Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic

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Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic
Латвийская Советская Социалистическая Республика
Latvijas Padomju Sociālistiskā Republika
State emblem
State emblem
Anthem of the Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic
Location of the Latvian SSR (red) within the Soviet Union.
Capital Riga
Languages Latvian
Government Soviet Socialist Republic
Historical era World War II · Cold War
 •  Soviet occupation 16 June 1940
 •  SSR established 21 July 1940
 •  Illegally annexed by USSR, Latvia continued de jure 5 August 1940
 •  Nazi occupation 1941
 •  Soviet re-occupation
SSR re-established
 •  Disestablished 4 May 1990
 •  Recognized 6 September 1991
 •  1989 64,589 km2 (24,938 sq mi)
 •  1989 est. 2,666,567 
     Density 41/km2 (107/sq mi)
Calling code +7 013
Today part of  Latvia

The Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic (Latvian SSR; Latvian: Latvijas Padomju Sociālistiskā Republika; Russian: Латвийская Советская Социалистическая Республика, Latviyskaya Sovetskaya Sotsialisticheskaya Respublika), also known as Soviet Latvia or Latvia, was a republic of the Soviet Union. It was established on 21 July 1940, during World War II, as a puppet state[1] in the territory of the previously independent Republic of Latvia after it had been occupied by the Soviet Army, in conformity with the terms of the 23 August 1939 Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, on 17 June 1940. The annexation of Latvia into the Soviet Union (USSR) on 5 August 1940 was not recognised as legitimate, and recognition of it as the nominal fifteenth constituent republic of the USSR was withheld. Its territory was subsequently conquered by Nazi Germany in 1941, before being retaken by the Soviets in 1944–1945.

The first freely elected parliament of the Latvian SSR passed a declaration "On the Renewal of the Independence of the Republic of Latvia" on May 4, 1990, restoring the de facto independence of Latvia.[2] The full independence of the Republic of Latvia was restored on 21 August 1991.



On 24 September 1939, the USSR entered the airspace of all three Baltic states, flying numerous intelligence gathering operations. On 25 September, Moscow requested that the Baltic countries allow the USSR to establish military bases and to station troops on their soil.[3] The government of Latvia accepted the ultimatum, signing the corresponding agreement on 5 October 1939.

On 16 June 1940, following another ultimatum, the USSR invaded Latvia.[4][5][6]

Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov accused Latvia and the other Baltic states of forming a conspiracy against the Soviet Union, and so Moscow presented ultimatums, demanding new concessions, which included the replacement of governments with new ones, "determined" to "fulfilling" the treaties of friendship "sincerely" and allowing an unlimited number of troops to enter the three countries.[7] Hundreds of thousands Soviet troops entered Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania across the borders.[8] These additional Soviet military forces far outnumbered the armies of each country.[9]

The Baltic governments had decided that, in conditions of international isolation and given the overwhelming Soviet force both on the borders and inside the countries, it was in their interests not to actively resist and to avoid bloodshed in an unwinnable war.[10] The occupation of the Baltic states was complete with a communist coup d'état in each country, supported by the Soviet troops.[11] The occupation was in the legal context rather different from the occupation of Poland, which at least Stalin wanted to destroy even as a "legal entity", for example - with no coup d'état.

Most of the Defence Forces of the Baltic Countries surrendered on these orders, and were disarmed by the Red Army. There were, however, minor and separate cases of resistance.

The repressions followed with mass deportations carried out by the Soviets. The Serov Instructions, "On the Procedure for carrying out the Deportation of Anti-Soviet Elements from Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia", contained detailed instructions for procedures and protocols to observe in the deportation of Baltic nationals. In short order, the incumbent governments were replaced with "People's Governments" that were merely being used to give legal sanction to the Soviet takeover.

