"Latvia"
50 Years of Terror Tyranny and Oppression 1940–1991
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Epilog –
"Latvia" 50 Years of Terror Tyranny and Oppression 1940–1991
 
To understand Latvia its history as well as its citizens, we needs to go back in time with the History of Latvia beginning when the area which is today Latvia was settled following the end of the last glacial period, around 9000 BC. Ancient Baltic peoples appeared during the second millennium BC and four distinct tribal realms in Latvia's territories were identifiable towards the end of the first millennium AD. Latvia's principal river, the Daugava River, was at the head of an important mainland route from the Baltic region through Russia into southern Europe and the Middle East used by the Vikings and later Nordic and German traders.
 
In the early medieval period, the region's peoples resisted Christianization and became subject to attack in the Northern Crusades. Today's capital, Riga, founded in 1201 by Teutonic colonists at the mouth of the Daugava, became a strategic base in a papally-sanctioned conquest of the area by the Livonian Brothers of the Sword. It was to be the first major city of the southern Baltic and, after 1282, a principal trading centre in the Hanseatic League. By the 16th century Germanic dominance in the region was increasingly challenged by other powers.
 
Due to Latvia's strategic location and prosperous city, its territories were a frequent focal point for conflict and conquest between at least four major powers, the State of the Teutonic Order later "Germany", the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, Sweden and Russia. The longest period of external hegemony in the modern period began in 1710 when control over Riga switched from Sweden to Russia during the Great Northern War. Under Russian control, Latvia was in the vanguard of industrialization and the abolition of serfdom so that by the end of the 19th century it had become one of the most developed parts of the Russian Empire. The increasing social problems and rising discontent which this brought meant that Riga also played a leading role in the 1905 Russian Revolution.
 
A rising sense of Latvian nationalism from the 1850s onwards bore fruit after World War I when, after two years of struggle in the Russian Civil War, Latvia finally won sovereign independence recognized by Russia in 1920 and by the  international community in 1921. Latvia's independent status was interrupted at the outset of World War II when in 1940 the country was forcibly incorporated into the Soviet Union, invaded and occupied by Nazi Germany in 1941, then retaken by the Soviets in 1944 after Germany surrendered.
 
From the mid-1940s the country was subject to Soviet economic control and saw considerable Russification of its peoples, but Latvian culture and infrastructures survived such that, during the period of Soviet liberalization under Mikhail Gorbachev, Latvia once again took a path towards independence which eventually succeeded in August 1991 and was recognized by Russia the following month. Since then, under restored independence, Latvia has become a member of the United Nations, entered [NATO] and joined the European Union.
 
Prehistory
 
The proto-Baltic forefathers of the Latvian people have lived on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea since the third millennium BCE.
 
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 Daugava River 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 and the Amber Road was intensively used for the transfer of amber to the south of Europe. In the 10th century, the ancient Balts started to form specific tribal realms. Gradually, five individual Baltic tribal cultures developed: Curonians, Livonians, Latgalians, Selonians, Semigallians, Latvian: "kurši, līvi, latgaļi, sēļi, zemgaļi". The largest of them was the Latgallian tribe, which was the most advanced in its socio-political development. The main Latgallian principality was Jersika, ruled by the Greek Orthodox princes from Latgallian-Polotsk branch of Rurik dynasty. The last ruler of Jersika, mentioned in the Chronicle of Henry of Livonia was prince Visvaldis "Vissewalde, rex de Gercike". During dividing of his realm in 1211 part of the country was called "Latvia" "terra, quae Lettia dicitur", probably the first time this name is mentioned in written sources. In contrast, 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 Selonians and Semgallians, closely related to Aukštaitians and Samogitians, were known as peace-loving and prosperous farmers. Livonians lived along the shores of the Gulf of Riga and were fishers and traders.
 
German period 1207-1561
 
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-Ugric tribes to the Christian faith. The Livs 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. Order of the Sword Brothers was founded in 1202 to subjugate the local people. The Livs were conquered by 1207 and the most of Latgalians by 1214. But the Sword Brothers were defeated in Battle of Saule "1236" and its remnants accepted incorporation into the Teutonic Order. By the end of 13th century also the Curonians and Semigallians were subjugated and the development of separate tribal realms of the ancient Latvians came to an end.
 
In the 13th century, an ecclesiastical state Terra Mariana or Livonia was established 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 Organization, 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.
 
The reformation reached Livonia in 1521. It was supported in particular in the cities and by the middle of 15th century the majority of the population had already converted to Lutheranism.
 
In the 15-16th century the hereditary landed class gradually evolved from vassals of the Order and the bishops. In the time their descendants came to own vast estates over which they exercised absolute rights. At the end of the Middle Ages, this Baltic German minority had established themselves as the governing elite, partly as an urban trading population in the cities, and partly as rural landowners, via a vast manorial network of estates. The titled landowners wielded immense economic power and for all that they had a duty to care for the peasants dependent of them, in practice the latter sank into serfdom.
 
Lithuanian-Polish and Swedish period 1561-1795
 
Livonian War 1558-1583
 
In September 1557 Livonian Confederation and Polish–Lithuanian union signed the Treaty of Pozvol, which created a mutual defensive and offensive alliance. The tsar of Russia Ivan the Terrible regarded this as casus belli and in January 1558 reacted with the invasion of Livonia. On the 2nd of August 1560 forces of Ivan the Terrible defeated the united forces of the Livonian Order and Archibishop of Riga at the Battle of Ērģeme.
 
The same year, the prince-bishop of Ösel-Wiek and Courland Johannes V von Münchhausen sold his lands to king Frederick II of Denmark for 30,000 thalers. To avoid hereditary partition of his lands, King Frederick II gave that territory to his younger brother Magnus on condition that he renounced his rights to succession in the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein. The chances for success of Magnus and his supporters looked particularly good in 1560 and "1570". In the former case he had been recognized 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 recognized his right of ownership of 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 Russia and spoke to the burghers of Reval city. He offered them goods to submit to him as well as threatening them. By the 6th of June 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 the 7th of August 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.
 
In 1561 the weakened Livonian Order was dissolved by the Treaty of Vilnius. Its lands were secularised as the Duchy of Livonia and assigned to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania as a part of it and the Duchy of Courland and Semigallia as a vassal state. The last Master of the order Gotthard Kettler became the first Duke of Courland, in doing so converting to Lutheranism.
 
