Parading in historical costumes in Riga, Source: Riga Municipality

Riga gets to host the Hanseatic Days for its 820th birthday

Riga gets to host the Hanseatic Days for its 820th birthday

The Hanseatic League was revived in 1980 as ‘new Hanse’ and it aims to foster links between historical League cities today

This year, the Latvian capital of Riga is celebrating its 820th birthday. On 29 July, its municipal website announced that the celebrations will include a hosting of the 41st edition of the Hanseatic Days festival. The event will take place from 19 to 22 August and the theme proposed by the hosts for the arts and culture program will be ‘Sailing in the Centuries’.

The Hanseatic Days had a different role in the 14th-17th centuries 

Historically, Riga was one of the cities that encouraged free trade, so it became one of the most important Hanseatic cities in the Middle Ages. For more than 300 years, Hanseatic merchants from 400 cities around the Baltic and Northern Seas were united by three values ​​- water, city and freedom. 

The Hanseatic League was something of a medieval precursor to modern multi-lateral and multinational organizations, such as the UN or G-7. It was a discussion forum on economic, trade and political matters for the members of the League, which were in the centre of economic life in Northern Europe.

The Hanseatic Days, between the 14th and 17th centuries, were thus the supreme council and decision-making body of the bloc, even if its resolutions rarely had binding power, given that they could not always satisfy each city’s interests. It reminds us a little bit of the European Union today, doesn’t it?

Still, the League is also a powerful reminder of the sovereignty, power and independence that cities once held. The decline of the bloc thus logically coincided with the rise of the absolutist powers and the centralization of the states.

At the beginning of the 1980s, the permanent members of the Hanseatic League began to work together again and one after another the former Hanseatic cities started to meet to discuss the development in view of the modern challenges, societal issues, climate change and urban-water interactions, among other topics.

What to expect during this year’s Hanseatic Days?

In the contemporary Hanseatic days, cultural heritage has taken on an important role and so has its promotion among the Members. Respecting these values ​​but also respecting today's epidemiological precautions, the Riga Hanseatic Days cultural program will include several walking routes, fairs, musical events, virtual events, youth activities, environmental installations and exhibitions. 

Although not all events of the Hanseatic Days art and culture program will be available in person during the pandemic, everyone will be able to follow them remotely on or watch events on large screens in the Dome Square, Freedom Square and Vermane Garden, which will also serve as the event’s virtual information centres. On the big screens, every Rigan and guest of the city will be able to watch video greetings prepared by other Hanseatic cities.



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