History of Latvia

History of Latvia


The proto-Baltic forefathers of the Latvian people have lived on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea since the third millennium BC [ [http://life.bio.sunysb.edu/ee/msr/Ethno/dategen1.html Data: 3000 BC to 1500 BC - The Ethnohistory Project ] ] .

At the beginning of this era the territory known today as Latvia became famous as a trading crossroads. The famous "route from the Vikings to the Greeks" mentioned in ancient chronicles stretched from Scandinavia through Latvian territory via the River Daugava to the ancient Rus and Byzantine Empire.

The ancient Balts of this time actively participated in the trading network. Across the European continent, Latvia's coast was known as a place for obtaining amber. Up to and into the Middle Ages amber was more valuable than gold in many places. Latvian amber was known in places as far away as Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire. In the 10th century AD, the ancient Balts started to form specific tribal realms. Gradually, four individual Baltic tribal cultures developed: Couronians, Latgallians, Selonians, Semigallians ( _lv. kurši, latgaļi, sēļi, zemgaļi). The largest of them was the Latgallian tribe, which was the most advanced in its socio-political development. In the 12th and 13th centuries, the Couronians maintained a lifestyle of intensive invasions that included looting and pillaging.

On the west coast of the Baltic Sea, they became known as the "Baltic Vikings". But the Selonians and Semgallians, during this time, were known as peace-loving and prosperous farmers.

German period

Because of its strategic geographic location, Latvian territory has always been invaded by other larger nations, and this situation has defined the fate of Latvia and its people.

At the end of the 12th century, Latvia was more often visited by traders from western Europe who set out on trading journeys along Latvia's longest river, the Daugava, to Russia. At the very end of the 12th century, German traders arrived and with them came preachers of the Christian faith who attempted to convert the pagan Baltic and Finno-Ugrian tribes to the Christian faith. The Balts did not willingly convert to the new and different beliefs and practices, and particularly opposed the ritual of baptism. News of this reached the Pope in Rome and it was decided that Crusaders would be sent into Latvia to influence the situation.

The Germans founded Riga in 1201, and gradually it became the largest city in the southern part of the Baltic Sea. With the arrival of the German Crusaders, the development of separate tribal realms of the ancient Latvians came to an end.

In the 13th century, the Livonian Confederation developed under the Germanic authorities consisting of Latvia and Estonia. In 1282, Riga and later Cēsis, Limbaži, Koknese and Valmiera were included in the Northern German Trading Organisation, or the Hanseatic League (Hansa). From this time, Riga became an important point in west-east trading. Riga, being the centre of the eastern Baltic region, formed close cultural contacts with Western Europe.

Polish and Swedish period

The 1490s were a time of great changes for the inhabitants of Latvia, notable for the reformation and the collapse of the Livonian nation.