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 Russia. 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 the 15th of December 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 1574–1576, first on Sweden’s side, then came the sale of Wiek to the Danish Crown, and the loss of the territory to the Tsardom of Russia. In 1575 after Russians 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 Russia 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.
 
Kingdom of Livonia 1570-1578
 
On the 10th of June 1570 the Danish Duke Magnus of Holstein arrived in Moscow where he was crowned King of Livonia. Magnus took the oath of allegiance to Ivan the Terrible as his overlord and received from the corresponding charter for the vassal kingdom of  Livonia in what Ivan termed his patrimony. The armies of Ivan the Terrible were initially successful, taking Polotsk "1563" and Parnawa "1575" and overrunning much of Grand Duchy of Lithuania up to Vilnius. ventually, 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 the 15th of December 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.
 
Duchy of Livonia 1561-1621
 
In 1561 during the Livonian War, The Livonian Confederation subjected itself to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania with vassal dependency of it and became secularized under the Union of Wilno. Eight years later, in 1569, when the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Kingdom of Poland formed the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, Livonia became a joint domain administered directly by the king and grand duke. 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 "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 Russia, trying to cut The Kingdom of Livonia from Russian 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 Velikiye 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 Semigallia 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)
Duchy of Courland and Semigallia 1562-1795
 
In the 17th century, the Duchy of Courland and Semigallia, once a part of Livonia, experienced a notable economic boom. During the reign of the duke Jacob Kettler new copper and iron foundries, gunpowder mills and shipyards were opened. In Ventspils alone 120 ships were built, of which over 40 were warships. The duchy owned large fleet and established two colonies, Saint Andrews Island in the estuary of Gambia River in "Africa" and Tobago Island in the "Caribbean Sea". Names from this period still survive today in these places.
 
Swedish Livonia 1629-1721
 
During the Polish–Swedish War "1600–1629" Riga and the largest part of Duchy of Livonia came under Swedish rule in 1621. During the Swedish rule 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.
 
In 1632 the Swedish king Gustavus Adolphus founded Dorpat University which became the intellectual focus for population of Livonia. The translation of the whole Bible into Latvian in 1685 by Johann Ernst Glück was subsidized by the Swedish government. Also the schools for Latvian speaking peasantry were set up in the country parishes.
 
Riga was the second largest city in the Swedish Empire at the time. Together with other Baltic Sea dominions, Livonia served to secure the Swedish Dominium maris baltici. In contrast to Swedish Estonia, which had submitted to Swedish rule voluntarily in 1561 and where traditional local laws remained largely untouched, the uniformity policy was applied in Swedish Livonia under Karl XI of Sweden: serfdom was abolished in the estates owned by the Swedish crown, peasants were offered education and military, administrative or ecclesiastical careers, and nobles had to transfer domains to the king in the Great Reduction. These reforms were subsequently reversed by Peter I of Russia when he conquered Livonia.
 
Inflanty Voivodeship 1629-1772 
 
After the Polish–Swedish War "1600–1629" only the Southeastern part of the Duchy of Livonia remained under Polish-Lithuanian rule. The Catholicism became the dominant religion in this territory known as Inflanty or Latgale as a result of Counter-Reformation.
 
Russian period 1721-1918
 
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 Partitions of Poland, all of Latvia's territory was under Russian rule.
 
In "1812 Napoleon's troops invaded Russia and the Prussian units under the leadership of the field marshal Yorck occupied Courland" and approached Riga. The governor-general of Riga Ivan Essen set the wooden houses of the Riga suburbs on fire to deflect the invaders and thousands of city residents were left homeless. However York did not attack Riga and in December the Napoleon's army retreated.
 
Serfdom was abolished in Courland Governorate in 1818 and Governorate of Livonia in 1819. However all the land stayed in the hands of the German nobility. Only in 1849, a law granted a legal basis for the creation of peasant-owned farms. Reforms were slower in Latgale which was part of Vitebsk Governorate, where serfdom was only abolished in 1861 after emancipation reform. In the middle of 19th century industry developed quickly and the number of the inhabitants grew. Courland and Vidzeme became one of Russia's most developed provinces.
 
Religion 
 
Latvia was predominantly Lutheran, but in the first half of the eighteenth century Moravian missionaries made significant headway, despite the opposition of the German landlords who controlled the Lutheran clergy. The Imperial government proscribed the Moravians 1743-1764. Latvian nationalism was strongly supported by a revival of the language, including the translation of many foreign works. The Imperial government sponsored the Russian Orthodox Church, as part of its program of russification, but Lutheranism remained the dominant religion, except Latgale where The Catholicism was dominant. Other Protestant missions had some success including the Baptists, Methodists and Seventh Day Adventists.
 
Latvian National Awakening 
 
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.
 
In the 1880s and 1890s the russification policy began by Alexander III was aimed at reducing the autonomy of Baltic provinces and the introduction of the Russian language in administration, court and education replacing German or Latvian in "regard to schools".
 
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.
 
1905 Revolution 
 
Following the shooting of demonstrators in Saint Petersburg on the 9th of January a wide-scale general strike began in Riga. On the 13th of January Russian army troops opened fire on demonstrators in Riga killing 73 and injuring 200 people. During the summer 1905 main revolutionary events moved to the countryside. 470 new parish administrative bodies were elected in 94% of the parishes in Latvia. The Congress of Parish Representatives was held in Riga in November. Mass meetings and demonstrations took place including violent attacks against Baltic German nobles, burning estate buildings and seizure of estate property including weapons. In the autumn 1905 armed conflict between the German nobility and the Latvian peasants begun in the rural areas of Vidzeme and Courland. In Courland, the peasants seized or surrounded several towns. In Livland the fighters controlled the Rūjiena-Pärnu railway line. Altogether, a thousand armed clashes were registered in Latvia in 1905. Martial law was declared in Courland in August 1905 and in Livland in late November. Special punitive expeditions were dispatched in mid-December to suppress the movement. They executed 1170 people without trial or investigation and burned 300 peasant homes. Thousands were exiled to Siberia. In 1906 the revolutionary movement gradually subsided.
 
