- Publicēts Svētdiena, 16 Oktobris 2016 11:29
Czar Nicholas II v. Christian Rudowitz
In October, 1908 two news items dominated local headlines: the World Series and the case of a Latvian refugee named Christian (Krišjānis) Ansoff Rudowitz . The last time the Cubs won a World Series was 1908 a repeat of the 1907 series when they defeated the Detroit Tigers led by Ty Cobb.
That month the Consul of Russia in Chicago Baron Ernest von Schilling requested the extradition of Christian Rudowitz for murder, arson, burglary, robbery and larceny. The events in question took place during the Winter of 1905 – 1906 in the Kurzeme region of what is now Latvia and his extradition was sought based on an 1887 treaty between Russia and the United States. He was arrested and held in Cook County Jail.
In January, 1906 a group of masked intruders entered the Kurzeme village home of Theodore Kinze. They shot and killed Kinze’s wife and her parents, after accusing them of being government spies and set the house on fire. This scene was replayed many times and is how the 1905 revolution played out in the countryside of Latvia and Estonia. Over 800 manor houses and other dwellings were destroyed and hundreds were killed. Those closely associated with Czarist rule, particularly land-owning Germans were under fire. Czarist Russians maintained political power and ethnic Germans, in many cases had outsized economic power.
Not much is known about Rudowitz. He is described as a 35 year old Lettish carpenter. It is said that he was a Lutheran and that he left a wife and family when he fled to the United States. He admitted to joining the Russian Social Democratic party in 1905, which was fracturing between Bolsheviks (Lenin) and Mensheviks.
The Rudowitz case became a cause célèbre, particularly in the leftist community. Three thousand Chicagoans attended a rally in support of Rudowitz at the Colonial Theatre. The Political Refugee Defense League headquartered in Hull House on Halsted Street was formed to galvanize activity. The league claimed branches in 185 cities within 27 states. Jane Addams, Eugene Debs, the Socialist Party candidate for President in 1908 and former Chicago Mayor Edward F Dunne were some of his high-profile supporters. The Daily Socialist energetically supported the Latvian peasant. It was said that 20,000 refugees from Russia had arrived in the United States of which many were radicalized.
Extradition hearings were held before United States Commissioner Mark A. Foote in Chicago. The legendary attorney Clarence Darrow led a pro bono defense dream team that included Professor Charles C. Hyde, and Dean John H. Wigmore both of Northwestern University’s Law School. Rudowitz admitted to taking part in the sanctioning and planning but not carrying out any of the crimes he was charged with. The defense admitted that Rudowitz had attended a meeting during which a vote was taken to kill three government spies, however, the defense also insisted that Rudowitz did not participate in the actual murders. Depositions provided by the prosecution were suspect and contradictory. At the hearing, Darrow warned Commissioner Foote that there were about 20,000 men in the United States under political asylum from Russia, and that if Rudowitz was extradited; all the other political refugees would “go with him as fast as the Russian government can furnish the means and the guns to execute them.” Foote listened to two weeks of testimony. In his closing argument Darrow said, “Czar Nicholas II is plotting to reach the hand of despotism into the United States and drag back, no man knows how many, political offenders of Russia.”
On December 7th Commissioner Foote ruled that Rudowitz could be extradited. The defense team appealed to President Theodore Roosevelt’s Secretary of State Elihu Root. Roosevelt was wrapping up his presidency as Robert Taft was the President-Elect after the previous month’s national election. It’s hard to imagine that Roosevelt and possibly Taft weren’t consulted by Root
The aformentioned John H. Wigmore was a highly respected expert on the law of evidence and he went over the more than 300 pages of hearing transcripts and produced a report that concluded that Rudowitz was a political refugee and thus should not be subject to extradition. This argument was endorsed by James Parker Hall, the dean of the University of Chicago Law School. On January 26, 1909, Secretary Root decided that Rudowitz’s crimes were political in nature and he was therefore not extraditable under the treaty between the United States and Russia. This decision greatly expanded the concept of a a political offence exception (or exemption) in U.S. extradition law and is still felt today. Coincidentally, an almost identical case was playing out in New York involving the Latvian refugee Jan Janoff Pouren. His adverse decision at the commissioner level was also overturned by Root.
Edwin Maxey, Professor of Law at the University of Nebraska wrote an analysis supporting the final disposition of this case in 1909, the same year that Kārlis Ulmanis graduated from Nebraska’s College of Agricultural Sciences. Kārlis Ulmanis had fled Latvia to avoid arrest for political activity during this same tumultuous period. He did not return until 1913, when an amnesty was declared. Ulmanis was the first Prime Minister of Latvia and a dominant figure in Latvia declaring and eventually gaining independence less than a decade later. We’ll never know if Ulmanis and Maxey ever spoke about Rudowitz. Ulmanis faced-off against the same combination of German neo colonialists and Russian monarchists on the road to Latvian statehood. In addition, Ulmanis faced Russian and Latvian communists who were attempting to establish Soviet control over the former Russian provinces.