1940 Soviet map of the Latvian SSR.

In the following month, the new governments dissolved the parliaments and organized new elections. These elections were heavily rigged; non-Communists were disqualified or faced with conditions that made it impracticable for them to participate. For example, the Democratic Latvian Bloc, one of the few that tried to overcome the difficulties and actually participate, were all arrested and their election office confiscated. All Soviet army personnel present in the country were allowed to vote as well.[12] The election results themselves were fabricated; the Soviet press service released them early, with the result that they had already appeared in print in a London newspaper a full 24 hours before the polls closed.[13][14][15] The result was that all three Baltic states had communist majorities in their "parliaments", and in July, despite claims prior to the elections that no such action would be taken,[12] they petitioned the Soviet government to join the Soviet Union. All three of these petitions were illegal under the laws of the three Baltic states. In Latvia's case, such a law could only be enacted in the form of a plebiscite, and then with two-thirds of the electorate participating. On 5 August, the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union completed the process by accepting the Latvian petition, and formally incorporated Latvia into the Soviet Union. The overthrown Latvian government continued to function in exile for almost 50 years while the republic was under 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 13–14 June 1941, 15,424 inhabitants of Latvia — including 1,771 Jews and 742 ethnic Russians — were deported to camps and special settlements, mostly in Siberia.[16]

"TWO WORLDS" – an anti-semitic propaganda board in Latvia, summer 1941.


The Nazi invasion, launched a week later, cut short immediate plans to deport several hundred thousand more from the Baltics. Nazi troops occupied Riga on 1 July 1941. Immediately after the installment of Nazi German authority, a process of eliminating the Jewish and Gypsy population began, with many killings taking place in Rumbula.

This well-known image was taken by a Nazi perpetrator of the mass killings of 2,749 Jews on the beach near the city of Liepāja, in Latvia, from 15 to 17 December 1941. These women had been forced to disrobe and then pose for the camera. Scholarly work has led to the identification of some of the women shown. From left to right: (1) Sorella Epstein; (2) believed to be Rosa Epstein, mother of Sorella; (3) unknown; (4) Mia Epstein; (5) unknown. Alternatively, (2) may be Paula Goldman, and Mia Epstein may be (5) instead of (4).

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 Jews) and the 2,000 or more Latvian members of the SD.[17][18] By the end of 1941 almost the entire Jewish population was killed or placed in the death camps. In addition, some 25,000 Jews were brought from Germany, Austria and the present-day Czech Republic, of whom around 20,000 were killed. The Holocaust claimed approximately 85,000 lives in Latvia,[17] the vast majority of whom were Jews.

A large number of Latvians resisted the German occupation. The resistance movement was divided between the pro-independence units under the Latvian Central Council and the Soviet partisan units under the Latvian Partisan Movement Headquarters (латвийский штаб партизанского движения) in Moscow. Their Latvian commander was Arturs Sproģis. The Nazis planned to Germanise the Baltics after the war.[17] In 1943 and 1944 two divisions of Waffen SS were formed, the majority being Latvian conscripts, to help Germany against the Red Army.


In 1944, when the Soviet military advances reached the area, heavy fighting took place in Latvia between German and Soviet troops which ended with another German defeat. During the course of the war, both occupying forces conscripted Latvians into their armies, in this way increasing the loss of the nation's "live resources". In 1944, part of the Latvian territory once more came under Soviet control. The Soviets immediately began to reinstate the Soviet system. After the German surrender it became clear that Soviet forces were there to stay, and Latvian national partisans, soon to be joined by German collaborators, began their fight against another occupier - the Soviet Union.

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

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


Because Latvia had still maintained a well-developed infrastructure and educated specialists it was decided in Moscow that some of the Soviet Union's most advanced manufacturing factories were to be based in Latvia. New industry was created in Latvia, including a major machinery factory RAF and electrotechnical factories, as well as some food and oil processing plants. Because of this, most people were doing manual labor related work.


However, there were not enough people to operate the newly built factories. In order to expand industrial production, workers from outside of Latvian SSR (mainly Russians) were transferred into the country, noticeably decreasing the proportion of ethnic Latvians.


Senator Ted Kennedy, Mikhail Gorbachev and others.

In second half of the 1980s, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev started to introduce political and economic reforms in Soviet Union called glasnost and Perestroika. In the summer 1987 first large demonstrations were held in Riga at the Freedom Monument- symbol of independence. In the summer 1988 a national movement coalescing in the Popular Front of Latvia. The Latvian SSR, along with the other Baltic Republics was allowed greater autonomy and in 1988 the old national flag of Latvia was allowed to be used, replacing the Soviet Latvian flag as the official flag in 1990. Pro-independence Latvian Popular Front candidates gained a two-thirds majority in the Supreme Council in the March 1990 democratic elections.


