Scope and Content Note
Title: Alfreds Bilmanis papers,
Date (inclusive): 1919-1968
Collection number: 45003
Bilmanis, Alfreds, 1887-1948
8 manuscript boxes, 2 oversize boxes, 1 oversize folder
(4.2 linear feet)
Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace
Stanford, California 94305-6010
Abstract: Correspondence, speeches and writings, memoranda, reports, and printed matter, relating to Latvian foreign relations, conditions
in Latvia during and after World War II, and postwar Latvian refugees and émigré affairs.
Physical Location: Hoover Institution Archives
Collection is open for research.
For copyright status, please contact the Hoover Institution Archives.
[Identification of item], Alfreds Bilmanis papers, [Box no.], Hoover Institution Archives.
Increments may have been received since this finding aid was prepared. Please check Stanford University's online catalog Socrates
to find the full extent of the collection.
||Born, Riga, Latvia
summa cum laude from Moscow University, with a degree in history
||Married Halina Salnicka in Tuczyn, Poland
||Chief of Press Section, Latvian Ministry for Foreign Affairs
||Received his Ph.D. in history from the University of Wilno (Vilnius)
||Visited and lectured in the United States
||Latvian delegate to the League of Nations
||Latvian Envoy Extraordinary, Moscow, USSR
||Latvian Envoy Extraordinary (ambassador) to the United States
Latvia and Her Baltic Neighbors, Washington, D.C.
||Posthumous publication of
A History of Latvia, Princeton
Scope and Content Note
Acquired in 1948, with a significant increment coming to light in 2003, the Alfreds Bilmanis collection in the Hoover Institution
Archives comprises documents relating to the career of one of the most important diplomats and historians of independent Latvia.
As a scholar, Bilmanis published numerous articles and books on Latvian and Baltic history during his lifetime, but he received
wider public recognition in his capacity as a diplomat occupying important and sensitive posts at a key time in his country's
Bilmanis's diplomatic career took him to Moscow in the 1930s, where he witnessed firsthand the effects of Stalinism, and then
to the United States, where he served as Latvia's envoy during the tumultuous period before, during, and after World War II.
When the Hitler-Stalin pact of 1939 assigned Latvia to a Soviet "sphere of influence," followed by the country's forcible
annexation by the USSR in 1940, Bilmanis energetically protested, defending the cause of Baltic independence in Washington
in his role as ambassador, and elsewhere, in his role of public speaker and historian.
Throughout the war, Bilmanis continued to publish articles, pamphlets, and books, all of which reflected an unwavering belief
in Latvia's right to restored independence. While the actions of Germany and the Soviet Union meant that such a prospect was
increasingly remote, Bilmanis nevertheless did achieve some tangible results as a diplomat. Latvian assets abroad were protected,
as were certain gold reserves. Perhaps more importantly, in terms of the future status of Latvia, the United States never
recognized the legality of the Soviet annexation of the Baltic States in 1940, nor did it do so when these states were re-annexed
in the wake of the defeat of Nazi Germany. During this time, Bilmanis worked closely with the Latvian envoy to Great Britain,
Kārlis Zarinš (Charles Zarine), and there are a number of letters from Zarinš in the CORRESPONDENCE series of the collection.
In keeping the cause of Baltic independence alive in the arena of public opinion, Bilmanis drew upon his skills as a writer
and historian. He was later viewed by many within the Latvian diaspora and within Latvia itself as an important spokesman
for Latvian national aspirations during a time when the country no longer existed as a legal entity. In 1968, on the twentieth
anniversary of his death, Bilmanis was honored with the publication of a
Festschrift consisting of articles written by a number of his colleagues and fellow historians.
The Bilmanis collection consists largely of correspondence and printed matter relating to Bilmanis's diplomatic activities
in the United States. The correspondence, in particular, sheds light on the common struggle waged by Estonian, Latvian, and
Lithuanian representatives as they sought to make the case for Baltic independence before the United States government and
in the arena of public opinion.
Bilmanis was an early advocate of a commonwealth system for the three Baltic States, in which each would preserve its identity
and independence within a federal structure. There are materials in the CORRESPONDENCE and SPEECHES AND WRITINGS series of
the collection regarding this concept. Bilmanis wrote many letters to the editors of prominent American newspapers, and these
are to be found in the SPEECHES AND WRITINGS series. His major historical work,
A History of Latvia, was published posthumously, and is not part of the collection. The many writings produced by Bilmanis in his capacity as
Latvian envoy to the United States are to be found in the SPEECHES AND WRITINGS part of the collection, as are reports and
aide-mémoires for which Bilmanis was the primary author.
The LATVIAN LEGATION OFFICE FILE series includes materials produced by the Latvian Legation in Washington that were written
by others or are unattributed. Some of these may have been authored by Bilmanis. The SUBJECT FILE contains copies of treaties
concluded by all three Baltic States during their "first independence" between the two world wars. There is a good deal of
information about each Baltic country in this file, as well as materials relating to the actions of Soviet and German occupying
forces in the region before and after the Second World War. There are also materials concerning the resistance movement in
Latvia conducted by the organization Latvijas Centrala Padome, whose representatives were based in Sweden, as well as information
on the activities of the underground Latvian Social Democratic Workers Party during the same period.
The PRINTED MATTER series of the collection contains a number of émigré publications, as well as examples of newspapers produced
by Latvians in displaced person camps in occupied Germany. There are also a number of publications in Lithuanian, Russian,
The Bilmanis collection complements another collection in the Hoover Institution Archives, that of Jules Feldmans, who served
as Bilmanis's successor as Latvian envoy to the United States, following Bilmanis's death in 1948. Bilmanis and Feldmans had
worked together closely during the lifetime of the former, and there is a significant correlation between the two collections.
Throughout the register, Latvian spellings are given for Latvian names. Thus, Bilmanis's first name is Alfreds, rather than
the name he used in the United States, Alfred. Where Latvian spellings differ significantly from their English counterparts,
the English version is given in parentheses.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the repository's online public access catalog.
World War, 1939-1945--Latvia.
Latvians in foreign countries.
World War, 1939-1945.
Latvia--Foreign relations--Soviet Union.
Soviet Union--Foreign relations--Latvia.
Latvia--Foreign relations--United States.
United States--Foreign relations--Latvia.
United States--Foreign relations.