Who and why you need to know about the beginning of the Latvian War of Independence

Bridge to Germany

# LV99plus

This publication is part of the series # LV99plus, which tells about events in Latvia and the region 100 years ago. It is part of a modern chronological reconstruction of events in 1917, 1918. and in 1919, which allowed the establishment of an independent Latvian state. Project discussion platform is Facebook groupLiving history“.

Two days after the conclusion of the Compenian ceasefire and the end of World War I, Soviet Russia revoked the Brest peace treaty it had concluded with Germany. A few days later, the Russian Red Army launched an offensive to the west to reclaim the territories given back to the Germans. At the same time, the Bolsheviks looked with hope at the events in Germany, where the revolution had begun.

Moscow hoped that the Communists would come to power in Berlin and that the flames of the revolution would engulf the whole world.

The Red Army rushed west to help German members. The shortest route to Germany was through the Baltic States.

Undeclared war

On November 22, 1918, the units of the Pskov Rifle Division of the Red Army occupied Zilupe and went in the direction of Ludza and further to Rezekne. Further north was the 2nd Novgorod Rifle Division, which first occupied Pskov and then invaded North Vidzeme.

Simultaneously with these troops, well-armed groups of Latvian Bolsheviks entered the territory of Latvia and rushed to establish Soviet power.

Russia did not consider it necessary to declare war on the Republic of Latvia, but instead established a temporary Soviet government in Latvia in Moscow. In order to disguise its true intentions and undeserved insults in occupying foreign territories, Soviet Russia did its best to give the impression that in Latvia, in fact, it was not external aggression but civil war. For example, on November 23, Stalin and Lenin forced Latvian Bolsheviks to agree to the idea of ​​formally establishing an independent Soviet Latvia. Also, “red” Latvian rifle regiments were hastily sent to Latvia from remote corners of Russia.

Arrival of Latvian “red” riflemen in Jelgava, January 1919
Photo: Subjective Film

Loss of Latgale

The Provisional Government of the Republic of Latvia did not have the slightest opportunity to defend Latgale against the invasion of the Red Army. There were German army units here that did not want to go to war, but hurriedly evacuated to go home.

The only anti-large military force in Latgale was the partisan unit commanded by Colonel Mikhail Afanasyev (also called the Latgale Volunteer Division).

It was originally part of the Northern Corps, which was formed in Pskov, Ostrov and Latgale to fight the Red Army. In the second half of November, M. Afanasjeva’s unit (which also included a lot of Latgale Latvians) carried out intelligence in the direction of Ludza. On November 28, a partisan unit of 270 men with 4 machine guns withdrew from Rēzekne. Two days later, 10 kilometers south of Vilani, it had its first battle with Red Army units. Further, the partisan unit retreated in the direction of Riga and joined the Latvian Provisional Government in early December. At that time, the whole of Latgale was already in the hands of the Red Army.

The main directions of the Soviet Russian Red Army’s invasion of Latvia in late November-early December 1918

The material was first published on November 22, 2018.

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