Category Archives: Lithuanian
One Man’s Thoughts Has Moved To
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Thank You, Vytautas
VILNIUS – For the first time, Lithuania has so solidly marked the anniversary of the invasion of Soviet troops into Lithuania, on June 15, 1940. According to Defense Minister Rasa Jukneviviene, some 150,000-250,000 Soviet soldiers entered Lithuania on that day. On June 15, a special session was organized in the parliament to commemorate that sad day which shocked Lithuania 70 years ago. It was attended by President Dalia Grybauskaite. The next day the session was followed by conference of historians in the parliament. During both events the consequences of the Soviet invasion were emphasized.
“Now we can notice the lack of trust in democracy because the communist occupation left its traces in the people’s psyche,” Julius Sasnauskas, Catholic priest and Soviet-era political prisoner, said in the parliament adding that it is quite weird that Lithuania used to commemorate, on a state level, the first mass deportations of Lithuanians to Siberia on June 14, 1941, but the date which took place a year earlier and which caused those deportations was somewhat forgotten on the state level.
“According to scientists, if not for the Soviet occupation, Lithuania would now have five million inhabitants – the same size of population as Norway, Finland or Denmark. Lithuania’s standard of living would be the same as in those countries. There would be no such emigration from Lithuania as it is now,” Parliament Speaker Irena Degutiene said during the June 15 sitting in the parliament.
Earlier on that day, she went to the Uta village of the Varena region to pay tribute to Lithuanian border policeman Aleksandras Barauskas, who was killed by the Soviet army on that day 70 years ago. Barauskas was the first victim of the USSR’s aggression in Lithuania. He rented a flat in a wooden house just 100 meters from the border with the USSR. At 3:40 in the morning, 20 Soviet soldiers crossed the border and attacked that house where Barauskas was sleeping with his wife and children. This attack was carried out before the time limit of the USSR’s ultimatum demanding allowance for the mass entrance of the USSR’s troops ran out. The Soviet soldiers hit Barauskas’ head with a sword, and afterwards shot him. After that action, the Soviet soldiers went back to the USSR, just to return after several hours, together with a mass invasion of Soviet troops. Barauskas died when his colleagues were transporting him to a hospital. His daughter, Ona Marija Brasiuniene, took part in the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of her father’s murder in Uta. On June 15, 1940, her father had no idea about the secret Stalin-Hitler deals and the Soviet ultimatum to Lithuania.
On Aug. 23, 1939, the USSR and Nazi Germany signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, with secret clauses assigning spheres of influence in Central Europe and the Baltic Sea area. Later in 1939, the city of Vilnius was occupied by the Red Army during the Soviet invasion into Poland and the Soviet-proposed Soviet-Lithuanian Mutual Assistance Pact transferred Vilnius and one-fifth of the Vilnius region to Lithuania in exchange for stationing 20,000 Soviet troops within Lithuania. In 1940, Stalin presented the ultimatum to Lithuania. The ultimatum demanded to form a new pro-Soviet government and admit an unspecified number of Soviet troops. Lithuania accepted the ultimatum, as effective military resistance was impossible with Soviet troops already within the country.
“President Antanas Smetona was in favor of armed resistance. He was supported by Defense Minister Kazys Musteikis, Education Minister Kazimieras Jokantas and National Audit Office Chief Konstantinas Sakenis. They were in the minority and the ultimatum was accepted,” Defense Minister Jukneviciene said about the last meeting of the Lithuanian government before the Soviet invasion, at the commemoration ceremony in the village of Uta. Smetona left Lithuania immediately after that meeting, in fear that he could be forced by the Soviets to justify the occupation. Smetona died in Cleveland, USA, on Dec. 9, 1944, during a fire caused by unknown reasons in a house where he lived.
On June 16, historians from Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland presented their findings about the Soviet aggression against the Baltics. The majority of those facts are well known. However, some interesting findings still take place. For example, according to Polish historian Krzysztof Tarka, during WWII, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt had the intention to agree officially with the Soviet annexation of Finland and the Baltic states with one condition to Stalin: those citizens of Finland and the Baltics who do not want to live under the Soviet rule should have the right to leave the USSR. However, advisers in the White House convinced Roosevelt not to do this, and the U.S., as well as the rest of Western democracies (with the exception of Sweden and Finland) never recognized the Baltics as a legitimate part of the USSR. Tarka made his finding studying documents of the diplomatic service of the Polish government, which moved to work in London when the Nazis and the Soviets divided Poland among themselves.
On June 15, Lithuanians also demonstrated that they remember not only their own history’s wounds. On this significant day, officially called in Lithuania as Occupation and Genocide Day, a square in the Uzupis district of Vilnius was officially given the name of Tibet Square. The artsy community of Uzupis was pushing the Vilnius municipality to do this for a long time, but the Vilnius municipality tried to avoid it because of fear of China’s reaction. However, the Uzupis’ bohemians were so persistent that the municipality surrendered and Vilnius Vice Mayor Gintautas Babravicius took part in the opening ceremony, enriched with various rituals of Tibetan Buddhism.
