Background of the occupation and annexation of the Baltic states
The background of the occupation and annexation of the Baltic states covers the period before the first Soviet occupation on 14 June 1940, stretching from independence in 1918 to the Soviet ultimatums in 1939–1940. The Baltic states
Baltic states
The term Baltic states refers to the Baltic territories which gained independence from the Russian Empire in the wake of World War I: primarily the contiguous trio of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania ; Finland also fell within the scope of the term after initially gaining independence in the 1920s.The...

 gained their independence during and after the Russian revolutions of 1917; Lenin's government allowed them to secede. They managed to sign non-aggression treaties in the 1920s and 1930s. Despite the treaties, the Baltic states were forcibly incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1940 in the aftermath of the German–Soviet pact of 1939.

Independence process

The Russian Empire
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

 absorbed the Baltic areas progressively through the Treaty of Nystad
Treaty of Nystad
The Treaty of Nystad was the last peace treaty of the Great Northern War. It was concluded between the Tsardom of Russia and Swedish Empire on 30 August / 10 September 1721 in the then Swedish town of Nystad , after Sweden had settled with the other parties in Stockholm and Frederiksborg.During...

 in 1721 and Courland
Duchy of Courland and Semigallia
The Duchy of Courland and Semigallia is the name of a duchy in the Baltic region that existed from 1562 to 1569 as a vassal state of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and from 1569...

 in 1795. In 1914, World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 broke out and by 1915 German armies had occupied Lithuania
Lithuania , officially the Republic of Lithuania is a country in Northern Europe, the biggest of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, whereby to the west lie Sweden and Denmark...

 and Courland
Courland Governorate
Courland Governorate, also known as the Province of Courland, Governorate of Kurland , and Government of Courland , was one of the Baltic governorates of the Russian Empire, that is now part of the Republic of Latvia....

 incorporating the areas into Ober Ost
Ober Ost
Ober Ost is short for Oberbefehlshaber der gesamten Deutschen Streitkräfte im Osten, which is a German term meaning "Supreme Commander of All German Forces in the East" during World War I. In practice it refers not only to said commander, but also to his governing military staff and the district...

. As the Russian Empire began to collapse, independence movements sprung up on many regions. After the 1917 October Revolution
October Revolution
The October Revolution , also known as the Great October Socialist Revolution , Red October, the October Uprising or the Bolshevik Revolution, was a political revolution and a part of the Russian Revolution of 1917...

 in Russia, Baltic political leaders attempted to establish the independent states of Estonia
Estonia , officially the Republic of Estonia , is a state in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea, to the south by Latvia , and to the east by Lake Peipsi and the Russian Federation . Across the Baltic Sea lies...

, Latvia
Latvia , officially the Republic of Latvia , is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by Estonia , to the south by Lithuania , to the east by the Russian Federation , to the southeast by Belarus and shares maritime borders to the west with Sweden...

 and Lithuania; however, German control continued throughout the area until early 1918. Later in 1918, the area was drawn into the Russian Civil War
Russian Civil War
The Russian Civil War was a multi-party war that occurred within the former Russian Empire after the Russian provisional government collapsed to the Soviets, under the domination of the Bolshevik party. Soviet forces first assumed power in Petrograd The Russian Civil War (1917–1923) was a...

 and proclamations of independence were issued in Lithuania on 16 February, in Estonia on 24 February and in Latvia on 18 November 1918.

Between years of 1918–1920, the bolshevik
The Bolsheviks, originally also Bolshevists , derived from bol'shinstvo, "majority") were a faction of the Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labour Party which split apart from the Menshevik faction at the Second Party Congress in 1903....

s tried to establish Soviet republics
Republics of the Soviet Union
The Republics of the Soviet Union or the Union Republics of the Soviet Union were ethnically-based administrative units that were subordinated directly to the Government of the Soviet Union...

 in the Baltic area. In November 1918 the Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

 conquested Narva
Narva is the third largest city in Estonia. It is located at the eastern extreme point of Estonia, by the Russian border, on the Narva River which drains Lake Peipus.-Early history:...

