World War II: Soviet Agressions--Latvia (1939-40)

Figure 1.--These Latvians in Riga during Spring 1940 mechanically salute the arriving Soviet troops as Stalin seizes control of their country. Wide World.

After the outbreak of World War II (September 1939) Latvia was in an impossible position. The NAZI defeat of Poland destroyed the only buffer in the region. Unbeknownst at the time, the NAZI-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact had assigned Latvia and the other Baltic Republics to the Soviets. The Soviets immediatelt began making demands on the Latvian Government. Latvia was forced to sign a 10-year mutual assistance treaty leasing Latvian bases to the Soviet Union (October 5, 1939). The treaty allowed the Soviets to garison Latvia with 30,000 troops. After Hitler called the Baltic Germans home to the Reich, Latvia also signed a repatriation treaty with the NAZIs covering the return of 60,000 Baltic Germans. After two decades of independence, Lativia was invaded first by the Soviet Union. The fall of France appears to have been the immediate cause of Soviet action. The Soviets accused the Latvians of colluding with the Estonians to form an anti-Soviet alliance. The Soviets demanded the establishment of a pro-Soviet Givernment and permission to garrison additional Soviet military forces in the country. Before the Latvian Government could react, the Soviet Union occupied the country (June 17, 1940). The Soviets then staged a closely supervised election which resulted in a Cimmunist Government. The new Goverment proceeded to Sovitize the Latvian Government and military. The newly elected parliament petition the Soviet Goverment for admitance to the Soviet Union (July 21) which was granted (August 5). Many Latvians were arrested. Quite a nunber were executed. Others were received sentences of 10 and 25 years under under Article 58 Section 2 of the Soviet criminal code. [Solzhenitsyn, p. 62.] Few in 1940 were involved in armed rebellion.

World War I

Latvia at the time of World War I was a part of the Russian Empire. The initial fighting was in East Prussia and Poland, but after Hindenburg and Ludendorf snashed Russian armies at Tannenburg and other battles (1914), the Germans moved into Poland and the Baltics (1915). Terrible Russian losses caused theRussian Army to mutiny and the Tsar to abdicate. This was followed by the Nolshecick Revolution (October 1917). Latvian nationalists were anti-Communist abd formed the Latvian National Ccouncil (LNC) (October 29, 1917). German occupation forces did not allow the KNC to organize an independent government or recruit an army. The Germans were intentent on organising Latvia as a Baltic duchy. The Soviets and Germans finally signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (March 3, 1918). The Treaty obliged the Bolsheviks to accept the loss of Latvia and the other Baltic states. The Allied offensive in the West broke the German Army and an Armistice was signed ending the War (November 11, 1918). The German defeat in the West changed the situation in the East. The Germans were required to abrogated the Treaty of Brest-Litosk. This meant that the status of the Baltic states was unclear. The Latvians established a People's Council which proclaimed an independent republic. Karlis Ulmanis was the first prime minister (November 17). The next day The Council declared Latvian independence. The Latvians, however, had to fight the Bolshevicks to secure their independence.

Russian Civil War (1917-21)

The Latvian Rifles and the Latvian Chekists played an important role in the Russian Civil War following World War I figting with the Red Army. [Solzhenitsyn, p. 72.] Latvians figting with the Reds were released by the Latvian Government after the end of the Civil War. Many Latvians worked in NKVD jails in the 1920s. [Solzhenitsyn, p. 189.] When the Stalinst Terror began these pro-Communist Latvians were arrested and disaapeared into the Gulag. Stalin also ordered the closing of Latvian cultural organizations and newspapers. [Solzhenitsyn, p. 72.]

Independent Republic (1918-40)

