Monthly Archives: December 2011

Latvia 2011 The Year of troubles

The year 2011 will certainly go down in history as one of the most intense years in history. The Japanese Disaster, Arab Spring, US debt crisis and Euro zone problems. But, also in Latvia the year 2011 was time of important decisions, political and national collisions and even newer economic problems. This post is about the main events in Latvia in 2011.

1. The Decree Nr.2

Since 2008, Latvia have been deeply affected by economic crisis. In late 2008, state on the brink of bankruptcy. A deal with International Monetary Fund was signed. Since then all previous governments have done a large effort to consolidate the state budget. The consolidation means drastic cuts in all state sectors, high taxes and lot of unpopular decisions.  And that surely means a large public dissatisfaction with the government and the Saeima (Parliament). Calls for dismissal of the parliament has been popular since 2006. The 9. Saeima was met with protest because of the so-called Positivism campaign that allowed the wining Peoples Party to fund the election campaign by surpassing the official election funding limits. In result the prime minister Aigars Kalvītis kept its seat for another 4 years. But, his second term was unsuccessful and sparked calls for dismissal of Saeima. The acting president Valdis Zatlers who only had such rights hesitated to take this step. In 2009. he was actually threatening to do that, but again hesitated.

But in May 28, he suddenly lost any hesitation and issued Decree Nr. 2. The Latvian constitution allows the President to call referendum to dismiss the parliament. If the people vote yes the parliament is dissolved if no – president must step down. But why Valdis Zatlers choose to dissolve parliament only nine months old when he was asked to do this many times earlier.

The official reason was the vote in the parliament that prohibited the state anti-corruption service to make search in deputies Ainārs Šlesers home. Šlesers is well-known political player and oligarch and he was accused for corruption schemes. However, since he was an elected deputy, he had to be handed over by deputy vote. And his party voted no along with quarter of deputies abstaining. So his handover failed.  The ballot was hidden. Those who were abstaining were members of Green Farmers Union and the Harmony Center. By this the parliament got involved in conflict with the juridical power. Valdis Zatlers saw this as a important breach by the parliament and called to dismiss it.

But that was just the official reason. First, Valdis Zatlers was on the finish of his presidential therm and seek re-election. But, he must be elected by the parliament. And he got pretty unclear promises from elected parties. And then alternative candidate appeared. His name was Andris Bērziņš and he was elected deputy of Green Farmers Union fraction. In past he was director of Unibank or Seb Bank and he a shadowy figure that appeared from nowhere. Before 28, May Valdis Zatlers was more and more aware that he may not be elected. So he may decided to dismiss the parliament to punish it for not supporting him and form his own party to continue his political career.

Another reason may have been his sympathy for the Russian party Harmony Center. There are speculations that before his decision he had conversation with the Saeima speaker Solvita Aboltiņa and Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis  where he demanded to form new government with Harmony Center that was in opposition at that time.

The very first result of his decision was that he was punished by dismissed parliament. He was not elected and instead with 50 votes for and 48 against Andris Bērziņš was elected. He is the oldest president in Latvian history with 67 years. Numerous controversies were associated with him. First that he was a henchman of the oligarch Aivars Lembergs, second that he hacked money from EU Development funds and the last that he may have more children that he claims. When he left the parliament house as newly elected president he was met by angry crowd that supported Zatlers. Zatlers suddenly became so popular, because he fulfilled the Latvian people’s dream to punish the parliament they elected themselves. In his first months as president Andris Berzins has shown itself as conservative and neutral president. He said no to many presidential privileges, like private residence, escort with sirens and even presidential salary. The last should not be problem since he is the wealthiest senior citizen in Latvia.

 The election campaign

The referendum to dissolve the parliament was met with great support and 94% of voters voted for. So again in few months a new election campaign was issued. A reminder that the last parliament begun work only in November 2010. The main question was the next move by Valdis Zatlers. The ruling party Unity asked him to join them. But, instead Zatlers formed new party called Zatlers Reform Party. He wanted to make new wining party from scratch and get as many people as possible. The initial outcome was dubious,  all popular members of Latvian intellectual elite declined to join his party. So his party was formed from amateurs and ex members from other parties.

