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Latvian War of Independence
Part of Russian Civil War
Date 5 December 1918 – 11 August 1920
(1 year, 8 months and 6 days)
Location Latvia
Result Latvian victory
Independence of Latvia

Latvia Latvian Army
merged from the:

Russia Lieven detachment[nb 3]

Supported by the Allied Powers

German Empire VI Reserve Corps:[1]

merged into the

West Russian Volunteer Army in September 1919
 Russian SFSR
 Latvian SSR
Commanders and leaders
Latvia Janis Balodis
Estonia Ernst Põdder
Poland Edward Rydz-Śmigły
German Empire Rüdiger von der Goltz
Baltic German.svg Alfred Fletcher
Pavel Bermondt-Avalov
Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic Jukums Vācietis
Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic Dmitry Nadyozhny
Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic Pēteris Slavens

Latvia At height (January 1920)
69,232 personnel
271 machine guns and 321 light machine guns
54 artillery
33 mortars[2]
Estonia At height (June 1919)

16,000 personnel[3]
204 machine guns
39 artillery
3 armoured vehicles
5 armoured trains[4]
German Empire At height (June 1919)
20,000 personnel,[3] 100 artillery, 3 armored trains, 10 armored vehicles, 18 airplanes, 469 machine guns[4]
Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic 5,600-6,300 personnel,[5] 55 machine-guns, 42 artillery, 3 armoured trains[6]
Casualties and losses
Latvia Latvia:
3,046 dead
4,085 wounded[7]
Estonia Estonia: 300 dead, 800 wounded[8]
German Empire 840 killed
3,000 wounded[9][10]
  1. ^ Part of the Baltische Landeswehr until July 1919.
  2. ^ Under the Estonian 3rd Division command until July 1919.
  3. ^ Part of the Baltische Landeswehr until July 1919, after which it left Latvia.

The Latvian War of Independence (Latvian: Latvijas brīvības cīņas, literally, "Struggles for Latvia's freedom"), sometimes called the Latvian War of Liberation (Latvian: Latvijas atbrīvošanas karš, "War of Latvian Liberation"), was a series of military conflicts in Latvia between 5 December 1918, after the Republic of Latvia proclaimed its independence, and the signing of the Treaty of Riga between the Republic of Latvia and the Russian SFSR on 11 August 1920.[11]

The war involved Latvia (its provisional government supported by Estonia, Poland and the Western Allies--particularly the 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, the Germans developed a ploy, 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.

Certain episodes of the Latvian Independence War were also part of the Polish-Soviet War, particularly the Battle of Daugavpils.




