Latvian National Foundation, second edition, 1982

Historical Introduction

Part 1Soviets pay lip service to Latvian independence, Hilter and Stalin carve up the Baltics

We have highlighted key dates and events, following below, and sectioned the original chapters for readability. The purpose of this publication is to provide historical and documentary evidence of the facts that the genocide carried out in Soviet Russia and in the countries annexed by her is an essential part of the administrative and economic system founded by the Bolshevik party. The fate of Latvia and the other Baltic States during World War II was not an accident in foreign policy, but a carefully prepared and planned action of the Kremlin towards world domination, towards a pax sovietica.
August 11, 1920
Russia renounces any claim to Latvian territory
In the peace treaty between Latvia and Russia, signed on August 11, 1920, in Riga, the Government of the Federal Socialist Republic of Russian Soviets declared: "Russia unreservedly recognizes the independence, self-subsistency and sovereignty of the Latvian State and voluntarily and for ever renounces all sovereign rights over the Latvian people and territory".
December 3, 1922
Russian War Department lobbies to invade Baltics
March 3, 1925
Russia declares Baltic fears of Russian aggression groundless
On December 3, 1922, at an extraordinary meeting of the Politbureau, the Head of the War Information Department suggested that Poland should be encouraged to occupy Lithuania while, simultaneously, two army corps of the Red Army should invade Estonia. It was Lenin who severely criticized this plan, calling it an adventure which would shatter the international position of Russia and destroy her foreign trade. The discussions ended by a majority of votes accepting Lenin's thesis and by rejecting the scheme of the War Department. The dissentient votes were those of Stalin and of a member of the War Council. Stalin never forgot this failure. After Lenin's death he ordered the Estonian Communist party to organize a putsch in Tallin on December 1, 1924, which in the case of success should be followed by the proclamation of the Estonian Soviet Republic. However, this coup de main failed and the plan of the Politbureau to occupy the Baltic had to be postponed. Some time afterwards, Chicherin, then Foreign Commissar, declared at the meeting of the Central Executive Committee on March 3, 1925, that the fear of the Baltic States of a possible aggression on the part of Moscow was groundless, because Moscow respected the treaties concluded by her.
  When Great Britain, on May 26, 1927, interrupted her diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union and revoked her trade covenant, the rate of exchange of the Soviet chervonyets fell rapidly and the total of Soviet foreign short-term debts approached the figure of one milliard gold roubles. During this economic crisis Moscow urged to conclude the negotiations started as early as 1923 on a trade covenant with Latvia which was concluded in June 1927. It was the 21st trade agreement Latvia signed.
1928
Bolshevik influence in Latvian politics
Apart from the considerable reductions of customs duties on Soviet import goods (e.g. 100% on iron and raw oils) which this pact involved, Latvia built an up-to-date free port at Liepaja for Soviet requirements as well as storehouses in Riga, changed her principal railway lines to Russian gauge and carried out the transportation of Soviet goods at a rate which was 75% below her own tariffs. Now the peace policy of another state was invariably interpreted by the Politbureau as a sign of weakness and exploited accordingly. The illegal Communist party of Latvia, numbering in 1928 only 650 members (out of a population of 1,845,000) and 1.2% of the total of workers, gathered in the trade unions, only being under communist influence, the extensive cadre of Soviet commercial agencies in Latvia lavishly subsidized it with a view to activizing communist propaganda in Latvia and reconquering the positions lost after the land reform was carried out. These agencies made a point of emphasizing the dependence of the longshoremen and transport workers on Soviet export. Obeying the directions given by the Comintern, the bolsheviks participated in the Latvian parliament elections in 1928 with two camouflaged lists, thus obtaining 7% of all votes.
1932
Non-aggression treaties signed.
Being afraid of both Japan and Germany, the Kremlin now sought an understanding with Poland and France, offering non-aggression treaties which were signed by Lithuania in 1931, and by Finland, Latvia, Estonia, Poland and France in 1932. According to these pacts, the contracting parties promised to refrain from any kind of aggression against their reciprocal territories and sovereignties. By means of a supplementary protocol, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, on April 4, 1934, extended their non-aggression treaties till December 31, 1945.