The main slogan of the election campaign was to finally crush the so-called oligarch parties. The three main known oligarchs Ainārs Šlesers, Andris Šķēle and Aivars Lembergs were the main targets. In one way Zatlers really succeeded to crush them. Andris Šķēle  dissolved his Peoples Party that had to pay million lats to state for breaking election funding limits. The same happened with Ainārs Šlesers, who took part in elections, but failed to surpass 5% barrier. He also put the end to his Latvian First Party/Latvian Way, that he had just renamed as Šlesers Reform Party to tackle Zatlers. In meanwhile Aivars Lembergs Green Farmers Union made it to new Saeima but with only 13 seats and remain in opposition.

Two main gainers from Zatlers Decree Nr. 2 were two opposite parties that each gained more prominence in the new elections. The pro-Russian party union The Harmony Center nearly won the elections of the 1o. Saeima, but failed to enter the parliament. By the years the Harmony Center has been the main supporter of Latvian Russian speaking population. However, also it has tried to gather enough Latvian support. Latvians who support Harmony Center are mostly nostalgic about Soviet times and has deep connection with Russian culture. Others, are moved by the social democratic ideology of the party. The Harmony Center was ready to win the emergency elections and finally to enter the government.

The opposite force against leftist Russian force financed by Moscow was the National Alliance, a force formed from two conservative parties For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK and All for Latvia!. The main ideology of this party was to defend Latvian rights in Latvia and preserve the Latvian language.  In November 2010, they were excluded from the government now because of the growing support for nationalist ideas they also hoped to enter the government.

The election outcome and troubled government formation

The emergency elections took place in 16. September. As many expected or feared the Harmony Center won by 26%. Zatlers Reform Party came second, Unity third and National Union fourth. The Green Farmers were the last to score above 5% barrier.

By the tradition the wining party should form the new government coalition. But the scored majority of the Harmony Center was not so great to make free moves so they had to relay on support from Latvian parties. And the movement to keep Harmony Center into opposition was stronger than ever. The leader of Harmony Center Nils Ušakovs made many concessions, first he recognized the occupation of Latvia at NATO meeting before the election night. The party that for years was denying that Latvia was occupied in 1940, by Soviet Union no came out with slogan: “There was an occupation, but there are no occupants!”, and asked to include this phrase in new governmental declaration. This phrase actually means that thousands of Soviet immigrants and occupation force members who still live in Latvia are not accountable for the actions of the Soviet Union and are legalized to live her further without worry. Such position made a lot of opposition against Harmony Center to taken in government.

 However, Valdis Zatlers threw a rock in to the pound, when he issued that Harmony Center must be taken in government. He made this decision in middle of the night, and angered people even more when he said this decision can only be changed with use of tanks. The analogy with 17, June 1940, when Soviet tanks rolled into Riga was bad for Zatlers and suddenly the peoples hero who dismissed the parliament became the national traitor in the eyes of many.

Two other contestants for the government the Unity and National Alliance allied against Zatlers, and forced him to make government without Harmony Center. In the end Valdis Dombrovskis kept his prime minister seat and the Latvian right-wing government was formed. Zatlers however got double shot in the feet in the very first day of the parliament session. He was again turned down by the parliament when his bid to take parliament speaker seat failed. Solvita Āboltiņa kept her parliament speaker seat. If that was not enough, six deputies from Zatlers party fraction left his party putting the coalition to a danger. Zatlers was speaking about traitors and worms, but Dombrovskis arranged deal with the six independent deputies to support the government.

The start of the national confrontation

The decision not to take Harmony Center into government started a large stir within the Russian population. The leader of the party Jānis Urbanovičs again threatened to use a “non – parliamentary activities” to enter the government. Russians hold a 28% of the population along with other minorities that mostly speak Russian. Why the Harmony Center was not taken into government? The very first answer that the Harmony Center have large disagreements with many Latvian parties and their ideology is against the interests of the Latvian state. They were against many economical policies, they wanted to cancel the deal with International Monetary Fund and wanted more cooperation with Russia. In national issues they wanted more rights for Russian language and they always questioned the historical issues of Latvia. If that was not enough they have signed a cooperation agreement with Vladimir Putin party United Russia and China Communist Party. Many sources state that the party is financed by the Kremlin.

