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History of Lithuania

From Academic Kids

Contents

Before the statehood

Pre-indoeuropean prehistory

Baltic prehistory

Baltic tribes

The first Lithuanians, or Liths, were a branch of an ancient group known as the Balts, whose tribes also included the original Prussian and Latvian people. Unlike the original Prussians and Latvians, the Lithuanians have successfully built a nation that has endured for most of the past ten centuries. The first known reference to Lithuania as a nation (Litua) comes from the annals of the monastery of Quedlinburg dated February 14, 1009.

Now the two remaining Baltic nations are Lithuanians and Latvians, back then there were more such nations/tribes; some of which later were merged into those two nations (e.g. Samogitians), while others were completely destroyed (e.g. Prussians).

Amber road

Main article: Amber Road

Towards the creation of single state

Duchies of Lithuania

Foreign relations

During 11th century Lithuanian terrains were included into the list of lands paying tribute to Kiev Russia. These pretensions made the local rulers to raise ambitions of their own. In the 12th century Lithuanians began their plundering raids into neighbouring territories. Military and plundering activities of the Lithuanians triggered struggle for power in Lithuania and formation of early statehood and was a precondition of founding of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

Grand Duchy of Lithuania

Pagan Lithuania

In the early 13th century, a pair of German religious orders, the Teutonic Knights and the Livonian Brothers of the Sword, conquered much of what is now Estonia and Latvia, in addition to parts of Lithuania. In response, a number of small Baltic tribal groups united under the rule of Mindaugas (or Mindowe), and soundly defeated the Livonians at Siauliai in 1236. In 1250 Mindaugas signed an agreement with the Teutonic Order and in 1251 was baptized in their presence by the bishop of Chelmno (in Chelmno Land.) On July 6, 1253, Mindaugas was crowned as King of Lithuania. However, Mindaugas was later murdered by his nephew Treniota, subsequently resulting in great unrest and a relapse into paganism.

In 1316, Gediminas, with the aid of colonists from Germany, began the restoration of the land. The brothers Vytenis and Gediminas united the components into one Lithuania.

Gediminas extended Lithuania to the east by challenging the Mongols, who controlled Russia. Through alliances and conquest the Lithuanians gained control of significant territory of Rus. This area included most of modern Belarus and the Ukraine. These gains created a massive Lithuanian empire that stretched from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea.

When Gediminas was slain, his son Algirdas (Olgierd) suppressed the monasteries. Algirdas's son Jogaila (Jagiello) again made overtures to the Teutonic Order and concluded a secret treaty with them. His uncle Kestutis took him prisoner and a civil war ensued. Kestutis was eventually captured, imprisoned and put to death. However, Kestutis's son Vytautas escaped.

Christian Lithuania

Main article: Jagiellon Poland

Jadwiga of Poland was strongly urged by the Poles to marry Jogaila (Jagiello), who had become grand duke of Lithuania in 1377. For the good of Christianity, Jadwiga consented and married Jogaila three days after he was baptized. Jagiello and Lithuanians favoured this marriage, as the alliance with Poland gave them a powerful ally against the constant threat of Germans (especially the Teutonic Order based in Prussia) and the Muscovy from the east. On February 2, 1386, Wladislaw Jagiello was elected King of Poland by Polish Parliament (Sejm). Lithuania and Poland now shared the same rulers, although Lithuania remained a separate country and continued to be ruled by grand dukes (often the grand duke of Lithuania was also the king of Poland). Lithuania attempted to remain separate, but the highest aristocratic social class in Lithuania was increasingly influenced by Polish culture and language. This process was voluntary, but its reasons, as with most of the culture-related historical events are not entirely clear. Supposedly, position of Catholic church, numeral superiority of Polish nobility, its achievements, desire to join the more powerful social class, and situation of mixing ethnic Lithuanian and Belarusian aristocracies might have influence to it. Many cities were founded with the German system of laws (Magdeburg Rights). The largest of these cities was Vilnius, which later became the capital city.

Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth (1569-1795)

Main article: History of Poland (1569-1795)

Early years of new state

With the Lublin Union of 1569 Poland and Lithuania formed a new state: the Republic of Both Nations (commonly known as Poland-Lithuania or see Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Polish: Rzeczpospolita, Lithuanian: Abiejų Tautų Respublika).

Polonization

Polonization of Lithuanian life, especially of state institutions, became stronger. Under the influence of Lithuanian upper classes and the church, both using mainly Polish language, lower levels of the nobility and gentry and inhabitants of two biggest towns, Vilnius and Grodna, started learning Polish language. In 1696 Polish language became an official state language, replacing the previous Belarusian.

The rise of nobles

Lithuanian autonomy

Despite this integration, for nearly two centuries Lithuania continued to exist as the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, retaining separate laws as well as an army and a Treasury.

Wars against Swedes and Russians

Livonian war

Great Northern war

Destruction of the state

Reforms by Poniatowski

Divisions

It wasn't until the Constitution of May 3, 1791, when this division was abolished by the Sejm. However, partitions of Poland, (1772, 1793 and 1795), saw Lithuania divided between Russia and Prussia. Subsequent to the partitions, Lithuania ceased to exist as a distinct entity for more than a century.

Imperial Russian occupation (1795-1914)

Domination of Russia

Following the third partition, the Russian Empire controlled the majority of Lithuania. This included Vilnius, which with 25,000 inhabitants was now one of the largest cities in the Empire. In the early years of the 19th century, there were signs that Lithuania might be allowed some separate recognition by the Empire.

Napoleon's invasion

These hopes were soon to be dashed, particularly subsequent to 1812, when Lithuanians eagerly welcomed Napoleon's invading French army as liberators.

Persecutions

After the French army's withdrawal, Tsar Nicholas I began an intensive program of russification. The south-western part of Lithuania included in Prussia in 1795 and in the short-lived Duchy of Warsaw in 1807 became a part of the Russian-controlled Kingdom of Poland in 1815, while the rest continued to be administered as a Russian province.

Revolts

The Lithuanians and Poles revolted twice, in 1831 and 1863, failing in both attempts. In 1864, the Lithuanian language and Latin alphabet were banned.

National revival

National revival is the period under late Russian occupation. During it the Lithuanian culture reborn after long years of being dominated by others. Because of the fact that Lithuanian nobles were polonized and only poor and middle classes used Lithuanian (but some of the later also tended to use Polish for "prestige"), Lithuanian was considered not prestigious language. There were even expectations that the language would go extinct, as more and more territories in the east were slavinisation, and more and more people started to use Polish or Russian in daily life. The only place where Lithuanian was considered to be more prestigious and worthy of books and such was German-controlled Lithuania Minor, however there was slow but steady germanisation due to Germans arriving to those territories. The revival started among poor people, mostly peasants, and later some educated people started using Lithuanian too. These people started releasing first Lithuanian newspapers, Aušra and Varpas, also writting poems, books in Lithuanian; the past of Grand Duchy of Lithuania was glorified, Lithuanians were suggested to understand that the nation was once powerful and had many heroes. This eventually made Lithuania to understand itself as a nation, at least the countryside of it (this came to the cities (e.g. Vilnius) later, together with influx of former country-dwellers due to urbanisation). This became the major thrust in seeking independence. There were other organisations meant to be against Russia: e.g. there was a Russian policy that everybody should drink alcohol, therefore priest Motiejus Valančius estabilished an "abstinence movement", which suggested to do vice-versa. These and other things made Russians to be even harsher; there were known strikes against Catholic churches, and the ban of Lithuanian press still continued.

