Latvians in the Soviet Union until 1936
More than 500 Latvian peasant colonies originated from the 19th century after the abolition of serfdom near St. Petersburg, Novgorod and in Siberia. As the front line of Courland was approaching in the First World War, extensive forced evacuations were carried out, so that the number of Latvians living in Russia doubled to up to 500,000 people. Many of the Latvian Riflemen were the early supporters of the Bolsheviks in 1917. With the end of the World War and the Russian Civil War, many of the refugees were able to return to an independent Latvia. The Riga peace treaty explicitly foresaw the departure of former Latvian riflemen and refugees. According to the 1926 census, about 150,000 Latvians lived in the Soviet Union. They cultivated a lively cultural life with the schools, newspapers and theaters. Since the 1905 Revolution, there has been a strong Latvian faction in the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party. Persons of Latvian descent temporarily held the high positions in the State apparatus of Soviet Russia. Of the 70 Commissioners of the Cheka in the year 1918, 38 were of Latvian origin. However, with the increasing Russification of the State organs, members of non-Russian minorities were largely ousted from the management positions. In the party leadership of Josef Stalin, Latvia was regarded as a so-called "enemy nation" and Latvians were generally regarded as counter-revolutionary and suspicious. The resistance of peasant colonists to the forced collectivization at the end of the 1920s seemed to confirm to this image. Through targeted deportations in the Gulag, these colonies were eliminated by 1933. From this time, a rigorous "purge" of the party and state apparatus of non-Russians took place. The Latvian Communist Party was dissolved in 1936, its members persecuted and murdered as "nationalists" and "people's enemies". One aspect of Stalin's Great Purge was state-directed xenophobia. In July 1937 the closure of the publishing house and cultural association "Prometejs" and the arrest of its employees took place. The Red Latvian Riflemen were removed from the history and school books and their veteran associations were dissolved.