August 13th 2013 is the seventieth anniversary of an event of immense importance for Latvian democracy and the legal continuity of the State of Latvia. Seventy years ago – in 1943 – the Latvian Central Council (LCC) commenced operations as an “underground” organisation. These activities were instrumental in promoting the national resistance movement against both forces of occupation during World War II, alternately Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union in the wake of the signing of the 1939 Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact.
The LCC was founded by national leaders – Members of the Latvian Parliament (4th Saeima elected in 1931 by people in free and fair elections), including presidium members who represented the main democratic parties, including conservative, liberal and social-democratic.
The LCC was the political centre for the people’s movement which was fighting for the renewal of Latvian independence according to the provisions of the Constitution (Satversme) adopted in 1922 stating the principles of legal continuity of the Latvian state founded in 1918.
The LCC political platform of 1944 states that “Latvian people reject any dependency upon Germany or USSR. The Republic of Latvia which did not cease to exist according to national and international law, should fully regain its de facto independence. The policy of the Latvian people should be based on the principles of independence and democracy avoiding the omissions and mistakes of the previous democracy”.
The LCC demanded that the German occupation authorities restore de-facto sovereignty of the Latvian State and condemned the Holocaust as well as the unlawful mobilization of Latvian citizens to the occupying armed forces. Moreover, through political statements signed by 188 distinguished community leaders, the LCC also drew the attention of Western countries’ governments and established links with Latvian Legations in Washington and London, and initiated cooperation with national resistance movements in neighbouring Lithuania and Estonia.
It is worth emphasizing that 50 years later, this work of the Latvian Central Council formed the legal basis for restoration of Latvia’s independence, democracy, and the rule of law after the collapse of the USSR.
August 31, 1994, the date on which the Russian Federation (as legal successor of the USSR) pulled its troops out of the Baltic countries and Germany, was the day on which we can say that World War II genuinely ended over for the Baltic States.
The legal groundwork which was laid by the LCC during World War II continues to be a nuisance for Russia. It is hard to believe but, even today, Russia does not accept the legal continuity of the state of Latvia and instead entertains the notion that Latvia only appeared on the map after USSR fell apart in 1991.
Some of the most prominent LCC accomplishments are related to its military branch – General Janis Kurelis group with Lieutenant Roberts Rubenis battalion which carried out the armed resistance against Waffen SS forces. Moreover, LCC helped Latvians escape to Sweden by boat in 1943-44 from Kurzeme (Courland, Kurland) in Western Latvia, thereby rescuing thousands including Jews.
Konstantins Čakste, Chairman of the LCC, perished in the Stutthof Concentration Camp. Many LCC members were persecuted and killed by either Nazi or Soviet authorities.
I hope this brief outline helps to address myths and misconceptions about Latvia in the 20th century.
Prof. Ainars Dimants
Turiba University, Riga