. They proclaimed the Commune of the Working People of Estonia
Commune of the Working People of Estonia
The Commune of the Working People of Estonia was an unrecognised government claiming the Bolshevik-occupied parts of Republic of Estonia as its territories during the Estonian War of Independence and the Russian Civil War...

, but it was able to function only for a six week. In December, the Latvian communists controlled Riga
Riga is the capital and largest city of Latvia. With 702,891 inhabitants Riga is the largest city of the Baltic states, one of the largest cities in Northern Europe and home to more than one third of Latvia's population. The city is an important seaport and a major industrial, commercial,...

 and proclaimed the Latvian Socialist Soviet Republic
Latvian Socialist Soviet Republic
The Latvian Socialist Soviet Republic was a short-lived socialist republic formed during the Latvian War of Independence. It was proclaimed on 17 December 1918 with the political, economic, and military backing of Vladimir Lenin and his Bolshevik government in the Russian SFSR...

. In May 1919, the communist control ended when the city was taken by combined German, Latvian and White Russian
White movement
The White movement and its military arm the White Army - known as the White Guard or the Whites - was a loose confederation of Anti-Communist forces.The movement comprised one of the politico-military Russian forces who fought...


By 1920, German troops had withdrawn and the Russian Civil War was in its final phase. Consequently, the Baltic states signed peace treaties with Soviet Russia. Estonia signed the Treaty of Tartu
Treaty of Tartu (Russian–Estonian)
Tartu Peace Treaty or Treaty of Tartu was a peace treaty between Estonia and Russian SFSR signed on February 2, 1920 ending the Estonian War of Independence. The terms of the treaty stated that "Russia unreservedly recognises" the independence of Republic of Estonia de jure and renounced in...

 on 2 February, Lithuania signed the Soviet–Lithuanian Peace Treaty
Soviet–Lithuanian Peace Treaty
The Soviet–Lithuanian Peace Treaty, also known as the Moscow Peace Treaty, was signed between Lithuania and Soviet Russia on July 12, 1920. In exchange for Lithuania's neutrality and permission to freely move its troops in the recognized territory during its war against Poland, Soviet Russia...

 on 12 July and Latvia signed the Latvian–Soviet Peace Treaty on 15 August 1920. In 1920, all three Baltic states adopted constitutions including universal suffrage
Universal suffrage
Universal suffrage consists of the extension of the right to vote to adult citizens as a whole, though it may also mean extending said right to minors and non-citizens...

, a multi-party system
Multi-party system
A multi-party system is a system in which multiple political parties have the capacity to gain control of government separately or in coalition, e.g.The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition in the United Kingdom formed in 2010. The effective number of parties in a multi-party system is normally...

 and parliamentary with a president
A president is a leader of an organization, company, trade union, university, or country.Etymologically, a president is one who presides, who sits in leadership...

. However, the communists were prohibited from participation in politics.

Baltic states seek security guarantees

The Bolsheviks could not prevent the independence of the Baltic states, but the West
Western world
The Western world, also known as the West and the Occident , is a term referring to the countries of Western Europe , the countries of the Americas, as well all countries of Northern and Central Europe, Australia and New Zealand...

 had to be persuaded to accept it. By 1921 Lithuania, and by 1922 Estonia and Latvia, all obtained de jure
De jure
De jure is an expression that means "concerning law", as contrasted with de facto, which means "concerning fact".De jure = 'Legally', De facto = 'In fact'....

international recognition. All three states joined the League of Nations
League of Nations
The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organization founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first permanent international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace...

 in 1921. The Baltic states begin to build a regional alliance system with their neighbors in Scandinavia
Scandinavia is a cultural, historical and ethno-linguistic region in northern Europe that includes the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, characterized by their common ethno-cultural heritage and language. Modern Norway and Sweden proper are situated on the Scandinavian Peninsula,...

 and eastern Europe. In the south, Poland
Second Polish Republic
The Second Polish Republic, Second Commonwealth of Poland or interwar Poland refers to Poland between the two world wars; a period in Polish history in which Poland was restored as an independent state. Officially known as the Republic of Poland or the Commonwealth of Poland , the Polish state was...