 These events made Russian national radicals to organize a referendum for Russian language as the second official language.  The leader of this movement is the member of Russian neobolshevik  party Vladimir Linderman who was in past accused of terrorist activities and was deported from Russia. The idea of the referendum first came out in spring, when Linderman issued the petition for the referendum as the answer to National Alliance  petition signing to give lessons only in Latvian in schools. The National Alliance was intending to put the end to state funded Russian schools that still work in Latvia. That could be good move to end self-imposed school segregation in Latvia. While many Russians came to study in Latvian schools, many stays in Russian school and most probably finish them with bad Latvian language skills.  The petition failed as they failed to gather the required number of sing- ins for the referendum. Latvian population did not saw the issue important enough.

However, the Russian initiative was more successful since the question of Russian language as the official language was important for many nationalistic minded Russians. People who support this motion, are nostalgic for Soviet times, when Russian language was the main language and many were free from using Latvian. Many of them see Russia as their homeland. Others simply vote to protest against the existing state order that associate with Latvians and Europe. In so the referendum will take place in 18, February 2012. The prognosis of the outcome shows that the  motion will fail. To make such important change in the  constitution more than 60% of voters must vote yes. And this more than Harmony Center gathered in the elections. Russian speakers cannot gather more votes than the actually live in Latvia. And not all Russian speakers will vote for the motion. Meanwhile Latvian parties have asked all Latvians to take part in the referendum and vote no, to show Latvian unity.

The referendum issue sparks interesting question of what will be the future of the Harmony Center? At first Harmony Center was against the referendum, but actually it was secretly supporting it from the start. Then after staying in opposition the major of Riga and the leader of the party Nils Ušakovs singed for the referendum. To explained that he voted because of his conscience, but he was still in favor of one state language. Then other members of the Harmony Center also took part. In seems that Harmony Center took part in risky game to keep their voter sympathy. To enter the government they gave a lot of their demands and even recognized the occupation, but still remained in opposition. To rehabilitate themselves to Russian voters they again turned to national moves. Also it was important for Ušakovs to keep enough support to win in Riga Municipal elections, because the municipality has financial problems and their allies from Šlesers party have failed. But, by this move the Harmony Center has alienated the Latvian voters and made even better arguments for Latvian parties not include the Harmony Center into government.

Many liberals blame Latvian parties and Latvian nationalists for this situation. They say if the Harmony Center would be given a chance to take part into the parliament no referendum would not took place. Others blame National Alliance for their proposed referendum that provoked Russian radicals. But, in reality that is not the case. The petition would have happened even if Harmony Center would be in the government. That also would give good boost to gather necessary sing-ins. Also similar schemes happened in Ukraine and South Ossetia  where there no Latvian nationalists. The Linderman’s referendum is part of global politics of the Russian Federation to stir up Russians in the neighboring countries in the wake of the presidential elections.

More financial and economic troubles

At the end of the year the IMF mission in Latvia was finished. Latvia no more had to take more loans from IMF and organize the budget according to IMF demands. But, before it Latvia faced crisis in Air line and Bank sector. Latvian national Air Line Air Baltic nearly crushed, if had not be saved by the government and bank Latvijas Krājbanka went bankrupt because of forgery made by its owners.

Air Baltic was suffering from spending deficit already in 2011. At that time it was led by German businessman Bertold Flik  who got himself involved in corruption and conflicts with the government. After Minister of the economy Artis Kampars warned about possible bankruptcy of the airline, Fliks in fear from the anti-corruption service moved to Germany. Then later the government removed Fliks from office. After bank crush in Lithuania, whole Air Baltic was nationalized because Lithuanian Snoras bank had large share of Air Baltic stock actions.

Next big hit was in November, when the Lithuanian government nationalized the Snoras bank owned by Russian banker Vladimir Antonov. He and his associates was accused of looting the bank resources. The Snoras bank was in control of Latvian based Latvijas Krājbanka. Few days after the events in Lithuania the Latvian Financial Capital Trade commission came to conclusion that also  about 100 millions of Lats had been looted from Latvijas Krājbanka also. So also the Latvijas Krājbanka went bankrupt. Many thousand people had problems with their bank accounts and pensions. In rural areas where there was only one Latvijas Krājbanka ATM problems were severe.

