Monthly Archives: August 2014

The Nature of Communism


75 years have passed since the signing of the Molotov – Ribbentrop pact. The pact that triggered the World War II and caused the occupation of Poland and the Baltic States. For decades historians only described this event from the Nazi Germany point of view, overlooking the role of Soviet Union and its leader Joseph Stalin. Now more and more historians acknowledge that Soviet Union just as Nazi Germany was responsible for causing the World War II. And Soviet Union had its own reasons for starting the world war and that was its ideology – communism. An ideology that wanted achieve social and national equality by using war and violence was the driving force for dragging world into war. 75 years later we are witnessing the resurgence of this ideology. Russia is trying to restore former soviet “glory” in grotesque ways by including the elements of Nazism and Russian Czarist imperialism. This new hybrid ideology is potentially even more dangerous than teachings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. But, the root of this conflict is the communist ideology proposed by these two men. Even 21st century people still believe in these teachings and want to restore former soviet order. These beliefs are based on ignorance and deception. Today, August 23, is the European Day of Remembrance for the Victims of both Communism and Nazism. This article will reveal the deceitful nature of communism and explain why this is a  utopian ideology and philosophy can never be realized and always will turn to dystopia.

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels formulated their ideas in their “Communist Party Manifesto”. They made thesis about that social conscience is dependent on the social being, named the laws of the social development and claimed that the means of production defines structure of the society. Social development is dictated by the forces of production. They formulated the idea of the proletarian dictatorship and the leading role of the communist party in struggle for full power. Manifesto clearly stated that the communist goals can be achieved only by force, overthrowing the present political power, taking away all capital from bourgeoisie and centralizing the recourses of production. Thus this manifesto was written by people who could be hardly classified as proletarians and enjoyed bourgeoisie lifestyles.

These ideas were the clear promotion of totalitarianism. The monopoly of one ideology, one party and one class dictatorship and centralized economy. The monopoly of the public sector. Later day totalitarian ideologies as fascism and Nazism that were opposed to communism in fact used similar ways- one party, one national group dictatorship and controlled private sector. For the totalitarian regimes have the same mechanism only the ways of operation differs. The communist ideology had controversial nature- while preaching humanitarian ideals it boasted the use of violence and oppression. That shows that these ideals were nothing more than ideological weapon for the communists to gain and secure power for their desired worldwide socialist revolution. In 19th century Europe communism was ideology made by middle class people who felt shorthanded by the ruling elite and wanted to overthrow it using masses of workers and poor peasants.

The first communist regime came into being in Russia not in Germany or  United Kingdom. Russian Empire was one of the last absolutist monarchies, unable to modernize and reform the Western way. Without fully established middle class as in Europe, Russia was full of people waiting for rapid change to end their injustice. The communists used the Russian defeat in the World War I, gained control over army and large masses of society and gained the power.

Basing on the theoretical generalizations by the Marx and Engels that bourgeoisie exploits the workers caused by the existence of the private property and its owners that causes contradiction between the forces of production and production relations – this most active part of the society was called as the enemies of the people and meant for destruction. Proletariat should now take the leading the role of the society. Their enemies were considered urban and rural businessmen, wealthy farmers, the intellectuals, state employees and the army leadership. In the event of revolution one social group destroys other by using murder and repression that is how the communists wanted to achieve things. And this social warfare continues after full victory of the revolution.

For seventy years this grandiose social experiment was carried out in Soviet Union causing the death of millions. And in the end it proved that communist regime is nothing but utopia, in fact it was dystopia. Communists believed that work productivity must be achieved by communistic job attitude, public property, planed state economy, socialistic competition, scientific work and moral stimulus. However, the soviet praxis proved to be flawed and with small efficiency. In EU and US the main food product production on one hectare was at least 2-4 times higher, and on one person employed in agriculture 8-10 higher than in Soviet Union. That’s clearly visible by comparing the full store shelves in capitalist countries comparing to nearly empty stores in the Soviet Union.

Communists underestimated the importance of individualism and the personal interests. Lenin declared that after the liberation from the exploiters worker can finally work for himself. It is a big difference if one work for himself or for others. However, the communism made this phrase an abstraction as people worked for the society for the proletarian cause. Meanwhile capitalist truly works for himself. However, the employed people in the private sector is limited by his recourses and recourses of the employer. In communism the state employed person is limited by the recourses of the state. So in communism the person is exploited by the state and the ruling elite. If the person has no personal interest in his work and no possibility to gain personal salary the work productivity drops. If people must work only for the state and society with limited salary and controlled life possibilities the interest in work is strained. And therefore the state economy is obstructed and failed.

In Soviet Union the human factor was the main problem of the productivity. As people were not interested in their work the resources were used irrationally, looted and lost. Corruption was eminent part of everyday soviet lives. During the Stalin’s rule this was fought with repressions and executions and constant threats. His successors tried to fight this by civil means. However, neither stimulated socialistic competition, salary according to accomplishments, material stimulation and state awards, could not ensure the needed productivity and amount of consumption. Instead state was forced to regularly write of the debts by the agricultural collective farms. Collective farming – in fact a modern form of serfdom was disastrous and ineffective. On 1959 Soviet minister of agriculture Nikonov reported that 259 weak Latvian collective farms of kolkhozes were unified with the soviet farms or sovhozes. While 59 soviet farms made 52 million ruble worth losses to the state. On 1963 the head of the Latvian Communist party Pelše admitted of having 203 weak kolkhozes and 343 sovhozes. The kolkhoz economy was disastrous for Latvian agricultural society as it was based on Russian village economy, while in Latvia the farmstead economy was the leading one. By deporting the private farm owners and forcing people to live in villages, communists destroyed a centuries of the Latvian cultural tradition.

