt at various periods), the 13th-century cathedral (rebuilt 16th cent., now Lutheran), and the Parliament building (19th cent.). The famous Hanseatic House of the Blackheads (14th cent.), the town hall, and the Church of St. Peter with a steeple 412 ft (126 m) high were largely destroyed during World War II, and their rebuilding was not completed until after the end of Soviet rule. The old town, with its narrow, cobbled streets lined with gabled dwellings and warehouses, has retained much of its medieval character. Across the Daugava from the old town is the New National Library (2014).


The site had long been occupied by Baltic tribes when the monk Meinhard built a monastery c.1190 among a settlement of Livs. German merchants established a community at Riga in 1158. Bishop Albert of Livonia transferred his seat there in 1201 and founded the Livonian Brothers of the SwordLivonian Brothers of the Sword
or Livonian Knights
, German military and religious order, founded in 1202 by Bishop Albert of Livonia for the purpose of conquest and Christianization in the Baltic lands.
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, or Livonian Knights, a German military religious order whose mission was to spread Christianity in the Baltic region. The knights also established a trading station at Riga.

The city, which became an archiepiscopal see in 1254 and a member of the Hanseatic LeagueHanseatic League
, mercantile league of medieval German towns. It was amorphous in character; its origin cannot be dated exactly. Originally a Hansa was a company of merchants trading with foreign lands.
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 in 1282, developed into a major commercial and handicraft center. Its favorable strategic location made it an intermediary in Russian trade with Western Europe. Although it belonged to the domain of the Livonian Knights, Riga maintained a semi-independent existence under its archbishops and German merchants, and it controlled a large part of Livonia.

Riga's acceptance of the Reformation in 1522 definitively ended the power of the archbishops there. After the dissolution of the Livonian Order in 1561, Riga was briefly independent and then passed (1581) to Poland, despite attempts by Ivan IV of Russia to seize it. Polish efforts to reintroduce Catholicism made the capture of Riga in 1621 by King Gustavus II of Sweden a welcome event for the Protestant citizens. The Swedes granted self-government to the city.

Captured (1710) by Czar Peter I during the Northern WarNorthern War,
1700–1721, general European conflict, fought in N and E Europe at the same time that the War of the Spanish Succession was fought in the west and the south.
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, Riga and the rest of Swedish Livonia were ceded to Russia by the Treaty of Nystadt in 1721. Having declined during the 17th cent., Riga's commercial importance revived in the 18th and particularly with the coming of the railroad in the 19th. The city became second only to St. Petersburg as Russia's leading port and was the center of Europe's timber trade.

A leading Russian industrial center from the second half of the 19th cent., Riga had the third largest number of industrial workers (after Moscow and St. Petersburg) by the 1890s. The city was a stronghold of the Russian Social Democratic party and played an important role in the Revolution of 1905. German troops occupied Riga in 1917. After World War I, the independence of Latvia was proclaimed at Riga, which became the new country's capital.

When Latvia was incorporated into the USSR in 1940, Riga was made the capital of the Latvian SSR. During World War II the city was again occupied (1941) by the Germans, from whom it was retaken (1944) by the Soviet army. The Soviet Union encouraged non-Latvian migration to the city. By 1975 less than 40% of its inhabitants were ethnically Latvian. Riga again became the capital of independent Latvia in Sept., 1991.

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the capital of the Latvian SSR. A major industrial, scientific, and cultural center, transport junction, and seaport, Riga is situated on the banks of the Daugava River (Zapadnaia Dvina), near its mouth on the Gulf of Riga, an inlet of the Baltic Sea. Within the city the Daugava divides into several channels, which overflow in some years as a result of the influx of wind-driven water from the gulf, causing floods on the islands and on the left bank (in 1969 the water level rose by 2.14 m). In the center of the city temperatures average - 4.5°C in January and 18°C in July. Thaws are frequent in winter, and the frost-free period lasts 212 days. The city receives 649 mm of precipitation annually.

