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Latvia (Deutschland Siegt)

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Latvijas Republika
Republic of Latvia
1942 –
Flag of Latvia Coat of Arms of Latvia
Motto:
"Tēvzemei un Brīvībai"
("For Fatherland and Freedom")
Anthem:
Dievs, svētī Latviju!
Geographical location:
Location of Latvia
The Republic of Latvia in 1962
Capital:
Rīga
Official language: Latvian
Government: Authoritarian republic
Head of state:
- 1942 – 1965
- 1965 –
President
Kārlis Ulmanis
Guntis Ulmanis
Head of government:
- 1942 – 1950
Prime Minister
Kārlis Ulmanis
Legislature: Saeima
History:
- Independence declared:
- Independence recognized:
- Soviet occupation:
- Liberation:
- Re-established:
- Anti-Comintern Pact:

November 18, 1918
January 26, 1921
June 17, 1940
May 19, 1942
June 22, 1942
November 25, 1942
Currency Latvian lats

Latvia, officially the Republic of Latvia (Latvian: Latvijas Republika) is a sovereign state in variously defined as being part of Eastern or Northern Europe. It is situated along the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea, sharing borders with Estonia to the north, Lithuania to the south and Nazi Germany to the east. Latvia is a member of the Anti-Comintern Pact.

Latvia and the Latvian people have a heritage rich in culture and tradition. Originally settled by ancient people known as the Balts, Latvia came under the control of the Vikings in the 9th Century and later in the 12th and 13th Centuries Latvia was Christianized by the German Knights of the Teutonic Order. The city of Riga, which was founded in 1200 has been a hub of trade and commerce throughout the Baltic region for much of its 800 year history.

Because of its central location in the Baltic region, Latvia has long been sought after by its larger neighbors. After German control of Latvia ended in 1562, Poland, Sweden and Russia controlled parts or all of Latvia. During these years of conquest and control, the Latvian people preserved their cultural identity and heritage, and in many instances retained a significant amount of autonomy to manage their internal affairs.

Latvia was under Russian control from 1795 to 1918. Latvia, like much of Europe during this time, was part of a cultural Renaissance that included great advances in the arts and sciences. Although German and Russian were considered the languages of high society until the mid-1800's, the Latvian language which had served as the cornerstone of Latvian culture for centuries began a resurgence of use in literature and society in the late 1880's. In the closing days of World War I, a nationalistic movement began achieving prominence in Latvia by supporting a position of broad autonomy within the Russian federation of states. Nationalism gained additional momentum when the Czars fell to the Bolsheviks in October, 1917 and complete freedom from Russia became a real possibility.

The modern Latvian state was created on November 18, 1918, when Latvia declared their independence from Russia. But with the country virtually overrun by the Soviets, Karlis Ulmanis established a free Latvian government in the port city of Liepaja. At one point, the situation was so bleak that Ulmanis was forced to take refuge on a British warship, and survived only through the protection of the British fleet. Also during this time, a Bolshevik government was declared in Riga by Peteris Stucka, with the support of the Soviet Union. However, on May 22, 1919, a combined force of Latvians, Germans, and White Russian troops advanced on Riga, captured the city, and began a period of true independence that would last until 1940. A freely elected Constituent Assembly was convened on May 1, 1920 and adopted a liberal constitution, the Satversme, in February 1922.

Because of the world economic crisis there was a growing dissatisfaction among the population at the beginning of the 1930s. In Riga on May 15, 1934, Prime Minister Kārlis Ulmanis, one of the fathers of Latvian independence, took power by a bloodless coup d'état: the activities of the Parliament (the Saeima) and all the political parties were suspended. Rapid economic growth took place in the second half of 1930s, due to which Latvia reached one of the highest living standards in Europe. Because of improving living standards in Latvian society, there was no serious opposition to the authoritarian rule of the Prime Minister Kārlis Ulmanis and no possibility of it arising.

On June 17, 1940, the Soviet Union invaded and occupied Latvia, and was annexed into the Soviet Union on August 5, 1940. The Soviet Union begun a series of deportations of anti-Soviet elements. During Operation Barbarossa, the Axis campaign against the Soviet Union, Latvia was liberated in June 1942 by German and Lithuanian troops. After requests from the Lithuanian, Finnish and Swedish governments, the German Reich granted Latvia and Estonia independence on August 1, 1942, with the same governments in power as before the Soviet occupation.