 was reconstituted with consolidation of territories from Germany and Russia. Furthermore, Polish troops seized
Polish–Lithuanian War
The Polish–Lithuanian War was an armed conflict between newly independent Lithuania and Poland in the aftermath of World War I. The conflict primarily concerned territorial control of the Vilnius Region, including Vilnius , and the Suwałki Region, including the towns of Suwałki, Augustów, and Sejny...

 the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius
Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania, and its largest city, with a population of 560,190 as of 2010. It is the seat of the Vilnius city municipality and of the Vilnius district municipality. It is also the capital of Vilnius County...

 in October 1920, poisoning relations with the Baltic states. In the north, Finland
Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

 had also been under Russian control from 1809 until its independence in 1918, but the Finns looked to Scandinavia rather than towards the Baltic states. In the west, Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

 followed a policy of neutrality, but during the 1920s it took a more active regional role.

Between 1917 and 1934 the Baltic states worked to improve security, and unsuccessfully attempted to build a regional bloc stretching from Scandinavia to Romania
Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

. The Estonians and Latvians concluded a military convention in 1923, which Lithuania joined in 1934. Further, the Estonians and Latvians held a joint military exercise
Military exercise
A military exercise is the employment of military resources in training for military operations, either exploring the effects of warfare or testing strategies without actual combat...

 in 1931, but it was not repeated and collaboration remained a dead letter thereafter. However, the Finns and the Estonians had secret military exercises
Finnish–Estonian defense cooperation
Finnish–Estonian defence cooperation began in 1930 with a secret military cooperation pact between Finland and Estonia against the threat of the Soviet Union...

 in the early 1930s, reconstructing the tsarist naval batteries
Peter the Great's Naval Fortress
Peter the Great's naval fortress or the Tallinn-Porkkala defence station was a Russian fortification line, which aimed to block access to the Russian capital Saint Petersburg via the sea. The plans for the fortress included heavy coastal artillery pieces along the northern and southern shores of...

. Finally in 1934 the three Baltic states reached the Baltic Entente
Baltic Entente
The Baltic Entente was based on Treaty of Understanding and Collaboration signed between Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia on September 12, 1934 in Geneva. The main objective of the agreement was joint action in foreign policy. It also included mutual commitments to support each other politically, and...


In spite of the Vilnius issue, the Baltic states were open to the Polish option. The Warsaw Accord was signed in March 1922 by Finland, Poland, Estonia and Latvia, but the Finnish parliament failed to ratify it. Lithuania joined the Warsaw Accord in 1934, but the bloc had become impotent.

German–Soviet trade and non-aggression agreements

The April 1922 Genoa Conference between Germany, the Soviet Union, and the Allied powers was an attempt to reconstruct Europe. Soon the Germans and the Soviets agreed on the Rapallo Treaty
Treaty of Rapallo, 1922
The Treaty of Rapallo was an agreement signed at the Hotel Imperiale in the Italian town of Rapallo on 16 April, 1922 between Germany and Soviet Russia under which each renounced all territorial and financial claims against the other following the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk and World War I.The two...

 which provided mutual liquidation of war debts and the recognition of the Soviet state. It was also a begin of the direct economic co-operation between these two giants. The Baltic leaders had lost their chance of planned international consortium
A consortium is an association of two or more individuals, companies, organizations or governments with the objective of participating in a common activity or pooling their resources for achieving a common goal....

 to trade with the Soviets. Next, the Locarno Conference in 1925 gave a framework for European security. The Locarno treaties guaranteed Germany's western borders, but left open questions about Germany's eastern borders. The Germans and Soviets agreed to the Treaty of Berlin in 1926 as the Soviets feared the West could use Germany in its anti-Bolshevik crusade. The Baltic states were warned to not become military outposts of Great Britain
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

 against the Soviet Union.

Germany developed positive relationship with the Baltic states, especially with Latvia. Latvia represented itself as a bridge to an improved relationship with the Soviet Union. Latvia managed to sign a trade agreement with Germany in 1926 and with the Soviet Union in 1927. Similarly, Lithuania signed a trade agreement with Germany in May 1926. Lithuania was the key to improved relationship with the Soviet Union. In exchange for Soviet recognition of Lithuania's claim to Vilnius, the countries signed a non-aggression pact
Soviet–Lithuanian Non-Aggression Pact
Soviet–Lithuanian Non-Aggression Pact was a non-aggression pact, signed between the Soviet Union and Lithuania on September 28, 1926. The pact confirmed all basic provisions of the Soviet–Lithuanian Peace Treaty of 1920...

 in September 1926.

