|Latvian War of Independence|
|Part of Soviet westward offensive of 1918–19|
merged into the
|Commanders and leaders|
271 machine guns
321 light machine guns
3 armoured vehicles
5 armoured trains
204 machine guns
2 torpedo boats
2 torpedo boats
20 000 infantry
10 armoured vehicles
3 armoured trains
469 machine guns
3 armoured trains
|Casualties and losses|
Part of a series on the
|History of Latvia|
The Latvian War of Independence (Latvian : Latvijas neatkarības karš), sometimes called the Latvia's freedom struggles (Latvian : Latvijas brīvības cīņas) or the Latvian War of Liberation (Latvian : Latvijas atbrīvošanas karš, "War of Latvian Liberation"), was a series of military conflicts in Latvia between 5 December 1918, after the newly proclaimed Republic of Latvia was invaded by Soviet Russia, and the signing of the Latvian-Soviet Riga Peace Treaty on 11 August 1920.
Latvian or Lettish is a Baltic language spoken in the Baltic region. It is the language of Latvians and the official language of Latvia as well as one of the official languages of the European Union. There are about 1.3 million native Latvian speakers in Latvia and 100,000 abroad. Altogether, 2 million, or 80% of the population of Latvia, speak Latvian. Of those, 1.16 million or 56% use it as their primary language at home. The use of the Latvian language in various areas of social life in Latvia is increasing.
The war can be divided into a few stages: Soviet offensive, German-Latvian liberation of Kurzeme and Riga, Estonian-Latvian liberation of Vidzeme, Bermontian offensive, Latvian-Polish liberation of Latgale.
The war involved Latvia (its provisional government supported by Estonia, Poland and the Western Allies—particularly the navy of United Kingdom) against the Russian SFSR and the Bolsheviks' short-lived Latvian Socialist Soviet Republic. Germany and the Baltic nobility added another level of intrigue, initially being nominally allied to the Nationalist/Allied force but attempting to jockey for German domination of Latvia. Eventually tensions flared up after a German coup against the Latvian government, leading to open war.
The Latvian Provisional Government was formed on November 18, 1918 by the People's Council of Latvia.
Estonia, officially the Republic of Estonia, is a country in Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland with Finland on the other side, to the west by the Baltic Sea with Sweden on the other side, to the south by Latvia (343 km), and to the east by Lake Peipus and Russia (338.6 km). The territory of Estonia consists of a mainland and 2,222 islands in the Baltic Sea, covering a total area of 45,227 km2 (17,462 sq mi), water 2,839 km2 (1,096 sq mi), land area 42,388 km2 (16,366 sq mi), and is influenced by a humid continental climate. The official language of the country, Estonian, is the second-most-spoken Finnic language.
The Second Polish Republic, commonly known as interwar Poland, refers to the country of Poland in the period between the First and Second World Wars (1918–1939). Officially known as the Republic of Poland, sometimes Commonwealth of Poland, the Polish state was re-established in 1918, in the aftermath of World War I. When, after several regional conflicts, the borders of the state were fixed in 1922, Poland's neighbours were Czechoslovakia, Germany, the Free City of Danzig, Lithuania, Latvia, Romania and the Soviet Union. It had access to the Baltic Sea via a short strip of coastline either side of the city of Gdynia. Between March and August 1939, Poland also shared a border with the then-Hungarian governorate of Subcarpathia. The Second Republic ceased to exist in 1939, when Poland was invaded by Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union and the Slovak Republic, marking the beginning of the European theatre of World War II.
Following a cease-fire, a ploy was developed by the Germans, nominally dissolving into the West Russian Volunteer Army led by Gen. Pavel Bermont-Avalov. This West Russian Volunteer Army included Germans and former Russian prisoners of war nominally allied with the White Army in the Russian Civil War, but both Bermondt-Avalov and von der Goltz were more interested in eliminating the nationalists than fighting the Bolsheviks.
The West Russian Volunteer Army or Bermontians was an army in the Baltic provinces of the former Russian Empire during the Russian Civil War of 1918–1920.
