Recognition of Latvia de iure is a sign, that the humanity is moving ahead
and beyond the ruthless use of power it is endowed with political conscience,
and words spoken about freedom and people’s rights in Europe
are not just hollow phrases.
Kārlis Skalbe “Short Notes”, 1921
The 1905 Revolution notably enhanced the spreading of nationalistic thought among the Latvian people. During the years of the First World War, and particularly after the collapse of the Czarist regime in Russia, the demand for Latvia’s political autonomy swiftly grew into the concept of an independent state.
Since September, 1917 in German occupied Riga, the desire of Latvians for independence was expressed by the representatives of various civil and political groupings – especially those that assembled regularly in the, so called, Democratic Block meetings.
Towards the end of 1917, the Latvian Provisional National Council (LPNC) was established in the town of Valka, and thereafter its work was directed systematically towards gaining the country’s independence. The foreign representations in Russia considered the delegates of the LPNC Foreign Affairs Department genuine representatives of the Latvian nation, and on 11 November, 1918 Zigfrīds Anna Meierovics, the first plenipotentiary LPNC representative abroad, was recognized by the British government as an unofficial diplomatic representative.
In November 1917, in Vidzeme, the Bolshevik „Iskolat Republic” was created. It existed for four months and was categorically against the LPNC’s program of separation from the Soviet Russia. In turn, Germany, until its defeat in the First World War, and until the signing of the Armistice Treaty on 11 November, 1918 in Compiègne, supported a plan of the Baltic German elite to unite Kurzeme, Vidzeme and Estonia into a Baltic Duchy or a Baltic State.
Based on an agreement among the Democratic Block and the LPNC representatives, Latvia’s People’s Council (Tautas Padome) was formed in Riga on 17 November, 1918. On the following day, 18 November, now celebrated as Latvia’s Independence Day, Latvia’s People’s Council exercised the right of nations’ self-determination by separation from Russia and founding an independent state.
The question of “to be or not to be” for the Republic of Latvia was decided in 1919. During the first part of the year, there were three governments each seeking dominance: the nationalistically oriented government lead by Kārlis Ulmanis; the pro-German government of Andrievs Niedra, and the Bolshevik government led by Pēteris Stučka. In the Independence War, which continued from 1918 to 1920, the Latvian army liberated the entire territory of Latvia from the Bermont armed forces and the Red Army.
The Allied and Associated Powers, which had won the World War I, tied the recognition de iure of the newly formed states closely to the issues pertaining to the status of Russia. For this reason in 1919 Latvia did not succeed in attaining its international recognition at the Paris Peace Conference. Towards the end of 1920, however, the Western nations came to the acknowledgement that a “united and indivisible” Russia is not to be reconstituted, whereas the newly created Baltic States have withstood the test of time and exist.
The Constituent Assembly of Latvia (Satversmes sapulce), the highest legislative institution created by free and democratic elections, had been convening since 1 May, 1920. On 15 July, an Armistice Treaty with Germany was concluded. Soon thereafter, on 11 August, 1920 the Peace Treaty between Latvia and Soviet Russia was signed. At the same time Latvia’s borders were settled with its neighbors.
From 1918 to 1920 most nations took a cautious approach in recognizing Latvia de facto. At the same time a number of political and military missions, representations and consulates started to function in Riga. Even though Latvia’s diplomats represented a state not recognized de iure, they managed to carry out their duties successfully in no less than 13 countries.
Finally, on 26 January, 1921 the Supreme Council of Allied Powers (Great Britain, France, Italy, Japan, and Belgium) recognized the state of Latvia de iure. When the news reached Latvia on 27 January, joyous demonstrations erupted in Riga. Latvia’s Constituent Assembly and the government leaders received congratulations from all parts of Latvia and
abroad. The celebrations concluded on 26 February, when the Prime Minister staged a formal reception in the Riga Castle with more than 1000 guests.
Historically a nation’s de iure status is irrevocable and finite. After loosing its independence de facto in 1940, the Latvian State continued to exist as a subject of international law until the full restoration of independence in August 1991.
The exhibition is organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Latvia
Records Management Department, Director Eva Vijupe
Information and Public Relations Department, Director Elita Gavele
Conception of the exhibition and research: Political archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Silvija Križevica
Project group: Sarmīte Šāvēja (manager), Dace Bušante, Natālija Dzene, Inta Mazure, Valdis Rūsiņš, Edmunds Vizla
Translator Ģirts Mergins
Design Jānis Saulīte
Video soundtrack Jānis Jansons
Opening: 26 January, 2011 at 16.30 pm
Address: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 3 K. Valdemāra Street, Riga
Documents and materials were sourced at the Political Archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and State Historical Archives of Latvia.
The exhibition is supported by the state repositories: Academic Library of the University of Latvia, Latvian State Archives and Latvian State Archives of Audiovisual Documents (from 01.01.2011. in National Archives of Latvia), Latvian War Museum, Literature and Music Museum, National Library of Latvia, Museum of the History of Riga and Navigation, Riga City Construction Board, Special Library of State Archives, State Archives of social and political history of Russia.
The exhibits from the Political Archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Latvia are provided with no references to the repository.
Special thanks to Inita Bērziņa, Anna Egliena, Barba Ekmane, Inga Graudumniece, Ineta Didrihsone-Tomaševska, Gunta Jaunmuktāne, Sarmīte Līdaka, Gunta Minde, Gunārs Mediņš, Ģirts Mergins, Ginta Orinska-Spirģe, Andrejs Sorokins, Valda Pētersone, Linda Pleša, Iveta Šķiņķe, Silvija Voite, Īra Zaneriba, Gints Zelmenis