Search for grave of Latvia's pre-war prime minister called off

Take note – story published 6 years ago

The search for the grave site of Karlis Ulmanis, the last prime minister of Latvia before 1940, has been called off as it will be impossible to find, ex-President and Karlis Ulmanis' grand-nephew Guntis Ulmanis said in an interview with Latvijas Avize newspaper.

The attempts to find Karlis Ulmanis' grave have continued for about fifteen years, all in vain, says Guntis Ulmanis.

He believes that further attempts will be futile and, in order to pay respect to what Karlis Ulmanis achieved, the Institute of Latvian History Director Guntis Zemitis has been asked to organize a scientific conference to look back on Karlis Ulmanis' legacy.

Last time media reported that Karlis Ulmanis' grave might have been found was in 2011, when Georgian media said that Karlis Ulmanis might have been buried in the Georgian city of Gori.

As reported, according to information available from Russia's archives, not long after Soviet tanks entered Latvia Karlis Ulmanis was deported to Soviet Union on July 22, 1940. One day later he was in Moscow, and until May 1941 he lived in Voroshilov. After the beginning of World War II, Ulmanis was arrested and placed in a special KGB prison in Ordzhinikidze Region.

There is little information about what happened next. It has been established that Ulmanis was in bad condition, and he was taken from Baku, the capital city of Azerbaijan, to Turkmenistan's Krasnovodsk, now known as Turkmenbeshi, where he died on September 20, 1942.

Ulmanis' remains were taken from Krasnovodsk and buried elsewhere. Several delegations/expeditions from Latvia visited Turkmenbeshi over the past twenty years, but his grave was never found.

He is a controversial figure in Latvian history: while some people condemn his 1934 coup d'état that essentially made Latvia an authoritarian state under Ulmanis' rule, the years of Ulmanis' power, however brief, are painted in the popular imagination as times of great prosperity and unity. 

What is beyond doubt is that he played a central and major role in Latvia's path to statehood and remains well-regarded by many people as a result, irrespective of later developments. 

You can read more of his biography at the official webpage of Latvia's presidents HERE.

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