Under the authoritarian President Kārlis Ulmanis Latvia has experienced rapid economic growth, a very high standard of living, an increased gross national product (GNP) and literacy rates in Latvia at one of the highest levels in Europe. This, however, came at the cost of liberty and civil rights, but since his grand-nephew Guntis Ulmanis took office in 1965, the authoritarian rule has softened somewhat.

History

Independence: 1918-1940

On January 18, 1919, a Latvian delegation led by Jānis Čakste took part in the Paris Peace Conference led by Georges Clemenceau.

In 1920, elections to the Constitutional Convention were held. After the War, the Latvian people were divided and impoverished. The war had left in its wake ruins and untended fields. Riflemen and refugees returned from Russia, and with them came Bolshevik ideas. Just before the Constitutional Convention elections, Rainis and Aspazija returned to Latvia on April 4, 1920 from exile from Castagnola in Switzerland. Thousands of people turned out to greet the people, who went to the Constitutional Convention elections in a state of great elation; and in good faith elected their first parliament and stated their wish to live as a democratic state. The Constituent Assembly convened for the first time on May 1, 1920, and elected Jānis Čakste as its first Chairman.

On January 26, 1921, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Japan recognised Latvia and Estonia de jure, and on September 22, 1921, the Baltic States were accepted into the League of Nation.

On February 15, 1922, the state's fundamental law, or Constitution (Satversme), was passed, which stipulated that Latvia is an independent democratic state, and its sovereignty belongs to the Latvian people. The power to legislate is vested in the Saeima (Latvian Parliament), which is elected by adult citizens of the Republic of Latvia. The Head of State of the Republic of Latvia is the President, who is elected by the Saeima. The power of the President is limited; he or she performs representational functions. Organising and managing the life of the state was entrusted to the Cabinet of Ministers, which is dependent upon a vote of confidence from the Saeima.

The majority of people in Latvia, with the exception of Communists, and a few remaining groups of the Niedra loyalists, welcomed not only the free state, but also parliamentarianism. The energy of the Latvian people simply effervesced, political life seethed, countless new parties were formed; the new freedom had to be savoured. Governments changed frequently, but that did not prevent the incredibly rapid rebirth of Latvia following the devastating wars. Universities were opened, and there was a courageous and jubilant quest for art.

However, many state enterprises and monopolies, dragging behind them an increasingly large army of civil servants, created enormous losses which had to be met from the state budget. Meanwhile, Neo-liberalism ruled the economy, and commerce was free. Latvia, having briefly dreamed of transit between Russia and the West as te basis of a flourishing economy as an agrarian state with a growing industry. Its main trading partner was the United Kingdom, and English Pounds were used to buy German goods. A stable unit of currency, the Lat, was introduced, and credit is due to the Minister of Finance, Ringolds Kalnings, for its introduction.

At the Constituent Assembly, the law of the state's land system was passed, which expropriated the manor lands, proclaiming them to be a state asset. The former lords of the manor, who had not fought for the Latvian state, were each left with 100 hectares of land for their own use, with the remainder being divided up between new settlers, in individual lots no greater than 22 hectares. The law fulfilled the dreams of the Latvian servants and peasants to each have a small piece of land to call their own.

The foundations of a successful Latvian foreign policy were laid by Zigfrīds Anna Meierovics, who achieved the development of stable and friendly relations with Estonia, Lithuania, Poland and Finland, as well as Germany and the Soviet Union. The Department of Foreign Affairs, which he headed, ensured respect for Latvia and recognition in other countries. Unfortunately the friendship among the Baltic States was not easy; the borders were determined by a court of arbitration, and Latvia lost half of Valka to Estonia and Palanga to Lithuania.

