Tag Archives: Latvian government

Latvian intelligence services 1919-1940

Latvia is placed in crossroads between the West and the East. In the times of the independence various foreign secret services and antigovermnental organizations has operated in Latvia. And it was up to Latvian intelligence service to fight them. Today because of the two language referendum that recently took place in Latvia many say that Latvian intelligence agencies have not done their job. But the job of protecting the country has always been tough in every time. This article will tell a short story about the Latvian intelligence services before the World War II when Latvia was one of the main hot points in the war between the secret services.

The main goal of the Latvian intelligence agencies was the counterintelligence. Naturally Latvia had no expansionist interests to spy on other countries. But, there were countries especially Soviet Union that wanted to spy on Latvia. And there were many national minority organizations that fought secret campaigns.

The task of counterintelligence was given to the Defense ministry and the Ministry of the Interior.  The main agency was the Political Police Agency. Agency worked both on exterior and interior security. From 1919 to 1922 the Army Staff interior intelligence Riga Department and the Political Guard was directed by Voldemārs Alps. On January 1922 his assistant Pēteris Mārtinsons took charge over the Political Guard. Later Political Guard was renamed as the Political Police Agency. In 1922 162 people worked in the Agency with central apparatus 6 regional departments. Voldemārs Ozoliņš became the chief of the agency.

The reports by the agency conclude that from 1920 to 1939, 21 802 people were taken under custody for actions against the state. 8616 persons were taken to court and 6205 were actually sentenced.   With out the court by administrative orders 1610 people were sent to prison. The total number of the political convicts was 16931 persons. The number includes persons who were convicted more than once.

 The agency made constant monitoring on political events in the state.  Intelligence reports were made constantly and covered the entire monthly political situation in the state. The agency also used the new methods of the Radio intelligence. The task was to intercept coded radio messages and locate the transmitters.

In summer of the 1940, when Latvia was occupied by the Soviet Union the Political Police Agency became subjected to the new regime. Not only it gave important documents to Soviet intelligence, but arrested people considered nationalists. The last chief of the Agency Jānis Frīdrihsons Skrauja helped to make list for deportations to Siberia. After his arrest he continued to help Soviets and reported his co-workers. However, according to granddaughter of J. F. Skrauja Anita McKenzie, Skrauja managed to sort out his papers in such a way that he divided the names of his spies who had left Latvia in to one bag and the spies who were still there in another.  His colleague Roberts Stiglitz knew about this. He supposedly had given the bag with the names of the people that Skrauja wanted to protect to the Russians Its not known know if he had been threatened by the Russians or whether he did it to protect himself. Skrauja died in 1940 in Astrakhan after months of questioning and torture. Roberts Stiglitz survived and had collaborated with Nazi Germany and took part in Holocaust. After the war he escaped to Brazil and was on the Nazi criminal list by CIA.  There is however, other version that Stiglitz resisted the occupants and managed to hide one half of the papers and escape imprisonment. He was on the search by the Soviets, who arrested his relatives Līzbete and Krišjānis Puteņi for hiding his location. It’s a known fact that Stiglitz was involved in Nazi war crimes. However the majority of Latvian historians defend Stiglitz and blames Skrauja for betrayal. The accusations against Stiglitz are based on memoirs by Skrauj’as wife and his granddaughter.   To sort out these claims a proper research is needed and possible the documents proving or disapproving them lays in Russian archives that still are not open to public. From all 664 Latvian counterintelligence operatives 603 was repressed by the Soviets. They were either shot or died in Stalin’s prison camps. Such was the tragic end of the Latvian security service filled with cowardice and betrayal. Many of the operatives however stood strong and did not betray the state and fought the Soviet repressions till the end. As Latvia was annexed by the Soviet Union the Political Police Agency and the Latvian Army was disbanded. The Soviet intelligence service NKVD and GRU started to operate in Latvia and became the main repressive force.

The force that destroyed Political Police Agency was the Soviet Union intelligence services its main enemy. The goal of the Soviet secret service was to spread the power of the Soviet Union within the Baltic States. The tactical objective was to research Latvia as the theater of war for possible wars with third-party countries. Also Latvia was used as the territory to spy on other countries. The longtime goal of the Soviet Union was to initiate Worldwide Socialist revolution and gain supremacy of the USSR. The task was given to so-called Cheka (NKVD) and the Red Army intelligence agency (GRU). Latvia got its own illegal Communist party that was member of the Comintern that supervised the party from Moscow.

The Soviet secret service sent agents to Latvia and recruited local Latvians. Not only Latvian Communist party members worked with Moscow, but also some Latvian Social democratic Workers party members became agents. The most visible action by the Soviet secret service was the communist coup attempt in Estonia in 1924 that failed. The Red Army was ready to enter Estonia once the communists would take full control over the Tallinn. In Latvia communists managed to form Leftist Workers and Peasants party that got elected in Saeima (parliament). The attempt was discovered and the elected communists were arrested and excluded from Saeima.

 One of the notable Soviet agents was Bruno Kalniņš. He was a son of social democratic leader Pauls Kalniņš. He along with other social democrats joined the occupation regime and became a general. He however was arrested by the Gestapo but was released because Germans hoped to use him as double agent. He then played the role as the member of the Latvian Central Council that opposed German occupation. He was thrown into German death camp, but survived.  After the war he moved to Sweden and became the leader of the Social democracy in exile and was known as hard-line anticommunist. The Soviet attempts to bring him back failed and they suspected him as the foreign agent.

The most mysterious possible Soviet Agent was the last Latvian Foreign Minister Vilhelms Munters. While there is no sustainable proof that he was a Soviet agent, his mysterious life after the occupation raises many questions. He was a German, but did not work with Baltic Germans. Germans considered him Latvian. The Soviets first intended to choose him as the new government leader after the occupation. However they changed their mind and instead local communists and Soviet agents like Vilis Lācis and   Aleksanders Kirhensteins became the party leaders. Munters was arrested but he was placed in special prisons while the president of Latvia Karlis Ulmanis died somewhere in Turkmenistan from bad illness. He returned to Latvia in late fifties and wrote small brochures and books condemning the Latvian independence. He was under constant supervision by the KBG that forced him to write these publications. He died in 1967 and was buried in the main cemetery. This made many believe he was a Soviet agent that helped to occupy Latvia however this cannot be proven.