Despite owning large territories of fertile agricultural land in Ukraine, Baltic States, Belarus, Moldova, and Russia, Soviet Union suffered from chronic food product deficit. Grain was regularly imported from the capitalist countries, while grain taken away from soviet farmers were exported in return. Same goes for industrial sector, despite owning large amounts of gas, oil and iron the same deficit was present. The soviet command economy was no different from feudal czarist economy. The economical plans were issued as laws and directives. The subordinates fulfilled it as orders with no regard to their personal interests. They were just executors in the large soviet machinery who do as their superiors told to. As they were liberated from working for others, they also were liberated from thinking. “Do as I am told” attitude not only lead to completely useless actions like trying to grow cornflakes in Latvia to disasters like Chernobyl and the Aral Sea.

While private property was declared as the main evil of the society it proved that the absence of the private property was the evil of the soviet society. Besides it was never really removed as it existed in various limited forms. During the first years after the Russian Civil War, Lenins New Economic Policy allowed limited state regulated private sector. Stalin to gather absolute power imposed concentration camp economy with almost total absence of private sector. However, his economy was ensured by the repressions. During the rule of Khrushchev and Brezhnev soviets again were forced to allow limited private enterprise. For instance collective farm workers could own small plot of land to grow their own food and even sell it in rural markets. That allowed people to survive, while EU was experiencing severe agricultural overproduction and had to limit it by imposing quotas.  The society is driven by social competition and contradictions in production. The private economy has been proven as best way to manage this. Democracy and non-violence is another effective way to handle such way of things. However, democracy was another thing that communists wanted to eradicate.

Communists believed that contradictions in society are antagonic and not correlative. Therefore violence and dictatorship was the only way of ruling the society according to them. Social classes and political groups seen as hostile to the revolution were to be destroyed. By attempting to destroy the employers the communists attempted to eradicate the very foundation of the social structure. The violent flawed belief that society can prosper without certain social groups lead to great human disasters. On 1919 Latvian Soviet government in short time killed hundreds of thousands people because of their social class and nationality. On 1932 -1933 to impose collectivization in Ukraine, Stalin stimulated famine to get rid of farmers unwilling to join kolkhozes. In result 2-7 million people died in horrible famine across Ukraine. This genocide known as Holodomor had also ethnic character because it killed native Ukrainians in Eastern Ukraine. After that Ukrainian Soviet Republic was filled with immigrants from Russia, while Western Ukraine ruled by Poland preserved its Ukrainian population. The Holodomor is the true reason for the “ethnic divide” of Ukraine. During the 1937-1938 great purge Stalin to monopolize his power made certain social and ethnic groups as enemies and destroyed them. Latvian communists and socially active Latvian soviet citizens were accused of state betrayal and destroyed in thousands. Same happened to Poles, Germans. Later even Jews were accused of state betrayal and were considered for deportations.


In international scene the same antagonism was used. Soviet Union was considered as single state fortress against the fascist-capitalist world. However, the political and trade cooperation was allowed. As Lenin said: “The Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them”. The cooperation was useful as it was according to soviet imperial interests. Ultimately the capitalist world had to be destroyed resulting worldwide socialist revolution. As Stalin lost his faith in European proletariat unwilling to support the communist revolution, he gave is chance in war. Another teaching by Lenin was that next global war between imperialists will cause socialist revolution.  Stalin’s foreign policy towards Germany actually helped Hitler to gain power. While being officially anti-fascist Stalin did not nothing to obstruct Hitlers gambles in Austria and Czechoslovakia.  When the September 1939 came, Stalin had unique chance to ally with UK and France against Germany to avert the invasion in Poland. Instead Stalin did what the communist ideology required him to do – by signing treaty with Germany initiate the war in Europe. Naturally this alliance with Nazis was only temporarily as Stalin was looking to hang Hitler with his own rope. The Nazi invasion in 1941 was failure for Stalin’s quest for worldwide revolution and despite capturing Berlin and gaining control over Eastern Europe Stalin did not considered himself truly victorious.

In the end the communism proved to be bloody fiction and deception. Soviet Union was not a proletarian dictatorship it was single party dictatorship lead by one man enjoying monarch lifestyle. The new ruling elite or nomenklatura enjoyed bourgeoisie lifestyles while rest of the people were standing in the lines of the empty shops. The so called Soviet Republics had only limited self governing rights as they were dependent on orders from Moscow.  The country boasted about their military might while in reality being technically inferior to its rivals and vulnerable. Despite relative quality of the standard of living, the state limited the trips to capitalist countries to prevent the people see the real life in the West.

This is not only the case of the Soviet Union. Communist dictatorships in Eastern Europe, Kuba, Africa and Asia failed the same way. Chinese communists acknowledged the importance of the private property and diverted from the Marxist teachings and kept their power. Laos and Vietnam did the same. Meanwhile Cuba and North Korea still suffers from poverty and isolation because of tyrannical communist rule. To see difference between communism and capitalism you need to see the satellite view of Korean peninsula at night. You will see the South Korea full of light while Northern Korea as one big black hole. And yes the North Korean elite including their leader enjoys the capitalist Samsung smartphones and other gadgets.