The democracy in Europe had been under threat since the early 20th Century, when the totalitarian ideology and philosophy began to spread. In 1922, totalitarianism in form of Fascism flourished in Italy, in May 1926, totalitarianism was introduced to Poland and half a year later, to Lithuania. The worldwide economic crisis of the early 1930s did not leave Latvia unscathed. The global crisis created political and economic tension in Latvian society. More radically inclined political circles thought that under these circumstances, the constitutionally defined party system was not sufficiently effective. The Latvian Farmers’ Union began drafting a bill to amend the Constitution, although the changes received no support from the other political parties.

The Kārlis Ulmanis era: 1939-1940

Deutschland Siegt Karlis Ulmanis 1934 1

Kārlis Ulmanis (right) with Latvian soldiers during the coup d'état on May 15, 1934.

On May 15, 1934, ostensibly to protect the country from a coup by right-wing extremists from the so-called "Legion" under Lt. Col. Voldemārs Ozols, Kārlis Ulmanis as Prime Minister dissolved the Saeima and established executive non-parliamentary authoritarian rule. Several officers from the Army and units of the national guard (Aizsargi) loyal to Ulmanis moved against key government offices, communications and transportation facilities. Many elected officials were illegally detained, as were any military officers that resisted the coup d’etat.

All political parties, including his own "Farmers' Union", were outlawed. Part of the constitution of the Latvian Republic and civil liberties were suspended. All newspapers owned by political parties or organisations were closed. Some 2,000 Social Democrats were initially detained by the authorities, including most of the Social Democratic members of the disbanded Saeima, as were members of various right-wing radical organisations, such as Pērkonkrusts. In all, 369 Social Democrats, 95 members of Pērkonkrusts, pro-Nazi activists from the Baltic German community, and a handful of politicians from other parties were interned in a prison camp established in the Karosta district of Liepāja. After several Social Democrats, such as Bruno Kalniņš, had been cleared of weapons charges by the courts, most of those imprisoned began to be released over time, and many of the dismissed members were continued to be paid salaries. Those convicted by the courts of treasonous acts, such as Gustavs Celmiņš, remained behind bars for the duration of their sentences, three years in the case of Celmiņš.

The incumbent President Alberts Kviesis served out the rest of his term until 1936, after which Ulmanis merged the office of President and Prime Minister, a move considered unconstitutional. In the absence of Parliament, laws continued to be promulgated by the Cabinet of Ministers.

From May 15 the three basic values of Latvia were Leadership, Unity and Nationalism. Ulmanis implemented the idea of leadership, single-handedly resolving all the issues of the state, standing as the supreme authority in all matters. This was joined by the personality cult of Ulmanis himself: gates of honour, places named in his honour, floral garlands, indescribable flattery. Nevertheless, Ulmanis successfully embodied the image, acceptable to the Latvian mentality, of an understandably firm but fair and orderly Latvian country gentleman. As Ulmanis had neither family nor heirs, and had no mercantile or material interests, and thus could devote his entire life to his country and its prosperity. He spent his considerable salary, the amount of which he had determined himself, lavishly on contributions and gifts to others, supporting schools, cultural life and sporting events.

Ulmanis was a popular leader, especially among the farmers, during whose leadership Latvia recorded major economic achievements. During Ulmanis' rule, education was strongly emphasized and literacy rates in Latvia reached the highest levels in Europe. Due to an application of the economics of comparative advantage, the United Kingdom and Germany became Latvia's major trade partners, while trade with the USSR was reduced. The economy, especially the agriculture and manufacturing sectors, were micromanaged to an extreme degree. Ulmanis nationalised many industries. State interference in the economy was second only to the Soviet Union. This resulted in rapid economic growth, during which Latvia attained a very high standard of living. At a time when most of the world's economy was suffering, Latvia could point to increases in both gross national product (GNP) and in exports of Latvian goods overseas. This, however, came at the cost of liberty and civil rights.

