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



After Hitler's great victories on the Western Front in 1940, the U.S.S.R. decided to annex the Baltic States completely and, contrary to the solemn pacts instigated by herself and condemning aggression as an instrument of national policy, she invaded these States without a declaration of war, arrested and deported the former Governments, and under the pressure of the Red Army and N.K.V.D. (the Russian Gestapo), established pro-Soviet Governments.


Having obtained Hitler's permission, Stalin began to act in his sphere of influence (Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania). Despite the fact that on September 1st, 1939, the Baltic States had proclaimed their strict neutrality, and paying no attention to the Pact of "non-aggression and friendship" existing between Russia and Germany since August 23rd, 1939, Russia with her 180 million population suddenly felt threatened by the 6 million inhabitants of the Baltic States.

On the same day, September 28th, 1939, when the second secret agreement, which included Lithuania within the Soviet sphere of influence, was signed, the Estonian Government was compelled to accept the so-called "Pact of Mutual Assistance." As a means of pressure, Soviet Russia used the fact that an interned Polish submarine had escaped from Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. Under this agreement the Estonian Government undertook to lease all Estonian islands in the Baltic Sea to the Soviet Government for military, naval and air bases for 10 years. In addition, Soviet troops (25,000 men) were placed in Estonia.

No sooner had the ink dried on this treaty than the Latvian Foreign Minister, V. Munters, was invited to Moscow to discuss some political problems. At that time many divisions of the Red Army were con­centrated on the Latvian frontier. By October 2nd, 1939, Mr. Munters was in Moscow, and on October 5th the Pact of Mutual Assistance, practically dictated by Stalin, was signed. Like Estonia, Latvia had to lease bases to Soviet Russia for 10 years, and to consent to garrisons (30,000 men) of Soviet troops being stationed for the duration of the war in naval, air and military bases at Liepaja, Ventspils and in the Pitrags district, so that the entrance and exit of the Gulf of Riga were under Russian control. Promises, never kept, of non-interference in Latvia's internal affairs were given. According to Article 5, "the carrying into effect of the present pact must in no way affects the sovereign rights of the contracting parties, in particular, their political structure, their economic and social system, and their military measures." These words were meant to allay the fears of the Western Demo­cracies.


Much more interesting are the arguments, put forward by Stalin, in justification of Russian action in the Baltic States, in conversations with the Latvian Foreign Minister, V. Munters, in the Kremlin on October 2nd and 3rd, 1939. In these conversations, besides Stalin and Munters, the envoys of both countries took part, as well as Molotov and Potemkin, the Vice-Com­missar for Foreign Affairs. The conversation was opened by Stalin, who said: "We are thinking of the future. Poland has already paid the price. That was the fault of the English, French and Poles. With Germany we have established relations on a lasting basis, and also in regard to the Baltic States our views do not differ from those of Germany."

Thus there is yet more, and this time direct evidence, that long before the Russians had taken the Baltic States the idea of destroying their national independence was formed, and in this respect there was no difference of opinion between the two dictatorships, between Communistic Russia and Nazi Germany. Further, Stalin said: "That which was determined in 1920 (meaning the Latvian-Russian Peace Treaty signed in Riga on August 11th, 1920) cannot remain for eternity. Peter the Great saw to it that an outlet to the sea was gained. We also wish to ensure ourselves the use of ports, roads to these ports, and their defence."

This makes it clear that the Moscow dictate concerning the Mutual Assi­stance Pacts was never meant as an aid to maintaining Baltic neutrality, but a continuation of the same age-old Russian imperialism, begun by the father of Russian imperialism, Peter "the Great." It was evident that the Baltic had to expect another invasion of the Red Army.


Another 1918 was on the way. Why Russia wanted the Baltic Sea and its ports was not kept secret at that time by the official Soviet Gazette Izvestia, which wrote then (December 25th, 1918) : "Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are directly on the road from Russia to Western Europe and are, therefore, a hindrance to our revolution, because they separate Soviet Russia from the revolutionary Germany. This separating wall has to be destroyed. The conquest of the Baltic Sea would make it possible for Soviet Russia to agitate in favour of the Social revolution in the Scandinavian countries, so that the Baltic Sea would be transformed into the Sea of the Social Revolution."

When at the above-mentioned Kremlin talks, V. Munters pointed out that while the Russian-German pact of friendship existed the Baltic Sea was ruled by two friends and said "We do not understand what additional security there could be," Stalin interrupted: "England has already demanded from Sweden certain airfields and the admission of some submarines. Sweden may. easily be drawn into the war."

These pacts of mutual assistance were, therefore, enforced on the Baltic States as if to defend them against imaginary British aggression, although in reality the true aim of Russia was to destroy them ; to get Scandinavia within her sphere of interests and to turn the Baltic Sea into the Sea of Social Revolution.

On the same day that Munters and Molotov signed the Pact of Mutual Assistance, the Finns were urged to send a delegation to Moscow to talk about "mutual problems." Five days after, on October 10th, Lithuania was compelled to sign a pact, with even more exacting stipulations.

The Finns went, and learned that Russia desired a 30-years' lease of Hangoe and the cession of a number of islands and areas. "Finland," says the Encyclopædia Britannica, "studied these demands carefully and made counter-proposals which were marked by a very conciliatory spirit." These proposals gave Russia all she asked except Hangoe.

In order, evidently, to dispel the suspicions of the Finns and to force them to follow the example of the Baltic States, Molotov solemnly declared in Moscow, at the 5th Extraordinary Session of the Supreme Council of the U.S.S.R., on 31st October, 1939, as follows : "These pacts are based on mutual respect for the political, social and economic structure of the contracting parties.... We declare that all nonsense about sovietising the Baltic countries is only in the interest of our common enemies and of all anti-Soviet provo­cateurs."


The following events show what would have happened to the Baltic States if they had refused Russian demands. Finland did so; she refused to surrender Hangoe. The Russian press and radio immediately began a merciless propa­ganda against Finland, and on November 25th Russia denounced the Non­Aggression Pact of 1934. Two days later Soviet troops marched across the Finnish frontier. The world replied to that by a counter-action: on December 14th, 1939, Soviet Russia was expelled from of the League of Nations.

During the Soviet-Finnish war parallel roads were built by the Soviets in the direction of the Latvian frontier. The Russian garrisons simulated a correct­ness, which ended immediately after the signing of peace between Finland and Soviet Russia (in March, 1940). On 25th March, 1940, Molotov said, in the Supreme Council: "In spite of attempts to create an atmosphere of fear which have been undertaken by hostile imperialistic circles, the indepen­dence and independent politics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have not suffered in the least ... the execution of the Pacts progresses satisfactorily and creates conditions favourable for further improvement of relations between Soviet Russia and these States." Now we understand what "improve­ment" he really meant.

At that time the officers of the Russian garrisons in the Baltic States more and more often revealed the real Russian aims, especially when drunk, saying that soon the Baltic would be completely annexed, often adding boastfully: "And then we shall go to Berlin and from there to London."

In April and May of 1940, attacks against the Baltic States appeared in the Soviet controlled press. Foreseeing what was to come, the Latvian Govern­ment made a secret decision on May 17th, 1940, to issue an Emergency Power to the Latvian Minister in London, K. Zarins, at the same time designating as his substitute, A. Bilmanis, Latvian Minister in Washington. Thus, the Latvian President, K. Ulmanis, and the Latvian Government, put all their hopes in the great democracies.

A month later Stalin showed his cards.

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