World War II

Post-War Latvia

Latvia's Status : Following the Soviet occupation in 1944-1945, Latvia was reintegrated into the USSR. Britain and the U.S. did not recognize the Soviet annexation of the Baltic Republics in 1940; England hosted a Latvian Government- in-exile. However, neither the U.S. nor Britain went so far to challenge Soviet control over Latvia; with the USSR enjoying the status of a veto power in the Security Council of the U.N., the government-in-exile did not have the option to use international organizations to plead their cause.

Demography : UNRR in 1946 reported the presence of 83,639 Latvians in the various zones of occupied Germany, most of whom did not want to return into Soviet-held territory. In Soviet-occupied Latvia, many Latvians were deported, while simultaneously the Russian population element increased. Another group of Latvians fled across the Baltic, to Sweden. In 1950 the population of Latvia was given as 1.9 million.

Domestic Policy : Soviet authorities tried and executed war criminals, among them Friedrich Jeckeln, head of police in the so-called Ostland. They arrested and deported collaborators and perceived elements hostile to a socialist society; this policy turned into mass deportations which were to have a strong impact on the country's demography and ethnic composition.
Russian was made official language in 1947. Landholdings were collectivized. Reconstruction made some progress; by 1948 the Latvian railroad network had been adapted to the Russian gauge standard. Liepaja was designated a Soviet naval port.
In order to make a career in state administration, the judiciary etc., Communist Party membership was required. As comparatively few Latvians were members, and as Moscow did not trust many Latvians, mostly Russians were appointed. The request from Riga for appointees capable of speaking Latvian was usually ignored.

The Economy : In 1945 Latvia was, for the first time, included in a Soviet Five-Year-Plan. As elsewhere in the USSR, reconstruction was a major issue. Latvia suffered from a shortage of manpower, especially of skilled labour and persons with university education, as many of those had fled the country or been deported. Russians, Ukrainians and Belorussians were brought into the country to fill the gap.

Resistance : In response to deportations and measures which placed administration and economy of Latvia under control of non-Latvians, some Latvian patriots took up armed resistance against Soviet occupation; they were called the Forest Brothers. They were active until c.1955; their numbers are estimated at 12,000, dwindling as the USSR consolidated her hold on the country.

History of Latvia, from
Riga, History of, from vest_ang
History of Latvia 1939-1991, from Latvia Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Article Forest Brothers, from Wikipedia
Article History of Latvia, Soviet Period, from Wikipedia
DOCUMENTS World Statesmen : Latvia
Historical Population Statistics : Latvia, from Population Statistics at Univ. Utrecht
REFERENCE David G. Kirby, The Baltic World 1772-1993, London : Longman 1995
Andrejs Plakans, The Latvians. A Short History, Stanford : Hoover Institution Press 1995 [G]
Article : Latvia, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1946 pp.428-429, 1947 pp.445-446, 1948 p.428, 1949 pp.380-381, 1950 pp.402-403 [G]
Article : Latvia, in : Americana Annual 1947 pp.400-401 (on events of 1946) [G]
David Kirby, The Baltic States 1940-1950, pp.22-39 in : Martin McCauley (ed.), Communist Power in Europe 1944-1949, London : MacMillan 1977 [G]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on September 26th 2006, last revised on Nov. 25th 2009

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