World War 1 (1914-1918)

Despite Russian attempts to integrate Lithuania, by the end of the 19th century Lithuania had developed a growing nationalist movement. During the Russia-wide revolutionary upsurge of 1905 a congress (Seimas) of Lithuanian representatives (December) demanded provincial autonomy. During World War I Lithuania's occupation by Germany (1915) and the subsequent collapse of the Russian imperial government led to the proclamation of an independent republic (February 16, 1918) under German control, and full independence upon Germany's surrender (November 1918).

Independent interwar Lithuania (1918-1940)

Freedom wars (1918-1922)

The term "Freedom wars" refers to the three wars Lithuania was fighting to defend it's territory from various powers: bolsheviks, bermontians and Poles; each of these powers had their own agenda on fighting Lithuania.

War against bolsheviks

Bolsheviks were attacking Lithuania from the east, trying not to let it to regain independence. Such actions succeeded in some other states, such as Georgia, Belarus or Ukraine, which were also briefly independent but fallen into USSR rule again soon after civil war in Russia ended. However in Lithuania they managed to take only the eastern side of country, then the government in temporary capital Kaunas managed to take the upper side in war and bolsheviks were thrown off.

War against bermontians

Bermontians were Russian troops who were at first taken as POWs by Germany in World War I and then released on the promise that they would help fighting against the communists in the Russian civil war. Instead, led by Pavel Bermont-Avalov, they decided to attack the newly-independent states of Lithuania and Latvia, to which Germany had granted independence.

Bermont thought that in the Russian civil war the communists would be crushed anyway, so there was no need to help fighting against them; instead he thought he could annex the Baltic states, and, once the communists were destroyed, join them to Russia, getting some high position or local ruler's title in exchange. Bermontians managed to take considerable territories in western Lithuania (Samogitia).

Bermontians, once they would annex a town, would ban the local languages there and enforce the Russian language; this and other reasons made them very unpopular with the local population. In Latvia, they managed to take the capital Riga; however the temporary capital of Lithuania, Kaunas, was farther away. Despite having to fight the communists at the same time in the east, Lithuania collected enough forces and started to win territories back from the Bermontians. The Bermontians were finally crushed near Radviliškis, a major railway centre, where they were put into trains and sent to Russia. As for Latvia, Estonia helped it to reconquer lost territories, according to some explanations, in exchange for Latvia ceding the island of Ruhnu and its territorial waters to Estonia.

War against Poland

Main article: Polish-Lithuanian War

The newly regained independence of both Lithuania and Poland produced a prolonged border dispute involving Vilnius (Wilno in Polish), which Lithuania claimed as its historic capital, but which had only about 2% of Lithuanian population. Lithuanians made majority in some surrounding areas though, which were also part of disputed Vilnius region, and in some other territories Belarusians made majority, Jews made majority in some towns, therefore due to historical domination of this area, Lithuanian said that Lithuania has more rights to this multiethnic territory than Poland does. Those territories were also claimed by Soviet Union. Eventually, in October 1920, during the later stages of Polish-Soviet war, Polish irregular forces occupied Vilnius and most of the disputed areas. A puppet state Central Lithuania was established there.

Heydey of democratic Lithuania (1922-1926)

Lithuania became a democratic state briefly, with a president elected for 7 years by parliament and parliament elected by people.

Question of Vilnius region

Main article: Vilnius region

Question of Vilnius remained important, state of war still existed through all the democratic period of interwar Lithuania because of Vilnius question. In Vilnius region, elections were held on January 8 1922. Elections were supposedly free in the way that nobody forced people to vote anyhow; however the territory where elections were done did not encompassed whole Vilnius region, excluded some Lithanian-dominated territories. At first both countries tried to get various groups living in this multicultural territory at their side, later however Lithuanians and Jews mainly boycotted elections. Enough people voted for them to be considered done however, and the newly elected parliament decided to join Poland fully and dissolve Central Lithuania. Polish Sejm accepted the law proposed by the Central Lithuanian parliament only on March 22, 1922 and League of Nations confirmed it on March 15 1923. Lithuanian government in Kaunas (which was designed as temporary capital with Vilnius remaining capital according to constitution) refused to accept Poland's annexation of the Vilnius district and maintained a formal state of war. Lithuanian claim over the area was based on fact that area was always historically Lithuanian, and therefore Lithuania supposedly had more rights to this multicultural area, in which various lands had majorities of Poles, Lithuanians, Belarusians and Jews (in some towns).