Now Russia is heading for this same trap. Not only is that she is looking to draw her neighbors along. Communism is still seen favorable by old generation people and young people affected by propaganda. They may like to wave red flags while enjoying the fruits of capitalism the internet and shops full of their favorite western goods. They communism goes no further as slogan “our country is great and victorious and world fears us”. If they would be thrown back into Stalinist or even Brezhnev realities they would look for way to escape. The Putin and his henchmen are of course are no communists. They enjoy the private profit and luxury; they enjoy vacations in US and Europe and have their investments and bank funds there. Their main concern is keeping the power over their people and people in the neighboring countries. For that they can use neo-communist, nationalist or even Nazi influenced propaganda. They profit on masses of foolish people who thinks Putin will restore the communist Soviet Union. He may actually restore one thing- international isolation and deficit of food products. He can limit the freedom of expression. But, can such neo-soviet state exist for long? Under the reign of Putin Russia will only be a fascist state under the hammer and sickle. As communism is alien to human nature and is anti-human in its character. That is the danger of the nature of communism.


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The Secret War Against Latvia: Latvian Communist Party in Underground 1920-1940

Latvian Leftist Trade Union program with Soviet Symbols showing its allegiance to  underground Latvian Communist Party

Latvian Leftist Trade Union program with Soviet Symbols showing its allegiance to underground Latvian Communist Party

On August 11 1920 the war between Latvia and the Soviet Russia had officially ended. The short-lived Latvian Socialist Soviet Republic was dissolved. However, the Latvian Communists were far from giving up. With the main leadership in Moscow, under the direction of the Comintern the Latvian Communist party fought secret war against the Republic of Latvia. In 20 years of underground struggle the party however failed to achieve its goals and was almost destroyed from the inside and outside when on 1940 Soviets tanks marched in Riga.

Latvian Communist Party (LCP) was successor of the Latvian Social democracy  (LSD) – originally a Latvian Social Democratic Workers Party from 1905, that was taken over by the Bolsheviks. On March 1-6 1919 during IV LSD congress the party was renamed to Latvian Communist Party.It was a height of the Soviet power in Latvia and communist minded LSD no longer needed to disguise as social democrats. The three main leaders were Pēteris Stučka, Fricis Roziņš and Kārlis Daniševskis. By their leadership the Latvian Socialist Soviet Republic realized a genocidal destructive policy and was defeated and chased away from Riga. Fearing official peace talks between Latvia and Soviet Russia, LCP tried to provoke armed uprising in Valmiera that would be supported by uprising in Riga. Uprising meant to took place on January 11 1920 never took place and could not happen in the first place. On the same time Latvian – Polish united forces liberated Latgale and forced LCP to move to  Velikie Luki in Russia. On January 17 the reluctant LCP was forced to dissolve the soviet government and hand over the authority to LCP Central Committee (CC) On January 25 LCP CC made decision to leave Russian Communist (Bolshevik) party and joined the Communist International. Also called Comintern the Communist Party became the part of the soviet foreign intelligence in their quest to initiate the Socialist revolutions all over the world.

LCP created the CC Russian Bureau and Foreign Bureau. It was lead by Pēteris Stučka and J Lencmanis. After II Comintern congress a Latvian Section was created within the Communist Party Executive Committee it was the only foreign representative of the LCP. LCP gathered its funds from the stolen money and goods during the war. Special party enterprises “Products” and “Prometejs” was made to boost the party treasury. In Pskov district LCP owned two Soviet farms “Beryoki” and “Stretmutka”. “Stretmuka” was later ravaged by the fire. As the LCP started to run out of stolen resources the LCP moved away from Pskov and had over the farms to Commissariat of Agriculture. As stolen goods depleted LCP became dependent on soviet secret service funding and therefore became directed by it.

Until 1922 the LCP was mostly directed by  LCP CC Secret Task department was lead by Jānis Zukovskis who died on January 27 1920, and was replaced by Kārlis Kauliņš. The task of the Secret Task department was to ensure contacts with illegal party organizations and lead the partisan warfare and military espionage in enemy countries. What they were actually doing was to illegally cross the border to distribute communist literature, and escort spies. Also important way of achieving worldwide socialist revolution was to spread out the counterfeited money. LCP agents made trips to Latvia and exchanged the faked Latvian Rubles. It was way to gain more illegal funds. On 1922 the Latvian Section received 2 million faked Latvian rubles and gained back 1 023 000 genuine rubles. Many agents were caught so Latvian security services were aware of these actions.

At first LCP was still enthusiastic about restarting war against Latvia, however after  the end of the Russian Civil War, the LCP started to adapt to reality that worldwide socialist revolution is on the long delay that however will come sometime. Until then LCP had to reorganize and change its tactics. On 1921 Latvian government issued death sentences to communist agents Jānis Šlīfs, Augusts Bērce and Mārtiņš Čuče. They were replaced by Rūdolfs Salna and Jānis Krūmiņš. LCP also had cell in Berlin lead by Jānis Bērziņš whose main task in Berlin was to sell out the stolen goods, he was arrested on 1927 and was released on 1934 and died in Soviet Union shortly after. He as commissar of agriculture during the Soviet rule in Latvia. His college from those times Edgars Zanderfelds operated a secret typography and storage in Krāslava with many secret passages that operated till 1929 and was not discovered until 1940.

