Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic
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The Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic (Lithuanian SSR; Lithuanian: Lietuvos Tarybų Socialistinė Respublika; Russian: Литовская Советская Социалистическая Республика, Litovskaya Sovetskaya Sotsialisticheskaya Respublika), also known as Soviet Lithuania or Lithuania, was one of the constituent republics of the USSR between 1940–1941 and 1944–1990, formed on the basis of the Soviet occupation rule. After 1946, its territory and borders mirrored those of today's Republic of Lithuania (with the exception of minor adjustments at the Belarusian border).
Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic
Lietuvos Tarybų Socialistinė Respublika (Lithuanian)
Литовская Советская Социалистическая Республика (Russian)
Anthem of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic
Location of the Lithuanian SSR within the Soviet Union.
|Status||Unrecognized Soviet Socialist Republic|
De facto sovereign entity (1989–1990/91)
|Common languages||Lithuanian, Russian|
|Government||Stalinist one-party totalitarian dictatorship (1940–1953)|
Unitary Marxist-Leninist one-party Soviet-style socialist republic (1953–1989)
Unitary parliamentary republic (1989–1991)
|Chairman of the Supreme Council|
|Historical era||World War II · Cold War|
|16 June 1940|
• SSR established
|21 July 1940|
|3 August 1940|
• Soviet re-occupation
• Sovereignty declared
|18 May 1989|
|11 March 1990|
• Independence recognized by the State Council of the Soviet Union
|6 September 1991|
|1989||65,200 km2 (25,200 sq mi)|
|Calling code||7 012|
|Today part of||Lithuania|
During World War II, it was established on 21 July 1940 as a puppet state in the territory of the previously independent Republic of Lithuania. Previously, it had been occupied by the Soviet army on 16 June 1940, in conformity with the terms of the 23 August 1939 Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact.
Between 1941 and 1944, the German invasion of the Soviet Union caused its de facto dissolution. However, with the retreat of the Germans in 1944–1945, Soviet hegemony was re-established and continued for fifty years. As a result, many western countries continued to recognize Lithuania as an independent, sovereign de jure state subject to international law, represented by the legations appointed by the pre-1940 Baltic states, which functioned in various places through the Lithuanian Diplomatic Service.
On 18 May 1989, the Lithuanian SSR declared itself to be a sovereign state, though still part of the USSR. On 11 March 1990, the Republic of Lithuania was re-established as an independent state. Considered illegal by the Soviet authorities, the country was recognized by Western powers immediately prior to the breakup of the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union itself recognized Lithuanian independence on 6 September 1991.
The premises for the establishment of the LSSREdit
On 23 August 1939, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union signed the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, which contained agreements on dividing Europe into spheres of influence. After originally falling into Germany's sphere of influence, when on 28 September 1939 the USSR and Germany signed the Frontier Treaty and its secret protocol, Lithuania was put into the USSR's sphere of influence in exchange for Poland, which had already been occupied. The very next day, the USSR offered Lithuania an agreement on the deployment of military bases in its territory. During the negotiations, the Lithuanian delegation was frankly told about the division of the spheres of influence. The Soviets threatened that if Lithuania refused to host the bases, Vilnius could be annexed to Belarus. It was on these conditions that a Lithuania–USSR agreement on mutual assistance was signed in Moscow on 10 October 1939, opening a door for Soviet regiments to Lithuania. A total of 18,786 Red Army troops were deployed at strategically important locations within the country: Alytus, Prienai, Gaižiūnai, and Naujoji Vilnia. This move effectively ended Lithuanian neutrality and brought it directly under Soviet influence.
