"Latvia"
50 Years of Terror Tyranny and Oppression 1940–1991
Home      Latvia Second Soviet Occupation 1944-1991
 
   
 
Latvia Second Soviet Occupations from 1944-1991
 
      
                                                  Flag of Nazi Germy
 
Occupation of Latvia by Nazi Germany 1941-1944
 
The Soviet-German war cut short this first year of Soviet occupation. The Nazi offensive, launched on the 22nd of June 1941, just over a week after the mass deportations were executed, entered Riga on the 1st of July 1941. This disrupted documented NKVD plans to deport several hundred thousand more from the Baltic States on the 27th and 28th of June 1941.
 
With memories of the mass deportations of a week before still fresh, the German troops were widely greeted at their arrival by the Latvians as liberators. The Latvian national anthem played on the radio, and, as Chris Bellamy wrote: "the [anti-Soviet] rebellion broke out immediately after the news of Barbarossa". The majority of ethnic Latvians who had been forced to serve in the Red Army deserted from their units, and soon afterwards attacked the NKVD. On the 2nd of July 1941, a unit of Latvian deserters captured the town of Sigulda, and three days later, Latvian rebels took control over another town, Smiltene, also blocking the strategic road to Pskov. Latvians did not only desert en masse from regular Red Army units, they also escaped from military training camps, which were part of Soviet mobilization plan. Among other battles with retreating Soviet units, Bellamy mentions Limbaži [4 July], Olaine [5 July], and Alūksne [9 July]. All these locations were captured by Latvian rebels before the first Wehrmacht units appeared in the area.
 
Nazi Germany, however, had no plan or desire to restore autonomy to Latvia, even though they ordered Colonel Alexander Plesners to oversee formation of the Latvian Defense Forces. On the 8th of July, the Germans announced that wearing of non-German uniforms was banned. Also, rebel units were ordered to disarm. Jewish fears of the Nazis, which had led some to look upon the Soviet occupation as a measure of security, were to prove tragically well founded.
 
By the 10th of July 1941, German armed forces had occupied all of Latvia's territory. Latvia became a part of Nazi Germany's Reichskommissariat Ostland, the Province General of Latvia "Generalbezirk Lettland". Anyone who was disobedient to the German occupation regime as well as those who had co-operated with the Soviet regime were killed or sent to concentration camps.
 
Second Soviet Occupation 1944-1991
 
      
                                        Flag ofthe Union of Soviet Socialist Republics                                                                Flag of the Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic
 
Latvia was again occupied by the Soviet Union from 1944-1991. Under the Soviet occupation thousands of Latvians were deported to Siberian camps, executed or forced into exile.
 
Many Latvians fled in fishermen's boats and ships to Sweden and Germany, from where until 1951 they drifted to various parts of the Western world mostly "Australia and North America". Approximately "150,000 Latvians ended up in exile in the West".
 
According to approximate estimates, as a result of World War II the population of Latvia decreased by half a million "25% less than in 1939". In comparison with 1939 the Latvian population had diminished by about 300,000. The war also inflicted heavy losses on the economy, many historic cities were destroyed, as well as industry and the infrastructure.
 
In July 1989, following the dramatic events in East Germany, the Latvian Supreme Soviet adopted a "Declaration of Sovereignty" and amended the Constitution to assert the supremacy of its laws over those of the USSR.
 
On the 23rd of August 1989 political demonstration "Baltic Way" took place. Approximately two million people joined their hands to form an over 600 kilometer long human chain across the three Baltic states "Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania". This demonstration was organized to draw the world's attention to the common historical fate which these three countries suffered. [Baltic Way or Baltic Chain]
 
In March 1990 Candidates from the pro-independence party Latvian Popular Front gained a two-thirds majority in the Supreme Council in democratic elections.
 
On the 4th of May 1990, the Latvian Council declared its intention to restore full Latvian independence. Soviet political and military forces tried unsuccessfully to overthrow the Latvian government. On "21 August 1991, Latvia claimed de facto independence". International recognition, including that of the USSR, followed. The United States, which had never recognized Latvia's forcible annexation by the USSR, resumed full diplomatic relations with Latvia on the 2nd of September 1991.
 
In February 1992, Russia agreed to start withdrawing its troops from Latvia.
 
In August 1994 the last Russian troops withdrew from the Republic of Latvia.
 
