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Vilis Lācis (May 12, 1904 - February 6, 1966) was a Latvian writer and Communist politician.

Lācis was born in a working-class family in Mangaļi, near Riga. He was a manual labourer, mostly working in the port of Riga and writing in his free time. In 1933, he published his novel Zvejnieka dēls (Son of a Fisherman), making him one of the most popular and commercially successful Latvian writers of the 1930s. His novels have been characterized as popular fiction, not always liked by high-brow critics, but widely read by ordinary readers.

Throughout this period, Lācis maintained ties to the underground Communist Party of Latvia, banned after Karlis Ulmanis' coup of 1934. He was under periodic surveillance by the Latvian secret services due to his political activities. Eventually, with Lācis being increasingly successful as a writer, he became one of favorites of Ulmanis, Latvia's president from 1934 to 1940. Ulmanis personally ordered the destruction of the surveillance files on Lācis. He wrote newspaper editorials highly favorable of the Ulmanis regime, while still secretly remaining a Communist supporter, and Ulmanis' government generously funded Lācis' writing and also a film version of Zvejnieka dēls (1940).

Lācis' Communist links became public after Latvia was occupied by the Soviet Union. He became the Chairman of the Latvian SSR and served in this position from 1940 to 1959. He was regarded mostly as a figurehead, as most of the actual decisions were made by Central Committee of the Communist Party. As the Chairman, he was part of the Stalinist deportations and other aspects of the police state, signing orders for arrest and deportation of over 40,000 people.

Lācis' books have been translated into more than 50 languages, with translations in Russian published in largest number. He remains the most translated Latvian writer.

References

Preceded by
None
Latvian SSR Chairmen of the Council
August 25, 1940 – November 27, 1959
Succeeded by
Jānis Peive
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