Occupation and annexationEdit
When Germany launched its military campaign in Western Europe in May 1940, the USSR invaded the Baltic states. On 14 June 1940, an ultimatum was served to Lithuania on the alleged grounds of abduction of Red Army troops. The ultimatum said Lithuania should remove officials that the USSR found unsuitable (the Minister of the Interior and the Head of the Security Department in particular), replace the government, and allow an unlimited number of Red Army troops to enter the country. The acceptance of the ultimatum would have meant the loss of the statehood, but Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov declared to diplomat Juozas Urbšys that, whatever the reply may be, "the troops will enter Lithuania tomorrow nonetheless". The ultimatum was a violation of every prior agreement between Lithuania and the USSR and of the international law governing the relations of sovereign states. The last session of the government of the Republic of Lithuania was called to discuss the ultimatum, with most of the members in favour of accepting it. On 15 June, President Smetona left Lithuania for the West, having expected to return when the geopolitical situation changed, leaving Prime Minister Antanas Merkys in his stead. Meanwhile, the 8th and 11th armies of the USSR (a total of 15 divisions) crossed the borders of the Republic of Lithuania. Flying squads took over the airports of Kaunas, Radviliškis, and Šiauliai. Regiments of the Red Army put a stop to possible resistance, disarmed the Lithuanian military, took over its assets, and supported local communists. Under pressure from Moscow, on 17 June 1940, Merkys appointed Justas Paleckis Prime Minister and resigned soon after. Paleckis then assumed presidential duties, and Vincas Krėvė was appointed Prime Minister. The Communist Party was legalized again and began publication of its papers and staging meetings to support the new government. At the same time, the opposition, its newspapers, and organizations were outlawed, and ties abroad cut. On July 14–15, elections to the People's Parliament took place. The only contender was the Union of Working People of Lithuania, which had been founded by far-left radicals and their supporters. Citizens were mandated to attend the elections, and the results of the elections were likely falsified. At its first meeting on 21 July, the new Parliament declared that Lithuania had expressed its will to become part of the USSR. Resolutions to effectuate the country's sovietisation were made the very same day. On 3 August, a Lithuanian delegation of prominent public figures was dispatched to Moscow to sign the document of Lithuania's accession to the USSR. After the signing, Lithuania was annexed to the USSR. On 25 August 1940, an extraordinary session of the People's Parliament ratified the Constitution of the LSSR (in form and substance similar to the USSR Constitution of 5 December 1936).
Red Army crimes in LSSREdit
Upon recapturing Lithuania's territory from the retreating Germans in 1944, the Red Army immediately began committing war crimes. The situation in the state was so frightening that even the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Lithuania Antanas Sniečkus on 23 July 1944 complained to Lavrentiy Beria (who later handed his words to Joseph Stalin) that "If such robbery and violence continues in Kaunas, this will burst our last sympathy for the Red Army".
The Klaipėda region was one of the primary war crimes centers. In his special report on the situation in the area, head of the Klaipėda NKGB Operational Group Kuzmin wrote that "A beautiful city, Šilutė, left by the Germans without a battle, currently looks repulsive: there is not one remaining store, almost no flats that are suitable for living. (...) Metal scrap collection teams are blowing up working agricultural machinery, engines of various kinds, stealing valuable equipment from the companies. There is no electricity in Šilutė because an internal combustion engine was blown up." In the same report, Kuzmin also wrote that in the Klaipėda and Šilutė regions mass raping of women occurred, regardless of their nationality, physical condition or age: "Seventy year old women and fourteen year old girls are being raped, even in the presence of parents. For example, in November 1944 eleven soldiers raped a Priekulė County resident in the presence of her husband. In Šilutė district, two soldiers, covering her head with a bag, at the doorway raped a seventy year old woman. On December 10, two soldiers shot a passing elderly woman.". After occupying the Klaipėda region, the Red Army began arresting 17 to 48-year-old men and moving forefront[clarification needed] inhabitants. Red Army soldiers did not gave them enough time to prepare, and moved them only wearing a single shirt. In this way, inhabitants of the Curonian Spit were left without cattle and bread. A number of cases have been identified in which cattle and other property was sent to the depths of Lithuania and later traded for home-made vodka. In December 1944, Chief of the Priekulė KGB Kazakov wrote to the LSSR Minister of the Interior Josifas Bertašiūnas that due to the soldiers' violence most of the houses in Priekulė are unsuitable for living in: windows are knocked out, fireplaces are disassembled, furniture and agricultural inventory are broken and exported as scrap. Most soldiers engaged in robbery, rape, and murder, and Lithuanians who saw soldiers at night would often run from their homes and hide.