Livonian War 1558-1582

Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor once again asked for help of Gustav I of Sweden, and The Kingdom of Poland (1385–1569) also began direct negotiations with Gustavus, but nothing resulted because on September 29, 1560, Gustavus I Vasa died. The chances for success of Magnus and his supporters looked particularly good in 1560 (and 1570). In the former case he had been recognised as their sovereign by The Bishopric of Ösel-Wiek and The Bishopric of Courland, and as their prospective ruler by the authorities of The Bishopric of Dorpat; The Bishopric of Reval with the Harrien-Wierland gentry were on his side; Livonian Order conditionally recognised his right of ownership of Estonia (Principality of Estonia). Then along with Archbishop Wilhelm von Brandenburg of The Archbishopric of Riga and his Coadjutor Christoph von Mecklenburg, Kettler gave to Magnus the portions of The Kingdom of Livonia, which he had taken possession of, but they refused to give him any more land. Once Eric XIV of Sweden became king he took quick actions to get involved in the war. He negotiated a continued peace with Muscovy and spoke to the burghers of Reval city. He offered them goods to submit to him as well as threatening them. By June 6, 1561 they submitted to him contrary to the persuasions of Kettler to the burghers. The King's brother Johan married the Polish princess Catherine Jagiellon. Wanting to obtain his own land in Livonia, he loaned Poland money and then claimed the castles they had pawned as his own instead of using them to pressure Poland. After Johan returned to Finland, Erik XIV forbade him to deal with any foreign countries without his consent. Shortly after that Erik XIV started acting quickly lost any allies he was about to obtain, either from Magnus or the Archbishop of Riga. Magnus was upset he had been tricked out of his inheritance of Holstein. After Sweden occupied Reval, Frederick II of Denmark made a treaty with Erik XIV of Sweden in August 1561. The brothers were in great disagreement and Frederick II negotiated a treaty with Ivan IV on August 7, 1562 in order to help his brother obtain more land and stall further Swedish advance. Erik XIV did not like this and The Northern Seven Years' War between The Free City of Lübeck, Denmark, Poland, and Sweden broke out. While only losing land and trade, Frederick II and Magnus were not faring well. But in 1568 Erik XIV became insane and his brother Johan III took his place. Johan III ascended to the throne of Sweden and due to his friendship with Poland he began a policy against Muscovy. He would try to obtain more land in Livonia and exercise strength over Denmark. After all parties had been financially drained, Frederick II let his ally, King Sigismund II Augustus of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, know that he was ready for peace. On December 15, 1570, the Treaty of Stettin was concluded. It is, however, more difficult to estimate the scope and magnitude of the support Magnus received in Livonian cities. Compared to the Harrien-Wierland gentry, the Reval city council, and hence probably the majority of citizens, demonstrated a much more reserved attitude towards Denmark and King Magnus of Livonia. Nevertheless, there is no reason to speak about any strong pro-Swedish sentiments among the residents of Reval. The citizens who had fled to The Bishopric of Dorpat or had been deported to Muscovy hailed Magnus as their saviour until 1571. The analysis indicates that during the Livonian War a pro-independence wing emerged among the Livonian gentry and townspeople, forming the so-called "Peace Party". Dismissing hostilities, these forces perceived an agreement with Muscovy as a chance to escape the atrocities of war and avoid the division of Livonia. That is why Magnus, who represented Denmark and later struck a deal with Ivan the Terrible, proved a suitable figurehead for this faction.

The Peace Party, however, had its own armed forces – scattered bands of household troops ("Hofleute") under diverse command, which only united in action in 1565 (Battle of Pärnu, 1565 and Siege of Reval, 1565), in 1570 – 1571 (Siege of Reval, 1570-1571; 30 weeks), and in 15741576 (first on Sweden’s side, then came the sale of Wiek to the Danish Crown, and the loss of the territory to Muscovites). In 1575 after Muscovy attacked Danish claims in Livonia, Frederick II dropped out of the competition as well as the Holy Roman Emperor. After this Johan III held off on his pursuit for more land due to Muscovy obtaining lands that Sweden controlled. He used the next two years of truce to get in a better position. In 1578, he resumed the fight for not only Livonia, but also everywhere due to an understanding he made with Rzeczpospolita. In 1578 Magnus retired to Rzeczpospolita and his brother all but gave up the land in Livonia.