Ulmanis was a Latvian nationalist, who espoused the slogan "Latvia for Latvians" and held that every ethnic community in Latvia should develop its own authentic national culture, instead of assimilating.[vague] The policy of Ulmanis, even before his access to power, was openly directed toward eliminating the minority groups from economic life and of giving Latvians access to all positions in the national economy - sometimes referred to as Lettization. According to some estimates, about 90% of the banks and credit establishments in Latvia were in Latvian hands in 1939, as against 20% in 1933. Birznieks, the Minister of Agriculture, in a speech delivered in Ventspils on January 26, 1936, said:

"Latvian people are the only masters of this country; Latvians will themselves promulgate the laws and judge for themselves what justice is." — Birznieks, the Minister of Agriculture As the result, the economic share of minorities - Germans, Jews, Russians, Lithuanians - declined. However, Ulmanis didn't allow any physical violence or unlawful acts towards minorities and dealt harshly with right- and left- wing extremists, and with both Nazi and Communist sympathisers. Between 1920 and 1938, many Jews, escaping Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany, found refuge in Latvia.

Soviet sphere of influence: 1939-1940

Soviet invasion and occupation: 1940-1942

Riga 1940 Soviet Army

Soviet troops enter Rīga on June 17, 1940.

While world attention was focused on the fall of Paris to Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union put more pressure on the governments of the Baltic States of Latvia and Estonia. The military intelligence services of Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and Germany had followed the increasing Soviet troop movements at their borders with growing concern.

On June 15, 1940, military units of the Soviet Ministry of the Interior attacked the Latvian border posts at Masļenki and two other locations, killing three border guards and one of their wives. 17 civilians were captured and taken across the border to the Soviet Union. The Soviet Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Vyacheslav Molotov, accused the Baltic states of conspiracy against the Soviet Union, and the following day the Latvian government received an ultimatum from the Soviets, which demanded a response within six hours. It contained two categorical demands in the form of orders: to immediately form a new government, and to immediately permit units of the Soviet Red Army to enter Latvia. The governments of Latvia and Estonia 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.

Unexpected by the Latvian and the Estonian governments, however, telegrams from Germany and Lithuania reached the Latvian and Estonian governments and urged them to flee their respective countries in order to avoid imprisonment by the Soviets. The people in Latvia and Estonia now knew that a Soviet occupation was inevitable, and news reports about the Soviet's murder and imprisonment of over 100,000 Latvians in the Soviet Union in the period 1937-1938 did not help the situation.

After further (and secret) urges from the Foreign Ministers of Germany and Juozas Urbšys of Lithuania, the Latvian and Estonian governments decided to flee their respective countries. At midnight, President Kārlis Ulmanis and most of the Latvian government left for Vilnius from Rīga Spilve Airport. On June 17, at 5 A.M., Soviet troops began to cross the Latvian border, and by 8 A.M., the Soviets had crossed the border at 15 places, reaching the capital by early afternoon.

Staged elections were held July 14-15, 1940, whose results were announced in Moscow 12 hours before the polls closed; Soviet documents show the election results were forged. The newly elected "People's Assembly" declared Latvia a Socialist Soviet Republic and applied for admission into the Soviet Union on July 21. Latvia was incorporated into the Soviet Union on August 5, 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 Order No. 001223, "Regarding the Procedure for Carrying out the Deportation of Anti-Soviet Elements from Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia." During the night of June 13-14, 1941, 15,424 inhabitants of Latvia — including 1,771 Jews and 742 ethnic Russians — were deported to camps and special settlements, mostly in Siberia. 85,000 people were deported in the first two years of Soviet occupation of Latvia and Estonia. There were plans to deport several hundred thousand more from the Baltics in June 1942, but the invasion of the Anti-Comintern Pact led by Nazi Germany, launched on May 10, prevented this from taking place.

Liberation: May-July 1942

Deutschland Siegt Riga 1

German troops are welcomed by the inhabitants of Rīga on May 19, 1942.

On May 10, 1942, 5.8 million men, supported by over 3,600 tanks and 5,000 aircraft of the Anti-Comintern Pact headed by Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in Operation Barbarossa. Due to the German army's organisation and tactics, they quickly drove deep into Soviet territory.

The Red Army was ill-prepared for the surprise attack, lacked leadership, training, and readiness. They were fooled by a complete overestimation of its own capabilities, and Soviet tanks, poorly maintained and manned by inexperienced crews, suffered from an appalling rate of breakdowns. The Soviets were hampered further by a majority of the Latvian soldiers serving in the 24th Territorial Corps deserting to the German side, regarding them as liberators rather than invaders.