Other regions of the LSSR also suffered heavily from Red Army brutality. For example, on 26 December 1944, Kaunas' NKGB representative Rodionov wrote to the USSR and LSSR Ministers of the Interior that due to the violence and mass arrests of the counterintelligence units of SMERSH, many Kaunas inhabitants were forced into crime[clarification needed]. Eleven SMERSH subdivisions did not obey any orders, not even those from the NKGB. In August 1944, Chief of the Vilnius Garrison P. Vetrov in his order described recent discipline violations in the garrison territory: on August 18 a soldier went fishing with explosives in the Neris river, on August 19 without any reason a fifteen minutes firefight took place between the garrison soldiers and prison guards, on August 22 drunk officers of the garrison shot at each other, and so on. On 1 October 1944, Chief of the Kaunas NKVD G. Svečnikov in his report wrote that on the night of October 19 two aviation unit soldiers of Garliava killed the Mavraušaitis family during a burglary. On 17 January 1945, Chairman of the Alytus Executive Committee requested the LSSR People's Commissars Council to stop the border guards unit, which was sent to fight the Lithuanian partisans, because it burns not only the enemy's homesteads, but also innocent people's homesteads. They are also robbing local inhabitants of their cattle and other property.
The war between Germany and the USSR and the second Soviet occupationEdit
Lithuania was dragged into the war on 22 June 1941, with Germany invading the USSR. In November 1940, the Lithuanian activist front, founded in Berlin and led by Kazys Škirpa, organized an uprising in Kaunas and Vilnius. The Lithuanians drove the Soviets out and formed a provisional government under Juozas Ambrazevičius. The provisional government was looking forward to recognition from the Germans, but was disbanded by the Nazis, who had no intentions of granting any rights of political independence to Lithuania. In 1941–1944, Lithuania was made part of the German Reichskommissariat Ostland as a general region of Lithuania under the government of a civil administration. In July–October 1944, with the front line moving westwards, the USSR entered Lithuania once again, and the second Soviet government began. The first post-war elections took place in the winter of 1946 to elect 35 representatives to the LSSR Supreme Council. Since the populace were slacking, the results were likely falsified to show an attendance rate of at least 90% and to establish an absolute victory for the candidates from the Communist Party. The LSSR Supreme Council under Paleckis was formally the supreme governmental authority. In reality, the reigns were in the hands of the first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, a post held by A. Sniečkus for many years.
The sovietisation of LithuaniaEdit
The sovietisation of Lithuania began with the strengthening of the supervision of the Communist Party. Officials faithful to the government were sent from Moscow to Lithuania to set up bodies of local governance. To make sure that everything was being done on the initiative of the locals, the appointed heads of said bodies were exclusively Lithuanian, who had trustworthy Russian-speaking specialists for assistants – it was these latter that controlled the situation for all practical purposes. By the spring of 1945, 6,100 Russian-speaking workers were sent to Lithuania. A second nationalisation had begun on day one. Lithuanians were deprived of all property except personal belongings. This was followed by collectivisation, which started in 1947, with people being forced to join the kolkhozes These were being established on the grounds of well-off farmers, who would be exiled, and their farms would be turned into kolkhoz farmhouses where livestock of the peasants from the surrounding areas would be kept. Since kolkhozes had to donate a large portion of their produce to the state, the people working there lived in somewhat poorer conditions than the rest of the nation. The pay would often be delayed and made in kind. They were not allowed to move to cities, because they had no IDs. This collectivisation eventually ended in 1953. The collectivisation went hand in hand with industrialisation. The territory of Lithuania became home to factories and power plants, in a bid to integrate the country into the economic system of the whole of the USSR. The output of major factories would be exported from the republic for absence of local demand. The entire process of industrialisation was followed by urbanisation as villages for the workers had to be established or expanded in the vicinity of the new factories. That was how towns such as Elektrėnai, Jonava, Naujoji Akmenė, Visaginas, were built. This was where residents would be relocated not only from other LSSR towns and villages, but from other USSR republics as well. To ensure the success of sovietisation, tools of culture and science were employed. All symbols of the former Republic of Lithuania were removed from all sources available to the public, the country had its history rewritten and its achievements belittled. The veneration of Stalin was spread actively by erasing the names of famous Lithuanian figures from the public's minds. The role of Russia and the USSR in the history of Lithuania was often highlighted. Society was encouraged into joining the Communist Party and communist organisations. Science, art were ridden with ideology and controlled by censorship mechanisms. People were encouraged into atheism. Lithuania would be secularised, monasteries closed, religion classes made taboo, church-goers victimised.