The situation appeared to be stable for the Baltic states. The Soviet Union was not a significant threat as Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

s rise to power was underway, and the state retreated to the Socialism in one country
Socialism in One Country
Socialism in One Country was a theory put forth by Joseph Stalin in 1924, elaborated by Nikolai Bukharin in 1925 and finally adopted as state policy by Stalin...

 ideology. The Soviets signed non-aggression treaties with their neighbor states between 1926–1933, including Finland, Latvia, Estonia
Soviet–Estonian Non-Aggression Pact
Soviet–Estonian Non-Aggression Pact was a non-aggression pact, signed between the Soviet Union and Estonia on May 4th, 1932....

 and Poland.

Rise of totalitarian regimes

The early 1930s saw the international community became unstable. First, the stock markets collapsed
Wall Street Crash of 1929
The Wall Street Crash of 1929 , also known as the Great Crash, and the Stock Market Crash of 1929, was the most devastating stock market crash in the history of the United States, taking into consideration the full extent and duration of its fallout...

 in 1929, causing an economic slump
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

. Second, economic woes and fear of Communism saw the rise of totalitarian regimes in Japan
Empire of Japan
The Empire of Japan is the name of the state of Japan that existed from the Meiji Restoration on 3 January 1868 to the enactment of the post-World War II Constitution of...

, Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 and Italy
Kingdom of Italy (1861–1946)
The Kingdom of Italy was a state forged in 1861 by the unification of Italy under the influence of the Kingdom of Sardinia, which was its legal predecessor state...

. Economic crises destabilized the internal politics of the Baltic states, causing the rise of authoritarian regimes. Antanas Smetona
Antanas Smetona
Antanas Smetona was one of the most important Lithuanian political figures between World War I and World War II. He served as the first President of Lithuania from April 4, 1919 to June 19, 1920. He again served as the last President of the country from December 19, 1926 to June 15, 1940, before...

 and Augustinas Voldemaras
Augustinas Voldemaras
Augustinas Voldemaras was a Lithuanian nationalist political figure. He served as the country's first Prime Minister in 1918, and again from 1926 to 1929.- Biography :...

 had already taken power in a coup d'état
Coup d'état
A coup d'état state, literally: strike/blow of state)—also known as a coup, putsch, and overthrow—is the sudden, extrajudicial deposition of a government, usually by a small group of the existing state establishment—typically the military—to replace the deposed government with another body; either...

in 1926; both Estonia and Latvia followed the example in 1934. The Elder of State Konstantin Päts
Konstantin Päts
Konstantin Päts VR I/1 and III/1 was the most influential politician of interwar Estonia. He was one of the first Estonians to become active in politics and started an almost 40-year political rivalry with Jaan Tõnisson, first through journalism with his newspaper Teataja, later through politics...

 took power in Estonia, and shortly afterward Prime Minister Kārlis Ulmanis
Karlis Ulmanis
Kārlis Augusts Vilhelms Ulmanis was a prominent Latvian politician in pre-World War II Latvia during the Latvian period of independence from 1918 to 1940.- Education and early career :Ulmanis studied agriculture at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich and...

 took power in Latvia. Furthermore, because of the Great Depression, the Baltic states' two leading trading partners, Britain and Germany, limited their imports from the Baltic region.

Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

's rise to power in Germany increased Soviet fears, and made the Baltic position between these two giants difficult. The Germans responded to the banking crisis of 1931 by introducing the policy of Grossraum wirtschaft. It was a clearing agreement where states exchanged material goods instead of money. This increased German trade with the Baltic states and it integrated their economy with Germany, but it never dominated their trade as effectively as in the Balkans
The Balkans is a geopolitical and cultural region of southeastern Europe...

. In January 1934, the Germans and the Poles signed an non-aggression pact.