In December, a rumors on social circles, Twitter, Draugiem Lv, spread out that also Swedish Swedbank has problems. That lead to bank customer panic and in one night more than 20 million of Lats were taken out by panicked customers. Soon it was clear that the rumors were spread out in purpose. No actual Swedbank problems were known and this was an intended scheme to make loss for Swedbank and Latvian economy. The Latvian security police has stated that the perpetrators may come from foreign country.

These were the main political and economical events in Latvia in 2011. It was the time of new political crisis, ethnic division and financial problems.  The next year will no be no less intense. As the astrologers say the 2011 and 2012 is the time of increased solar activity so its time of worldwide changes. Plus 2012. will be the year of the dragoon. Last time when I wrote report about Latvia in 2010, I expressed hope that this year would be much peaceful and wiser than the last. It however turned that the year 2011 was the year of troubles for whole the world. Next year will be the year of changes and I wish the Latvian people to be strong enough to survive these changes.


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First World War in Latvia 1914-1918

Latvian Rifleman in the Christmas Battle

Russia joined war against Germany in 1914. Already in 1 August after German declaration of war German warships shelled city of Liepaja. In July 30 on  all territory of Latvia a mobilization was issued. Already in first days of war 20 to 25 thousand Latvians were sent to Eastern Front. On 1915 January 31 to February 21 Russians fought unsuccessful battle in Mazurian lakes and the town of Augustov. On 8 February the Baltic XX corpus was destroyed. From 35, 500 soldiers 27, 988 lost their lives.  In all region Russians lost 42, 000 men. Later Russian officers remembered the outstanding performance of Latvian soldiers and their courage. Latvian losses were one the largest in history of the Latvian warfare.

Latvia 1914-1918

On spring on 1915, German army marched in the Russian territory. They captured Lithuanian lands, and on May 7 took control of city Liepaja. However the heart of Semigallia the city of Jelgava was not taken because of Latvian Home Guards who stood against Germans. The main defense lines were among Ruļlu hills and Svēte. Home Guards already showed their best against Germans in Lithuania and Germans was looking to find the best way to defeat them. After attack on Ruļlu hills failed Germans attempted to attack from Skrunda and was also fought back. Then Russian reinforcements came and stopped German offensive.

In July 14 Germans advanced from the river of Venta. This time only Russian units stood against them and retreated in disorderly way. Jelgava was taken without a single gun shot. On August 1 Germans had captured all Courland, Semigallia and the front line stretched from the Gulf of Riga to city of Daugavpils.

After the capture of half of Latvian territory the strongest voices of patriots called to form Latvian national units. The units must be formed only from Latvians and must have their own Latvian officers. The strong dislike for Germans was the general reason for Latvians did not want the return of the German rule. Latvian activists contacted Russian military officials. The main pusher of this idea was the deputy of the Russian State Council Jānis Goldmanis. Many Russian officials resisted the idea, because of the memories of revolution in 1905 when Latvians were the strongest revolution force. Russian Empress Alexandra, an ethnic German recommended Czar Nikolai II to sent Latvian soldiers to other parts of Russia. However, because of outstanding performance of Latvian Home Guards the Russian High command accepted the idea.

The Latvian Rifleman

In first days of forming 3700 men joined voluntary, in second half of 1915, there was 6392 voluntary soldiers. Eight Latvian battalions were later reformed in regiments. With the reserve regiment in Tartu there were 38, 100 Latvians Rifleman fighting in Russian army. The formation of Latvian first national units was taken by great euphoria; this was different from Latvian Waffen SS legion, because it was pure Latvian initiative.

The front line as dangerously close to Riga. In length of 90 kilometers, from Dole Island in river Daugava, Berzmente-Dalbe-Mangaļi forest guard-house, the Swamp of Tīrelis, Ķemeri, Ragaciems to the shores of the Gulf of Riga a line of entrenchments and fortifications was established. Latvian Rifleman along with Russian soldiers guarded the city of Riga.