The second Soviet occupation was followed by armed resistance from the residents of Lithuania in 1944–1953, aiming to restore an independent state of Lithuania, establish capitalism and eradicate communism in the country, bring back the national values and freedom of faith. Partisans were people of various social backgrounds, age groups, and education. The authorities labelled them bandits. They were forced into the woods and into armed resistance by the Soviet rule. Armed resistance had three stages. Stage one began in the summer of 1944 and ended in the summer of 1946. In that period, large companies were formed with no uniform organisation. Armed skirmishes with the RA were quite common. Stage two covered the period from the summer of 1946 until the end of 1948. At that time, a partisan organisational structure was formed, and companies diminished to 5–15 people who lived in bunkers. Guerrilla warfare with surprise hits was the tactic. Stage three continued since 1949 until the end of 1953. During the period, the so-called Union of Lithuanian Freedom Fighters under Jonas Žemaitis–Vytautas was founded. Companies became smaller still and only consisted of 3 to 5 people; open skirmishes were a rarity, opting for sabotage and terrorism instead. Despite the fact that guerrilla warfare had failed to achieve its objective to 'liberate' Lithuania and had claimed the lives of more than 20,000 fighters, the armed resistance showed the world that Lithuania's joining the USSR had not been a voluntary act and highlighted the desire of many Lithuanians be independent.
Deportations of LSSR citizensEdit
In the fall of 1944, the first lists of 'bandits' and 'bandit families' appeared, which included members or family members of armed resistance. Deportees were marshaled and put on a USSR-bound train in Kaunas in early May 1945, reaching their destination in Tajikistan in summer. Once there, they were forced into gratuitous labour at cotton plantations. In May 1945, a decision was made to have a new wave of deportations from every county. Battlegroups were made of NKVD and NKGB staff and NKVD troops – the destruction battalions, or istrebitels. On 18–21 February 1946, deportations began in four counties: Alytus, Marijampolė, Lazdijai, and Tauragės. However, on 12 December 1947 the CC of the LCP resolved that repressions against the supporters of resistance in Lithuania were weak and that additional measures were in order. A new series of deportations began the very same day. A total of 2,782 people were deported in December. In January–February 1948, another 1,134 persons were exiled from every county in Lithuania. By May 1948, the number of deportees had risen to 13,304. Most of them found themselves in exile due to the class fight they were engaged in. In May 1948, preparations for very large-scale deportations were being made, with 30,118 staff members from USSR repressive structures engaged for that purpose. On 22–23 May 1948, large-scale deportation operation called Vesna began, leading to 36,932 arrests, a figure that later increased to 40,002. The second major deportation operation took place on 25–28 March 1949. Over four days, the authorities put 28,981 persons into livestock cars and dispatched them deep into the USSR. Some people went into hiding and managed to escape the deportations, but then a manhunt began in April. As a result, another two echelons left for the remote regions of the USSR. During March–April 1949, a total of some 32,000 people were deported from Lithuania. By 1952, 10 more operations were staged, but of a smaller scale. The last deportations took place in 1953, when people were taken to the district of Tomsk and the regions of Altai and Krasnoyarsk.
