The City of Riga developed on the right bank
of the Daugava River about 15 km from the
The natural border on the south and east was the River Riga, the
tributary of the Daugava, that widening formed
Riga Lake, a
convenient place for a harbour.
In the territory of the present
historical centre as early as the 12th century there were
villages of the local inhabitants: one at the so-called
Riga Lake, the other at the inflow of
the Riga into the
After the Bishop's seat was moved to
Riga in 1201, the first German
settlers built their dwellings in the vicinity, surrounding their
settlement with a rampart and wooden fence of pales - palisade.
Already in 1207 a stone wall was built, later to be extended as far
as the Daugava bank. The wall enclosed the villages of the local
inhabitants and since 1234 it embraced also the inhabited northern
area. Thus, the ultimately 2.2 km long defensive stone wall marked
off 28 ha of the city territory.
In the 15th-16th
centuries a defensive rampart was built on the southern side of the
city, the territory of which inside the rampart grew to 35 ha. The
number of inhabitants in 1558 reached 12,000. The size of the city
remained unchanged up to the demolition of the fortification system.
With 14,337 people inhabiting the rampart-enclosed city in 1844, the
prospect of further growth was exhausted.
Art Nouveau Architecture of Riga", Exhibition catalogue, Riga,
The Rural Area of the
The early formation of the rural area of
Riga is not reflected in
historical sources. The issue of the territory in which the city
enjoyed special rights was treated in the document signed on
March 15, 1226 confirming the boundaries of
the rural area of Riga.
Maximum exploitation of the rural area
for the benefit of the city was inconvenienced by the fact that the
territory was interspersed with the lands of the Dom Chapter, the
Order and several monasteries. The city consolidated its proprietary
rights to land by buying it out in most cases, especially during the
first years of the Livonian war when the Order experienced grave
money difficulties and sold off its lands to
Riga. Certain territories were
also granted to the city by the Swedish kings.
In the course of several centuries the
rural area of the Riga City
developed from a thinly populated territory into an unevenly
inhabited one, especially densely populated on the approaches to the
city, thus securing the growth of the city suburbs.
Certain more densely populated places
outside the Riga rampart have been mentioned
in records as early as the 14th century. Since the
17th century the rapid development of the suburbs
highlighted the basic tendencies of their growth around the
significant traffic routes.
In 1626 the Swedes
marked the suburbs off with palisades, thus including them in a
united defence system. The territory, surrounded with ramparts and
palisades, covered 226 ha. In 1772 a vacant zone - esplanade - was
formed in front of the rampart, and the palisade fencing was
transferred behind the esplanade. In 1784 the total
Riga and the
suburbs on the right bank within the palisades reached already 440
ha. People continued to settle in the vicinity of the city outside
the palisades, and the fencing which had lost its function was
removed in 1808. Within two centuries the suburbs had considerably
outgrown the inner city.
Pardaugava, the suburban area on the left
bank, developed slower and in the 18th century consisted of
separate densely populated places, that could not yet be considered
a fully formed suburb.
Division and City Borders
Up to the 1780s the administrative boundaries of the city
practically coincided with its outer defence line of palisades. The
year 1787 brought changes when Russia's police regulations were
applied to Riga whereby the city and its suburbs were divided into
districts and blocks, thus outlining the boundaries of the area
subject to the city police operations (3,300 ha). These boundaries
can be considered the forerunners of
In 1828 the boundaries of the city
territory, i. e. the city police precinct, were officially marked,
setting the city (5,200 ha) apart from the rural territory that fell
under the supervision of the rural police.
City Without Ramparts
In mid-19th century the
rampart-surrounded city was tiny in comparison with the suburbs. The
rampart system was military outdated, that is why the eastern
ramparts were levelled off in 1857-1863, and the historical centre
of the city merged with the suburbs.
Riga grew into a metropolis. The
number of its inhabitants increased from 61,800 in 1857 to 517,000
Master plan for the
of the city centre of Riga
Art Nouveau Architecture of Riga", Exhibition catalogue, Riga,
However, the territory of the city was
not compact and its boundaries had not been fixed. In 1877, when
Russia's law on cities was enforced,
certain territories of the rural area fell under
Riga administration, practically
removing the boundaries of 1828 between the city and its rural area.
The boundary issue grew even more complicated in1888 when part of
the rural area which was more densely built and was not the property
of landed estates was brought under the supervision of the
Riga City police. Thus, in the early
20th century the
borders of the city juridically still marked off 5,200 ha while in
reality the administration of the city supervised a territory of
Territory of Riga and Its Landed Property during the
period of the Republic of Latvia (1918-1940)
The law "The Administrative Boundaries of
the Riga City", adopted by the Saeima
(Latvian Parliament) on February 24,
legally confirmed the new boundaries that had been formed over
nearly 100 years. Extensive territories on both banks of Daugava now
were a part of the city, the territory of
iga covered 20,580 ha and in 1939
it reached 21,078 ha.
When the State of Latvia was established
Riga owned vast landed property
(86,438 ha) that had been acquired over the previous centuries.
Outside the city administrative boundaries there lay 82,768 ha of
this territory, while only 3,670 ha were within the city
As a result of the agrarian reform of the
Government of the Republic of
situation with the city lands slightly changed. In 1938 the
territory within the administrative boundaries was 6,800 ha, outside
- 78,130 ha. The total nationalization in 1940 did away with all of
the city property.
the Administrative Division of the
Riga after the
Loss of Independence (1940-1991)
Upon its occupation
Riga was mechanically divided into
six territorial administrative regions according to the system
existing in the Soviet Union. Although the German
occupation power abolished this division, it was re-established
after the Red Army took over in 1944.
In the post-war period boundaries of
regions, their number and names have changed several times. The
present administrative system of Riga was effectuated in 1969; the
names of the regions were confirmed on December 28, 1990 at the time of the national
In the post-war period the administrative
boundaries of Riga have been extended a number
of times; the last was in 1976. As a result territory of the city
increased to 30,716 ha and did not change up to the last year of the
Riga, the capital of the
Latvia, be like on the threshold of
the next millenium?
The City Development Plan for 1995-2005,
confirmed by the Riga City Council (Dome), outlines Riga as a
healthy and benevolent city, well-balanced, rich in historical and
cultural landmarks, animated and prosperous, harmonious and beautiful, breathing
Latvian spirit and united with the neighbours.