Question of Klaipėda region

Main article: Klaipėda region

Vilnius was not the only city whose possession was in dispute. Klaipeda (at the time called Memel) had been invaded by the Teutonic Knights 700 years earlier, but from 1446 to 1648 it was a part of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Afterwards it became Prussian; much of the population were bilingual Lithuanian/German speakers and considered themselves members of the Prussian state. The Memelland district, including the city of Klaipeda, was made a separate territory under French occupation in 1920 as part of the Treaty of Versailles. Lithuania took advantage of the Ruhr Crisis and seized the territory in January 1923, leading to its incorporation as an autonomous district of Lithuania in May 1924.

Heydey of the authoritarian regime (1926-1938)

Following a succession of conservative governments, Lithuania's first elected government of the left (June 1926) was overthrown in a military coup in December 1926. Antanas Smetona, first president of Lithuania, resumed office as president, but with dictatorial powers; Augustinas Voldemaras of the far-right "Iron Wolf" movement originally served as his prime minister. After Voldemaras's fall in September 1929, Smetona continued to direct Lithuania's political affairs until 1940.

Klaipėda region during the period

Twice between 1924 and 1938, martial law was imposed to put down anti-Lithuanian movements in the German community.

Collapse of the state (1938-1940)

Polish ultimatum (de jure loss of Vilnius region), 1938

In 1938, after border incident in which one Polish soldier died, Polish presented ultimatum to Lithuania to renew diplomatic relations, this way de jure recognising Vilnius region as part of Poland. The situation was good for it then because the powers in Europe were too busy with recent Hitler's actions which were seen to be more important. Ultimatum was to be either accepted or denied in 24 hours, in latter case the war would start. Knowing that Lithuania was weaker at the time and under such circumstances there would be no support from other countries, Lithuania accepted it. It was signed by representatives of both states in Tallinn, Estonia. After that, several quiet protests happened in Lithuania. As positive effects of ultimatum, treaties about postal exchange, railway transport, and other means of communication were signed, finally allowing population to exchange letters and using phones across the borders.

German ultimatum (Lithuania loses Klaipėda region), 1939

National Socialist Party, which was ideologically similar to the German Nazi Party, gained a larger voice in the city's politics. In the 1938 election, the National Socialists won the majority of seats and negotiated a settlement to hand over Klaipeda to Germany. A majority of the town's Jewish population, foreseeing this change in the cards, had already fled the area.

As effect of loss of Klaipeda between May 12 and 13 gen. Stasys Rasztikis visited Warsaw, suggesting military alliance to Poland; however, Polish government made serious mistake by treating lightly his proposition, therefore losing small, but potentially important ally. Some historians suggest, that Lithuania seek military alliance with Poland even earlier in 1938, and Polish ultimatum was issued in agreement with Lithuanians, to allow Lithuanian government to normalise diplomatic relationship with Poland without infuriating more extremist parts of the population.

The deal with Soviets (Soviet armies are based in Lithuania), 1939

The city of Vilnius was occupied by the Red Army and soon returned to Lithuania together with only one fifth of Vilnius region and the Soviets established their military presence within the country.

The situation in Europe

Germany expanded even more, by presenting ultimatums to Czechoslovakia and acquiring Austria, and as it turned out both Germans and Russians wanted even more. In August 1939, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union signed an agreement (the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact), with the secret clauses assigning spheres of influence in the area of the Baltic Sea. Lithuania was initially assigned to the German sphere of influence, but when Lithuania refused to ally with Germany in the attack on Poland, it was transferred to the Soviets in another secret pact later that year.