Riga covers an area of 302.8 sq km (1974), and as of Jan. 1, 1975, its population was 796,000 (348,000 in 1939, 580,000 in 1959, 732,000 in 1970). About 31 percent of Latvia’s population lives in Riga. According to the 1970 census, Latvians constitute 40.9 percent of the population, Russians 42.7 percent, Jews 4.2 percent, Byelorussians, 4.1 percent, and Ukrainians 3.5 percent. Riga is divided into six city districts (Jan. 1,1975).

Historical survey. Archaeological findings attest to the presence of settlements in the area known as the Old Town in the tenth and eleventh centuries. Riga rose on the site of an ancient trading settlement of Baltic tribes at the confluence of the Daugava River and the no longer existing Riga River, from which the city derived its name. In written sources Riga is mentioned for the first time in 1198, and it is referred to as a city in 1201. In the early 13th century German Crusaders turned Riga into a fortress and a base of operations for their aggressive expansion eastward. The city was subordinate to the Archbishopric of Riga from the 13th through the 16th century, a member of the Hanseatic League from the early 14th century, and part of the Livonian Order until 1561. During the Livonian War (1558–83) it became a free city in 1561. It came under the rule of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1581 and was conquered by the Swedes in 1621. The city became a major center of transit trade and crafts. It was taken by Russian troops on July 14, 1710, during the Northern War (1700–21) and was made the capital of Riga Province in 1714 and of Livland Province in 1796.

The first manufactures were established in Riga in the 17th century. By the late 18th century the city had become one of Russia’s major ports and trading centers, holding second place, after St. Petersburg, in foreign trade turnover. Its population grew rapidly, rising from 27,800 in 1794 to 77,400 in the mid-19th century, 282,200 in 1897, and about 500,000 in 1905. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries Riga was one of the largest industrial centers in the Russian Empire. In 1890 the city’s 226 industrial enterprises employed more than 16,000 workers, making it the third largest industrial city after Moscow and St. Petersburg. By 1913 there were 372 enterprises employing more than 87,000 workers. In the early 20th century the port of Riga ranked first in exports and second in imports, after St. Petersburg. In 1913 its foreign trade turnover exceeded 4 million tons, accounting for more than 17 percent of the foreign trade turnover of the Russian Empire.

The strike movement of the Riga proletariat began in the 1880’s. In May 1899 a workers’ demonstration escalated into the first large-scale clash with the police and the army in the Russian Empire (the Riga Uprising). Marxist circles were organized in Riga in the early 1890’s, and the Riga Social Democratic organization was founded in the fall of 1899. V. I. Lenin visited the city in the spring of 1900. Riga was one of the centers through which illegal literature entered Russia from abroad. The Social Democratic newspaper Cīn̹a (Struggle) was founded in the city in 1904, and the First Congress of the Latvian Social Democratic Labor Party was held here in June 1904. On Jan. 13, (26), 1905, a strike and a mass rally involving 50,000 people were held to protest the shooting of workers in St. Petersburg on Jan. 9 (22), 1905. Some 100,000 workers participated in the strike, accounting for more than one-fourth of all the strikers in Russia.

During World War I, Riga was a frontline city. On Aug. 21 (Sept. 3), 1917, the bourgeois Provisional Government and the commander in chief, General L. G. Kornilov, surrendered Riga to German troops, but on Jan. 3, 1919, the city was liberated by a workers’ uprising and by the Red Latvian Rifles. The First All-Latvian Congress of Soviets, convened in Riga on Jan. 13, 1919, proclaimed Soviet power, adopted the first constitution of Soviet Latvia, and formed the first Soviet Latvian government. On May 22, 1919, domestic and foreign counterrevolutionary forces captured Riga, and from 1919 to 1940 the city was the capital of bourgeois Latvia. In the years of the bourgeois regime, industry developed slowly, and many enterprises declined. In 1938 there were 2,200 industrial enterprises with 76,000 workers, and the port’s freight turnover had dropped to half its 1913 level. The revolutionary struggle continued underground.

