Bearslayers: The Rise and Fall of the Latvian National Communists (American University Studies)

Bearslayers: The Rise and Fall of the Latvian National Communists (American University Studies)

William D. Prigge

Language: English

Pages: 174

ISBN: 1433127342

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


The 1959 purge of the Latvian national communists has long been cast in black-and-white terms: Russification and resistance; victimizers and victims. Conventional wisdom holds that Nikita Khrushchev was behind the purge. After all, he was the Soviet premier; he stopped in Riga just a few weeks before; even the leading victim of the purge, Eduards Berklavs, labeled Khrushchev the culprit. For the first time, William D. Prigge’s penetrating analysis challenges this view and untangles the intricacies of Soviet center-periphery relations like a political thriller. With each new chapter, a truer understanding of events comes into sharper focus - more complex and fascinating than could ever be imagined. Ultimately, the reverberations are felt all the way to the Kremlin and weaken what Khrushchev thought was his own firm footing. For the student of Soviet and Latvian history alike, this volume provides more than just the story of a purge - it is a unique snapshot into the political machinations of the Soviet Union and one of its republics.

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upbringings, were not equipped for such independent thought and could not provide satisfactory answers. Berklavs credits this experience with finally breaking his Marxist spirit, which had been in decline since 1940.35 Despite Berklavs’s aversion to further Party work and his irreverence for those more senior, he never suffered for his insubordination. Instead, Moscow continued to promote him, and university director J. Jurgens promised him a place at the university. However, Jurgens quipped upon

Bureau passed a similar language resolution. The Bureau complained of numerous examples throughout Latvia where business was conducted “only in Russian, disregarding the national composition of the workers.” The statute called for the condemnation of “violations of Lenin’s principles of nationality policies found in [past] decrees,” ordering all local parties, ministries, organs of Latvia, and all other aspects of Latvian society, including schools and cultural organizations, to begin addressing

Pelše’s previous adoption of a similar position was an awkward contradiction to which he was sensitive.43 Although he refused to state in the Central Committee why he rejected “Thesis 19,” his personality reveals tantalizing clues on this 92 bearslayers score. According to Kruminš, Pelše’s two major phobias were fear of high-level leaders and the people.44 An effort to exploit this weakness may have been one of the reasons why Lacis pushed so hard to include the public in the debate. In fact,

Berklavs wanted a top-to-bottom purge of the Daugavpils leadership, not reform. In some ways, 1958 was the turning point for the national communists; in other respects, little changed. If the national communists flourished, it was because of the gains they made in the highest leadership positions. But this did not guarantee a bright future, and serious pockets of opposition remained: the military, Pelše, and now the Daugavpils Party. As happened so often before, Soviet politics boiled down to the

public opinion with party propaganda and permitting no outlet for political programs which challenge his own.” Merle Fainsod, How Russia is Ruled (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1963), 581, 583, as cited in Linden, Khrushchev and the Soviet Leadership, 4. Linden and the Conflict School reject the “two cycle scheme of leadership politics as inadequate for understanding Khrushchev, though it more fairly describes what happened in the period from Lenin’s death to the establishment of Stalin’s

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