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The Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic ( ; Latviyskaya Sovetskaya Sotsialisticheskaya Respublika), also known as the Latvian SSR for short, was one of the republics that made up the Soviet Unionmarker. Established on 21 July 1940 as a puppet state during World War II in the territory of the previously independent Republic of Latviamarker after it had been occupied by the Soviet army on 17 June 1940 in conformity with the terms of 23 August 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. The Latvian SSR was formally annexed into the Soviet Unionmarker (USSR) on 5 August 1940, when it nominally became the 15th constituent republic of the USSR. Its territory was subsequently conquered by Nazi Germany in 1941, before being retaken by the Soviets in 1944-1945. The independence of Republic of Latviamarker was restored on 21 August 1991.


The governments of the Baltic countries, the European Court of Human Rightsmarker, the United Nations Human Rights Council, the United Statesmarker, and the European Union, regard Latviamarker as being occupied by the Soviet Union in 1940 under the provisions of the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. The European parliament in recognising the illegal occupation of the Baltic states from 1940 till the fall of the Soviet Union, led to the early acceptance of the Baltic states into the NATO alliance.

The Russian government and state officials maintain that the Soviet annexation of Latvia was legitimate according to international law. The State Duma passed a resolution on 19 November 1999 to "remind the deputies of the Latvian Saeima that Latvia's being a part of the Soviet Union was grounded by fact and by law from the international juridical point of view," maintaining that the incorporation of Latvia into the USSR was legal according to the laws of Latvia, the Soviet Union, and international law (de jure).



On 24 September 1939 the USSRmarker entered the airspace of all three Baltic states, flying numerous intelligence gathering operations. On 25 September Moscow requested that the Baltic countries allow the USSR to establish military bases and to station troops on their soil. The government of Latvia accepted the ultimatum, signing the corresponding agreement on 5 October 1939.

On 16 June 1940, followed by another ultimatum the USSR invaded Latvia.

Molotov accused Latvia along with other Baltic states forming a conspiracy against the Soviet Union, Moscow presented ultimatums, demanding new concessions, which included the replacement of governments and allowing an unlimited number of troops to enter the three countries. Hundreds of thousands Soviet troops entered Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania across the borders. These additional Soviet military forces far outnumbered the armies of each country.

The Baltic governments had decided that, in conditions of international isolation and given the overwhelming Soviet force both on the borders and inside the countries, it was in their interests not to actively resist and to avoid bloodshed in an unwinnable war. The occupation of the Baltic states was complete with a communist coup d'état in each country, supported by the Soviet troops. The occupation was in the legal context rather different from the occupation of Poland, which at least Stalin wanted to destroy even as "legal entity", for example - with no coup d'état.

Most of the Defence Forces of the Baltic Countries surrendered on these orders, and were disarmed by the Red Army. But there were minor and separate cases of resistance.

The repressions followed with the mass deportations carried out by the Soviets. The Serov Instructions, "On the Procedure for carrying out the Deportation of Anti-Soviet Elements from Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia", contained detailed instructions for procedures and protocols to observe in the deportation of Baltic nationals.

1940 Soviet map of the Latvian SSR

In the following month, rigged and unconstitutional parliamentary elections were conducted by local people loyal to the Soviet Union and all non-soviet candidates were disqualified or it was made impossible for them to participate. For example Democratic Latvian Bloc, that was one of the few that tried to overcome the difficulties and actually to participate, were all arrested and their election office confiscated. All Soviet army personal present in the country was allowed to vote too. And the election results themselves were fabricated: the Soviet press service released them early, with the result that they had already appeared in print in a Londonmarker newspaper a full 24 hours before the polls closed. The result was that all three Baltic states had communist majorities in their "parliaments", and in August, despite claims prior to the elections that no such action would be taken, they petitioned the Soviet government to join the Soviet Union. The petitions were "granted" and Latvia was formally annexed by the Soviet Union.

Latvia was incorporated into the Soviet Unionmarker on 5 August 1940. The overthrown Latvian government continued to function in exile while the republic was under the Soviet control. In the spring of 1941, the Soviet central government began planning the mass deportation of anti-Soviet elements from the occupied Baltic states. In preparation, General Ivan Serov, Deputy People's Commissar of Public Security of the Soviet Union, signed the Serov Instructions, "Regarding the Procedure for Carrying out the Deportation of Anti-Soviet Elements from Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia." During the night on 13–14 June, 1941, 15,424 inhabitants of Latvia — including 1,771 Jews and 742 ethnic Russians — were deported to camps and special settlements, mostly in Siberiamarker. 35,000 people were deported in the first year of Soviet occupation (131,500 across the Baltics).