The German advance to Riga was stopped in October. Germans were surprised by the strength and courage of Latvian soldiers. Because of this Germans restrained from full blown attack against Riga for two years. Russians however ordered many attacks in the summer of 1916 which Latvians fought with heavy losses. The Russian High command was inefficient and issued foolish orders. In July, because of bad situation in the Western front Russians were forced by the allies to attack Germans to relive the allied defense. Russians ordered badly planed attacks near the road to Bauska to advance to Baldone and Iecava. Attack was in daylight and soldiers entered the Smerdkuļa swamp. Artillery bullets got lost in the swamp dunes and German lines were untouched. Soldiers were exposed to machine gun fire. Germans shelled the attackers and at the end of the day only the small part of survivors reached the German entrenchments.

Heavy battles took place on the left side of the river Daugava still owned by Russians. The 2 km² wide peninsula was made as fortification for two battalions. On April 16 1916 two Latvian Rifleman Battalions were sent there to assist the Russian troops who defended this bridgehead. The Germans wanted to capture this small plot of land to gain crossing point over Daugava. The Latvian Rifleman was under constant artillery bombardment. On September 25 1916 Germans even used chemical gas weapons. However, the bridgehead was not captured by Germans until July 27 1917, when following the German offensive the bridgehead was evacuated. Both Latvian battalions lost 167 men. That’s why the bridgehead got its infamous name – The Island of Death.

The Island of Death

The Island of Death

However, the Russian High command planed more attacks. Bulgarian General Radko Dimitriev planned to use eight Latvian Rifleman regiments to attack heavily fortified German lines in night-time without artillery support. In December 12 General Dimitriev gathered the Latvian commanders and issued his plans. He lied about the seven times larger Russian forces and the great reserves. In reality the attack force was only three times larger. Latvian commanders were mostly optimistic and promised to carry out the attack with greatest confidence.

Latvian soldiers were also optimistic and the Russian promise that they could liberate Jelgava boosted them. The spirits were high and nobody suspected that the attack was intended for much more local purposes and after they would break the first lines, Latvians without Russian support would have to face concrete or heavy rafter blockhouses and machine guns.

The map showing the location of the Christmas battle

At the first day of battle temperature was around O°, but on next days fell down to 25º to 30º. Wounded or sleeping soldiers froze to death. Latvians were ordered to capture the first German lines to open way for reinforcements. By the cover of snowstorm and arctic outfits Latvians cut passages trough the barbed wires. After that they rushed to the first German battle line. Next two days were spent on heavy fighting and the second battle line was captured. Attack was halted because there was no Russian reinforcements and Siberian units refused to assist Latvians.

Germans started heavy counterattack. It was withstood for 48 hours. Then on January 7 Latvian rifleman attacked heavily fortified German lines in the sand dunes of Tireli swamp. In the middle of the German fortification was the fortified hill that later was called Ložmetējkalns (Machine Gun Hill). Along with Siberian unit’s Latvian rifleman captured this fortification.  About 1000 German men were captured. The outcome of the attack was 7 km wide gap on the German front lines. But, no supportive attack from Russians ever took place.

On January 23 Germans gathered forces for the counter attack. In the temperature of -48º Latvian Rifleman along with Siberian divisions were left alone to face Germans. Russians ordered three counter attacks that all failed. In so Germans recaptured 4/5 of their lost positions. However, the Machine Gun hill remained in the hands of Russians.

German fortification at Machine Gun hill

The courage of Latvian Rifleman was known far outside Russia, because of this battle. However, the broken promises by the Russians turned down the morale of Latvian officers and soldiers. The foolishness of the Russian commanders and cowardice of the Russian soldiers was clearly visible. The Russian command sent Latvian to death on purpose, because they did not trust them and Latvians were the only ones who were truly capable to fight. Understandably the soldiers from Siberia did not saw any point to fight in land that they did not considered their homeland. But, for Latvians it was the fight for their very own land.

Front lines were broken only in the summer of 1917. Because of the fall of Czarist government, Germans captured Riga. Latvian rifleman’s again showed courage and managed to hold Germans back. But, it only helped the panicky retreating Russians to leave untouched.  This was the last time Latvian Rifleman fought for Russia. The sense of hopelessness led to radicalization of the Latvian Rifleman. Majority of then showed support for Bolsheviks and on the next years were the core of the Red Army. Those who stayed later fought in the Latvian Army in the war of freedom.

