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May 12, 1904|
Mangali, Russian Empire
|Died||February 6, 1966
Riga, Latvian SSR
Lācis was born Jānis Vilhelms Lāce into a working-class family in Mangali, near Riga. He was a manual labourer, mostly working in the port of Riga and writing in his free time. In 1933, he published his hugely successful novel Zvejnieka dēls (Fisherman's Son), making him one of the most popular and commercially successful Latvian writers of the 1930s. His novels have been characterized as popular fiction, not always liked by high-brow critics, but widely read by ordinary readers.
Throughout this period, Lācis maintained underground ties to the officially banned Communist Party of Latvia. Lācis was under periodic surveillance by the Latvian secret services due to his political activities. Eventually Lācis became a favorite of Latvian dictator Karlis Ulmanis, who personally ordered the destruction of the surveillance files on Lācis. Lācis wrote newspaper editorials highly favorable of the Ulmanis regime, while still remaining a Communist supporter, and Ulmanis's government generously funded Lācis's writing and a film adaptation of Fisherman's Son.
After Latvia was incorporated in the USSR in August 1940, Lācis became Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Latvian SSR (nominally, Prime Minister) and served in this position from 1940 to 1959. He was regarded mostly as a figurehead, as most of the actual decisions were made by the Central Committee of the Communist Party. As first Minister of the Interior and then Chairman of the Supreme Soviet, he must take personal responsibility for the Stalinist deportations and other aspects of the police state, and signed orders for the arrest and deportation of over 40,000 people.
Lācis's books have been translated into more than 50 languages, with translations into Russian being the most numerous. He remains the most translated Latvian writer.
|Party political offices|
|Latvian SSR Chairmen of the Council
August 25, 1945 – November 27, 1959