1933
Russia suggests special convention on definition of "aggression"
After the Japanese invasion of Manchuria and Hitler's assumption of power, the fear of war continued to determine the foreign policy of the Kremlin. When the United States renewed, in 1933, their interrupted diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union, the latter began to collaborate closely with the western democracies and soon became a member of the League of Nations. As an introduction to this new course in Soviet policy, Litvinov suggested to all the Border States a special convention for the definition of aggression, which was signed on July 3, 1933, by Estonia, Latvia and Poland, and at a later date by Lithuania and Finland.
December 20, 1933
"Aggression" is pretty much anything Russia doesn't care for in another country's internal or foreign policy
Six months had not yet passed since the London Convention was signed, when Litvinov, on December 20, 1933, submitted to Mr. Beck, Poland's Foreign Minister, a proposal to guarantee in a common declaration the political and economic independence of Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. In the course of the negotiations it appeared that the planned declaration would entitle the two guarantors to regard as a threat to their independence almost every change in their internal and foreign policy, constitution and international relations. It practically meant the division of the Baltic area into Soviet and Polish influence spheres. With the exception of Lithuania, the rest of the Baltic States rejected this proposal of the Kremlin.
1934
Eastern Pact for Baltic security fails.
November 20, 1934
Litvinov suggests Russia and Germany will negotiate directly (to carve up spheres of influence)
It was M. Barthou, Foreign Minister of France, who prepared the draft of the new Eastern Pact on collective securities to the Baltic States. According to this draft, the pact was to be signed by eight eastern and central European States while an additional security was to be granted through the Franco-Soviet guaranties which had to bridge the gap between the Locarno Pact and the Eastern Pact. However, Poland was categorically opposed to this scheme and demanded the exclusion of Czechoslovakia and Lithuania from this pact. Herr von Neurath, German Foreign Minister, in his memorandum of September 1, 1934, gave an elusive answer, pointing out that Germany could not assume new military obligations while she was not yet rehabilitated as far as her armament was concerned. Under these circumstances the Baltic States decided to take up an observing attitude, although, during a confidential conversation on November 20, 1934, Litvinov informed their ministers: "Should the conclusion of the Eastern Pact prove a failure, Russia will open direct negotiations with Germany."
March 13, 1938
Hitler marches into Austria
March 15, 1939
Germany incorporates Czechoslovakia
March 22, 1939
Lithuania cedes Memel to Germany
In 1938 Hitler openly initiated his "Anschluss" policy by marching into Austria on March 13. Next, he demanded the incorporation of Sudetia into the Reich, to which Great Britain, France and Italy gave their consent at the Munich Conference on September 29, 1938. By this fateful decision a revision of the borders of the new States, laid down at the Versailles Peace Conference, was sanctioned. Having ascertained the inability of the western democracies to check the German aggression, Hitler took further measures. On March 15, 1939, Dr. Hacha, President of Czechoslovakia, accepted Germany's ultimatum and signed the covenant of the Protectorate which put an end to the existence of the Czechoslovakian State. On March 22, Lithuania was compelled to cede the Memel region to Germany.
March 29, 1939
Russia declares Latvia and Estonia to be in its sphere of influence
In this situation the Soviet Union again actively interfered in the Baltic affairs which, however, did not prevent her foreign policy, directed by Litvinov, to continue officially in the old fairway, while unofficially, under Stalin's high command, a new course was being looked for. On March 29, 1939, Litvinov handed to the Latvian and Estonian ministers in Moscow a declaration informing them that the USSR would be unable to continue her role of observer if there existed treaties and agreements which tended in a open camouflaged way to restrict the independence of their States. By this declaration the Kremlin had unilaterally determined that the Baltic States were in the Soviet influence sphere. To this Latvia and Estonia answered that they would defend their neutrality and that they could not allow a third State in a direct or indirect way to influence their freedom of action. On receiving these answers Litvinov added: "The responsibility of the Soviet Union begins at the moment when Latvia stops taking care of her independence or when this care proves insufficient under the existing threatening circumstances."
Roosevelt seeks peace guarantees. Great Britain already negotiating with Russia. A week after Latvia's answer to the USSR, Mr. Roosevelt proposed to Hitler and Mussolini to guarantee a 10 years' peace to 21 European and eastern States. Among these were mentioned also the Baltic States. However, three days before, diplomatic negotiations were opened between Great Britain and the Soviet Union on possibilities of forming an anti-aggression front. The Soviets suggested to conclude a military alliance with France and Great Britain, which the latter refused, suggesting, in her turn, a three-power mutual assistance pact.
