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Guntis Ulmanis

President of Latvia, 1993-1999

 

 

Guntis Ulmanis was born on 13 September 1939 in Riga. His grandfather's brother, Kārlis Ulmanis, was the last pre-war President of the Republic of Latvia. His family was deported to Siberia, Krasnoyarsk Territory in 1941. They were given permission to return to Latvia in 1946, but the family had to reside in Ēdole, Kuldiga district, and later in Jūrmala since they were not allowed to settle in Riga. He studied at Pumpuri Secondary School in Jūrmala. On finishing the school, he entered the Latvian State University, Faculty of Economics, and completed the course in 1963. On graduation from the higher school, Ulmanis was called up for military service in the Soviet Army, where he spent two years. After the army, he began working as an economist in construction and later he worked for Riga Tram and Trolleybus Administration. He was appointed a Deputy Chairman of the Planning Committee under the Riga Executive Committee, but he was dismissed because of his family surname after a few months. 

 

In 1965, Mr. Ulmanis attached himself to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. He resigned from the Party in 1989. In 1971, he made a switchover to public utilities service, where he worked in various positions including Director of the Riga Public Service Centre. For a short time, Guntis Ulmanis taught construction economics and worked as a teacher of national economy planning in the Latvian State University (LSU).

 

In 1992, Guntis Ulmanis was elected a Member of Council of the Bank of Latvia. In 1992, G.Ulmanis joined the Latvian Farmers' Union. During his presidency, Mr. Ulmanis had suspended active work in the Farmers' Party, holding the post of Honorary chairman. In 2001, he withdrew from Latvian Farmers' Union. In the course of parliamentary elections of June 1993, Guntis Ulmanis was elected as a Member of Parliament. 

 

On 7 July 1993, the Saeima (Latvian Parliament) elected G. Ulmanis as President of the Republic of Latvia. With the active participation of Guntis Ulmanis, the Latvian-Russian agreement on the Russian Army withdrawal from Latvia was concluded in 1994, which was followed by the adoption of the Law on Citizenship. On 18 June 1996, G.Ulmanis was re-elected as President of the Republic of Latvia.  

 

 

In 1996, G.Ulmanis declared a moratorium on executions and called on the Latvian legislation to cancel death penalty. In 1998, advocating the formation of a close-knit community, Guntis Ulmanis actively supported the amendments to the Law on Citizenship adopted in 1994.  

 

In 1999, G. Ulmanis had established the Committee of Historians of Latvia, whose task was a detailed study of totalitarian regimes and their consequences in Latvia. During his presidency, G.Ulmanis had convened 3 emergency meetings of the Saeima and 3 emergency meetings of the Cabinet of Ministers; moreover, he had tabled 12 bills and returned 12 draft laws to the Saeima for rework or approval. On 17 March 2000, ex-president G.Ulmanis established "Fund of President Ulmanis".

 

Guntis Ulmanis widely participated in the organization of Hockey World Cup by International Ice Hockey Federation, acting as CEO of the Executive Directorate of Ice Hockey World Cup 2006. G. Ulmanis is one of the founders of Hockey Club Dinamo Riga, and he had performed the duties of the President of Council thereof before he was elected as a Member of the 10th Saeima. In 2008, at the invitation of President of Latvia Valdis Zatlers, G. Ulmanis became a Chairman of the Riga Castle Restoration Council. In 2010, Guntis Ulmanis was elected as a MP to the 10th Saeima from political association „For Good Latvia”. 

 

Biography

Guntis Ulmanis was born on 13 September 1939 in Riga. His grandfather's brother, Kārlis Ulmanis, was the last pre-war President of the Republic of Latvia. In 1941, his family was deported to Siberia, Krasnoyarsk Territory. In 1946, they were given permission to return to Latvia, but the family had to reside in Ēdole, Kuldiga district since they were not allowed to settle in Riga. In 1949, the relatives of G. Ulmanis were deported to Siberia again. However, the future president managed to escape, because his mother had married for the second time and gave her son a different surname. After the relatives were deported, the mother brought him to Jūrmala, where she lived with her husband at that time. Guntis began to study at Pumpuri Secondary School. During the school years, the future president secretly took out his passport with his family name – Ulmanis.

 

On finishing the school, he entered the Latvian State University, Faculty of Economics, and completed the course in 1963. On graduation from the higher school, Ulmanis was called up for military service in the Soviet Army, where he spent two years. After the army, he began working as an economist in construction and later he worked for Riga Tram and Trolleybus Administration. He was appointed a Deputy Chairman of the Planning Committee under the Riga Executive Committee, and, when holding this position, he took a beating from his surname for the first time, since he was fired after a couple of months. 

 

In 1971, he made a switchover to public utilities service, where he worked in various positions including Director of Riga Public Service Centre. For a short time, Guntis Ulmanis taught construction economics in Riga Polytechnic College and worked as a teacher of national economy planning in Latvian State University (LSU). In 1965, Mr. Ulmanis attached himself to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. He resigned from the Party in 1989.

 

In 1992, Guntis Ulmanis was elected a Member of Council of the Bank of Latvia. In the same year, G. Ulmanis joined the Latvian Farmers Union. During his presidency, Mr. Ulmanis had suspended active work in the Farmers Party, holding the post of Honorary chairman. In 1993, he withdrew from Latvian Farmers' Union. During the parliamentary elections in June 1993, Guntis Ulmanis was elected as a MP from the Latvian Farmers’ Union (LZS). On 7 July 1993, he was elected as President of the Republic of Latvia. 