The complexities of the 1905 Revolution continue to be debated. It is clear that it had developed differently in the Baltic region than elsewhere in Czarist Russia. It had a distinct radical leftist component but also was a nationalistic manifestation: reflected by dissimilar actors like Ulmanis and Rudowitz.
Christian Rudowitz quickly faded from the headlines and I couldn’t locate any information about his further life. The story became muddled when numerous reports were made of people circulating around Chicago and identifying themselves as Rudowitz for their own purposes. -- Artis Inka
- Publicēts Svētdiena, 25 Septembris 2016 06:21
Valsts prezidents aicina tautiešus ASV piedalīties Latvijas simtgades svētku rīkošanā
Valsts prezidents Raimonds Vējonis, tiekoties ar Amerikas Savienotajās Valstīs dzīvojošajiem latviešiem, aicināja tautiešus visā pasaulē Latvijas simtgades svētkos apmeklēt Latviju, kā arī iesaistīties kopīgo svētku organizēšanā.
“2018. gadā apritēs Latvijas valsts 100. gadskārta. Lai gan kā valsts vēl esam jauni, šī jubileja ir apliecinājums tam, ka mēs esam stipra tauta. Neatkarība tika izcīnīta grūtās un pašaizliedzīgās cīņās, 20. gadsimts ir nesis daudz traģisku brīžu. Tomēr, pateicoties latviešu sīkstumam un ticībai, mēs šobrīd varam dzīvot brīvā zemē,” sestdien, uzrunājot latviešus Čikāgā, teica Raimonds Vējonis.
Valsts prezidents pauda cerību, ka 100. gadadiena kopš valsts dibināšanas būs vēl viena iespēja ikvienam apliecināt savu piederību mūsu zemei un būt vienotiem svētku atzīmēšanā Latvijā un ārpus tās robežām.
ASV vizītes laikā tiekoties ar latviešu diasporas pārstāvjiem Čikāgā, Kalamazū un Ņujorkā, Valsts prezidents uzdāvināja īpašu grāmatu, kurā līdz valsts simtgadei 2018. gadā ierakstīt idejas un priekšlikumus Latvijas attīstībai nākamajos gadu desmitos un simtos.
Tikšanās laikā ar tautiešiem Latviešu Ciānas draudzes baznīcā Čikāgā Valsts prezidents arī pasniedza Atzinības krusta IV šķiras apbalvojumu ilggadējam latviešu sabiedriskajam darbiniekam, Čikāgas Latviešu biedrības goda biedram Jānim Vilciņam par nopelniem latviešu sabiedriskās dzīves uzturēšanā un veicināšanā, latviskās kultūras un vēstures popularizēšanu pasaulē.
Valsts prezidents Raimonds Vējonis no 18. līdz 25. septembrim uzturas darba vizītē ASV, kur piedalās ANO Ģenerālās asamblejas 71. sesijā, kā arī apmeklē Lansingu, Kalamazū un Čikāgu.
Iveta Vējones kundze viesojas latviešu skolā Čikāgā, ASV
ASV vizītes ietvaros Valsts prezidents un Iveta Vējones kundze apmeklēja Krišjāņa Barona latviešu skolu Čikāgā, kurā mācās vairāk nekā 100 bērnu. Iveta Vējones kundze, kura ir latviešu diasporu skolu patronese, tikās ar bērniem, iepazinās ar mācību procesu un uzrunā skolotājiem un vecākiem izteica pateicību par jaunās paaudzes saiknes stiprināšanu ar Latviju.
“Paldies, ka jūs tik kuplā skaitā dodaties uz sestdienas skolām, lai mācītos latviešu valodu un uzturētu latviskās tradīcijas. Tādējādi ikvienā bērnā tiek stiprināta pārliecība, ka ir pamats justies lepnam, ka esi latvietis,” uzsvēra Iveta Vējones kundze.
Uzturoties ASV, Valsts prezidenta kundze tikās ar vairāku ASV latviešu diasporas skolu darbiniekiem, kuri iepazīstināja ar latviešu skolu nākotnes plāniem, kā arī sadarbību ar Latvijas izglītības un kultūras institūcijām.
- Publicēts Ceturtdiena, 06 Septembris 2012 06:57
This article is reprinted from September, 2012.
Four years ago, on September 16, 2008, the United States Senate passed Concurrent Resolution 87 (S. CON. RES. 87). This resolution congratulated the Republic of Latvia on the 90th anniversary of its declaration of independence. In addition, this strongly worded resolution highlighted the following:
Latvia existed for 21 years as an independent and sovereign nation and member of the League of Nations;
the 1920 peace treaty between the Soviet Union and Latvia;
the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939;
that on June 17, 1940, Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania were forcibly incorporated into the Soviet Union;
that the United States never recognized this illegal and forcible occupation;
that in 1953, the congressionally-established Kersten Commission determined that the Soviet Union had illegally and forcibly occupied and annexed the Baltic countries;
that the 109th Congress (in 2005) resolved (S. Con. Res. 35 and H. Res. 128) that `it is the sense of Congress that the Government of the Russian Federation should issue a clear and unambiguous statement of admission and condemnation of the illegal occupation and annexation by the Soviet Union from 1940 to 1991 of the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, the consequences of which will be a significant increase in good will among the affected people';
S. CON. RES. 87 was introduced by Senators Gordon H. Smith (R-OR) and Richard Durbin (D-IL) in early June, 2008. Two senators signed on as co-sponsors the following month followed by the August congressional recess. It appeared that the resolution was languishing and would die without any further activity. This happens to most resolutions of this type.