The other enemy of the Latvian secret service was Nazi Germany intelligence service. It grasped its hopes on Baltic German Nazi organization “Movement” (De Bewegung). It was led by Erhard Kroeger who united Baltic Germans under the swastika banner and pursued anti-Latvian activities. The Baltic German Nazis were severe problem in Latvia and it was only fixed after Baltic Germans were repatriated to Germany in 1939. Kroeger then became full-time SS operative, Einzatzcommando  member and close associate of General Vlasov the head of the Russian Liberation army.

Latvian Political Police Agency did its best to protect Latvian independence. However it could not stop the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany from destroying Latvia. In the end the Agency became its own enemy for its administration was forced to destroy itself and betray their own co-workers. There may be double agents within the agency.

Today Latvia got three intelligence agencies. The Satversmes (Constitution) Protection Bureau provides external and internal intelligence, Security Police supervises the interior political situation and the State Military Police handles the military matters.  Also the Corruption Prevention Service is a powerful organization to affect the political matters.

It is really complicated to comment on actions of the actions made by present day Latvian intelligence agencies. Their work covered in secrecy. The same can be said at the time of the Political Police Agency for it too did not make any comments on their actions. We can only hope that our intelligence agencies are working on behalf of the Latvian people.

Selected Sources:

Kaņepe, Vija (Ed.) (2001). Latvijas izlūkdienesti, 1919-1940 : 664 likteņi. Riga : LU žurn. “Latvijas Vēsture” fonds.


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The Times of the Barricades in 1991

Dome square at the times of the barricades

20 years have passed since the center of Riga was surrounded by barricades. They were made from any possible obstacles, blocks, tractors and woodcuts.  The purpose of them was to protect Riga from Soviet repression on the fight for Latvian independence. It was the critical period in Latvia. Since May 4 1990, Latvia had started a path to full independence from the Soviet Union.  Soviet officials in Moscow and their supporters in Latvia attempted to cancel Latvian fight for independence, by setting bloody provocations so the direct rule from Moscow would cancel Latvian path to freedom.

The movement for independence started in 1987 when Nationalist organization Helsinki 86 first appeared in public to commemorate the deportations of  June 14 1941. They placed flowers to the monument of Freedom and waved national Latvian flags. They also showed a large poster with slogan “Down with the occupation!”. It was the signal for whole Latvia and Moscow that Latvians are willing for freedom from the USSR. Although Helsinki- 86 was soon suppressed and their leaders exiled new  national organizations   started to form up. In 1988 Latvian National Independence Movement (LNNK) was formed and demanded the separation from the Soviet Union. At the end of the same year Peoples Front of Latvia was formed and became the main force behind national movement.

The demonstration of the enemies of the independence

This all happened because of the Soviet policy of perestroika that allowed more political freedom in the USSR. However, Soviet leader Michael Gorbachev did not expect the rise of nationalism in the result of his reforms. To counter nationalism Latvian communists mainly Russians formed Interfront a counter force to Peoples Front. On 199o things begun to turn to nationalist way as in the first truly free elections since 1931. Peoples Front won a majority of seats in the Supreme Council of Latvian Socialist Soviet Republic. Now Peoples Front started the consequent move to make Latvia a sovereign republic once again. Latvian Communist party and Interfront failed to stop their intentions. Peoples front also had representatives in USSR Peoples Congress.

Nationalists succeeded by restoring national Latvian flag as an official state symbol. Many other changes were enacted until  May 4 1900 everything was ready to vote for a declaration of restoration of Latvian independence. The constitution of 1922, was restored and Latvia has now officially been a Republic. From that date an interim period was set until the elections of parliament takes place.

The Soviet government in Moscow was angry of such move. They had enough military power to completely stop independence movement as they did in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968. However, the climate of Soviet government had changed and Soviet leaders feared to use direct action. The eyes of the world watched closely the events in the Soviet Union. So in order to stop the separation of the Baltic States, Moscow planned to use local supporters in Baltic states so they trigger provocations, that would allow to set the presidential government in Baltic states. It would mean full control of Moscow and halt to any separatist activities.

The Soviet supporters in Latvia were members of the Soviet army, orthodox communists and Russian population. On May 15 1900 a large crowd of war school cadets attempted to storm the Supreme Council building.  They were pushed back by OMON- the special forces of the USSR. Situation begun to chill as more and more military transporters drove through the streets of Riga to warn Latvians of repressions.

The Latvian government cancelled to give supplies to a local Soviet army. Another threat was local KBG, Soviet prosecution and OMON. Latvians failed to take over them and in the result they were two Interior Ministries in Latvia- Latvian and the Soviet one. OMON refused to subdue to Latvian government and listened only to Soviet ministry. In the result OMON started numerous provocations and sabotages with the use of firearms against Latvian government. They razed down Latvian border stations and stormed the Press Building .

The Latvian communist party took organizational steps to attempt to overthrow Latvian national government. The enemies of independence united in USSR and Latvian SSR constitution and citizen protection comity. The communist party was led by Alfēdrs Rubiks. At the end of 1900 communist party changed the above named committee  in two All Latvia society rescue committee (VSGK). Its goal was to  seize back the power for communists. They hoped for direct presidential rule from Moscow.  In January 1991 Communists with armed force seized the Press Building to monopolize the press for their interests.

Peoples Front aware of the danger in  December 11 1900, issued a statement to all supporters of independence to be ready for “X- Hour” the time when direct rule from Moscow will be issued. People must resist the direct rule by any means possible.

Barricades in Riga, January 1991

On the night of 12-13  January in Vilnius, Lithuania Soviet army attacked the main television tower. It was a first attempt to seize power back from nationalists. However, the stiff resistance from Lithuanians ended in a bloodbath and resulted 14 deaths. The Soviet attack failed to reach their goal.  In response of this Latvian Communist leader Alfrēds Rubiks called for an armed uprising against Latvian government.