The ndependent Latvia that emerged from Russian control was a parlimentary democracy. That democracy was unvle to survive the strains of the Great Depression. Prime Minister Karlis Ulmanis seized control of the country a year after Hitler's rize to power (1934). He ruled as a dictator and dissolved the Saeima (parliament). There were political arrestts, including Communists and Fascists. Ulmanis censorsed the press. One consequence of this was that many Latvians were poorly informed of the growing danger from both the Soviets and Germans. Economic policies included Latvianization, mening largely the break up of large German-owned estates. Ulmanis was not, however, a fasist or NAZI sympthizer. He supressed the Baltischer Brudebund, a political group that achieved some influence among ethnic Germans in Latvia. This was a NSI-affliated organization which demanded that Latvia be incorpated into the Reich. Ulmanis became president (1936). He persued economic policies that brought the country out of the Deoression. Ulmanis did not, however, give any major attention to military modernizaion leaving the country virtually undefended. Ulmanis and other Latvian leaders were unable to decided on whether it was the NAZIs or Soviet Unin that most threatened Latvan indendence making it difficult to persue a coherent defense strategy. [Lumans] There were also Communists in Latvia. Peteris Kuzeris lead a batallion of volunteers fighting with he Republic in Spain (1936). Stalin honored his service with the Order of Lenin (1937). Only a few months later the NKVD arrested him in Moscow durng the Great Terror. He was tried as a spy, sentenced, and shot. As Europe moved toward war, Latvia desired nothing more than to be "left alone to follow its own destiny'. [Lumans] Wedged between Germany and the Soviet Union, however, Latvia as an accident of geography was caught in the middle of the most destructive war in history. The people of Latvia would pay a heavy price.

Soviet Military Moves (1939)

The Soviet Union began a massive military build-up in ythe Lenningrad- Baltic area (early 1939). (This build up did not occur along the Lithuanian border until September 1939 because Lithuania's eastern border was until 1939 with Poland and not the Soviet Union.) The Soviet Lenningrad Military District at the beginning of 1939 had 17 Divisions with 10 percent of the Red Army. As 1939 progressed the forces available were expanded with various mobilizations. The Soviets by late September had a force of 437,000 men, 3,600 artillery pieces, and ober 3,000 tanks ready to pour into the Baltic states.

NAZI-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact (August 1939)

As war approached, both the Allies and the NAZIs during the summer of 1939 attempted to negotiate arragements with the Soviet Union (summer 1939). The Allies in these negotiations, unlike the NAZIs, refused to accept Soviet demands for territory in eastern Europe. Stlalin chose to deal with Hitler and the NAZIs. Actually this was also a choice for war and aggression. What the Allies wanyed was arrangements with the Soviet Union to prevent Hitler from launching a war. What Hitler wanted was a secure eastern borrder so he could launch a war. Stlalin choise the war option. Sovirt historiand after the War attempted to distort this. There is no real conytoversy here. Stalin decided to join Hitler and become a partner in aggression. The NAZI-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact or Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact shocked the world (August 23). It also opened the way for the War Hitler wanted. By securing the Reich's eastern border, the NAZIs were able to prepare for a war in the West. Not only did the Pact allow the NAZIs and Soviets to invade and partition Poland, but in a secret codicil, the two aggressor nations partitioned all of eastern Europe. The extent of that partition was not all togther clear. The Baltics went to the Soviets, but the actual status and border with Lithuania was nit entirely clear. Also the NAZIs did not agree to aSoviet seizure of Poland. Romania was another bone of contention, especially as the Ploesti oil fields were essential to German war planning.

Invasion of Poland: World War II (September 1939)

Hitler launched Wprld War II with a Blitzkrieg invasion of Poland (September 1). Britain and Frace declared war (September 3), but made no real effort to aid POland. The county'd fte was sealed whe the Soviets as forseen by the NAZI-Societ Non-Agression Pact, invaded from the east (September 17). Poland had no possibility of resisting the inslsught of these two military giants. The NAZIs and Soviets quickly partioned Poland and began a comprehensive, brutal campaign to obliterate Polish national life. Latvia was as a result in an impossible position. The NAZI defeat of Poland destroyed the only buffer to Soviet power in the region. Unbeknownst at the time, the NAZI-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact had assigned both Latvia and Estonia to the Soviets. There was some diaagreement over Lithuania.

Soviet Demands (September-October 1939)

The Soviets immediatelt with the invasion of Poland began intimidating all three Baltic republics. Soviet war ships entered coastal waters and the Red Air Force as ordered to make surveillance flights over the air space of all three counries (Deptember 25). The message was clear because none of the Baltic states had sizeable air forces. The Soviet Union could bomb Baltic cities at will. And newreels of NAZI air attacks of Warsaw and other Polish cities made it very clear what this meant. The Soviets proceeded to make formal demands on each of the three Baltic states. The ininital Soviet demands were for military baseing rights. Estonian was the first to comply (September 28). The Latvian Government was forced to sign a Pact of Defense and Mutual Assistance. This was a 10-year mutual assistance treaty leasing bases to the Soviet Union (October 5). The treaty allowed the Soviets to garison Latvia with 30,000 troops. Lithuania signed a similar agreement (October 10). These agreements were forced on the Baltic states by a massive Soviet mobilization along the border of Estonia and Latvia which had began early in 1939. What would have happened in the Baltics if theybhad refused was show cased in Finland.