Duchy of Livonia 1561-1621

In 1561 during the Livonian War, Livonia fell to the Grand Duchy of Lithuanialt icon cite book | author =Alfredas Bumblauskas | title =Senosios Lietuvos istorija 1009 - 1795 | year =2005 | editor = | pages =256-259 | publisher =R. Paknio leidykla | location =Vilnius | id =ISBN 9986-830-89-3] cite book | author =Robert Auty | title =Companion to Russian Studies: Volume 1 Vol 1 Introduction to Russian History | year =1981 | editor =D. Obolensky | pages =101 | publisher =Cambridge University Press | location = Cambridge | id =ISBN 0-521-28038-9 | url = http://books.google.com/books?vid=ISBN0521280389&id=xxREnBcMFcEC&pg=PA101&lpg=PA101&dq=Obolensky+livonia&sig=PsBvcEQZfnfa1eKESrtPgC91rBQ ] cite book
author =Szilvia Rédey, Endre Bojtár | title =Foreword to the Past: a cultural history of the Baltic People | year =1999 | editor = | pages =172 | publisher =Central European University Press | location = | id =ISBN 963-9116-42-4
url = http://books.google.com/books?vid=ISBN9639116424&id= 5aoId7nA4bsC&pg=PA172&lpg=PA172&dq=Szilvia+R%C3%A9dey+Endre+Bojt%C3%A1r+ livonia+australis&sig=_TUIOgIvbukv_eQz4FoPz00dnRA
] with vassal dependency from Lithuania. Eight years later, in 1569, when the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Kingdom of Poland formed Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Livonia became a joint domain administered directly by the king and grand duke.cite book | author =Norman Davies | title =Europe: a History | year =1996 | editor = | pages =555 | publisher =Oxford University Press | location =Oxford | id =ISBN 0-19-820171-0 | url =http://books.google.com/books?vid=ISBN0198201710&id=jrVW9W9eiYMC&pg=PA555&lpg=PA555&vq=Livonia&dq=Livonia+1561&sig=1Sl_hyH0vNKbfvIJPNfhpY1K8xw] cite book | author =George Miller | coauthors = | title =History, philosophically issustrated, from the fall of the Roman empire to the French revolution | year =1832 | editor = | pages =258 | chapter =Modern History | chapterurl = | publisher = | location = | url =http://books.google.com/books?vid=0kFemdBg0yzAOrIa&id=6eDVcRegbxQC&pg=PA258&vq=Livonia+Poland&dq=Livonia+1561 ] cite book | author =Alfrēds Bīlmanis | coauthors = | title =Baltic Essays | year =1945| editor = | pages =69-80 | chapter = | chapterurl = | publisher =The Latvian Legation | location = | id =OCLC|1535884 | url =http://books.google.com/books?vid=OCLC01535884&id=DIkNAAAAIAAJ&q=Livonia+1561&dq=Livonia+1561&pgis=1 ] cite book | author =Beresford James Kidd | coauthors = | title =The Counter-reformation, 1550-1600 | year =1933 | editor = | pages =121 | chapter = | chapterurl = | publisher =Society for promoting Christian knowledge | location = | id = | url =http://books.google.com/books?vid=OCLC65660984&id=KTgdUIiBYfQC&q=Livonia+1561&dq=Livonia+1561&pgis=1 | format = | accessdate = ] Having rejected peace proposals from its enemies, Ivan the Terrible found himself in a difficult position by 1579, when Crimean Khanate devastated Muscovian territories and burnt down Moscow (see Russo-Crimean Wars), the drought and epidemics have fatally affected the economy, Oprichnina had thoroughly disrupted the government, while The Grand Principality of Lithuania had united with The Kingdom of Poland (1385–1569) and acquired an energetic leader, Stefan Batory, supported by Ottoman Empire (1576). Stefan Batory replied with a series of three offensives against Muscovy, trying to cut The Kingdom of Livonia from Muscovian territories. During his first offensive in 1579 with 22,000 men he retook Polotsk, during the second, in 1580, with 29,000-strong army he took Velikie Luki, and in 1581 with a 100,000-strong army he started the Siege of Pskov. Frederick II of Denmark and Norway had trouble continuing the fight against Muscovy unlike Sweden and Poland. He came to an agreement with John III in 1580 giving him the titles in Livonia. That war would last from 1577 to 1582. Muscovy recognized Polish-Lithuanian control of Ducatus Ultradunensis only in 1582. After Magnus von Lyffland died in 1583, Poland invaded his territories in The Duchy of Courland and Frederick II decided to sell his rights of inheritance. Except for the island of Œsel, Denmark was out of the Baltic by 1585. As of 1598 Polish Livonia was divided onto:
* Wenden Voivodeship ("województwo wendeńskie", Kieś)
* Dorpat Voivodeship ("województwo dorpackie", Dorpat)
* Parnawa Voivodeship ("województwo parnawskie", Parnawa)

