Up Against the Wall

The KGB and Latvia

Vincent Hunt

A hundred years of oppression, seen through the eyes of Latvians - first as the oppressors, then as the oppressed. After WWII and the Cold War, Latvia experienced fifty years of Soviet domination. The KGB's methods are laid bare in true stories of interrogation, torture, execution and deportation to Siberia: this is not for the squeamish.
Date Published :
July 2021
Publisher :
Helion and Company
Illustration :
80 b/w photos, 4 maps, 3 tables
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Hardback
ISBN : 9781911628835
Pages : 378
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
Stock Status : Available
Binding. : Paperback
ISBN : 9781914059544
Pages : 384
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
Stock Status : Available


A hard-hitting history of the Soviet security police in totalitarian Latvia – with Latvians as both oppressors and oppressed. Through the stories of people held as prisoners, never told before in English,Up Against the Wall details the methods of a brutal totalitarian regime and the bloody twists and turns of Latvia’s long and complicated relationship with the Soviet security police. This is not for the squeamish.

At the KGB headquarters in Riga – the Corner House, or StūraMāja – suspects were questioned and executed during the ‘Year of Terror’ in 1940-41. When the Soviets returned in 1944 vast numbers of Latvians fled and a war of resistance fought from the forests by partisans lasted nearly a decade. The years of Soviet rule ended only in 1991.
The author presents harrowing personal testimonies of those imprisoned, tortured and deported to Siberian gulags by the KGB, drawing from museum archives and interviews translated into English for this book as well as from declassified CIA files, KGB records and his own research in Latvia. He interviews human rights activists, partisans, KGB experts and those who led Latvia to independence in the 1990s and explores the role of Latvian KGB double agents in defeating anti-Soviet partisan groups and the West’s Cold War spying missions.

Ironically it was the feared Latvian Riflemen who helped crush the Bolsheviks’ political rivals after the 1917 Revolution and defeat the British-backed White generals in the vicious Civil War of 1918-22, while Latvia itself became independent. Their reward was top jobs in the Soviet regime, including in the Cheka security police, the forerunner to the NKVD and KGB. But Stalin turned on the Latvians in the 1930s and mercilessly purged the old guard. When the Baltics were carved up by Hitler and Stalin, the Red Army killed or deported anyone opposing Soviet power in a period known as the ‘Year of Terror’.
Fifty years of occupation followed WWII as through the Cold War and into the late 1980s Latvian society was in the grip of the KGB. For 27 years after the collapse of the Soviet regime Latvian politicians argued over whether to publish the secret files of KGB agents. The book’s final chapter deals with the decision in December 2018 for the ‘Cheka Bags’ to be opened, making Latvia’s last KGB secrets public.

About The Author

Vincent Hunt is a documentary journalist and award-winning BBC producer. Crossing Latvia interviewing people who suffered at the hands of the KGB or fought against their system of totalitarian control he sets the political and social context of what Communism actually meant in this Baltic state: interrogation, surveillance, deportation and often death. This is his second book about Latvia’s recent history, following on from Blood in the Forest - the end of the Second World War in the Courland Pocket (Helion 2017) which detailed the six desperate battles by German and Latvian forces to halt the Red Army advance into Latvia. His work explores pan-generational trauma, forgiveness and legacy, with the journey to see the landscape now an important part of understanding sorrow, loss and memorial for those left behind. His first book Fire and Ice (The History Press, 2014) was a journey across Arctic Norway meeting people affected by the Nazi scorched earth retreat of 1944 and the forced evacuation of the region. Along the way he discovered the shocking stories of 13,700 Soviet prisoners worked to death in sub-zero conditions or murdered by their Nazi captors.

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