The Winter War (November 1939-March 1940)

The Soviets demanded that Finland make the same concessions demanded from the Baltic republics. The Finns refused. Thus it was the Soviet Union not Germany that first struck after the invasion pf Poland. Only 2 months after seizing eastern Poland, the Soviet Union on November 30, 1939 invaded Finland, launching the Winter War. Stalin sought a security belt to the west. Finland was the next step in that process. Soviet planes and naval vessels bombarded Finish cities. Roosevelt called in the "rape of Finland". [Freidel, p. 324.] Former Ameican President Herbert Hoover, who had organized American relief efforts for Belgium during World War I, headed voluntary war relief for the Finns. (The President hoped that Hoover would work with Mrs. Roosevelt to work on Government sponsored civilian war relief for the Allies. Such was Hoover animosity toward Roosevelt that he refused. If he had agreed, he suely would haave eventually headed American World War II relief efforts. [Freidel, p.325.] The Finns and Soviets reached a peace agreement in March 1940. The Soviets got the security belt they wanted around Lenningrad. The Soviet invasion of Finland had significant repercussions. The Allies for a time considered actively aiding Finland, but the Germans offensives in the West soon made that impossible. The poor performance of the Red Army in Finland was a factor in Hitler's decission to attack the Soviet Union before Britain had been defeated.

Baltic Germans

After Hitler called the Baltic Germans home to the Reich, Latvia also signed a repatriation treaty with NAZI Germany covering the return of 60,000 Baltic Germans. Radio broadcasts from Germany ordered the Baltic Germans "home to the Reich". Most dutifully complied. The NAZIs conceived of using the Baltic Germans to populate areas of Poland annexed to the Reich. The NAZIs began expelling Poles from these areas and replacing them with the Baltic Germans. This proved a more complicated process than the NAZIs anticipated.

Stalin's Calculations

The Soviet invasion and annexation of the Baltic Republic surely was delayed by the surprising Finnish resistance in the Winter War. Stalin, ever cautious, apparently decided to deal with Finland first before proceeding in the Baltics. Unfortunately as far as we know, his calculations were either made in his own mind or with close associates like Molotov and never made public. (The same is true of Hitler and Mussolini. Only the Japanese appeared to have studied the decission to enter World War II as a group consensus.) Thus we do not know just how Stalin made his decessions. (At least we are not aware of scholary resesearch on this.) Surely the conclusion of the Winter war (March 1940) and the NAZI seizure of Norway must have been fctors in Stalin's decesion. But he only moved after the British withdraw at Dunkirk (late May) and the collapse of the French Army (June). Here there may be two reasons for Stalin's actions. The French Army in 1940 was considered by many to be the most powerful military force in Europe. (I am not sure what the Soviet military calculation was.) The collapse of the French Army meant there was no military force capable of aiding the Baltic republics. An alternative and probably more correct assessment is that the Stalin was shocked by the collapse of the French Army. This and the British withdraw at Dunkirk meant that Hitlr had achieved his goals in the West. This meant that if (and here the question was more 'when') Hitler moved east, the Red Amy would hve to face the full force of the Whermacht on its own. So Stalin's move to seize the Baltics probably refect to seize what Hitler had offered hm in the NAZI-Soviet Non-Agression Pact and to prepare bases and defenses to secure Soviet territory. Stalin appears to have convinced himself that the British and French were tryng to draw hin into a war with Hitler. He appears to have thought that the Pact with Hitler would lead to a long destructive war between NAZI Germany and the Allies and the Soviet could then seized a Wesern Europe that had destroyed itself. But the quick, NAZI victory in thecWest at minimal cost left him facing Germany with no allies that could sigificantly divert any substantial part of the Wehrmacht.

Soviet Invasion (June 1940)

Stalin, as France was collapsing in the West and the world's attention largely diverted, ordered the invasion of the Baltics. This ended their 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. crrying 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.

Communist Government and Annexation (July-August 1940)

The Soviets staged a closely supervised election. Authorities disqualified non-communist candidates. It is unclear if the ballots were actually counted. The Soviet press announced the results even before the actual election. Latvia and the other Baltic states had parliaments with Communist majorities. The resulting Communist Goverment proceeded to Sovitize the Latvian Government and military. The newly elected parliamen petitioned the Soviet Goverment for admitance to the Soviet Union (July 21). Despite pledges that Latvian independence would be respected, the Soviet Union granted the request (August 5). Thus Stalin came closer to restablishing the border of the old Tsarist Empire.

