Latvia: Different Faces of Independence

Author: V. Olenchenko

TODAY, Latvia (officially Latvijas Republika or the Republic of Latvia1) is at the second stage of its state independence that began in 1991* even if Latvian politicians prefer different dates. They rely, in particular, on the decision of the Supreme Soviet of the Latvian SSR of 1990. In fact, the Latvian statehood was internationally recognized after the Soviet Union had granted Latvia independence, following which the Republic of Latvia became member of the UN on September 17, 1991.2

Latvia, that had been part of the Russian Empire and, before that, part of other states, became independent for the first time in its history on December 22, 1918 on the strength of the Decree of the Council of People's Deputies of the RSFSR. It was several years later, on January 26, 1921, that Western Europe (the UK and France) recognized the independent Latvian state. The first stage of Latvia's independence lasted from 1918 to 1940 when Latvia joined the Soviet Union.

Today, Latvian officials insist that in 1991 Latvia did not acquire independence: its independence was restored, which makes Latvia, as we know it today, the successor of the country that existed in 1918-1940. From the legal point of view, in both cases Latvia became independent thanks to Russia's goodwill.

At the current stage of Latvian independence, the relations between Russia and Latvia (and Lithuania and Estonia, for that matter) can be described as mutually confrontational and abounding in unfriendly

* In September 1991, President of the USSR signed the decree that recognized independence of the Baltic republics which made them legally independent of the Soviet Union. The decree was based on the decisions of the Supreme Soviets of the Baltic republics: The Declaration on the Restoration of Independence of the Republic of Latvia (05.04.1990); The Act of the Re-Establishment of the State of Lithuania (03.11.1991); The Estonian Sovereignty Declaration (08.20.1991).

Vladimir Olenchenko, senior research ...

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