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Archaeology of Terror          
by Dr. hist. Guntis Zemītis

Latvian Experience in Terror Archeology. Conference Tallinn on 20 and 21 October 2005

What is known as the 'archaeology of terror' is also undertaken in Latvia. It began already in the time of the National Awakening or 'Singing Revolution', and still continues today. 

Aims of the research 
1. The legal aspect: the research findings can determine the historical truth as to whether a crime has been committed.
2. Preserving the memory of the person.
3. Generating interest in history.

Phases in the research
1. At the beginning of the National Awakening (1990-1997), at the wish of the public, excavation was organised by non-governmental organisations on the basis of eyewitness evidence, with the involvement of specialists (archaeologists, anthropologists, lawyers).
2. In 1997, the Centre for Documentation of Totalitarianism was established. The centre collaborates with the state prosecutor's office and research institutions (Latvian War Museum, Institute of Latvian History) 

The research objects
* Places where civilians have been killed, mass graves of unknown origin
* The possible burial site of President Kārlis Ulmanis
* The places where officers and enlisted men of the Latvian Army (which became the 24th Territorial Corps under Soviet occupation) were shot
* The places where national partisans were killed and buried

The forms of repression
* Immediately after the Soviet occupation in 1940, repression affected mainly political and military figures of the Republic of Latvia, the police and members of the Aizsargi organisation. A proportion of these people were deported to the USSR, where they were killed or incarcerated. Many died in prison or in the camps of the GULAG.
* A second wave of Red Terror affected Latvia after the Nazi German occupation of 1944-1945 was again succeeded by Soviet occupation. Those killed at this time were mainly members of the resistance movement and their supporters. The victims were either sentenced by extraordinary courts or were killed without trial. Their remains were buried in mass graves or left unburied. The relatives of the dead could not obtain information about their fate or their place of burial. The beginnings of the archaeology of terror are connected with the excavation of such mass graves of unknown origin.

Excavation of the sites of mass graves
In 1990 and 1991, excavation was undertaken at Lake Čumalas in Lībagi parish, Talsi District, at a place where, according to witnesses, the NKVD had organised the shooting of civilians (national partisans or their supporters). The excavation was organised by the Talsi Branch of the Centre for Documenting Totalitarian Crimes. A criminal case was opened. Archaeologists from the History Museum of Latvia took part in the excavation, in the course of which the remains of 14 people were uncovered. As indicated by the traces of bullet wounds, they had been shot, possibly on this same site. All the victims were adults, among them at least one woman. The execution had been undertaken hurriedly: the victims had not been imprisoned beforehand, since many still had their personal effects - a handbag, a mirror and a pocket knife.
The dress and footwear (German army boots, widely used in Kurzeme in the post-war years) indicated that the shooting had most likely taken place in the first years after the war, which tallied with the witnesses' accounts. The identities of the victims and the perpetrators were not established, although there were definite clues, but presumably the victims were rural people accused of collaboration with the national partisan movement. 
Similar was a mass grave unearthed in 2004 in Padure Forest, not far from the farm of Braslas. Here, according to witnesses, soon after the war, Red Army soldiers had brought by night the bodies of victims. Initially, there was apparently information about two victims, but excavation revealed the presence of 14 bodies. The bodies had been thrown into an abandoned German trench. The injuries to the skull indicated that they had suffered a violent death. At least one of these people was a juvenile or woman. Here, too, the killings had evidently taken place hurriedly: one of the victims had an ammunition bag with German carbine bullets, while another had a seal ring on the finger. 
So far, the largest number of victims was found in 1998 at no. 52 Slokas iela in Riga, where the remains of 46 individuals - 26 men and 20 women - were found in a courtyard. In anthropological terms, all the skulls were from people of European race. Some objects were found with the bodies, including a button of the army uniform of the Republic of Latvia and an enamelled silver cross, as well as Red Army uniform buttons. There is no doubt that this is the work of one of the occupying powers. 

Excavations at the sites where resistance fighters fought and were killed
Excavation has also been undertaken at the places where members of the armed resistance fought and were killed. The members of resistance groups, particularly in the late forties and early fifties, were murdered by special agents of the Ministry of State Security, who infiltrated the groups. The remains of the victims were left where they were killed. Excavation at such sites can help to find the remains of the victims, re-inter them and reconstruct the course of events. 
One such place where members of the national resistance movement were killed is in Kuldīga Parish, near the town of Kuldīga. Investigation of this case began in 1997. Here, on 25 October 1948, three members of the partisan group led by Arvīds Krišjānis were murdered in their sleep and one killed while on guard by special agents of the Ministry of State Security. The bodies of the partisans were abandoned unburied. One was wounded and survived. It is according to his testimony that the partisan camp was located and excavated. When the topsoil was removed, the sites of several hearths were revealed, and the locations of three tents could be identified. Concentrations of spent cartridges permitted the places where the shooters had stood to be determined and thus the course of events could be reconstructed. Human bones were found under the topsoil, which according to forensic analysis, had lain exposed for about 50 years. There were animal tooth marks on some of the bones. 
In an excavation in the Sēlija region, where in 1950 five resistance fighters were killed after a long battle, a trench was unearthed, which had been dug to encircle a bunker. Human remains were found in this trench, along with spent cartridges and traces of clothing. According to forensic analysis, these belong to five individuals, which corresponds to the testimony of witnesses - several civilians who were in the bunker, including women and children. These people had taken refuge in the bunker after the deportation of 25 March 1949. They did not take part in the battle and returned to Latvia after being exiled. 
The largest bunker so far has been uncovered in Engure, Tukums District. The bunker had space for 18-20 partisans.