In March 1934, the Soviet commissar for foreign affairs Maxim Litvinov
Maxim Litvinov
Maxim Maximovich Litvinov was a Russian revolutionary and prominent Soviet diplomat.- Early life and first exile :...

 proposed to the German ambassador in Moscow Rudolf Nadolny, a German-Soviet guarantee for the Baltic states which were "previously a part of the former Russian empire". Hitler vetoed the proposed deal and Nadolny resigned. Next, the Soviets turned to the "Eastern Locarno" plan, which was originally proposed by French foreign minister Louis Barthou
Louis Barthou
Jean Louis Barthou was a French politician of the Third Republic.-Early years:He was born in Oloron-Sainte-Marie, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, and served as Deputy from that constituency. He was an authority on trade union history and law. Barthou was Prime Minister in 1913, and held ministerial office...

. The proposed plan would have allowed Soviet troops to enter the Baltic states in the name of mutual assistance. External threats led to the Baltic Entente
Baltic Entente
The Baltic Entente was based on Treaty of Understanding and Collaboration signed between Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia on September 12, 1934 in Geneva. The main objective of the agreement was joint action in foreign policy. It also included mutual commitments to support each other politically, and...

 of September 1934, in which the Baltic states concluded a collective foreign policy, though it had no formal military provisions.

Road to Nazi–Soviet co-operation

Germany increased the scope of its power and authority with the Anglo-German Naval Agreement
Anglo-German Naval Agreement
The Anglo-German Naval Agreement of June 18, 1935 was a bilateral agreement between the United Kingdom and German Reich regulating the size of the Kriegsmarine in relation to the Royal Navy. The A.G.N.A fixed a ratio whereby the total tonnage of the Kriegsmarine was to be 35% of the total tonnage...

 in 1935 and the remilitarization of the Rhineland
Remilitarization of the Rhineland
The Remilitarization of the Rhineland by the German Army took place on 7 March 1936 when German military forces entered the Rhineland. This was significant because it violated the terms of the Locarno Treaties and was the first time since the end of World War I that German troops had been in this...

 in 1936. In response, Baltic chiefs of staff were invited to the May Day
May Day
May Day on May 1 is an ancient northern hemisphere spring festival and usually a public holiday; it is also a traditional spring holiday in many cultures....

 celebration in Moscow in 1936. During their visit an Estonian officer was warned about German influence and offered a military alliance with the Soviet Union. Leningrad
Leningrad is the former name of Saint Petersburg, Russia.Leningrad may also refer to:- Places :* Leningrad Oblast, a federal subject of Russia, around Saint Petersburg* Leningrad, Tajikistan, capital of Muminobod district in Khatlon Province...

 Bolshevik party leader Andrei Zhdanov
Andrei Zhdanov
Andrei Alexandrovich Zhdanov was a Soviet politician.-Life:Zhdanov enlisted with the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party in 1915 and was promoted through the party ranks, becoming the All-Union Communist Party manager in Leningrad after the assassination of Sergei Kirov in 1934...

 made a speech to the eighth Soviet congress
Congress of Soviets
The Congress of Soviets was the supreme governing body of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic and several other Soviet republics from 1917–36 and again from 1989-91. After the creation of the Soviet Union, the Congress of Soviets of the Soviet Union functioned as its legislative branch...

 in November 1936, in which he warned border states against acting on behalf of the fascist powers and hinted at an intervention by the Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

 on the other side of the border.

Next, Germany annexed Austria
The Anschluss , also known as the ', was the occupation and annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany in 1938....

 in March 1938. A few days after this Poland delivered an ultimatum
1938 Polish ultimatum to Lithuania
The 1938 Polish ultimatum to Lithuania was an ultimatum delivered to Lithuania by Poland on March 17, 1938. The Lithuanian government had steadfastly refused to have any diplomatic relations with Poland after 1920, protesting the annexation by Poland of the Vilnius Region. As pre-World War II...

, demanding that Lithuania recognise Polish sovereignty over Vilnius. Without support from their Baltic neighbours, the Lithuanians had to accede to the ultimatum. In September, the Germans occupied Czechoslovakia
German occupation of Czechoslovakia
German occupation of Czechoslovakia began with the Nazi annexation of Czechoslovakia's northern and western border regions, known collectively as the Sudetenland, under terms outlined by the Munich Agreement. Nazi leader Adolf Hitler's pretext for this effort was the alleged privations suffered by...