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The Nazi invasion, launched a week later, cut short immediate plans to deport several hundred thousand more from the Baltics. Nazi troops occupied Riga on 1 July 1941. Immediately after the installment of Germanmarker authority, a process of eliminating the Jewish and Gypsy population began, with many killings taking place in Rumbula.

The killings were committed by the Einsatzgruppe A, the Wehrmacht and Marines (in Liepajamarker), as well as by Latvian collaborators, including the 500-1,500 members of the infamous Arajs Commando (which alone killed around 26,000 Jews) and the 2,000 or more Latvian members of the SDmarker. By the end of 1941 almost the entire Jewish population was killed or placed in the death camps. In addition, some 25,000 Jews were brought from Germany, Austria and the present-day Czech Republic, of whom around 20,000 were killed. The Holocaust claimed approximately 85,000 lives in Latvia, the vast majority of whom were Jews.

A large number of Latvians resisted the German occupation. The resistance movement was divided between the pro-independence units under the Latvian Central Council and the Soviet partisan units under the Latvian Partisan Movement Headquarters (латвийский штаб партизанского движения) in Moscowmarker. Their Latvian commander was Arturs Sproģis. The Nazis planned to Germanise the Baltics after the war.) In 1943 and 1944 two divisions of Waffen SS were formed from Latvian volunteers to help Germany against the Red Army.


In 1944 when the Soviet military advances reached the area heavy fighting took place in Latvia between German and Soviet troops which ended with another German defeat. During the course of the war, both occupying forces conscripted Latvians into their armies, in this way increasing the loss of the nation's "live resources". In 1944, part of the Latvian territory once more came under Soviet control. The Soviets immediately began to reinstate the Soviet system. After the German surrender it become clear that Soviet forces were there to stay, and Latvian national partisans, soon to be joined by German collaborators, began their fight against another occupier - the Soviet Unionmarker.

The first post-war years were marked by particularly dismal and sombre events in the fate of the Latvian nation. 120,000 Latvian inhabitants were imprisoned or deported to Soviet concentration camps (the Gulag). Some managed to escape arrest and joined the Forest Brothers. 130,000 took refuge from the Soviet army by fleeing to the West. On 25 March 1949, 43,000 rural residents ("kulaks") and Latvian patriots ("nationalists") were deported to Siberia in a sweeping repressive action "Beachcomber" in all three Baltic States, which was carefully planned and approaved in Moscow already on 29 January 1949. An extensive programme to impose bilingualism was initiated in Latviamarker, limiting the use of minor languages in favor of Latvian and Russian. In some fields there existed either Russification or Latvianization.

In the post-war period, Latvia was forced to adopt Soviet farming methods and the economic infrastructure developed in the 1920s and 1930s was eradicated. Rural areas were forced into collectivisation.

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Because Latviamarker had still maintained a well-developed infrastructure and educated specialists it was decided in Moscow that some of the Soviet Union's most advanced manufacturing factories were to be based in Latvia. New industry was created in Latvia, including a major machinery factory RAF and electrotechnical factories, as well as some food and oil processing plants.


However, there were not enough people to operate the newly built factories. In order to expand industrial production, workers from outside of Latvian SSR (mainly Russians) were transferred into the country, noticeably decreasing the proportion of ethnic Latvians.


In second half of 1980s Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev started to introduce political and economic reforms in Soviet Union called glasnost and Perestroika. In the summer 1987 first large demonstrations were held in Riga at the Freedom Monument- symbol of independence. In the summer 1988 a national movement coalescing in the Popular Front of Latvia. The Latvian SSR, along with the other Baltic Republics was allowed greater autonomy and in 1988 the old national Flag of Latvia was allowed to be used, replacing the Soviet Latvian flag as the official flag in 1990. Pro-independence Latvian Popular Front candidates gained a two-thirds majority in the Supreme Council in the March 1990 democratic elections. On May 4, the Council declared its intention to restore full Latvian independence after a transitional period through negotiations with the USSR. This is also the date, when Latvian SSR was renamed Republic of Latvia. However, the central power in Moscow continued to regard Latvia as Soviet republic in 1990-1991. In January 1991, Soviet political and military forces tried unsuccessfully to overthrow the Republic of Latvia authorities by occupying the central publishing house in Riga and establishing a Committee of National Salvation to usurp governmental functions. During the transitional period Moscow maintained many central Soviet state authorities in Latvia. In spite of this, seventy-three percent of all Latvian residents confirmed their strong support for independence on March 3, 1991, in a nonbinding advisory referendum. A large number of ethnic Russians also voted for the proposition.

The Republic of Latvia declared the end of the transitional period and restored full independence on 21 August 1991 in the aftermath of the failed Soviet coup attempt. Latvia, as well as Lithuaniamarker and Estoniamarker de facto ceased to be parts of the USSRmarker 4 months before the Soviet Unionmarker itself ceased to exist (26 December 1991). Soon, on 6 September, the independence of three Baltic states was officially recognized by the USSR.


