Jānis Balodis

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Jānis Balodis
File:Ģenerālis Balodis 1938.JPG
Jānis Balodis, 1938
Born (1881-02-20)20 February 1881
Trikāta parish, Valka District, Governorate of Livonia
Died 8 August 1965(1965-08-08) (aged 84)
Saulkrasti, Latvian SSR,
Soviet Union
Place of burial Riga

Jānis Balodis (February 20, 1881 in Trikāta parish – August 8, 1965 in Saulkrasti)[1] was army general, Commander-in-Chief of Armed Forces of Latvia (1919–1921), Minister of War (1931–1940) and politician who was one of the principal figures during the Latvian War of Independence and later, during the dictatorship of Kārlis Ulmanis, during which he officially was the number two of the regime as the Minister of War, Deputy Prime Minister and Vice President.

Born into a family of a historian and teacher Voldemārs Balodis. In 1898 he joins Imperial Russian Army an serves in Kaunas. From 1900–1902 studies in Vilnius War School. From November 1904 – July 1905 participates in the Russo–Japanese War and is seriously wounded in arm. From 1906–1914 serves in Vilnius. Lightly wounded during the battles in East Prussia, receives a number of medals. On February 20, 1915, while recuperating in hospital, is captured by Germans and spends the rest of war in a POW camp in Silesia.

Balodis returns to Latvia immediately after the end of war in November 1918 and joins the first armed units of the newly established Republic of Latvia on December 18, 1918. When Riga is threatened by the advancing Red Army, on January 3, 1919 he retreats from Riga together with the army and government. On February 28, 1919 promoted to the rank of Lieutenant colonel. After the death of Oskars Kalpaks, on March 21. promoted to the rank of Colonel and takes control of the few Latvian soldiers in Courland. During the spring, after a string of victories over the Reds, Balodis is given command over larger units and eventually given command over the Southern Group of Armed forces. In this role he is forced into uneasy alliance with the German troops. In the second half of 1919 Balodis leads the 1st Courland division in battles against the Reds in Latgale.

During the panic that followed the sudden attack of West Russian Volunteer Army (Bermontians), Balodis is appointed the Commander-in-Chief on October 16, 1919. After the victory over the Bermontians, Balodis is given the rank of General on January 23, 1920.

After the conclusion of the War of Independence, the post of Commander-in-Chief is eliminated in February 1921 and in July of the same year Balodis asks to be discharged from the army. By a special law of the Saeima he is presented with a 100 hectares of land and a manor house. He joins the Latvian Farmers Union, the largest party of the time that is led by Kārlis Ulmanis. Balodis is elected in the Saeima in 1925, but plays a secondary role in politics. On December 7, 1931 he becomes the Minister of War, a post in which he stays until April 5, 1940.

Starting from July 1933 he has conversations with Kārlis Ulmanis about the need for the end of multi-party system in Latvia. As the Minister of War he plays a crucial role in organizing May 15, 1934 coup and together with Prime Minister Kārlis Ulmanis is one of two signatories of the proclamation by which a martial law is introduced and Saeima dissolved.

During the following years his portrait is always next to that of Ulmanis, creating a perception of duumvirate, while in reality his role was limited to the military matters. On March 12, 1936 he becomes the Vice President, on February 11, 1938 the Deputy Prime Minister.

After the sigining of Soviet–Latvian Mutual Assistance Treaty Latvia become a virtual protectorate of USSR without a shot being fired. Tensions withing the ruling circles increased to the point where on April 5, 1940 Balodis was relieved of all his posts without clear official explanation.

Shortly after the Soviet occupation of Latvia in 1940 Balodis was arrested together with his wife on July 31, 1940 and deported to Syzran, where they were kept under house arrest. After the start of German–Soviet war in 1941 they were arrested and deported to Kuibishev. Only in 1952. he was formally tried and sentenced to 25 years in a jail in Vladimir.

After the start of de-Stalinization in 1956 he is released and allowed to visit Latvia. He and his wife receive a small apartment in Riga and spend some time living in a summer house in Saulkrasti. In early August 1965 his health failed and he died on August 8. General Balodis was buried in Riga. His widow managed to install a tombstone with a sword and inscription "General Balodis" which was removed by KGB.

Medals and awards

See also


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