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Kārlis Ulmanis, Latvian, and Baltic History Collection

Title: Kārlis Ulmanis, Latvian, and Baltic History Collection

Collector: Thomas, Elsie V.

Dates: 1908-2006 bulk 1945-1993

Quantity: 19 boxes (9.5 linear feet)

Collection Number: MS 0110

Language: English, Latvian, German, Russian, French, Swedish

Restrictions: None

Access and Use: For information on access or copyright, please see our guidelines or email archives@unl.edu.

Historical Records Statement: Please see our statement on historical records and materials.

Preferred Citation: Kārlis Ulmanis, Latvian, and Baltic History Collection (MS 0110). Archives & Special Collections, University of Nebraska–Lincoln Libraries.


Kārlis Ulmanis was born September 4, 1877 on the family farm, Pikšas, located just outside the village of Doeble in the Russian province of Zemgale. The youngest of Indriķis and Lizete's three sons, Kārlis was the only child to leave the farm, as his two older brothers Jānis and Indriķis were left in charge following their father's unexpected death in 1883. Following the completion of his local schooling, in 1896 Ulmanis attended an experimental dairy school in Tapiau, now Gvardejsk, in what was then eastern Prussia. After completing one year, Ulmanis returned home and spent the next five years writing and lecturing for an agricultural magazine, The Farmer, while also helping his brothers on the farm. Ulmanis returned to school in 1902, first attending the Politechnical Institute in Zurich, Switzerland, before graduating with a certificate of maturity from the Agricultural Institute in Leipzig, Germany.

Ulmanis was politically involved in the 1905 Revolution and spent six months in Pshkov State Prison after writing an inflammatory article against Tsar Nicholas. Following his release, Ulmanis continued his political activities until, finding his life in danger, he fled into exile. After spending some time in Annaberg, Germany, Ulmanis came to the United States, in large part due to the influence of the Kleege brothers, long-lost neighbors and friends who were working on Senator Charles Warner's wheat farm in Waverly, Nebraska. Ulmanis decided, with the encouragement of his friends and Senator Warner, to enroll at the University of Nebraska. Entering with the rank of senior, Ulmanis graduated from the University in the spring of 1909 with a degree in Agriculture and Animal Husbandry. Ulmanis held various jobs, such as professor of dairy and cheese-making and dairyman at Roberts Dairy, and an unsuccessful attempt at owning his own dairy creamery in Texas, He decided to return to his native homeland following Tsar Nicholas' 1913 declaration of amnesty for those involved in the 1905 Revolution.

In November 1918 Latvia had its first taste of independence, and Ulmanis, as leader of the Farmer's Union, was elected as his country's first Prime Minister. Latvia's government was extremely unstable and faced nearly constant turn-over. Between 1918 and 1934, Ulmanis was the head of seven of more than twenty different cabinets. On the night of May 15 and 16, 1934, Ulmanis took over in a bloodless coup d'etat. Ulmanis then strengthened his position even further in 1936 when he combined the positions of president and prime minister. He continued to serve as Latvia's President/Prime Minister until July 1940, when the Soviets invaded Latvia. Ulmanis was deported to Russia, where he was imprisoned at Krasnovodsk. Although his remains have never been found, it is believed that he died there in 1942.

Scope and Content:

The Ulmanis, Latvian, and Baltic History Collection is divided into four main series: Kārlis Ulmanis, Latvian History, Baltikum, and Photos and Artifacts. The collection consists of primary documents, books, scholarly articles, journals, magazines, newspapers, photos, videos, artifacts and audio and visual materials pertaining to Kārlis Ulmanis and Latvian and Baltic history. The collection is of special interest to the University and Nebraska in that Kārlis Ulmanis is the only UNL alumni to ever become president of a country and also because of the large Latvian community that immigrated to Lincoln following the Second World War. The collection is especially useful for scholars interested in European interwar dictatorships and the failure of democracy, as well as those interested in Latvian, Baltic, and Soviet and Russian history. The collection certainly would be enlightening for those interested in immigration to America in the 20th century. Some of the highlights of the materials includes hand-written notes and postcards from Ulmanis, Latvian money, stamps, state documents and materials on some of the most prominent individuals within the Baltics.


