Give Me Latvia or Give Me Death

Once all the dust had settled from the tragedy that was WW1, three nation-states emerged in Northeastern Europe: Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania. These three countries lived in relative peace from other nations until 1939 when Stalin and Hitler made a backroom deal that not only angered these Baltic nations, but the rest of the world. Knowing that two overpowered dictators with terrible mustaches cannot be be friends, anyone could predict that one of them would violate this agreement. Hitler quickly turned his back on Stalin and took these countries by force. Since the USSR had the almighty backup of the United States, the USSR managed to take them back again in 1944 on their way to the Reichstag. Poor little Latvia had to live with their communist big brother for the next 45 years.


Left: Location of Latvia, Right: Russians entering Riga in 1940 (Wikipedia)


Right about the time Van Halen started falling apart and Rap music was somehow becoming popular, the Democratic ideals starting becoming more popular throughout the Latvian S.S.R. This can be seen in the Latvian Declaration of independence. This document, which sounds obviously familiar, has to have been influenced by western ideologies. In the section listing the things that the Soviet government has ignored, it says:

“that all individuals and nations have inalienable rights, which include the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, social progress, and improvement of the standard of living,”

If this quote doesn’t sound remotely similar to the American Declaration of Independence, then you probably have not read it or you didn’t show up to 4th grade history class.

This document goes on and on listing to the things that the USSR blatantly ignored. The document states,

“For seven centuries, Latvians have been subjugated to ruthless national and social oppression, the rights of the Latvian nation to original development and national self-determination have been brutally violated. The Latvian nation has, however, survived, endured, preserving its uniqueness, its language, and its national culture. The struggle of the workers of Latvia for social emancipation, ethnic equality, and self-determination created the opportunity in the years 1917-1920 to establish a Soviet national loyalty, but afterwards an independent democratic Republic, which was recognized by Soviet Russia under Lenin’s rule, as well as many other nations of the world.”

These nationalist ideas were suppressed for years under rulers such as Stalin and Khrushchev. Just like the Americans under the British, the Latvian’s nationalism eventually came out the woodwork.

To this day, Lativa is a democratic nation and a member of NATO. While it had difficulty transitioning its economy from communist to a more liberal, capitalist system, it is now on track as a member of the EU. Latvia’s nationalism has lead to it being one of the more successful nation-states in this world.


Alex Apollonio

I’m glad someone decided to go more in-depth into the topic how nationalism influenced independence movements around this time. Demonstrators who fought for state sovereignty and protection of inalienable rights were probably the most influential people – maybe only second to Gorbachev – in the fall of the Soviet Union.

sport clips

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