The site of the Christmas Battle the Tireli swamp was drained during the inter war period. After the regain of independence a museum dedicated to the battle site was brought up. A dozens of entrenchments and bunkers are restored and dozens of  people visit this site every year.

Selected Sources:

Bērziņš, Valdis. (1995) Latviešu strēlnieki: drāma un traģēdija. Riga : Latvijas Vēstures institūta apgāds.
Bērziņš, Valdis. (2000) 20. gadsimta Latvijas vēsture. I, Latvija no gadsimta sākuma līdz neatkarības pasludināšanai, 1900-1918. Riga: Latvijas vēstures institūta apgāds.
Lācis, Visvaldis (2001) Latviešu zemes un tautas vēsture. Rīga : ASF Saules koks : Vieda.


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Latvians in the Great Purge 1937-1938

Cathedral at the Butuvo polygon where about 200 Latvians were killed

Every first Sunday of December its official commemoration day for Latvians who died in the Great Purges in 1937 -1938.  Latvians along with other non-Russian communists were targets of Joseph Stalin repressions. Before the purges many Latvians were involved in the Soviet government, many took high rank posts. Nearly all them became victims of Stalinist repressions. Along them many low rank Latvian activists and intellectuals were killed only because of their nationality. However, not all Latvians living in the Soviet Union were exterminated, but they are part of overall Stalin Genocide that took place during 1929 to 1939 that was aimed on social and ethnic groups.

The reason so many Latvians lived in the Soviet Union during Stalin’s reign was the events of First Wold War and Russian Civil War. The German invasion in the Latvian territory in 1915  sparked a mass exodus to inner parts of Russia. About half million Latvian and Jewish refugees entered Russia and settled in major Russian cities. Also in Latvia, a Latvian Rifleman division were formed to fight against the Germans in Baltic front. After the February Revolution, political divisions affected the rifleman and Latvian refugees and many choose to follow the Bolshevik path. Majority of Latvian rifleman after the Bolshevik coup in November joined the ranks of the Red Army. The Latvian Red Rifleman was one of the most important units that helped the Bolsheviks to gain victory. Over the end of civil war, not all Latvians head back to Latvia. Many of then were true believers of communist ideas and were willing to contribute the Soviet government. And the Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin was friendly to non-Russians in the government. He believed in internationalist ideas and so he allowed Jews, Latvians, Caucasians to share the power.

There have been a wide discussion on why Stalin, who himself was a Georgian decided to remove non-Russians from the posts in the party and the army. Commonly described reason was the Stalin’s belief of coming war with the western powers that made him to look at foreign nationals as the members of the “fifth column”. All ethnic groups who had independent countries outside  Soviet Union fell victim of ethnic cleansing. For instance there was no action taken against the Jews, because they had no country at that time. But, Latvians, Poles, Germans and others were considered as foreign spies.

However, it’s a question whether the Stalin’s fears of spies and conspirators were real or just a disguise. Stalin’s policy was to eliminate all his competitors and people who may question his orders. He had a certain dislike for people who took a direct part in October revolution and the Civil war. As we know Stalin’s role in these events was marginal. So Stalin eliminated all government and army members who he considered not loyal.  He certainly had aggressive plans and he prepared not to defend his country, but took active part in the future world war.

The start of ethnic cleansing was July 25 1937 when the chief of Soviet NKVD (the secret police) Nikolai Yezhov issued the order nr. oo49 to arrest in five days all German citizens and political emigrants who mainly worked in the military and transportation system.  Next on May 11, repressions were started against the Poles. All who emigrated to the Soviet Union to find a better place to live in now were thrown in prison and shot.

By this time many Latvians were arrested as the members “fascist conspiracy”, “Trotsky supporters”, “spies of Latvia” and members of “counterrevolutionary organizations”. Already on January 21, Yezhov reported to Stalin that he had discovered and eliminated a “Latvian counter-revolutionary organization” formed by party members and emigrants. The idea of “Latvian Action” was brought by the chief of the western sector of the People’s Commissariat of Interior comrade Nasedkin.  He arrived in Moscow on November 1937, to report to Yezhov and inform him about the so-called “Latvian National Center”. It was described as a wide network of Latvians working in a Latvian section of the Comintern and Latvian society “Prometejs” and other Latvian circles. Nasedkin reported that 500 people are suspects in what Yezhov replied “Nonsense! Arrest no less than 1500 people!” Two days later Nasedkin received order from Yezhov that everything is set for the “Latvian Action” and the members of Belorussia Interior Commissariat, the Latvian Club, Latvian National Theater and Latvian rifleman sections should be first to be arrested.