World War II (1940-1945)

First Soviet occupation (1940-1941)

The occupation and annexation

Despite having a non-aggression pact signed and in force, Lithuania was given an ultimatum by Soviet Russia in 1940, which required the removal and imprisonment of several key Lithuanian politicians, the pretext for which officially was the supposed kidnapping of Russian border guards (it is alleged that the incident was staged by the Russians themselves ) and acceptance of additional Soviet military units in the Lithuanian territory. Unlike Finland, Lithuania did not defend itself. It was argued wherether the ultimatum should be accepted or not, President Antanas Smetona was against it and said that Lithuania should fight. Some members of the government however decided that it should be accepted as supposedly Lithuania would have lost a war against Russia anyway; some claimed that it would be worthy to lose more than half of the population if that would save freedom, but even under those conditions stopping the Soviets was doubtful. Therefore the ultimatum was accepted. Antanas Smetona left Lithuania after that - this was intended to show that the occupation was illegal. Soviet military forces (15 divisions, about 150 000 soldiers) crossed the Lithuanian border on the 15 th of June, 1940. The military of Lithuania was ordered not to resist. With the support of soviet military forces a new government, loyal to the Soviets, was formed, mainly out of known Lithuanians (such as poets or singers), supposedly to be more popular for ordinary people. Government members were nominated according to the orders of Soviet envoy in Lithuania Dekanozov. The selection of prime minister was not carried out according to the procedures foreseen in Lithuanian constitution. This temporary government was in office for a very short period. On the July 14-15 of 1940 elections to the so called "People parliament" were organized. Only collaborationist communist party of Lithuania with its leaders returning from Moscow or released from prisons was allowed to nominate candidates. People were threatened to attend elections, but results still were falsified. On the 21 of July "People parliament" declared Lithuania's will to join the Soviet Union. On the 3 of August, 1940 Supreme council of the USSR "admitted" Lithuania into Soviet Union. The process of annexation formally was over.

Soviet actions

Soviet activists with the help of local communists started nationalisation of property. Lithuanian communist party which actually had only a few Lithuanians in it's ranks came into rule, that government which was made of popular people was dissolved. In June of 1941 the USSR deported approximately 35,000 Lithuanians to Siberia and other parts of Russia. Additionally, positions of two ethnic groups, which had collaborated in creating of Lithuanian state, Lithuanians and Jews, separated. Lithuanians were frightened and astonished by inhuman deportations and watched for any possibility of liberation. Meanwhile Jewish population preferred Russian occupation to Nazi rule. This situation was used by Nazi propaganda a week later and may have influence on behavior of some Lithuanians during Nazi occupation. First Russian occupation however was short, but it did lots of damage. Lithuanian activist front, an underground organisation led by Kazys Škirpa was formed. When Germany declared war on Soviet Union, this organisation used the opportunity to declare independence.

Independent Lithuania (1941)

Main article: June independence

On June 22, 1941, Hitler invaded the Soviet Union. Independence was declared then, with the expectation that the Soviets would weaken and wouldn't have enough strength to hold Lithuania. On June 24th of 1941, Juozas Ambrazevičius, a member of Lithuanian Activist Front (Lietuvos aktyvistų frontas, LAF), became prime minister. The leader of the LAF was Kazys Škirpa, who was in Berlin, away from Soviet occupation. However, the Germans did not let him out because Nazi Germany did not want an independent Lithuania and planned for it to be a part of the occupied territories. The new government asked people via radio not to loot and to remain in place with the retreat of Soviet army, and declared Lithuania independent again. At this time the government tried to negotiate with Germany to allow Lithuanian independence. However, Lithuania was unable to resist because of the huge disparity of strength and the Germans occupied Lithuania. The government, no longer having any real power, dissolved itself on August 7th, 1941.

