The Maslenki incident, was an attack by Soviet NKVD troops on 15 June 1940 against the Latvian border posts in district of Abrene at the then USSR/Latvian Republic border on the eve of Soviet occupation of Latvia.
The incident, though mainly known by the name of "Maslenki" ("Masļenki" in Latvian) border post, in fact consisted of three separate nearly simultaneously launched attacks on Latvian border posts by Soviet forces at the early dawn of June 15, 1940. Two border posts were actually attacked and another commenced attack was canceled. As a result 3 border guards and 2 civilians (incl. one child) were killed, 37 were kidnapped and brought to USSR as hostages.
Before the occupation in 1940, Latvia's Eastern Frontier- that is, border with the USSR- was 352 km long. Already since 1920, various military structures had been formed for its protection. The most recent, dating from 1935, was the Border Guard Brigade, of which three battalions- the First Dagda, the Second Zilupe and the Third Abrene Battalion- were stationed along the eastern border. Each battalion was divided into four companies, twelve platoons, thirty-six patrols and twelve reserve patrols. Each patrol guarded a section of the border approximately 3,2 km long.
Shortly before the occupation of Latvia by Red army on June 17, 1940 Soviet Special Forces units carried out previously planned acts of provocation on Estonian and Latvian territory. At dawn on June 15, there were attacks on three border patrols of the Third Abrene Battalion. One of them- the second patrol of the First Company showed resistance and eventually three border guards and two civilians were killed, patrol building burned and many others brought to Soviet Union as hostages.
Attack at Maslenki
At 2:30 am June 15, 1940, 25 NKVD commandos managed to cross Latvian-Soviet Union border river Ludza unnoticed. They surrounded the patrol on all sides. The neighboring house of guard Žanis Krieviņš and local farmer Dmitri Maslov were surrounded as well. Attackers most likely intended to capture the patrol post without firing shots because hand grenade packets were placed all around guardhouse except at the front door. Attack was first uncovered by patrol guard Jānis Macītis who acted according to supplementary instructions and hailed at the attackers. One of attackers shot a round from his automatic rifle at the patrol guard. After first shots attackers realised that they had been discovered and changed their combat plans for destroying the guard post and shooting all the border guards. Jānis Macītis despite being seriously injured, tried to reach the guard house. However not far from the guard house he stepped on a hand grenade which tore off his left foot.
Other guard Pēteris Cimoška was in the blind. Although visibility was near zero due to the thick fog Cimoška joined in the firing since he understood that the Soviet border guards were attacking. However after the first shots attackers pinpointed the blind's location and tried to surround it. Firing, Cimoška retreated in the direction of the guard house where he heard acting commander of the patrol Valdis Grīnvalds defending the house with separate shots. Arriving at the house Cimoška stepped on one of the grenade packets and was torn to pieces. Later, when the burning building collapsed, his body was charred.
At the guard house were acting commander of the patrol Valdis Grīnvalds, guard Kārlis Beizaks who was off duty and resting, wife of the guard and patrol commander Fridrihs Puriņš (who was no there during attack) Hermīne and her 14 years old son Voldemārs. Grīnvalds was the only one who returned fire through a window, but visibility was poor and he could shoot only in the direction of attackers without direct aim. Beizaks had apparently decided to leave the building and attempt to run to the First patrol for help because the telephone communications were down. He jumped out the window but was able to cover only 199 meters when he was shot by attackers. Since there was still resistance from the guardhouse, the attackers threw in firebombs and inside of the building caught fire. Hermīne Puriņa were shot 8 meters from house when she jumped out the window. Her son Voldemārs was shot in the abdomen but managed to hide in the woodpile. The building's only defender Grīnvalds also left the burning building soon after. Throwing away his rifle, he jumped out the window and jumped in the Ludza river unscathed. There he was captured by Soviet border guards.
On 15 June the government of Latvia started an investigation of the attacks and army units together with border guard were put on high alert. A general mobilization and resistance could be expected however due to the presence of the Soviet military bases in Latvia since fall 1939 such a move was practically impossible.
(Here and further on references to the book of Andrejs Edvīns Feldmanis)
List of Soviet attacks on Latvian border guards on 15 June 1940:
- The most notorious attack on Maslenki border post at 02:30, which resulted in death of 3 border guards and 2 civilians and facilities burnt down, as well as several persons being kidnapped. Several persons who were either kidnapped or left behind were wounded.
- Another attack on border post Smaili (Šmaiļi) at 3:00, which resulted in kidnapping of border guards and civilians, including inhabitants of near-by homes. Children as young as 1 year were kidnapped.
- Third attack on border post Zuguri (Žuguri) was called off when NKVD attackers realized, that they were noticed.
Killed by NKVD troops in Maslenki:
- Border guards:
- Jānis Macītis (killed by gunfire and by a planted grenade which tore off his left foot)
- Pēteris Cimoška (torn to pieces by a planted cluster of grenades)
- Kārlis Beizaks (killed by gunfire and grenades)
- Hermīne Puriņa (née. Kalniņa) (wife of a border guard, killed by gunfire)
- Voldemārs Puriņš (14-year-old son of a border guard, lethally wounded by gunfire, died on the next day in hospital in Rezekne)
In both Maslenki and Smaili in total 37 persons were kidnapped by attacking Soviet troops and brought away to USSR as hostages. 10 of those were border guards, the rest were civilians, including women and small children (as young as 1 and 2 years old). 36 of the kidnapped were returned by Soviets on 7 July 1940.
- V.Grīnvalds, Iebrukums Masļenkos, Daugavas Vanagu Mēnešraksts, no. 2 (1979), p.16
- Feldmanis, Andrejs Edvīns (2002). Masļenku traģēdija - Latvijas traģēdija : Tragedy of Masļenki - Latvia's tragedy (in Latvian and English (extended summary)) (2nd supplemented ed.). Riga, Latvia: Latvijas 50 gadu okupācijas muzeja fonds. p. 355. ISBN 9984-9332-9-6.