Even after the guerrilla resistance had been quelled, Soviet authorities failed to suppress the movement for Lithuania's independence. Underground dissident groups had been active since the 1950s, publishing periodicals and catholic literature. They fostered national culture, preserved historical events, instigated patriotism and hopes for independence. In the 1970s, dissidents established the Lithuanian Freedom League under Antanas Terleckas. Founded in Vilnius in the wake of the international conference in Helsinki, Finland, which recognised the borders established after the Second World War, the Helsinki Group demanded that Lithuania's occupation be recognised as illegal and the Molotov–Ribbentrop pact be condemned. In 1972, young Romas Kalanta burned himself in Kaunas in a public display of protest against the regime. This act was followed by public protests, which showed that a large portion of citizens were against the regime. The Catholic Church took an active part in opposing the oppression. The clergy published chronicles of the Catholic Church of Lithuania that were secretly distributed in Lithuania and abroad. The faithful would gather in small groups to teach children religion, celebrate religious holidays, and use national and religious symbols. The most active repressed figures of the movement were Vincentas Sladkevičius, Sigitas Tamkevičius, and Nijolė Sadūnaitė. The dissident movement boosted the nation's morale, encouraged people to remember their history and values with the passage of time. Thanks to its doings, the world received information about the situation in the LSSR and the human rights violations, which caused Moscow to soften the regime.
Cultural life in the LSSREdit
The Soviets loved to promote the people's art. Every exhibition, book, movie, play, museum, and the education system had to be guided by the ideological context and pass government inspection, in keeping with national political policies of national content of socialist-oriented art forms. Since 1950, Song Festivals would be staged on a regular basis for the first time since the 1930s, featuring Lithuanian folk songs and music that did not oppose the Soviet ideology. People's artists had to portray the imagined perfect life of kolkhoz farmers and workers, their fight against the bourgeoisie over social justice, and their values, which were industriousness, honour, justice, integrity, and loyalty to the ideals of communism. The most meritorious people's artists would be awarded the title of the Emeritus People's Artist. By the 1950s, some 500 monuments, sculptures, pieces of architecture relating to the independence period were demolished and replaced with new ones that were dedicated to Soviet ideological, cultural, and artistic figures. Eventually, lest they abandon their creative potential, Lithuanian artists went for Aesopian language, allegory, and symbolism. The political warming that started after the death of Stalin brought forth a new generation of writers. In their work, they dealt with emotions and certain aspects of the history of Lithuania. Music, too, reflected a strong historical theme and issues of national identity. Theatre had a highly important role to play in society during the times, and from the late 1950s the Lithuanian theater industry was one of the Union's strongest, bringing in many new names in this aspect.
In the 1980s, the USSR sank into a deep economic crisis. In 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev was elected head of state, undertaking a series of liberal reforms and ending the Cold War. This encouraged the activity of anti-communist movements within the USSR, the LSSR included. On 23 August 1987, the so-called Lithuanian Freedom League initiated an unsanctioned meeting in front of the monument to Adomas Mickevičius in Vilnius. At the meeting, the Molotov–Ribbentrop pact was condemned for the first time in public. The idea of the meeting was supported by western radio stations. The first informal organisations, clubs for environmental and monument protection. In May 1987, the Lithuanian Cultural Fund was established to engage in environmental activity and the protection of Lithuanian cultural assets. On 3 June 1988, the Lithuanian Reformation Movement was founded, its mission to restore the statehood of Lithuania. Supporters of its ideas formed groups for the support of the LRM across Lithuania. On 23 August 1988, a massive meeting was staged at Vingis Park in Vilnius, with a turnout of about 250,000 people. A year later, on 23 August 1989, marking 50 years of the Molotov–Ribbentrop pact and aiming to draw the world's eye to the occupation of the Baltic states, the Baltic Way event was staged. Held by the Lithuanian Reformation Movement, the Baltic Way was a chain of people holding hands that stretched for nearly 600 kilometres (370 mi) to connect the three Baltic capitals of Vilnius, Riga, and Tallinn. It was a display of the aspiration of the Lithuanian, Latvian, and Estonian people to part ways with the USSR. The LSSR de facto ceased to exist on 11 March 1990, with the Reconstituent Seimas declaring Lithuania's independence restored. Since Lithuania's membership in the USSR was considered a violation of the international law and void, there was no formal procedure of secession from the USSR.