. Next, the Germans aimed to regain the Polish Corridor
Polish Corridor
The Polish Corridor , also known as Danzig Corridor, Corridor to the Sea or Gdańsk Corridor, was a territory located in the region of Pomerelia , which provided the Second Republic of Poland with access to the Baltic Sea, thus dividing the bulk of Germany from the province of East...

 and Klaipėda
Klaipėda is a city in Lithuania situated at the mouth of the Nemunas River where it flows into the Baltic Sea. It is the third largest city in Lithuania and the capital of Klaipėda County....

 in Lithuania. On 20 March 1939, the Germans demanded Klaipėda from Lithuania. Two days later the Lithuanians agreed, losing 30 percent of their industrial capacity and their only major sea port. The dismemberment of Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia or Czecho-Slovakia was a sovereign state in Central Europe which existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until 1992...

 caused France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 and Great Britain to guarantee Polish integrity on 30 March.

The Soviet Union remained conciliatory with Baltic states in 1937–1938. Moscow had welcomed the Baltic Entente earlier and Soviet marshal Alexander Yegorov visited all three Baltic capitals in 1937. However, during the same period the Soviet Union built defences on the borders of Finland, Estonia and Latvia, and committed airspace infringements. In early 1939, the Germans and Soviets started secret meetings
Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact negotiations
The Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact was an August 23, 1939 agreement between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany colloquially named after Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov and German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop. The treaty renounced warfare between the two countries...

 toward an agreement. The British had abandoned the idea of naval intervention in the Baltic with the Anglo-German Naval Agreement in 1935. However, British politicians made visits to the area, and exported armaments
A weapon, arm, or armament is a tool or instrument used with the aim of causing damage or harm to living beings or artificial structures or systems...

. In 1939, the British and French tried to arrange a "guarantee" of the Baltic states to the Soviet Union. The Baltic states would have preferred to remain neutral, but the only security systems on offer were German or Soviet. In June 1939, Estonia and Latvia yielded to German pressure and signed non-aggression pacts.

In late June, the German general Franz Halder
Franz Halder
Franz Halder was a German General and the head of the Army General Staff from 1938 until September, 1942, when he was dismissed after frequent disagreements with Adolf Hitler.-Early life:...

 visited Estonia and Finland, and later Admiral Wilhelm Canaris
Wilhelm Canaris
Wilhelm Franz Canaris was a German admiral, head of the Abwehr, the German military intelligence service, from 1935 to 1944 and member of the German Resistance.- Early life and World War I :...

 visited Estonia. The visits were merely political demonstration, but the Soviets saw them as unfriendly. Germany and the West raced for Soviet favours. The French were prepared to hand over the Baltic states to the Soviets in order to purchase an agreement but the British refused. The French and British went on to hold military conversations in Moscow in August 1939. The Soviets demanded that the Western powers occupy bases in Finland and the Baltic states and then hand them over to the Red Army. Soon afterward, German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop
Joachim von Ribbentrop
Ulrich Friedrich Wilhelm Joachim von Ribbentrop was Foreign Minister of Germany from 1938 until 1945. He was later hanged for war crimes after the Nuremberg Trials.-Early life:...

 traveled to Moscow to negotiate the final stage of a new pact, later known as Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. In its secret protocol, the Germans and Soviets divided Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Bessarabia
Bessarabia is a historical term for the geographic region in Eastern Europe bounded by the Dniester River on the east and the Prut River on the west....

 between their spheres of influence
Sphere of influence
In the field of international relations, a sphere of influence is a spatial region or conceptual division over which a state or organization has significant cultural, economic, military or political influence....

. After the German invasion of Poland on 1 September, a second secret protocol of 28 September consigned Lithuania to the Soviet sphere of interest.

