Today marks 70 years since Latvia was occupied by the Soviet Union on June 17, 1940.
The actual occupation of Latvia began on June 15, 1940 when Soviet border guards attacked Latvian border posts at Maslenki and Smaili. As a result three border guards and two civilians (including one child) were killed, as 37 were kidnapped and brought to USSR as hostages, informs LETA.
However, Latvia’s fate was already sealed on August 23, 1939, when the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany signed a non-aggression treaty, with an attached secret protocol – the so-called Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. The pact divided independent Eastern European countries into spheres of influence by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.
The first clause of the pact outlines the future of the Baltic States: “In connection with territorial and political changes in the areas belonging to the Baltic States (Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania), the northern border of Lithuania constitutes the border between German and U.S.S.R. spheres of influence. Therefore, both parties recognize Lithuanian interests in the Vilnius region.”
The second clause of the pact set the spheres of interest of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union in Poland, and also mentioned the possible loss of independence of Poland: “In the event of a territorial and political rearrangement of the areas belonging to the Polish State, the spheres of influence of Germany and the U.S.S.R. shall be bounded approximately by the line of the rivers Narev, Vistula and San. The question of whether the interests of both parties make desirable the maintenance of an independent Polish State and how such a state should be bounded can only be definitely determined in the course of further political developments.”
It is believed that the Nazi Germany-Soviet Union Non-aggression Pact, which historians frequently call the “aggression pact”, gave the “green light” to begin World War II. Germany attacked Poland on September 1, 1939, and together with the Soviet Union, who joined the conflict 17 days later, exterminated the independence of Poland.
Latvia was forced to sign the Military Bases Agreement for dislocation of Soviet armed forces in its territory on October 5, 1939. Estonia and Lithuania were forced to sign a similar agreement on September 28 and October 10 respectively. According to this forced agreement, the Soviet Union brought into the Baltic States their military contingent and formed air, sea and ground bases in these three countries. Historians believe that, taking into account the aggressive intentions against the three Baltic States by the Soviet Union, the Military Bases Agreement was a death sentence for the sovereignty of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.
However, on June 15, 1940, Soviet border guards attacked the Maslenki border control post to possibly demonstrate the consequences of any possible resistance by Latvia.
On June 16, Molotov submitted an ultimatum to Estonia and Latvia demanding the resignation of their governments and permission for Soviet troops to enter their territories. The ultimatum also added that if Latvia does not answer by 11:00 p.m., Soviet troops will invade the territory of Latvia and quash all resistance.
Latvia, as well as the other Baltic States, was forced to accept the Russian demands. The Cabinet of Ministers turned down resistance against the Soviet Union because it believed that it would lead to much bloodshed and will not save the sovereignty of the Latvian state.
Latvia’s government, led by Karlis Ulmanis, was thus illegally replaced on June 20, 1940. On June 21, the Soviet puppet regime was formed and on August 5, Latvia was incorporated into the Soviet Union.