Ulmanis, Kārlis, 1877-1942

Ulmanis, Guntis, 1939-

Päts, Konstantin, 1874-1956

Laidoner, Johan, 1884-1953

Zemgals, Gustavs, 1871-1939

Kviesis, Alberts, 1881-1944

Balodis, Jānis, 1881-1965

Kalniņš , Bruno, 1899-1990

Celmiņš , Hugo, 1877-1941

Mediņš , Jānis, 1890-1966

Brekte, Jānis, 1920-1985

Švabe, Arveds, 1888-1959

Ivask, Ivar, 1927-1992

Latvia History

Germany History

Soviet history, politics, society, and thought

Baltic States History

Refugee camps

Emigration and immigration

United States History

Series Description: Series 1: Kārlis Ulmanis, Box 1-4

The Kārlis Ulmanis series consists of a number of primary documents, including hand-written notes, postcards, letters, articles, published materials and money. Of notable interest is a letter from General Balodis to Ulmanis concerning Ulmanis' promised constitution, a 50 lats bill with Ulmanis' picture on the front, handwritten notes to his secretary, and postcards from Krasnovodsk prison. The series also contains a significant amount of general materials on Ulmanis' family and homestead. Of the articles, newspaper clippings, photos and other materials, the documents on Lizete, Eduards, Helene, Gunārs and Guntis especially stand out. There is also a substantial amount of articles and newspaper clippings on "Pikšas," the Ulmanis family homestead, which, today, has been turned into the Kārlis Ulmanis museum. The biographical materials in the series are predominately articles in Latvian, thus putting heavy emphasis solely on his time in Latvia. Ulmanis' life in the United States and Nebraska is documented in articles, UNL documents, recollections and photos. Noteworthy items include documents pertaining to Ulmanis' career as a student and professor at UNL, his time at the Robert's Dairy, and his relationships with Val Kuska, Virginia Zimmer, and Nebraska Senator Charles Warner. The rest of his life and career is detailed in articles, recollections, books, photos and other materials, of which the details of his coup d'etat and the July 1940 invasion of the Soviets stand out. Finally, one of the most important sections of the series is the material related to Ulmanis' legacy. Especially useful for reassessing his life and career is the correspondence related to the commemorative Ulmanis plaque unveiled in 1954.

Series 2: Latvian History, Box 4-8

The second series, Latvian History, is a collection of scholarly materials highlighting Latvian history, especially from the 13th century, when the German knights invaded the territories, up through Latvia regaining her independence in 1991. The series is a collection of primary documents, book excerpts, scholarly articles, newspaper articles and audio and visual materials. Significant items include primary state documents from the 1920s-1930s, Latvian money, stamps and stickers, and information on Latvia's 1937 Civil Law Code. There is literature on Latvian achievements, especially within the milk and dairy industry, the history of Latvian 4-H, works by Jānis Rainis, and materials on some of Latvia's greatest personalities, including Presidents Gustavs Zemgals and Alberts Kviesis, the composer Jānis Mediņš and the artist Jānis Brekte.

Series 3: Baltikum, Box 8-16

Baltikum is a broad series that overlaps and expands upon the Latvian History series to include the entire Baltic region. For that reason, the series is titled Baltikum, a term, lacking in the English language, which was invented by German scholars to refer to the entire Baltic region. The term is quite useful as Baltikum not only refers to Baltic history but also to Baltic politics, culture and geist. This series relates to the invasion of the German Ritter, the era of the Reformation, the invasion of the Swedes and later the Russians, the era of independence, WWI and WWII, the era of Soviet Rule, and the struggle for a second independence. The materials consist mainly of books, book excerpts, scholarly articles and newspaper clippings. Most interesting is the literature related to the Soviet invasion of the Baltics and the subsequent fight for independence.

The series also has large amount of material relating to Balts abroad. A substantial amount of this materials focuses on Displaced Persons (DP) Camps in Germany, including passports, medical records, books, magazines, journals, and personal documents. Significant items include primary DP camp literature and documents from Herrenvyk and Lübeck camps.

Another large portion of the series is devoted to Latvians living in the United States, and especially Latvians living in Lincoln, Nebraska. Included in this section are education related documents, travel literature, scholarly magazines and journals, art and culture materials, Lincoln-Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church newsletters, flyers, photos, and videos. A few of the prominent individuals in this section include Ivar Ivask, Elsie Thomas, Eduards Lūss, Leons Liepiņš, Miķelis and Berta Geistaute, Aivars Ronis, Juris Silenieks, Anatols Dinbergs and Richard Langworth.

Series 4: Photographs and Artifacts, Box 17-19

This series contains photographs, the majority of which are related to the Kārlis Ulmanis series. Included in the photos are pictures of Ulmanis with his fellow Chicago Cattle Show colleagues, Ulmanis in cap and gown, and a large number of pictures of Ulmanis between the years of 1934-1940. These pictures are valuable because they show a personal side of Ulmanis, as many of them are of Ulmanis at Pikšas or out in the Latvian countryside. Also noteworthy are the pictures pertaining to the search for Ulmanis' remains and pictures of the numerous commemorative celebrations that were held following the implementation of Perestroika and Glasnost.

Of the pictures on Latvia, the most significant are those that show Rīga at its peak, during the 1930s, when it was known as the "Paris of the East." The photos related to Baltikum include photos of Konstantin Päts and Johann Laidoner, photos of Miķelis and Berta Geistaute's works and photos of Lincoln-Latvian activities. Also within this series are a number of important artifacts, including a commemorative Ulmanis plaque, traditional Latvian ornamental garb, examples of Latvian weaving and three commemorative Kārlis Ulmanis pins.

Please contact the Archives and Specials Collections for a container list or for more information on this collection.

If you have questions about the Archives & Special Collections, please email "archives@unl.edu."
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