90 years since Latvia's international recognition

18.06.2015. 13:44


The recognition de iure of our state 90 years ago was the next most significant event after the proclamation of the Republic of Latvia and the victory in the Independence War. Those who were responsible for preparing this solid foundation for the young state were politicians, soldiers and diplomats. They devised effective governing structures, defined basic concepts for foreign policy – all that was crowned by being recognized internationally.

On 26 January, 1921, the efforts of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Zigfrīds Anna Meierovics, the Latvian diplomats and all of the officials of the Foreign Service achieved the goal – the Republic of Latvia achieved the recognition of its legitimate international status. At the same time another international goal was also achieved – Latvia was accepted in the community of European and world nations. That was the deciding factor in determining the country’s ongoing destiny – during the years under occupation Latvia did not lose its statehood in terms of de iure.

After 1940, when Latvia lost its independence de facto, its Foreign Service continued to represent the state in the free world de iure. That assured effective reestablishment of the functions of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs after the complete restoration of independence in 1991, and assured Latvia’s rapid return to the international scene.

Today we are proud of our young generation of diplomats, who have been grown up in their own homeland and who are entering the world as outstanding professionals. They ensure our country’s foreign policy and sustainable national security based on the Euro-Atlantic community values and membership in the European Union and NATO.

Today as we are celebrating this occasion, I can assure – just as the pioneers in the realm of diplomacy in the twenties of the preceding century, our Foreign Service is serving Latvia with dedication, guarding its sovereignty and its interests in the global processes.

Minister of Foreign Affairs

Ģirts Valdis Kristovskis

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.

(To view the display unit, click on the picture)

The note by the President of the Inter-Allied Conference, Aristide Briand, regarding the recognition of Latvia de iure.

Paris, 26.01.1921.

Aristide Briand; 1862 – 1932

Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs of France. Recurrently included the issue of the recognition of the Baltic States in the agenda of Conference.

David Lloyd George;1863 – 1945

Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Supported the recognition of Latvia and Estonia de iure

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Zigfrīds Anna Meierovics, (in the center), with colleagues following Latvia’s recognition de iure.

Paris, [27 – 31.01.1921].

Jānis Čakste; 1859 – 1927

The Chairman of the Latvia’s People’s Council. The Head of the Latvian delegation to the Paris Peace Conference.

Jānis Seskis (1877 – 1943).

The Head of the Latvian delegation to the Paris Peace Conference.

The note by the President of the Inter-Allied Conference, Aristide Briand, regarding the recognition of Latvia de iure.

Paris, 26.01.1921.

The Provisional governement. In the center the Prime Minister Kārlis Ulmanis. 1919.

Cartoon “Good Bye!”

Celebrants carrying a placard denoting Latvia’s recognition de iure.


(Reproduction of this image is forbidden without permission of Latvia State Archive of Audiovisual Documents (LVKFFDA))

Chairman of the Constituent Assembly Jānis Čakste

...when on November18, 1918, the People’s Council of Latvia proclaimed the nation’s independence, it thereby entered the world stage... the people of Latvia had to prove that they had strong will to be a self-determining and independent nation that has the necessary strength to defend its independence…

We have now been admitted to the full membership in the union of all nations. But rights go hand in hand with duties. We bear the responsibility to prove that we are worthy to be amongst the European and world nations.

Excerpt from the address delivered on January 28, 1921, at the Constituent Assembly on the occasion of Latvia’s recognition de iure.

Minister of Foreign Afairs Zigfrīds Anna Meierovics

...we succeeded in winning Latvia’s recognition de iure without any preconditions, pure of any concessions, not tied to weighted stipulations, etc., with regard to our neighbors – large or small. We have obtained the recognition de iure without any limiting legal clauses, and we can already now shape our future as a full-fledged nation in a manner that the interests of our state require.

The political stabilization, economic stabilization, closer ties with the foreign countries, freer hand in concluding trade and business agreements, being admitted to the League of Nations – summing up, these are the general guidelines expressed in a few words that de iure brings us now and will give us in the future.

Excerpt from the speech delivered at the Constituent Assembly Session on February 18, 1921.

Prime Minister Kārlis Ulmanis

In the name of our national government I thank all who on the occasion of Latvia’s recognition de iure have sent telegrams and congratulations... Let us remember with deep gratitude those heroes, who sacrificed their lives for our country!

Our warmest thanks and friendship goes to those nations and people, who extended to us their moral and material support in the difficult battles for our independence and who now have recognized us as a full-fledged nation.

May the great emotional uplift, which was provided by this historical occasion, be one of the leading spiritual forces in our future creative efforts to enhance our nation – with this wish the government greets the citizens of Latvia.

Excerpt from the Prime Minister’s written acknowledgement on the occasion of Latvia’s recognition de iure.

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