Freemasonry in Latvia: a short overview
Masonic tradition in Latvia grew under the varied influence of German, Swedish, Russian and English Freemasonry. Unfortunately this has certain disadvantages because information regarding the history of Freemasonry in Latvia has to be obtained from German, English, Russian, Swedish and Latvian sources.
In the 18th and 19th centuries the Craft was from time to time quite active in Riga, Jelgava (Mitau) and Liepâja (Libau), in the area now known as Latvia. The oldest Lodge “Zum Nordstern” (North Star) was founded in 1750. In 1765 the Lodge was renamed to “Zum Schwerdt” (The Lodge of Sword), and was transferred to Strict Observance. World famous philosopher J.G.Herder was initiated in the Lodge “Zum Schwerdt” in 1766. The most important Lodges in Riga were: "Zum Schwerdt", "Apollo", "Castor", "Konstantin zum gekrönten Adler", "Zur kleinen Welt", and "Astraea". The “Apollo” Lodge and the “Castor” Lodge, both member Lodges of the Grand Lodge of Berlin, received Masonic consecration in 1773 and 1777 respectively.
The Lodge “Konstantin zum gekrönten Adler” (Constantine to the Crowned Eagle) belonged to the Russian Land Lodge in Moscow, but the Lodge “Zur kleinen Welt” (the Small World) to the Swedish System, which changed in 1809 to become the “Euphonie” Choir, which in its turn survived until 1914. The “Astraea” Lodge was founded by the English Provincial Grand Lodge in Petersburg with English Registration No. 504, 1787.
The creation of a free school for poor children and orphans, the setting-up of the first theatre and the publication of a newspaper were all achieved thanks to this group of enlightened Lodges. The archives in Riga contain some documentation about this Lodge, in particular a piece by Herder describing an initiation.
In the capital of the Dukedom of Courland, Mitau (Jelgava), a so-called Masonic activity was developed by Count A. Cagliostro, who was able to keep Count of the Realm F.von Medem and his daughter, the poetess Countess Elisa von der Recke under his spell for quite some while. During his time in Mitau there were two Lodges in 1754, namely “Trois Couers couronnés” (Three crowned hearts) and “Trois Epées couronnées” (Three crowned swords). The latter outlived all other Lodges in Livland and Courland, under the German name of “Zu den drei gekrönten Schwerten”. During the First World War the German Military Lodge “Zum deutschem Schwert im Osten” (Towards German Sword in the East) was in operation.
In 1780 a new Lodge was set up in the port of Libau (Liepâja) by Provincial Grandmaster Ivan Yelaguin on behalf of the English Provincial Lodge of Russia and registered as No. 524 with the Grand Lodge of England. Almost 100 years after the closure of these Lodges, the Military Lodge “Anker und Schwert” (Anchor and Sword) was founded on 28th October 1916 in Libau, and this Lodge was converted in 1919 by the Grand Lodge of Prussia “Zur Freundschaft“ into a St. John Peace Lodge. As a result of political change, the Lodge had to be dissolved on 6th April 1921, but was then reconstituted on the same day as the first independent Latvian St John Lodge under the name of “Enkurs” (Anchor).
In 1924 second Lodge in the Republic of Latvia under the name “Jâòuguns” was set up in Riga. The Lodge was named after the Patron Saint of John Lodges, as well as in consideration for the deep significance of the St. John Festival and the St. John's Fire (“Jâòuguns” in Latvian) in Latvia. Initially it belonged to the Grand Land Lodge of Freemasons of Germany(G.L.L.d.F.v.D Register No. 220), but in 1926 was recognised as regular and complete independent Lodge by the German Grand Lodges (G.L.L.d.F.v.D and the National Mother Lodge of Prussia, "Zu den drei Weltkugeln”), as well as by the GL of Norway, the GL of Sweden, and the GL of F. and A. M. of the State of New York. In 1926 representatives of the Lodge were received in the Castle at Riga by the Grand Master of the G.L. of Sweden, his Majesty King Gustav V. Both Latvian Lodges were closed shortly before occupation of independent Latvia by Soviet forces in 1940, and later, Nazi German forces in 1941. During the post-war period all Masonic activities in Latvia were strictly forbidden by the rule of the Communist Party.
After restoring of independence in 1991, the Craft has been revived gradually in Latvia. First Brethren were admitted to Freemasonry in 1993, and the first post-war Latvian Lodge "Jâòuguns" was reactivated in May 1996 as a regular and complete Lodge (Register No.1010) by the Lodge “Roland zu den Alten Pflichten” of Bremen belonging to the United GL of Germany. Second post-war Latvian Lodge “Ziemeïzvaigzne” (North Star) was founded in November 2001, reactivated in 2002 (Register No.1027), but the third Lodge “Pie Zobena” (Zum Schwerdt) was reactivated by the Lodge “Zum Füllhorn” of Lübeck in October 2002. The Grand Lodge of Latvia was consecrated by the United GL of Germany in Palace of Meþotne on 8th of March 2003. Initially we had around 60 Brethren in three Lodges, ritually working at least once a month. Grand Lodge of Latvia is officially recognized by the United GL of Germany, GL of Estonia, GL AFuAM of Lithuania, GL AFuAM of Bulgaria, GL of Russia, and GL of the Czech Republic.
At the founding of our Grand Lodge, the founders adopted the following principle: respectable men of all levels of society and all nationalities, who live in our homeland, shall be accepted into the member Lodges. We wish and hope that the finest harmony amongst the Brothers of our Lodges, of whatever nationality, will continue to be the rule, for here we should forget all political and national discord and see ourselves as Mankind and Brothers. Only with these sentiments of Love of Mankind and Brotherliness should life in our Grand Lodge be conducted, culminating in the highest level of harmony.