Kingdom of Livonia 1570-1578

The armies of Ivan the Terrible were initially successful, taking Polock (1563) and Parnawa (1575) and overrunning much of Grand Duchy of Lithuania up to Vilnius. Eventually, Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Kingdom of Poland formed Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1569 under the Union of Lublin. Eric XIV of Sweden did not like this and The Northern Seven Years' War between Free City of Lübeck, Denmark, Poland, and Sweden broke out. While only losing land and trade, Frederick II of Denmark and Magnus von Lyffland of Œsel-Wiek were not faring well. But in 1569 Erik XIV became insane and his brother John III of Sweden took his place. After all parties had been financially drained, Frederick II let his ally, King Zygmunt II August, know that he was ready for peace. On December 15, 1570, the Treaty of Stettin was concluded.

In the next phase of the conflict, in 1577 Ivan IV took opportunity of the Commonwealth internal strife (called the war against Gdańsk in Polish historiography), and during the reign of Stefan Batory in Poland invaded Livonia, quickly taking almost the entire territory, with the exception of Riga and Rewel. In 1578 Magnus of Livonia recognized the sovereignty of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (not ratified by the Sejm of Poland-Lithuania, or recognized by Denmark). The Kingdom of Livonia was beaten back by Muscovy on all fronts. In 1578 Magnus of Livonia retired to The Bishopric of Courland and his brother all but gave up the land in Livonia.

The Livonian Confederation became secularized under the Union of Vilnius of November 28, 1561. After the Livonian War (155883), today's Latvian territory came under the rule of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and was later passed to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, as the Duchy of Livonia and the Duchy of Courland and Semigallia. The Lutheran faith was accepted in Kurzeme, Zemgale and Vidzeme, but the Roman Catholic faith maintained its dominance in Latgale – it remains so to this day.

In the 17th century, the Duchy of Courland, once a part of Livonia, experienced a notable economic boom. It established two colonies — an island in the estuary of the Gambia River (in Africa) and Tobago Island (in the Caribbean Sea). Names from this period still survive today in these places.

However after the Polish-Swedish war (1600-1629) Riga came under Swedish rule in 1621. It became the largest and most developed Swedish City. During this time Vidzeme was known as the "Swedish Bread Basket" because it supplied the larger part of the Swedish kingdom with wheat. The rest of Latvia stayed Polish until the second partition of Poland in 1793, when it became Russian.

Consolidation of the Latvian nation occurred in the 17th century. With the merging of the Couronians, Latgallians, Selonians, Semgallians and Livonians (Finno-Ugrians, in Latvian called: "lībieši" or "līvi") a culturally unified nation was developed – the Latvians (Latvian: "latvieši") that spoke a common language called Latvian (Latvian: "latviešu valoda").

Russian period

In 1700, the Great Northern War broke out. The course of this war was directly linked with today's Latvian territory and the territorial claims of the Russian Empire. One of its goals was to secure the famous and rich town of Riga. In 1710, the Russian Tsar, Peter I, managed to secure Vidzeme. Through Vidzeme to Riga, Russia obtained a clear passage to Europe. By the end of the 18th century, due to the Polish Partitions, all of Latvia's territory was under Russian rule.

Serfdom was abolished in Courland in 1818 and Vidzeme in 1819. In 1849, a law granted a legal basis for the creation of peasant-owned farms. Reforms were slower in Latgale where serfdom was only abolished in 1861. Industry developed quickly and the number of the inhabitants grew. Latvia became one of Russia's most developed provinces.

In the 19th century, the first Latvian National Awakening began among ethnic Latvian intellectuals, a movement that partly reflected similar nationalist trends elsewhere in Europe. This revival was led by the "Young Latvians" (in Latvian: "jaunlatvieši") from the 1850s to the 1880s. Primarily a literary and cultural movement with significant political implications, the Young Latvians soon came into severe conflict with the Baltic Germans.

With increasing pauperization in rural areas and growing urbanization, a loose but broad leftist movement called the "New Current" arose in the late 1880s. Led by Rainis and Pēteris Stučka, editors of the newspaper "Dienas Lapa", this movement was soon influenced by Marxism and led to the creation of the Latvian Social Democratic Labour Party.