Soviet operatives did this with ease. If they found a Latvian national within any governmental office, they automatically  added him to “Latvian conspirator list”. Next on November 23, Yezhov issued an order to gather information about all Latvian societies and organizations in every region and town.

On 30 November deputy of Peoples Commissar of the Interior Frinovsky sent a coded telegram to all commissars within the Soviet Union claiming that Latvian counter-revolutionary nationalists and saboteurs have been discovered and must be eliminated. The order allowed to arrest everyone with Latvian nationality in the passport. The arrests of all Latvian suspects within all Soviet Union begun on December 3.  To gather enough information about Latvian nationals top members of the communist party were arrested and tortured. Basically after hours of torture these people were willing to not only admit their “guilt”, but also report other Latvians, friends and relatives.

The death sentences were issued in masses by the so-called “trios” (troikas) or “duos” (dvoika) the two or three top NKVD officials who could issue death warrants for more than 1000 people within a day. On February 3, 1938 in Butovo 258 people were killed along with then 229 Latvians

The Soviet “style” of death sentencing was not only to sentence the prime suspects, but his wives, children and relatives. Whole families were killed along the way. According to Russian historians N. Okhotin and A. Roginsky from December 1937 to September 1938, 172, 830 people were sentenced to death. Along with then 22, 360 people were sentenced because of their Latvian nationality. 16, 573 were shot. Others were deported to Siberia and concentration camps of the Gulag.

The precise number of the Latvian victims of the Great Purge is yet to be fully discovered. It must be kept in mind that the “Latvian action” along with actions against Poles and Germans was a prime initiative of the Communist Party Central Committee Politburo and its chief Joseph Stalin.

Selected Sources:

Riekstiņš, Jānis (2012) PSRS Iekšlietu tautas komisariāta “Latviešu operācija”, (1937-1938). Rīga : LU Akadēmiskais apgāds.

Riekstiņš, Jānis (Ed) (2009) Represijas pret latviešiem PSRS, 1937-1938 : dokumenti. Rīga : Latvijas Valsts arhīvs

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Mein Kampf and Hitlers real intentions and actions

Previous article was attempting to view the events of 1939-1941, from different perspective. It inclined that in last 2o years historians have gathered enough facts and archival sources to prove that Hitlers attack on Soviet Union was based on strategical logical necessity, as answer to Soviet aggressive policy towards Germany.

However, there always will be people who will turn down these evidences and will cite passages from Hitlers most famous work Mein Kampf. In this book Hitler talked about gaining the “living space” in the East as basic necessity that must be gained by invading Russia.

So to explain why in 1941, Hitler who had conquered half of Europe and who was involved in unpromising war with Great Britain suddenly chooses to open another front in the east, they say: “Its because he wrote that in his book!”. He wanted to do that already in  1925, and that is the main reason. All attempts on looking on real strategical situation before  the invasion is seen as revival as Goebbels propaganda. But what Hitler actually wrote in his book? Was it the only thing he wrote or did he mean by that?

Hitler wrote his main book between 1923 to 1924, while being in custody. The future victories were only in his dreams. Speaking strictly his work was not propaganda work, but the theory of his party that should become a foundation of future mass movement. The Mein Kampf was a philosophy of failed right wing extremist who speculated about the fate of Germany. The 1000 page manifesto written by Norwegian extremist Anders Behring Breivik had same level of importance as Mein Kampf had at the time of its release.

His main goal was German renouncement  from colonization to conquer new lands in Europe. “Until our country has not managed to provide itself with enough land, you cannot see our position as faultless. Never forget, that most holiest rights are rights for plenty of land that we can cultivate ourselves. Never forget that most holiest blood are those that are wasted in the fight for the land.” This means that Hitler strives for land anywhere: east, north, south, west.  The eastern lands had no prime importance as Hitler could also desire other territories within Europe.

