A Lithuanian-Latvian war over Liepaja in 1939?

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A Lithuanian-Latvian war over Liepaja in 1939?

Post by Futurist » 08 Jun 2020 22:14

What if, after Nazi Germany would have forced Lithuania to hand the Memelland back to Nazi Germany, Lithuania (which by now would have been almost completely landlocked) would have decided to spark a brief war against Latvia in order to conquer the Latvian port of Liepaja in order to secure a longer coastline as well as a new large port for itself? After all, Latvia would still have plenty of coastline and ports even without Liepaja but Lithuania badly needed a new port.

Anyway, how would such a war have turned out and how would the other powers have reacted to such a Lithuanian-Latvian war over Liepaja? Indeed, what exactly would the other powers have done in response to this war? Would any of them have militarily intervened in this war? If so, on which side--and in exchange for what? Would any of them have placed economic sanctions on Lithuania?

Any thoughts on all of this?

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Re: A Lithuanian-Latvian war over Liepaja in 1939?

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 09 Jun 2020 17:52

Sounds like a cute subject for a wargame.

What was the ethnicity of the Liepaja population?

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Re: A Lithuanian-Latvian war over Liepaja in 1939?

Post by Futurist » 09 Jun 2020 23:34

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
09 Jun 2020 17:52
Sounds like a cute subject for a wargame.

What was the ethnicity of the Liepaja population?
Latvian, I believe. There was almost certainly a sizable German minority, though. Almost no Lithuanians, I think. Lithuania wouldn't claim Liepaja on ethnic grounds but rather due to the fact that it needs a longer coastline (it would have almost no coastline after the loss of the Memelland) and due to the fact that Latvia has plenty of coastline to spare.

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Re: A Lithuanian-Latvian war over Liepaja in 1939?

Post by Futurist » 09 Jun 2020 23:41

In 1935, these were the population figures for Liepaja District:

http://pop-stat.mashke.org/latvia-ethnic-comm1935.htm

Total population: 111,687

Latvians: 90,168

Great Russians: 1,857

Jews: 7,745

Germans: 5,484

Poles: 2,544

Belarusians: 543

Lithuanians: 2,754

Estonians: 125

Other ethnic groups: 441

Unknown ethnic group: 26

So, Lithuanians made up just 2,754/111,687 = 2.47% (almost 2.5%) of Liepaja District's total population back in 1935. So, almost 1 in 40 people there back then.
Last edited by Futurist on 09 Jun 2020 23:55, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: A Lithuanian-Latvian war over Liepaja in 1939?

Post by Futurist » 09 Jun 2020 23:54

In 1938-1939, Lithuania was humiliated TWICE--first, by having Poland force it under the threat of military force to give up its claim on Vilnius in 1938, and then by having Nazi Germany force it under the threat of military force to give up the Memelland--and thus the overwhelming majority of its coastline--in early 1939. So, it would make sense for Lithuania to want to regain its prestige as well as to also aim for a strategic goal--and a war with Latvia over Liepaja would achieve both of these goals. Conquering Liepaja would give Lithuania greater sea access as well as once again give Lithuania a major port (after the loss of Memel to Nazi Germany) and Latvia is also small enough and underpopulated enough for Lithuania to actually be able to go at it one-on-one in a war. Lithuania certainly couldn't survive a war with either Poland or Nazi Germany, but that's because their population advantage over Lithuania was absolutely enormous--in the range of 10-to-1 or even more than that. In contrast, Lithuania and Latvia are much more evenly matched. Indeed, it's possible (I'll have to go double-check) that Lithuania even had more people than Latvia had back in 1939. I know that Lithuania has more people than Latvia has right now, in 2020.

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Re: A Lithuanian-Latvian war over Liepaja in 1939?

Post by Futurist » 24 Jun 2020 21:17

Looking back at this, it does seem more prudent for Lithuania to allow Latvia to keep Liepaja but to nevertheless heavily invest in Leipaja in order to improve Liepaja's port facilities in exchange for being allowed to use these facilities at some sort of discounted rate so that Lithuania won't have to be as dependent on its trade with Germany (especially through now-German-ruled Memel). What do all of you think?

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