German occupation World War I 
 
On the 1st of August 1914 Germany declared war on Russia and by "1915, the conflict reached Latvia. On the 7th of May the Germans captured Liepāja" and on the 18th of May, Talsi, Tukums and Ventspils. On the 29th of June the Russian Supreme Command ordered the whole population of Kurzeme "Courland" evacuated, and around 400,000 refugees fled to the east. Some of them settled in Vidzeme but most continued their way to Russia. On the 19th of July the Russian War Minister ordered the factories of Riga evacuated together with their workers. In the summer of 1915, 30,000 railway wagons loaded with machines and equipment from factories were taken away. In August the formation of Latvian battalions known as Latvian Riflemen started. From 1915 to 1917, the Riflemen fought in the Russian army against the Germans in positions along Daugava River. In December 1916 and January 1917, they suffered heavy casualties in month-long Christmas Battles. In February 1917 Revolution broke out in Russia and in the summer the Russian army collapsed. The German offensive was successful and on the 3rd of September 1917 they entered Riga. In November 1917, the Communist Bolsheviks took power in Russia. The Bolshevik government tried to end the war and in March 1918, the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was signed which gave Kurzeme and Vidzeme to the Germans. By February the Germans had occupied all of Latvia. However after the German Revolution, on the 11th of November the armistice treaty between the Allies and Germany was signed thus ending World War I. Great Britain declared its de facto recognition of Latvia in writing on that day as well, confirming a prior verbal communication of the 23rd of October to Meierowitz by the British Minister for Foreign Affairs, A. J. Balfour.
 
Independence
 
The idea of an independent Latvia became a reality at the beginning of the 20th century. The course of World War I activated the idea of independence. World War I 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.
 
Latvia was ostensibly included within the proposed Baltic German-led United Baltic Duchy, but this attempt collapsed after the defeat of the German Empire in November 1918. The post-war confusion was a suitable opportunity for the development of an independent nation. Latvia proclaimed independence shortly after the end of World War I, on the 18th of November 1918 which is now the Independence Day in Latvia.
 
A series of conflicts within the territory of Latvia during 1918–1920 is commonly known as the Latvian War of Independence. In December 1918 Soviet Russia invaded the new republic and rapidly conquered almost all the territory of Latvia, Riga itself was captured by the Soviet Army on the 4th of April 1919, with the exception of a small territory near Liepāja. The Latvian Socialist Soviet Republic was proclaimed on the 17th of December 1918 with the political, economic, and military backing of the Bolshevik government of Soviet Russia. On the 3rd of March 1919 German and Latvian forces commenced a counterattack against the forces of Soviet Latvia. On the 22nd of May 1919 Riga was recaptured. In June 1919 collisions started between the Baltische Landeswehr on one side and the Estonian 3rd division on the other. The 3rd division defeated the German forces in the Battle of Wenden on the 23rd of June. An armistice was signed at Strazdumuiža, under the terms of which the Germans had to leave Latvia. However the German forces instead of leaving, were incorporated into the West Russian Volunteer Army. On the 5th of October it commenced an offensive on Riga taking the west bank of the Daugava River but on the 11th of November was defeated by Latvian forces and by the end of the month, driven from Latvia. On the 3rd of January 1920 the united Latvian and Polish forces launched an attack on the Soviet army in Latgalia and took Daugavpils. By the end of January they reached the etnographic border of Latvia. On the 11th of August 1920 according to the Latvian–Soviet Peace Treaty "Treaty of Riga" Soviet Russia relinquished authority over the Latvian nation and claims to Latvian territory "once and for all times".
 
The international community "United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Italy and Japan" recognized Latvia's independence on the 26th of January 1921, and the recognition from many other countries followed soon. In this year Latvia also became a member of the League of Nations on the "22nd of September  1921".
 
In April 1920 elections to the Constituent assembly were held. In May 1922 the Constitution of Latvia and in June the new Law on Elections were passed, opening the way to electing the parliament- Saeima. At Constituent Assembly, the law on the land reform was passed, which expropriated the manor lands. Landowners were left with 50 hectares each and their land was distributed to the landless peasants without cost. In 1897, 61.2% of the rural population had been landless; by 1936, that percentage had been reduced to 18%. The extent of cultivated land surpassed the pre-war level already in 1923.
 
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. 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.
 
World War II
 
Soviet Occupation
 
The Soviet Union guaranteed its interests in the Baltic with the signing of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany on the 23 of August 1939. Under threat of invasion, 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 the 30th of October 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, Soviet Union issued an ultimatum demanding that the government be replaced and that an unlimited number of Soviet troops be admitted. 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 the 17th of June. Staged elections were held the 14th and 15th of July 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 the 21st of July. Latvia was incorporated into the Soviet Union on the 5th of August 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 the Serov Instructions, "Regarding the Procedure for Carrying out the Deportation of Anti-Soviet Elements from Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia." During the night of the 13th thru the 14th of June 1941, 15,424 inhabitants of Latvia, including 1,771 Jewish and 742 ethnic Russians, were deported to camps and special settlements, mostly in Siberia. 35,000 people were deported in the first year of Soviet occupation "131,500 across the Baltic".
 
Occupation of Latvia by Nazi Germany
 
The Nazi invasion, launched a week later, cut short immediate plans to deport several hundred thousand more from the Baltic States. Nazi troops occupied Riga on the 1st of July 1941. Immediately after the installment of German authority, a process of eliminating the Jewish and Gypsy population began, with many killings taking place in Biķernieki Forest and Rumbula Forest. The killings were committed by the Einsatzgruppe A, the Wehrmacht and Marines in "Liepāja", as well as by Latvian collaborators, including the 500-1,500 members of the infamous Arajs Commando "which alone killed around 26,000 Jewish people" and the 2,000 or more Latvian members of the SD. By the end of 1941 almost the entire Jewish population was killed or placed in the concentration 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 Jewish.
 
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 Baltic States after the war. In 1943 and 1944 two divisions of Waffen-SS were formed from Latvian conscripts and volunteers to help Germany against the Red Army.
 
Soviet era 
 
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. Riga was re-captured by the Soviet Red Army on the 13th of October 1944. 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 and Latvian national partisans began their fight against another occupier, the Soviet Union. 160,000 Latvian inhabitants took refuge from the Soviet army by fleeing to the Germany and Sweden. The first post-war years were marked by particularly dismal and sombre events in the fate of the Latvian nation. On the 25th of March 1949, 43,000 rural residents "kulaks" and Latvian patriots "nationalists" were deported to Siberia in a sweeping repressive Operation Priboi in all three Baltic States, which was carefully planned and approved in Moscow already on the 29th of January 1949. All together 120,000 Latvian inhabitants were imprisoned or deported to Soviet concentration camps the "Gulag". Some managed to escape arrest and joined the partisans. [Appendix XXIII – Gulag]
 
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 collectivization. The massive influx of labourers, administrators, military personnel and their dependents from Russia and other Soviet republics started. By 1959 about 400,000 persons arrived from other Soviet republics and the ethnic Latvian population had fallen to 62%. An extensive program to impose bilingualism was initiated in Latvia, limiting the use of Latvian language in favor of Russian. All of the minority schools "Jewish, Polish, Belarusian, Estonian, Lithuanian" were closed down leaving only two languages of instructions in the schools, Latvian and Russian. The Russian language were taught notably, as well as Russian literature, music and history of Soviet Union "actually- history of Russia".
 