Russia officially ended its military presence in Latvia in August 1998 following the decommissioning of the "Skrunda-1 Radar Station", which was the last active Russian military radar in the Baltic's. The last Russian troops withdrew from the station the following year.
 
Historical Soviet Version of Events
 
      
         "The Spirit of Great Lenin and his victorious banner inspire us for the Great Patriotic War" Stalin
 
Up to the reassessment of Soviet history that began during the Perestroika, which led to the official condemnation of the 1939 secret protocol by the Soviet government, the Soviet position on the events of 1939-1940 is summarized as follows.
 
The Government of the Soviet Union suggested to the Government of the Republic of Latvia that they conclude a treaty of mutual assistance between the two countries. Pressure from the Latvian working peoples forced the Latvian government to accept this offer. A Pact of Mutual Assistance was signed  allowing the USSR to station a limited number of Red Army units in Latvia. Economic difficulties, dissatisfaction with the Latvian government policies "that had sabotaged fulfillment of the Pact and the Latvian government" and political orientation towards Nazi Germany led to a revolutionary situation culminating in June 1940. To guarantee fulfillment of the Pact, additional Soviet military units entered Latvia, welcomed by the Latvian workers who demanded the resignation of the bourgeoisie Latvian government and its fascist leader, Kārlis Ulmanis. That same June, under the leadership of the Latvian Communist Party, the Latvian workers held demonstrations, and on that day, the fascist government was overthrown, and a People's Government formed. Elections for the Latvian Parliament were held shortly thereafter in July 1940. The "Working People's Union", created by an initiative of the Latvian Communist Party, received the vast majority of the votes. The Parliament adopted the declaration of the restoration of Soviet power in Latvia and proclaimed the Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic. The parliament then declared Latvia's wish to freely and willingly join the USSR, adopting a resolution to that effect. That request was approved by the Supreme Soviet of the USSR and Latvia became a constituent republic of the USSR.
 
Conflicting Versions of History
 
The issue of the Soviet occupation, its motives and consequences, remains a bone of contention between the Baltic states and Russia. At the core lie different versions of the historical events during World War II and after: the Latvian shared also by "Estonia and Lithuania and widely espoused by Western Historical Scholarship" and the Soviet one, which continues to be supported and defended by the government of Russia.
 
According to the European Court of Human Rights, the Government of Latvia, the United States, and the European Union, the occupation of Latvia by the USSR in 1940, and its subsequent re-incorporation in the Soviet Union in 1944, was illegal. According to this account, the lawful government of Latvia was overthrown in 1940 and Soviet rule was imposed by force. Subsequently, the Soviet Union conducted large-scale and systematic actions including murder and mass deportations against the Latvian population. Rigged elections were organized in which only Soviet-supported candidates were permitted to run; results were accidentally released to the Western press in London before the elections were even complete. As reported by Time in 1940, those who had failed to have their passports stamped for voting Latvia into the USSR were allowed to be shot in the back of the head by Soviet NKVD, The country remained occupied by the Soviet Union until restoration of its independence in 1991. The 48 years of Soviet occupation and annexation of the Baltic States was never recognized as legal by the Western democracies. The United States especially applied the earlier-adopted Stimson Doctrine to the issue of the Baltic states, leading to its becoming an established precedent in International Law.
 
While the Congress of People's Deputies of the Soviet Union condemned the annexation of Latvia and the other Baltic states prior to the dissolution of the USSR, the Russian Federation, the legal successor state of the USSR, does not recognize the forcible occupation of Latvia by the Soviet Union. Specifically in reference to Latvia, the Russian Duma passed a resolution to "remind the deputies of the Latvian Saeima that Latvia's being a part of the Soviet Union was grounded by fact and by law from the international juridical point of view". The government of Russia further maintains that the Soviet Union liberated Latvia from the Germans in 1944. Pravda on the "5th of October 2004" complained that Latvia does not celebrate the 9th of May as the Soviet defeat of Nazism, noting: "One of the leaders of Latvian Veterans Association, Alexander Komarovsky, wrote in the "Chas" Russian-language Latvian newspaper that 154,000 Soviet soldiers died when fighting for Latvia's liberation." Latvian Russians are reported in the Russian press as saying, "Soviet soldiers were greeted with flowers and songs. If it weren't for the Soviets, then the Nazis would be here".