Latvian stationery issued to commemorate the restoration of independence of the Republic of Latvia: a 5-kopeck envelope without face value.

On May 4, the Council declared restoration of Latvian independence after a transitional period through negotiations with the USSR.[19] This is also the date, when Latvian SSR was renamed Republic of Latvia. However, the central power in Moscow continued to regard Latvia as Soviet republic in 1990–1991. In January 1991, Soviet political and military forces tried unsuccessfully to overthrow the Republic of Latvia authorities by occupying the central publishing house in Riga and establishing a Committee of National Salvation to usurp governmental functions. During the transitional period Moscow maintained many central Soviet state authorities in Latvia. In spite of this, seventy-three percent of all Latvian residents confirmed their strong support for independence on March 3, 1991, in a non-binding advisory referendum. A large number of ethnic Russians also voted for the proposition. The Republic of Latvia declared the end of the transitional period and restored full independence on 21 August 1991 in the aftermath of the failed Soviet coup attempt.[20] Latvia, as well as Lithuania and Estonia de facto ceased to be parts of the USSR four months before the Soviet Union itself ceased to exist (26 December 1991). Soon, on 6 September, the independence of three Baltic states was recognized by the USSR. Today's Republic of Latvia and other Baltic states consider themselves to be the legal continuation of the sovereign states whose first independent existence dates back to 1918–1940, and does not accept any legal connection with the former Latvian SSR which had been occupied and annexed into USSR 1940–1941 and 1944–1991. Since independence, the Communist Party of the Latvian SSR was discontinued, and a number of high-ranking Latvian SSR officials faced prosecution for their role in various human rights abuses during the Latvian SSR regime. Latvia later joined NATO and the European Union in 2004.


The governments of the Baltic countries,[21][22] the European Court of Human Rights,[23] the United Nations Human Rights Council,[24] the United States,[25] and the European Union (EU),[26][27] regard Latvia as being occupied by the Soviet Union in 1940 under the provisions of the 1939 Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. The European Parliament in recognising[28] the occupation of the Baltic states from 1940 until the fall of the Soviet Union as illegal, led to the early acceptance of the Baltic states into the NATO alliance.

Soviet sources prior to Perestroika

Up to the reassessment of Soviet history in USSR that began during Perestroika, before the USSR had condemned the 1939 secret protocol between Nazi Germany and itself that had led to the invasion and occupation of the three Baltic countries,[29] the events in 1939 were as follows: The Government of the Soviet Union suggested that the Governments of the Baltic countries conclude mutual assistance treaties between the countries. Pressure from working people forced the governments of the Baltic countries to accept this suggestion. The Pacts of Mutual Assistance were then signed[30] which allowed the USSR to station a limited number of Red Army units in the Baltic countries. Economic difficulties and dissatisfaction of the populace with the Baltic governments' policies that had sabotaged fulfilment of the Pact and the Baltic countries governments' political orientation towards Nazi Germany led to a revolutionary situation in June, 1940. To guarantee fulfilment of the Pact, additional military units entered Baltic countries, welcomed by the workers who demanded the resignations of the Baltic governments. In June under the leadership of the Communist Parties political demonstrations by workers were held. The fascist governments were overthrown, and workers' governments formed. In July 1940, elections for the Baltic Parliaments were held. The "Working People's Unions", created by an initiative of the Communist Parties, received the majority of the votes.[31] The Parliaments adopted the declarations of the restoration of Soviet powers in Baltic countries and proclaimed the Soviet Socialist Republics. Declarations of Estonia's, Latvia's and Lithuania's wishes to join the USSR were adopted and the Supreme Soviet of the USSR petitioned accordingly. The requests were approved by the Supreme Soviet of the USSR.