"On the 5th of March 1953 Joseph Stalin died" and his successor became Nikita Khrushchev. The period known as the Khrushchev Thaw began but attempts by the national communists led by Eduards Berklavs to gain a degree of autonomy for the republic and protect the rapidly deteriorating position of the Latvian language were not successful. In 1959 after Krushchev's visit in Latvia national communists were stripped of their posts and Berklavs was deported to Russia.
 
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 in Jelgava, electro-technical factories in Riga, chemical factories in Daugavpils, Valmiera and Olaine, as well as food and oil processing plants. However, there were not enough people to operate the newly built factories. In order to expand industrial production, more immigrants from other Soviet republics 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
 
Liberalization 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 political organizations were constituted that made use of this opportunity, Popular Front of Latvia "Tautas Fronte", Latvian National Independence Movement "Latvijas Nacionālās Neatkarības Kustība" and Citizens' Congress "Pilsoņu kongress". These groups began to agitate for the restoration of national independence.
 
On the 50th anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact on the "23rd of 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 kilometers 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 the 4th of May 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. In January 1991, however, pro-communist political forces attempted to restore Soviet power with the use of force. Latvian demonstrators managed to stop the Soviet troops from re-occupying strategic positions "January 1991 events in Latvia". On the 21 of August, after unsuccessful attempt at a coup d'état in Moscow, parliament voted for an end to the transition period, thus restoring Latvia's pre-war independence. On the 6th of September 1991 Latvian independence was once again recognized by the Soviet Union.
 
Modern History 
 
Soon after reinstating independence, Latvia, which had been a member of the League of Nations prior to World War II, 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 the 2nd of April, Latvia became a member of NATO and on the 1st of May, 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"
 
Latvia Leaders 1990 to Present
 
Anatolijs Gorbunovs 3 May 1990 to 8 July 1993
Communist Party of Latvia the 4th President of the Republic of Latvia
 
Anatolijs Gorbunovs, also formerly known as Anatoly Valeryanovich Gorbunov, Russian: "Анато́лий Валериа́нович Горбуно́в" "Born: 10 February 1942 in Pilda parish, Ludza Municipality, Latvia", is a Latvian politician who served as the parliamentary speaker during the last years of Soviet regime in Latvia and during the first years after the country regained its independence. In the latter capacity he was effectively the acting head of state before the election of the Fifth Saeima in 1993.
 
From 1974 to 1988, he held various positions in the Communist Party of the Latvian SSR, with his highest position being the secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Latvian SSR. Unlike most Communist Party members in Latvia, Gorbunovs supported the Latvian independence movement. From 1988 to 1990 he was Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic "head of state". From 1989 to 1995, he was speaker of the Latvian parliament "first, of the Supreme Soviet of Latvian SSR, then Supreme Soviet of Republic of Latvia, then, of the Saeima, the parliament of the newly independent Latvia". During this period, Latvian independence was restored in 1991. As speaker of the parliament, Gorbunovs was acting president of the republic per the 1992 Constitution until 1993, when Guntis Ulmanis was elected president. 
 
Gorbunovs joined the "Latvian Way Party" in 1993 and remained Speaker of the Saeima until 1995 and a member of parliament until 2002. Between 1995 and 2002, he served as Minister of Regional Development, Minister of  Transportation and Deputy Prime Minister.
 
In 1995 Gorbunovs was awarded with the Order of the Three Stars.
 
Guntis Ulmanis 8 July 1993 to 8 July 1999
Latvian Farmers' Union Party the 5th President of the Republic of Latvia
 
      
 
Guntis Ulmanis "Born: on 13 September 1939" is a Latvian politician and was the fifth President of Latvia from 1993 to 1999.
 
Early life
 
Guntis Ulmanis was born in Riga on the 13th of September 1939. His grandfather was the brother of then-President and Prime Minister Kārlis Ulmanis. "In 1941, Guntis Ulmanis and his family were exiled to Krasnoyarsk Oblast, Siberia, Russian SFSR". In 1946, he came back to Latvia, "but his family was not allowed to settle in Riga and so they stayed in Ēdole, Kuldīga area, Latvian SSR".
 
In 1949, the remainder of the Ulmanis family was supposed to be exiled again, but Guntis Ulmanis was able to avoid that fate, as his mother remarried and his surname was changed to Rumpītis. They then moved to Jūrmala, where he went to school. After graduating, he entered the economic faculty of the Latvian State University.
 
Career in Latvia
 
After completing his studies in the university in 1963, he was drafted into the Soviet Army, where he served for two years. In "1965 he joined the Communist Party of the Soviet Union". He began working as an economist at a construction site and was later promoted to tram and trolleybus administrator in Riga. He was then advanced to the position of deputy chairman of the planning committee of the Riga Executive Committee "City Government". However, his past family ties with "President Ulmanis" were discovered and "he was sacked in 1971". He then worked at lower positions in the Riga municipal service system. For some time he worked as a teacher of construction economics at the Riga Polytechnical Institute and of economic planning at the Latvian State University.
 
As Latvia was heading for the restoration of its independence, "Guntis Rumpītis" quit the "Communist Party in 1989" and returned to using his original surname: "Ulmanis". In 1992 he was appointed Council Member of the National Bank of Latvia. He also joined the "Peasant Union of Latvia" the same year. In 1993 the Saeima elected him as the 5th President of Latvia "the first since the full restoration of independence in 1991". In the first round he finished third after "Gunārs Meierovics" and "Aivars Jerumanis", but won in the runoff as "Meierovics" quit the race.
 
Presidency
 
As President, Guntis Ulmanis focused on foreign policy, building relations with international and regional organizations, as well as other countries. A major achievement was the conclusion of the Latvian-Russian treaty on the withdrawal of "Russian Armed Forces from Latvia". During his presidency, Latvia joined the Council of Europe and sent its application to the European Union. He announced a moratorium on the death penalty, in accordance with the norms of the European Council.
 