Latvia in the 20th century saw an explosion of popular discontent in the 1905 Revolution.


The idea of an independent Latvia became a reality at the beginning of the 1900s. The course of World War I (WWI) activated the idea of independence. WWI directly involved Latvians and Latvian territory. Latvian riflemen ("latviešu strēlnieki") fought on the Russian side during this war, and earned recognition for their bravery far into Europe. During the Russian civil war (1917-1922), Latvians fought on both sides with a significant group (known as Latvian red riflemen) supporting the Bolsheviks. In the autumn of 1919 the red Latvian division participated in a major battle against the "white" anti-bolshevik army headed by the Russian general Anton Denikin. See also Latvian War of Independence.

Latvia was ostensibly included within the German-led United Baltic Duchy Fact|date=December 2007, but this collapsed after the defeat of the German Empire in 1918. The post-war confusion was a suitable opportunity for the development of an independent nation. Latvia proclaimed independence shortly after the end of WWI – on November 18, 1918 which is now the "Independence Day" in Latvia. The first major power to recognise Latvia's independence was the Russian SFSR (on August 11, 1920), which relinquished authority over the Latvian nation and claims to Latvian territory once and for all times.

The international community recognized Latvia's independence on January 26, 1921, and the recognition from many other countries followed soon. In this year Latvia also became a member of the League of Nations (September 22, 1921).

Because of the world economic crisis there was a growing dissatisfaction among the population at the beginning of the 1930s. In Riga on May 15, 1934, Prime Minister Kārlis Ulmanis, one of the fathers of Latvian independence, took power by a bloodless coup d'état: the activities of the Parliament (the Saeima) and all the political parties were suspended.

Rapid economic growth took place in the second half of 1930s, due to which Latvia reached one of the highest living standards in Europe [cite web
author = Dr. Raimonds Cerūzis
year = 2007-2008
title = The Fight for Independence and the Republic of Latvia
url = http://www.li.lv/index.php?Itemid=446&id=71&option=com_content&task=view
work = The Latvian Institute
publisher = The University of Latvia
accessdate = 2008-08-14
] . Because of improving living standards in Latvian society, there was no serious opposition to the authoritarian rule of the Prime Minister Kārlis Ulmanis and no possibility of it arising.

Soviet period, including World War II

The Soviet Union guaranteed its interests in the Baltics with the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany on August 23, 1939. Under threat of invasion, [Soviet-Latvian negotiations started on 2 October, 1939 and on the following day Latvia's Minister of Foreign Affairs Vilhelms Munters informed his government that Josif Stalin had said that "as for the Germans, [there is no obstacle] , we can occupy you" and threatened that the USSR could also seize "territory with a Russian minority." cite paper | author = Dr. hab.hist. Inesis Feldmanis | title = The Occupation of Latvia: Aspects of History and International Law | publisher = Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Latvia | year = 2004 | url = http://www.mfa.gov.lv/en/latvia/history/occupation-aspects/ | accessdate = 2007-02-21 ] Latvia (along with Estonia and Lithuania) signed a mutual assistance pact with Soviet Union, providing for the stationing of up to 25,000 Soviet troops on Latvian soil. Following the initiative from Nazi Germany, Latvia on October 30, 1939 concluded an agreement to repatriate ethnic Germans in the wake of the impeding Soviet takeover.

