Latvia memorializes Christmas Battles on 2016 silver €5 coin

Commemorative recalls role of Latvian riflemen in World War I fight against German forces
By , Coin World
Published : 12/26/16
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Christmas is celebrated as a time of peace, but during WWI a battle in modern-day Latvia became legendary.

A Latvijas Banka (Latvia’s central bank) 2016 Proof .925 fine silver €5 coin commemorates the “Christmas Battles.”

The coin is dedicated to the Latvian riflemen, heroes of the Christmas Battles, and their eternal contribution to the future. 

The Christmas Battles raged from Dec. 23 to 29, 1916 (Jan. 5 to 11, 1917, in the calendar Russia was using then), along a 30-kilometer-long front line. Latvian national military units, joined in one division, were involved in these battles for the first time.

Latvian forces were the tip of the spear for the Russian defense, and they caught German forces by surprise, camouflaged in white during a blinding snowstorm. 

It was the biggest Russian Empire victory on the Riga front and the German army lost one of its strongest fortifications, but the commander of the 12th Russian Army failed to anticipate the victory and could not exploit it.

An estimated 9,000 Latvian riflemen also perished in the assault, bringing fame to the Latvian fighters “as outstanding and fearless warriors,” according to the bank. “It was a kind of statement and proof of national vitality, a noble sacrifice on the altar of the dream about the would-be State of Latvia.”

The obverse of the coin features a group of Latvian riflemen and a stylized image of the sun, taken from the Latvian riflemen battalion’s soldier badge, having a red-painted central field, eight broken sunbeams, and a slanted sword. 

The reverse features a snowflake, a point of bullet impact, and the inscription “Christmas Battles” in Latvian. 

The coin is struck in a hexagonal shape, with a diameter of 38.61 millimeters at the widest points. The coin weighs 28 grams and has a mintage limit of 5,000 pieces. 

It is official priced at €53 from the Bank of Latvia website

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