Latvia timeline

  • Second Millennium BC: Proto-Baltic peoples, ancestors of the Latvians, Lithuanians and Prussians, move to the Baltic coast.
  • 12th-13th centuries: German and Scandinavian crusaders invade Baltic region.
  • Late 12th century: German merchants, missionaries, and crusaders arrive in medieval Livonia (southern Estonia and northern Latvia).
  • 1198: Berthold, bishop of Livonia, is killed by Livonians.
  • 1201: Bishop Albert of Livonia founds Riga.
  • 1202-37: ‘Brothers of the Militia of Christ’ (Knights of the Sword) charged with conquering and converting the Balts. Their place then taken by the Teutonic Knights.
  • 1242: The Prince of Moscow, Alexander Nevsky, defeats Teutonic Knights on the ice of Lake Peipus and frustrates their attempts to advance inland.
  • 1262-1300: Riga becomes a Hanseatic city-state, as do many other Baltic ports and urban centers.
  • 14th century: First Jews settle in area of present Baltic States.
  • 1422: The Livonian Diet (Landtag) of Germanic landlords holds its first meeting.
  • 1525: First books published in Livonian.
  • 1558: Armies of Ivan the Terrible invade and devastate Baltic provinces. War with Russia continues until 1583 when Russians finally defeated by Swedes. Population falls by more than a half.
  • 1561: Poland takes Livonia. The Teutonic Order is wound up.
  • 1629: Sweden takes Livonia from Poland.
  • 1630-32: Sweden initiates judicial reform in Livonia.
  • 1669: The Hanseatic diet meets for the last time.
  • 1688-94: The Old and New Testaments are published in Livonian.
  • 1710: Peter the Great conquers the Baltic provinces from the Swedes.
  • 1721: Conquest formalized by Treaty of Nystad, in which the Russian Monarchy guaranteed privileges and local authority of the Baltic German nobility. They become the backbone of Russian civil service.
  • 1764-69: Johann Gottfried Herder a pastor in Riga. The folk-cultures of the Baltic have a major influence on his thought, which in turn helps give rise to the ideology of modern European nationalism. He encourages Baltic German scholars to begin taking a scientific interest in Baltic folklore.
  • 1812: Napoleon’s armies under Marshal MacDonald besiege Riga.
  • 1816-19: Baltic German nobility in most of present-day Estonia and Latvia abolish serfdom, but without granting land to the peasants.
  • 1835-1923: Life of Krisjanis Barons, the great Latvian folklorist and nationalist, whose codification of the Latvian Dainas (folksongs) lays much of the basis for modern Latvian culture. His life spans entire period of first Latvian cultural and political movements up to the creation of the first Republic.
  • 1849 and 1856: New reforms in Latvian and Estonian provinces distribute land to the peasantry, making renting and buying easier.
  • 1869 and 1873: First Estonian and Latvian national song festivals mark a major step in “national awakening.”
  • 1870: First railway in the Baltic provinces.
  • 1885: Beginning of intense Russification under Tsar Alexander III.
  • 1888: Publication of Lāčplēsis, Lithuanian national epic by Andrejs Pumpurs.
  • 1905: Revolution, accompanying that in Russia. In the Baltic, it was aimed principally at German landowners and Russian police, hundreds of whom were killed. Thousands of Balts perished in the repression which followed.
  • 1909: Birth of [Sir] Isaiah Berlin, later British philosopher, in Riga.
  • 1914-15: First World War. German armies overrun half of Latvian provinces. Many Russians and part of Latvian population evacuated to Russia.
  • 1915-16: Russian Imperial Army forms Latvian Rifle Regiments, later the core of both the Latvian national army and the Red Army.
  • 1917: First and Second Russian Revolutions. Baltic national assemblies demand first autonomy, then independence from Russia. After ‘October Revolution,’ Bolsheviks take over power in several areas of the Baltic. Germans capture Riga.
  • 18 November 1918: After German withdrawal, and before Bolshevik conquest, Latvian National Council proclaims independence.
  • November 1918-January 1919: Bolsheviks invade Baltic provinces, capture Riga.
  • 22 May 1919: German, White Russian and Latvian forces recapture Riga.
  • June-July 1919: Estonian and Latvian forces defeat German forces. Battle of Wenden (Cesis). In subsequent offenses against the Bolsheviks they penetrate Russian territory.
  • 1920-21: Baltic States sign peace treaties with Soviet Russia, in which Moscow recognizes their independence.
