The Story of Latvia—A Historical SurveyArveds Švābe. Latvian National Foundation, Stockholm. 1949



The bad example of the governing methods of the U.S.S.R. created similar totalitarian regimes in Italy, Germany and Japan. That in turn unleashed the Second World War.

By skilful manœuvering the U.S.S.R. made use of this unique opportunity to take up', at the end of this war, advantageous strategic positions for a third World War and World Revolution.

In this programme, the occupation of the Baltic States and the Partition of Poland was axiomatic and Hitler gave his sanction to it by the secret agreements of the so-called Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact of August 23rd, 1939. That is why already in September, 1939, the operational maps of the Russian General Staff showed the Baltic States as the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian Soviet Republics.

This programme was carried out gradually, so as to act for the Anglo-Saxon Allies the part of the noble "liberator" of the Baltic States. With the so-called Mutual Assistance Pacts dictated by Moscow and forced on the Baltic States already in September and October, 1939. Russia obtained military and naval bases in all the important ports of the Baltic States, in the islands and straits. Thereby the Baltic States had already lost their freedom of action and sovereignty so frequently guaranteed to them by Russia in words.


Latvia had no disputes with her powerful eastern neighbour, the U.S.S.R. Their boundaries were mapped out at the very beginning of Latvia's independence in a way acceptable to both sides.


Trade agreements had been concluded between Latvia and the U.S.S.R., according to which Russia received very far-reaching concessions on Latvian railways and in Latvian ports. All Latvian trade agreements contained a Russian clause which recognised Russia special rights and privileges which did not apply to other countries. In fact, Latvian terms were so generous that, purely commercially speaking, it was more advant­ageous to Russia to send goods to Latvian ports than to use her own. It was no fault of Latvia that Soviet Russia's transit traffic through the Baltic States had fallen from 720,000 tons (Estonia 345,788, Latvia 374,885) in 1922 to 80,000 tons in 1938. Methods of economic boycott were used by Soviet Russia quite continually, in order to create internal difficulties in the Baltic States and to prepare the ground for the activities of the Russian fifth column.


In her foreign policy, Latvia followed the principles of strict neutrality and close cultural and economic collaboration with her sister republics of Estonia and Lithuania. Her relations with Soviet Russia were regulated by at least 32 treaties and agreements. Besides the trade agreements, and the Peace Treaty of 1920, signed in Riga, which formed the basis of Latvian-Russian relations and according to which Russia solemnly relinquished all her former rights over Latvian territory and people for ever, the following may be mentioned:


  1. The so-called Litvinoff Protocol, signed at Moscow on February 9th, 1929, under which the anti-war Pact of Paris, known under the name of the Briand-Kellog Pact, came into force for Eastern Europe. Ac­cording to this protocol the U.S.S.R. was obliged vis-a-vis Latvia to settle any dispute by peaceful means.
  2. The Non-Agression Treaty of February 5th, 1932, under which the U.S.S.R. was bound to avoid any act of force and to submit all disputes which could not be settled in a normal diplomatic way to a mixed Conciliation Commission. This treaty was entered into for three years, but was extended on April 4th, 1934, until December 31st, 1945.
  3. The Convention for the Definition of Aggression, entered into at London on July 3rd, 1933, which lays down that the State which first invades the territory of any other State without declaration of war is acknowledged as Aggressor in international disputes, and no political, military, or economic arguments can be used in exculpation of such an Aggression.
  4. The Mutual Assistance Pact signed in Moscow on October 5th, 1939, which authorised the U.S.S.R. to establish in Latvia military bases, but stipulated at the same time the principle of non-interference in the affairs of Latvian sovereignty, the political constitution of the State, its economic or social structure, or military measures.


Nevertheless, the occupation of all three Baltic States had been decided upon already on August 23rd, 1939, between Ribbentrop and Molotov, when a Non-Aggression Pact was signed between Germany and the U.S.S.R. in Moscow, to which was added a secret protocol, sanctioning the occupation of the Baltic States by the Red Army, leaving the moment therefor to free option.

In June, 1939, the Russians, for the purpose of obtaining better conditions from Germany, had begun negotiations with Britain and France and proposed "Formulæ covering indirect aggression in the Baltic States." These negotia­tions came to nothing, as the Western Democracies did not give their agree­ment to an occupation of the Baltic States. As a result of these bickering s with England and France, the Russians obtained definite promises from the Germans concerning the Baltic States. Of these, Lord Halifax could not but state: "Herr Hitler bartered what was not his property - the liberties of the Baltic people."

It had been known for some time that, apart from the official Non­Aggression Pact, Ribbentrop and Molotov had made one or two secret agree­ments concerning the Baltic States and Poland. The full details became known on May 22nd, 1946, when the St. Louis Post-Dispatch published an article by its correspondent at Nuremberg, quoting the complete text of two secret Soviet-Nazi agreements.

The first of these agreements is dated Moscow, August 23rd, 1939, and consists of 4 paragraphs. It reads: "On the occasion of the signing of the Non-Agression Treaty between the German Reich and the U.S.S.R. the undersigned representatives of the two parties discussed in a highly con­fidential conversation the problem of the demarcation of the spheres of influence of either party in Eastern Europe. This conversation has the following result: (1) In the case of a politico-territorial change in the terri­tories belonging to the Baltic States - Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania - the northern frontier of Lithuania shall form also the demar­cation of the spheres of interest between Germany and the U.S.S.R."

The second Soviet-Nazi agreement is dated Moscow, September 28th, 1939, and the text runs : "Par. 1 of the secret protocol of August 23rd, 1939, is modified in that the territory of the Lithuanian State also shall fall within the sphere of interest of the U.S.S.R.... As soon as the Government of the U.S.S.R. shall take special measures on Lithuanian territory for the protection of her interests, the present German-Lithuanian frontier will be rectified in order to accomplish a natural and simple frontier ... marked on the attached map."

Immediately after the secret agreements or, indeed, even before they were actually concluded, the Soviet High Command ordered military maps (scale 1: 500,000) on which the Baltic States were marked as Soviet Socialist Republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. These maps are dated September, 1939.

The conclusion of these two secret agreements was confirmed by Stalin on October 2nd, 1939, in the Kremlin during his conversations with the Latvian Foreign Minister, V. Munters, when Stalin said: "I tell you frankly, a division of spheres of interest has already taken place. As far as Germany is concerned we could occupy you."

Knowing that he had given consent to the occupation of the Baltic States by Russia, which he knew would soon take place, Hitler began the repatriation of the Baltic Germans (Volksdeutsche) from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. After protracted negotiations, an agreement was signed between Germany and Latvia in Riga on October 30th, 1939. As a result of this agreement, at the end of 1939 and the beginning of 1940, 49,885 German-speaking inhabitants of Latvia left the country. The total number of Germans in Latvia had been 2.96 per cent of the population. German propagandists were very active in persuading the German Balts, many of whom were unwilling to "return" to the Fatherland, and openly spoke of Russians who would come and occupy Latvia very soon. With great glee they described the atrocities the Russians would perpetrate when they came.

With bitter irony we can now reflect upon the prophetic foresight of these diligent servants of Goebbels. They let their youthful fancy roam in the realm of horrors and themselves had no idea how near the truth they had come and how near their forecasts were to the things that were to happen. Thus two totalitarian despotisms dug the grave of the liberty of the Baltic States.

"The Story of Latvia-A Historical Survey" reproduced by permission.
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