|Latvian War of Independence|
|Part of Soviet westward offensive of 1918-19|
Supported by the Allied Powers:
merged into the
|Commanders and leaders|
Rüdiger von der Goltz|
271 machine guns
321 light machine guns
3 armoured vehicles
5 armoured trains
204 machine guns
2 torpedo boats
2 torpedo boats
20 000 infantry
10 armoured vehicles
3 armoured trains
469 machine guns
3 armoured trains
|Casualties and losses|
The Latvian War of Independence (Latvian: Latvijas Neatkar?bas kar?), sometimes called the Latvia's freedom fights (Latvian: Latvijas br?v?bas cas) or the Latvian War of Liberation (Latvian: Latvijas atbr?vo?anas kar?, "War of Latvian Liberation"), was a series of military conflicts in Latvia between 5 December 1918, after the newly proclaimed Republic of Latvia was invaded by Soviet Russia, and the signing of the Latvian-Soviet Riga Peace Treaty on 11 August 1920.
The war can be divided into a few stages: Soviet offensive, German-Latvian liberation of Kurzeme and Riga, Estonian-Latvian liberation of Vidzeme, Bermontian offensive, Latvian-Polish liberation of Latgale.
The war involved Latvia (its provisional government supported by Estonia, Poland and the Western Allies--particularly the navy of United Kingdom) against the Russian SFSR and the Bolsheviks' short-lived Latvian Socialist Soviet Republic. Germany and the Baltic nobility added another level of intrigue, initially being nominally allied to the Nationalist/Allied force but attempting to jockey for German domination of Latvia. Eventually tensions flared up after a German coup against the Latvian government, leading to open war.
Following a cease-fire, a ploy was developed by the Germans, nominally dissolving into the West Russian Volunteer Army led by Gen. Pavel Bermont-Avalov. This West Russian Volunteer Army included Germans and former Russian prisoners of war nominally allied with the White Army in the Russian Civil War, but both Bermondt-Avalov and von der Goltz were more interested in eliminating the nationalists than fighting the Bolsheviks.
On 1 December 1918 the newly proclaimed republic was invaded by Soviet Russia. Much of the invading army in Latvia consisted of Red Latvian Riflemen, which made the invasion easier. The Soviet offensive met little resistance.
Riga was captured by the Red Army on 3 January 1919. By the end of January the Latvian Provisional Government and remaining German units had retreated all the way to Liep?ja, but then the Red offensive stalled along the Venta river.
The Latvian Socialist Soviet Republic was officially proclaimed on 13 January with the political, economic, and military backing of Soviet Russia.
On 16 April, the Baltic nobility organised a coup d'etat in Liep?ja and a puppet government headed by Andrievs Niedra was established. The provisional national government took refuge aboard the steamship Saratov under British protection in Liepaja harbour.
On 22 May, Riga was recaptured by the Freikorps and an organised persecution of suspected Bolshevik supporters began, with an estimated 174 (according to the head of R?ga's Gendarmerie) to 4,000-5,000 people (according to local social democrats and communists) being shot. At the same time the Estonian Army including the North Latvian Brigade loyal to the Ulmanis government started a major offensive against the Soviets in north Latvia. By the middle of June the Soviet rule was reduced to the area surrounding Latgale.
After the capture of Riga the German forces advanced north towards the Latvian city of C?sis. The objective of the German forces had now clearly become the establishment of German supremacy in the Baltic by eliminating the Estonian military and Latvian national units, not the defeat of the Bolsheviks. The Estonian commander General Johan Laidoner insisted the Germans withdraw to a line south of the Gauja river. He also ordered the Estonian 3rd Division to seize the Gulbene railroad station.
On June 19, 1919, the Landeswehr and the Iron Division launched an attack to capture C?sis. Initially, the Freikorps captured the town of Straupe and continued their advance toward the town of Limba?i. The Estonians launched a counterattack and drove the Freikorps out of the town. On June 21, the Estonians received reinforcements and immediately attacked the Landeswehr under Alfred Fletcher, who was forced to withdraw from an area to the northeast of C?sis. The Iron Division attacked from Straupe towards Stalbe in an effort to relieve pressure on the Landeswehr. On the morning of June 23, the Germans began a general retreat toward Riga.
The Allies again insisted that the Germans withdraw their remaining troops from Latvia, and on July 3 intervened to impose an armistice between Estonia, Latvia, and the Landeswehr and Freikorps when the Latvians were about to march into Riga. By its terms the legitimate government of Ulmanis was to be restored, the Baltic German Landeswehr be placed under the command of the British officer Harold Alexander and the Iron Division to leave Latvia. The government of Ulmanis returned to Riga on 8 July 1919 and the Landeswehr became a component of the Latvian National Army.
The Iron Division, however, did not leave Latvia. Instead Major Bischoff created a German Legion from over a dozen Freikorps units and turned the units over to the West Russian Volunteer Army. In total, the Iron Division transferred over 14,000 men, 64 aircraft, 56 artillery pieces, and 156 machine guns. Six cavalry units and a field hospital were also transferred. The offensive by the reformed German Army was subsequently defeated by the Latvian Army, which received assistance from British and French warships and Estonian armoured trains.
16 April 1919: In March the united German and Latvian forces (orange and yellow) launch counterattack, taking most of Courland
11 November 1919: Latvian army has taken most of Vidzeme and is attacking the West Russian Volunteer Army, which is forced to retreat.