But Latvian government and the people acted quickly as well. Fearing an attack from Soviet tanks, barricades were built all around Old City. All governmental buildings were blockaded. Thousands of people gathered to protect national government. Such unity with the people and the government was never seen before. Soviet tanks would have no problem to crush the barricades but such action would result in even bigger bloodbath than in Vilnius. Despite United States and Western world was busy with the Gulf war Riga was filled with western journalists and the world media watched the events in Latvia closely.

VSGK in  January 15 issued a takeover of the Latvian institutions. To do this they used OMON to do attacks that will provoke a direct rule from Moscow.

In the night from 14 to 15 January OMON attacked the office of Minsk Supreme militia school in Riga , beat up the cadets and stole ammunition. Between 14 to 16 January OMON attacked the bridge guards. They beat them up, burned the cars. At the bridge of Vecmīlgrāvis OMON killed a car driver Roberts Mūrnieks.

In January 20 final attempt by VSGK was done. On 21:06 OMON approached the ministry of Interior and opened fire. They hoped for stiff resistance.  However, the ministry building was taken with ease. One ministry officer was shot dead.  The only serious response was from militiaman who opened fire.  This resulted wild shooting in the parks that caused deaths of two camera man Gvido Zvaigzne and Andris Slapiņs. Both cameraman filmed their own deaths as bullets hit them. Two militia officers died and schoolmate E. Riekstinš was shot dead. OMON suffered no damage. However, there is a video that shows how OMON car takes  away a dead body in fast speed. There is a theory of so called “third force” that also took part in shootings. They were man wearing camouflage and masks and took part in the shootings.

Bloody shootings strengthened the condemnations for the enemies of independence. International community condemned the attacks. The attempts for direct rule ended in failure as the Gorbachev opposition in Moscow halted this.

Soon after this much of the barricades were removed. The times barricades were legendary as the sign of never seen before unity of the Latvian people.   People from all ages spend cold nights in the Old City to protect their leaders.  People were ready to face tanks with empty hands. They however, had prepared for military activity. Some had hunting rifles and WWII weapons ready for just in case situations. Soviet government was unable to face such crowd with tanks that will result in bloodbath larger than in Vilnius. This was a clear sign that Latvians have the courage to fight for their freedom at the most important time.

The enemies of independence rise up once again in August when coup attempt in Moscow tried to save the Soviet Union from her collapse. This time there were no barricades protecting national government. Soviet armed vehicles approached the Supreme Council, but were forced to fall back as the coup in Moscow failed.

The years of struggle for independence were harsh and unstable. But the will of Latvian people was the main force that helped to regain the Latvian independence.

The commemoration badge for defenders of the barricades

Selected Sources:

Blūzma, Valdis, Celle, Ojars, Jundis, Tālavs, Lēbers, Dītrihs, Anderjs, Levits, Egils, Zīle, Ļubova. (1998) Latvijas valsts atjaunošana: 1986-1993. Riga: Latvijas Universitātes “Latvijas vēsture fonds”.

Ēlerte, Sarmīte (Ed.) (1998) Latvijas Tautas fronte : 1988-1991 : veltījums Trešajai Atmodai un Latvijas Tautas frontes dibināšanas desmitgadei. Riga: Jāņa Sēta.


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Election Turnout 2010

The elections that happened yesterday 2. October have ended. While there is still some counting going on in Riga the results are almost certainly clear. This elections will go down in history in many ways. First only 13 parties run for election that is pretty low for Latvia since in 20. century twenties more than 60 parties had participated in elections. Second the elections will make parliament less fragmented for the first time since most parties formed unions. Only 62% people of Latvian population voted in elections. That is second lowest score since 2006. However a surprisingly large numbers of Latvian citizens voted abroad. The emigrants in Europe, USA and Australia also casted their votes for Latvian parties.

Many saw that victors of this election will be leftist pro-Russian party Harmony Center. However this has not happened – the liberal right party union Unity have come first with 30% of votes. Harmony Center won 25% of votes thanks to the high popularity in Latgallia and Riga. Green Farmers Union have made success by gaining 19% mainly thanks for the high support in rural agricultural areas. Also thanks to their PM candidate Aivars Lembergs who is overwhelmingly popular in Courland and rest of Latvia. Lembergs himself did participated in elections but posed himself as best candidate for PM nomination. PM is nominated by President of Latvia. Union of two past victor parties For Good Latvia (PLL) have failed their expectations. Only 7,5% is stunning defeat for their leaders Ainars Slesers and Andris Skele. A positive result was for national conservative union  All for Latvia!/For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK. Both parties won 7,5% of the votes. It’s mainly a success for All for Latvia! because its their first entry in parliament. However it’s not still clear how many seats will they share with their senior colleges but its a room for surprises since All for Latvia! voters are eager to push their favorites above Fatherland and Freedom candidates.

One party has left the prime political scene. Russian national party For Human Rights in United Latvia (PCTVL) collected only 1% of votes. Harmony Center have finally beaten their inner rivals by taking PCTVL voters to their side. This has happened since Russian electorate had high hopes for victory so they concentrated their votes on strongest Russian force. PCTVL still has seats in prestige EU parliament and few municipalities but their future now seems uncertain.

No other new force has not entered parliament. It’s because the so-called “small parties” had nothing new to offer and have small funds to finance the campaign. Latvian leftist union “Responsibility” failed to achieve past glory of Latvian left that dominated from 1920 to 1934. A rather interesting project was “Last Party” that offered original almost anarchistic ideas but because of  their humorous campaign they achieved low popularity.

Clearly the voters of the Harmony Center will not be satisfied. Since the stunning victory in Riga municipal elections party prepared for whole state victory. The polls showed their victory for many months. When “Unity” was formed their ratings deceased but they still showed victory. However after exit polls that showed success for “Unity” first signs of surprise and resentment was seen on the faces of their leaders. It has turned out that in mainly Latvian populated regions Harmony Center had low popularity. That showed that widespread Latvian support for Harmony Center was a mere exaggeration. However the situation was saved by large support from voters in Latgallia and Riga. These two parts are densely populated by Russian speaking voters. In result they won more percent and seats than in 2006. so the result can be viewed as success for them. However a second place is never enough for victory hungry Russian voters. Russians always have trouble accepting second whether its hockey or politics. Harmony Center still has hope for coalition if “Unity” or ZZS would want to work with them. By doing however they will betray their voters who voted to prevent Harmony Center victory.