In 1996, he was re-elected in the first round of elections, defeating "Saeima speaker Ilga Kreituse, Imants Liepa and former Communist Party chairman Alfrēds Rubiks" who was in jail at the time. In 1998 President Ulmanis actively supported amendments to the Citizenship law, that would allow all people born after the 21st of August 1991 to obtain citizenship and would eliminate so-called "naturalization limits" in which "only a limited number of non-citizenship could receive citizenship within a given year". However, he was forced to send the law project on a referendum, after 36 nationalistic deputies, opposed to the amendment petitioned him to do so. He then actively and successfully campaigned for the adoption of the amendments by the population.
 
Retirement and subsequent return to politics
 
Guntis Ulmanis' term finished in 1999 and he was succeeded by Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga. He retired from politics but became a "social activist, founding the Guntis Ulmanis Fund", organizing the 2006 IIHF World Championship in Riga and heading the Riga Castle reconstruction council.
 
2010 marked a return to big politics for Guntis Ulmanis. He became the chairman of the newly created party alliance "For a Good Latvia", which was composed of the "People's Party" and "Latvia's First Party/Latvian Way". The alliance won only 8 seats in the October 2010 parliamentary election. However, Ulmanis became a Saeima deputy. In 2011 he announced he did not want to run for another term as deputy in the 2011 election. He therefore ceased being a deputy in November 2011, after the 11th Saeima was inaugurated.
 
Guntis Ulmanis has been married to Aina Ulmanis, maiden name [Štelce] since 1962. They have two children: Guntra [Born 1963] and Alvils [Born 1966] and three grandchildren: Paula [Born. 1994], Rudolfs [Born. 2000] and Matīss [Born. 2006]. In his spare time Guntis Ulmanis enjoys reading history books and memoirs, playing tennis, basketball and volleyball. He has written two autobiographies: No tevis jau ne prasa daudz "Not much is required from you yet in 1995" and Mans prezidenta laiks "My time as President in 1999".
 
He is a member of the international advisory council of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.
 
Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga 8 July 1999 to 8 July 2007
Independent the 6th President of the Republic of Latvia
 
      
 
Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga, born on the "1st of December 1937" was the sixth President of Latvia and the first female President of Latvia. She was elected President of Latvia in 1999 and re-elected in 2003.
 
Dr. Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga is a professor and interdisciplinary scholar having published eleven books and numerous articles, essays and book chapters in addition to her extensive speaking engagements. As President of the Republic of Latvia "1999–2007", "she was instrumental in achieving membership in the European Union and NATO for her country". She is active in international politics, was named Special Envoy to the Secretary General on United Nations reform and was official candidate for UN Secretary General in 2006.
 
She remains active in the international arena and continues to speak in defense of liberty, equality and social justice, and for the need of Europe to acknowledge the whole of its history. She is a well-known pro-European, as such, in December 2007 she was named vice-chair of the Reflection group on the long term future of the European Union. She is also known for her work in psycholinguistics, semiotics and analysis of the oral literature of her native country.
 
Early life and education 
 
Vaira Vīķe was born in Riga, Latvia on the 1st of December 1937. "At the end of 1944, as the second Soviet occupation of Latvia begun, her parents escaped to Germany. There she received her first education in Latvian primary school at a refugee camp in Lübeck, Germany. Then her family moved to "French Morocco in 1949". In Morocco she attended French primary school at "Daourat Hydroelectric Dam Village" where she learned the "French language". Vaira then went on to attend "Collège de jeunes filles de Mers-Sultan" in Casablanca. In 1954 her family moved to Toronto, Canada, where she completed high school".
 
Vaira Vīķe attended Victoria College of the University of Toronto, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in 1958 and a Master of Arts in 1960, in psychology. She worked at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce as a teller and part-time as a supervisor in Branksome Hall Boarding School for Girls. In 1958, being fluent in English, French, Latvian, Spanish and German, she worked as a translator and the next year went on to work as a Spanish teacher for grades 12 and 13 at Ontario Ladies' College. Upon completion of her masters degree, Vīķe became a clinical psychologist at the Toronto Psychiatric Hospital in late 1960. She left in 1961 to resume her education at the McGill University in Montreal while also lecturing part-time at Concordia University. She earned her PhD in experimental psychology under the supervision of Donald Hebb, graduating from McGill University in 1965.
 
Professional life
 
From 1965 to 1998 Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga pursued a professorial career at the "Department of Psychology of the French-speaking University of Montreal", where she taught psychopharmacology, psycholinguistics, scientific theories, experimental methods, language and cognitive processes. Her experimental research focused on memory processes and language, and the influence of drugs on cognitive processes. At the same time she did scholarly research on semiotics, poetics and the structural analysis of computer-accessible texts from an oral tradition—the Latvian folksongs. During this period she authored ten books and about 160 articles, essays or book chapters and has given over 250 speeches, allocutions and scientific communications in English, French or Latvian, and gave numerous radio, TV and press interviews in various languages. 
 
During that period Dr. Vīķe-Freiberga has held prominent positions in national and international scientific and scholarly organizations, as well as in a number of Canadian governmental, institutional, academic and interdisciplinary committees, where she acquired extensive administrative experience. She is the recipient of many medals, prizes and honors for distinguished work in the humanities and social sciences. 
 
In June 1998 she was elected Professor emerita at the University of Montreal and returned to her native land, Latvia, where on the 19th of October the Prime Minister named her Director of the newly founded Latvian Institute.
 
Presidency of the Republic of Latvia 1999–2007
 
Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga became President of Latvia in 1999. Although not a candidate in the first ballot, she was drafted by the Saeima "Latvian Parliament" and was elected to the office of President of Latvia on the 20th of June. She was sworn in on the 8th of July. Her approval rating has ranged between 70% and 85%, and in 2003 she was re-elected for a second term of four years with 88 votes out of 96.
 
"She has actively exercised the powers conferred on the President by the Constitution of the Republic of Latvia and has played a leading role in achieving Latvia’s membership in NATO and the European Union". She was an invited speaker at numerous international events "such as the joint session of the United States Congress, in June 2006", as well as an outspoken pundit on social issues, moral values, European historical dialogue, and democracy. During her presidency she regularly visited towns and villages to meet her constituents in person, and received many thousands of letters yearly from Latvians.
 
In April 2005, the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan named Vīķe-Freiberga as a member of his team of global political leaders helping to promote his comprehensive reform agenda. In September 2006, the three Baltic States officially announced her candidacy for the post of United Nations Secretary-General.
 