German occupation (1941-1944)

German actions

Although some Lithuanians had welcomed the German invasion as liberation from Soviet occupation, they soon realized that the Nazis viewed the natives as second-class citizens. Germany added a small part of southern Lithuania to be ruled directly by Germany (Balstogė county), while to the Lithuanian part of Ostland some more lands from Vilnius region were attached (Ašmena, Svyriai, etc.), ones which previously weren't given to Lithuania by Soviets. Lithuania however lost it's independence fully. Economical condition was harsh, especially in cities and towns (in villages people were able to grow food for themselves at least). The cleanising started, about 200,000 Jews were killed overally.

Resistance

The importation of thousands of German farmers to work natives' lands, along with the dismissal of the Lithuanian government, soon produced a vigorous resistance movement. Together with Soviet partisans, supporters of independence put up a resistance movement to deflect Nazi recruitment of Lithuanians to the German army. Partisans moved through the woods and countryside, attacking German positions and supply lines. Partisans however disagreed between themselves, e.g. some partisans were supported by Soviet Union and their mission was to incorporate Lithuania to USSR, while most fought for independence Lithuania. There were disturbances however between these two groups of partisans. As well there were disturbances between Lithuanian and Polish partisans, the later of which were operating in Vilnius Region, especially Armia Krajowa: Polish partisans envisioned the region as part of liberated Poland, while Lithuanian ones envisioned it as part of liberated Lithuania. Armia Krajowa fought against Lithuanian police and forces of Povilas Plechavicius. AK forces committed at least one massacre of Lithuanian village Dubingiai (Dubinki), according to them as an answer to massacre of Polish village Glinciszki, which was supposedly done by police of Lithuania (although by that time Lithuania was under nazi rule, so police wasn't independent).

Relation of German forces and Lithuanians

There are a few versions about a possible Lithuanian collaboration with nazis, and the extent of it. One version, mostly supported by Russians, tried to claim that all of Lithuanian partisans, except for pro-Soviet ones, were nazi collaborators, and that they killed many innocent people supposedly. This version now however is generally seen as Soviet propaganda against those who fought for liberation of Lithuania, because after red army occupied Lithuania again same partisans fought against Soviet Union too mostly, and for Russians it was impossible to understand that partisans might support neither side (neither Germans nor Russians). Although this theory was largely denied, there is however still some facts which prooves Lithuanian support of some extent to Germany: some Lithuanians took part in actions of German government against some groups. However, other Lithuanians were helping Jews to hide. One of major German attempts to attract more Lithuanians to their side was attempt of creation of special army unit, which was meant supposedly to defend Lithuania. However, once the unit was created, the Germans tried to change it's purpose to help German causes in war against Soviets and such instead. However, before Germans succeeded, the unit was dissolved by it's leadership, therefore no SS unit was formed in Lithuania.

Second Soviet occupation

In summer of 1944, the Red Army reached eastern Lithuania, while the city of Wilno was liberated by the Home Army during the ill-fated Operation Ostra Brama. By January 1945, the Russians captured Klaipeda, on the Baltic coast. The USSR subsequently reclaimed Lithuania as a Soviet republic, with the agreement of the United States and Britain (see Yalta and Potsdam Agreements.)

Soviet occupation (1944-1990)

Stalinism

The mass deportation campaigns of 1941-52 exiled 29,923 families to Siberia and other remote parts of the Soviet Union. Official statistics state that more than 120,000 people were deported from Lithuania during this period, while some sources estimate the number of political prisoners and deportees at 300,000. In response to these events, an estimated several tens of thousands of resistance fighters participated in unsuccessful guerilla warfare against the Soviet regime from 1944-53. Soviet authorities encouraged immigration of other Soviet workers, especially Russians, as a way of integrating Lithuania into the Soviet Union and to encourage industrial development. This period has a dedicated Grutas theme park.