Seven months later, the Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov accused the Baltic states of conspiracy against the Soviet Union. On June 16, 1940, threatening an invasion, [ and presenting the ultimatum and accusations of violation by Latvia of the terms of mutual assistance treaty of 1939, Molotov issued an overt threat to "take action" to secure compliance with the terms of ultimatum – see report of Latvian Chargé d'affaires, Fricis Kociņš, regarding the talks with soviet Foreign Commissar Molotov; text in Latvian: cite book | last = I.Grava-Kreituse, I.Feldmanis, J.Goldmanis, A.Stranga. | title = Latvijas okupācija un aneksija 1939-1940: Dokumenti un materiāli. "(The Occupation and Annexation of Latvia: 1939-1940. Documents and Materials.)" | publisher = Preses nams | year = 1995 | pages= 348-350 | url = http://www.historia.lv/alfabets/L/la/okupac/dokumenti/kocins/1940.21.06.htm ] Soviet Union issued an ultimatum demanding that the government be replaced and that an unlimited number of Soviet troops be admitted. [see text of ultimatum; text in Latvian: cite book | last = I.Grava-Kreituse, I.Feldmanis, J.Goldmanis, A.Stranga. | title= Latvijas okupācija un aneksija 1939-1940: Dokumenti un materiāli. "(The Occupation and Annexation of Latvia: 1939-1940. Documents and Materials.)" | publisher = Preses nams | year = 1995 | pages = 340-342 | url=http://www.historia.lv/alfabets/L/la/okupac/dokumenti/1940.06.16.ultim.htm] Knowing that the Red Army had entered Lithuania a day before, that its troops were massed along the eastern border and mindful of the Soviet military bases in Western Latvia, the government acceded to the demands, and Soviet troops occupied the country on June 17. Staged elections were held July 14-15, 1940, whose results were announced in Moscow 12 hours before the polls closed; Soviet documents show the election results were forged. The newly elected "People's Assembly" declared Latvia a Socialist Soviet Republic and applied for admission into the Soviet Union on July 21. Latvia was incorporated into the Soviet Union on August 5, 1940. The overthrown Latvian government continued to function in exile while the republic was under the Soviet control.

In the spring of 1941, the Soviet central government began planning the mass deportation of anti-Soviet elements from the occupied Baltic states. In preparation, General Ivan Serov, Deputy People's Commissar of Public Security of the Soviet Union, signed Order No. 001223, "Regarding the Procedure for Carrying out the Deportation of Anti-Soviet Elements from Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia." During the night from the 13th/14th June, 1941, 15,424 inhabitants of Latvia — including 1,771 Jews and 742 ethnic Russians — were deported to camps and special settlements, mostly in Siberia. [cite book |editor= Elmārs Pelkaus |title= Aizvestie: 1941. gada 14. jūnijā |year= 2001 |publisher= Latvijas Valsts arhīvs; Nordik |location= Riga |language= Latvian, English, and Russian |isbn= 9984-675-55-6 |oclc= 52264782 ] 35,000 people were deported in the first year of Soviet occupation (131,500 across the Baltics). The Nazi invasion, launched a week later, cut short immediate plans to deport several hundred thousand more from the Baltics.

Nazi troops occupied Riga on July 1, 1941. Immediately after the installment of German authority, a process of eliminating the Jewish and Gypsy population began, with many killings taking place in Rumbula. The killings were committed by the Einsatzgruppe A, the Wehrmacht and Marines (in Liepaja), as well as by Latvian collaborators, including the 500-1,500 members of the infamous Arajs Commando (which alone killed around 26,000 Jews) and the 2,000 or more Latvian members of the SD.Ezergailis, A. The Holocaust in Latvia, 1996] [ [http://motlc.learningcenter.wiesenthal.org/text/x14/xm1411.html Simon Wiesenthal Center Multimedia Learning Center Online ] ] By the end of 1941 almost the entire Jewish population was killed or placed in the death camps. In addition, some 25,000 Jews were brought from Germany, Austria and the present-day Czech Republic, of whom around 20,000 were killed. The Holocaust claimed approximately 85,000 lives in Latvia, the vast majority of whom were Jews.

A large number of Latvians resisted the German occupation. The resistance movement was divided between the pro-independence units under the Latvian Central Council and the pro-Soviet units under the Latvian Partisan Movement Headquarters (латвийский штаб партизанского движения) in Moscow. Their Latvian commander was Arturs Sproģis. The Nazis planned to Germanise the Baltics after the war.)