So it’s highly possible that current PM Valdis Dombrovskis will be named by the President as new PM candidate. “Unity” will form the coalition with ZZS and VL!/TB/LNNK and keep Harmony Center and PLL in opposition. They will have enough seats to do so and that what their voters want. However if ZZS leader Ainars Lembergs will have some dirty tricks on his sleeve things could change. It is also a question how many seats would both national parties VL and TB/LNNK will share. Some liberal experts fear that VL! will gain more seats than senior TB/LNNK and will put a new tone in parliamentary politics. However their main demand is not allow Harmony Center in to coalition and not to make anti-national laws. These demands can be met by both sides. If “Unity” and ZZS will not go to intimate with Harmony Center the conflicts can easily avoided.

If “Harmony Center” will stay in opposition they will be allot more comfortable when the new state budget will be arranged. They have spent time warning people from drastic austerity measures by “Unity” that will make even deeper cuts than before. If they lead the government they are almost certainly to make budget cuts for themselves. That way they will deceive their most naive supporters. Harmony Center still has a large base of supporters from Russian speaking mass but its a question how long will they wait for their promised takeover? And what will be a response of the Kremlin that pushed  large funds to promote Russian victory?

For the PLL future looks grim. Both old-time winners Peoples Party and Latvian First Party joined themselves together to avoid failure to reach 5% barrier. The attempt of union was successful in terms of keeping both parties alive but expectations were more than real gains. Union used large amount of money to push large voting campaign to get voters attention. Every possible way was used from illegal to legal. Supposedly neutral debates with “experts” were held in independent television network that visibly propagandized PLL agenda. Even when official candidate debates were held in this same channel everything was done to give PLL orators better questions. The director of the television was member of PLL so it high pressure to show PLL to people. Ainars Slesers used the service of his long time friend Eriks Stendzinieks a talented commercial manager to promote his campaign. So far Stendzinieks had tremendous success in election campaigns in 2006 and in 2009. He created so-called “Positivism Campaign” a third party commercials for Peoples Party candidates. He made Slesers a “rocket” and “bulldozer” a tough family man. However when a compromising book was published on Slesers family past, Stendzinieks advised Slesers to cry in public. Stendzinieks gave a large amount of a work in this campaign but its seems that Latvian public has had enough of him and Slesers. It is also a stunning defeat for Slesers who decided to quit his vice-major office to gain PM or at least Finance Minister seat in next government. Now its likely that he will remain as simple opposition deputy a bitter failure for man who lusts for power and action. Likely its a failure for ex-president of Latvia Guntis Ulmanis who rejoined politics and gave high hopes for election. He has disgraced his good name to many who despise PLL. It’s a mystery why well-funded ex-president in senior years yearns for deputy seat for he had the highest seat of the state for 8 years. So PLL is a failed political concept and could decay if they are saved by return of nations support.

The election has proven that majority of Latvian voters want stability. They know that “Unity” had its bad moments and will have in the future, but they have made stabilization measures that saved from deep fall that started in the reign of PLL. Voters also don’t want a rapid change to the east and rise of leftist government. It’s clear that people want to continue stabilization process and don’t want to put at risk by giving to leftists and oligarchs.  Also the election had shown that national factor remains strong as before because of ethnic votes for “Unity” and “Harmony Center”. Nationalism ideology is still strong in one part of the voters who elected the national conservatives.

The election turnouts have possibility to continue the way of Latvia on the right track.

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Parliamentary elections in Latvia 2010

Next Saturday at 2. October  parliamentary elections will be held in Latvia. Parliament in Latvia is called Saeima. This word comes from ancient Latvian gatherings were local nobles held state meetings. In 1922. first Saeima elections were held. Since then nine Saeima’s have worked in Latvia in both periods of independence.  First four Latvian parliaments worked from 1922. to 1934. when Karlis Ulmanis took power by coop and dissolved the parliament.  This elections will have historic effect on future of Latvia. This article will show the main contestants in election their promises and real face.

In modern times Parliament is working since 1992. Many common difficulties have been shared since first 20 decades of independence. Parliaments have been fragmented by many parties that makes short-lived governments. Instability because of party rivalry slows things for Latvia especially in times of financial crisis.  Last parliament could fulfill dream of any Anarchist because the its have lost any creditability in the eyes of Latvian nation. Only 10% of Latvian people trust the parliament.

The winners of last election were Peoples Party (Tautas Partija TP) and Latvian First Party/Latvian Way. (LPP/LC) Both parties won election because of massive and fraudulent election campaign. Peoples Party leader Aigars Kalvitis promised seven fat years for Latvia if nothing stupid would not be done. But that is what exactly his party was doing. Both parties used relative economic growth to heath up the economy to the maximum. Banks had free hand to flood the country with loans. Latvian nation was living on credits hoping that economy is strong enough to repay them. Leader of LPP/LC Ainars Slesers declared that gas pedal needs to pushed at full strength.  Both parties planted the seeds for the financial crisis. The ignored the warnings of economic heath up and credit and real estate bubble. Now when this have happened both parties suffer from high unpopularity and mistrust. So to avoid defeat they joined themselves and formed new alliance called For Good Latvia (PLL). Party criticizes the present government lead by Valdis Dombrovskis from Unity of close corporation with International Monetary Fund. However it was LPP PM Ivars Godmanis and TP finance minister Atis Slakteris who first signed deal with IMF. They also blame Dombrovskis for lying to nation that pensions will not be cut. Instead after municipal elections last year pensions were cut leaving resentment in Latvian public. But in that time TP was part of the government.   In fact TP left government when they realized that more unpopular decisions will endanger  their chances of getting seats in next parliament. The leader of PLL Ainars Slesers have pushed ambitious policy for years. He always wanted Prime Minister seat but always stayed second.  Last year he run for Major office of Riga but became Vice-Major. Now he is having heavy task of getting both scapegoat parties of task of getting at least 10 seats in parliament. If both parties wouldn’t joined together they almost surely would not pass 5% barrier. PLL is giving all forces to win election, they have taken control over Latvian Independent Television (LNT) that shows positive information about them. Its responsibility of Latvian voters if they want to see the builders of crisis four more years in parliament.

