Janis Cakste, Latvia (1859-1927)

Janis Cakste was born in Lielsesava, Courland, Russia (now in Latvia). He was a patriot and President (1922-27) of the Republic of Latvia. Through political activity in Latvia and Russia and on diplomatic missions to the West, he helped to spearhead Latvia's struggle for independence. He was elected to the first Russian Duma (Assembly) in 1906. After the Duma was dissolved by the imperial government, he was one of those who signed the Viborg protest, consequently he lost his political privileges.

When the German invasion of Courland (July 1915) in World War I forced him to leave Jelgava, Cakste moved to Petrograd, where he was one of the founders of the Latvian Refugees Committee, which worked for Latvian independence and provided relief for war refugees.

In 1916 he went to Stockholm to promote the cause of Latvian autonomy and there wrote Die Letten und ihre Latwija (1917; 'The Letts and Their Latvia'). Elected chairman of the Latvian People's Council in 1918, he was later the head of the delegation sent to London and to the Paris Peace Conference to secure the recognition of the Latvian republic. While he was absent on that mission, Cakste was elected President of the National Council (1918); he was later elected President of the Latvian constituent assembly (1920) and, when the first Saeima (Parliament) convened, President of the Republic of Latvia (1922). He was reelected in November 1925 and died in office.

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