Liberation of Northern Latgale from the Bolsheviks

On December 1, 1918, parts of the Red Army, based on the Red Rifle units, invaded the territory of Latvia. In order to protect their homes, families, native counties and escape from terror, the men around Balvi took up arms and went into the forests, and the first "green" groups began to form. In the spring of 1919, when the mobilization was announced, many men in the Balvi area were not allowed to fight in the Soviet Latvian army and they joined the "green" groups. Balvi, Silakrog, Rugāji, Teteru-Dūrupe and Liepna groups were formed. In the vicinity of Balvi, the activity of "green" groups became more active in March 1919.

In May 1919, as the attacks of the Armed Forces of the Provisional Government of Latvia continued to the east, the activity of partisans in the vicinity of Balvi increased. In the spring of 1919, several guerrilla groups had formed, each group had its own commander, there was almost no communication between individual "green" groups.

In May-June 1919, there were no warring armies in the Liepna-Balvi-Rugāji area, no administrative institutions were operating. The protection of the region was taken over by the local partisans, creating a system of support points from Lake Lubāna to Liepna. The partisans had a difficult task - to maintain the front line for about 50 km, providing as much as possible posts on the main roads. Natural barriers were used for protection - swamp strips, wooded areas.

At the beginning of June 1919, the “green” groups of Rugāji, Sudarbe, Orlova, Silakroga, Balvi, Kuprava united in the Balvi partisan department, Jānis Vīndedzis became the commander. There were about 100 men in the prize guerrilla department, the posts for guarding the most important roads were at Rugāji, Sudarbe, Orlova, Silakroga, Kuprava, the communication was provided by a department of about 30 men using their horses.

In June, the Balvi guerrilla unit was involved in clashes with enemy intelligence groups, preventing the Red Army from returning. The clashes took place near Silakrog, Augustow, Orlov, Sudarbe, Kuprava, Pokrota, Tikikai. Despite the small number of guerrillas, almost all battles prevailed, thanks to both the recognition of bogs and forests and the support of the population.

At the beginning of July 1919, an order was issued by the Commander-in-Chief of the Eastern Front to name the Balvi Partisan Division as the Latgale Partisan Regiment, and Senior Lieutenant Jānis Vīndedzis was appointed Commander. The regiment became a regular part of the army, consisting mainly of locals, mostly volunteers, including older men and teenagers outside the conscription age. At the beginning of July, the regiment had a little more than 700 soldiers, but the number of battle units gradually increased, in October there were already 3 battalions with 8 ornaments and about 2,000 soldiers. Along with the formation of the regiment, there was also active fighting. In 1919, the fighting continued with varying degrees of success, and the partisans maintained their occupied territory. The biggest battles took place near Stompakai, Kokoreva, Augustova, Susāji and Liepna. In August and September, fighting continued in the regiment sector, both as intelligence clashes and assault operations.

In October, Captain Jānis Skujiņš took over command of the regiment. The regiment expanded its territory, suppressing Red Army units, and had to retreat, leaving the recently liberated settlements. The composition of the regiment increased after many locals voluntarily joined the Latgale partisan regiment, and volunteers from the Soviet-controlled territories also arrived, secretly crossing the front.

On January 9, 1920, at 6 o'clock in the morning, an attack on the entire front of North Latgale began at the same time.

The regiment's main task was to occupy the Pitalova railway junction, thus preventing the enemy from moving to the south of Latgale, where parts of the Lithuanian and Polish armies attacked.

The largest battle regiment won at Kārsava, Baltinava, Augšpils, Pitalova. Fierce battles took place near Šķilbēni, the 2nd Battalion of the Latgale Partisan Regiment attacked the Šķilbēni highlands, the battles continued for several days, the opponent was the 15th Army Special Tasks Regiment.

The liberation of North Latgale for the Latgale partisan regiment was the most serious test in its entire battle history. The soldiers of the regiment, mainly the locals, made excellent use of the knowledge of the area, skillfully applied the tactics of guerrilla fighting.

53 soldiers of the regiment received the highest government award, the Lāčplēsis War Order, for their heroism in battles. Their fates varied, many were arrested during the Soviet regime, deported to Siberia or emigrated during World War II.

In honor of the memory of fallen soldiers after the War of Independence, monuments were erected in Balvi, Vilaka, Baltinava, Škilbēni, Rugāji, Tilza, Kārsava, Linava parish Rītupe, * Kacēni parish * (* now the territory of the Russian Federation). In many cemeteries - Bērzkalne parish. Priedaine cemetery, Rugāju parish. Cepurnieki cemetery, Garosil cemetery, Stāmere cemetery, Balvi city Orthodox and Lutheran cemetery, Liepna parish. cemeteries and other buried people who, with their heroism and self-denial in the War of Independence, have facilitated the liberation of Latvia.

Storyteller: Balvu Novada muzeja vecākā speciāliste vēsturniece Ruta Akmentiņa
Used sources and references:

Collection materials of Balvi County Museum


Related objects

Monument to the fallen soldiers of the Latgale partisan regiment 1919 - 1920

A monument dedicated to the Latgale partisan regiment.

In the history of the War of Independence of Latvia (1919-1920), the Latgale partisan regiment, whose cradle was once in the territory of the former Balvi district, was formed from the "green" regiments already at the end of 1918.
The monument was opened for the first time on August 14, 1938, with the participation of General Jānis Balodis. The author of the monument is the artist Kārlis Jansons.
In 1940, the communists destroyed the monument, after the establishment of Soviet power, the executive committee of Abrene district decided to demolish the monument in the spring of 1941, but the image of the partisan was buried in the courtyard of the Balva militia. During the German era, the monument was restored, but when the Red Army returned, the monument was torn down a second time, taken away and destroyed. When Latvia regained its national independence, the people of Balveni collected donations for the restoration of the Latgale partisan monument. On November 11, 1993, the restored monument of Andrej Jansons, the son of the artist Kārļis Jansons, was unveiled at Balvos.