Current position of the Russian government

The Russian government and officials maintain that the Soviet annexation of the Baltic states was legitimate[32] and that the Soviet Union liberated the countries from the Nazis.[33][34] They state that the Soviet Union acted in response to Germany-oriented policies of the three Baltic states that resulted from alleged secret talks conducted by the governments of these states with Nazi leadership[35] and that the subsequent entry of additional Soviet troops into the Baltics in 1940 was done following the agreements and with the consent of the then governments of the Baltic republics. Thus the official postulates of the Soviet historiography are continued without significant amendments. They also maintain that the USSR was not in a state of war and was not waging any combat activities on the territory of the three Baltic states; therefore, the word 'occupation' cannot be used. The Russian Foreign Ministry stated that "The assertions about [the] 'occupation' by the Soviet Union and the related claims ignore all legal, historical and political realities, and are therefore utterly groundless."[36] At the same time several historians have said that the Mutual Assistance Pact that allowed for Soviet Union to have military bases in Baltic states in 1939 and thus significantly contributed to carrying out occupation in 1940, cannot be considered truly legal even by the standards of the time it was made, as the differences between the Soviet Union and the Baltic states was so significant, that such treaty in no way can be considered mutually equal but just a cover of ultimatum.


The Soviet period saw rebuilding and increase of the industrial capacity, including the automobile (RAF) and electrotechnic (VEF) factories, food-processing industry, oil pipelines and the bulk-oil port Ventspils.

Part of the incorporation of the Latvian SSR into the Soviet Union was the introduction of the Russian language into all spheres of public life. Russian became a prerequisite for admission to higher education and better job occupations. It was also made a compulsory subject in all Latvian schools. Vast numbers of people were needed for the new factories and they were purposefully sent there from different parts of Russia, thus creating a situation wherein bigger towns became more and more russified up until the 1980s.

National income per capita was higher in Latvia than elsewhere in the USSR (42% above the Soviet average in 1968).,[37] however Latvia was at the same time a relative contributor to the Federation's centre with an estimated 0.5% of the Latvian GDP going to Moscow.[38] After the collapse of the Soviet Union, all of the economy branches associated with it collapsed as well. While a significant Russian presence in Latgale predated the Soviet Union (~30%), the intense industrialization and the heavy importation of labor from the Soviet Union to support it, led to significant increases in the Russian minority in Riga, even forming a majority in Latvian urban centers such as Daugavpils, Rēzekne, Ogre. Those areas were also hardest hit economically when the Soviet Union collapsed, leading to massive unemployment. Sharp disagreement with Russia over the legacy of the Soviet era has led to punitive economic measures by Russia, including the demise of transit trade as Russia cut off petroleum exports through Ventspils in 2003 (eliminating 99% of its shipments) after the government of Latvia refused to sell the oil port to the Russian state oil company, Transneft.[39] The result is that only a fraction of Latvia's economy is connected with Russia, especially after it joined the European Union.

In 2016 a committee of historians and economists published a report "Latvian Industry Before and After Restoration of Independence" estimating overall cost of Soviet occupation in years 1940-1990 at 185 billion euros, not counting the untangible costs of "deportations and imprisonment policy" of the Soviet authorities.[40]

