"Latvia"
50 Years of Terror Tyranny and Oppression 1940–1991
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Latvia First Independence 1918
 
 
 
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. [Appendix XXI – Latvian Red Rifleman]
 
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 18 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 4 April 1919, with the exception of a small territory near Liepāja. The Latvian Socialist Soviet Republic was proclaimed on 17 December 1918 with the political, economic, and military backing of the Bolshevik government of Soviet Russia. On 3 March 1919 German and Latvian forces commenced a counterattack against the forces of Soviet Latvia. On 22 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 23 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 5 October it commenced an offensive on Riga taking the west bank of the Daugava River but on 11 November was defeated by Latvian forces and by the end of the month, driven from Latvia. On 3 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 ethnographic border of Latvia. On 11 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". [Appendix I – Latvian War of Independence] [Appendix II – Latvian–Soviet Peace Treaty "Treaty of Riga"]
 
The international community "United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Italy and Japan" recognized Latvia's independence on 26 January 1921, and the recognition from many other countries followed soon. In this year Latvia also became a member of the League of Nations "22 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 15 May 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. [Appendix VII – Prime Minister Kārlis Ulmanis]
 
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.