History of Diplomatic Relations

02.12.2014. 19:09

Relations between what is currently Latvia and the United Kingdom have been developing many centuries before the existence of sovereign Latvian state. The first contacts mentioned in the written sources are dating back to the 9th Century.

Although, trade links and random exchange of visits have taken place in all the following centuries, it was in the 17th Century when relations between England and the Duchy of Courland (Western part of Latvia) considerably expanded both economically and politically. During the Reign of Duke Jacob the Duchy of Courland had diplomatic and consular representatives in London and Newcastle. According to the Agreement between Duke Jacob and King Charles II, the Duchy of Courland attained the rights for the Caribbean island of Tobago. Trade links remained to be strong in the centuries that followed, with the cooperation in the shipbuilding industry being the most important part of it.

The United Kingdom was the first country to recognize the independence of Latvia de facto on November 11, 1918, a week before the Republic of Latvia was proclaimed. The participation of the UK military forces in the battles for the liberation of Latvia, which took lives of numerous British soldiers, is one of many reasons why the Latvian society perceives the UK as a country amicable to Latvia. At the beginning of 1919 when Latvia was occupied by the Bolsheviks, the British ship "Saratov" stationed in Liepaja for a short period became a shelter for the temporary Government of Latvia and its head Mr. Karlis Ulmanis. On January 26, 1921 the UK recognised the independence of Latvia de iure.

After the occupation of Latvia by Soviet army on 17 June 1940 Mr Karlis Zarins, Latvian Ambassador in London, was representing the Government of the Republic of Latvia in Western Europe. In May 1940 when the national security situation became uncertain the Government assigned Ambassador Zarins the extraordinary powers. Thanks to the patriotism and tireless efforts of Mr Zarins and other diplomats the Latvian Representation in London remained opened during the whole occupation period of Latvia. Therefore, continuation of de iure existence of the Republic of Latvia was preserved. The United Kingdom was one of the countries that never recognized the occupation and incorporation of Latvia into the USSR.

At a time when Latvia regained its independence the representation was headed by Mrs Marie-Anne Zarina, daughter of Ambassador Zarins. The first extraordinary and plenipotentiary Ambassador of Latvia after regaining of independence was Mr Janis Lusis.

On 27 August 1991 jointly with other member countries of the European Community the United Kingdom recognized the restoration of independence of the Republic of Latvia and as early as 8 October the first Ambassador of the UK Mr Richard Samuel arrived in Latvia to open the Embassy.