In contrast, the Axis had a doctrine of mobility and annihilation, excellent communications, and the confidence that comes from repeated low-cost victories. Furthermore, the German and Lithuanian troops serving in Heeresgruppe Nord was among the most combat experienced troops in the world.

Deutschland Siegt Riga 2

Crowds with Latvian flags gather around military vehicles of the German Wehrmacht in Rīga on May 19, 1942.

Deutschland Siegt Riga 3

German troops are welcomed by the inhabitants of Rīga on May 19, 1942.

As a result of this, the advance into the Soviet Union went quickly. On May 14, Daugavpils was captured by elements of Generaloberst Erich Höpners Panzergruppe 4, followed by Krustpils, Jēkabpils, Jeglava and Liepāja on May 17. By the beginning of June, the whole of Latvia had been liberated.

On May 19, 1942, nine days after the beginning of the campaign, German and Lithuanian troops of Heeresgruppe Nord entered Rīga. Here they were greeted as liberators by the inhabitants of the city, and in the following days they celebrated the Soviet retreat. The Soviet terror of 1940-1942 had so traumatised the Latvian people in space of two years, the 700-year long enmity towards the Germans had disappeared. The news of the German-led invasion was met with relief, and the Latvian people hoped that Latvia would regain its freedom and independence.

Immediately after the arrival of German troops, 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 Liepāja), as well as by Latvian collaborators, including the 500-1500 members of the infamous Arajs Commando (which alone killed around 2000 Jews) and the 2000 or more Latvian members of the SD.

In the meantime, there were growing feelings among the Lithuanian, Finnish and Swedish governments, led by President Antanas Smetona, Risto Ryti and Prime Minister Per Albin Hansson respectively, for independence of the former Baltic Republics. In June and July 1942 their governments, often represented by Foreign Ministers Juozas Urbšys, Rolf Witting and Christian Günther, negotiated with Nazi Germany, urging them to grant independence for Latvia and Estonia.

As a result of the cooperative attitude of the Lithuanian, Finnish and Swedish governments in the campaigns against Poland in 1939 and the Soviet Union as well as the Latvian government-in-exile in Lithuania, Nazi Germany granted both Latvia and Estonia full independence. The German officials claimed that they would "respect Latvian sovereignty and territorial integrity." The German authorities were inclined towards lenient terms with Latvia for several reasons:

Deutschland Siegt Riga 4

German troops march through Rīga during a military parade on May 19, 1942.

  • They had no particular ideological interests in the country, so they were happy to leave the responsibilities and burdens of administration to the government of Kārlis Ulmanis, who was a popular leader among the Latvian people and who would keep the country united.
  • They were willing to keep good relations with both Lithuania and Finland, who both were strategically important countries for the campaign against the Soviet Union.
  • Latvia strategically important located for further operations against the Soviet Union, and by granting them independence by goodwill, they would avoid any uprisings or resistance by the Latvians.
  • The Latvian surplus agricultural product such as bacon and dairy products, as well as textile manufacturing, would likely be supplied anyway by the Latvians – out of economic necessity. If they could acquire these as well by trade, the Latvians would restrain from resisting the Germans.
  • They also hoped to score propaganda points by making Latvia, in Hitler's words, "a model ally", due to the cultural, economical and historical ties between Latvia, Germany and Sweden since the 13th Century. It would show to the world what a future Nazi controlled Europe could be, similar to the situation with Denmark.

In a meeting in Berlin between German Führer Adolf Hitler, the German Minister of Foreign Affairs Joachim von Ribbentrop and the Latvian President and Minister of Foreign Affairs Kārlis Ulmanis and in Berlin on June 22, Ulmanis tried to convince the Germans even further of the Latvian cause. Ulmanis' promise of co-operation with the Germans proved to be vital. After the meeting, Hitler allegedly said that "The Latvians, like the Lithuanians, is a thrust-worthy people, and Ulmanis can prevent a hostile uprising against us in the future."

Independence and the Second World War: 1942-1946

These factors combined convinced the Germans to grant Latvia and Estonia independence. On June 22, 1942, the Germans granted Latvia independence, and allowed the former government (still in exile in Lithuania) to remain intact. They were able to maintain much of their former control over domestic policy. The police and judicial system remained in Latvian hands. The only condition for their independence was that Germany should be allowed to control most of the country's foreign policy.