LCP sent a myriad of agents in Latvia. Some of them managed to infiltrate in the Latvian state offices and even army and police. Roberts Kalniņš first was arrested in 1921 on suspicion of LCP affiliation. He was found in possession with communist literature and being member of  LCP Cēsis section. On 1923 he took the job as secretary of Sigulda 7th infantry battalion and was accused of LCP connection and arrested. During arrest he confessed of being convinced communist and was sentenced for four years in prison. On 1929 he came back as secretary of the Tukums Healthcare Fund while being member of the LCP Tukums section. On 1930 he revealed himself by publishing brochure “In the prison of the humanitarian regime”. The brochure was banned. On 1930 he returned to Cēsis and was accused again of LCP affiliation. On 1932 he was arrested and then released and was caught of taking part in Valmiera communist circle “Moscow”. It was not enough and on 1933 he made trouble again by issuing satirical magazine that was banned for insulting the president of Latvia Alberts Kviesis. This is just a example of a convinced communist recidivist agent that worked for LCP.

LCP operated the exchange of information and agents, couriers operated on Latvian railways and transported sums of money to European communist counterparts. On 1926 two Lithuanian Poles attacked two official Soviet Diplomatic couriers, one of them was Latvian Teodors Nette who died in the event. Since both attackers also died in the event it was impossible to found out if they were simple bandits or secret agents to halt the soviet attempts of bringing counterfeit money to Europe. Possibly it was done by British Secret service.  

The Red Rifleman - the newspaper of the Liepāja Communist party War section 1920

The Red Rifleman – the newspaper of the Liepāja Communist party War section 1920

LCP also tried to use legal cover to affect Latvian politics. However, the elected members of the LCP legal cover parties were only instructed to work in open opposition as LCP feared that too open cooperation would mean LCP recognition of the Republic of Latvia. One of the leaders of the legal cover was Leons Paegle and Linards Laicens – two novelists and poets, also nationalists at start. Laicēns was one of the first to publicly present the idea of the national state, however fell out with Latvian Republic soon after its foundation. LCP created illegal “Legal work center” to coordinate the legal cover. LCP managed to split the Latvian Trade Union in two making loyal trade union bureaus in Riga and Courland. Leftist trade union members were used for elections in municipal elections and for legal press.

On 1928 Saeima (Parliament) elections two LCP affiliated movements entered parliament The Leftist Workers list and the Independent Socialist Party. On 1931 Workers and Peasant Fraction gained 6 seats. The real harm to Latvian government made by these legal communist party list was minimal. Elected deputies disrupted the parliament job by proposing unreasonable laws and singing Internationale that was official soviet anthem during parliament sections. On 1930 during the long and complicated presidential election process communists used humor to complicate the elections even more. As Alberts Kviesis was the leading candidate, communists proposed their own candidate Miezis. Because Kviesis in Latvian means wheat and Miezis means barley. Kviesis was elected but eventually Latvian Secret Police managed to uncover the Workers and Peasants fraction as LCP front organization and removed elected deputies from the parliament.

The election poster of the legal LCP election list Leftist Workers List

The election poster of the legal LCP election list Leftist Workers List

However, this also happened because LCP was unsatisfied with the fraction and their members who they saw too disloyal and weak. Linards Laicēns as election locomotive was disillusioned about his political mandate and wanted to depart. LCP itself begun to get rid of the fraction by alienating their members and forcing them to give up their mandates. Miezis was called to Moscow which he entered illegally and was commanded to give up his mandate, since he was in Moscow illegally he could not announce it. As he went back to Latvia he was arrested and sentenced in six years in correctional facility. However, that saved Miezis life as all other fraction members who emigrated to USSR perished in purges. Other members being afraid of moving to USSR wanted to live in Europe. LCP CC did everything to get them back. Laicēns accused of insubordination and bourgeois influence in the end was forced to move Soviet Union. On December 14 1938 he shot. Only emigrating fraction member who survived was Emīls Sudmalis.    

During 1928-1929 LCP for some reason was issuing strategy in case of Soviet invasion in Latvia  Talks about combat groups, taking over Daugavpils, sabotaging the Latvian army and cooperating with soviet secret service. On 1930 LCP tried to infiltrate group of communists within Latvian army garrison in Daugavpils. However, the plot failed because the majority of Daugavpils young communists were Jews, who spoke Russian and could not freely communicate with the Latvian soldiers.

Comintern  wanted to install radio transmitter in Riga to ease communication with Latvian based LCP. After long search for proper radio operator Arvīds Sviķis was selected. He graduated the Moscow Energetic Institute, and practiced at Leningrad Radio and learned to transmit in Morse code. As Czechoslovakian citizen Oldrich Adamek on July 1935 he entered Latvia. The code was made by two books – the 1st volume of the collected writings of Andrejs Upītis and Latvian-German dictionary. He was sent to create radio station in apartment in one of the relatives of the chief of the operation Lencmanis. This same person also worked in Soviet Trade Fleet office. LCP could not find better cover for radio building, however Latvian Police missed this too. With salary of 170 Lats and 60 lats for rent and 900 lats to buy radio parts a transmitter was built in October. However, its power was too low for signal to reach Moscow and they had to build a new transmitter. After seeing the real life in Riga, Sviķis on December 1 1935 went to Latvian Secret Police and confessed in everything. The apartment was raided and transmitter was found, all six members of the group was arrested. LCP was unaware that Sviķis was the one who turned in the group until 1939. After 1940 Soviet occupation Sviķis was sentenced for state treason and shot.

