World War II: Soviet Invasion of Latvia (June 1940)

Soviet invasion of Latvia
Figure 1.-- This group of Latvians watched the Red Army troops pour into the country as part of the Soviet invasion (June 1940). A reader tells us that t he woman in the picture is Minna Briedis and her father Janis Briedis. It most likely was taken in Talsi, Latvia.

Stalin, as France was collapsing in the West and the world's attentin largely diverted, ordered the invasion of the Baltics. This ended the brief two decades of independence. The first military action occured in Estonia. The Soviet Baltic Fleet executed a naval blockade of Estonia (June 14). The Soviets also cut air links. Soviet planes shot down a Finnish commercial airliner 'Kaleva'. US Foreign Service officer Henry W. Antheil, Jr. carrying U.S. diplomatic pouches was killed. Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov accused the Latvians of colluding with the Estonians to form an anti-Soviet alliance. He claimed this violated the 1940 Mutual Assistance Pact. The Soviet Government issued ultimatums demanded the establishment of a pro-Soviet Government and permission to garrison additional Soviet military forces in the country. (The Soviets had already brought more trops into Latvia and the other Baltic states than allowed under the existng 1940 arrangements. Before the Latvian Government could even react to the new demands, the Soviets invaded Lithuania and attacked Latvian border guards at Maslenki (June 15). The next day the Soviets invaded Latvia and Estonia (June 16). The Red Army poured across the border in force. There was virtually no resistance. The Soviets disarmed the Latvian Army and were within a day in full control of Latvia (June 17). The Latvian government like the other Baltic governments s had reached the obvious conclusion that resistance was futil. It looked like Germany had won the war in the West. There was thus no possibility of Allied assistance. The Red Army was massive, the small Latvian Army could not seriously resist. And as a result of the earlier accord, the Red Army was not just at the border, but stationed in bases inside the country. Thus the Government decided not to resist and thus avoid futile bloodshed. The Communist Party in each Baltic state with the support of Soviet troops staged a coup seizing control of the Government.


Field, Rebekah. E-mail message, March 26, 2014.


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Created: 7:42 PM 2/27/2005
Last updated: 4:45 PM 3/26/2014