On June 25, President Kārlis Ulmanis and his cabinet returned to Latvia. When Ulmanis reached Rīga, we was welcomed like a hero; a sign of his popularity for improving Latvia in the 1930s. In the following weeks and months, Ulmanis and his cabinet, with both a large popular and foreign support, worked intensively with re-establishing Latvia to what it was before the Soviet occupation.

As before the Soviet occupation, all political parties were outlawed from the Saeima, and parts of the Constitution of the Latvian Republic and civil liberties were suspended. Some 2,000 Communists were detained by the authorities, and most of these were interned in the same prison camp in the Karosta district of Liepāja which had held Social Democrats and other members of the opposition in 1934. Many of the leading communists were convicted by the courts of treasonous acts, such as Arturs Sproģis, Otomars Oškalns, Eduards Berklavs, Vilis Lācis, Jānis Kalnbērziņš and Imants Sudmalis, were sentenced to several years in prison, in some cases 20 years, life in prison, and a few were given the death penalty.

Vilis Lācis was sentenced to eight weeks (because his reputation as a successful writer, and because he was one of President Ulmanis' favourite writers), Berklavs was sentenced to 20 years, Sproģis and Oškalns was sentenced to life in prison, and Kalnbērziņš and Sudmalis was sentenced to death and executed by firing squad on September 19, 1942.

While the education system, economy and agriculture was rebuilt after two years of Soviet occupation, the Latvian armed forces was recreated as well. Due to Ulmanis' focus on nationalism in the interwar years, many Latvian men were more than willing to fight for their country and beloved president against the Soviet occupiers. By August 20, the Latvians had remarkably mobilized two infantry divisions with supporting artillery batteries and the armoured battalion "Autotanku bataljons 'Kārlis Ulmanis'" (in honour of President Ulmanis), consisting of 20 ČKD LTD light tanks of Czechoslovak design (supplied by the Germans). Equipment and weapons was also taken care off, as they had hidden much of the army's equipment in warehouses and forests in the days before the Soviet invasion.

On August 22 they began serving along with the Lithuanian troops serving in Heeresgruppe Nord under Field Marshal Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb, participating in the final phase of the liberation of Estonia and in the offensive against Leningrad.

Cold War: 1946-

Economy

Politics

Foreign relations

Latvia currently has diplomatic representations in Estonia, Lithuania, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Nazi Germany, Hungary, Argentina, the United States, Brazil, Bulgaria, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Switzerland, the Vatican, Croatia, Japan, Manchukuo and Thailand.

Germany

Latvia has maintained good relations with the Greater German Reich since the Second World War. While having a long enmity towards the Germans lasting for 700 years, relations began to improve slightly in the 1920s to the 1930s. On June 7, 1939, Latvia signed an non-aggression treaty with Germany, which was renewed on June 7, 1944.

During the Campaign against the Soviet Union in 1942, the German Wehrmacht advanced quickly and deep into Soviet territory, liberating Latvia by the end of May. Here they were greeted as liberators by the inhabitants of the city, and in the following days they celebrated the Soviet retreat. The Soviet terror of 1940-1942 had so traumatised the Latvian people in space of two years, the 700-year long enmity towards the Germans had disappeared. The news of the German-led invasion was met with relief, and the Latvian people hoped that Latvia would regain its freedom and independence.

When Latvia regained its independence on with German blessing, they showed their gratitude to the Germans by mobilising its armed forces to participate in Operation Barbarossa against the Soviet Union. On November 25, 1942, Latvia was admitted into the Anti-Comintern Pact along with fellow Baltic neighbour Estonia.

As Germany advocates only to trade with countries within the German sphere of influence, Latvia has become one of the biggest source of imports for bacon and dairy products, along with Denmark. In return Germany exports goods such as machinery, foodstuffs and consumer electronics to Latvia.

While having a mostly good relationship, there has been tensions between them regarding Latvia's racial and policies. While Germany persecutes ethnic minorities such as Jews, Romas and other minorities, Ulmanis' regime did not cultivate national hatred and anti-Semitism and preserved the national cultural autonomy of the minorities and regarded their members as fully-fledged Latvian citizens.