Valdis Zatlers 8 July 2007 to 8 July 2011
Independent the 7th President of the Republic of Latvia
 
      
 
Valdis Zatlers, "Born 22 March 1955" is a Latvian politician and former physician who served as the seventh president of Latvia from 2007 to 2011. He won the Latvian presidential election of the 31st of May 2007. He became President of Latvia on the 8th of July 2007 and "left office on the 7th of July 2011 after failing to win reelection for a second term".
 
Medical Career
 
Valdis Zatlers is an orthopedic surgeon, who graduated from the Institute of Medicine in Riga in 1979. After studies he worked at Riga Hospital No. 2 and became chief of its traumatology unit in 1985. He was the director of the Latvian Traumatology and Orthopaedics Hospital from 1994 and chief of its board from 1998, he left these offices on the 5th of July 2007.
 
Zatlers participated in the cleanup operations after the disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear plant. On the 27th of April 2007, he received the Order of the Three Stars "Trīs Zvaigžņu Ordenis" of the 4th rank for his contributions in care for health of the patients and promotion of orthopedics in Latvia.
 
Political Career
 
Valdis Zatlers was a board member of the "Popular Front of Latvia in 1988–1989". On the 22nd of May 2007, the ruling parliamentary coalition of the Latvian Saeima officially nominated Zatlers as its presidential candidate. Zatlers himself was not a member of any political party, but had signed the manifesto of the People's Party when the party was founded in 1998.
 
In his TV speech on the 28th of May 2011 President Zatlers called for "radical reforms" to curb the "corrupting influence of oligarchs". He accused lawmakers of being soft on corruption and announced that he would use his constitutional powers to initiate a "referendum on the dissolution of the current Saeima". The formal cause of this decision was refusal of the parliament to sanction the search at the home of "Ainārs Šlesers", a "Saeima member and former minister". Zatlers is the first President of Latvia to use these reserve presidential powers. The Constitution of Latvia foresees that if the people will support Zatlers' decision, the Saeima will be dismissed and new parliament elections organized.
 
On the 2nd of June 2011 an MP from the Greens and Farmers' Union Andris Bērziņš defeated the incumbent Valdis Zatlers in presidential elections despite Zatlers previously having been widely expected to win the vote. 
 
"He founded the Reform Party in July 2011".
 
Controversy
 
Before his election he confessed that as a doctor he had accepted private donations from his patients. "Transparency International" has questioned the legality of this practice. Zatlers' supporters point out that donations of this form are accepted by many Latvian doctors. The Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau "KNAB" characterized Zatlers' behavior as improper and has said that it will not finalize its investigation of the matter for several months. "In July 2008, KNAB ruled that Zatlers hadn't violated the law by accepting these donations".
 
Opposing politicians have criticized Zatlers for not paying taxes on these gifts. The State Revenue Service, which had previously requested him to pay taxes on the gifts, "unable to fine him for tax evasion, fined Zatlers 250 Lats for missing data in officials declaration".
 
In 2003, Zatlers was a subject of an investigation by KNAB anti-corruption office. The investigation was started based on a request by "Āris Auders", a former subordinate of Zatlers who had become the "Minister of Healthcare". Auders had accused Zatlers in buying low-quality spinal implants from companies run by Zatlers' wife and the deputy director of Zatlers' hospital. "The investigation cleared Zatlers of all charges"
 
Personal Life 
 
Valdis Zatlers is married to "Lilita Zatlere" and has three children. Other than his native language, he is fluent in "English and Russian".
 
Andris Bērziņš 8 July 2011 – Incumbent
Union of Greens and Farmers Party the 8th President of the Republic of Latvia 
 
      
 
Andris Bērziņš "Born 10 December 1944" is a Latvian businessman and politician. He is the President of Latvia, having won the presidential election held on the 2nd of June 2011. From 1993 to 2004, Bērziņš was the President of Unibanka.
 
Early Career
 
Andris Bērziņš was born on the 10th of December 1944 in "Nītaure, Latvian SSR, Soviet Union". In 1958 he completed studies at a Nītaure primary school, and attended the 1st secondary school of Sigulda from 1958 to 1962. He then began studying at the Riga Polytechnical Institute, which he graduated in 1971, and became a radio engineer at the "Elektrons" factory. He worked his way up to director and in "1988 was appointed deputy minister of municipal services of the Latvian SSR". He also studied at the Economic Faculty of the Latvian State University, which he graduated in 1988.
 
In 1989 Bērziņš was elected to the Valmiera district "Council "Soviet" of People's Deputies" and was appointed chairman of the district's executive commission. In 1990 he was elected to the "Supreme Council of the Latvian SSR", representing Valmiera. He joined the Latvian Popular Front faction in the Supreme Council. On the 4th of May 1990 he voted in favor of the declaration that restored the independence of the Republic of Latvia.
 
After the completion of his term as deputy in 1993, Bērziņš became chairman of the "Privatization Fund of the Bank of Latvia". He also became president of Latvijas Unibanka "a joint-stock company; 1993–2004". Bērziņš became a successful businessman and his estate exceeded 1,000,000 lats "by the mid 2000s". He also owned 30 various land properties. Bērziņš worked as an advisor to the president of the SEB Latvian branch and was a board member of several joint-stock companies, including "Valmiera stikla šķiedra" Valmiera fiberglass and "Lode".
 
Political Career 
 
Andris Bērziņš returned to politics in 2005, when he unsuccessfully ran for the office of Mayor of Riga as the leader of the Union of Greens and Farmers party list. From 2006 to 2010 he served as the president of the Latvian Chamber of Industry and Commerce and was also Latvenergo's board chairman "until 2009".
 
In 2010 Andris Bērziņš was elected deputy of the Saeima from the slate of candidates presented by the Union of Greens and Farmers. 
 
2011 Presidential Election
 
On the 23rd of May 2011 Andris Bērzinš was nominated as a presidential candidate by five Union of Greens and Farmers deputies.
 
In the first round of the election on the "2nd of June 2011", Bērziņš received 50 votes for and 48 against, while Valdis Zatlers got 43 for and 55 against "99 lawmakers cast votes, but one was invalid", meaning no one was elected. In the second round, held later on the same day, Bērziņš received 53 votes, winning the election. Andris Bērziņš took office as President of Latvia on the 8th of July 2011.
 
