On March 22, Nice is holding a conference dedicated to Latvia's centenary, examining Latvia's role in Europe and the legacy of Latvia's first Interior Minister, the thinker and diplomat Miķelis Valters.
The conference in the balmy French Riviera features speakers such as former Ambassador of France to Latvia, Michel Foucher, the Ambassador of Latvia to France Imants Lieģis, and Dr. hist., Baltic expert Julien Gueslin.
Miķelis Valters (1874-1968) was born in a working-class family in Liepāja, which was then the Russian Empire's Courland Governorate. He was taken to socialist ideas and was an active participant in the early worker's movement. Valters then worked in a newspaper in Rīga, and for a time stayed in Berlin where he established ties with the German socialists.
Following that, he was sentenced to 15 months for participating in the New Current, a broad leftist social and political movement. He was deported and then fled to Germany.
After moving to Switzerland, he was the first Latvian public worker who expressed the idea that Latvia should become an independent state. He did so in the Swiss social-democrat paper The Proletarian, with the piece: "Through with autocracy! Through with Russia!"
After the Latvian state was established, he became the country's Interior Minister and following that the consul in Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, Poland, Hungary, Belgium and Luxembourg.
He died in 1968 in Nice and his remains are buried in the Cimetière de l'Est.