Soviets receive military bases

On August 23, 1939 the Soviet Union asserted its control over the Baltic states with the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, which declared them as Soviet sphere of influence. On September 16, the Soviets and Japanese governments signed a cease-fire agreement. Next, the Soviets invaded Poland
Soviet invasion of Poland
Soviet invasion of Poland can refer to:* the second phase of the Polish-Soviet War of 1920 when Soviet armies marched on Warsaw, Poland* Soviet invasion of Poland of 1939 when Soviet Union allied with Nazi Germany attacked Second Polish Republic...

 on 17 September, concluding operations on 6 October. After occupying eastern Poland, the Soviets pressured Finland and the Baltic states to conclude mutual assistance treaties. The Soviets questioned the neutrality of Estonia following the escape of a Polish submarine
Orzel incident
The Orzeł incident occurred at the beginning of World War II. The Polish submarine ORP Orzeł escaped from Tallinn in then-neutral Estonia. The Soviet Union used the incident as a pretext to justify the eventual annexation of Estonia.-The incident:...

 on 18 September. A week later, on 24 September, the Estonian foreign minister Karl Selter
Karl Selter
Karl Selter was an Estonian politician and a Minister of Foreign Affairs of Estonia. He served as Minister of Economic Affairs from 1933 to 1938 and as minister of Foreign affairs from 1938 to 1939...

 was given an ultimatum in Moscow. The Soviets demanded the conclusion of a treaty of mutual assistance which included the establishment of military bases in Estonia.

In early 1939, the Leningrad Military District had already allocated 17 divisions, about 10% of the Soviet Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

, to the Baltic states. Mobilizations followed shortly. The 8th Army was dispatched to Pskov on 14 September 1939, and the mobilized 7th Army placed under the Leningrad Military District. Invasion preparations were by now nearing completion. On 26 September the Leningrad Military District was ordered to "start concentrating troops on the Estonian-Latvian border and to finish that operation on 29 September." The order noted, "for the time of starting the attack a separate directive will be issued." On 24 September, warships of the Soviet Navy
Soviet Navy
The Soviet Navy was the naval arm of the Soviet Armed Forces. Often referred to as the Red Fleet, the Soviet Navy would have played an instrumental role in a Warsaw Pact war with NATO, where it would have attempted to prevent naval convoys from bringing reinforcements across the Atlantic Ocean...

 appeared off Estonian ports and Soviet bombers began threatening patrols over Tallinn
Tallinn is the capital and largest city of Estonia. It occupies an area of with a population of 414,940. It is situated on the northern coast of the country, on the banks of the Gulf of Finland, south of Helsinki, east of Stockholm and west of Saint Petersburg. Tallinn's Old Town is in the list...

 and the nearby countryside. The USSR then entered the airspace of all three Baltic states, flying massive intelligence gathering operations on 25 September.

After four days of negotiations, the Estonians had no choice but to accept naval, air and army bases on two Estonian islands and at the port of Paldiski
Paldiski is a town and Baltic Sea port situated on the Pakri peninsula of north-western Estonia. Originally a Swedish settlement known as Rågervik, it became a Russian naval base in the 18th century. The Russians renamed it Балтийский Порт Paldiski is a town and Baltic Sea port situated on the...

. Soviet troop numbers in Estonia were put at 25,000. The mutual assistance treaty
Soviet–Estonian Mutual Assistance Treaty
The Soviet–Estonian Mutual Assistance Treaty was a bilateral treaty signed in Moscow on September 28, 1939. The treaty obliged both parties to respect each other's sovereignty and independence, while in practice allowed the Soviet government to establish military bases in Estonia, which facilitated...

 was signed on 28 September and the Soviets made similar treaties with Latvia
Soviet–Latvian Mutual Assistance Treaty
The Soviet–Latvian Mutual Assistance Treaty was a bilateral treaty signed in Moscow on October 5, 1939. The treaty obliged both parties to respect each other's sovereignty and independence, while in practice allowed the Soviet government to establish military bases in Latvia, which facilitated the...

 on 5 October and Lithuania
Soviet–Lithuanian Mutual Assistance Treaty
The Soviet–Lithuanian Mutual Assistance Treaty was a bilateral treaty signed between the Soviet Union and Lithuania on October 10, 1939. According to provisions outlined in the treaty, Lithuania would acquire about one fifth of the Vilnius Region, including Lithuania's historical capital, Vilnius,...