  • 1920: Major land reforms in Latvia and Estonia strip Baltic German nobles of their land, distribute it to peasants.
  • 1922: Introduction of democratic constitutions in all three Baltic States.
  • 1922: Baltic States admitted to League of Nations.
  • 1929: Beginning of world economic depression.
  • 1934: Karlis Ulmanis in Latvia dissolves parliament and political parties and imposes quasi-authoritarian regime.
  • 23 August 1939: Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact provides for Soviet domination of Latvia and Estonia.
  • 28 September-10 October 1939: The Soviet Union forces the Baltic States to sign defense co-operation agreements under which Soviet troops stationed on their soil.
  • 1939-40: Hitler orders evacuation of Baltic German community from the Baltic States.
  • 17 June 1940: Soviet Union invades Baltic States, forces governments to resign, holds rigged ‘elections.’
  • 3-6 August 1940: Baltic States annexed to Soviet Union. Repression begins immediately. Major confiscation of property.
  • 14 June 1941: Tens of thousands of Balts arrested and deported to Siberia.
  • 22 June 1941: German army attacks Soviet Union. Many Baltic prisoners who cannot be evacuated are executed by the NKVD. Revolt against the Soviet Army spreads to Latvia.
  • 28 August 1941: Complete withdrawal of Soviet forces from Baltic States. Germans recruit local auxiliary police and SS units, which play leading part in Holocaust of the Jews.
  • 1944: With Soviet army once again threatening Baltic States, tens of thousands of Balts join German forces to defend their homes.
  • August 1944-May 1945: Soviet Army reconquers Baltic States, destroys attempt to refound national governments. Hundreds of thousands of Balts flee with Germans or across Baltic to Sweden. Their places taken by Russian-speaking immigrants and demobilized military personnel. Thereafter Russian-speaking element in population rises rapidly, until by late 1980s it stands at some 45 percent in Latvia.
  • 1944-54: Partisan war against Soviet rule by the ‘Forest Brothers.’ Tens of thousands killed on both sides.
  • 1947: Start of collectivization of agriculture. Traditional Baltic rural society crippled.
  • March 1949: Biggest wave of deportations. More than 100,000 Balts sent to Siberia and Central Asia.
  • 1953: Death of Stalin.
  • 1956-57: Beginning of Khrushchev’s ‘Thaw.’ Recovery of Baltic culture and literature.
  • 1959: Attempt of the Latvian Communist Party, led by Eduards Berklavs, to resist further Russification and Russian immigration is crushed by Khrushchev in a purge which reduces party to complete subservience for three decades.
  • 1965: Brezhnev ends limited economic autonomy for the republics, reimposes strict centralism.
  • 1968: Invasion of Czechoslovakia leads to increased repression Baltic and increased dissident activity, which continues steadily over the next decade.
  • 1970s: ‘Era of Stagnation.’ Living standards, having risen slowly but steadily in the 1960s, level off and then begin to decline. Steep decline of belief in Communism, even in ranks of Party.
  • 1979: The Baltic Charter, signed by Lithuanian, Latvian, and Estonian dissidents, demands nullification of the Nazi-Soviet pact secret protocols.
  • 1982: Death of Leonid Brezhnev. Andropov begins attempts at reform from above.
  • March 1985: Gorbachev is elected General Secretary of the soviet Communist Party by the Politburo.
  • April 1986: Chernobyl disaster gives massive impetus to ecological protest in the Baltic States, and helps make that protest respectable in Soviet terms.
  • 15-16 September 1986: U.S. officials restate Washington’s nonrecognition policy at a public meeting in Jurmala, Latvia.
  • 14 June 1987: On anniversary of Stalin’s deportations of 1941, Latvian dissidents hold meeting at Freedom Monument in Riga. Several arrested.
  • 23 August 1987: Balts demonstrate on the anniversary of Hitler-Stalin Pact.
  • 1-2 June 1988: At extended plenum of Latvian Writers Union, secret protocol of Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact publicly revealed and denounced. Mavriks Vulfsons declares that there was no pro-Soviet revolution in Latvia in 1940.
  • 23 August 1988: Hundreds of thousands attend rallies to denounce the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.
  • 31 May 1989: Latvian Popular Front calls for complete independence.
  • 28 July 1989: Latvian Supreme Council passes sovereignty declaration.
  • 23 August 1989: One to two million Balts form a human chain from Tallinn to Riga to Vilnius.
  • 18 March 1990: Latvian Supreme Council elections lead to two-thirds majority for independence.