Hitler actually plans wars, but his hatred for Bolsheviks and Western democracies are driven by mercantile reasons not political. War both with west and east is physically impossible for Germany. So Germany must choose which side to ally with – Great Britain or Soviet Union.

Hitler considers both options and chooses the first – alliance with western powers. “From military point of view German-Russian war against Western Europe (in this case against all world) would be a disaster for us. Because all fighting would happen on German soil, not Russian, and Germany cannot hope for at least suitable help from Russia.

Hitler thinks that Russia is weak, poorly armed ally “Bear in mind that between Germany and Russia there is Poland, that is completely in hands of France. In case of war between Germans, Russian alliance and Western European powers, for Russia, before it manages to send any soldier to German front, will have to beat Poland first. In such war thing lies more in armament not in count of soldiers”.

Hitler thinks that alliance with Soviet Union would mean relapse of the events of the First World War. No less dangerous is alliance with Soviet Union that does not includes urgent termless goals. “Usually its objected that alliance with Russia does not need urgent war or it’s needed to properly prepare for such war. No, that is not so! Alliance that does not include war aims is useless and unneeded.  Alliances are only made for common struggle… One of two: either German – Russian coalition stays only on paper, and therefore looses its value and meaning; or such alliance stops to be only on paper and becomes realized and then whole world will see in us the danger hidden for them. It’s completely naive to think as if Great Britain and France would quietly wait for ten years, until German – Russian alliance will finish all technical preparations for the war. No, in  this case danger for Germany will grow in high-speed”.  

And another, secondary, but important argument: “Present day Russian leaders do not consider signing a fair union with Germany, and even fulfill it if they ever signed it”. 

Therefore Hitler makes a judgment – alliance with Russia is pointless and dangerous, but “really usable and perspective is an alliance with England and Italy.” Such alliance is more preferable for Germany. “I openly admit that already before the war I thought that Germany would do wiser if it would say no to pointless colonialism, building of war fleet and increasing its world trade, then with England it would fight against Russia”. In so conquering western lands is not perspective, but road to Russia is open, because the West is great potential ally, but Russia is weak.

From this Hitler concludes: “We want to halt pointless German crushing in south and west of Europe and we point our finger to the territory that lies in the west. We completely break our past colonial and trade policy and deliberately turn to acquiring new lands in Europe. We can only consider Russia and its neighboring countries.” 

If we consider this last phrase Hitler actually predicted his invasion in Soviet Union. However, if we know the complex of all his judgments he did not expect anything like this. In Mein Kampf he based an alliance with strongest against weakest. The choice of ally is based on military factors not political. An attack on Russia without strong Western support is insane. History proved that he was right. Then what else if not despair made him to do such step?

Hitler later said that his most famous work was outdated. And why not if Hitler was forced abandon ideas written in his book one by one? When he came to power he followed to goal of uniting all Germans in one state. For this Austria and Czechoslovakia was annexed. For this he attempted to force Poland give up its German-speaking territories. When Poland turned down his demands, he wanted to settle this with war. And he wanted to do that with no considerable support. So he was forced to step away from his ideas in Mein Kampf and sing a deal with Soviet Union. It was done to avoid two front war and to keep Great Britain out of the combat. As he correctly predicted in Mein Kampf Soviet Union unfairly fulfilled the non aggression treaty and endangered the German position. And by this he was forced to break another his judgment that invasion in Russia without Western help is unwise step.

This shows that Hitler never closely followed his book nor he was ever able to follow it. Also no leader publishes his geopolitical attack plans in publicly available edition. Plus, the idea of Lebensraum was rather abstract for it could be located anywhere as long as Germany could gain it. And the gaining the Lebensraum was not a prime importance as it gaining would last more than hundred years. After all it was Thousand Year Reich he strive for.   Hitler understood well that strategical situation of Germany will not allow it become a global empire. So he made a many strategical steps to support German position in Europe that threw Germany into war. A war that he did not want to start it in such way. No wonder after British declaration of war he shouted in panic “What Now?”. Also the invasion in Russia  was based on desperate hope that Soviet Union will be a weak enough to be defeated in five months. The plan Barbarossa was designed not for long-term war. A long-term war was only possible if he had proper support from the West as he wanted in Mein Kampf.

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