In June 1940 the working people of Riga, led by the Communist Party of Latvia, overthrew the bourgeois regime and restored Soviet power. On July 21, 1940, Riga became the capital of Soviet Latvia. Steps were taken to reestablish ties with regions that had traditionally supplied the city’s industry with fuel and raw materials and served as markets for its industrial output. On July 1, 1941, the fascist German aggressors occupied Riga, causing great damage. The underground Communist organization fought against the fascist German occupation forces. On Oct. 13, 1944, the Soviet Army liberated the city during the Baltic Operation.

In the postwar years the destroyed industrial enterprises were rebuilt and many of them were modernized. Large-scale housing construction was initiated, and by the end of 1973, Riga had 10,908,000 sq m of housing. Between 1946 and 1973, 5.2 million sq m of new housing became available, and new districts were established. Riga was awarded the Order of Lenin on Nov. 26, 1970.

Economy. The leading branches of the economy are machine building, metalworking, and light industry. The branches that produce for the all-Union market have been developing especially rapidly. They include radio engineering, electronics, electrical engineering, instrument-making, and the manufacture of transport and agricultural machinery. Riga accounts for 56 percent of the total industrial output of the Latvian SSR (1972). About 53 percent of the city’s workers and office employees are employed in industry and construction and about 12 percent in transportation and communications. The total industrial output increased 36 times from 1940 to 1974. Since 1969 the increase may be attributed mainly to a rise in labor productivity and a better use of equipment. The most promising branches of production are the less material-intensive industries requiring highly skilled personnel. More than 400 new types of machines, equipment, apparatus, and instruments were issued between 1966 and 1972.

In 1973, Riga produced 30 percent of the Soviet Union’s passenger railroad cars (used on main lines), 53 percent of its telephones, 23 percent of its refrigerators, 49 percent of its motor scooters and motor bikes, 28 percent of its radio receivers and phonographs, and 18 percent of its household washing machines. The largest machine-building enterprises are the V. I. Lenin Electrotechnical (VEF) Plant, the A. S. Popov Radio Plant, plants producing electrical machinery, railroad cars, and diesel engines, the Rigasel’mash Plant, lighting-engineering plants, plants producing electric lamps and semiconductor-instruments, the Gidrometpribor Plant, the Avtoelektropribor Plant, the Sarkanā Zvaigzne Motor Plant, and a ship-repair yard.

The chemical industry is represented by a paint and varnish plant, the Reagent Plant, medical-preparations and chemicalpharmaceutical plants, the Sarkanais Kvadrāts Production Association (industrial rubber goods), and the Latvbytkhim firm. Among other major industrial enterprises are a combine for the processing of lumber, a paper factory, and woodworking, glass, and porcelain plants. The building materials industry is well developed. The largest textile enterprises are the Rīgas Manufaktūra, and Rīgas Audums, the Sarkanā Tekstilniece, the Māra and Sarkanais Rīts knitted-goods firms, the Aurora Hosiery Factory, and the Latvia and Rīgas Apgerbs clothing production associations. In the food industry small enterprises have been replaced by large combines producing canned meat, dairy products, flour, and confectionery. Also in Riga is the Dzintars Perfume and Cosmetics Plant.

A major center of the fishing industry, Riga is the site of the Kaija Cannery and a sardine cannery. Trawler and refrigeration fleets operate out of its fishing port.

Riga’s enterprises receive from other Soviet republics and other socialist countries fuel, raw materials, semifinished manufactured goods, assembly parts, production equipment, and vehicles. One heat and power plant has been built and a second one is under construction (1975). The first units of the Riga Hydroelectric Power Plant on the Daugava went into operation in 1974. Riga obtains much of its electric power from the unified northwestern power grid. The Valdai-Pskov-Riga Pipeline brings gas to the city from the Komi ASSR.