Life in Soviet Latvia (1940-41)

We have little information at this time as to what life was like in Latvia after the Soviets seized power, but before the NAZIs invaded. There was for a short period a air of normality. Large-scale arrests and deportations did not occur immediately. This changed after the elections (July). Latvians refer to the year of Soviet rule as the "Year of Terror". Soviets authorities began restructuring the economy. They also began a reign of terror. There were arrests and executions. The Soviets deported thousands. Many individuals wee senteced to the Gulag. We do note a Communist theme play put on at a secondary school.

Arrests and Deportations (July 1940-June 1941)

Stalin approved Order № 001223 "On the Procedure for carrying out the Deportation of Anti-Soviet Elements from Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia" with instruction to throughly suppress independent Latvia. Soviet authorities proceeded to arrest thousands of Latvians. This began in large numbers immediately after the elections. Latvians who had failed to vote were considered enemies of the people. This could be determined because voyers had their passports stamped. Many Latvians were shot for this. The Soviets and their Latvian Communist allies set up public tribunals with the task of punishing "traitors to the people". NKVD units led by Ivan Serov arrested more than 34,000 Latvians. (About three times that number were arrested in Estonia.) Precise numbers are not known. These individuals were classified as "hostile elements". It was not just men arrested, but in many cases whole families. Soviet authrities arrested 3 former heads of state and 15 ministers. The Soviets went after the political and social elite of Latvia. Political leaders were targeted, including heads of state and ministers. Other elected politicams, state employees, teachers, police officers, military officers, and others were swept up in a series of arrests. Soviet authorities sent the deportees to Siberia and other desolate areas. Cnditins were primitive anf large numbers of the depotees perished. These arrests continued until the NAZI Barbarossa invasion (June 22, 1941). Quite a nunber were executed. Others were deported. Individuals received sentences of 10 and 25 years under under Article 58 Section 2 of the Soviet criminal code. [Solzhenitsyn, p. 62.] Few of the individuals arrested were involved into any kind of active resistance to Soviet authorities. One soiurce estimates the numbers of Latvians arrested and deported at about 30,000 people. Here there are some differences among historians. The NKVD executed about 1,500 of those arrested.


Some Jews welcomed the Soviet invaders. This is probably impossible to quantify at this time. There were several elements at play here. Clearly some Jews had Socialist leanings. This included many secular Jews who saw Socialism as the hope of the future with an internationoist component that was willing to acceot Jews and end the prejudice tht has so affected European Jews. Refugees from Germany had spread the word of NAZI oppression. Thus some Jews may have seen safety in the Soviet annexatiion of Fascism. Given the alternatives, the Soviets seemed the preferable alternative. An Israeli historian writes, "It is impossible to understand the Holocaust without knowing what happened in the western Soviet territories in 1939 to 1941. Although it is true that only a small proportion of the Jewish community took part in the excited and joyful demonstrations that welcomed the Red Army into Latvia, there were very many Jews who shared a feeling of relief and concord with that army, because of their fear that, in the international political constellation of those days, the only other alternative was the Nazi domination of Latvia." [Levin] While the number of Jews who welcomed the Soviets is difficult to quantify, there is no doubt that during the Soviet occupation, a substantial part of the Latvian population concluded that there was widespread Jewish support for the Soviet occupiers. Jews were involved in the puppet government set up by the Soviets. And as the NKVD arrested, shot, and deported Lativians, considerable resentment grew against the Jews. How much of this was essentilly traditiuinal lastentb anti-Semitism and how much was due to the perception of Jewish behavior is difficult to tell. What is clear, however, is that the perceptions of many Latvians had dire consequences for Latvian Jews when the Germans invaded.

Western Governments

After the Soviet invasion of Finland (November 1939), the Allies (Britain and France) considered coming to Finland's aid. Although Finland desperately needed aid, it would have been a terrible mistake given what was about to happen in the West. The Soviet invasion of the Baltic Republics came as France was falling. Thus there was no consideration of Allied aid to the Balts (June 1940). Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian envoys to the United States and the United Kingdom protested the Soviet occupation and subsequent annexation. The United States Government enunciated the Stimson Doctrine. Sumner Welles declared that the United States refused to recognize the Doviet action (July 23, 1940). Most other Western countries followed the same policy, although a few countries in cluding the Netherlands, New Zealand and Sweden did recognize Soviet annexation. The United States did not, however, oppose annexation with any overt actions. The only eception was failed efforts to support anti-Soviet guerillas during the Cold war. The United States throughout the Cold War allowed te embassies of these countries to operate under emigre control in Washington.

