My memories about the Barricades PDF Drukāt E-pasts

Back then I was working at the Coordination Centre of the Popular Front of Latvia in the Vidzeme District of the city of Riga on Baznīcas Street 27/29.

Zero hour

From an organisational perspective, we were well prepared because information about possible repressive measures by the USSR was received a while ago. The murder of civilians in Tbilisi (Georgia) on 9 April 1989 and Baku (Azerbaijan) on 20 January 1990 warned us to be prepared for the worst-case scenario. On the basis of information received and gathered, the Popular Front of Latvia had already drafted an action plan for emergency situations. This plan, based on the experience of non-violent resistance in other countries, was modified to suit the situation in Latvia.

Action plan – adopted secretly by the large black piano

During the meeting of the Council of the Popular Front of Latvia held on 12 January 1991 at the Great Hall of University of Latvia, final details of further action were discussed and adopted. At the end of the meeting, in the corner of the Hall by the large black piano – in an atmosphere of secrecy – responsibilities were assigned among the board members and departments of the Popular Front.

Emergency call

Early on the morning of 13 January 1991, news was received about the killings at the Vilnius television tower. The Popular Front immediately began mobilisation. Immediately after these blood-shedding events in Vilnius (at approximately 3:00 a.m.) we assumed guard positions at the Coordination Centre on Baznīcas Street 27/29.

Organised by the Popular Front, the meeting on the bank of the River Daugava brought together approximately 500,000 defenders of Latvia’s independence, many of whom went to their guard posts right after the meeting. The Popular Front had assumed actual control in Latvia. It was actively supported by the Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Transportation, which provided agricultural machinery and vehicles, as well as ensured transportation and communication. Thus began the non-violent resistance of Latvian people against the manifestations ofdeath throes of the Soviet occupation.

Largest department of the Popular Front (Vidzeme District of the city of Riga) coordinates the largest region – the Vidzeme Region

The Coordination Centre of the Popular Front of Latvia in the Vidzeme District of the city of Riga was responsible for assigning guard posts for people coming to Riga from the Vidzeme Region – Valmiera, Valka, Limbaži, Alūksne, Cēsis, Gulbene, Madona. Guard posts were set up at the 1) Council of Ministers, 2) Communication Centre on Dzirnavu Street 105, 3) Communication Centre on the corner of Dzirnavu Street and Strēlnieku Street, 4) Jugla Lock Bridge, 5) Brasa Bridge, 6) bridge by the VEF factory and 7) bridge on A. Deglava Street.

We were mentally prepared for the worst

We were responsible for ensuring guards at the objects at all times, catering of guards, providing firewood and fuel for transport, places to sleep, transportation, gas masks, etc. Two telephones were ringing 24/7. The first couple of days, until 15 January, when the meeting of the Interfront was held at the ASK Stadium, were sleepless. Why didn’t we sleep for nearly 72 hours? Because were getting ready for the worst – mass riots by participants of the Interfornt meeting which could serve as a pretext for deploying troops and carrying out repressions against defenders of Latvia’s independence. Thank God, that did not happen.

We, the members of the Popular Front from the Vidzeme District

In the days following 15 January, we took 12-hour shifts at the Coordination Centre. There were four people in each shift. I led one of the shifts, and Andris Grīnbergs led the other (later he was elected Executive Director of the Riga City Council for several terms). Jānis Jākobsons, Ints Miķelsons, Ilmārs Sadovskis, Vladimirs Makarovs, Karmena Mangusa and Leopolds Kleins were working with us in shifts. We also had three skilled drivers – Igors Vids, Uldis Kaņepe and Aivars Legzdiņš, who ensured regular communication and delivery of supplies between the Coordination Centre and guard posts.

We had close cooperation with the Vidzeme Executive Board of the Riga City Council and its representatives – Andrejs Ručs and Zaiga Skrastiņa, who headed the members of the Popular Front representing the Vidzeme District of the city of Riga that stood guard on the above-mentioned bridges and were ready to stop with concrete blocks any movement of tanks and armoured vehicles towards the city centre.

Though there were many chiefs, we followed only the orders of the board of the Popular Front

Our chiefs were the board of the Popular Front, and our representative on the board was Roberts Milbergs. It should be noted that after the failure of the Intrefront meeting on 15 January, from time to time different government representatives and members of the Supreme Council tried to become our chiefs; nevertheless, we followed only the orders of the board of the Popular Front. That was one of the main reasons why the Barricades were so well organised – we carried out only the decisions of the board of the Popular Front.

End of the Barricades

We continued working in full shifts until 26 January because the threat of an attack remained after the killings on 20 January. Finally on 10 February we cancelled the remaining shifts at the Coordination Centre of the Popular Front of Latvia in the Vidzeme District of the city of Riga and ended organisational activities related to the Barricades.

My most vivid memories are of how patriotic, diligent, organised and disciplined were the guards of Riga and the motherland. We see a close resemblance between the events of January 1991 and those of November 1919, when the independence of Latvia was secured by defending Riga. Many of us were brave hearts; some were cowards.

The only difference was that in 1991 the regions of Vidzeme, Zemgale, Latgale and Kurzeme were clenched in one fist in Riga. We won.


15 January 2013


Dzintars Rasnačs, member of the Saeima, National Alliance

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