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mazpuke3.GIF (425 bytes) Latvian population changes after the WW2

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Migration history of Latvians
Migrations of Latvians during the WW2


Postwar losses in people

Postwar losses and migration of people in Latvia was caused by the activities of the Soviet officials. The names of 13,400 persons arrested in Latvia (Latvian SSR) during the end of 1940 and the beginning of 1941 together with the names of 4,200 persons arrested on June 14, 1941 and the names of the people arrested after the WW2 are published in a large volume /Prāvas/. This volume contains information about 49,300 persons, so I conclude that about 31,700 of them were arrested after the war. The volume provides no information about the fates of the registered people, so the number of survived persons among them could be only guessed. One may hope that the silencing was not done purposely in order to make the volume politically more correct. I think that, unlike the people arrested before the war, the people that were imprisoned after the war mainly survived, so a family history researcher could hope for success in the investigations.

Of course, there were people sentenced to death for taking part (real or imaginary) in mass killings or for killing of Soviet activists, but the main part of losses was due to the high mortality in the labor camps that, however, was lower after the war than before the war and during the war time. It may be added that for a relatively short period (June, 1947 - January, 1950)  capital punishment in the USSR was abrogated and really no shootings took place. Instead the accused persons were sent to prison camps for 25 years, which at that time seemed like  prolonged capital punishment, but in the reality this practice saved life to some people who otherwise would have been shot for real war crimes.

The anti-Soviet guerillas
The militaries of the Latvian Legion, who did not follow the retreating Nazi Army or did not surrender, the draftees of the Soviet Army, who did not wish to join this Army, and some other categories of men became anti-Soviet partisans in the region of Latvia. To my knowledge, they quite frequently believed that the Armies of the Western countries soon would enter Latvia, and it would be a good idea to wait for a moment in forest till the Bolsheviks would be beaten.

If even their intentions initially were to organize wide resistance to the Bolsheviks in Latvia, in reality they were separate groups fighting for their own survival in desperate conditions, I think. Their activities seemed important enough to the Soviets, and some kinds of self-defense units from the local people supporting Soviets were created. These units were called destroyer battalions (in Russian istrebiteļņije bataļjony), and their main tasks were to liquidate the anti-Soviet partisans in forests, to guard important objects etc.

The result of this small war was 2422 killed, 7342 arrested partisans. 10 268 partisans legalized themselves i.e. left the forests obeying the appeals of Soviet officials to surrender. The data are from an article of H.Strods in the newspaper "Latvijas vēstnesis". Some of legalized partisans were later arrested but not all of them. The fates of arrested partisans could be very diverse, no doubt that some of them were shot. A good amount of the legalized partisans were later deported on March 25, 1949 (see below). The names of the arrested people could be found in /Prāvas/, the names of the deported ones in /Represētie 2/

Another result of this war was 2208 killed on the Soviet side. This number implies communist party activists, participants of destroyer battalions and supporters of Soviets. It is not known how many of this number were ethnic Latvians. The lists of this people were never compiled.


March 25, 1949

The biggest deportation took place on March 25, 1949 when in one day about 13,500 families, or about 43,200 persons, were gathered, loaded in railway freight cars and moved to various regions of Siberia. It is rather difficult to explain who was included in the lists of the persons to be deported. To save my work, I am quoting below the list of the categories compiled by A.Solzhenitzin, a Russian author, published in his Archipelago Gulag. The translation of the list was found in one of the Internet discussion groups. The categories principally are the same that are mentioned in other sources with one exception, however...

(a) the families of persons previously condemned (it was not enough that the fathers were perishing in prison camps; their whole stock had to be extirpated);
(b) prosperous peasants (this greatly speeded up the now essential process of collectivization in the Baltic States) and all members of their families (students in Riga, and their parents on the farm, were picked up on the same night);
(c) people who were in any way conspicuous, important in their own right, yet had somehow jumped over the nit comb in 1940, 1941, and 1944;
(d) families who were simply hostile to the regime, but had not been quick enough to escape to Scandinavia, or were personally disliked by local activists.

I do not feel it is very important that the author made in this text some politically biased conclusions and overgeneralisations, but it seems necessary to mention that he omitted a category, and I am afraid he did it purposely, which was the most numerous - those families who had been collaborating with Nazi occupation forces. Of course, the collaboration in no way means the participation in mass murders. For example, if a family member had been conscripted into the Legion, the family was considered as collaborators, and they were obligatory deported, if the fate of the Legion member was unknown, because in this case the officials suspected that he had joined partisans and the family supported them.

The knowledge of this logic is important to the family history researchers in the West. It should be realized that the fate of the Legion members, who at that time (1949) were imprisoned in the Western camps for prisoners of war, was completely unknown in the region od Latvia, and everybody could suppose they have joined an underground group of partisans, which provoked the deportation of the family. Therefore the supposition of the war refugees in the Western countries that their families were deported was quite frequently correct. Unfortunately, many of these refugees decided that the deportation had the same effect as the extermination and were not very active in finding contacts with their relatives later.

The real supporters of the partisans were also deported. My grandmother and my aunt, who formed the family of my grandfather at that time, were included in this category and deported, because my grandfather was imprisoned for the support of partisans. The fate of my grandfather is described in another Page.

The deportation was carried out as an ordinary operation of the Ministry of the Interior (MVD). There is some information about cases of cruel attitude, but normally the deportation looked very simple - a couple of local supporters of Soviets together with some armed soldiers arrived early in the morning at a farm and proposed to the family to pack up in 2 hours, what was sufficient, because the rumors were spreading about possible deportations and many people had already made some preparation. An urban legend I heard several times was about soldiers from Siberia who advised deportees to take with them the sewing machine and not food (the weight of the luggage was limited), and this sewing machine turned to be very supportive later in Siberia. More realistic is our family legend that my grandmother and aunt were advised by soldiers to take with them a saw and an ax for preparing firewood in taiga. In reality they were deported to a West Siberian region with no forest at all, however.

The transportation conditions and life in the place of deportation were awful, but the average mortality among the deportees was not much greater than among the other Soviet people, I think. One of the main problems was the lack of medical aid, as one can conclude from the letter of Ceriņš published on this Site.

After some years the deportees found their place in the social milieu of the collective farms or other enterprises where they were obliged to work. To my knowledge, the attitude of the local people was fairly normal and they did not express much of superiority. The difference was that unlike the local people the deportees were not allowed to leave the territory of the locality without special permission; they signed a document that they were informed about the rules they should follow. The status of deportees began to change in 1955 and gradually they were allowed to return home. Not all of them returned at once, and not so few did not return at all, because they thought they would feel themselves uncomfortable in Latvian SSR or for other reasons.

The lists of the persons deported in 1949 was published recently /Represētie 2/, and one can check when somebody was deported, and when set free. Unfortunately, the list is not grouped by the names but by the living places, so it is not very easy to find a family on the list.


© Bruno Martuzāns. 1995-2002