The World

Head for the Baltics for today’s Geo Quiz.

Today marks the 90th anniversary of independence for the country we’re looking for.

This country declared independence from the Russian empire in 1918, just as World War One came to an end.

But its independence didn’t last that long.

In 1944 the Soviets occupied this country, an arrangement that remained in place until 1991.

So can you name this Baltic republic?

For today’s Geo Quiz, we’re looking for a country that’s twice declared independence, first from the Russians, and then again from the Soviets.

That country is Latvia.

And it’s celebrating its National Day today.

The country’s fight for independence after World War One is depicted in a film now reaching American audiences…as The World’s David Leveille reports.


“Riga sarkis” or the Defenders of Riga is the biggest film to come out of Latvia in a long time. This historical drama tells the story of the events that engulfed Latvia in the aftermath of WW1.

Seikis: Every country in the world must have its own movie epic story, how it was created.

Andrei Seikis is one of the film’s producers and writers.

Seikis: This film is particularly about how Latvians gained independence from Russian empire and the main fight was in Riga.

Here’s a very quick history lesson: Following WWI, Latvia declares its independence on this day in 1918. But,a defeated German general still stationed in the newly independent Latvia has a different idea. German General von der Golz conspires with a Russian officer to take over Latvia and Estonia. The plot thickens in November 1919. The rogue German general orders his battalions to attack Riga.

The filmmakers created an elaborate movie set to shoot this battle scene. They built it just outside Riga, even recreating the Daugava River. Seikis says crews then demolished much of the set to depict the bombed out city.

Seikis: Of course I was crying in this scene because when all city was built up then in one or two three days my art director destroyed all the set because after Germans attacked everything was smashed.

The movie set, or what’s left of it, is now one of Latvia’s leading tourist attractions. The film goes on to tell the story of 11,000 brave Latvian men and women who pushed back and defeated the Germans. And there’s a love story to help propel the movie, to romantic if not heroic heights.

Peteris Podvinskis- is First Secretary of the Latvian Embassy in Washington. He says the film inspires patriotic feelings among Latvian American audiences:

Podvinskis: It reflects on events which were crucial in the history of republic of Latvia. When city of Riga was liberated from german russian troops it was great start to liberating all the territory of Latvia.

The Latvian embassy is sponsoring screenings of the film on this, Latvia’s National Day, including one today in Silver Spring, Maryland.

The films producers of are hoping for even more recognition here… The Defenders of Riga is Latvia’s submission for best foreign language film at this year’s Academy Awards.

For The World, I’m David Leveille.

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