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Czechia and Latvia are celebrating 100 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations

Following the admission of Latvia to the League of Nations in September 1921, the Czechoslovak government recognized the independent Republic of Latvia de jure at its meeting on December 29, 1921. On January 5, 1922, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czechoslovak Republic Mr Edvard Beneš wrote a letter to his Latvian counterpart Zigfrīds Meierovics, by which relations between the two countries were officially established.

This marked the beginning of a century of mutual economic, political and cultural cooperation, including partnerships in the field of security and later on alliance in international organizations, EU and NATO, too.

CZ LV EU

CZ LV EU

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Luboš Švec, Ph.D., Historian of the Faculty of Social Sciences, Charles University, exclusively for the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Riga on the 100th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Czechoslovakia and Latvia:

De jure recognition of Latvia by the Czechoslovak government and the establishment of diplomatic relations was not a straightforward process, but it developed in response to changes in the international situation. The attitude of the Czechoslovak government thus underwent developments in the context of Czechoslovak policy towards Russia, Germany and the Western powers. The establishment of diplomatic relations and de jure recognition of Latvia and the other Baltic states was inextricably linked to the solution of the Russian issue after the civil war. It can be said that it was directly proportional to the process of erosion of the paradigm of a united and indivisible Russia.

The Czechoslovak view of the emerging Latvian state was formulated under the influence of the concept of a new Central Europe, formulated by President Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk at the end of the First World War. This concept, shared by Foreign Minister Edvard Beneš, originally anticipated the fall of the Bolsheviks and the democratization and federalization of the Russian state. In 1921 it gradually reflected the internal and international stabilization of the young Latvian state. Latvia was seen as an economic link and a possible tool for the liberalization pressure of European states against the Bolshevik regime.

The first step was de facto recognition of the Latvian government and the establishment of a consular post in Riga. Josef Košek, a major of the Czechoslovak legions, became the first Czechoslovak consul in April 1921. During his time in Siberia, Košek had cooperated with Latvian officials in forming Latvian anti-Bolshevik military units and protecting Latvian officials from the terror of Admiral Kolchak's soldiers.

After the accession of the Baltic states to the League of Nations in the early autumn of 1921, it became clear that the issue of recognition could not be further delayed.

In Prague, Eduard Krasts and Wilhelm Schreiner were representing the Latvian interests, and were received by the Minister of Foreign Affairs E. Beneš and on November 17, 1921, were granted an audience with President Masaryk. The President then declared himself a friend of Latvia, expressed support for independence and promised to speed up recognition. The government of the Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs E. Beneš decided to recognize all three Baltic states on December 29, 1921, at its last meeting that year.

The note verbale of de jure recognition of Latvia was dated January 5, 1922; Consul Košek handed it over to the Minister of Foreign Affairs Z. A. Meierovics at an audience on February 1. Both diplomats not only recalled the joint struggles of Czechoslovak legionaries and Latvian volunteers for Siberia, but also declared the values uniting the two countries – “ideals of law, truth and real democracy,” as the Czechoslovak consul reported to Prague headquarters.

The normalization of diplomatic relations also created the preconditions for the successful development of economic relations, expressed by the signing of a trade agreement on October 7, 1922. It was one of the first Latvian trade agreements. It thus created a framework for the rapid development of bilateral trade relations and Czechoslovak investment in the Latvian economy. It is evident that Czechoslovak diplomacy, by establishing a consulate (later an Embassy) and signing a trade agreement, proiritized Latvia in order to represent the Czechoslovak political and economic interests in the Baltics.

Unsigned copy of the Letter of Recognition (Archive of the MFA CZ)

Unsigned copy of the Letter of Recognition (Archive of the MFA CZ)