  • 4 May 1990: Latvian Supreme Council meets, declares Latvian de jure independence, and a transition period to full independence. Ivars Godmanis, a scientist and Popular Front leader, becomes Prime Minister.
  • 12 May 1990: Three Baltic Leaders renew Baltic Co-Operation Treaty of 1934, establish Baltic Council, and apply for membership of CSCE.
  • 15 May 1990: Soviet loyalists stage violent demonstrations outside Latvian parliament.
  • Autumn 1990: With Baltic-Soviet talks stalled, hidden forces, presumably Soviet hardliners, begin bombing campaign at stirring up local Russians and discrediting Baltic national movements. In Latvia, OMON, a special police force, defects from the Latvian Interior Ministry to side with Moscow.
  • December 1990: Announcement in the three republics of the formation of ‘National Salvation Committees’ to restore Soviet rule. Their membership is kept secret, but they are assumed to include the local hard-line Communist and military leadership.
  • 20 January 1991: OMON Soviet special police storm Interior Ministry in Riga. Six killed. In succeeding months, OMON launches repeated attacks on Baltic border posts, beating the guards and burning the buildings.
  • 3 March 1991: Referendum in Latvia produces large majority for independence, including many local Russians.
  • 18 March 1991: Soviet referendum on continuing the Union is boycotted by most of the Baltic populations.
  • 19-21 August 1991: Attempted counter-revolution in Soviet Union. OMON kills six in various incidents in Riga.
  • 20 August 1991: Latvian Supreme Council declares full independence. In following weeks, all three Baltic States receive international diplomatic recognition, are admitted to the UN and the CSCE. OMON is withdrawn from the Baltic. Statues of Lenin all over the Baltic are dismantled.
  • 6 September 1991: Soviet State Council recognizes Baltic independence.
  • 15-17 November 1991: Fourth Congress of the Latvian Popular Front sees a sharp swing to radical nationalist positions. Shortly afterwards, the PF faction in the Supreme Council splits, with radicals forming the Satversme (Constitution) faction.
  • 27 November 1991: Latvian Supreme Council passes law restoring citizenship to all those who held it before 1940 and their descendants. Decision on how to naturalize ‘immigrants’ under Soviet rule postponed.
  • 28 November 1991: Russian Supreme Soviet adopts law granting automatic Russian citizenship to anyone living outside Russia’s borders who applies for it.
  • 22 January 1992: Latvian Supreme Council claims Abrene, part of pre-1940 Latvia annexed by Russia in 1945.
  • 20 May 1992: Latvia joins IMF; receives loan of $85 million.
  • 9 June 1992: Latvian Supreme Council passes law setting strict conditions for new residents in Latvia. The radical nationalist deputies announce that they consider these conditions apply also to existing non-citizen residents.
  • 15-17 July 1992: Russian Supreme Soviet discusses position of ethnic Russians in the Baltic States.
  • 15 September 1992: Latvian Supreme Council demands that Russian troops withdraw completely by the end of 1993. Russia insists that the end of 1994 is the earliest possible date.
  • 17 September 1992: Several Latvian political parties combine to demand the resignation of the government of Ivars Godmanis.
  • 28 October 1992: After intense parliamentary criticism of his allegedly ‘pro-Russian’ stance, Latvian Foreign Minister Janis Jurkans is forced to resign – a sign of the continuing swing to radical nationalist positions in Latvian politics.
  • 1994: The Baltic States join NATO’s Partnership for Peace. Russian troops withdraw from Latvia but Russians may use the radar at Skrunda, Latvia, until 1998.
  • 1994: Latvia’s Way forms a new coalition with Maris Gailis as prime minister.
  • 1995: When Latvia’s parliamentary elections produce no clear winner, President Ulmanis names businessman Andris Skele PM.
  • 1996: Ulmanis is elected Latvia’s president for a second three-year term.
  • 1996: Baltic athletes win medals at the Atlanta Olympics.
  • 1998: Russia intensifies pressures on Latvia over its treatment of noncitizens. Later in the year, the Russian currency and economy crash, pulling down Baltic economies.
  • 1999: In Latvia Vaira Vike-Freiberga is elected president and Skele returns as PM.
  • 2000: In Latvia Skele resigns and Andris Berzins becomes PM.
[compiled by Annie Mosher; source: Anatol Lieven, The Baltic Revolution. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and the Path to Independence (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993), 421-431; Walter C. Clemens Jr., The Baltic Transformed. Complexity Theory and European Society (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2001), viii-xvii]

 

 

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