As Stalinist regime gained its power the inner struggle within LCP grew stronger. Stučka was old and ill, the new professional top members were looking to replace the old 1919 guard. Strautiņš or Citrons (Lemon) fought against old timer Jānis Lencmanis. Citrons who represented the party in Comintern Executive committee was in high position. Citrons and his supporters lost the power gamble after Stučka’s death on 1932. Then came the 1934 Coup of Kārlis Ulmanis. It was unexpected surprise to LCP. Party begun to search for scapegoats and excluded those who were unable to recognize their mistakes.  

The Comintern was discontent with the LCP work. Alarming criticism about 1919 Soviet Republic in press and books was wake up call. On 1936 Comintern was looking to punish the Foreign Bureau and get rid of unsatisfactory members.   In the end on June 21 1936 Comintern commanded to dissolve Central Committee and elect a new one and dissolve the Foreign Bureau. Also because of disagreement with the Riga Committee that was fired, the contacts with Latvia were disrupted. LCP was in crisis and considered useless to Comintern.

Jānis Kalnbērziņš convinced Stalinist was sent to Latvia to restore the party. After Hitlers raise to power the LCP European cell was moved to Copenhagen. Meanwhile in Latvia Kalnbērziņs conducted party member checkup. In Soviet Union all so called politemigrants – communists emigrating or exiled to Soviet Union was also under survey. Rūdolfs Salna a important LCP functionary who was tasked to sent report about them were too negative calling most of them unreliable and recommended to deport them from USSR. It was excuse for Stalin to call Latvian section full of spies or traitors. As the repressions against Latvians started large numbers of LCP members were arrested and shot. Salna himself, Citrons, Krūmiņš, Krastiņš were “revealed” as enemies. Meanwhile in Latvia most of the LCP members were arrested or placed in deep underground.

After 1937 surviving LCP lost contacts with Moscow and was unsure if they still are part of the Comintern as  Fricis Deklavs recalled in 1956. Party was weak and asked for support that Moscow declined. On 1939 on the eve of the WW2 it was punitive small organization no longer resembling party. Because of this on 1940 when Soviet Union occupied Latvia the Soviet puppet government contained non LCP members like Augusts Kirhenšteins and Vilis Lācis, famous biologist and famous writer, Bruno Kalniņš social democrat, possibly Ministry of Foreign Affairs Vilhelms Munters were recruited by soviet secret service and were the front men in soviet puppet government (except for Munters who was deported to light imprisonment in Russia). The Soviet occupiers had to make new LCP from the scratch using agents from Russia and local new recruits. The party was now completely connected to central soviet system and after WW2 became ruling local power adjacent to Moscow.

The history of LCP resembles the events today. Russia uses myriad or parties and non governmental movements with hidden allegiance to Moscow.  They either directed by locals or Russia sent agents. Sometimes their pro-Moscow stance is obvious, however the democratic laws and regulations allows them to operate further. The effect of such politics is clearly visible in Ukraine and also in Latvia. The main question is how to fight such covert war- with democratic laws or using their own preferred way – by force. The main goal of this covert war is loosing balance and  that is the most danger in defending our freedom and independence.

Selected Sources:

Niedra,Ojārs. Daugmalis, Viktors. (1999) Slepenais Karš Pret Latviju. Komunistiskās Partijas darbība 1920-1940. Arhīvi apsūdz. Rīga. Totalitārisma Seku dokumentēšanu centrs.

Kaņepe, Vija (Ed) (2001) Latvijas Izlūkdienests 1919-1940. 664 likteņi.


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Latvia-Soviet Russia Peace Agreement August 11 1920

Latvia - Soviet Russia peace agreement on August 11 1920

Latvia – Soviet Russia peace agreement on August 11 1920

On August 11 1920 Latvia and Soviet Russia signed a historic landmark peace agreement. For Latvia it was a guarantee for the independence and sovereignty for years to come. For Soviet Russia, later Soviet Union it was only a temporally setback and 20 years later Latvians learned the deceitful nature of the Soviet diplomacy.   How this peace agreement took place and whats the story behind it – it will be discussed in this article.

On late 1918 the Bolshevik hopes for Worldwide Socialist Revolution were in upswing. Bolsheviks broke the Brestlitovsk peace agreement with Germany they signed themselves and now gathered troops to regain control over Baltic States and Poland. The ultimate goal was Berlin and beyond. Soviet offensive on January 1919 was successful at first – Riga and much of the Lithuania was captured and soviet republics were established there. However, their fight against Estonians and Poles were unsuccessful – on February 1919 Estonians already chased out Bolsheviks from their territory and moved in Northern Latvia. Polish forces pushed into Lithuania and Belarus. Therefore Bolsheviks were forced to ask for peace negotiations to Estonia first.  On March 22 Soviet Russia trough the Hungarian Soviet Government  Foreign Minister Bela Kun sent first peace proposal. The short-lived Hungarian Soviet Republic was used for contacts with the western countries and Hungarians as Estonian ethnic brothers were specially used for such matter. However, when Estonians received the peace proposal on April, it was turned down because of British interference. The Great Britain placed hopes on White Russian forces and therefore wanted Baltic states to support them by continuing war against soviets. Later on August 1919 Estonians again received peace proposals, but turned down because of further British resentment and being unsure about Latvia and Lithuania who did not receive any peace proposals yet.

