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Riga is one of the oldest cities in the Northern Europe, established in 1201 by the German bishop Albert. During the 13th century Riga was a stronghold for German crusaders who came to this land to baptize people and to occupy territory. Over time the city turned into a regional center for culture and commerce. It joined the Hansiatic league and became the capital of the German province of Livonia.
Riga’s history has never been easy. Over the course of its 810 years it has been governed by the kings of many countries. God only knows how many times the flags above the tower of Riga’s castle have changed.
At the beginning of the 18th century, which had previously been ruled by Sweden fell into the hands of Russian czar Peter the Great. Peter for a while thought about naming Riga the capital of all Russia but because the construction of what was to become St.Petersburg had already begun, Riga was left with a title of the second city in the Empire. Despite this Riga has always been a cultural metropolis for the entire region, because of its geographical location and ethnic composition the city has been influenced by Latvian, German, Russian, Swedish, Jewish and other cultures – all of these have formed the face of Riga.
A good reflection of the city’s turbulent history is provided by its main street – Brivibas boulevard. Initially it bore the name of the Russian Emperor Alexander. During Latvia’s first period of independence it was known as Brivibas or Freedom’s street then it became Hitler’s Strasse, then Lenin’s street and then, one hopes that this time for good – Freedom boulevard, once again.
Over the course of the centuries Riga has been home to many famous people including Richard Wagner, Johann Gottfried Herder, Sergei Eisenstein, Michail Barishnikov and Gidion Kremer to name just a few.