The History of the Occupation of Latvia

Fake News: World War Two was caused by the Munich Agreement, not the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact

Fake News: World War Two was caused by the Munich Agreement, not the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact

Author: Viesturs Sprūde

Western historians and press call the Treaty of Non-aggression between Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact), which was signed on 23 August 1939, the trigger for World War Two, because they wish “to deliberately disguise the actual motives of the commencement of World War Two”, “to falsify history” and “to evade responsibility”, because the war was made inevitable by the Munich Agreement of September 1938 regarding the division of Czechoslovakia concluded between Germany, the Great Britain, France, and Italy – this statement has become the norm in the Russian media environment over the last ten years.

It is voiced not only by Russian mass media of varying levels and quality, but also by high-ranking state officials and even historians. In order to demonise Munich even more, the texts intended for the public frequently refer to the agreement not as a “treaty”, but as a “сговор” (plot) - a word that stands for a deliberately malicious agreement that resembles a conspiracy.

Calling the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact a “Pact of Aggression” is a hypocritical western attempt to make Germany and the USSR equally liable for the breakout of the war, in an attempt to “equalise the winners and losers”. “The Munich Agreement laid the foundations not only for the aggression against the Soviet people, but also the peoples of the European countries. Therefore 29 - 30 September - the days of the Munich Betrayal - may and must be remembered as days dedicated to the commemoration of the victims of World War Two,” as recently as September this year, the Russian news website km.ru wrote.

The website of the Russian historical association historyrussia.org, which is a medium of the History of the Motherland fund, created in accordance to an order from the President of Russia Vladimir Putin, already uses academic historians to claim that Munich was the starting point for Hitler’s aggression against other European nations. "We know, why this happened – Great Britain and France gave priority to negotiations with Hitler, actually ignoring the opinion of Moscow and attempting to exclude our country from participation in resolving the most significant key issues of European policy of the time," the professor of history Efim Pivovar writes on this website. He adds that in 1938 the USSR was the most consistent protector of the “weak and oppressed” Czechoslovakia.

Another idea that sometimes flashes in the articles dedicated to the Munich Agreement, with undoubted hints to the current day situation is: Poland has no right to “currently position itself as an innocent victim of two predators – Hitler and Stalin”, because in autumn 1938, when Czechoslovakia was breaking down, Poland “got their hands on” individual borderland territories. In particular this formulation belongs to the historian and political scientist Natalya Narochnitskaya, whose name frequently appears in situations where a historical interpretation that serves to substantiate the geopolitical ambitions of Russia is required.    


Poland has already apologised to its neighbour for its immoral action in 1938. For instance, in 2009, the president of Poland Lech Kaczyński called the participation of pre-war Poland in the division of Czechoslovakia “not only a mistake, but a “sin"".

Meanwhile the contemporary concept of the USSR as the “sole protector of peace” in Europe in 1938/1939, and the Munich Agreement as the source of all evil, which is popularised in contemporary Russia, is nothing new; it is a return to Soviet historiography. The concept is currently, as well as previously, used to “neutralise” the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. During the time of the USSR, the latter was consistently, but in current Russia - almost always, just called a non-aggression treaty between the USSR and Germany. Any mention of the secret protocol that was fatal for the Baltic states and Poland in avoided.  

The Munich Agreement is definitely not something that the Western World has ever tried to conceal or that it would be proud of. It has never been positioned like that in historical interpretation. It has always been an infamous sign of dishonour, a symbol of cowardly “appeasement policy" and a diplomatic disaster. Germany, Italy, Great Britain, and France, without inviting Czechoslovakia decided that, for the sake of peace in Europe, the Sudettenland region, which was predominantly inhabited by Germans, must be surrendered to Germany.

However, this agreement was not a secret and Prague, although after the signing of the documents, was notified thereof. Needless to remind that neither the residents of the Baltic states, nor Poles or Finns were informed of their fate after the drafting of the additional protocols to the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact.

Munich did not mean the liquidation and division of Czechoslovakia as a state, because the British and French had the illusion that Hitler would “calm down:” and the war in Europe would be prevented. Meanwhile, the secret protocols to the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact definitely provided for the division of the territories of other countries between Germany and the USSR. When Hitler went further and, in March 1939 occupied the rest of Czechoslovakia, the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who, after the signing of the infamous treaty returned to London on 30 September 1938, stated that he had brought “peace in our time”, became alarmed and finally understood that the country must urgently prepare for war.