March 10, 1939
Stalin signals publicly that he is ready to cut a deal with Hitler
Meanwhile—to make Hitlerite Germany understand Moscow's readiness to open separate negotiations with Berlin, Stalin delivered a speech at the 18th Congress of the Bolshevik party on March 10, 1939, in which he mentioned that the French, British and American press were spreading provocative rumours with a view to setting USSR against Germany. Berlin, indeed, understood the meaning of this allusion. Both parties tried to find clandestine ways to get into touch with one another in an unofficial manner, pleading negotiations on a German-Soviet economic agreement. The Soviets chose for their mediator Draganov, the Bulgarian minister in Moscow, while Germany's authorized representative was count Ciano.
March 3, 1939
Litvinov out, Molotov in
During the negotiations, on March 3, Stalin quite suddenly dismissed Litvinov, who had since 1921 been directing the official Soviet foreign policy, from his office, and replaced him by V. Molotov, a member of the Politbureau. These changes were received in Berlin with obvious satisfaction. It meant that Moscow renounced the system of collective agreements hitherto practised, the League of Nations and collaboration with the western democracies. Since the time of the Brest-Litovsk Treaties (1918), with which Imperial Germany saved the bolshevik regime from ruin, Stalin consistently maintained the view that it was in the Russian interests to lead a germanophile policy. Despite the anti-Hitlerite bolshevik propaganda, he highly prized the Führer and national-socialist Germany, despising, at the same time, all parliamentary States. After the French and British capitulation at Munich, the Politbureau concluded that the agreements of these democracies with the Kremlin would not keep USSR out of a war and that a second world war might even mean the destruction of the Soviet regime.
June 2, 1939
Molotov plays Baltic card to stall Great Britain and France
When Hitler had agreed on principle to a political convention with Stalin in the division of the influence spheres in eastern Europe, Molotov began to delay the negotiations already initiated with Great Britain and France by putting forward new Soviet demands. In his answer of June 2 to the British proposal of a three-power assistance pact Molotov connected it with common securities to the Baltic States. Since Zhdanov, who was then omnipotent, had as early as 1936 in a speech demanded the annexation of the Baltic, the Baltic States informed Great Britain that their policy of neutrality forbade them to accept USSR's guaranties.
June 29, 1939
France and Great Britain agree to not object over Soviet "assistance" to Baltics in case of aggression on those territories
July 4, 1939
Molotov demands right to invade Baltics based on "indirect aggression"
According to a news report of TASS, dated June 22, negotiations had come to a dead stop. On June 29, there appeared a characteristic article by Zhdanov, Chairman of the Foreign Commission, expounding the view that the guaranties may be enforced upon the Baltic States. Finally, prevailed upon by M. Daladier, the French Premier, His Majesty's Government agreed not to make objections to an automatic assistance to the Baltic States by the Soviet Union in case of direct aggression. On July 4, Molotov came forward with a new demand: the Soviet Union should have the right to occupy the Baltic States even in the case of indirect aggression which, according to the Kremlin, would happen when a constitutional change would take place in one of the Baltic States.
December 5, 1939
Later, it would appear Soviet intentions have become clear to Great Britain, as it turns out, too late...
When the Moscow negotiations proved fruitless, the Earl of Halifax characterized the British attitude in a speech, held in the House of Lords on December 5, 1939: "Events have shown that the judgment and the instinct of His Majesty's Government in refusing agreement with the Soviet Government on the terms of formulae covering cases of indirect aggression on the Baltic States were right. For it is now plain that these formulae might have been the cloak of ulterior designs...".
August, 1939
von Ribbentrop arrives in Moscow
In order to extort from Hitler the greatest possible concessions by his prolonged double-dealing and induce Berlin without further delay to accept the demands of the Kremlin, Molotov staged a new act in his diplomatic comedy by requesting, on July 20, that the French and British Governments immediately send their delegations to Moscow for discussions of a military nature. When the negotiations opened on August 12, War Commissar Voroshilov suggested adjournment of the meetings until August 21, because (as it appeared afterwards) the Kremlin was at that time expecting the German Foreign Minister, von Ribbentrop, who was to arrive with special powers from Hitler.
August 23, 1939
German-Russian non-aggression pact signed. Estonia, Latvia (and other states) handed over to the USSR.