Policy of Brezhnev

Policy of Khrushchev

Rebirth (1988-1990)

Until mid-1988, all political, economic, and cultural life was controlled by the Lithuanian Communist Party (LCP). Lithuanians as well as people in two other Baltic republics distrusted Soviet regime even more than people in other regions of the Soviet state, and gave their own specific and active support to Gorbachev's program of social and political reforms by Lithuanians. Under the leadership of intellectuals, the Lithuanian reform movement "Sąjūdis" was formed in mid-1988 and declared a program of democratic and national rights, winning nationwide popularity. Inspired by Sąjūdis, the Lithuanian Supreme Soviet passed constitutional amendments on the supremacy of Lithuanian laws over Soviet legislation, annulled the 1940 decisions on proclaiming Lithuania a part of the U.S.S.R., legalized a multi-party system, and adopted a number of other important decisions. A large number of LCP members also supported the ideas of Sąjūdis, and with Sąjūdis support, Algirdas Brazauskas was elected First Secretary of the Central Committee of the LCP in 1988. In December 1989, the Brazauskas-led LCP declared its independence from the Communist party of the Soviet Union and became a separate party, which after it renamed itself in 1990 the Lithuanian Democratic Labor Party.

Independent modern Lithuania (1990-2004)

Struggle for independence (1990-1991)

Election of Sąjūdis and independence declaration, 1990

In 1990, Sąjūdis-backed candidates won the elections to the Lithuanian Supreme Soviet. On March 11, 1990, the Supreme Soviet (or, more precisely, the Supreme Council of Lithuania) proclaimed the restitution of Lithuanian independence, becoming the first of the Soviet republics to declare national rights. The Supreme Council of Lithuania also appointed leaders of the state and adopted the Provisional Fundamental Law (temporary constitution) on this day. The Lithuanian SSR ceased to exist. Vytautas Landsbergis became the head of the state and Kazimiera Prunskienė led the Cabinet of Ministers.

Soviet reaction, 1990

On March 15 the U.S.S.R. demanded revocation of the act and began employing political and economic sanctions against Lithuania as well as demonstrating military force. Lithuanians, inspired by their government, protested against Soviet actions by using peaceful means and not trying to use some extreme or gun shifts.

January events, 1991

On January 10, 1991, U.S.S.R. authorities seized the main publishing house and other premises in Vilnius and attempted to suppress the elected government by sponsoring a so called National Salvation Committee. Three days later, the Soviets forcibly took over the TV tower, killing 14 unarmed civilians and injuring 700. The self-styled National Salvation Committee declared the Government overthrown, but capturing of houses of the Supreme Council and the Government never followed. Moscow failed to act further to crush the Lithianian independence movement, in light of widespread world criticism and a dearth of local popular support. The Lithuanian government continued to work.

Plebiscite and further Russian attacks, 1991

During the national plebiscite on February 9 more than 90% of those who took part in the voting (76% of all eligible voters) voted in favor of an independent, democratic Lithuania. Led by tenacious Landsbergis, Lithuanian leadership continued to labor for Western diplomatic recognition of its independence. Meanwhile, Soviet military and security forces continued forced conscription, occasional seizure of buildings, attacks on customs posts, and a few killings of customs and police officials.

Recognition of independence, 1991

During the Soviet coup attempt of 1991, Soviet military troops took over several communications and other government facilities in Vilnius and other cities, but returned to their barracks when the coup failed. The Lithuanian Government banned the Communist Party and ordered confiscation of its property. Independence was recognised by Russia in late 1991..

