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U is for Ultimatum

I know, the official ending of the Family History Through the Alphabet challenge is this week, and I still have a few letters to go, but I did start the challenge late (two months late!), and I had extra letters to do, so I think I’ll have done okay by finishing only a week or two late!

So, what is this Ultimatum all about, such that it deserves a capital U?

The Ultimatum was handed down by the Soviet Union on June 16, 1940, to Latvia and Estonia. This led to the illegal occupation and annexation of the Baltic countries into the Soviet Union (Lithuania had received the same ultimatum two days earlier).

Background: A month after the start of the Second World War, the Soviet Union’s first ultimatum to the Baltic countries demanded the allowance of Soviet military bases on their territory “for the duration of the European war”. This was in October 1939.

In June 1940, after the Winter War in Finland, the Soviet Union focused its attention on the Baltic countries again, saying that there were not sufficient “good neighbourly relations”. Then came the second ultimatum, which is the capital U Ultimatum I reference – the Soviet Union demanded the installation of “pro-Soviet” governments that could, under supervision of the Red Army, enforce the terms of the earlier agreement and allow free passage of Soviet troops into Baltic territory to protect against “provocative acts” against Soviet bases.

The pure military might of the Soviet Union, when compared to the militaries of the Baltic countries, meant that the countries did sign these pacts, hoping to save their citizenry the horrors of war. But the horrors were only just beginning.

Within days of the signing of the agreements, Soviet troops poured in, democratic parties were made illegal, and new “elections” were held with only Soviet-approved candidates on the ballots. The representatives of this puppet parliament then petitioned to join the Soviet Union. Even before this “petition” was granted, the Soviet powers were deporting Latvian government officials and their families to the gulag, including president Kārlis Ulmanis (who died in a Soviet prison in what is now Turkmenistan in 1942).

With that, independent Latvia, which hadn’t even reached its 22nd anniversary, had once again been annexed by a foreign power. This was to last until 1991, when independence was once again restored. The Soviet occupation did stop for three years, from 1941 to 1944, but this period consisted of Nazi occupation, so Latvia was still not free.

Latvian independence had been officially declared on November 18, 1918, but recognized January 26, 1921, and illegally incorporated into the Soviet Union on August 5, 1940. This means that Latvia was independent for either 21 years, 8 months, 18 days or 19 years, 6 months, 10 days, depending on which calculation you take. At the fall of the Soviet Union, independence was re-proclaimed on May 4, 1990, and officially restored on August 21, 1991, making the time since these proclamations 22 years, 5 months, 29 days and 21 years, 2 months, 12 days, as of today’s date.

May this independence continue for centuries and millennia to come!

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