Riga is a junction of railroad lines from Moscow, Leningrad, Tallinn, Vilnius, Kaliningrad, and other cities. Suburban lines have been electrified as far as Aizkraukle, Zvejniekciems, Tukums, and Jelgava. The Riga seaport is of vital importance for the city’s economy. The Daugava is used for shipping. Riga has two airports.

The suburban area, functionally linked to Riga, includes the industrial satellites Jelgava, Tukums, Olaine, Baloži, Ķegums, Ogre, and Vangaži; the agroindustrial complexes of Ķekava, Ulbroka, and Olaine; the V. I. Lenin and other sovkhozes; and the Salaspils Science Center.


Architecture. Riga is laid out in concentric belts. The ancient nucleus of Riga, the Old Town, situated on the right bank of the Daugava, has preserved its network of narrow medieval streets. Shipping and fishing ports and the Devītais Maijs fishing sovkhoz stretch along the Daugava from the city center to the Gulf of Riga. Located on the gulf is a coastal suburban area with clusters of summer houses. A semicircular strip of parks and gardens, created in the second half of the 19th and early 20th centuries to replace the city’s fortifications, separates the Old Town from the more recent central part (formerly suburbs), which was built up according to a regular layout between the 17th and 19th centuries. The left bank, known as the Pārdaugava, was extensively built up from the 18th century.

Riga’s many parks, gardens, and boulevards cover about 400 ha in the city itself. The extensive wooded parks on the outskirts (about 5,000 ha) adjoin new residential complexes, which have a free spatial composition. Riga’s largest wooded park, Mežaparks, is on the western shore of Lake Ķišezers northeast of Riga.

On the eastern outskirts of Riga, along Lake Jugla, a residential district of the same name was built between 1962 and 1970 according to designs by the architects P. Fogels, O. Krauklis, Ā. Plēsums, and L. Naglin̹š. South of Jugla is the residential quarter called Purvciems (1965–74, architects E. Drande, G. Melbergs, and E. Fogelis), and along the southern edge of the city lie the residential districts of Ķengarags (1961–71, principal architects I. Strautmanis, M. L. Brodskii, and G. Melbergs) and Krasta (under construction since 1970, principal architects E. Fogelis, M. L. Brodskii, and I. Millers).

The left bank is now a well-landscaped area with several industrial zones and some apartment houses. Here the largest new residential complexes are the Agenskalns Pines (1958–62, architects N. Rendels and E. Jākobsons), Il̹ģuciems (1967–70, principal architects R. Lēlis, L. Naglin̹š, and T. Francmane), and Imanta (under construction since 1970, principal architects R. Lēlis, R. Paikune, and T. Francmane).

The Old Town contains many outstanding architectural works. Both Romanesque and Gothic elements are present in the 13th-century Domkirche and in the 13th-century Jēkaba Church, rebuilt between the 14th and 18th centuries. The Gothic Church of St. Peter was built in the 13th and early 14th centuries and rebuilt in the 14th and 15th centuries. Above its baroque western facade (1689–94, architect R. Bindenšū) rises a tower 123.2 m high, built in the 17th and 18th centuries. The tower burned down in 1941 and was rebuilt in 1970–73. St. John’s Church, first mentioned in 1297 and rebuilt in the late 15th and early 16th centuries in the Late Gothic style, has a Renaissance choir (1587–89). Also noteworthy is the former castle of the Livonian Order, constructed in 1330, rebuilt in 1497–1515, and enlarged between the 17th and 19th centuries. The classical style is represented by the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul (1780–86, engineer-architect S. Seege and architect K. Hāberlands) and the Armory-Warehouse (1828–32, architects I. Lukini [?] and J. Spacīrs). Fragments of the city’s fortifications, dating from the 13th through 15th centuries, have been preserved. Residential buildings from the 15th through 18th centuries have survived. Of special interest are Reitern House (1684–88, architect R. Bindenšū), Danenštern House (1694–98), and an 18th-century house in Šķūn̹ū Street (architect K. Hāberlands).