Personal Life
 
Andris Bērziņš married Dace Seisuma a couple days before assuming office as president. It is his second marriage. Asides his native Latvian, he speaks "English, German and Russian". On the 3rd of September 2012 the president threatened paparazzi, after they came too close to make pictures of presidents son: "Guys, You want me to beat you over the head? Long time you haven't been attacked.."
 
Latvia Economy 1992-2013
 
In the second half of 20th century under Soviet rule Liepāja became an industrial city and a large number of high technology plants were founded, including: 
  • Mashzavod, Russian: "Машзавод, Лиепайский машиностроительный завод"
  • Liepajselmash, Russian: "Лиепайсельмаш" - 1954 now "Hidrolats"
  • Sarkanais Metalurgs, now "Liepājas Metalurgs"
  • SRZ-29, Russian: "СРЗ-29, 29-й судоремонтный завод" now "Tosmares kuģu būvētava"
  • LBORF, Russian: "ЛБОРФ, Лиепайская база Океанрыбфлота" - 1964
  • Bolshevik, Russian: "Рыболовецкий колхоз "Большевик" - 1949 now "Kursa"
  • Perambulator factory "Liepāja", Russian: "Колясочная фабрика "Лиепая"
  • Mixed Fodder Plant, Russian: "Лиепайский комбикормовый завод"
  • Sugar Plant, Russian: "Лиепайская сахарная фабрика"
  • Match Factory "Baltija", Russian: "Лиепайская спичечная фабрика "Балтия" - 1957
  • Ferro-Concrete Constructions Plant, Russian: "Лиепайский 5-й завод железобетонных конструкций" - 1959
  • Oil Extraction Plant, Russian: "Mаслоэкстракционный завод"
  • SU-426 of BMGS, Russian: "СУ-426 треста Балтморгидрострой" now "BMGS"
  • Lauma, Russian: "Лиепайский галантерейный комбинат Лаума" - 1972
  • Linoleum Plant
  • Shoes Factory 
After the collapse of USSR's centrally planned economy, only a small number of these plants continue to operate.
 
Within Latvia, Liepāja is well known mostly by coffee brand “Liepājas kafija'”, beer “Līvu alus” and sugar “Liepājas cukurs”. In 1997 the Liepāja Special Economic Zone was established for 20 years providing a low tax environment in order to attract foreign investments and facilitate the economic development of Liepāja, but investment growth remained slow due to a shortage of skilled labor force. The main industries in Liepāja are the steel producer “Liepājas Metalurgs”, building firm “UPB” and the underwear brand “Lauma”. The economy of Liepaja relies heavily on its port which accepts a wide range of cargo. The most notable companies working in Liepaja's Port are “Baltic Transshipment Center”, “Liepājas Osta LM”, “Laskana, Astramar” and “Terrabalt”.
 
After joining European Union in 2004, most Liepāja Companies were "faced with strict European rules and terse competition and were forced to stop production or to sell enterprises to European Companies".
 
In 2007 the following companies were closed “Liepājas cukurfabrika”, “Liepājas sērkociņi”, “Līvu alus”, “Liepājas maiznieks” and “Lauma” were forced to be sold to European Investors.
 
Latvia 1992 to 2010 Unemployment Rates
 
     
 
Latvia’s unemployed at home while
companies claim they can’t find workers
 
03 April 2013
By Dorian Ziedonis
 
      
     BETTER TRAINING: Education needs to be closer to the needs of the
     labor markets, as now it’s too theoretical, and does not prepare people
     for the real job market, says Aivis Brodins.
 
RIGA - With well over 100,000 people in Latvia looking for work, business people and politicians of all stripes can still be heard complaining about a serious shortage of workers. Proposed solutions abound, some realistic, others not. There is even a growing chorus for large-scale immigration to bring in laborers. The combination of a growing economy and the much-publicized Latvian emigration wave may indeed be creating a situation where companies can’t find new employees. If so, this will negatively impact further growth prospects.
 
So, is there a labor shortage, a skills gap in the Latvian labor force? What are the solutions? Will immigration eliminate the deficit?
 
Latvia is already three years into the recovery, but the unemployment rate still "registered a very high 13.8 percent in last year’s 4th quarter", reports Latvia’s Central Statistics Office. For "ages 15-24, unemployment was a reported 21.6 percent". There are "144,600 people out of work in the country", and of these, more than "half are classified as long-term unemployed".
 
Employment agency web sites show that there are plenty of job openings in Latvia. The jobs’ listing on CV-Online shows over 9,000 positions waiting to be filled. Though this site covers most industrial sectors, the bulk of the job postings are focused on "large banks", "sales assistants", "account managers", or ads for "IT Specialists".
 
But the jobless rate stays stubbornly high.
 
Paul Berzins, recruitment specialist at People Management in Riga, says that the CV-Online numbers probably reflect regular job turnover in the economy: large companies advertising openings where employees have left for other companies. He emphasizes that the CV-Online numbers don’t necessarily reflect jobs created by an expanding economy.
 
The recruitment expert adds that “skilled, motivated people already have jobs.”
 
“The labor market is not a bottleneck to growth… there is no labor shortage,” asserted Economic Analyst at DNB, Peteris Strautins, speaking at a Norwegian Chamber of Commerce in Latvia "NCCL" seminar on the future of the labor market in Latvia, in February. Based on worker productivity today, has said, the labor market doesn’t present a bottleneck to growth. He sees problems in the future, in five years or so, but now the labor market is in equilibrium with employer needs.
 
This would sound like bad news to those looking for work. Some industry sectors, however, are in need of those with specific skills.
 
Human resources manager at Tieto Latvia, Liene Atholde, said in an email reply to TBT that “It is well known that in the IT industry we have a lack of skilled professionals, and it is really challenging to find them. Today we already employ nearly 700 people in Latvia; as most companies in the IT area, we are facing difficulties in finding available resources in the labor market. A ‘war for talent’ is going on".
 
Last year approximately 40,000 new jobs were created in Latvia, 4.8 percent more than in 2011, said Swedbank senior economist Lija Strasuna, reported Nozare.lv. Swedbank economists predict that the situation in the job market will continue to improve in the upcoming quarters. But that still leaves a large number of long-term unemployed, unable to find paid work.
 
Latvia’s Deputy State Secretary Andris Liepins, speaking at the NCCL event, agreed that “job growth lags GDP growth” in Latvia. He warns that during this recovery, a rotation among current job holders, in the job-offering industrial sectors, shows the risk that structural unemployment and workforce shortages in some sectors are here to stay.
 
