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National Exhibit
National Exhibit
Vilis Lācis

Vilis Lacis (1904–1966. A popular writer who became the most visible communist figurehead and functionary during the Soviet occupation of Latvia. Born of humble origins, Lācis achieved acclaim as a writer of popular novels during the 1930s. His Fisherman's Son became a bestseller and the the first feature-length Latvian film. Meanwhile, he maintained ties to Soviet agents. His KP membership was later back-dated to 1928.

After the Soviet takeover in 1940, Lācis became Interior Minister and signed several decrees of deportation even before Latvia was annexed to the USSR. He ordered the first book-bannings. Later he became Chairman of the Council of Ministers until 1959. His signature in 1949 sealed the Moscow-odered deportation of over 42,000 Latvians to forced settlemen in Siberia.

Could he have or should he have refused to sign, potentially becoming a tragic national hero? Was he a traitor or a defender of Latvian causes both as politician and writer? His epic novel Storm was a pean to the Great Patriotic War and received a Stalin Premium. Another Stalin Premium was awarded to Lacis for his Socialist Realism epic To the New Shore. He also received seven Orders of Lenin. His oeuvre consists of 20 novels, 57 stories, seven plays, numerous essays and commentaries; a recent survey included him among 100 prominent Latvians.

His resting place in the Forest Cemetery – deliberately blocking the view to the gravesite of the first president of Independent Latvia, Jānis Čakste – is a commentary to the unresolved duality of Vilis Lācis.

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Latvia
Location:  Northeastern Europe
Capital:  Riga
Communist Rule:  1940-1941 / 1944-1990
Status:  06.09.91 - independence recognized
Victims of Communism:
unknown