German Invasion (June 1941)

NAZI Germany launched Operation Barbarossa, its massive invasion of the Soviet Union (June 22, 1941). Army Group North smashed into Lituania and within days had reached Latvia. Soviet soldiers were put into headlong retreat, abandoning emense quantities of military equipment as the German Panzers pressed forward. The KGB appears to have given priority throughout the Baltics to arrests, executions, and deportations before the Germans arrived. [Solzhenitsyn, p. 78.] After the horror of the NKVD arrests, execultions an deportations, many Latvians considered the Germans as liberators when they first arrived. Other Latvians who had cooperated with the Soviets tried to escape with he retreating Red Arnmy.

NAZI Occupation (1941-44)

As the German Panzers approached Riga, nationalists elements attempted to form a new natinal government. The Latvians optimistically hoped that the Germans would restablish Latvian independennce. This proved to be a false hope. NAZI leaders had varied attitudes about the Latvians and other Balts. This led some Latts to believe that something coul be gained from the NAZIs. The primary goal of the NAZIs was to explot Latvia. [Lumans] Latvia and most of the Baltics along with much of Belarus (eastern Poland) before the War) into Reichskommissariat Ostland. This was essentially a NAZI colony with four major nationalities (Lithuanian, Latviam Estonian, and Russian). Ostland was administered by Reichskommissar Hinrich Lohse was to execute Generalplan Ost. The first step was to find and kill Jews and Communists. The Soviets had heavily targeted Latvian Jews. This was persued even more vicuiously in the NAZI Holocaust. The NAZIs murdered many Latvian Jews at the Salaspils concentration camp. Tragically, many Latvians associated Jews with Cmmunists and cooperated with the NAZIs. Reichskommissar Hinrich Lohse served until the Red Army drove the NAZIs out. NAZI occupation policies in the East were extrodinarily harsh and heavily influence by their racial ideology. The Balts were not considered Aryan, but they were considered superior to Jews and Slavs. Thus there was a place for Latvians in Ostland for Latvians willing to cooperate with the NAZIS. The Red Army stopped the Wehrmacht before Moscow (December 1941), surrounded the 6th Army at Stalingrad (Novemner 1942), and smashed Panzer rmies at Kursk (July 1943). These stunning defeats made it obvious that the NAZIs would not sin the War. Latvians formed the Central Council of Latvia aimed at reestablishing an independent Latvia (August 13, 1943). The NAZIs had planned a quick victory with Barbarossa in 1941. Thus little effort was made to win local support. As the War turned against the NAZIs, an effort was made to better utilize available man power. German recruitment efforts turned to conscription (1943). There were volunteers, but Latvian conscripts were given several unappealing alternatives. One was servicein the Waffen SS. The SS was originally conceived by Himler as a NAZI Aryan brotherhood with very strict racial critrion. The NAZIs recruited two divisions of Waffen SS in Latvia which became known as the Latvin Legion (1943-44). The primary motivation for Latvians volunteering for service was to prevent the Soviets from returning, but a small minority were actual volunteers. Thousands of Latvians were killed figting for the Germans, convinced that this would further an independent Latvia. [Lumans] Latvians also fought as partisans on the Soviet side.

Soviet Reoccupation (1944-45)

The Red Army entered Latvia as part of the Baltic Strategic Offensive Operation. The offensive was launched during summer 1944. Red Army troops reached Latvia (September 1944). Many Latvians fearful of Soviet control fled the country. Most went to neutral Sweden. Historians estimate that about 100,000 Latvians fled. Many eventually emigrated to Canada and the United States. The outnumbered Latvian 15th and 19th SS Divisions fought the dvancing Red Army. Red Army forces drove through to the Baltic, They thus cut off German forces in western Courland (Kurzeme). Three SS divisions were cut off there: "Nordland," 23rd "Nederland" and 19th Letvian (Latvian). The Soviet reoocupation was finally completed when the Germans and Latvians in the Courland pocket surrendered (May 1945).

World War II Impact

Latvia was one of the countries most affected by World War II. Huge numbers of Latvians wre murder by first the Soviets and then the NAZIs. Large numbrs were also killed in the fighting. here was relatively little fighting in Latvia during Barbarossa. Much of the fighting came as the Red rmy reentered Latvia and the Grmans and Latts resisted (1944-45). The result was one of the highest mortalities of any county during the War. Historians estimate that about 30 percent of Latvia's ptr-War population perished in the War.