Latvia’s current economic model still resembles a low cost labor platform, says Liepins, with an economy dominated by low-to-medium tech industries. The country needs to transition to medium-to-high level industries.
 
Atholde says that “In general the workforce in Latvia is quite skilled. Whether workers have the right skills [for us] depends on what position are we searching for, but I would say that the average unemployed don’t have the required IT skills. In these situations re-qualification would be necessary, and that is quite a difficult process. If business-specific skills are required, we are ready to train the people on our own".
 
But low-skilled workers, if they’re willing to work, can find employment. Berzins mentions as one example the fish processing industry in the fishing village of Roja. Processors need to bus in workers from the countryside, and end up as well bringing in workers from as far afield as Bulgaria.
 
Considering the unemployed in Latvia, he notes that the boom years distorted the wage market such that now, "many won’t work at the same job for the low Latvian pay levels". Menial jobs are difficult for employers to fill, as it’s easier for the Latvian to sit at home. He sees no change until the economy recovers further.
 
And the skilled blue-collar workers, such as "machinists, Soviet-era specialists", are now retiring, with no one to replace them, as companies in the boom years paid little attention.
 
The long-term unemployed are outside of Riga, in the regions, says Berzins. The statistics agree; recent studies show that the lowest unemployment rate was in Riga at 6.5 percent; indeed, the jobless rate in Jekabpils reached 15.6 percent, and in Latgale 21.5 percent.
 
It’s not only the education and skill level that determines demand for labor; "wages too are a factor", highlighted Liepins. He says that until companies start paying higher wages, many of those sitting on the sideline won’t seriously consider a return to the job market.
 
Strautins notes that in 2007, the share of workers’ wages in total GDP was 50 percent, whereas today it is around 40 percent, and dropping. Companies are keeping more of the "rising profits for themselves", "not sharing with their employees". But at some point workers will begin to demand a bigger share and the numbers should revert to historical levels.
 
The chairman of the prefabricated housing company Husvik Petter Lundeby, and CEO of furniture manufacturer Kvist Industries Kerija Paukina, both speaking at the NCCL seminar, mentioned difficulties in finding enough workers, generally lower skilled, for their production facilities outside of Riga. Paukina discussed her company’s efforts to develop and train the workers, though they then face the risk that the employee leaves for a better offer. She said that the productivity of their workers was good, equal to those in Denmark.
 
She also says that the countryside workers need assistance, from the municipalities, in better access to transportation to work.
 
Numerous proposals have been put forth to solve the perceived labor market shortage. Many call for immigration: bring in workers because we don’t have enough of the right ones in Latvia. This also means attracting back the many Latvians who have already left the country.
 
It is unlikely that large numbers of highly skilled "Westerners" would move to Latvia, despite the job openings, "due to the lower wage levels". It will be the low-skilled workers from the East and elsewhere that would constitute the "immigrant’ labor".
 
The result would be a human capital transfer at the low end: the low-skilled in Latvia leave the country to do similar jobs in the West at higher pay, to be replaced by low-skilled workers from abroad to do the work they left behind.
 
“Yes, definitely, Latvia needs a selective immigration policy. First of all we need to protect the labor market for the local work force by attracting only those specialists that Latvia lacks. Secondly, we need to get back those who have emigrated for jobs abroad. In order to do that a special state policy is needed to motivate people to return back to Latvia,” suggests CV-Online Latvia business manager Aivis Brodins to TBT.
 
“Those Latvians in Ireland, who will want to return to Latvia, will be in demand on Latvia’s labor market with their newly-acquired experience and knowledge,” Latvia’s Economy Minister Daniels Pavluts said in an interview with the portal Baltic-Ireland last December. “Latvia is in dire need of qualified specialists and the country’s priority is to seek out and attract such people,” he added.
 
“Companies prefer to import the low-skilled work force from such EU countries like Bulgaria, Romania, and the closest CIS countries - Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova. Those people are ready to accept Latvian salary levels and, in addition, people from CIS countries speak Russian", says Brodins.
 
To attract Latvians back, it will take more than just promises by the minister. Latvia’s expats abroad need a living wage to come back, says Berzins.
 
Tieto has an in-house solution. “We are investing a lot in employee development and, if it is possible, developing our employees on our own, thus giving, we also are hiring students, training them and giving them opportunities to gain practical experience in various international and local IT projects. The situation with IT graduates is quite challenging - the problem is not just that they are not [fully] qualified, but overall the number of IT students has decreased in recent years. Tieto Latvia cooperates with universities and our experts are giving lectures in IT and business specific topics,” says Atholde.
 
Others point to the skills’ deficit as a result of the years of a lack of proper training and education. “The first reason for having workforce immigration in Latvia is related to problems in the education system. There are several professions where the market requires more highly qualified specialists than are ‘produced’ by the educational institutions. The biggest problems are with programmers, welders and some specific engineering-related professions,” suggests Brodins.
 
He considers that the employer has to make a bigger effort in developing their workforce. He says, “…more investment is needed from the employer. Also education should be closer to labor market needs – it is too theoretical, or late in modern technology that does not prepare people for the real job market. The problem lies in the lack of possibilities to obtain practical skills before starting work. Some employers do not invest in their employees. The lifelong learning system is not fully and practically developed yet. The state and private sector have to cooperate on this issue".
 
Liepins forecasts that in the years ahead, Latvia will increasingly need people with a strong foundation in the natural sciences, in math and engineering. There will be a need for requalification of the existing workforce, including the unemployed, through secondary vocational tech training programs and adult education.
 
Labor tax reform is also needed, whereby the tax on earned income drops. This is heading in the right direction: for 2013 personal income tax is 24 percent and set to fall to 20 percent by 2015.
 
Is there a labor shortage? No, not for the average skilled worker. "There is a wage gap at this level, however, where Latvian companies need to pay more". At higher skill levels, there aren’t enough workers in select industries. Industry and government need to do more, in training, education, to develop the labor force to support the economy.
 
There is also an opportunity for Latvia, with industry, government and labor working intelligently together to develop a workforce better qualified to participate in today’s global economy. This would be one that has the skills to deliver quality work, high level design capabilities, and advanced problem-solving abilities, at respectable wages.
 
Latvia Cost of Living 2012
 
      
    
 
      
 
Latvian employees are paid on a monthly bases, to which they have to pay their Rent or Mortgage, Utilities, Food, Transportation depending if they own a vehicle or not or Public Transportation, Petrol "Gasoline", Vehicle Registration and Mandatory Vehicle Insurance and any other expenses they may have for that month.