The central part of the city is dominated by five- and six-story apartment houses and imposing public buildings, such as the Art Museum of the Latvian SSR (1905, architect W. Neumann). Most of the buildings are in the eclectic and art nouveau styles. The neoclassical style is represented by the Palace of Justice, now the building of the Council of Ministers of the Latvian SSR (1936–38, architect F. Skujin̹š).

In the Soviet period the city has been transformed by large-scale construction and modernization. New thoroughfares have been built (Augusta Deglava and Pērvanas streets), squares and parks have been created, and esplanades have been rebuilt (the Komsomol Esplanade, 1949–60, architect M. L. Brodskii, engineer B. A. Bulgakov). The old bridges across the Daugava have been rebuilt, and new ones have been constructed. Vacant land has been built up.

The first general plan, proposed by E. A. Vasil’ev, was introduced in 1955. A second general plan, drawn up by the architects V. Apsītis, E. Pučins, and G. Melbergs, was adopted in 1969. It provides for preserving the historic appearance of Old Riga, the architectural and spatial development of the central parts of Riga as the city’s administrative and cultural center, improving the city transit system, and further large-scale construction on peripheral vacant land.

Recent architecture is represented by the high-rise buildings of the Academy of Sciences of the Latvian SSR (1950–57, principal architects V. Apsītis and O. Tilmanis), a railroad station (1957–66, architects V. I. Kuznetsov and V. P. Tsipulin), a sea terminal (1963–65, architects M. Ģelzis and V. Savisko), an airport terminal (1970–74, architects L. Ia. Ivanov and V. M. Ermolaev), the Institute of Electronics and Computer Technology of the Academy of Sciences of the Latvian SSR (1965–71, architects Iu. P. Platonov and V. R. Rannev), and the Palace of Sports (1970, principal architects B. Burčika and O. Krauklis). Other fine examples of recent architecture are the Memorial Museum Monument to the Latvian Red Rifles (opened in 1971, architects D. Driba and G. Lūsis-Grīnbergs, sculptor V. Albergs), the music and choreography school complex (1957–73, principal architect O. N. Zakamennyi), and the building of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Latvia (1972–74, principal architects J. Vilciņš and G. Asaris).

The city has many monuments, among them the Cemetery of Brotherhood (tufa, 1924–36, principal architect A. Birzenieks) and the Monument to Freedom (granite and tufa, 1931–35, architect E. Štālbergs), both the sculptor K. Zāle; the R. Blaumanis Monument (granite, 1929, sculptor T. Zaļkalns); the monuments to J. Rainis in the Rainis Cemetery (granite, 1934, sculptor K. Zemdega, architect P. Ārends) and in Communard Park (granite, 1958–65, sculptors K. Zemdega, A. Gulbis, and L. Blumbergs and the architect D. Driba); the V. I. Lenin Monument (bronze and granite, 1947–50, sculptors V. Ia. Bogoliubov and V. I. Ingal, architect E. Štālbergs); the P. Stučka Monument (bronze and granite, 1962, sculptor E. Melderis, architect G. Melderis); and monuments to the fighters of the Revolution of 1905 at the Mātisa Cemetery (granite, 1956–59, sculptor L. V. Bukovskii, architects O. N. Zakamennyi and A. Birzenieks) and on the Komsomol Esplanade (bronze and granite, 1959, sculptor A. Terpilovskis, architect K. Plūksne).


Cultural affairs. Riga is the site of the Academy of Sciences of the Latvian SSR and various scientific institutions, including the Latvian Scientific Research Institute of Forestry Problems, the Central Scientific Research Institute of Automatic Control Systems in Civil Aviation, the All-Union Scientific Research Institute of Marine Geology and Geophysics, and the Latvian Scientific Research Institute of Light Industry. As of Jan. 1, 1974, 57 scientific institutions and a number of major educational institutions were operating in the city.

