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Latvia at 100: Baltic country smitten as it toasts independence anniversary

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By Chris Harris
Latvia at 100: Baltic country smitten as it toasts independence anniversary

Latvians are being urged to toast the country’s centenary ... by wearing special mittens.

Culture chiefs made the call ahead of celebrations on Sunday, claiming they are a symbol of Latvia’s history.

Latvia proclaimed itself an independent state on November 18, 1918, sparking a war with Soviet Russia.

The country was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940 — along with neighbouring Lithuania and Estonia — and there were later mass deportations of Latvians to Siberia. Latvia again declared itself independent in 1991, following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

“Latvian mittens are a timeless classic,” said Latvia’s Ministry of Culture. “They also tell the history of Latvia because they have been used in battle by Latvian riflemen, have travelled to Siberia in exile, and are still used here in Latvia.”

Sunday saw a host of events to mark the centenary, including a military parade, concerts, a light display and fireworks.

“Our independent state was not created easily,” said Latvia’s president Raimonds Vējonis on Sunday.

Latvia President Raimonds Vējonis, pictured on the far right of this image.

“We know how difficult it is to safeguard because we have seen how quickly we can lose it and know how hard it is to regain.

“History will always bear witness to the determination of Latvia’s patriots to defend our country.”

Finland, Lithuania and Estonia have also celebrated their centenaries over the last couple of years.