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.
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