Valdis Pavlovskis, an American Latvian Association (ALA) board member circulated a draft of the resolution some time that spring. I remember reading it and thinking it was a complete over-reach. The Bush presidency was winding down and it was apparent to me that the Democrats were taking back the White House that November. That would mean a complete review and reexamination of US foreign policy, including relations with Russia. The Democrats already controlled both chambers of Congress. I wasn’t confident, but that was four years ago and I could not just sit on the sidelines.
This wasn’t Pavlovskis’s first rodeo. He had successfully guided previous lobbying efforts, as a co-founder of the Baltic American Freedom League (BAFL). I first worked with him in 2005, during the passage of the Baltic occupation resolution (H.Con.Res.128). This resolution included an admonition to the Russian Federation that, “truth is a powerful weapon for healing, forgiving, and reconciliation, but its absence breeds distrust, fear, and hostility.”
Pavlovskis orchestrated the introduction of S. CON. RES. 87. Now began the tedious hunt for co-sponsors. The rules are simple: the more the better. It also helps to have members of the Foreign Relations committee and high profile senators. Several senators met both criteria including Barack Obama (D-IL) of my home state. By early summer it was clear that Obama was going to be the Democratic nominee for president, which is about as high profile as a senator can get. I joined the Pavlovskis team with one task: get Obama to sign-on as a co-sponsor.
On June 14, 2008 Jānis Vilciņš, Chairman of the United Latvian Associations of Chicago and I as a board member sent Obama a letter urging that he become a co-sponsor. We indicated that we were writing on a very solemn day on the Latvian calendar. A few weeks later we sent a petition with 43 signatures asking the same. We urged others’ to write directly and offered suggested texts. We kept repeating that Durbin was the chief co-sponsor. Durbin and Obama both represented Illinois and were personally close.
I had met Michael Strautmanis once. That was shortly after then President of Latvia Vaira Vīķe Freiberga’s address to a joint session of Congress in June, 2006. Michael Strautmanis is the adopted son of Juris Strautmanis, best remembered as a one-time member of the Čikāgas piecīši (Chicago Five) pop musical group. At the time he was Legal Counsel in Sen. Obama’s office and later moved over to the presidential campaign.
The Obama election effort was headquartered in Chicago. I faxed our letter and petition addressed to Strautmanis at the campaign office. All along, I was extremely doubtful that anything would come of this. I thought the resolution was too complicated and too strong. I assumed that no one was left in the senatorial office to read our materials and that fax’s to a busy presidential national campaign office would end up on the floor.
By chance I mentioned this dilemma to a friend. They knew someone, who knew someone and sketched out a credible back-channel to Strautmanis. I forwarded our materials with quite a bit of confidence that they would make it to his desk. In the meantime, Pavlovskis was in Washington, DC visiting senators offices, including Obama’s and buttonholing staffers. Obama became a co-sponsor on September 8th followed by senators Carl Levin (D-MI) the following day and George Voinovich (R-OH) soon after. The resolution was discharged from the Foreign Affairs Committee, whose chairman was Sen. Joseph Biden and passed the Senate both on September 16th and both by unanimous consent.
Passage of the resolution was well received in Rīga; it should have been. None of the other 1918 republics (Lithuania, Estonia and Poland) received similar treatment. Latvia’s Foreign Minister highlighted it during a visit to the US in October, 2008. President Zatlers did the same when congratulating Obama on his election. The Chairman of Latvia’s Parliament sent letters of appreciation to the co-signers of the resolution and brought it up again in September, 2009 when meeting the newly installed US Ambassador to Latvia.
Pavlovskis and I exchanged several emails after passage of S. CON. RES. 87. He was gracious and complimentary. The subject line of one of my emails was: Kas neriskē - tas nedzer šampanieti (those that don’t take risks, don’t drink champaign). I outlined why I always thought the resolution would never pass the Senate. In fact, the companion US House of Representatives resolution (H.RES.1405) never made it out of committee.
I believe that these Congressional resolutions were important. They help solidify US foreign policy and lay a strong foundation when discussing difficult issues, such as Latvia’s demographic and national language problems. However, it is time to move past continually asking Congress to revisit the obvious: the Baltic States were militarily and brutally occupied by the Soviet Union for 51 years.
The Barack Obama Foundation announced, in November, 2015 that Michael A. Strautmanis was returning to Chicago as Vice President of Civic Engagement, as it moves forward with plans to build a presidential library on the South Side.