Today's Republic of Latvia and other Baltic states consider themselves to be the legal continuation of the sovereign states whose first independent existence dates back to 1918-1940, and does not accept any legal connection with the former Latvian SSR which had been occupied and annexed into USSR 1940-1941 and 1944-1991. Since independence, the Communist Party of the Latvian SSR was discontinued, and a number of high-ranking Latvian SSR officials faced prosecution for their role in various human rights abuses during the Latvian SSR regime.

Soviet sources prior to Perestroika

Up to the reassessment of Soviet history in USSR that began during Perestroika, before the USSR had condemned the 1939 secret protocol between Nazi Germany and itself that had led to the invasion and occupation of the three Baltic countries, the events in 1939 were as follows: The Government of the Soviet Union suggested that the Governments of the Baltic countries conclude mutual assistance treaties between the countries. Pressure from working people forced the governments of the Baltic countries to accept this suggestion. The Pacts of Mutual Assistance were then signed which allowed the USSR to station a limited number of Red Army units in the Baltic countries. Economic difficulties and dissatisfaction of the populace with the Baltic governments' policies that had sabotaged fulfilment of the Pact and the Baltic countries governments' political orientation towards Nazi Germany lead to a revolutionary situation in June, 1940. To guarantee fulfilment of the Pact, additional military units entered Baltic countries, welcomed by the workers who demanded the resignations of the Baltic governments. In June under the leadership of the Communist Parties political demonstrations by workers were held. The fascist governments were overthrown, and workers' governments formed. In July 1940, elections for the Baltic Parliaments were held. The "Working People’s Unions", created by an initiative of the Communist Parties, received the majority of the votes. The Parliaments adopted the declarations of the restoration of Soviet powers in Baltic countries and proclaimed the Soviet Socialist Republics. Declarations of Estonia's, Latvia's and Lithuania's wishes to join the USSRmarker were adopted and the Supreme Soviet of the USSR petitioned accordingly. The requests were approved by the Supreme Soviet of the USSR.

Official position of the Russian government

The Russian government and officials maintain that the Soviet annexation of the Baltic states was legitimate and that the Soviet Union liberated the countries from the Nazis. They state that the Soviet Union acted in response to Germany-oriented policies of the three Baltic states that resulted from alleged secret talks conducted by the governments of these states with Nazi leadership and that the subsequent entry of additional Soviet troops into the Baltics in 1940 was done following the agreements and with the consent of the then governments of the Baltic republics. Thus the official postulates of the Soviet historiography are continued without significant amendments. They also maintain that the USSR was not in a state of war and was not waging any combat activities on the territory of the three Baltic states; therefore, the word 'occupation' can not be used. The Russian Foreign Ministrymarker stated that "The assertions about [the] 'occupation' by the Soviet Union and the related claims ignore all legal, historical and political realities, and are therefore utterly groundless." At the same time several historians have said that the Mutual Assistance Pact that allowed for Soviet Union to have military bases in Baltic states in 1939 and thus significantly contributed to carrying out occupation in 1940, can not be considered truly legal even by the standards of the time it was made, as the differences between the Soviet Union and the Baltic states was so significant, that such treaty in no way can be considered mutually equal but just a cover of ultimatum.


The Soviet period saw rebuilding and increase of the industrial capacity, including the automobile (RAF) and electrotechnic (VEF) factories, food-processing industry, oil pipelines and the bulk-oil port Ventspilsmarker.

Part of the incorporation of the Latvian SSR into the Soviet Union was the introduction of the Russian language into all spheres of public life. Russian became a prerequisite for admission to higher education and better job occupations. It was also made a compulsory subject in all Latvian schools. Vast amounts of people were needed for the new factories and they were purposefully sent there from different parts of Russia, thus creating a situation wherein bigger towns became more and more Russified up until the 1980s.

National income per capita was higher in Latvia than elsewhere in the USSR (42% above the Soviet average in 1968).After the collapse of the Soviet Union, all of the economy branches associated with it collapsed as well. While a significant Russian presence in Latgale predated the Soviet Union (~30%), the intense industrialization and the heavy importation of labor from the Soviet Union to support it, led to significant increases in the Russian minority in Riga, even forming a majority in Latvian urban centers such as Daugavpilsmarker, Rēzeknemarker, Ogremarker. Those areas were also hardest hit economically when the Soviet Union collapsed, leading to massive unemployment. Sharp disagreement with Russia over the legacy of the Soviet era has led to punitive economic measures by Russia, including the demise of transit trade as Russia cut off petroleum exports through Ventspils in 2003 (eliminating 99% of its shipments), after Latvia refused to sell the oil port to the Russian state oil company, Transneft. The result is that only fraction of Latvia's economy is connected with Russia, especially after joining the EU.

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