The head of the Commission of Latvian Historians for the Administration of the President of Latvia, Professor Inesis Feldmanis has previously qualified the attempts of Russian historians to divert attention towards the Munich Agreement, in order to reduce the degree of criminality of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, as a weird position that is beneath all criticism.

“The Munich Agreement and Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact are actually incomparable values. In terms of international law, the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact was much more of a criminal deed than the illegal Munich Agreement, which, at least, attempted to preserve peace. Meanwhile the pact of 23 August enabled the German Fuhrer Adolf Hitler, as well as Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin to start the war by assaulting their neighbours and to create the situation, where “territorial and political restructuring” occurred, followed by the wide seizure of foreign territories and the elimination of independence in neighbouring countries,” Feldmanis writes. The Munich Agreement, however ill advised, was a “pact of peace”, while the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was definitely a “pact of war”.

Soviet and contemporary Russian historiography tends to emphasise the fact that the occupation of Czechoslovakia provided Hitler with a foothold for the invasion of Poland, where the starting position for further attack on the USSR was gained. It completely ignores the fact that it was not Munich that released the bindings from Hitler’s hands to invade Poland, but his agreement with Stalin on 23 August 1939. Before it started its devastating activity, before Germany and the USSR divided Poland, Germany did not even have a common border with the USSR! 