In 1943 and 1944 two divisions of Waffen SS were formed from Latvian volunteers to help Germany against the Red Army. In 1944 when the Soviet military advances reached the area heavy fighting took place in Latvia between German and Soviet troops which ended with another German defeat. During the course of the war, both occupying forces conscripted Latvians into their armies, in this way increasing the loss of the nation's "live resources". In 1944, part of the Latvian territory once more came under Soviet control. The Soviets immediately began to reinstate the Soviet system. After the German surrender it become clear that Soviet forces were there to stay, and pro-independence partisans (Forest Brothers), soon to be joined by German collaborators, began their fight against another occupier - the Soviet Union.

The first post-war years were marked by particularly dismal and sombre events in the fate of the Latvian nation. 120,000 Latvian inhabitants were imprisoned or deported to Soviet concentration camps (the Gulag). Some managed to escape arrest and joined the Forest Brothers. 130,000 took refuge from the Soviet army by fleeing to the West. On March 25, 1949, 43,000 rural residents ("kulaks") and Latvian patriots ("nationalists") were deported to Siberia in a sweeping repressive action "Beachcomber" in all three Baltic States, which was carefully planned and approaved in Moscow already on January 29 1949. An extensive programme to impose bilingualism was initiated in Latvia, limiting the use of minor languages in favor of Latvian and Russian. In some fields there existed either Russification or Latvianization.

In the post-war period, Latvia was forced to adopt Soviet farming methods and the economic infrastructure developed in the 1920s and 1930s was eradicated. Rural areas were forced into collectivisation.

Because Latvia had still maintained a well-developed infrastructure and educated specialists it was decided in Moscow that some of the Soviet Union's most advanced manufacturing factories were to be based in Latvia. New industry was created in Latvia, including a major machinery factory RAF and electrotechnical factories, as well as some food and oil processing plants. However, there were not enough people to operate the newly built factories. In order to expand industrial production, Russian workers were transferred into the country, noticeably decreasing the proportion of ethnic Latvians. By 1989, the ethnic Latvians comprised about 52% of the population (1,387,757), compared to a pre-war proportion of 77% (1,467,035). In 2005 there were 1,357,099 ethnic Latvians, showing a real decrease in the titular population. Proportionately, however, the titular nation already comprises approximately 60% of the total population of Latvia (2,375,000).

Restoration of independence

Liberalisation in the communist regime began in the mid 1980s in the USSR with the perestroika and glasnost instituted by Mikhail Gorbachev. In Latvia, several mass socio-political organisations were constituted that made use of this opportunity – Tautas Fronte (Popular Front of Latvia), Latvijas Nacionālās Neatkarības Kustība (The Movement for National Independence), and Pilsoņu Kongress (Citizen's Congress of Latvia). These groups began to agitate for the restoration of national independence.

On the 50th anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact (23 August, 1989) to the fate of the Baltic nations, Latvians, Lithuanians and Estonians joined hands in a human chain, the Baltic Way, that stretched 600 kilometres from Tallinn, to Riga, to Vilnius. It symbolically represented the united wish of the Baltic States for independence.

Subsequent steps towards full independence were taken on May 4, 1990. The Latvian SSR Supreme Council, elected in the first democratic elections since the 1930s, adopted a declaration restoring independence that included a transition period between autonomy within the Soviet Union and full independence. On the August 21, 1991 parliament voted for an end to the transition period, thus restoring Latvia's pre-war independence. On September 6, 1991 Latvian independence was once again recognised by the USSR.

Modern history

Soon after reinstating independence, Latvia, which had been a member of the League of Nations prior to WWII, became a member of the United Nations. In 1992, Latvia became eligible for the International Monetary Fund and in 1994 took part in the NATO "Partnership for Peace" program in addition to signing the free trade agreement with the European Union. Latvia became a member of the European Council as well as a candidate for the membership in the European Union and NATO. Latvia was the first of the three Baltic nations to be accepted into the World Trade Organization.

At the end of 1999 in Helsinki, the heads of the European Union governments invited Latvia to begin negotiations regarding accession to the European Union. In 2004, Latvia's most important foreign policy goals, membership of the European Union and NATO, were fulfilled. On April 2, Latvia became a member of NATO and on May 1, Latvia, along with the other two Baltic States, became a member of the European Union. Around 67% had voted in favor of EU membership in a September 2003 referendum with turnout at 72.5 percent.