The White movement and its military arm the White Army, also known as the White Guard, the White Guardsmen or simply the Whites, was a loose confederation of anti-communist forces that fought the Communist Bolsheviks, also known as the Reds, in the Russian Civil War (1917–1922/1923) and to a lesser extent continued operating as militarized associations insurrectionists both outside and within Russian borders in Siberia until roughly World War II (1939–1945).
The Russian Civil War was a multi-party civil war in the former Russian Empire immediately after the two Russian Revolutions of 1917, as many factions vied to determine Russia's political future. The two largest combatant groups were the Red Army, fighting for the Bolshevik form of socialism led by Vladimir Lenin, and the loosely allied forces known as the White Army, which included diverse interests favouring political monarchism, economic capitalism and alternative forms of socialism, each with democratic and anti-democratic variants. In addition, rival militant socialists and non-ideological Green armies fought against both the Bolsheviks and the Whites. Eight foreign nations intervened against the Red Army, notably the former Allied military forces from the World War and the pro-German armies. The Red Army eventually defeated the White Armed Forces of South Russia in Ukraine and the army led by Admiral Aleksandr Kolchak to the east in Siberia in 1919. The remains of the White forces commanded by Pyotr Nikolayevich Wrangel were beaten in Crimea and evacuated in late 1920. Lesser battles of the war continued on the periphery for two more years, and minor skirmishes with the remnants of the White forces in the Far East continued well into 1923. The war ended in 1923 in the sense that Bolshevik communist control of the newly formed Soviet Union was now assured, although armed national resistance in Central Asia was not completely crushed until 1934. There were an estimated 7,000,000–12,000,000 casualties during the war, mostly civilians. The Russian Civil War has been described by some as the greatest national catastrophe that Europe had yet seen.
Certain episodes of the Latvian Independence War were also part of the Polish-Soviet War, particularly the Battle of Daugavpils.
Battle of Daugavpils was the final battle in the Polish-Soviet campaign of 1919. A joint Polish and Latvian force, operating under Polish Staff orders known as "Operation Winter", attacked the Red Army garrison in Dunaburg, or Daugavpils, from 3–5 January 1920.
On 18 November 1918 the People's Council of Latvia proclaimed the Independence of the Republic of Latvia and created the Latvian Provisional Government headed by Kārlis Ulmanis.
People's Council of Latvia was a temporary council which declared Latvia's independence on November 18, 1918 and then acted as the temporary parliament of the country until a Constitutional Assembly was elected.
Kārlis Augusts Vilhelms Ulmanis was one of the most prominent Latvian politicians of pre-World War II Latvia during the interwar period of independence from November 1918 to June 1940. He served four times as Prime Minister, the last time as the head of an authoritarian regime.
On 1 December 1918 the newly proclaimed republic was invaded by Soviet Russia. Much of the invading army in Latvia consisted of Red Latvian Riflemen, which made the invasion easier. The Soviet offensive met little resistance.
The Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, previously known as the Russian Soviet Republic and the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic, as well as being unofficially known as the Russian Federation, Soviet Russia, or simply Russia, was an independent state from 1917 to 1922, and afterwards the largest, most populous and most economically developed of the 15 Soviet socialist republics of the Soviet Union (USSR) from 1922 to 1990, then a sovereign part of the Soviet Union with priority of Russian laws over Union-level legislation in 1990 and 1991, during the last two years of the existence of the USSR. The Russian Republic comprised sixteen smaller constituent units of autonomous republics, five autonomous oblasts, ten autonomous okrugs, six krais and forty oblasts. Russians formed the largest ethnic group. The capital of the Russian SFSR was Moscow and the other major urban centers included Leningrad, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg, Nizhny Novgorod and Samara.
In the north Alūksne was taken on 7 December, Valka on 18 December, and Cēsis on 23 December, in the south Daugavpils was taken on 9 December, and finally Pļaviņas on 17 December.
Riga was captured by the Red Army on 3 January 1919. By the end of January the Latvian Provisional Government and remaining German units had retreated all the way to Liepāja, but then the Red offensive stalled along the Venta river.
The Latvian Socialist Soviet Republic was officially proclaimed on 13 January with the political, economic, and military backing of Soviet Russia.