Building the new state (1991-1996)

Political developmets

As in many other formerly Soviet countries, popularity of the liberating movement (Sąjūdis in this case) was diminishing, due to people's overly high expectations that the country would get rich immidietly when it became capitalist, which understandably did not happen. Due to change towards the market economy some of the factors, e.g. employment (which was near 100% during Soviet times due to underemployment), fell. At the time the Lithuanian Communist Party renamed itself LDDP (Lithuanian Democratic Labour Party) and ran against Sąjūdis in 1992 elections. Sąjūdis failed at those elections, and LDDP won the majority, although not enough to change the constitution. This was not expected, and LDDP had even less candidates in their lists than they got seats in parliament, therefore, according to the law, the unused seats were distributed among other political parties according to the percentages of votes. LDDP did not go the radical way back as, for example, the Belarusians did, and more or less continued building the independent state. Leftist policies however also prooved to be wrong for the time, and in the elections of 1996 rightist Homeland Union won the majority of seats. Homeland Union was then soon established by Vytautas Landsbergis, leader of Sąjūdis, when it was seen that Sąjūdis needed reform. Sąjūdis remained as a public organisation, slowly diminishing and losing it's importance. Although it exists today, it does not perform any political actions anymore.

Privatization

It was decided that the state will have a market economy, thereofre the organisations like shops and also flats which were owned by government and leased to people, were to be privatised. Because people did not have money, government issued equal ammonts of investitional cheques to everybody, which could be used to privatise things such as real estate. Privatising of companies was done in auctions where one who would offer the most cheques would win. People used to cooperate in groups to have a larger amount to offer. Privatisation campaign in Lithuania, unlike Russia, did not create a small group of very wealthy and powerful people. This was probably because the privatisation at start was just for small organisations, and not large enterprises such as telecoms or airlines, which were done much later and some are still left unprivatised (and then already a monetary model was chosen for privatisation instead of cheque-based one). Privatisation however created a problem of people who were new to business acquiring some factories which were thriving previously and being unable to make them continue prospering; others claims however that the fate of these factories was already sealed anyways because they were uneconomical and could only have been working under planned economy of Soviet Union.

Russian troop withdrawal (1991-1994)

Despite Lithuania's achievement of complete independence, sizable numbers of Russian forces remained in its territory. Withdrawal of those forces was one of Lithuania's top foreign policy priorities. Lithuania and Russia signed an agreement on September 8, 1992, calling for Russian troop withdrawals by August 31, 1993, which took place on time.

Forming the military

First military of the reborn country were the Lithuanian volunteers, who were first given oath at the Supreme Council of Lithuania soon after the independence declaration. Later SKAT was formed out of them. However, when LDDP (former communists) came to power in 1992, the situation of voluntarees was weakened, according to them on purpose by not giving enough weaponry, financing nor uniforms. This led to the Coup of the Volunteers; however with time the situation was calmed down, and Lithuanian military built to the common standart in the world, with it's air force, navy and land army. SKAT remained too, and interwar paramilitary organisations such as Lithuanian Gunmen were recreated, Young Gunmen, organisation similar to boy scouts, was also created. However, gunmen organisations does not have power or support they enjoyed in interwar Lithuania.

Forming the monetary system

Lithuanian monetary system was to be based on Litas, same currency as was during the interwar republic of Lithuania. The name Litas derrives from name Lithuania (the other Baltic State, Latvia, has similarly-calleed currency Lats). The currency was to be introduced quickly, immidietly after Rouble, however it did not happen and Russia did not supported use of Roubles in Lithuania, therefore temporary currency Talonas was introduced (commonly called Vagnorkė or Vagnorėlis because Gediminas Vagnorius was prime minister during the introduction of those). This currency however was very simple, easily counterfeited, and also was subject to heavy inflation. There were two versions of Talonas, large one and then small one, which was released to change the large banknotes when they lost their value; however later it was controversially decided that large banknotes would regain value again. Eventually Litas was issued (printed outside Lithuania), and it was decided to peg it to US dollar. Some possible affairs and conspiracy theories are available about the issue of Litas back then. Since then except for first few years and up till joining European Union, inflation in Lithuania was among the lowest in Europe.

Going forward (1996-2004)

Lithuania in the European Union (2004-?)

In October 2002, Lithuania was invited to join the European Union and one month later, to join NATO. It became a member of both in 2004.

See also

External link

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