 on 10 October. The latter treaty transferred Vilnius district to Lithuania. Finland was invited to enter similar negotiations
Background of the Winter War
The background of the Winter War covers the period before the outbreak of the Winter War between Finland and the Soviet Union in 1939–1940, stretching from Finland's Declaration of Independence in 1917 to the Soviet-Finnish negotiations in 1938–1939. Before its independence, Finland was an...

 on 5 October. Unlike the Baltics, the Finnish-Soviet negotiations lasted weeks without result. The Soviets invaded Finland
Winter War
The Winter War was a military conflict between the Soviet Union and Finland. It began with a Soviet offensive on 30 November 1939 – three months after the start of World War II and the Soviet invasion of Poland – and ended on 13 March 1940 with the Moscow Peace Treaty...

 on 30 November. The Finns were able to resist the Soviets for over three months; the nation lost over ten percent of its land area, though it retained its sovereignty.

Occupation and annexation

In December 1939, Latvian communists were called to consultation in Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

. Their activities included, among others, collecting information on those who held opinions hostile to the Soviets. In May 1940, the Soviets turned to the idea of direct military intervention, but still intended to use a puppet regime. Their model was the Finnish Democratic Republic
Finnish Democratic Republic
The Finnish Democratic Republic was a short-lived government dependent on and recognised only by the Soviet Union. It nominally operated in those parts of Finnish Karelia that were occupied by the Soviet Union during the Winter War....

, a puppet regime set up by the Soviets on the first day of the Winter War. The Soviets organised a press campaign against the allegedly pro-Allied sympathies of the Baltic governments. In May, the Germans invaded France
Battle of France
In the Second World War, the Battle of France was the German invasion of France and the Low Countries, beginning on 10 May 1940, which ended the Phoney War. The battle consisted of two main operations. In the first, Fall Gelb , German armoured units pushed through the Ardennes, to cut off and...

; the country was overrun and occupied a month later. In late May and early June, the Baltic states were accused of military collaboration against the Soviet Union. On 15 June, Lithuanian government had no choice but to
agree to the Soviet ultimatum
1940 Soviet ultimatum to Lithuania
The Soviet Union issued an ultimatum to Lithuania before midnight of June 14, 1940. The Soviets, using a formal pretext, demanded to allow an unspecified number of Soviet soldiers to enter the Lithuanian territory and to form a new pro-Soviet government...

 and permit the entry of an unspecified number of Soviet troops. Prime minister Antanas Smetona proposed armed resistance to the Soviets, but the government refused, proposing their own candidate to lead the regime. However, the Soviets refused and sent Vladimir Dekanozov
Vladimir Dekanozov
Vladimir Georgievich Dekanozov ) was a Soviet senior state security operative and diplomat.-Before Second World War:...

 to take charge of affairs while the Red Army occupied the state.

On 16 June, Latvia and Estonia also received ultimatums. The Red Army occupied the two remaining Baltic states shortly thereafter. The Soviets installed Andrey Vyshinsky
Andrey Vyshinsky
Andrey Januaryevich Vyshinsky – 22 November 1954) was a Soviet politician, jurist and diplomat.He is known as a state prosecutor of Joseph Stalin's Moscow trials and in the Nuremberg trials. He was the Soviet Foreign Minister from 1949 to 1953, after having served as Deputy Foreign...

 as leader of Latvia and Andrei Zhdanov in Estonia. New Baltic state governments were formed on 18 and 21 June along popular front
Popular front
A popular front is a broad coalition of different political groupings, often made up of leftists and centrists. Being very broad, they can sometimes include centrist and liberal forces as well as socialist and communist groups...

 lines. They were confirmed in office by rigged elections
Electoral fraud
Electoral fraud is illegal interference with the process of an election. Acts of fraud affect vote counts to bring about an election result, whether by increasing the vote share of the favored candidate, depressing the vote share of the rival candidates or both...

 on 14–15 July. A few days afterward, on 18 July, "demonstrators" in major Baltic cities called for incorporation into the Soviet Union. Three days later, all three parliaments declared their states to be Soviet republics and applied for membership. Lithuania was incorporated into the Soviet Union on 3 August, Latvia on 5 August, and Estonia
Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic
The Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic , often abbreviated as Estonian SSR or ESSR, was a republic of the Soviet Union, administered by and subordinated to the Government of the Soviet Union...

on 9 August.
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.