  • 5 January: The first armed unit of Latvia--the 1st Latvian Independent Battalion, under command of Oskars Kalpaks--is formed. The provisional government retreats from Jelgava to Liepāja.
  • 31 January: Most of Latvia is under the control of the Red Army; the Latvian government and German forces control the neighborhood of Liepāja.
  • 18 February: Agreement is signed between Estonia and Latvia, starting formation of North Latvian Brigade led by Jorģis Zemitāns on Estonian territory.
  • 3 March: United German and Latvian forces commence counterattack against the forces of Soviet Latvia.
  • 6 March: Oskars Kalpaks, commander of all Latvian forces subordinated to German headquarters, is killed by German friendly fire. He is replaced by Jānis Balodis.
  • 10 March: Saldus comes under Latvian control.
  • 21 March: 1st Latvian Independent Battalion is reformed into the Latvian Independent Brigade.
  • 16 April: The puppet Latvian Government established by the Baltic nobility[12] organizes a coup d'etat in Liepāja, the provisional national government of Latvia takes refuge aboard steamship Saratow.
  • 16 May: Estonian Army starts major offensive against Soviets in north Latvia.
  • 22 May: The Baltische Landeswehr captures Riga.
  • 23 May: The Latvian Independent Brigade marches into Riga.
  • 3 June: The Baltische Landeswehr reaches Cēsis.
  • 6 June: The Landeswehr's North Latvian campaign begins, commanded by Maj. Alfred Fletcher and opposed by the Estonian 3rd Division commanded by Gen. Ernst Põdder, including the 2nd Latvian Cēsis regiment of North Latvian Brigade.
  • 23 June: The Estonian force defeats the Landeswehr.
  • 3 July: Estonia, Latvia and the pro-German Provisional Government of Latvia sign the Ceasefire of Strazdumuiža.
  • 6 July: The North Latvian Brigade enters Riga.
  • 5 October: The German mission secretly leaves Riga for Jelgava, where an attack is prepared by the German-established West Russian Volunteer Army on Riga.
  • 8 October: The West Russian Volunteer Army attacks Riga, taking the Pārdaugava district.
  • 3 November: The Latvian Army, supported by Estonian armored trains and the Royal Navy, launches its counterattack.
  • 11 November: The Latvian Army, supported by Estonian armored trains and the Royal Navy, defeats the West Russian Volunteer Army in Riga.
  • 22 November: The Lithuanian Army defeats the remnants of the West Russian Volunteer Army in Lithuania near Radviliškis.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Generalkommando VI Reservekorps". Axis History. 
  2. ^ Latvijas Atbrīvošanas kaŗa vēsture (Latvian)
  3. ^ a b "Iseseisvuse aeg 1941–44". Eesti. Üld. 11. Eesti entsüklopeedia. 2002. pp. 296–311. 
  4. ^ a b Co. Jaan Maide (1933). Ülevaade Eesti Vabadussõjast (1918–1920) (Overview on Estonian War of Independence) (in Estonian). 
  5. ^ Mangulis, Visvaldis. Latvia in the Wars of the 20th Century. Princeton Junction: Cognition Books, 1983, xxi, 207p.
  6. ^ "Latvia 1919" (PDF). pygmy-wars.50megs.com. 
  7. ^ Latvijas Brīvības cīņas, page 15 (Latvian)
  8. ^ Eesti Vabadussõda Estonica.org (Estonian)
  9. ^ Hans von Rimscha, Hellmuth Weiss (1977). Von den baltischen Provinzen zu den baltischen Staaten 1918-1920. J. G. Herder-Institut. p. 61. 
  10. ^ Kaevats, Ülo: Eesti Entsüklopeedia 5, page 396. Valgus, 1990, ISBN 5-89900-009-0
  11. ^ (Latvian)Freibergs J. (1998, 2001) Jaunāko laiku vēsture 20. gadsimts Zvaigzne ABC ISBN 9984-17-049-7
  12. ^ LtCol Andrew Parrott. "The Baltic States from 1914 to 1923: The First World War and the Wars of Independence" (PDF). Baltic Defence Review. 2/2002. 


  • Gen. Fürst Awaloff (1925). Im Kampf gegen den Bolschewismus. Erinnerungen von General Fürst Awaloff, Oberbefehlshaber der Deutsch-Russischen Westarmee im Baltikum. Verlag von J.J. Augustin, Glückstadt und Hamburg. 
  • Gen. Graf Rüdiger von der Goltz (1920). Meine Sendung in Finland und im Baltikum. Verlag von K.F. Koehler, Leipzig. 
  • BischoffJosef, Die letzte Front. Geschichte der Eiserne Division im Baltikum 1919, Berlin 1935.
  • Darstellungen aus den Nachkriegskämpfen deutscher Truppen und Freikorps, Bd 2: Der Feldzug im Baltikum bis zur zweiten Einnahme von Riga. Januar bis Mai 1919, Berlin 1937; Bd 3: Die Kämpfe im Baltikum nach der zweiten Einnahme von Riga. Juni bis Dezember 1919, Berlin 1938.
  • Die baltische Landeswehr im Befreiungskampf gegen den Bolschevismus. Ein Gedenkbuch, herausgegeben vom baltischen Landeswehrein, Riga 1929.
  • Kiewisz Leon, Sprawy łotewskie w bałtyckiej polityce Niemiec 1914-1919, Poznań 1970.
  • Łossowski Piotr, Między wojną a pokojem. Niemieckie zamysły wojenne na wschodzie w obliczu traktatu wersalskiego. Marzec-kwiecień 1919, Warszawa 1976.
  • Paluszyński Tomasz, Walka o niepodległość Łotwy 1914-1920, Warszawa 1999.
  • Von den baltische Provinzen zu den baltischen Staaten. Beiträge zur Entstehungsgeschichte der Republiken Estland und Lettland, Bd I (1917–1918), Bd II (1919–1920), Marburg 1971, 1977.
  • Claus Grimm: „Vor den Toren Europas – Geschichte der Baltischen Landeswehr” Hamburg 1963

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latvian_War_of_Independence — Please support Wikipedia.
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