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Latvian Riflemen Divisions of the Red Army in 1941–1945

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Abstract. In the article, the author focuses on the birth and history of the first national division in the Red Army during the Great Patriotic War. There was no military need to create such a unit. However, the appearance of the 201st and then 308th Latvian Riflemen Divisions had an important political and symbolic significance. Firstly, it was essential to refute the assertions of Nazi propaganda that the inhabitants of the Baltic countries “welcomed” their liberation from the Soviet occupation and supported the Nazi regime. Secondly, it was important to show the cohesion of the Soviet people and prove that Latvians, Lithuanians, Estonians are fighting with arms against the Nazis. The author goes on to describe the national and political features inherent only in the national formations created in the Baltic republics.
The 201st Latvian division of the first formation had the largest number of volunteers, the highest percentage of communists and Komsomol members. Also among the soldiers and even officers there were representatives of various political parties and movements that existed in Latvia before it became part of the Soviet Union. All of them, regardless of their political views and social background equally hated Nazism and the German occupiers who seized Latvia. As a result, the Latvian divisions became the most important source of battle-tested cadres of the party, state and economic apparatus for the post-war Latvia liberated from German occupation.

Keywords: Latvia, Latvian division, Workers’ guard, Gorohovets camps, volunteers, Jews, etniccomposition, Moscow.

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