Latvia in the 1910’s
Latvia as a state body arose only in 1918. The Latvian tribes that inhabited the territory of today’s republic, together with other populations of different nationalities, remained, starting from the century. XII, under foreign domination, organized into two distinct states, Livonia (v.) And Courland (v.), Which came last in the power of Russia, the first with the Ingolstadt peace of 1721 and the second with the division of Poland in 1795.
The Latvian national movement began in the second half of the century. XIX: Tsarist Russia had constantly fought it by supporting the noble German landowners against the population. When local autonomies were granted in the other territories (zemstvo), in Latvia, as in the rest of the Baltic provinces, the assemblies of the nobility continued to exist; at the time of the emancipation of the peasants, those of the Baltic provinces, unlike the others, had not had land. The first affirmation of the Latvian nationalists came during the revolution of 1905: various congresses called for political and social reforms, they decided to introduce the Latvian language in the administration and in the school; but after a few weeks there was a severe repression and until the world war things lasted unchanged. In 1915, at the time of the German invasion of the Baltic provinces, the Russian government promised Latvia autonomy, which in fact was never granted, and authorized the establishment of Latvian units. In September 1917, with the collapse of the Russian army, the Germans occupied Riga and almost all of Latvian territory. On November 18, after the Bolsheviks had seized power in Petrograd, a National Council was formed in Valka, which sent one of its members, ZA Meierovics, to London and Paris: at the same time, in the part occupied by the Germans, a democratic bloc, headed by Karlis Ulmanis. The treaty of Brest-Litovsk (3 March 1918) created a state including Livonia and Estonia under the high German sovereignty, while Courland became a duchy, linked with personal union to Prussia; but the defeat of the central empires made it remain a dead letter. linked with personal union to Prussia; but the defeat of the central empires made it remain a dead letter. linked with personal union to Prussia; but the defeat of the central empires made it remain a dead letter.
On November 18, 1918, the National Council, in agreement with the democratic bloc, proclaimed the independence of Latvia in its ethnographic borders (Courland, Livonia and Letgallia) and set up a provisional government, chaired by Ulmanis. The situation in the country was, however, one of the most critical: it was taken as if in a vice by the forces of the Bolsheviks, to which some Latvian units had also passed, and by the Germanic ones (body of Gen.Von der Goltz), which remained in the Baltic provinces for support the interests of the German barons. The Red Army took Riga (January 3, 1919) and then Mitau (Jelgava): the provisional government took refuge in Libau (Liepāja), the only important city saved from the invasion, and organized some volunteer departments who, at the beginning of spring, they reoccupied almost all of Courland beyond Jelgava. Saratov under the protection of an English team and formed another, chaired by Pastor Needra, which could only last a few weeks. Other Latvian units, set up towards the north, acting conscientiously with Estonian forces, first repelled the Bolsheviks from Livonia, then met with the German-Balts, who defeated at Wendeu (Cēsis), and occupied Riga, where the provisional government returned. The gen. von der Goltz had to evacuate Latvia, by injunction of the Supreme Council of Paris, but he left the command of the Landswehr, which was joined by the remains of a white Russian body of Prince A. Lieven, to the Russian adventurer col. Avalov-Bermondt; he tried in the autumn to take over Riga, but was repulsed and had to disband his troops. In the early months of 1920, the Latvian army, with the help of the Polish one, drove the Bolsheviks out of Letgallia, thus liberating the national territory.
A Constituent Assembly, meeting on 1 May, proclaimed the independence of the Latvian republic (27 May), first approved a provisional constitution (1 June 1920) and then the definitive one (15 February 1922), which entered into force on 7 November 1922.
On September 16, 1920 the Constituent Assembly itself passed the law on agrarian reform, so that all the land of the landowners (about half of the total), the state-owned ones (10%) and those of the clergy (just over 1%) had to be divided among the peasants: the ancient owners and the parishes could only keep from 5o to 100 hectares with the buildings. The question of the indemnity to be attributed to the ancient owners was reserved for a further provision and very radically resolved by the law of April 14, 1924, which denied any indemnity, except the payment of mortgage debts.
Ulmanis, who had been in charge of the government since November 1918, resigned in June 1921, because the peasants were dissatisfied with the way the land reform was being implemented. He was succeeded by Meierovics, who, with a brief interruption in 1923, remained in power until January 1924 while on 7 November 1922, after the entry into force of the definitive constitution, Jānis Cakste, who was president of the Constituent Assembly, was elected to the unanimously president of the republic and, re-elected in 1925, he held the office until his death (March 4, 1927). On August 22, 1925, Meierovics died of a car accident, returning to the government in December 1924 as Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Celmins cabinet. While for about eight years the various Latvian cabinets had been based on a coalition, in which the peasants’ union had a preponderant part, at the end of 1926 one was formed, chaired by Skujenieks, in which moderate socialists prevailed; but it had to withdraw in January 1928 due to the excessive demands of the representatives of the Russian minority, who were part of the parliamentary majority, on which it relied.
In April 1927, after Čakste’s death, J. Zamgalas, former vice-president of the National Council, was elected president of the republic, who in turn was replaced by A. Kviesis in April 1930.
The primary task of the Latvian government after its establishment was to establish lasting relations with neighboring powers, and in connection with this, on 15 July 1920 Latvia concluded a convention for the resumption of normal relations with Germany, which it disavowed Avalov-Bermondt; on 11 August he made peace with Soviet Russia, which recognized its independence; defined its borders with Estonia by means of the agreement of 30 July 1920, which left a part of the city of Valka with the railway station and those with Lithuania by means of the agreement of 31 March 1921; on May 3, 1922 he entered into a concordat with the Holy See; on November 1, 1923 he concluded a defensive alliance and a customs union with Estonia, the implementation of which was then regulated by the treaty of February 5, 1927.