Supported by the Ministry of Culture of Latvia

  • 1939 - 1940 Okupācijas priekšvēsture
    1939 - 1940
    Occupation prehistory
    • 23 August 1939
      The Soviet Union and Nazi Germany sign a non-aggression treaty.
    • 1 September 1939
      Germany attacks Poland – World War II begins; Latvia declares neutrality.
    • 17 September 1939
      USSR attacks Poland.
    • 5 October 1939
      As a result of military and political pressure, Latvia signs a “bilateral assistance” agreement with the USSR, allowing military army bases to be placed on Latvian territory.
    • 30 October 1939
      Nazi Germany signs an agreement with the Latvian government to transfer ethnic Germans living in Latvia to Germany.
    • 15 June 1940
      USSR attacks several border guard posts on the eastern border of Latvia.
    • 16 June 1940
      USSR presents Latvia with an ultimatum demanding Latvia allow unlimited Soviet troops to enter Latvian territory.
  • 1940-1941 Padomju okupācija
    Soviet occupation
    • 17 June 1940
      USSR occupies Latvia.
    • 20 June 1940
      A new government, created by Moscow and led by Augusts Kirhenšteins, is installed in Latvia.
    • 14-15 July 1940
      Rigged, non-democratic elections, which contravene Latvian election laws and the Latvian Constitution, take place; only one party participates – Latvijas Darba Tautas bloks [Latvian Workers’ Bloc].
    • 21 July 1940
      The illegally elected Parliament declares Latvia a Soviet Socialist Republic and requests that the USSR admit it to its Union. Kārlis Ulmanis steps down as president; he is arrested and deported to Russia the following day.
    • 5 August 1940
      Latvia is admitted to the USSR.
    • 13 August 1940
      The All-Union Communist Party (bolshevik) (AUCP(b)) Central Committee ratifies the constitution of the Latvian SSR.
    • November 1940
      The Soviet Russian Criminal Code officially becomes law in Latvia.
    • 14 May 1941
      The Soviet government and the AUCP(b) begins planning mass deportations and repressions of Latvian citizens by adopting the secret decision "On the deportation of foreign elements from the Baltic republics, Western Ukraine, and Moldavia ".
    • 13-14 June 1941
      The Soviet Union deports 15 443 inhabitants of Latvia.
  • 1941-1944/45 Nacionālsociālistiskās Vācijas okupācija
    Nazi German occupation
    • 22 June 1941
      Nazi Germany attacks the Soviet Union. Hostilities begin on Latvian territory along with Nazi occupation.
    • 16 July 1941
      Berlin creates the administrative region Ostland – Latvia is one of the four regions that make up Ostland.
    • July 1941
      The first mass annihilation of Jews begins – the largest actions take place in Riga, Daugavpils, and Liepāja, as well as in other smaller towns.
    • 30 November 1941
      Killing of Jews in the Riga Ghetto begins. In total, 70 000 Latvian Jews were killed. Thanks to the efforts of local citizens, 400 Latvian Jews were saved.
    • 5 December 1941
      The German army is defeated at Moscow.
    • 7 March 1942
      Nazi occupiers create the Landesselbstverwaltung – local administrative rule.
    • 29 января 1943 года
      Nazi occupiers adopt regulations for the arrest of Latvia’s Roma population and their incarceration in concentration camps.
    • 11 February 1943
      Orders are passed for the creation of a “voluntary” Latvian legion under the auspices of the SS; mobilization is often involuntary.
    • 13 August 1943
      Representatives of the four largest parties from the last Latvian Parliament found the Latvian Central Council (Latvijas Centrālā Padome – LCP) in Riga, which calls for the renewal of Latvian independence. Konstantīns Čakste is named head of the LCP.
    • 28 November 1943
      USA president Franklin Roosevelt, Great Britain’s prime minister Winston Churchill, and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin meet at the Teheran Conference. Stalin succeeds in gaining permission to have a free hand in the Baltic States and Eastern Europe after the war.
    • 22 March 1944
      189 Latvian politicians submit a resolution to the Nazi occupiers for the renewal of Latvian independence, which is denied.
    • 18 July 1944
      The Soviet army defeats German troops and crosses the Latvian border at Šķaune in Ludza county. The second Soviet occupation begins.
    • End of July – beginning of August 1944
      German occupiers allow General Jānis Kurelis and the chief of his headquarters, Captain Kristaps Upelnieks, to create a separate military unit. It cooperates with the LCP in the hopes of becoming the nucleus of the army of independent Latvia.
    • 8 September 1944
      The last LCP meeting to occur on Latvian soil takes place at which a declaration for the renewal of Latvian independence is adopted.
    • 20 November 1944
      Unable to control troops under the command of Kurelis, German SD units arrest all military personal at his headquarters. Eight officers are convicted and shot. The remaining military personnel are imprisoned in concentration camps.
    • 5 February 1945
      Leaders of the USA, GB, and the USSR meet at Yalta. During discussions, Soviet demands are met, and the Soviets occupy Latvia once again.
  • 1944/45-1953 Staļinisma terors. Padomju okupācija.
    Soviet occupation
    Stalinist terror
    • 8 May 1945
      WWII ends on Latvian territory; German forces in Kurzeme surrender, including the 19th Latvian Legionnaire division.
    • 3 October 1945
      The first meeting of members of the LCP who have escaped to Germany takes place in Lustenau, Austria. Latvian citizens in exile continue the struggle for Latvian statehood.
    • 6 October 1945
      Latvian SSR Supreme Council members accept Moscow’s decision to annex the city of Abrene and six neighbouring townships to the Russian SSR.
    • 10 February 1946
      Latvian SSR Supreme Council elections take place.
    • 17 February 1947
      In order to weaken communist rule in Eastern Europe, the USA begins transmission of the Voice of America, which is listened to in Latvian territory illegally.
