Latvia - Country history and economic development

1300. Prior to this date Latvia is composed of half a dozen distinct and independent kingdoms; after 1300, German barons dominate the region and establishe a Germanic culture.

1710. A Russian elite infiltrates the bureaucracy of Latvia under the rule of Peter the Great, challenging the dominance of the Germans.

1850. First Latvian Awakening appears as resistance to Germanic and Russian influences. A Latvian elite begin to develop and push for self-determination in local affairs.

1880. Rapid industrialization of the largely landlocked Russian Empire causes it to incorporate the Baltic States in this process. The Latvian economy develops rapidly, under the direction of Russia, and the third largest port in the Russian empire is created by 1913.

1905. Marxist ideology spreads in the workplaces of Latvia, leading to a crackdown by authorities and the creation of a mass movement against Russian authority and German nobility.

1914. World War I (1914-18) leads to the evacuation of half the Latvian population who flee the invading German army into neighboring countries to the east. The Communist movement gains strength.

1918. Latvia claims independence on 18 November and 2 years later pro-and anti-Communist forces end their hostilities.

1921. Latvia joins the League of Nations and begins a 20 year period of economic progress, later known as the Second Awakening.

1934. Centrist politician Karlis Ulmanis gains power and ends the political instability of the multiple-party parliamentary system. He is later deported from Latvia to a prison camp in Russia by the Soviet authorities and dies in captivity in 1942.

1939. The Nazi-Soviet Nonaggression Pact between Germany and Russia puts Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania under Soviet control.

1939. On 5 October Latvia is coerced into signing the Pact of Defense and Mutual Assistance; 30,000 Soviet troops occupy the country.

1939. In November, Soviets attack Finland, resulting in the Soviet Union being expelled from the League of Nations, along with Latvia.

1940. Soviet leader Joseph Stalin demands that the Baltic State governments be replaced with Soviet officials, leading to the creation of the Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic on 21 July.

1941. Immediately after the Soviet Union either deports or executes 35,000 Latvian dissidents, a Nazi invasion and 5 year occupation translates into an almost complete annihilation of Latvia's Gypsies and Jews.

1945. The Red Army reoccupies Latvia, and approximately 200,000 refugees flee. About 150,000 survivors settle in the West and engage in a long struggle to free their homeland from occupation.

1953. Soviet leader Joseph Stalin dies, and conditions for Latvian autonomy improve.

1957. Eduards Berklavs, a key figure in the Communist Party of Latvia (CPL), initiates de-Russification policies, i.e. restricted immigration from Russia, requirements that governmental functionaries know Latvian, and diversion of funds toward smaller, local activities rather than grandiose Soviet projects.

1959. Moscow purges Latvian national communists, including Berklavs and reinstitutes economic policies favoring Russia.

1985. Mikhail Gorbachev of the Soviet Union ushers in the period of perestroika, a campaign to reform the Communist Party through eased social, economic, and political mechanisms, and glasnost, the liberalization of the media and opportunity for critical discussion for the purpose of improving the system.

1987. Demonstrations for independence begin in Latvia.

1988. The Popular Front of Latvia (LTF) forms and organizes its first congress.

1989. With ever-increasing membership, the LTF becomes a de facto second government and pushes the Latvian Supreme Soviet to accept a declaration of sovereignty and economic independence.

1990. A new parliament, known as the Supreme Council, is formed and votes in favor of a transition to democracy and independence.

1991. Following a failed coup in the Soviet Union, Latvia declares independence on 21 August; Latvia joins the United Nations.

1992. Faced with high prices, problems with privatization, and hyperinflation, Latvia's economy crashes.

1993. A new currency, the Lat, is introduced and becomes the only legal tender by October.

1994. A citizenship bill, severely restricting the naturalization of Russians, is passed but later its restrictions are eased.

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