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Historical State Awards of Latvia

The Three - Star Order

The first civilian order of the Republic of Latvia.


It was in the first half of 1921 that the Latvian Constitutional Council began to discuss the need for a civilian order in Latvia.  Delegates prepared statutes and a design for an Order of the Wreath of Oak, but the Constitutional Council rejected the proposal, explaining that before the Constitution was approved, it could not be clear whether a democratic country such as Latvia should have orders in the first place.


The Saeima returned to the issue later, deciding that orders did not cause any harm.  Indeed, they encouraged people to be hard-working.


President Jānis Čakste proclaimed the law on the Order of Three Stars on March 25, 1924.  The Order of Three Stars, First Class was awarded to President Čakste and Foreign Minister Zigfrīds Anna Meierovics on February 24, 1925, as they had been the two officials most responsible for establishing the order.  Three days later, the Order of Three Stars, First Class was awarded to Prime Minister Kārlis Ulmanis and the great poet and playwright Rainis.  The motto for the order was “Per aspera ad astra” (“To The Stars Through Difficulty”).  The order was designed by the sculptor Gustavs Šķilters.

 

 

The Order of Three Stars is a Maltese cross with white enamel and a gilded edge.  At the centre of the front of the cross is a blue-enamel medallion in a stylised gilded frame.  At the middle of the medallion are three gold stars to symbolise the merger of the historical regions of Kurzeme, Vidzeme and Latgale under the flag of the Republic of Latvia. On the reverse of the cross is a gilded medallion with the motto “Per aspera ad astra,” and the text “Latvijas Republika – 1918. gada 18. novembris” (“The Republic of Latvia – November 18, 1918”).


The Order of Three Stars, First Class comes with a large silver star with five points.  The distance from the centre of the star to the edge of each point is 44 mm.  At the centre of the star is a blue-enamel medallion in a gilded frame.  At the centre of the medallion are three gold stars, while the frame bears the text “Par Tēviju” (“For the Fatherland”).


The Order of Three Stars, Second Class comes with a small silver star with five points.  It is identical to the larger one, except that the distance from the centre to the edge is just 41 mm.
 

 

 

 

 

The diameter of the cross is 49 mm for Commanders of the Order and 40 mm for Officers and Bearers of the Order.


The chain of the order is made of 10 gilded links.  The ribbon is light blue with golden edges.


The medal of honour of the Order of Three Stars is a round shield with a diameter of 30 mm.  On its front is an image of the cross of the order, and on the back there is the text “Par Tēviju,” with a flaming heart underneath.  The shield is surrounded by a wreath of oak leaves.  The Medal of Honour, First Class is gilded, the Medal of Honour, Second Class is silvered, and the Medal of Honour, Third Class is bronzed.


The Order has five classes, along with three levels of medals of honour.  People who receive the Order of Three Stars, First Class are dubbed Commanders of the Great Cross, and those who receive the Order of Three Stars, Second Class are known as Grand Officers.  For the next three levels the designations are, respectively, Commander, Officer and Bearer.  Recipients of the Order of Three Stars, First Class who are of particular distinction may also be given the chain of the order.
 

 

During the first period of Latvian independence, when money was scarce, recipients of the Order of Three Stars had to pay for it themselves – 150 lats for First Class, and LVL 85, 35, 22 and 20 for the subsequent classes.  The statutes did not speak to posthumous awarding of the Order of Three Stars, but that was not an issue that ever came up.  In this, the Order of Three Stars was different from the military Order of Lāčplēsis, which was awarded posthumously to men such as Col Oskars Kalpaks and Col Frīdrihs Briedis.  The statutes of the Order of Three Stars say that the order is given to people who have served the fatherland by engaging in government, local government, public, cultural or economic work:  “An achievement is an outstanding piece of work done once, as well as long-term and exemplary activities with visible results.  An achievement is also a selfless performance of one’s duties under particularly difficult circumstances when the state was established and liberated, strengthened and improved.  Work for the Latvian state or in the territory of the Latvian state that has lasted for less than 25 years does not in and of itself grant the right to receive the order.  Faultless service for 25 and more years can be a reason to award the order, provided that at least five of those years have been the first years of the independent Republic of Latvia.  Public and other workers can be rewarded for the same long-term work in society.”  The regulations also said that people are not allowed to nominate themselves for the Order of Three Stars.
The rules furthermore said that people who were awarded the Order of Three Stars had to come and pick it up in two years’ time.  Otherwise, the award was annulled.


As of May 1940, the Order of Three Stars, First Class had been awarded to 285 persons, with 391, 1,323, 2,194 and 4,617 people respectively receiving the second, third, fourth and fifth class of the order.  A great many people were given medals of honour.  In 1930, the Cabinet of Ministers declared that approximately 1% of state and local government officials could be granted the Order of Three Stars each year.  During the last 15 years before World War II, however, more people were granted the order each year than had been the case during the first 10 years of Latvian independence.


The last people to receive the Order of Three Stars before the war began were Col Andrejs Lejas-Sauss, who was director of the Army Economic Store, and the chairman of the Jaunroze Parish Council, P. Tilts.  During the war and the subsequent Soviet occupation, the Order of Three Stars disappeared along with the independent Latvian state.


On October 25, 1994, Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis proclaimed a law on the reinstatement of the Order of Three Stars.  Just two weeks later, on November 7, 1994, the order was presented to its recipients once again.