      

On 18 June 1996, the Saeima elected Guntis Ulmanis again as President of the Republic of Latvia.  

 

During Guntis Ulmanis’ presidency, special attention was paid to foreign policy, id est, integration of Latvia into international organizations, setting up and strengthening cooperation both with European and other countries. Conclusion of the Latvian-Russian agreement on Russian Army withdrawal from Latvia was one of the most important successes of Guntis Ulmanis’ presidency, which was followed by the adoption of the Law on Citizenship.

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An important event that took place during the presidency of Mr.Ulmanis was Latvia’s accession to the Council of Europe and the Latvian application for accession to the European Union according to President’s intended objective: to lead Latvia to the development of democracy and its commitment to European security and cooperation structures.

 

 

In 1996, President of Latvia G. Ulmanis declared a moratorium on death penalty and called on the Latvian legislation to include the death penalty cancellation article and thereby certify the understanding of a humane and civilized country.  

 

President of Latvia Guntis Ulmanis was actively advocating formation of a close-knit community and urged the Saeima to make the respective amendments to the Law on Citizenship adopted in 1994 and appealed to the Latvian citizens to accept those amendments by referendum in 1998.    

 

 

The President paid much attention to research of the history of Latvia and the issues related to its explanation. The Head of State set up a commission of historians acting together with the Prime Minister, whose task was a detailed study of totalitarian regimes and their impact on Latvia. The President of Latvia called on the international community to condemn the totalitarian regime of the former USSR.

 

After his presidency, Guntis Ulmanis was engaged in public activity. The Fund of President Guntis Ulmanis was established that was a non-governmental, non-profit-making organization, whose goal was to promote democracy and political culture in Latvia, laying special emphasis on education. Mr. Ulmanis is honorary Chairperson of the National Library Support Fund. 

 

When Latvia qualified for hosting the ice hockey World Cup 2006, Guntis Ulmanis was actively involved in organizing the event, working as CEO of the Executive Directorate of the Ice Hockey World Cup 2006. G.Ulmanis was still participating in hockey life organization in Latvia and he performed the duties of Council Chairman of Hockey Club Dinamo Riga before he became a MP of the 10th Saeima. 

 

In 2008, the Riga Castle Restoration Council was established on the initiative of President of Latvia Valdis Zatlers. The goal of the Council was to organize the work of Riga Castle restoration, to ensure high quality thereof, and preserve the historical and artistic values of the Castle. G.Ulmanis was offered to take charge of the Council.     

 

In summer 2010, seeking to make use of his experience in developing Latvia for the benefit of the State at a critical point, G. Ulmanis undertook the leadership of political alliance „For Good Latvia” and was elected to the 10th Saeima, where he worked in the Committee of European Affairs and of Foreign Affairs.  

In his spare moments, Guntis Ulmanis read historical and political memoirs and indulged in sports (lawn tennis, basketball, volleyball). Moreover, he was keen on working in the cottage that he had built himself.  

 

Guntis Ulmanis wrote an autobiographical book entitled „You Are Not Required Too Much” which was translated and published in Russian, too. On expiry of his presidency, a photo album „My Time as President” illustrating the most significant aspects of the six years of the presidency was published. 

Family

Guntis Ulmanis got acquainted with his future wife, Aina Ulmane, during his college years. They got married in 1962. They have daughter Guntra (1963), son Alvils (1966), and grandchildren - Paula (1994), Rūdolfs (2000), and Matīss (2006).

 

Mr. Ulmanis’ wife, Aina Ulmane Štelce was born in the family of five children on 20 September 1939 in Valmiera district. On graduating Salacgriva Secondary School, she enrolled at the Latvian State University, Faculty of Economics. After graduation, she worked in her specialty (economist) for the whole life. For a long time, she worked in the State Planning Committee and the Ministry of Economy.

 

Mrs. Ulmane participated in various charitable and social events, including her being the patroness of the Tuberculosis Fighting Society of Latvia; furthermore, she was working continuously with the Latvian Children’s Fund; she also cooperated with the National Rehabilitation Centre Vaivari and acted as a patroness of the Latvian-Swedish project „Joy of Life – Livslust” jointly with the Swedish Queen Sylvia, under which a social and training centre for teenager orphans was developed. Moreover, she participated in launching cooperation program among hospitals and healthcare institutions of Riga and St. Luis (USA); she was also a patroness of the premiere "Fire and Night" staged by the Latvian National Opera, and, finally, she was one of the founders of the Latvian National Opera Fund. Her hobbies were art, theatre, and literature.  

Awards

Guntis Ulmanis received many foreign awards, including:

     Royal Order of the Seraphim (October 16, 1995) (Sweden)

     Order of Vytautas the Great (May 6, 1996) (Lithuania)

     Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana (October 23, 1996) (Estonia)

     Order of the Elephant (March 18, 1997) (Denmark)

     National Order of the Legion of Honour (April 13, 1997) (France)

     Order of the White Eagle (April 28, 1997) (Poland)

     Order of Merit (May 21,1997) (Italy)

     Order of the White Rose of Finland (November 4, 1997) (Finland)

     Order of the Falcon (June 11, 1998) (Iceland)

     Order of St. Olav (September 2, 1998) (Norway)

     Order of Three Stars,  Class I (November 17, 1998)  (Latvia)

     The UK Order of St. Michael and St. George

     Special-class Federal Order of Merit (May 20, 1999) (Germany)

 

as well as:

     The annual prize of East West Studies Institute (1996) 

     The title of Doctor Honoris Causa of Charleston University (USA)

     The annual prize of the US Law Society (1997)