At the end of the month of August the streets of Riga, the Latvian capital, light up. People were out in the streets celebrating that 29 years prior, the last day of the transitional period to independence had arrived. A celebration out of which Latvians make the most every year after 50 years of Soviet occupation (1940-1990), four of which the Nazis took control of the territory (1941-1945). All coming to an end on the 4th of May, 1990, when the Latvian Supreme Council delegates approved the Declaration on the Restoration of Independence of the Republic of Latvia, a process that as we know, took a little bit more than 1 year and 3 months to be completed.
To understand the significance of this event, we first need to dive into the history of this Baltic Country. After the First World War, which devastated its territory, Latvia saw its opportunity to become independent. But this aspiration was short lived as that same year, after proclaiming independence, the Latvian War of Independence broke out (1918-1920). A two year war involving foreign intervention that ended with the defeat of the Soviets by the Latvians, but saw Latvian crippled as most industries were taken by their enemies. Striving forward, the newly independent country entered the reconstruction 20´s when the Great Depression hit. Which birthed the opportunity for a nationalistic dictator to bring about a self-coup that was not combated (1936).
Unfortunately for Latvia, once again its future was about to be influenced by foreign powers. In bed after signing the infamous Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact (1939), known for allowing the partition of Poland, the XX century worst regimes, Nazism and Stalinism also defined their “spheres of influence”. Falling Latvia under the Soviets sphere, the young Republic future would face uncertainty as the German-Soviet pact was originally transgressed by the latter in 1940 after the invasion of Bukovina, a Romanian territory not contemplated in *1*the pact, and definitely broken by the former after Operation Barbarossa, also known as the German invasion of the *2*Soviet Union. Situation that prompted these two regimes to subjugate the Latvian people during the mid to last part of the XX century.
After having been ruled over by a failing system, the Republic of Latvia finally triumphed. Deflecting a failed Soviet Coup attempt justified under incorrect assumption that the territory was still a Soviet Republic. Full independence came on the 21st of August, 1991, historic event that is celebrated every year. Celebrated for what it entailed at that time and because of the positive consequences that have emerged from it. Such as joining NATO and the European Union in 2004.
Riga´s, Latvia, monument of independence.
*1* “With regard to Southeastern Europe attention is called by the Soviet side to its interest in Bessarabia. The German side declares its complete political disinterestedness in these areas.” Article III of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, part of the Secret Protocol uncovered after Nazi Germany feel. It is important to note that there is no mention to Bukovina, therefore the invasion violated this agreement.
*2* Cutting short the expected life of the pact by 8 years. As it was planned to last until the 23rd of August 19419.