Rīga restores Meierovics name to boulevard

Despite the reluctance of Rīga’s mayor and of a commission that oversees place names, the Rīga City Council has approved restoring a downtown boulevard’s name in honor of Latvia’s first foreign minister, Zigfrīds Anna Meierovics.

Basteja Boulevard, which runs at the edge of the Old Town district, will again become Z.A. Meierovics Boulevard, the council decided July 21. The boulevard was originally named for Meierovics from 1929 to 1940, but before that had been called Basteja Boulevard—a reference to the old city bastion.

The council voted 34-11, with 8 absentions, to restore the Meierovics name.

Current Foreign Minister Māris Riekstiņš, who had suggested restoring the name as a way to honor Meierovics and the work he did to gain international recognition for Latvia, applauded the council’s decision.

“Restoring Zigfrīds Anna Meierovics Boulevard on the eve of Latvia’s 90th anniversary is a great appreciation of Latvia’s first foreign minister and a wonderful gift to all of Latvia’s inhabitants,” Riekstiņš said in a Ministry of Foreign Affairs press release.

Meierovics became foreign minister when Latvia declared its independence in 1918. He was killed in a one-car accident in 1925.

The World Federation of Free Latvians (Pasaules brīvo latviešu apvienība, or PBLA) backed restoring the Meierovics name to the boulevard. Meierovics’ late son, Gunārs, headed the PBLA from 1990-1993.

Rīga Mayor Jānis Birks opposed renaming the boulevard, suggesting instead that Rīga International Airport be retitled to honor Meierovics. However, that idea was strongly criticized by Transport Minister Ainārs Šlesers.

Renaming Basteja Boulevard also was overwhelmingly opposed by respondents to a poll conducted in June for the city council by the SKDS survey firm. The poll found 79.2 percent of respondents were not in favor of renaming the boulevard, according to a city council press release.

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

2 thoughts on “Rīga restores Meierovics name to boulevard

  1. The twice Prime Minister of Latvia and its first Foreign Minister, Zigfrīds Anna Meierovics certainly deserves the gratitude of the Latvian Nation. During the Soviet occupation the communists worked to eradicate his name and renamed the boulevard Basteja. It is also noted that the Soviets had used his gravesite monument for target practice. He had left a political impact on the Bolshevics. Ironically of the 79.2%, who voted against the boulevard being renamed after Meierovics, most were historically clueless about his accomplishments. By comparison the left oriented Rainis and Aspāzija survived the defamation of having their street names removed by the Soviets. While Meierovics successfully negotiated the de facto and de jure recognitions for Latvia with the international community following initial strong opposition, he acknowledged that without the defeat of the Russian White Army Latvia would not have received the critically needed international recognition and support. The defeat of the Russian White Army and the Kerensky provisional government is credited to Jukums Vācietis and the Red Latvian Riflemen. It was a brilliant and selfless strategy by Vācietis who knew from the start that Latvian independence would not be possible with out defeating the elements of the Russian Monarchy. While it would be politically a risky move today by the undereducated Latvian politicians, one day I hope there is also a Jukums Vācietis Boulevard in Rīga. But, it will take political guts and courage to bring it about.

  2. I am glad to see that Latvia has recognized the accomplishments of its first foreign minister by naming a street after him.

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