On 18 February, an agreement was signed between Latvia and Estonia, starting formation of the North Latvian Brigade led by Jorģis Zemitāns on Estonian territory.
On 3 March, the German and Latvian forces commenced a counterattack against the Red Latvian Riflemen. Tukums was recaptured from the Bolsheviks on 15 March, and Jelgava on 18 March.
On 16 April, the Baltic nobility organised a coup d'etat in Liepāja and a puppet government headed by Andrievs Niedra was established.The provisional national government took refuge aboard the steamship Saratov under British protection in Liepaja harbour.
On 22 May, Riga was recaptured by the Freikorps and an organised persecution of suspected Bolshevik supporters began, with an estimated 174 (according to the head of Rīga's Gendarmerie) to 4,000–5,000 people (according to local social democrats and communists) being shot.At the same time the Estonian Army including the North Latvian Brigade loyal to the Ulmanis government started a major offensive against the Soviets in north Latvia. By the middle of June the Soviet rule was reduced to the area surrounding Latgale.
After the capture of Riga the German forces advanced north towards the Latvian city of Cēsis. The objective of the German forces had now clearly become the establishment of German supremacy in the Baltic by eliminating the Estonian military and Latvian national units, not the defeat of the Bolsheviks. The Estonian commander General Johan Laidoner insisted the Germans withdraw to a line south of the Gauja river. He also ordered the Estonian 3rd Division to seize the Gulbene railroad station.
On June 19, 1919, the Landeswehr and the Iron Division launched an attack to capture Cēsis. Initially, the Freikorps captured the town of Straupe and continued their advance toward the town of Limbaži. The Estonians launched a counterattack and drove the Freikorps out of the town. On June 21, the Estonians received reinforcements and immediately attacked the Landeswehr under Alfred Fletcher, who was forced to withdraw from an area to the northeast of Cēsis. The Iron Division attacked from Straupe towards Stalbe in an effort to relieve pressure on the Landeswehr. On the morning of June 23, the Germans began a general retreat toward Riga.
The Allies again insisted that the Germans withdraw their remaining troops from Latvia, and on July 3 intervened to impose an armistice between Estonia, Latvia, and the Landeswehr and Freikorps when the Latvians were about to march into Riga. By its terms the legitimate government of Ulmanis was to be restored, the Baltic German Landeswehr be placed under the command of the British officer Harold Alexander and the Iron Division to leave Latvia. The government of Ulmanis returned to Riga on 8 July 1919 and the Landeswehr became a component of the Latvian National Army.
The Iron Division, however, did not leave Latvia. Instead Major Bischoff created a German Legion from over a dozen Freikorps units and turned the units over to the West Russian Volunteer Army. In total, the Iron Division transferred over 14,000 men, 64 aircraft, 56 artillery pieces, and 156 machine guns. Six cavalry units and a field hospital were also transferred. The offensive by the reformed German Army was subsequently defeated by the Latvian Army, which received assistance from British and French warships and Estonian armoured trains.
The history of Latvia began around 9000 BC with the end of the last glacial period in northern Europe. Ancient Baltic peoples arrived in the area during the second millennium BC, and four distinct tribal realms in Latvia's territory were identifiable towards the end of the first millennium AD. Latvia's principal river Daugava, was at the head of an important trade route from the Baltic region through Russia into southern Europe and the Middle East that was used by the Vikings and later Nordic and German traders.
The Baltic Germans are ethnic German inhabitants of the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea, in what today are Estonia and Latvia. Since their resettlement in 1939, Baltic Germans have markedly declined as a geographically determined ethnic group. The largest groups of present-day descendants of the Baltic Germans live in Germany and Canada. It is estimated that several thousand still reside in Latvia and Estonia.
Liepāja is a city in western Latvia, located on the Baltic Sea. It is the largest city in the Kurzeme Region and the third largest city in the country after Riga and Daugavpils. It is an important ice-free port. In 2017 population of Liepāja is 69,443 people.
Courland, is one of the historical and cultural regions in western Latvia. The largest city is Liepāja, the third largest city in Latvia. The regions of Semigallia and Selonia are sometimes considered as part of Courland as they were formerly held by the same duke.
