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Latvian War of Independence
Part of Russian Civil War
Date 5 December 1918 - 11 August 1920
Location Latvia
Result Riga Peace Treaty
Independence of Latvia
Latvia Latvia
Estonia Estonia
Poland Poland
United Kingdom United Kingdom
 Russian SFSR
 Latvian SSR
Baltic German.gif Baltische Landeswehr
Flag of the German Empire.svg German Freikorps
Flag of the German Empire.svg West Russian Volunteer Army
Latvia Oskars Kalpaks
Latvia Jānis Balodis
Estonia Ernst Põdder
Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic Jukums Vācietis
Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic Sergei Kamenev
Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic Dmitriy Nadezhniy
Baltic German.gif Alfred Fletcher
Flag of the German Empire.svg Rüdiger von der Goltz
Flag of the German Empire.svg Pavel Bermondt-Avalov
39 000 personnel
33 artillery
173 machine guns
2 airplanes
1 armoured train
3 armoured vehicles
Estonia Estonia:
9,200 personnel
204 machine guns
39 artillery
3 armoured vehicles
5 armoured trains[1]
45,000 personnel,[2] 600 machine-guns, 98 artillery, 3 armoured trains[3] 45,000 personnel, 100 artillery, 3 armoured trains, 10 armoured vehicles, 18 airplanes, 469 machine guns[1]
Casualties and losses
3400 dead
3800 wounded

The Latvian War of Independence, sometimes called the Latvian War of Liberation (Latvian: Latvijas brīvības cīņas, literally, the "Struggles for Latvia's freedom," or 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 August 11, 1920.[4]

The war involved Latvia (its provisional government was 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 United Baltic Duchy added a new level of intrigue, initially being nominally allied to the Nationalist/Allied force, but attempting to jockey for German domination of Latvia. Eventually, the tensions flared up after a German coup against the Latvian government and led to open war. Following a ceasefire, the Germans developed a ploy, nominally dissolving into the West Russian Volunteer Army led by general Pavel Bermont-Avalov. The 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 are therefore also considered by Polish historians to be a part of the Polish-Soviet War (particularly the Battle of Daugavpils).






  • 5 January: The first armed unit of Latvia, 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 neighbourhood of Liepāja.
  • 3 March: United Baltic German and Latvian forces commence counterattack against the forces of Soviet Latvia.
  • 6 March: The commander in chief of the Latvian Army Oskars Kalpaks falls from 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 a brigade.
  • 16 April: The puppet Latvian Government established by the Baltic nobility[5] organises a coup d'etat in Liepāja, the provisional national government of Latvia takes refuge aboard steamship "Saratow".
  • 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 Battle of Wenden begins between the joint forces of the Baltische Landeswehr and the Iron Division commanded by Major Alfred Fletcher on one side and the joint forces of the Estonian 3rd Division and the North Latvian Brigade commanded by General Ernst Põdder on the other.
  • 23 June: The Estonian force defeats the Baltic Germans.
  • 3 July: The ceasefire of Strazdumuiža is signed.
  • 6 July: The North Latvian Brigade and the Estonian 3rd Division enter Riga.
  • 5 October: The German mission secretly leaves Riga for Jelgava, where an attack is prepared by the Baltic 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 the Estonian Army and the Royal Navy launches its counter attack.
  • 11 November: The Latvian Army defeats West Russian Volunteer Army at Riga.
  • 22 November: The Lithuanian Army defeats the remnants of West Russian Volunteer Army in Lithuania near Radviliškis.


  • 3 January: United forces of Latvia and Poland launch attack on Bolsheviks in Latgale and take Daugaupils.
  • 13 January: Government of the Latvian SSR resigns.
  • 1 February: Latvia signs ceasefire with Russia.
  • 17 - 18 April: Election of Constitutional Assembly of Latvia.
  • 1 May: First session of Constitutional Assembly.
  • 15 July: Latvia signs ceasefire with Germany.
  • 11 August: Latvian-Soviet Riga Peace Treaty is signed.


  • General 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.  
  • General 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

See also


  1. ^ a b Colonel Jaan Maide (1933) (in Estonian). [ Ülevaade Eesti Vabadussõjast (1918–1920) (Overview on Estonian War of Independence)].  
  2. ^ Mangulis, Visvaldis. Latvia in the Wars of the 20th Century. Princeton Junction: Cognition Books, 1983, xxi, 207p.
  3. ^ "Latvia 1919".  
  4. ^ (Latvian)Freibergs J. (1998, 2001) Jaunako laiku vesture 20. gadsimts Zvaigzne ABC ISBN 9984-17-049-7
  5. ^ LtCol Andrew Parrott. [ "The Baltic States from 1914 to 1923: The First World War and the Wars of Independence"]. Baltic Defence Review 2/2002.  


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