Thomas, Elsie V.
Kārlis Ulmanis was born September 4, 1877 on the family farm, Pikšas, located just outside the village of Doeble in the Russian province of Zemgale. The youngest of Indriķis and Lizete's three sons, Kārlis was the only child to leave the farm, as his two older brothers Jānis and Indriķis were left in charge following their father's unexpected death in 1883. Following the completion of his local schooling, in 1896 Ulmanis attended an experimental dairy school in Tapiau, now Gvardejsk, in what was then eastern Prussia. After completing one year, Ulmanis returned home and spent the next five years writing and lecturing for an agricultural magazine, The Farmer, while also helping his brothers on the farm. Ulmanis returned to school in 1902, first attending the Politechnical Institute in Zurich, Switzerland, before graduating with a certificate of maturity from the Agricultural Institute in Leipzig, Germany.
Ulmanis was politically involved in the 1905 Revolution and spent six months in Pshkov State Prison after writing an inflammatory article against Tsar Nicholas. Following his release, Ulmanis continued his political activities until, finding his life in danger, he fled into exile. After spending some time in Annaberg, Germany, Ulmanis came to the United States, in large part due to the influence of the Kleege brothers, long-lost neighbors and friends who were working on Senator Charles Warner's wheat farm in Waverly, Nebraska. Ulmanis decided, with the encouragement of his friends and Senator Warner, to enroll at the University of Nebraska. Entering with the rank of senior, Ulmanis graduated from the University in the spring of 1909 with a degree in Agriculture and Animal Husbandry. Ulmanis held various jobs, such as professor of dairy and cheese-making and dairyman at Roberts Dairy, and an unsuccessful attempt at owning his own dairy creamery in Texas, He decided to return to his native homeland following Tsar Nicholas' 1913 declaration of amnesty for those involved in the 1905 Revolution.
In November 1918 Latvia had its first taste of independence, and Ulmanis, as leader of the Farmer's Union, was elected as his country's first Prime Minister. Latvia's government was extremely unstable and faced nearly constant turn-over. Between 1918 and 1934, Ulmanis was the head of seven of more than twenty different cabinets. On the night of May 15 and 16, 1934, Ulmanis took over in a bloodless coup d'etat. Ulmanis then strengthened his position even further in 1936 when he combined the positions of president and prime minister. He continued to serve as Latvia's President/Prime Minister until July 1940, when the Soviets invaded Latvia. Ulmanis was deported to Russia, where he was imprisoned at Krasnovodsk. Although his remains have never been found, it is believed that he died there in 1942.