Their main rival is Unity (Vienotība). The union is based on three parties. New Era (Jaunais Laiks JL) party is main core.  JL came to politics when Einars Repse the president of Latvian State Bank decided to come to politics. They won elections in 2002. but because of inability to reach consensus with other parties they lost power and lost many seats in 2006. When TP and LPP/LC failed Valdis Dombrovskis took power in most deepest point of crisis. He was forced to make drastic decisions but his actions stabilized the economy. Two other parties are formed from separatists from JL, TP and TB/LNNK. Civic Union (Pilsoniskā Savienība) is result of split from JL and nationalist party TB/LNNK. Party joined JL formed coalition. When election year came closer they realized that they need to re-unite with JL to get better results. Third party Society for Different Policy (Sabiedrība citai Politikai) evolved when two TP old-time members Artis Pabriks and Aigars Stokenbergs were kicked out for disloyalty. So they formed new party on leftist basis. Despite this they joined Unity which is right-wing party. The main reason why these three parties united is possibility that pro-Russian party Harmony Center will win the election. So to get more seats for Latvian parties they united together.

However there were two parties who wanted to join Unity but were left behind. These were two nationalist parties For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK (TB/LNNK) and All for Latvia! (VL!) TB/LNNK are veterans of Latvians politics from very beginning in early nighties. They have taken part in nearly all Latvian governments. They ideology is based on nationalism and Latvian superiority. The address the problems of dangers for  Latvian language and openly speak against Russian  population and interests of Russia. Their weakest point is that they have been on top side for too long and have taken part in unpopular decisions. Their leader is EU Parliament deputy Roberts Zile. Zile is experienced economist a splendid polemic who always have the right answers. Zile is second best choice for PM office however is not sure whether he prefers work in Brussels more than House of Ministers. All for Latvia is formed of young generation nationalists. Their average age is 20 to 35. Their leader is Raivis Dzintars an inspiring young leader full of idealism and wisdom. VL! is more nationalist than their senior partners but  are not necessary radical. They are known for openly supporting veterans of Latvian Waffen SS Legion. They are visible in national celebrations when  they make marches with Latvian flags torches.  So far they had little luck in elections so they joined forces with TB/LNNK. VL! needs recognition in middle and older generation voters to gain better results.

Latvian Greens and Farmers Union (Latvijas Zaļo un Zemnieku Savienība) or simply green farmers did not have any desire to join forces with Unity. Their rating has remained surprisingly stable despite the difficulties. Their leader is odious Major of Venstpils Aivars Lembergs. Lembergs is rich oil and shipping tycoon. He is named as most influential oligarch in Latvian politics. He is accused of widespread corruption, massive bribing of state politicians but despite that he is Major of Ventspils and most popular PM candidate. He has fanatic supporters in all Latvia. It would be interesting to see how he could manage work as PM and took part in corruption trial at single time. The party itself remains popular in rural areas. Party have taken responsibility for agriculture last twenty years. During this time they have made mistakes especially in coordination with EU agricultural policy. Agricultural minister Martins Roze destroyed sugar-beet industry with a free hand and put milk industry at risk. He only resigned when farmers in large masses blocked Riga with tractors and combines.

But the main contestant for victory is Harmony Center (Saskaņas Centrs SC). The left-wing party is based on various Russian parties lead by Janis Urbanovits. So far Russian parties never got chance to enter coalition.  But the growing size of Russian voters and declining popularity of right-wing Latvian parties have put them on the top of ratings.  Party is openly Pro-Moscow, they have official ties with Vladimir Putin party United Russia and China Communist Party. They promise stronger ties with Russia and wants to revise the talks with IMF. They want Russian language as second official language in Latvia.   Party is supported by national oriented Latvian Russians and Latvians who have nostalgia for times of Soviet occupation. Many promises of this party are biased like help from Russian economy that is weaker and unstable than its described. They promise not to make any more budget cuts despite the obvious reality that government needs to save 500 million lats for next year. If they form the government they will be forced to make unpopular decisions. So far they were comfortable in opposition criticizing the coalition acting like the saints. If they make in coalition and win the PM seat their real face will be shown. It’s the question if they are ready for this or they rather spend time in opposition once again.   In time of 1920.-1934. Latvian Social democratic party won every election but was unable to form coalition because they were afraid of disgracing themselves by working together with right-wing parties.

Another Russian party is For Human Rights in United Latvia (PCTVL). They are openly Russian nationalist and have little chance to attract Latvian voters. For many years they were the main Russian political force in Latvia until Harmony Center took the upper hand. It seems they also have lost the favor of Kremlin. The election is dead and life question for them if they fail to pass 5% barrier they are likely to split and vanish from political stage.

These are potential parties that probably pass the 5% barrier and win seats in next parliament. This could be first time in Latvian history when left-wing Russian party may took power in their own hands. Or in other case if Latvian parties get more seats the things will go on usual. The biggest danger for Latvia is the rise of populist parties that will make country more unstable. Harmony Center are likely to form coalition with PLL that will mean the union of leftists and oligarchs. If Unity wins the upper hand and forms coalition with Green Farmers and Nationalists then Latvia may not have to go though any traumatic changes. The result will be known on 3. October. Latvians have 5 days to decide their country’s future.

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Latvia 1990-2010 Twenty years of independence

20 years ago Latvia restored its independence

 May 4 199o is a landmark day in Latvian history. On this day Supreme Soviet of the Latvian SSR adopted declaration On the Restoration of Independence of the Republic of Latvia who made way for regaining independence from the Soviet Union. Even though the real independence was gained in 1991 August 21, May 4 has been celebrated as second independence day in Latvia.

It’s complicated to discuss the whole process of making the declaration possible there is a need a for a few big posts, so this post will give a short survey what has happened in Latvia since May 4 1990.

The people behind the regaining of independence were Latvian Peoples Front a large national organization turning into a political force. Since the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev allowed opposition to communist party LPF gained large success in the election. A large representation of LPF in Latvian SSR Supreme Soviet made possible to restore independence.  Also important factor was support of progressive communist party members. The chairman of Supreme Soviet was Anatolijs Gorbunovs who backed whole process. The Latvian Communist party was split in the orthodox anti nationalists lead by Alfrēds Rubiks and progressive communists who were ready to support independence. Strong opposition was International Workers Front an organization created to tackle LPF. However the nationalist politicians won the upper hand. The soviet government from Moscow were unable to shut down the Latvian independence movement completely, it had all necessarily armed force in hand, but it lingered to use it until the end. The two episodes of Moscow response the January 1991 barricades and failed Soviet coup in August were not enough to prevent Latvia from separating from the union.     