Exhibition "Ziemeļlatgale in the freedom struggle" in Balvu County Museum

The exhibition allows you to look into the history of Latvian Independence from the point of view of Northern Latgale. What is the contribution of the people of our side, how did our grandfathers get involved in the fight for the common cause of Latvia, what are their fates, how is their memory preserved? Answers to these and other questions can be found in Latvian, Russian and English.

The Northern Latgale liberation operation, also called the Viļakas-Jaunlatgale capture operation, was part of the Latgale liberation attack operation carried out by the Latvian armed forces during the Latvian freedom struggle. Its purpose was to occupy the northern part of Latgale and cut the Pskov-Daugavpils railway line in order to prevent the arrival of additional units of Soviet Russian troops from the Estonian front and from inside Russia. The most important battles took place between January 9 and 20, 1920, when control over the railway line from Pitalova (Abrene) to Kārsava was gained.

A monument to the soldiers who died in the battles for the liberation of Latvia in Jaškov

The road section Viļaka – Vientuļi (P35) is on the left side of the road, near the chapel of the Jaškova grave.

Monument to Latvian and Estonian soldiers who died in the War of Independence.

The monument created by the sculptor Kārlis Zemdega in 1920 in memory of the soldiers who fell in the Freedom Struggle in Jaškov was first unveiled on September 22, 1935 at the graves of the Viļaka brothers established in 1929.
The struggle for freedom against the Red Army in Viļakas district began with the attack of the Latvian army and the Latgale partisan regiment on January 9, 1920. Estonian soldiers also participated in it. Viļak was liberated already on January 9, but the fighting to the east of it continued for several more days. Both before and after the liberation of Vilakas, the fallen soldiers were buried in different places known to local residents. As the state of Latvia stabilized, Viļakas began to think about setting up joint graves of brothers. Already from November 18, 1923, after a solemn service in the Catholic church, held by dean P.Apšinīks, a large procession went to the newly formed burial place of the brothers on the hill, in the so-called Jaškov - in the immediate vicinity of Viļaka. Soon, the foundation of the monument was built, the collection of donations for the monument began. Identifying the graves of the fallen soldiers took time, only on November 3, 1929, the reburial took place in the future graves of the brothers. The 31 Latvian and 14 Estonian soldiers who fell in the vicinity of Viļakas were buried in them. In 1935, the monument was ready and on September 22, it was solemnly consecrated.
In the pre-war years of Latvia's independence, all important national events in Viļaka parish were connected with the brothers' graves and this monument.
The monument was destroyed during the post-war years of Soviet rule, but its granite parts, although damaged, were preserved. The monument was restored on November 11, 1990 - Lāčpleš Day.

Exposition “Abrene Rooms”

The exhibit ‘Abrene Rooms’ is located near the city centre of Viļaka. It covers the period from 1920 to 1960 when Viļaka was part of Jaunlatgale, Abrene district, and became the centre of Viļaka district and Abrene municipality. The exhibit is located in the building with the most interesting and diverse history in Viļaka. Initially located on the old Marienhausen Market Square, it later housed apartments, offices and various shops and, during World War  II, the Latvian Self-Defence headquarters, the Gestapo and also the Cheka. The exhibit features items from the national partisan camp in the Stompaki Bog, which are related to the national partisan movement in the Latgale region, as well as documents and photos associated with the War of Independence. With a guided tour booked in advance, the owner, Dzintars Dvinskis, will present the testimonies available in the exhibit.

Memorial stele for the knights of the War Order of Lāčplēš

It is located next to the Roman Catholic Church of the Heart of Jesus in Viļaka.

The memorial stele for the knights of the Lāčplēš War Order in Viļakas region was opened on November 11, 2017. The destinies of 28 Lāčplēš Knights of the Military Order are connected with the name of Viļakas county.
The granite stele was created as part of the project "Remember Lāčplēšus" dedicated to the centenary of the Latvian state. Commemorative stelae of a uniform model will be installed throughout Latvia in honor of the soldiers who died in the Latvian Freedom Struggle. The initiator of the project is the Jaunsardze and Information Center.

Five knights of the Lāčplēš War Order, whose names are engraved on the memorial stele, lived in the territory of the present-day Viļakas district after the end of the Freedom Struggle:
– Jānis Kuļšs was a young farmer in Apsīs, Šķilbēni parish,
– Aleksej Lyubimov (Lavrentiev) lived on the Fortepianova farm in Šķilbēni parish, later in Vilaka,
– Teodors Mende managed the farm assigned to him and was a forest guard in the village of Katleši, Žigur parish,
– Eduard Tennyson lived at Vecumu station, later lived in Chabatrova village and worked at p/s "Viļaka",
– Jānis Burmeisters after 1928 lived in Šķilbēni parish for some time.

The brothers' cemetery in Viļakas county is the resting place of 45 soldiers who gave their lives in 1920, defending Latvia from bigots. January 9 was the day when the attacks began in North Latgale, and despite the difficult weather conditions at that time, Viļaka was also liberated on the same day.
In the battles for the liberation of Latgale, Estonian soldiers also fought side by side with Latvian army soldiers and partisans against the Red Army in Viļakas county. Many of them gave their lives for a free Latvia.