Lithuania declared sovereignty on its territory on 18 May 1989 and declared independence from the Soviet Union on 11 March 1990 as the Republic of Lithuania. Lithuania was the first Baltic state to assert state continuity and the first Soviet Republic to remove "Soviet" from its name (though not the first Soviet Republic to assert its national sovereignty and the supremacy of its national laws over the laws of the Soviet Union; see Estonian Sovereignty Declaration). All legal ties of the Soviet Union's sovereignty over the republic were cut as Lithuania declared the restitution of its independence. The Soviet Union claimed that this declaration was illegal, as Lithuania had to follow the process of secession mandated in the Soviet Constitution if it wanted to leave.
Lithuania contended that the entire process by which Lithuania joined the Soviet Union violated both Lithuanian and international law so it was merely reasserting an independence that previously existed. The Soviet Union threatened to invade, but the Russian SFSR's declaration of sovereignty on June 12 meant that the Soviet Union could not enforce Lithuania's retention.
While other republics held the union-wide referendum in March to restructure the Soviet Union in a loose form, Lithuania, along with Estonia, Latvia, Armenia, Georgia, and Moldova backed out from the votes, it held an independence referendum earlier that month with the majority of 93.2% voters accepted it.
Iceland immediately recognised Lithuania's independence. Other countries followed suit after the failed coup in August, with the State Council of the Soviet Union recognising Lithuania's independence on 6 September 1991. The Soviet Union officially ceased to exist on 26 December 1991. After independence, Lithuania joined the United Nations on 17 September 1991 and joined the European Union and NATO in 2004.
First secretaries of the Communist Party of LithuaniaEdit
First secretaries of the Communist Party of Lithuania:
- Antanas Sniečkus, 1944–1974
- Petras Griškevičius, 1974–1987
- Ringaudas Songaila, 1987–1988
- Algirdas Brazauskas, 1988–1989
Collectivization in the Lithuanian SSR took place between 1947 and 1952. The 1990 per capita GDP of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic was $8,591, which was above the average for the rest of the Soviet Union of $6,871. This was still half or less than half of the per capita GDPs of adjacent countries Norway ($18,470), Sweden ($17,680) and Finland ($16,868). Overall, in the Eastern Bloc, the inefficiency of systems without competition or market-clearing prices became costly and unsustainable, especially with the increasing complexity of world economics. Such systems, which required party-state planning at all levels, ended up collapsing under the weight of accumulated economic inefficiencies, with various attempts at reform merely contributing to the acceleration of crisis-generating tendencies.
Lithuania accounted for just 0.3 percent of the Soviet Union's territory and 1.3 percent of its population, but it turned out a significant amount of the Soviet Union's industrial and agricultural products: 22 percent of its electric welding apparatus, 11.1 percent of its metal-cutting lathes, 2.3 percent of its mineral fertilizers, 4.8 percent of its alternating current electric motors, 2.0 percent of its paper, 2.4 percent of its furniture, 5.2 percent of its socks, 3.5 percent of underwear and knitwear, 1.4 percent of leather footwear, 5.3 percent of household refrigerators, 6.5 percent of television sets, 3.7 percent of meat, 4.7 percent of butter, 1.8 percent of canned products, and 1.9 percent of sugar.
Lithuania was also a donor of the USSR budget. It was calculated in 1995 that the occupation resulted in 80 billion LTL (more than 23 billion euros) financial damages that included not only the population losses, but also military, church property, state's economic destruction among other things.
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