Latvian Diaspora

Latvia was then again absorbed into Soviet Union. At the end of the War large numbers of Latvians were living in internal exile in the Soviet Union. About 100,000 had fled to Sweden and about 90.000 were in Germany, having been recruited for labor or fled wih the retreating Wehrmacht. Few of these individuals desired to return to Soviet Latvia. One question was whatvto do ith the Latvians that had fought with the Germans that managed to reach the West. The Allies had turned the Russians that fought with the Germans over to the Soviets. They did not do the same with the Balts. The United States declared thousands of former members of the Latvian Legion and other Latvians to be displaced persons and given refuge status.

Soviet Rule (1945-91)

Latvia was after the Soviet reoccupation again absorbed into Soviet Union. Soviet authorities proceeded to try and execute war criminals. Some of these people were indeed war criminals. One of the most notorious was Friedrich Jeckeln, chief of police in NAZI Ostland. The Soviets alsp procecuted many Latts that primarily were interested in preserving Latvian independence. The Soviets also targetted individuals perceived as hostile to a socialist society. Sective arrests eventually turned into further mass deportations. Repressive Soviet policies fed resistance. some Latvians took up armed resistance against the Soviets--the Forest Brothers. As many as 12,000 Latts were involved. They never were a serious threat. American efforts to aid them proved a disaster. They were finally totally defeated (1955). The Soviet arrests and deportations had heaviy targeted the country's educated elite. This left Latvia drained of well educated individuals. Communist Party membership was a requirement for appointment to important positios. Few Latvians were Party members. As a result, most important appointments were Russian. Latvia was included in a Soviet Five-Year-Plan (1945). Russian was made an official language (1947). Soviet authorities collectivized farms. The Latvian railroad network ws changed over to the wider Russian gauge. Liepaja was turned into a Soviet naval port. The Soviets began another campaign of arrests and deportment (January 1949). the Soviet Council of Ministers issued a decree "on the expulsion and deportation" from Baltic states of "all kulaks and their families, the families of bandits and nationalists" (January 12, 1949). Historians report that the Soviets overall deported more than 0.2 million people from the Baltics (1940-53). The deportations did not stop until Stalin's death (1953). Stalin knew precisely what he was doing. The only way of permanently ensuring Soviet cntrol was to change the ethnic ballance. In addition to the deportments, more than 75,000 people were arrested and sentenced to forced labor in the the Gulag. The deportments and Gulag sentences affected about 10 percent of the Baltic populations. The huge war-time losses also substatially reduced the population of ethnic Latts. At the same time, Stalin was encouraging ethnic Russians, Ukrainians, and Belorussians to move to the Baltics. Many filled positions requiring academic training. The fact that living conditions in the Baltics were better than Russia itself encouraged further emigration. The superior material conditions in the Baltics are an interesting phenomenon. It was not because the area was richer in natural resources. It appears that because of the 20 years of Baltic independence that Balts spent avoided 20 years of Bolshevik-Stalinist rule, including some of the worst years. There was no Stalinist enduced famine and war against the Kulaks whch devestated Soviet agriculture. Stalin still manged to do considerable damage after World war II, but after his death the Balts wre left less affected than the Russia and the Ukraine. With the 20h Party Congress and De-Stalinization, Blts who managed to survive deportment were allowed to return. Even so, at the time that the Soviet Union imploded (early 1990s), Latvia and the other Baltic republic were on the verge of becoming Russified.


Levin, Don.

Lumans, Valdis. Latvia in World War II: Tthe Global, Human, and Ethical Dimension (Fordham University Press, 2006).

Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr I. The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956: An Experiment in Literary Investigation (Harper & Row: New York, 1973), 660p.


Navigate the CIH World War II Pages:
[Return to Main Soviet World War II aggressions page]
[Return to Main Latvian World War II page]
[Return to NAZI-Soviet Non-agression Pact page]
[Return to Main Latvian page]
[Biographies] [Campaigns] [Children] [Countries] [Deciding factors] [Diplomacy] [Geo-political crisis] [Economics] [Home front] [Intelligence]
[POWs] [Resistance] [Race] [Refugees] [Technology] [Totalitarian powers]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Return to Main World War II page]
[Return to Main war essay page]
[Return to CIH Home page]

Created: 12:41 AM 11/21/2004
Last updated: 5:00 PM 10/11/2011