After the complete restoration of independence leading politicians were quickly thrown in big challenges.  Before it the main goal was the restoration of independence, few had exact ideas what to do after. Latvia needed to quickly switch socialism to capitalism and communism to democracy. First years of restored freedom were painful as reforms drastically changed the situation in Latvia.

Economy got a big hit because new leaders lacked a clear view on how things should be done. In the Soviet period Latvia was the industrial center in the USSR. Soviets build a large amount of factories in Latvia and sent thousands of workers from whole union to Latvia. This caused mass immigration and downsize of Latvian majority. This leads to speculate  that massive industrialization was intended to assimilate Latvian nation. Large industrial enterprises worked only for Soviet market and were associated with main company bodies in Moscow. Also they were deeply connected with the Soviet military complex and half of the civilian industrial production was actually used for military purposes. After the fall of USSR these factories could no more compete with free market and lost contact with state and Russian military.  Large enterprises such as State Electronics Factory, Red Star, Alfa and others bankrupted. State officials done little to prevent whole industry collapsing. Today is still hard to answer could industry be saved and what should be done. However many say that it was impossible to save it. But the loss of large enterprises made a large amount of unemployed people. In the Soviet era there were no unemployment possible since everyone could find the job in a factory.

Reforms hit hard also on agriculture. In Soviet era all agricultural property was in state hands. Collective farming (kolkhoz)  was the main subject in the country. When private property was established kolkhoz’s failed as the land was privatized.  In Soviet times all farm land was sowed and farms were rich, now because of poor handling of private property land became poor and undeveloped.

Despite those large problems politicians finished reforms and introduced capitalism in Latvia. This was done on high prices on peoples wallets. One side became poor other side became rich. Social inequality is eminent today in Latvia.

Politics in Latvia after the restoration was divided more than ever. Latvian Peoples Front quickly split in many political forces. Progressive communists became democrats and assembled new political carriers. The two main leaders of national revival Dainis Ivans and Anatolijs Gorbunovs lost their power. New leaders came from numerous parties. Latvian Way won first election and pushed the reforms ahead. But in next elections new parties showed up. Parliament was divided into small fractions, it was impossible to make stable government. At every election new “savior party”  showed up. Parties like Saimnieks (lord), and For Latvia promised more than they accomplished.  The first stable party was Peoples Party lead by Andris Skele who won two elections. Party New Era was its main counterpart. Left wing parties always failed in elections. Before the World war Latvian Social-democratic workers party was an eminent elected leader in Latvia, now party is a weak reflection on past party. Russian parties always posed as left wingers and the today Harmony Center is a most successful left-wing party in Latvia. Far right parties have been present in Latvia but   not attracted big popularity.  An eminent factor in Latvian politics is oligarchs- the gray cardinals. Latvian journalists name three men- major of Ventspils Aivars Lembergs, politicians Andris Skele and Ainars Slesers. The so-called A- team plays a big role in Latvian politics.

Latvia was hit by large financial crisis many times. In 1995 the large bank Banka Baltijai collapsed, Latvia was hit by the Russian default in 1998.The world financial crisis in 2008 hit Latvia so hard  that the government had to make big cuts to save the state from bankruptcy.  The large unemployment,  expensive education forced Latvians to look for work in the European Union. Ireland and Great Britain have large Latvian diaspora. Latvia is again losing its  Latvian majority thanks to Latvian migration to the west.  However Latvian Russians are migrating to Russia  also.

Despite the impending difficulties Latvia achieved many victories. It accomplished its goal to enter the European Union and NATO. The Latvian army took part in NATO missions in Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan.  Latvian sportsmen won many victories  in international competitions.   We have Olympic champions, strong hockey team and other sports achievements.   Latvian artists especially in the classical music field are worlds best.

The restoration of independence was a logical and important step. The difficulties that go with sovereign state are always present. 20 years are a small period in one states life so Latvia needs to work more to survive in a globalized world. Moses needed 40 years to carry his Jews around the dessert so they could rule on their own, Latvians may need 20 more years to gain more than they have gained today.

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Latvia 2009. A look at the past year

Today at December 30 the year 2009  it’s going to end and new decade will start. As we should know in history the Christian calendar is not the only calendar in this world. Year 2009 is year 5770 for Jews as much it is different for Muslims, Eastern Asians or other cultures with their unique calendars. But since Latvia as much as the Christian world uses the Christian Gregorian calendar let’s have a look what happened in Latvia in year 2009.


2009 January 13 will go down as the Riot day in Old Riga. The cause of the riots was a peaceful demonstration organized by the leftist party Society for different policy (SDP) in Dome square. It took place in the late evening at 18:00 and gathered a large crowd of dissatisfied angry people. Most of them called to dissolve the parliament and many other anti-government calls. After two hours the demonstration ended and people were asked to go home. But most wanted something more than protest and listen to inspiring songs. Among the crowd there were provocateurs who provoke the angry crowd to start a more aggressive protest. One part of the crowd reached the parliament building and attempted to storm it. When they were pushed off Riot police who used tear gas and rubber bullets, they used their own ammunition- stone bricks, which were carved from the streets. Parliament and police were attacked with stone bricks and other objects. When police pushed the crowd from parliament they turned to attack police cars. The main building of Parex bank which was saved from bankruptcy was attacked. The alcohol shop Latvijas Balzāms was robbed and other buildings faced minor damage including National Library. Only one rioter was wounded, he was shot in the eye by a rubber bullet. There many versions why the riot started, it was planed by provocateurs who provoke the crowd to start riot. Indeed there were many young men with masks and riot equipment ready to use. An eccentric rioters were three people two-man and women in fur coat who actively called for storming the parliament.  They were captured in many photos and mocked in many caricatures. But when riots became more violent the bravehearted trio quietly left the scene. It is not clear who were the planners, either local anti-governmetalists, or Russian radicals or even Secret Service of Russian Federation.