See also


  1. Ronen, Yaël (2011). Transition from Illegal Regimes Under International Law. Cambridge University Press. p. 17. ISBN 978-0-521-19777-9.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Declaration of the Supreme Soviet of the Latvian SSR on May 4, 1990
  3. The Baltic States: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania by David J. Smith, Page 24, ISBN 0-415-28580-1
  4. Soviet invasion of the Baltic states in 1940 @ Documents By France, International Peasant Union, Assemblée de l'Union; 1960
  5. the Soviet invasion of the Baltic states @ A Dictionary of Twentieth-century World History ; Oxford University Press, 1997; ISBN 0-19-280016-7
  6. Five Years of Dates at Time magazine on Monday, Jun. 24, 1940.
  7. see report of Latvian Chargé d'affaires, Fricis Kociņš, regarding the talks with Soviet Foreign Commissar Molotov in I.Grava-Kreituse, I.Feldmanis, J.Goldmanis, A.Stranga. (1995). Latvijas okupācija un aneksija 1939–1940: Dokumenti un materiāli. (The Occupation and Annexation of Latvia: 1939–1940. Documents and Materials.) (in latvian). pp. 348–350.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. nearly 650,000 according to Kenneth Christie, Robert Cribb (2002). Historical Injustice and Democratic Transition in Eastern Asia and Northern Europe: Ghosts at the Table of Democracy. RoutledgeCurzon. p. 83. ISBN 0-7007-1599-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Stephane Courtois; Werth, Nicolas; Panne, Jean-Louis; Paczkowski, Andrzej; Bartosek, Karel; Margolin, Jean-Louis & Kramer, Mark (1999). The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression. Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-07608-7.
  10. The Baltic States: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania p.19 ISBN 0-415-28580-1
  11. Estonia: Identity and Independence by Jean-Jacques Subrenat, David Cousins, Alexander Harding, Richard C. Waterhouse ISBN 90-420-0890-3
  12. 12.0 12.1 [Attitudes of the Major Soviet Nationalities, Center for International Studies, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1973]
  13. Mangulis, Visvaldis (1983). "VIII. September 1939 to June 1941". Latvia in the Wars of the 20th century. Princeton Junction: Cognition Books. ISBN 0-912881-00-3.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Švābe, Arvīds. The Story of Latvia. Latvian National Foundation. Stockholm. 1949.
  15. Ferdinand Feldbrugge (1985). Encyclopedia of Soviet Law. Brill. p. 460. ISBN 90-247-3075-9.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Elmārs Pelkaus, ed. (2001). Aizvestie: 1941. gada 14. jūnijā (in Latvian, English, and Russian). Riga: Latvijas Valsts arhīvs; Nordik. ISBN 9984-675-55-6. OCLC 52264782.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 Ezergailis, A. The Holocaust in Latvia, 1996
  18. Simon Wiesenthal Center Multimedia Learning Center Online
  19. Par Latvijas Republikas neatkarības atjaunošanu
  20. "History - Embassy of Finland, Riga". Embassy of Finland, Riga. 2008-07-09. Retrieved 2010-09-02. Latvia declared independence on 21 August 1991...The decision to restore diplomatic relations took effect on 29 August 1991<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. The Occupation of Latvia at Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Latvia
  22. Estonia says Soviet occupation justifies it staying away from Moscow celebrations - Pravda.Ru
  23. European Court of Human Rights cases on Occupation of Baltic States
  24. UNITED NATIONS Human Rights Council Report
  25. U.S.-Baltic Relations: Celebrating 85 Years of Friendship at
  26. European Parliament (January 13, 1983). "Resolution on the situation in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania". Official Journal of the European Communities. C 42/78.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  27. Motion for a resolution on the Situation in Estonia by the EU
  28. European Parliament (January 13, 1983). "Resolution on the situation in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania". Official Journal of the European Communities. C 42/78. ...calling on the United Nations to recognize the rights of the Baltic States to self-determination and independence...<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  29. The Forty-Third Session of the UN Sub-Commission at Google Scholar
  30. (Russian)1939 USSR-Latvia Mutual Aid Pact (full text)
  31. Great Soviet Encyclopedia
  32. Russia and the Baltic States: Not a Case of "Flawed" History - interview with Mikhail Demurin, head of the Executive Committee International Department of the Rodina (Homeland) party.
  33. BBC News: Europe (5 May 2005). "Russia denies Baltic 'occupation'". Retrieved 10 August 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  34. BBC News: Europe (7 May 2005). "Bush denounces Soviet domination". Retrieved 10 August 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  35. "Russian intelligence justifies Soviet annexation of Baltic states" - from RIA Novosti, 23.11.2006
  36. "Russia's rejection of Lithuania occupation claims final -ministry" - from, 18.01.2007
  37. Misiunas, Romuald J.; Rein Taagepera (1993). The Baltic States, years of dependence, 1940–1990. University of California Press. p. 185. ISBN 978-0-520-08228-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  38. Izvestija, "Опубликованы расчеты СССР с прибалтийскими республиками" 9 октября 2012, 14:56
  39. Latvia turns to EU for help in resolving oil impasse, AP WorldStream Tuesday, February 4, 2003.
  40. "Latvia reveals cost of Soviet occupation". Retrieved 2016-04-22.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

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