The United Baltic Duchy, also known as the Grand Duchy of Livonia, was a state proposed by the Baltic German nobility and exiled Russian nobility after the Russian Revolution and German occupation of the Courland, Livonian, and Estonian governorates of the Russian Empire. It was proposed in April 1918, after Estonia and Latvia had formally declared independence.
The Estonian War of Independence, also known as the Estonian Liberation War, was a defensive campaign of the Estonian Army and its allies, most notably the White Russian Northwestern Army, Latvia, and the United Kingdom, against the Soviet Western Front offensive and the aggression of the Baltische Landeswehr. It was fought in connection with the Russian Civil War during 1918–1920. The campaign was the struggle of Estonia for its sovereignty in the aftermath of World War I. It resulted in a victory for the newly established state and was concluded in the Treaty of Tartu.
The Latvian Riflemen were originally a military formation of the Imperial Russian Army assembled starting 1915 in Latvia in order to defend Baltic territories against Germans in World War I. Initially the battalions were formed by volunteers, and from 1916 by conscription among the Latvian population. A total of about 40,000 troops were drafted into the Latvian Riflemen Division.
Gustav Adolf Joachim Rüdiger Graf von der Goltz was a German army general during the First World War. He commanded the Baltic Sea Division, which successfully intervened in the Finnish Civil War in the spring of 1918. Goltz stayed with his troops in Finland until December 1918 representing German interests, and in practise ruled the country as a military dictator during this period. After the Armistice of 11 November 1918, Goltz commanded the army of the Baltic German-established Government of Latvia, which in 1919 was instrumental in the defeat of the Russian Bolsheviks and their local allies in Latvia, but suffered a defeat against Estonia and was eventually unsuccessful in retaining German control over the Baltic region after the War.
Pavel Rafalovich Bermon(d)t-Avalov (Avalishvili) was an Ussuri Cossack and warlord.
After 1918, the term Freikorps was used for the anti-communist paramilitary organizations that sprang up around the German Empire, including in the Baltic states, as soldiers returned in defeat from World War I. It was one of the many Weimar paramilitary groups active during that time.
The Baltic Landwehr or Baltische Landeswehr was the name of the unified armed forces of the Couronian and Livonian nobility from 7 December 1918 to 3 July 1919.
Jānis Balodis was an army general, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Latvia (1919–1921), Minister of War (1931–1940) and politician who was one of the principal figures during the Latvian War of Independence and the dictatorship of Kārlis Ulmanis, when he officially was the number two of the regime as the Minister of War, Deputy Prime Minister and Vice President.
The Latvian Socialist Soviet Republic was a short-lived socialist republic formed during the Latvian War of Independence. It was proclaimed on 17 December 1918 with the political, economic, and military backing of Vladimir Lenin and his Bolshevik government in the Russian SFSR. The head of government was Pēteris Stučka with Jūlijs Daniševskis as his deputy.
The British Campaign in the Baltic 1918–19 was a part of the Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War. The codename of the Royal Navy campaign was "Operation Red Trek". The intervention played a key role in enabling the establishment of the independent states of Estonia and Latvia but failed to secure the control of Petrograd by White Russian forces, which was one of the main goals of the campaign.
The Battle of Cēsis, fought near Cēsis in June 1919, was a decisive battle in the Estonian War of Independence and the Latvian War of Independence. After heavy fighting an Estonian force moving from the north, supplemented by Latvian units, repelled Baltic German attacks and went on full counter-attack.
Anatol Leonid Fürst von Lieven, was a Baltic German prince of the Lieven family who commanded a counter-revolutionary White movement during the Russian Civil War in Latvia known after him as the Liventsy.
Jorģis Zemitāns was an army officer and commander of the Latvian Northern Brigade during the Latvian War of Independence.
Edvarts Virza was a Latvian writer, poet and translator. In 1935 and 1936 he was a nominee for the Nobel Prize in Literature. His works were banned in Latvian SSR until 1985.
This article covers the timeline of the Estonian War of Independence (1918−1920) and a few key events in the prelude and aftermath of the war.