Whoever was responsible for the riots, the Government reacted impulsively. Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis called for more security laws to prevent demonstrations around parliament.  He was heavily distressed by the event. But President Valdis Zatlers reacted even more drastic- he gave an ultimatum to the parliament. Until March 31 the parliament must finally enact laws to give rights for the people to dissolve parliament (before only the president had such rights), to change the election laws, to form a commission for economic planning and reorganize the ministries. While some politicians were angry of such ultimatum, since the constitution does not give the president such rights. But the warning for parliament dismissal made them to do it and the demands were met.

At the following month Prime minister done deal with the International Monetary Fund to receive loan to save state economy. The next moths monetary fund was a de facto other government of Latvia, because it actively dictated Latvian government so it can receive the loan.


In February the pressure against Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis become more stronger. Godmanis was first prime minister of independent Latvia when the new country faced tough times even harder than now. So he was remembered as Crisis minister and ironically he again led the country in the event of a crisis. He and his party (Latvian First Party/Latvian Way) was unpopular as well as the Peoples Party who was blamed for the crisis. So he was forced to step down, when President Valdis Zatlers remarked that he can no longer trust him (just a few weeks ago he said that Godmanis is irreplaceable). Godmanis continued to work as deputy and he had more time for his radio show at Radio SWH where he talked about the history of rock. He is still working at Radio SWH as a radio host despite his work in EU parliament.

New coalition was now led by New Era party, the party was in opposition for many years, since it charismatic leader Einars Repse was forced to step down. The prime minister’s office was taken by Valdis Dombrovskis, an ex EU deputy. While Godmanis was an emotional man often sparking anger in discussions, Dombrovskis is serious man not showing any emotions. The coalition was joined by Peoples Party, Civilian Union, Latvia Farmers Union /Green Party, Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK and Civil Union.  Latvia First party was left in opposition.   This was a blow to minister of transportation Ainars Slesers– politician determined for power and money. He is a mastermind businessman, a man who has reached the power without any higher education and heartless and vicious politician.

The new government faced large farmer protests in Riga when hundreds of tractors and other farming vehicles arrived at House of Ministers and Ministry of Agriculture. Farmers were angry because of crisis in the milk industry and in other farming sectors. Minister of Agriculture Mārtiņš Roze did not want to resign  until he claimed that he had received threats against him and then resigned.

Another important event was start of the trial against the Mayor of Ventspils Aivars Lembergs– viscous and cynical millionaire and oligarch. In the previous year he was arrested for some months, but then set free. He is accused for statewide fraud, corruption, illegal sponsorship of political parties. Despite that he is still a mayor of Venstpils and candidate for the Prime Minister’s office.


In March the Government lead by Valdis Dombrovskis officially begun their work.  During the month it became clear that the crisis will mean the drop of 20% of GDP at the end of the year. The government tried to apply  all demands of Zatlers, despite that all demands were not met. But Zatlers decided not to dissolve parliament for it must solve the crisis problems.


April was a rather calm month without important events. Parliament voted to make possible for people to dissolve parliament, but the law was made so cleverly made that large margin would be needed to dissolve the parliament.  Latvian voters most times are too apathetic to gather a large number of votes in a referendum.

Monetary Fund predicted bad future for Latvia, the financial difficulties which would mean hard times for almost every citizen in Latvia. Education, Healthcare, Police in following months faced real difficulties. Schools were closed, hospitals closed or stripped of money and policemen  fired. The fall of GDP would be biggest in the whole world. And it really was.

April was also the loss of high paid offices to people who were employed by ex-minister of Transportation Ainars Slesers. In his years in office he put in high offices his party members, friends, business partners and even the son of his car driver. He was called an “octopus”  whose tentacles were all around transportation sector.


May was electoral month for Municipal elections. The most bitter fight was fought for Riga. The Mayor of Riga was Janis Birks from Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK. But his party was highly unpopular. The two most prominent rivals for Riga was Nils Ushakovs from Harmony Center and Ainars Slesers. Harmony Center is a union of leftist mostly pro-Russian parties. In past 20 years no Russian party was never close to any high seat. But because of the growing unpopularity of Latvian right parties, Harmony Center now had a chance to secure their first victory. Harmony Center used the Victory Day on  May 9 to stage a large election rally near the Soviet Victory monument. Nationalist Parties to gain Latvian favor used national factor against Harmony Center. Fatherland and Freedom spent a large sum of money for anti-Russian commercials.    The national hysteria was eminent and reached the highest point at Victory Day when a large crowd of Russians gathered to celebrate Soviet Victory. Soviet symbols and songs was all around if that was not enough, the other Russian party For Civil Rights in United Latvia staged a “Russian March”. The marchers were dressed in Monarchist Russian uniforms and were waiving Russian flags.

While Russian nationalists fought battle with Latvian counterparts, Ainars Slesers staged his own election campaign for takeover of Riga. A big posters of Slesers face was all around Riga and TV was filled of commercials with call “Slesers! Who Else?” A rather shorthanded where New Era Party who made foolish commercials warning not vote for parties who will take pies away from citizens. Civic Union leader Girts- Valdis Kristovskis was portrayed as a strong man and was called Krrristovssky!!! to promote his toughness.


The turnout on election in Riga was not surprising. Harmony Center won because of support of the Russians and leftist Latvians. Slesers was beaten by Kristovskis, the New Era party was elected. But Fatherland and Freedom lost all of their seats despite their big election campaign. In same time elections for EU parliament were taken where Civic Union won, as well as Fatherland and Freedom, Latvia First Party and New Era Party. Russian parties took to Brussels two famous enemies of Latvian independence Tatjana Zhdanoka and Alfrēds Rubiks, both during 1988-1991 fought against the succession from USSR. Now they were representing Latvian state.

But just after the election the people of Latvia were taken by big shock.  Government issued that more cuts in budget needs to be taken and another 500 million Lats needs to be saved. This meant the shortage of 20% from salaries, and 10% of pensions.  The pays of working pensioners were cut drastically so working pensioners were forced to quit their jobs.  This big cut was planned long before this but because of elections were not issued to the public.


