The Latvian Riflemen were a military battalion of the Imperial Russian Army when first founded in 1915. The purpose of this battalion was to defend the Baltic territories against the Germans during World War I.
Initially, the Riflemen were made up of volunteers, but from 1916 onwards, the battalion was formed by conscription. Around 40,000 troops were drafted into the Latvian Riflemen Division. The battalion was used as an elite force in both the Imperial and Bolshevik armies.
Despite suffering from heavy casualties, they managed to break the German line of defense. Sadly this costly effort was in vain. The Russian Army lost in excess of 26,000 soldiers in the failed attack, of those casualties about 9,000 Latvian riflemen lost their lives, which was about a third of the battalion. The high number of casualties led to feelings of resentment toward the Russian generals and the Tsar. This resentment caused an increase in support for the Bolsheviks, who at the time were advocating for an end to the war.
The red granite statue is considered controversial because it was originally dedicated to the Latvian Red Riflemen, some of whom went on to become Lenin’s personal bodyguards.
Some residents of Riga, consider the monument as a symbol of the old communist system and would love to see it torn down. However, other people from the city believe that it is actually a necessary tribute to the Latvians who fought during the early years of WWI. The statue is now said to honor all Latvian Riflemen.