Latvia's democratic resistance: a forgotten episode from the Second World War

Swain, G. (2009) Latvia's democratic resistance: a forgotten episode from the Second World War. European History Quarterly, 39(2), pp. 241-263. (doi: 10.1177/0265691408101440)

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In summer 1943 politicians representing the four main political parties of Latvia's democratic years came together to establish a movement which would both resist the German occupation and prevent the return of the Red Army. They considered the key to re-establishing Latvia as an independent democratic state was to make contact with Britain, and they hoped to do this by a combination of military and diplomatic activity. Once contact with Sweden had been established this Latvian Central Council planned to combine a diplomatic offensive abroad with an insurrection within Latvia. The diplomatic offensive was partly obstructed by the Foreign Office, but that did not prevent the Latvian Central Council working closely with the British Secret Service as it first brought out of Latvia potential members of a Government in Exile, and then began to prepare for an insurrection. Planned to coincide with the arrival of the Red Army and the withdrawal of the Germans, the military wing of the Latvian Central Council intended to seize part of the Courland coast and hold it until British or Swedish forces intervened to prevent them being crushed by the Red Army, thus forcing the Soviets to negotiate about the future status of Latvia. The plans of the Latvian Central Council relied heavily on stories circulating in Sweden that the British were indeed about to intervene in the Baltic, and it is argued here that there was more to this than mere loose talk. The dilemma of whether or not to stage an insurrection was resolved by the Germans, who arrested General Kurelis, the leader of the insurrection and the man designated the interim leader of independent Latvia. The surviving forces of the Latvian Central Council established themselves as an underground army and waited for news from Britain that the time had come to rise. When no such message had come by summer 1945, many underground groups started moves towards a national uprising; to prevent this the Latvian Central Council used its surviving organization to instruct its underground fighters not to take up arms against the Soviets but to wait on diplomacy.

Item Type:Articles
Keywords:2nd World War, Latvia 20th century, national partisans
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Swain, Professor Geoffrey
Authors: Swain, G.
Subjects:D History General and Old World > DL Northern Europe. Scandinavia
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Central and East European Studies
Journal Name:European History Quarterly
Publisher:Sage Publications
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2009 Sage Publications
First Published:First published in European History Quarterly 39(2):241-263
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher.

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