Excavation of a site where former officers and men of the Latvia Army were killed 
In 1990, excavation was undertaken at the former Latvian Army summer camp in Litene, where in June 1941 officers of the former army of the Republic of Latvia (which became the 24th Territorial Corps) were arrested and killed. The excavators uncovered the remains of 11 individuals, evidently officers of the 24th Territorial Corps.

The expedition to find the remains of President Kārlis Ulmanis (1934-1940), 21-29 April 1993, in Krasnovodsk, Turkmenistan.
On 17 June 1940, Latvia was occupied by the USSR. The photo shows the Red Army entering Riga on 17 June 1940. On 21 July, Kārlis Ulmanis was dismissed from office as President, and on 23 July was deported to the USSR. Latvia was at this time still formally an independent country, and the dismissed President was being forcibly taken abroad. Ulmanis was initially imprisoned at Ordzonikidze District in Transcaucasia, but when war broke out and the German army approached the Caucasus, Ulmanis was evacuated over the Caspian See to Krasnovodsk. 
In 1992, the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Latvia established a commission to find and rebury the remains of Kārlis Ulmanis. The research team was not strictly determined in advance: various specialists and experts were involved as the need arose. 
It had been established that Ulmanis had died on 20 September 1942 in Krasnovodsk Prison, and according to witness J. Griščenko, had been buried in the northern part of the cemetery near a monument to Austro-Hungarian prisoners of the First World War. Later it was established that the prisoners had actually been buried in the SW part of the cemetery. Excavation was undertaken in flat areas of the cemetery, which could have been the burial places of the prisoners. According to the evidence, the prisoners had been buried without coffins. Thus, when burials in coffins were found, they were not opened. Burials without coffins were excavated and recorded. A group of five burials without coffins was uncovered: a child aged 3-4, a woman aged 25-30, an elderly woman, an individual aged at least 35, two men aged 35-40 and one aged 40-50. None of these corresponded in age to Kārlis Ulmanis. Also examined was one individual in a collapsed coffin. This individual did not correspond to Ulmanis in terms of physical characteristics. Another two burials were uncovered, but neither of these corresponded to Ulmanis (stature about 180 cm). Trial excavation was also conducted at a spot where bones from disturbed burials had been thrown, among which were 17 skulls. None of these corresponded to Ulmanis. Information was obtained that people who died during the war had actually been buried in various parts of the cemetery, later being overlain by new burials. 
In order to achieve the aim of the excavation, archive information is needed that might narrow down the place of burial to an area of approximately 10 m2. 
The memory of Kārlis Ulmanis is preserved in Latvia. The photo shows the reconstructed native farm of Ulmanis, Pikšas Farm, where a memorial museum has been established. 

Aims of the research 
1. The legal aspect: the research findings can determine the historical truth as to whether a crime has been committed.
2. Preserving the memory of the person.
3. Generating interest in history.

Phases in the research
1. At the beginning of the National Awakening (1990-1997), at the wish of the public, excavation was organised by non-governmental organisations on the basis of eyewitness evidence, with the involvement of specialists (archaeologists, anthropologists, lawyers).
2. In 1997, the Centre for Documentation of Totalitarianism was established. The centre collaborates with the state prosecutor's office and research institutions (Latvian War Museum, Institute of Latvian History) 
The research objects
* Places where civilians have been killed, mass graves of unknown origin
* The possible burial site of President Kārlis Ulmanis
* The places where officers and enlisted men of the Latvian Army (which became the 24th Territorial Corps under Soviet occupation) were shot
* The places where national partisans were killed and buried

Notes
* Places in Latvia where the burial sites of victims of Soviet terror have been excavated
* The excavation of a mass grave by Lake Čumalas in Lībagi Parish, 1990. 
* A skull with a bullet wound. Lībagi Parish.
* A mass grave in Padure Forest, near the farm of Braslas. According to witnesses, soon after the end of the war, Red Army soldiers brought by night people who had been killed. In the course of excavation, the remains of 14 people were found. 2004.
* Material from the criminal case on the mass grave uncovered at 52 Slokas iela, Riga. The remains of 46 people were found. 
* A site where members of the national resistance were killed in 1948. 1948, Kuldīga Parish. 1997.
* Human remains and shoes after removal of the topsoil.
* The excavation fieldworkers are standing on the spot from where the partisans were shot.
* Excavation of sites where national partisans were killed in the Sēlija region, 2004.
* Human remains and ammunition found in the course of excavation.
* Reconstruction of a national partisan bunker at Engure in Tukums District. The bunker could hold 18-20 partisans.
* The Litene Camp, where in June 1941 officers of the former army of the Republic of Latvia (the 24th Territorial Corps) were arrested and killed.
* The occupation of Latvia, on 17 June 1940. Red Army tanks in the streets of Riga.
* President Kārlis Ulmanis (1934-1940)
* The expedition to find the remains of President Kārlis Ulmanis (1934-1940), 21-29 April 1993, in Krasnovodsk, Turkmenistan.
* Plan of Krasnovodsk Cemetery. The burials are marked in blue.
* A mass grave in Krasnovodsk Cemetery.
* Kārlis Ulmanis' native farm of Pikšas in Līvbērze Parish, Zemgale, at the present day.

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