The territory that is now Latvia was controlled by crusaders, primarily the German Order of Livonian Knights, until 1561 when Latvia fell into Polish and Swedish hands. Between 1721 and 1795 Latvia was absorbed into the Russian empire. Soviet power was proclaimed in Dec. 1917, but was overthrown when the Germans occupied all Latvia (Feb. 1918). Restored when they withdrew (Dec. 1918), it was overthrown once more by combined British naval and German military forces (May-Dec. 1919), and a democratic government set up. This regime was in turn replaced when a coup took place in May 1934. The secret protocol of the Soviet-German agreement of 23 Aug. 1939 assigned Latvia to the Soviet sphere of interest. On 4 May 1990 the Latvian Supreme Soviet declared, by 138 votes to nil with 58 abstentions, that the Soviet occupation of Latvia on 17 June 1940 was illegal, and resolved to re-establish the authority of the Constitution of 1922. In a referendum in March 1991 the principle of independence was supported by 73–6% of votes cast. A fully independent status was conceded by the USSR State Council in Sept. 1991.
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