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Becoming Russian

Over the next twenty years, Latvia achieved more than expected. The standard of living rose to the level of the leading nations of Europe. The evil eye of Joseph Stalin was keeping an eye on things. Then the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was signed and it divided up Poland, the Baltic States, Bessarabia, Western Ukraine, and some other European nations.

In June 1940 the Red Army proudly marched into Latvia. Russian tanks filled the streets. Along came WWII and much of Riga was destroyed. The Latvian people began to flee and hundreds had to begin their life again in exile. Those were the lucky ones. Others were deported to sparsely inhabited regions of Siberia. Experimentation was begun by the Communists to create a homo sovieticus, an individual without nationality or ethnic origin, who could only speak Russian and when crossing international borders would only identify themselves as citizens of the U.S.S.R.

 There were more Russians in Riga than Latvians. Printed documents and forms were now in Russian and the typewriters had no Latin alphabet. All meetings were conducted in Russian. By the 1980s things had gotten so bad that it was a relief when Mikhail Gorbachov came to power with his policy of perestroika.

During this time on June 1 and 2 1988 the plenum of the Latvian Writer’s Union, the Union of Creative Associations of Latvia, and a variety of supporters set off the Singing Revolution. The Latvian Popular Front was established. In the coming election, its members replaced the Communist deputies to the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R. The unique Baltic Way demonstration was organized where the inhabitants of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania joined hands to form a human chain through the three Baltic States asking for freedom.

Photo from Google of the Baltic Way

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