Lithuania

Latvia has maintained good relations with the neighbouring country of Lithuania since the Second World War. In the interwar years , and relied on Lithuania and Estonia for defensive purposes. The historic legacy of Latvia and Lithuania, and the close personal contacts of their people provided with close ties when they gained their independence in 1920. Relations worsened a bit following an authoritarian regime came to power in Lithuania in a coup d'état on 1926, but when relations were improved.

During the Campaign against the Soviet Union in 1942, the German Wehrmacht supported by Lithuanian forces advanced quickly and deep into Soviet territory, liberating Latvia by the end of May. Here they were greeted as liberators by the inhabitants of the city, and in the following days they celebrated the Soviet retreat. Lithuania was the main advocate for re-establishing Latvian independence, and the due to their cooperation in the campaigns against Poland in 1939 and the Soviet Union was one of the factors that influenced Germany to grant both Latvia and Estonia full independence.

As a result of the cooperative attitude of the Lithuanian for the Latvian cause, their relations is among the best. The Lithuanian's role in the re-establishment of Latvia along with their historic and cultural ties provide an environment conducive to intensive co-operation at both a governmental and a non-governmental level, permitting the implementation of cross-border projects and promoting co-operation in culture, education, tourism, and other areas.

Estonia

Finland

Sweden

Military

Main article: Military of Latvia

The Latvian National Armed Forces (Latvian: Latvijas Nacionālie bruņotie spēki) numbers about 25,500 personnel, including a 1200 man-strong Frontier Guard. Latvia's defense concept is based on the old pre-war concept, where military cooperation with Estonia and Lithuania is important, as well as with Germany and Finland.

Latvia has a mandatory conscription (one year of training for infantry, 1.5 years for other branches), with a military service age of 21-50, where 21 is active service, 22-39 in the reserve, and 40-50 in the Home Reserve.

The Army consists of four infantry divisions and a technical division.

  • 1. Kurzemes kājnieku divīzija
  • 2. Vidzemes kājnieku divīzija
  • 3. Latgales kājnieku divīzija
  • 4. Zemgales kājnieku divīzija
  • Tehniskā divīzija "Kārlis Ulmanis"

The 1. divīzija is located in Liepāja, 2. divīzija in Rīga, 3. divīzija in Rēzekne and the 4. divīzija in Daugavpils. Tehniskā divīzija is located in Rīga. The infantry divisions each consist of three infantry regiments and an artillery regiment. The technical division consists of a cavalry regiment, an armoured regiment, an engineer regiment and a signals regiment. The army has been resupplied with more modern German and former Czechoslovak equipment.

The Latvian Air Force has following its independence been recreated and supplied with German military equipment. It consists of one regiment with 65 aircraft, most of them Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighters. It also consists of a few Ju 452 Turboprop transports and a small number of Fa 436s (NATO codename "Hog") in transport and light attack mode helicopters.

The Latvian Navy consists of three old submarines - "Ronis", "Spīdola" and "Varonis". Plus 5 destroyers - "Riga", "Kārlis Ulmanis", "Jelgava", "Daugavpils" and "Jūrmala". Three missile boats and two minesweepers are also in service.

The Latvian Armed Forces are subordinate to the Latvian Ministry of War (headed by the Minister of War). The Commander-in-Chief is President Kārlis Ulmanis. Under the Constitution, the Minister of War is accountable to Parliament and the President for all activities carried out by the agencies under his responsibility. This means that the Ministry, as part of the executive branch of government, is responsible for supervising the activity of its subordinate agencies, among other things by carrying out overall supervisory functions.

Because of the effect of the failed neutrality of Latvia during The Second World War, and in gratitude of being liberated from the Soviet Union by the Germans, Latvia joined the Anti Comintern Pact on November 25, 1942.

Demographics

See also



Member countries of the Anti-Comintern Pact

Nazi Germany | Japan | Italy | Hungary | Lithuania | Bulgaria | Croatia | Denmark | Estonia | Latvia | Finland | Iraq | Manchukuo | Romania | Spain | Thailand | Turkey | Argentina | Bolivia | Peru | Turan

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