* [http://www.li.lv/en/?id=16 History of Latvia] "The Route from the Vikings to the Greeks"


ee also

* Latvia
* Latvian independence movement (1940-1991)
* Latvian diplomatic service (1940-1991)
* Livonia

External links

* [http://www.li.lv/en/?id=16 History of Latvia; A Brief Survey (en)]
* [http://www.historyofnations.net/europe/latvia.html History of Latvia]
* [http://www.am.gov.lv/en/latvia/history/ Issues of the History of Latvia: 1939-1991]
* [http://www.talava.com/latviancastles.html Castle ruins in Latvia]
* [http://www.latvianstuff.com/HistoryMyths.html Myths of Latvian History (en)]
* [http://www.am.gov.lv/data/file/e/P/Occupation%20of%20Latvia.pdf Occupation of Latvia ("PDF file 2.85MB")]
* [http://www.angelfire.com/ks3/klubs/default.htm Latvia: Year of horror (1940)]
* [http://www.latvians.com/en/Reading/TheStoryOfLatvia/SoLatvia-00-chap.php The Story of Latvia, by Arveds Svabe]
* [http://www.hoeckmann.de/germany/baltics.htm Historical maps of Latvia in the 16th, 17th and 18th century]
* [http://www.castle.lv/ Medieval Castles of Latvia]
* [http://www.trapanatans.lv/ Past human environments: a source page on studies in Latvia]

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  • Military history of Latvia during World War II — Latvia and neighbouring countries before World War II. Military history of Latvia during World War II. Kārlis Ulmanis staged a bloodless coup d état on May 15, 1934, establishing a nationalist dictatorship that lasted until 1940. Most of the… …   Wikipedia

  • History of the Baltic States — may refer to: *History of Lithuania *History of Latvia *History of Estonia …   Wikipedia

  • Latvia — /lat vee euh, laht /, n. a republic in N Europe, on the Baltic, S of Estonia, an independent state 1918 40; annexed by the Soviet Union 1940; regained independence 1991. 2,437,649; 25,395 sq. mi. (63,700 sq. km). Cap.: Riga. Latvian, Latvija… …   Universalium

  • History of Russians in Latvia — Russians have been the largest ethnic minority in Latvia for many centuries.Ancient LatviaEarly East Slavic, or proto Russian , settlements were present in what is now Latvia from the early Middle Ages. As early as the 6th century AD, an East… …   Wikipedia

  • History of the Jews in Latvia — The History of the Jews in Latvia dates back to 1571. Although the vast majority of the Jewish community was killed in the HolocaustFact|date=July 2007, there is a small Jewish community in Latvia today.General historyThe nucleus of Latvian Jewry …   Wikipedia

  • History of Riga — [ 1547] The history of Riga, the capital of Latvia, begins with the ancient settlement of the Livonians, an ancient Finnic tribe, at the junction of the Daugava and Ridzene ( lv. Rīdzene) rivers. The Ridzene was originally known as the Riga River …   Wikipedia

  • History of Lithuania — The history of Lithuania dates back to at least 1009, the first recorded written use of the term.[1] Lithuanians, a branch of the Baltic peoples, later conquered neighboring lands, establishing the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and in the 13th century …   Wikipedia

  • History of present-day nations and states — This is a list of articles on the history of contemporary countries, states and dependencies. * See List of extinct countries, empires, etc. and Former countries in Europe after 1815 for articles about countries that are no longer in existence. * …   Wikipedia

  • History of Sweden (1611–1648) — During the 17th century, despite having scarcely more than 1 million inhabitants, Sweden emerged as a Great Power after winning wars against Denmark–Norway, The Holy Roman Empire Russia, and Poland. Its contributions during the Thirty Years War… …   Wikipedia

  • LATVIA — (Lettish Latvija; Rus. Latviya; Ger. Lettland; Pol. Łołwa), one of the Baltic states of N.E. Europe; from 1940 to 1991 the Latvian S.S.R. The nucleus of Latvian Jewry was formed by the Jews of Livonia (Livland) and courland , the two… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

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