On March 1919 the Latvian Socialist Soviet Republic still controlled large parts of Latvian territory. The Latvian Soviet government tried to realize fanatic communist ideas in even more radical way then their counterparts in Russia. As the regime begun to disintegrate the genocidal policies of the LSSR begun to affect the diplomatic scene. Soviets took hostages on retreat mainly Baltic Germans and German and Danish citizens. Danes and Germans were unable to contact the LSSR government so the question was undertaken by the soviet foreign commissar Georgy Chicherin. Danish Red Cross sent delegation to Petrograd to negotiate the hostage release. Doctor from Riga L T Lukyanov was sent by Latvian Provisional Government to find ways how to start peace negotiations with the soviets. He was instructed by foreign minister Zigfrīds Anna Meireovics and colonel Jānis Balodis. In Moscow he met the top member of the Soviet Foreign Peoples Commissariat Maxim Litvinov, showing that it was important for soviets to seek negotiations with Latvia.

Only on August 1919 three Baltic States and Finland received peace proposals. Soviets were endangered by the White Russian armies and wanted to stop the Baltic States supporting them. And Soviets were concerned about Poland of who they were afraid of gaining more power over Baltic States and attempting to organize a joint offensive against Moscow. None of this were correct, as Poland failed to establish full power over Lithuania and the attempt by the British General F  G Marsh to organize joint Polish, White guard and Baltic offensive were not approved by the British government. However, Vladimir Lenin took this seriously and wanted to isolate Baltic States from Poland by singing peace agreements.

On August 31 1919 Estonia received proposal for negotiations, then on September 11 Finland and Latvia. Lithuania was asked on the same day, but because the proposals were sent using  juzogramm( a special type of telegram) it reached them on September 15. While Estonia received promises to fully recognize their national borders which they were in control off, Latvia and Lithuania only received note that soviets are ready for talks. Latgale was still under the Soviet control and in Zemgale Pro-German forces were preparing for assault on Riga. Lithuanian borders were still in question. Estonia that fully controlled its territory and was pathway to Petrograd was in better position for full peace talks.

Soviets wanted to negotiate alone with every Baltic State to disallow united position. They wanted to negotiate with Estonia first as General Yudenich White forces approached Petrograd. Estonia rejected and asked to make negotiations with Soviet Russia and all three Baltic States together. A conference in Tallinn on September 14-15 was called to discuss this. Latvia was not sure about this as Latgale was still under Soviet control and Pro-German forces were preparing for attack.  As excuse to turn down such negotiations were the reaction of the UK and France that would dislike such talks. However, British cabinet was moving towards allowing Baltic States to allow peace negotiations  with the Soviets. However, all sides were convinced on signing only ceasefire as peace with Soviets seemed unreal at that time.

As Latvia was unable to gain guarantees on Latgale from other states and Finland suggested not to rush, but wait for UK and French acceptance the united stance on negotiations  with Soviets was not reached. On September 24-25 UK changed its policy and allowed Baltic States to organize negations with Soviets. Estonians who already foresaw this change of policy were impressed, while Latvia and Finland for their own reasons were still careful to start peace talks. On October 6 Latvian Peoples Council first discussed the peace negotiation possibility with the soviets. Foreign Minister Z A Meierovics was insisting on discussing peace only with democratic Russia, gaining wide neutral zone and compensations from Russia. Such way was impossible and was proposed to delay talks. Social Democrats proposed to start negotiations immediately, but on note that Latgale should be abandoned by the soviets and LSSR disbanded. In following days the discussions were halted by the pro-German offensive on the Latvian forces. So called West Russian Volunteer Army  commanded by General “count” Pavel Bermondt-Avalov and Rüdiger von der Goltz was formed from local Germans and ex imperial army German soldiers together with Russian army POWS. For two months Latvian government was caught up in fight with Bermontd army until ultimate victory on November.

On November 11-19 in Tartu all three Baltic States representatives including Poland and Finland met together and again discussed negotiations with the Soviets. Estonia now was ready to sign peace deal separately as Yudenich army was broken and Estonian army was tired. Latvia was still fighting Bermondt and Soviets in Latgale. Lithuania was rather concerned with war with Poland and even Latvia. Poland was unable to have any negotiations with Soviets at all. Finland was not in a hurry and disregarded the Baltic positions. The unity was broken, nor it was possible.

On November 6 Latvian delegation to Moscow including nationalist Arveds Bergs, social democrat Fricis Menders and others were instructed to note soviets that only united talks with all Baltic states are possible with support from UK and France.  This a principal yet unrealistic stance by Meireovics or an attempt to delay talks until Latgale is gained back my military means. On November 17 Litvinov insisted on signing peace agreement on spot and promised to leave Latgale. Despite Menders and Litvinov being old revolutionary comrades from 1905 revolutions talks went nowhere because of official Latvian stance. And also Arveds Bergs despite recognizing Litvinov as  “skillful and clever Jew” distrusted his intentions on leaving Latgale. Only thing reached by all Baltic States was the hostage exchange with the Soviet Russia.

