- 2.1Early Times:
- 2.2Medieval Period:
- 2.3Reformation Period and Polish–Lithuanian Rule:
- 2.1Latvia in the Russian Empire (1795–1917):
- 2.2Declaration of Independence:
- 2.1Latvia in World War II:
- 2.1Soviet Era (1940–1941, 1944–1991):
- 2.1Restoration of Independence in 1991:
- 6Flag of Latvia:
The war of independence that followed was part of a general chaotic period of civil and new border wars in Eastern Europe. By the spring of 1919, there were actually three governments: the Provisional government headed by Kārlis Ulmanis, supported by Tautas padome and the Inter-Allied Commission of Control; the Latvian Soviet government led by Pēteris Stučka, supported by the Red Army; and the Provisional government headed by Andrievs Niedra and supported by the Baltische Landeswehr and the German Freikorps unit Iron Division.
Estonian and Latvian forces defeated the Germans at the Battle of Wenden in June 1919, and a massive attack by a predominantly German force—the West Russian Volunteer Army—under Pavel Bermondt-Avalov was repelled in November. Eastern Latvia was cleared of Red Army forces by Latvian and Polish troops in early 1920.
A freely elected Constituent assembly convened on 1 May 1920, and adopted a liberal constitution, the Satversme, in February 1922.
By 1923, the extent of cultivated land surpassed the pre-war level. Innovation and rising productivity led to rapid growth of the economy, but it soon suffered from the effects of the Great Depression. Latvia showed signs of economic recovery, and the electorate had steadily moved toward the center during the parliamentary period. On 15 May 1934, Ulmanis staged a bloodless coup, establishing a nationalist dictatorship that lasted until 1940.
Latvia in World War II:
Early in the morning of 24 August 1939, the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany signed a 10-year non-aggression pact, called the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. The pact contained a secret protocol, revealed only after Germany’s defeat in 1945, according to which the states of Northern and Eastern Europe were divided into German and Soviet “spheres of influence”. In the north, Latvia, Finland and Estonia were assigned to the Soviet sphere. A week later, on 1 September 1939, Germany and on 17 September, the Soviet Union invaded Poland.
On 5 October 1939, Latvia was forced to accept a “mutual assistance” pact with the Soviet Union, granting the Soviets the right to station between 25,000 and 30,000 troops on Latvian territory. State administrators were liquidated and replaced by Soviet cadres. Elections were held with single pro-Soviet candidates listed for many positions. The resulting people’s assembly immediately requested admission into the USSR, which the Soviet Union granted. Latvia, then a puppet government, was headed by Augusts Kirhenšteins. The Soviet Union incorporated Latvia on 5 August 1940, as The Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic.
The Soviets dealt harshly with their opponents – prior to Operation Barbarossa, in less than a year, at least 34,250 Latvians were deported or killed. Most were deported to Siberia where deaths were estimated at 40 percent, officers of the Latvian army being shot on the spot.
On 22 June 1941 German troops attacked Soviet forces in Operation Barbarossa. There were some spontaneous uprisings by Latvians against the Red Army which helped the Germans. By 29 June Riga was reached and with Soviet troops killed, captured or retreating, Latvia was left under the control of German forces by early July. The occupation was followed immediately by SS Einsatzgruppen troops who were to act in accordance with the Nazi Generalplan Ost which required the population of Latvia to be cut by 50 percent.