As soon as he arrived the negotiations started, Von Ribbentrop planed to divide Latvia in a Soviet and a German part along the river Daugava (Düna) as stipulated in the Treaties of Brest-Litovsk (1918), but Stalin announced that the Soviet Union needed the Latvian ports of Liepaja and Ventspils. Ribbentrop telephoned to Hitler who agreed to this demand. As early as August 23, 1939, the German-Soviet non-aggression pact was signed. It was supplemented by a secret protocol which referred to the division of Eastern Europe in Soviet and German spheres of Influence. USSR was given a free hand in Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Eastern Poland, and Besarabia while Lithuania and the western part of Poland were left to Germany.
...Timeline...Molotov–Ribbentrop PactMolotov-Ribbentrop Pact, 1939. Text of the secret protocol carving up Eastern Europe between Stalin and Hitler. The First Months of the WarThe First Months of the War, Mr. Munters Speaks at the University, 1940. Foreign Minister Vilhelms Munters' speech at the University of Latvia, asking, infamously : "I should like to ask, where now is the sovietisation against which we were warned...?" Letters on Birch Bark In Siberia Written Letters on Birch Bark, UNESCO Latvia. Birch bark was often the only material to write on. Background on deportations, the letters, and a gallery of photos. EXTERNAL SITE Holocaust in Latvia (HAOLUSA.ORG) Prof. Andrew Ezergailis' web site on the Holocaust in LatviaScholarship on the Holocaust in Latvia: essays, letters, reviews. Prof. Ezergailis is the pre-eminent scholar in this field. EXTERNAL SITE Soviet War NewsThe Soviet Union, Finland, and the Baltic States. Soviet Information Bureau. Soviet War News, 1941. In a monograph published after the Winter War and toward the end of its first occupation of the Baltic states, the Soviet Union blames the Finns and Balts for their troubles, only the Soviets have consistently engaged in "neighbourly relations," rebuffed by its neighbors at every turn. A classic study in Stalinist propaganda and a version of history still familiar in official Russian rhetoric. These Names AccuseThese Names Accuse—Nominal List of Latvians Deported to Soviet Russia in 1940-41, second edition with supplementary list. Latvian National Foundation, Stockholm. 1982. (1942) History leading up to and including the Soviet invasion of the Baltics, the first Soviet occupation, and the first mass deportations of 1941. The originally compiled list of names was published in Riga in 1942. Documents, photographs, list of names (in progress). A Shepherd DiedViens Gans Nomira (A Shepherd Died). Margarita Kovaļevska, illustrator. 1942. A miniature booklet of a folk song, published by Tautas Palīdzība (Peoples' Aid) in war-time Latvia and given out for donations to help the orphaned and widowed, illustrated by a popular Latvian pre-war and diaspora artist—and who dated Peters' father while they studied together at the Academy of Art. Behind the Polish-Soviet BreakBehind the Polish-Soviet Break, Alter Brody, introduced by Corliss Lamont. Soviet Russia Today, New York. 1943. After the Poles rightfully blamed the Katyn massacre on the Soviets, the USSR denounced (per Molotov's letter, included) the accusation as a "Hitlerite slanderous fake." Within two weeks the USSR severed relations with the Polish Government-in-Exile. Beyond alleging Polish lies, Alter Brody's monograph goes on to characterize the Polish people as an ungrateful scourge upon history—portending the post-WWII portrayal of anti-Soviet Eastern European nationalists as fascists. Latvia Under German Occupation in 1943Latvia Under German Occupation in 1943. Latvian Legation, Washington, DC. 1944. The Latvian diplomatic corps reports on Latvia's third year under Nazi occupation, recounting still-fresh events. What Latvian Wishes From This War?What Latvian Wishes From This War? Alfreds Bīlmanis. Latvian Legation, Washington DC. 1944. As head of the Latvian Foreign Ministry's press division, Alfreds Bīlmanis (1887-1948) actively promoted independent Latvia's interests abroad. His war-time monograph, subtitled: "Background, Current Situation, Hopes for the Future"—written while there was still hope for Latvia's post-war freedom—dispels still-prevalent misunderstandings regarding the historical inter-relationships of the Baltics, Europe, and Russia. Zedelgem POW Camp 2227Zedelgem POW Camp 2227Latvians whose only "crime" was to fight to free their homeland after multiple invasions are called Nazis and shot as target practice. Today, official Russia and others invested in the "Latvians are Nazis" meme keep the lie alive.
Copyright © 1982, The Latvian National Foundation. The Latvian National Foundation, Box 108, S-101 21 Stockholm, Sweden, retains all rights. Materials from "These Names Accuse" reproduced by express permission. For personal and academic research use only. Republication is prohibited.

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