In the 1974–75 academic year Riga’s higher educational institutions included the Latvian University, polytechnic and medical institutes, institutes of civil-aviation engineering and physical culture, a conservatory, and an academy of art; the total enrollment was 32,900 students. That year there were 22 specialized secondary schools with 26,000 students, 161 general schools of all types with 106,600 students, and 21 vocational and technical schools with about 10,000 students. In 1974, 35,000 children attended 260 preschool institutions.

As of Jan. 1, 1975, Riga had 177 public libraries containing 4.5 million copies of books and magazines. The largest libraries are the V. Lācis State Library of the Latvian SSR and the Main Library of the Academy of Sciences of the Latvian SSR. There are 19 museums, some of them with branches, including the Museum of the History of the Latvian SSR, the Museum of the Revolution of the Latvian SSR (and its branches, the V. I. Lenin Memorial Museum and the V. I. Lenin Memorial Apartment Museum), the Museum of the History of Riga and Navigation, the Latvian Art Museum, the P. Stradiņš Museum of the History of Medicine, the Nature Museum of the Latvian SSR, memorial museums devoted to R. Blaumanis, J. Rozentāls, A. Upīts, and G. Šķilters, and the J. Rainis Museum of the History of Literature and Art. Near Riga is the open-air Ethnographic Museum.

Theatrical life is centered on the Theater of Opera and Ballet, the Latvian Drama Theater, the Latvian Art Theater, the Russian Drama Theater, the Lenin Komsomol Young People’s Theater, the Puppet Theater, and the Operetta Theater. The city also has a circus, a philharmonic society, 45 clubs, 46 stationary film projectors, and 21 extracurricular institutions.

The republic publishing houses Zvaigzne (Star), Zinātne (Science), and Liesma (Flame), as well as the Latvian Information Agency, are based in the city. Nine republic newspapers and 27 magazines are published. The city evening newspaper Rīgas Balss (Voice of Riga), founded in 1957, is issued in Latvian and Russian. Four radio programs are broadcast from Riga. The Republic Radio broadcasts in Latvian and Russian for a total of 26.1 hours a day, and the programs of the All-Union Radio are relayed. The republic and central television systems broadcast three programs each. The republic’s television center is in Riga.

Public health. In 1940, Riga had 20 hospitals with 4,100 beds (11.5 per 1,000 inhabitants), 1,200 doctors (one per 300 inhabitants), and 17 women’s consultation clinics, children’s polyclinics, and dispensaries. In 1974 the city had 32 hospitals with 11,700 beds (15.1 per 1,000 inhabitants), 39 maternity centers, and more than 5,000 doctors (one per 148 inhabitants).

Physicians are trained at the Riga Medical Institute, founded in 1950, with departments of general practice, pediatrics, stomatology, and pharmacy. The Scientific Medical Research Institute of Traumatology and Orthopedics was founded in 1946. Near Riga are the climatic resorts Jūrmala and Sigulda and the balneological and mud resorts of Baldone and Ķemeri.


Ērgle. Z. E., and S. Cielava. O chem rasskazyvaiut doma i ulitsy staroi Rigi. Riga, 1971. (Translated from Latvian.)
Muzei Rigi. Riga, 1966.
Pakalns, J. P. Serdtse Sovetskoi Latvii: Riga vchera, segodnia i zavtra. Riga, 1967.
Lazdin̹š, V. K., and V. R. Purins. Riga: Ekonomiko-geograficheskii ocherk. Moscow, 1957.
Latviia. Moscow, 1968. (Sovetskii Soiuz series).
Debrer, M., and M. Krasil’nikov. Putevoditel’po Rige. Riga, 1971.
Vasil’ev, Iu. Klassitsizm v arkhitekture Rigi. Riga, 1961.
Vasil’ev, Iu. Riga: Pamiatniki zodchestva. Riga, 1971.
Riga—stolitsa Latviiskoi SSR: Rekomendatel’nyi ukazatel’ literatury. Riga, 1953.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


the capital of Latvia, on the Gulf of Riga at the mouth of the Western Dvina on the Baltic Sea: a port and major trading centre since Viking times. Pop.: 739 232 (2002 est.)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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