On December 5 Estonians started separate talks with Soviets. Lenin and Chicherin were positive on peace agreement while communist hotheads Leon Trotsky and Grigory Zinoviev insisted on second invasion that was rejected by Lenin. Latvia sent their representatives to observe the talks and try to initiate talks with soviets. Estonians were hostile to Latvian delegation and tried to isolate them as much as possible. Menders again used his revolutionary past to approach his old Menshevik  comrade Yoffe and gained soviet confidence on starting secret peace   negotiations with Latvia. Using him Meierovics sent a secret letter to Moscow issuing demands for negotiations – Latgale must be abandoned and LSSR disbanded, and talks must be secret under the guise of Latvian Red Cross delegation. On December 19 Latvian envoy in secret meeting in Tallinn coffee stand gave the letter secretly to Yoffe. The Estonian Secret Police rushed in and arrested them. But message reached Moscow and on December 24 Moscow replied that they accept the Latvian therms.

Despite Soviet promise to leave Latgale, the leader of the Latvian Provisional government Kārlis Ulmanis was sure to regain Latgale by military means.    On December 13 last units of the defeated Bermontd army left the Lithuanian territory. Latvia had to ask either Lithuanian or Polish support for the military campaign in Latgale. Both new countries had ambitions to restore their past empires, that would include significant Latvian parts or Latvia as whole. Lithuanian demands were arrogant and unrealistic, they demanded Ilūkste district and even Daugavpils. Poland despite ambition to restore the borders of 1772 where more forthcoming because of coming military offensive towards the east. They needed Latgale secure from Soviets to aid their attack. On December 29 a Latvian-Polish military cooperation agreement was signed for the Latgale campaign. Some days later on December 31 Estonia and Soviet Russia signed ceasefire. Soviets recognized their independence and borders.

On January 2 1920 Latvia sent the Red Cross Delegation to Moscow and on January 3 Latvian – Polish armies started their assault on Latgale. Fricis Menders and Augusts Frīdenbergs reached Moscow despite going trough front lines and nearly getting killed on January 6. Chicherin was angry about the Latvian-Polish offensive and turned down his old Menshevik comrade. On January 11 Soviets gave unreasonable demands to neutralize Latgale and give it self-determination rights. On January 14 Soviets no longer demanded the Latgale autonomy, but demanded to give a month to leave Latgale and asked Latvians to leave Pytalovo  that was taken by Latvian army. They also refused to disband the Latvian Red Riflemen. Meanwhile on January 15-16 another joint conference by the new states in Helsinki took place bringing no results. Unity was impossible as Lithuania wanted war with Poland and Latvia, they already seized some Latvian border lands they refused to leave. Meirovics were afraid of the Baltic balkanization – driving region to ethnic border wars and proposed a wide alliance. Finland and Estonia were not interested and talks went nowhere.

On January 30 at 3:00 in the night the ceasefire between Latvia and Russia was reached. Latvian army had taken over all Latgale. Parts of the ceasefire regarding the disbanding the Latvian Communist Party in Moscow and halting anti-Latvian propaganda were never realized. Ceasefire should had started on February 1, however Poland insisted to capture the city of Drisa (Verkhnyadzvinsk) for strategic purposes. That was done and new ceasefire on  February 1 was signed making new demarcation line. The ceasefire took effect on 12:00 at February 1.

On February 2 Estonia signed peace agreement with Soviet Russia first of the three Baltic States to do so. Estonians in return for recognizing independence agreed on not demanding financial compensations and allowed full rights for Soviet transit in Estonia. Estonia received 15 millions of gold as reward for being the first to allow such transit privileges.  Estonia also received the territories of Eastern Narva and Pechori (Petseri). Same as later Pytalova they were mainly Russian inhabited regions.

Latvia was reluctant to give such privileges for the soviets and wanted compensations from Russia. Large numbers of factories and equipment were moved to Russia from Riga on 1915 and Latvia wanted it back. And still Meierovics hoped on joint Latvian, Polish and Lithuanian talks despite being completely impossible. Poland insisted on  delaying the talks, Finland too. Meanwhile  UK was now moving towards reconciliation with Soviet Russia and was hostile towards Polish will to fight further. Britain insisted Latvia to stop siding with Poles for it will do no good. Latvians hoped for conference in Riga as follow up for Helsinki conference but it never took place. Poland started marching towards Belarus and Ukraine.

Because of these reasons the talks on peace agreement started two months later. Latvia was issuing high demands on compensations 37,5 million golden rubles were demanded and 72 million rubles for injured soldier families. Latvians were also skeptical on soviet transit rights. Also commissions in Riga demanded to give 40 year concession for Volga -Daugava canal. Such canal has never been built until this day. Such fantastic demands made by commissions in Riga were made in disregard of the real situation in Russia. Soviets were either unable or unwilling to fulfill such demands. Also as the first election took place the peace talks now became part of the party battle. Latvian Green Farmers combated Social Democrats. Menders was removed from leading the talks, A Zēbergs the deputy of the foreign minister was appointed as the head of the negotiations.

On April 10 the delegation finally traveled to Moscow. 34 people delegation in Sebezh, met the first group of Latvian hostages including social democrat V Bastjānis and doctor V Mintz who treated Lenin’s assassination attempt injuries. As all demanded hostages were gathered the exchange took place on April 16. On this day the delegation reached Moscow and was “greeted” by angry Latvian communists who protested against the peace agreement. Despite all attempts to preserve the LSSR in Latgale and convince Lenin to keep fighting, the LSSR was disbanded. LCP despite being still active part of Commnintern was lost and confused. Zēbergs was unsuitable for leading the talks the Yoffe got better of him and rejected all kinds of demands for compensations. Soviets also wanted Drisa and Pytalovo back. Zēbergs who wanted fast talks was angry about this and demanded Meireovics to come to Moscow himself which Meirovics rejected. He was caught up in forming the new government and did not feel no need to head to Moscow.