In July Nils Ushakovs was elected as Mayor of Riga. Ainars Slesers allied with Harmony Center and became Vice-Mayor. It is  a question who is the real ruler of Riga- the young ex-journalist Ushakovs or mastermind Slesers. They both appear together and even wear the same red ties. They are called Sleshakov or Evil Twins or Brothers.

At government the rivalry between two arch enemies New Era Party and Peoples Party started to deepen. Eccentric Minister of Healthcare Baiba Rozentale demanded 45 millions for her sector.  A controversy started when the secret agreement with Monetary Fund was disclosed declaring that if government could not save 500 millions other way then progressive taxes on people with more than 500 Lats salary needs to be issued along with other taxes.


Because the 2010 Parliamentary election campaign was close, three parties- New Era party, Civic Union, and Society for Different Policy joined forces and formed a united force “Unity”.

August was celebration of Baltic Way (1989) and the commemoration of Hitler-Stalin pact.

The last week of August was marked with a small uprising in the town of Bauska. Angry citizens protested against the closure of town hospital and blocked the main road leading to the Lithuanian border. Local police joined the protesters, but Riga sent heavily armed Riot Police and dispersed the crowd.


All September was spent in argues about the new 2010 budget. New Era Party and Peoples party almost collapsed the government.


In October the ex-president Vaira Vike Freiberga applied for candidature for President of EU. She failed to reach important office, but chances were low anyway.    The talks about budget continued.  Andris Skele a man who was prime minister three times and founder of Peoples Party issued that he will come back to politics to save his party from failing in elections and save whole Latvia.

A humorous or other hand stupid event occurred when news of space meteorite impact near town Mazsalaca hit the world. This was welcomed by scientists and people as something exiting until it was clear that meteorite impact was a hoax. The “crater” and “meteor parts” were faked and this was done by mobile phone operator Tele2 to promote their new tariff plan.  Security officials were angry about this and ordered Tele2 to pay compensations for false meteorite  alarm.


At November Latvia first in its history faced deflation, before this inflation was eminent in Latvia. Government organized budget.


In December 1 the Budget was approved. On the approval day big protests by motorcycle owners, University students and the people of town Līvāni.  Motorcyclists were angry about tax on motorcycles, students were outraged by cuts for higher education and people at Livāni tried to blockade Riga-Daugavpils road but were repulsed by police. At the end of the month the Constitutional Cort decided that cuts for pensioners were against the constitution and ordered the government to pay money to pensioners back.

So the year 2009 was year of troubles in Latvia. The next year does not promise any lighter times in the economy. In year 2009 the relations with Russia lightened as the new government of Riga tried to make deals with Moscow. However Russian government still is not making relations lighter by staging military maneuvers near the Latvian border and blocking trade traffic to Russia. It was also a year of emigration- large masses unable to pay their loans and find jobs left Latvia to find a job and home in another country. The amount of emigrants is larger than numbers in 1944-1945 when people fled from the Soviets, now people are escaping from their own country.

As this  year the view of Latvia in the eyes of other world worsened. Latvia was viewed as a Failed State and disaster in Europe. No doubt it is a fault of Latvians themselves that Latvia is viewed so badly, that’s because this blog exists to show what happened and what is happening in Latvia from the eyes of Latvian citizen.

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The Basic Facts of Latvia

Before we begin to took more complicated view about Latvia I will introduce you with the basic facts of this country.

Latvia is located in Eastern Europe bordering the Baltic Sea. Its neighbors are Estonia from north, Lithuania in the south and Russia and Belarus in the east.

Its total area is 64,589 sq km. Not much considering other nations like France or Poland but more than Denmark or Netherlands.  The weather is maritime, vet with moderate winters however because of Global Warming the climate of Latvia is rapidly changing with more hotter summers and more warmer winters.

Our terrain is low plain-ed. Our highest mountain the Gaiziņkalns is only 312 meters high. However this douse not prevent the winter lowers from enjoying winter skiing in Latvia.  The River Daugava which starts in Russia and ends at the Riga Bay are most important river. Its divides Latvia in two sides. This was crucial in Latvia history when the river was serving as the borderline between the  fighting sides of foreign powers. The other important rivers are Gauja, Lielupe and Venta.

We are low on rich natural recourse’s. Our main export resource always has been wood. The is also dolomite and limestone.  On the shores you can find amber, but its more common in Lithuania.

Latvians are known as the farming peoples so the much of the land is used for farming purposes. However in the last 18 years the agriculture in Latvia has experienced fall down thanks to faulty Soviet collective farming policies and incompetence of present day Latvian politicians.

The population of Latvia is 2,231,503 (July 2009 est.) peoples.  The mayor ethnic group are Latvians (57%), Russians (29%), Belarusians (4%), Ukrainians (2%), Poles (2,5%) and others. This ethnic situation considerably differs from the prewar ethnic situation in 1939. when Latvians where roughly 78% and the Russians only 10%. There were also large German and Jewish populations in Latvia who  almost completely perished thought the events of the Second World War.  After the war Latvia faced uncontrolled migration from the Soviet Union which bought  large masses of mostly Slavic settlers.  This was followed by large emigrations by ethnic Latvians to Western world and two large deportations to Siberia in 1940 and 1949.  Those events have downsized the Latvian majority and because of present day emigration to Western World the count of Latvian nation is still shrinking.

The present day Latvia political system is multi party democracy. The President of Latvia is Valdis Zatlers the ex physician. The president of Latvia has been always elected by parliament- the Saeima. President serves four years and can be elected twice.  The Saeima consists of 100 elected deputies with chosen in elections every four years.  Our current Prime Minister is Valdis Dombrovskis. The main ruling parties are Peoples Party, New Era Party, First Party of Latvia/ Latvia’s way and others. However the last municipal elections showed the appalling unpopularity of the coalition parties. In the next years parliamentary elections it is proposed that left-sided party union the Harmony Center will gain majority.  The Harmony Center is more pro- Russian party and are predicted to win since the Latvian right parties has lost the support of  the most voters.

Since joining the European Union Latvia enjoyed economic boom. The ex prime minister promised “seven fat years”, but it’s appeared to be just a good dream. In 2008 following the crisis in worlds markets the Latvian economy faced a big fall causing large budget account deficit and inability to support payments to the workforce.

More information here – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latvia

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