    • 29 January 1949
      USSR Council of Ministers decide to deport members of the National Partisans and their supporters, as well as wealthy farmers (kulaks) from Latvia to Siberia.
    • 25 March 1949
      Soviet occupiers carry out the second mass deportation of Latvian inhabitants to Siberia – in total 42 322 people.
    • July 1949
      As a result of repressive Soviet occupation politics, the number of collective farms (kolkhozes) triples, creating 3857 kolkhozes.
    • 17 January 1953
      Latvian SSR Supreme Council adopts the decree creating a new Latvian SSR flag.
    • 5 March 1953
      Stalin dies.
  • 1953-1959 “Atkusnis”. Padomju okupācija.
    Soviet occupation
    • 12 September 1953
      Nikita Khrushchev becomes First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Central Committee (CPSU CC).
    • 14 May 1955
      Creation of the Warsaw Pact.
    • 25 February 1956
      At the CPSU 20th Congress, Khrushchev openly speaks of crimes committed by Stalin and condemns the Stalin “personality cult”.
    • 23 August 1956
      The uprising by the people in Hungary is put down by Soviet forces.
  • 1959-1985 “Stagnācija”. Padomju okupācija.
    Soviet occupation
    • 7–8 July 1959
      Latvian CP plenum condemns the national communists.
    • 13 August 1961
      The GDR closes the border to West Berlin; building of the Berlin Wall begins.
    • 10 October 1964
      Khrushchev is forced to resign as First Secretary of the CPSU CK; Leonid Brezhnev takes his place.
    • December 1965
      The Hydroelectric Station at Pļaviņas begins operation.
    • 27 May 1968
      Calls for ending censorship and freeing political prisoners in Czechoslovakia initiates the “Prague Spring” demonstrations.
    • 20 August 1968
      Soviet troops put down the “Prague Spring”.
    • 25 December 1979
      Soviet forces invade Afghanistan.
    • 10 November 1982
      Leonid Brezhnev dies; Yuri Andropov becomes First Secretary of the CPSU CK.
    • 9 February 1984
      Yuri Andropov dies. Konstantin Chernenko becomes First Secretary of the CPSU CK.
    • 10 March 1985
      Konstantin Chernenko dies.
    • 11 March 1985
      Mikhail Gorbachev becomes the leader of the CPSU CK and the Soviet Union.
  • 1985-1990/91 “Perestroika”. Padomju okupācija.
    Soviet occupation
    • 10 July 1986
      The first Latvian human rights organization Helsinki-86 is founded in Liepāja.
    • October 1986
      Widespread public support for the environmental protection of the Daugava River begins.
    • 28 February 1987
      The Environment Protection Club (Vides aizsardzības klubs – VAK) is founded.
    • 14 June 1987
      Helsinki-86 invites people to lay flowers at the Freedom Monument to commemorate the deportations in 1941.
    • 23 August 1987
      A protest takes place by the Freedom Monument to commemorate the signing of the Hitler-Stalin pact.
    • 27 April 1988
      VAK organizes protests against the proposed construction of a metro in Riga.
    • 1–2 June 1988
      The Latvian Creative Society organizes a plenum. Journalist, Art Academy professor, and member of the Supreme Council Mavriks Vulfsons publicly declares that Latvia was occupied in 1940.
    • 10 July 1988
      The Latvian National Independence Movement (Latvijas Nacionālās Neatkarības kustība – LNNK) is founded.
    • 16 July 1988
      VAK organizes a protest in Mežaparks at which the Latvian national flag is flown.
    • 8-9 October 1988
      Latvian National Front (Latvijas tautas fronte – LTF) founding congress. Dainis Īvāns is elected leader.
    • February 1989
      The pro-communist supporters of Moscow Interfront organize protests – they oppose proposed policies to stop migration to Latvia from other Soviet republics and to give the Latvian language official national status.
    • 5 May 1989
      Latvian SSR SC adopts a law granting Latvian national language status.
    • 23 August 1989
      The Baltic Way – a human chain over 660 km long is formed through all three Baltic countries to commemorate the 1939 Hitler- Stalin Pact.
    • 9 November 1989
      The Berlin Wall falls.
    • 18 November 1989
      Mass demonstrations for an independent Latvia on the banks of the Daugava with over 500,000 participants.
    • 18 March 1990
      Latvian SSR parliamentary elections.
  • Neatkarīga Latvija
    Independent Latvia
    • 4 May 1990
      Latvian SSR SC adopts the resolution for the restoration of Latvian independence.
    • 2 January 1991
      Soviet special forces OMON occupy the press building in Riga; there are armed attacks by OMON against other strategic government sites.
    • 13–27 January 1991
      Residents of Latvia create barricades in Riga to protect key locations from forces loyal to Moscow.
    • 3 March 1991
      Inhabitants of Latvia participate in a referendum on declaring an independent democratic state – two-thirds vote for restoring independence.
    • 12 June 1991
      Boris Yeltsin is elected president of Russia.
    • 19 August 1991
      Radical communist attempt a coup in Moscow – the August Putsch.
    • 21 August 1991
      Republic of Latvia Supreme Council declares the Republic of Latvia as an independent democratic state.
    • 22 August 1991
      Iceland is the first nation to recognize Latvian independence.
    • 24 August 1991
      The Russian Federation officially recognizes Latvian independence.
    • 17 September 1991
      Latvia joins the United Nations.
    • 30 December 1991
      The Soviet Union officially ceases to exist.
    • 14 February 1994
      Latvia joins the NATO program “Partnership for Peace”.
    • 12 March 1999
      The first post-Soviet nations join NATO – Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary.
    • November 2002
      Prague summit. NATO leaders decide to invite Latvia to begin negotiations for admittance.
    • 20 September 2003
      Referendum on joining the European Union.
    • 29 March 2004
      Latvia becomes a member of NATO.
    • 1 May 2004
      Latvia becomes a member of the European Union along with 10 other nations.