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Register of the Alfreds Bilmanis Papers
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biographical Note
  • Scope and Content Note
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Alfreds Bilmanis papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1919-1968
    Collection number: 45003
    Creator: Bilmanis, Alfreds, 1887-1948
    Extent: 8 manuscript boxes, 2 oversize boxes, 1 oversize folder (4.2 linear feet)
    Repository: 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
    Languages: Latvian, and English.

    Administrative Information


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    For copyright status, please contact the Hoover Institution Archives.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Alfreds Bilmanis papers, [Box no.], Hoover Institution Archives.

    Acquisition Information



    Increments may have been received since this finding aid was prepared. Please check Stanford University's online catalog Socrates at http://library.stanford.edu/webcat  to find the full extent of the collection.

    Biographical Note

    1887 Born, Riga, Latvia
    1910 Graduated summa cum laude from Moscow University, with a degree in history
    1919 Married Halina Salnicka in Tuczyn, Poland
    1920 Chief of Press Section, Latvian Ministry for Foreign Affairs
    1925 Received his Ph.D. in history from the University of Wilno (Vilnius)
    1929 Visited and lectured in the United States
    1930 Latvian delegate to the League of Nations
    1932-1935 Latvian Envoy Extraordinary, Moscow, USSR
    1935-1948 Latvian Envoy Extraordinary (ambassador) to the United States
    1942 Author, Latvia and Her Baltic Neighbors, Washington, D.C.
    1948 Died
    1951 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 history.
    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, and English.
    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.

    Indexing Terms

    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.
    Soviet Union.
    United States--Foreign relations.