Then talks went to halt as Poland started major offensive towards Kyiv. While Latvians believed this will make Soviets to sign peace agreement with Latvia faster, soviets regarded Latvians and Polish allies and made aggressive statements. As soviets pushed Poles back they hoped to capture Warsaw and make a difference in Baltic-Soviet relations. Soviets however gave up Pytalova and surrounding areas, but did not want to give up Drisa. In the end Verkhnyadzvinsk a mostly a Belarusian city was given up to Soviet Russia. Pytalova was gave up by Soviets because of war of Poland and Latvian reluctance to give it back. On May 22 Zēbergs unsatisfied with his work left Moscow and later resigned from delegation. He was replaced by Jānis Veismanis.

Talks again were brought to halt after Meierovics was cited in Latvian Russian newspaper about plans about Baltic state military convention against Soviet Russia. Such convention was in plans on this time, but made Soviets halt the talks. On June 17 Soviets rejected Latvian demands on compensating or returning the lost pre WWI industrial equipment. On July 9 the sick and exhausted Latvian delegation asked to head back to Riga and resume talks there. Reluctant soviets worried by the strain on propaganda agreed, but noted that the final agreement must be signed in Moscow. On July 12 after peace agreement with Lithuania soviet delegation arrived in Riga and were met with hostility from the press.

As soviets pushed offensive towards Warsaw that would lead to ultimate capture of Berlin, the soviets openly rejected any economical demands from Latvia.  Lithuania meanwhile signed dubious peace agreement with Soviets, where Lithuania acquired Vilnius, Belarusian Hrodna, Polish Augstowa and Suvalki and in secret protocol allowed to use its territory for soviets against their war on Poland. However, as soon a soviets captured Vilnius instead of giving it to Lithuania they installed a soviet government there. It took month for Lithuanians to convince Russians to evict from Vilnius. During the final faze on Soviet war against Poland the Soviet delegation became even more reluctant and hostile towards Latvian counterparts. Meireovics included multi-party representatives including social democrats that soviets disliked. Social Democrats rejected to take part in the first Commitern congress. Soviets were running out of patience – battle for Warsaw was close. Latvians also had enough. Soviets at least returned a half amount of  locomotives and train wagons taken away during WWI. On August 7 Soviet representative Ivans Lorencs sent message to Moscow that Latvian demands are unbearable and that we need to organize a local invasion, dress up Red Army men as “green partisans”, kill some nobles, kulaks and priests. That was not necessary on August 9 the agreement was reached, Soviets finally agreed to compensate 4 million golden rubles in two months. Latvia gave up Drisa but kept Pytalova later called Abrene.

On August 11 12:40 the peace agreement took place. It was signed in Riga not Moscow as originally intended. On August 12-15 the Polish army sealed this agreement by defeating the Soviets near Warsaw and chasing them away. The peace agreement between Poland and Soviet Russia was signed in Riga on March 18. Without Polish victory the Baltic States would be in danger. Soviets stated in the agreement that “for eternal times to come they will respect and will not endanger the Latvian independence”.   The first article stated that “The state of war existing between the Parties shall be ended as of the effective date of this Peace Treaty.”Article 2 declared the independence and sovereignty of Latvia and Article 3 set the borders of the State of Latvia, while also creating deadlines by which foreign troops should leave. Articles 4-6 dealt with military affairs and war damage, Article 7 with provisions for the return of prisoners of war, should they desire to return. Articles 8 through 9 concerned citizenship, repatriation of refugees, and property claims. Adults aged 18 or older were free to choose either Latvian or Russian citizenship, the default being that individuals were citizens of the state in which they resided at the time the treaty was signed. Articles 11 through 16 dealt with reparations Russia was to make to the Latvian state and its citizens. Articles 17 and 18 dealt with commercial, transit, postal and navigation arrangements and Article 19 with diplomatic relations. Article 20 address nationality issues and Article 21 established a commission to handle issues of mutual interest. Articles 22 and 23 deal with treaty technicalities such as language and ratification. August 11 was celebrated as Victory day.

Latvia could not gain its lost infrastructure, that was however technically belonged to Russian Empire on 1915, but was on Latvian soil. For next 20 years the agreement was guarantee for Latvian independence and sovereignty. German statesman Otto von Bismark stated many years before that its pointless to believe that Russia will fulfill its signed treaties. For next 20 years Soviet Union under Lenin and Stalin plotted the next world war. When the chance finally came on 1939 Stalin had no problem breaking the peace treaty of 1920. The “eternal times” lasted only 20 years after Latvia was occupied and annexed. On 1944 Soviet Union took away Abrene and joined back to Russia. Russia only fulfills agreements as long as its up to its imperial interests. The Budapest Memorandum on Ukraine on 1994 was advantageous for Russia as its removed nuclear weapons from Ukraine and also guaranteed its borders.   On 2014 the borders of Ukraine and its sovereignty was no   longer advantageous for Russia, it was advantageous now to violate it. The Latvian – Soviet Russia peace agreement with Russia shows that only agreement Russia accepts is made by blood   and iron  not by paper. Diplomacy is weakness for Russia, the only diplomacy Russia understands is force.

Selected Sources:

Stranga, Aivars. (2000) Latvijas – Padomju Krievijas Miera līgums. 1920. gada 11. augusts. Rīga. Fonds “Latvijas Vēsture”


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