Latvian War of Independence

Last updated
Latvian War of Independence
Part of Soviet westward offensive of 1918–19
Date5 December 1918–11 August 1920
(1 year, 8 months and 6 days)
Location
Result Latvian victory
Territorial
changes
Independence of Latvia
Belligerents

Flag of Latvia.svg Latvian Army
merged from the:

Flag of Estonia.svg  Estonia
Flag of Russia.svg Lieven detachment [nb 3]
Flag of Poland.svg  Poland
Flag of Lithuania.svg  Lithuania

Supported by the

Contents

Allied Powers

Flag of the German Empire.svg VI Reserve Corps: [1]

merged into the

Flag of the West Russian Volunteer Army.svg West Russian Volunteer Army in September 1919
Flag RSFSR 1918.svg  Russian SFSR
Flag of Latvian SSR 1919.svg  Latvian SSR
Commanders and leaders
Flag of Latvia.svg Jānis Balodis
Flag of Estonia.svg Ernst Põdder
Flag of Poland.svg Edward Rydz-Śmigły
Flag of the German Empire.svg Rüdiger von der Goltz
Baltic German.svg Alfred Fletcher
Flag of the West Russian Volunteer Army.svg Pavel Bermondt-Avalov
Flag RSFSR 1918.svg Jukums Vācietis
Flag RSFSR 1918.svg Dmitry Nadyozhny
Flag RSFSR 1918.svg Pēteris Slavens
Strength
Flag of Latvia.svg :
69,232
271 machine guns
321 light machine guns
54 guns
33 mortars [2]
(January 1920)
Flag of Estonia.svg :
16,000 [3]
3 armoured vehicles
5 armoured trains
39 guns
204 machine guns [4]
(June 1919)
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg :
1 cruiser
8 destroyers
2 torpedo boats
1 minesweeper
Flag of France.svg :
2 torpedo boats
2 gunboats
Flag of Poland.svg :
20 000 infantry
25 tanks
(January 1920)
Flag of the German Empire.svg :
20,000 [3]
10 armoured vehicles
3 armoured trains
18 airplanes
100 guns
469 machine guns [4]
(June 1919)
Flag RSFSR 1918.svg :
5,600–6,300 [5]
55 machine-guns
42 guns
3 armoured trains [6]
Casualties and losses
Flag of Latvia.svg :
3,046 killed
4,085 wounded [7]
Flag of Estonia.svg :
300 killed
800 wounded [8]
Flag of the German Empire.svg :
840 killed
3,000 wounded [9] [10]
unknown
  1. Part of the Baltische Landeswehr until July 1919.
  2. Under the Estonian 3rd Division command until July 1919.
  3. Part of the Baltische Landeswehr until July 1919, after which it left 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. [11]

Latvian language Baltic language, official in Latvia and the European Union

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 Republic in Northern Europe

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.

Second Polish Republic 1918-1939 republic in Eastern Europe

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.

West Russian Volunteer Army

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.

White movement anti-Bolshevik movement

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).

Russian Civil War multi-party war in the former Russian Empire, November 1917-October 1922

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 battle

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.

Soviet offensive

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.

Peoples Council of Latvia

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 Ulmanis President of Latvia

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.

Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic Republic in the USSR (1922–1991) and sovereign state (1917–1922 and 1990–1991)

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.

Liberation of Kurzeme and the coup d'etat

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. [12] The provisional national government took refuge aboard the steamship Saratov under British protection in Liepaja harbour. [13]

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. [14] 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.

German–Latvian conflict

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. [15]

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.

Bermondt offensive

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.

Timeline

1918

1919

1920

See also

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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.

References

  1. "Generalkommando VI Reservekorps". Axis History.
  2. Latvijas Atbrīvošanas kaŗa vēsture Archived 2011-07-13 at the Wayback Machine (in Latvian)
  3. 1 2 "Iseseisvuse aeg 1941–44". Eesti. Üld. 11. Eesti entsüklopeedia. 2002. pp. 296–311.
  4. 1 2 Co. Jaan Maide (1933). Ülevaade Eesti Vabadussõjast (1918–1920) (Overview on Estonian War of Independence) (in Estonian). Archived from the original on 2010-08-22.
  5. Mangulis, Visvaldis. Latvia in the Wars of the 20th Century. Princeton Junction: Cognition Books, 1983, xxi, 207p.
  6. "Latvia 1919" (PDF). pygmy-wars.50megs.com.
  7. Latvijas Brīvības cīņas, page 15 (in Latvian)
  8. Eesti Vabadussõda Estonica.org (in Estonian)
  9. Hans von Rimscha, Hellmuth Weiss (1977). Von den baltischen Provinzen zu den baltischen Staaten 1918-1920. J. G. Herder-Institut. p. 61.
  10. Kaevats, Ülo: Eesti Entsüklopeedia 5, page 396. Valgus, 1990, ISBN   5-89900-009-0
  11. (in Latvian)Freibergs J. (1998, 2001) Jaunāko laiku vēsture 20. gadsimts Zvaigzne ABC ISBN   9984-17-049-7
  12. 1 2 Šiliņš, Jānis (18 April 2019). "The republic on the sea: The 1919 coup that exiled the Latvian government to a steamboat". Public Broadcasting of Latvia . Retrieved 21 April 2019.
  13. 1 2 LtCol Andrew Parrott. "The Baltic States from 1914 to 1923: The First World War and the Wars of Independence" (PDF). Baltic Defence Review. 2/2002. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-03-19.
  14. Šiliņš, Jānis (24 May 2019). "Shooting the Bolsheviks: White terror after freeing Rīga". Public Broadcasting of Latvia . Retrieved 26 May 2019.
  15. Estonian War of Independence 19181920. Jyri Kork (Ed.). Esto, Baltimore, 1988 (Reprint from Estonian War of Independence 19181920. Historical Committee for the War of Independence, Tallinn, 1938)

Bibliography