A few weeks ago we featured this beautiful Latvian note on our bi-monthly newsletter (if you missed it – check it out here). While I was writing the short description my heart was so full of happy memories from my time spent in Riga, I decided to make Latvia the next country in this EU series.
While there were banknotes issued in 1863 these kop denominations are extremely rare and we have never seen one. The Republic of Latvia emerged after WWI and in 1919 the Latvian rubli was introduced. These early addition notes are again quite rare, but we have some available on our website. Small exchange notes in the kapeikas (or Kap) denomination were also issued in 1920, this are very small notes (approx 2″ by 1 1.2 inch) available on our website.
By 1923 The Bank of Latvia had issued a different type of banknote, the latu. The latu banknotes were being issued up until 1940 when the USSR annexed Latvia. On 10 October 1940 the Bank of Latvia was replaced by the Latvia Republican Office of the USSR State Bank, and with that change the USSR’s monetary system was gradually introduced into Latvia. The exchange rate was set as 1 lat = 1 ruble and these two currencies remained in circulation together. However this joint circulation only lasted a few months, and without any notice the Latvian lats were removed from circulation on 25 March 1941 and the USSR ruble became the only legal tender in Latvia.
Only a few months later in June 1941 the German army moved into Latvia. Despite this new occupation the USSR ruble remained in circulation as legal tender. However, the new conversion rate set 10 rubles = 1 Reichsmark. With the end of WWII the USSR once again occupied the country of Latvia.
While I was in Riga I was able to visit the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia, which I highly recommend. This museum shares the history and stories of 51 years of foreign occupation in Latvia. I have been fortunate enough to visit several emotional and historical museums and sites through my travels, while a lot of these are difficult to see and remember I believe it is our duty to visit and learn about all aspects of history. This museum does a phenomenal job of keeping this uncensored history alive and remembered. I always say I find banknotes fascinating and important due to the history they represent, and I believe it is important to look at the gap between Latvian issued currency and remember the suffering of this beautiful country. I’ve written about how banknotes depict the values and beliefs of that country, and for 50+ years Latvia was unable to issue their own banknotes due to this occupation.
Latvia, as well as Estonia and Lithuania struggled to fight for their independence from the USSR and on the 50th anniversary of the Hitler-Stalin pact, on 23 August 1989 over two million people joined hands creating a ≈675.5 km (420 mile) unbroken human chain stretching from Tallinn via Riga to Vilnius.
In my opinion, this powerful and unified stand from three countries is utterly incredible and should never be forgotten. On 4 May 1990 Latvia adopts the “Declaration on the Renewal of Independence of the Republic of Latvia”. On September 6, 1991, after a failed coup attempt, the Soviet Union recognized Latvia’s independence.
By 1992 Latvia had new currency in place, new brightly colored notes were called Latvijas rubli. However in 1993 new banknotes were issued returning to the Latvian latu. I can only imagine how much pride the country must have felt designing and creating this new issue of latu notes. In 2004 Latvia joined the EU and ten years later Latvia became the 18th country to adopt the euro on 1 January 2014. To help with the transition into a new currency the euro and latu were used simultaneously for two weeks; and on 14 January 2014 the Latvian latu was removed from circulation.
I know this blog may have strayed a bit from the past EU blogs, however I wanted to discuss this great country and the brief years of producing their own currency. For 50+ years Latvians banknotes was not their own, and then only twelve years after regaining their own currency the euro removed the latu from circulation. Perhaps Latvians were excited to adopt the euro, connecting deeper to the EU; however I am curious as to those who felt saddened by the loss of the latu. As always all thoughts and comments are always encouraged. I genuinely would love to learn others opinions on this transition to the euro.
PS. If you’d like to check out our collection of Latvian notes you can do so here. A lot of this notes are very rare, and our inventory is limited due to this. However I wanted to write about Latvia; therefore I apologize for the limited availability and as always if there is any specific note you are interested in just let us know and we will be happy to try and help you locate it.