Table of contents Chapter I
Preceding the United Nations there was between World War I and World War II another similar organization called the League of Nations. All of the states which were members of the League of Nations later became members of the United Nations except three: Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania (the Baltic States). Those three have lost their freedom. They are not just governed by a communist government subservient to Moscow such as Poland or Czechoslovakia; they have been actually incorporated into the Soviet Union itself by force. This is the story of one of them, of Latvia.
It is not a pretty story. Latvia was among the most devastated countries of Europe in both World Wars. Caught between two powerful neighbors and ancient enemies, Germany and Russia, the less than two million Latvians had to wage bloody wars against one or the other or both of them to defend themselves. This is a story of struggle, victory, defeat, and defiance. It should not be called a history; history is written and rewritten by victors to glorify their deeds and hide their faults. This is written by a survivor.
The population of the Czar’s Russian empire before World War I was only half Russian. The other half consisted of various other nationalities, including Latvians (the same proportions exist in the Soviet Union today). The non-Russians were oppressed by the Czar (Lenin, the leader of the Bolsheviks, called Czarist Russia a “prison of nations”; the same term should be applied to the Soviet Union today). After the overthrow of the Czar the head of the new government, Kerensky, ignored non-Russian demands for autonomy or independence. The anger of the non-Russians against the Czar’s oppression and against Kerensky’s arrogance was channeled by the Bolsheviks into a force which they used to put themselves in power. Deceived by Lenin’s promises of self-determination for all [page xii] nationalities, Latvian Rifle regiments became Lenin’s Praetorian Guard and the avant-garde of the revolution. Once in power, the Bolsheviks oppressed the non-Russians just as much as they had been oppressed before. When the Latvian Rifle regiments recognized the enormous disparity between Bolshevik theory and practice, they abandoned the Bolshevik cause, but by then it was too late. Lenin had become the new “Czar” of the Russian empire (now called the Soviet Union).
While the Latvian Rifles in Russia were being deceived by Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin, the Latvian nationalists in Latvia took advantage of the disorder in Russia and of the defeat of Germany in World War I and wrested Latvia’s independence from Russia and Germany in a two-front War of Liberation. That war was the training ground for some of the future German Nazis. Frustrated by their defeat by the Latvians, they blamed everything on treason at home and turned to Hitler for leadership. After that war devastated Latvia was quickly rebuilt. Freed from centuries of oppression, Latvian culture flourished.
Two decades later in their design to dominate mankind two despots, Germany’s Hitler and the Soviet Union’s Stalin, made a pact dividing Europe into spheres of influence (the so-called Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact). The Pact enabled Hitler to attack Poland and, thus, to start World War II without fear of interference from the Soviet Union. The pact enabled Stalin to occupy eastern Poland and the Baltic States. While in firm military control, the Reds staged a farce called “elections” by which the Baltic States were incorporated into the Soviet Union. The leaders and potential leaders of the Baltic people were shot or deported to Siberia. The outraged Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians began a partisan war against the Reds.
When Hitler decided to attack the Soviet Union, the Baltic States were overrun by the German army in a few days, aided by the partisans, since the Baltic people expected a restoration of their independence. Yet Hitler had other plans. A dominant theme throughout his Nazi program was the need for more “Lebensraum” [living space] for his German “master race.” The Baltic States were supposed to provide part of the Lebensraum. After the Nazi victory they were planned to be colonized by the master race and the Baltic people expelled into Russia. In the meantime the Germans kept their plans secret and exploited the Latvian outrage against the Soviets by forming volunteer units for fighting against the Reds. When the [page xiii] German assault on the Soviet Union bogged down in the vastness of Russia and cannon fodder was in short supply, the Germans conducted an illegal draft in Latvia and put the draftees in SS uniforms (SS was a military arm of the Nazi party. Waffen SS divisions were elite front-line forces with distinctive uniforms. The Latvian draft was against all of their own Nazi rules, since the SS were supposed to be volunteers from the master race). However, despite those uniforms, the draftees were not considered as members of the SS by the Germans. The Latvian regiments were designated without the SS label. Only the division titles said “attached to the SS” because the division staffs were German SS officers. When the Soviets pushed the Germans back in the rest of the Baltic States, Courland in western Latvia remained in Latvian and German hands until the end of World War II, and the Latvian 19th Division excelled in a heroic struggle to defend this last piece of Latvia, waiting in vain for assistance from the Western Allies. Ironically, a unit of the Latvian 15th Division in Germany, while trying to reach the American army so that it could surrender, wound up unwillingly in the defense of Hitler’s Bunker in Berlin in the last days of the war.
After the end of World War II another series of killings and deportations swept through the Baltic States. The Baltic people continued a partisan war against the Soviets for another decade, hoping for eventual help from the West. When the free world failed to aid the Hungarian revolution in 1956, the Baltic partisans gave up their fight as hopeless. Yet passive resistance and some serious disturbances continue. For example, in 1979 there was an attempt to assassinate the First Secretary of the Latvian Communist Party, Moscow’s puppet.
To quell anti-Russian nationalism the Czars started a policy of Russification (the elimination of non-Russian cultures and languages, and preferential treatment of Russians as an inducement for non-Russians to become “Russians”). This hated Russification policy has been accelerated by the present rulers of the Kremlin despite various high-sounding phrases about the rights of the nationalities in the Constitution of the Soviet Union. As part of that policy Latvia is being flooded with an influx of Russians to make Latvians a minority in their own country.
The Western mass media frequently add insult to injury by labeling the non-Russians of the Soviet Union as Russians (for example, The New York Times reported on July 28, 1980 that the “Russian” [page xiv] Dainis Kûla won the gold medal in javelin at the 1980 Olympics; he is actually a Latvian). This is the story of Latvians. They are not Russians. They do not want to become Russians. With God’s help they will not become Russians.
Table of contents Chapter I