Ceremonies were being held across Latvia March 25 in memory of the thousands of people deported to Siberia by occupying Soviet forces in 1949. 42,000 Latvians were hauled off in cattle trucks on March 25, 1949 alone and the date is now designated as Communist Genocide Memorial Day, with flowers laid at many of the rail points used for the deportations. Similar atrocities against the local populations were also committed in Estonia and Lithuania, eng.lsm.lv reminds.
Two major waves of mass deportations were carried out in Latvia: during the first Soviet occupation in 1941, and in 1949, during the second occupation, though smaller-scale deportations to the Gulag took place at other times as well.
As well as being crimes against humanity, the deportations deprived Latvia of its national elites, and created shortages in the labor force, which were made up by immigrants from other parts of the Soviet Union as part of a wider program of Russification.
"Though not outright genocide, the deportations created conditions that set Latvia and its people on a course of losing its cultural heritage and eventually its national identity as well," says an official account of the deportations by the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia. A full account of the Soviet Union's appalling actions in this regard is available here.
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