On June 15, the Lithuanian parliament, using the symbolism of the date, on the initiative of Vilija Aleknaite-Abramikiene, MP of the Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats, made amendments in the Criminal Code stipulating criminal penalties for those publicly justifying, denying or playing down international crimes, as well as crimes committed by the USSR and the Nazis against Lithuania.
A total of 68 MPs supported the amendments to the Criminal Code. Five lawmakers voted against the bill while 32 abstained. In line with the amendments, those justifying or denying the aggression by the USSR and Nazi Germany against Lithuania, as well as cases of genocide of the Lithuanian people, and “grave crimes committed in 1990-1991 against Lithuania and its people” will face criminal prosecution. Those violating the law will face a fine or a prison term of up to two years only in case they justify, deny or play down the crimes “in an insulting way” or if such actions “result in the violation of public order.”
Algirdas Brazauskas, 77, died at home Saturday after suffering from prostate cancer.
Brazauskas became the Baltic republic’s president after it regained independence following five decades of Soviet occupation.
He had formerly been a leader of the Lithuanian Communist Party, but gained popularity by challenging the Kremlin with demands for more political and economic freedom in late 1980s.
Brazauskas is survived by his wife, Kristina, and two daughters
These two YouTube videos have outstanding footage of the pre-war Lithuanian military. Not real long but very historical stuff. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in Lithuanian military history.
One Man’s Thoughts Has Moved To
You can read this article at:
Thank You, Vytautas
Few countries have suffered as much from the global financial meltdown as Lithuania, which has seen its gross domestic product shrivel by 19 percent this year. As the jobless rate soars and the government struggles to pay its bills, one of the biggest casualties has been the Royal Palace.
Hampered by an empty treasury and huge cost overruns, construction has come almost to a standstill on the palace: a white-walled replica of the colossal 15th-century castle complex that once dominated Vilnius’s baroque Old Town and represented the seat of an empire that reached from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea.
The original palace was razed in 1802 by Russia, which demolished it so thoroughly that it even sold off the rubble. Lithuanian nationalists, who have dreamed about resurrecting the castle for generations, finally got their chance after the country of 3.5 million people declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1990.
With the palace about half-built after seven years of labor, Lithuania can’t afford to scrap the project, but it can’t afford to finish it, either. The total price tag has tripled from original estimates, and government officials say they can’t foresee when they will be able to come up with the $70 million necessary to complete the job. “I’m afraid there is truly no chance in the near future for us to finish even such a revered building as this,” Finance Minister Ingrida Simonyte told reporters last month.
Officials said they would slash by one-third the already meager construction budget for the palace next year.
Along with its Baltic neighbors — Latvia and Estonia — Lithuania experienced an economic boom after it joined the European Union in 2004, with plenty of easy credit as foreign investors poured money into the region. The credit bubble popped last year, however, resulting in an enormous reverse flow of capital that has forced the government to implement draconian spending cuts.
The palace complex was supposed to have been done in time for the country’s millennium celebration in July — the 1,000th anniversary of the first recorded mention of Lithuania. (In 1009, a nun in the German city of Quedlinburg wrote that a local missionary, Saint Bruno, had been killed at the hands of pagans in “Lituae,” or Lithuania.)
The palace did briefly open its gates for the Millennium Day ceremony, which was attended by several modern-day royals and heads of state from neighboring countries. Although the public was allowed a peek inside for a few days, the site has remained off-limits since then.
The new palace is intended to remind Lithuanians that their small country — today about the size of West Virginia — was once a great empire, ruling over much of present-day Belarus, Ukraine and Poland.
Supporters of the palace acknowledge that popular backing has waned since the economy crashed last year. But Kazys Almenas, founder of an advocacy group called the Palace Support Fund, said the cost of finishing the project would still barely make a dent in Lithuania’s national budget.
“There are those who like to grandstand — ‘Oh, you’re taking away money from the orphans,’ ” he said. “But eventually there is no question that it will be built. The question is just when.”
Almenas, a retired nuclear engineering professor from the University of Maryland at College Park, was displaced from Lithuania as a child during World War II and immigrated to the United States. He returned to Vilnius in 1999 and has lobbied on behalf of the palace ever since.
He conceded that many Lithuanians still don’t see the need to rebuild a palace that vanished more than 200 years ago. But he argued that the return of the royal quarters was the only way to fill a long-standing void in the city center.
“When the castle was razed, you walked down Castle Street and what was there? Just a bunch of trees. Something was definitely wrong,” he said. “What kind of Castle Street is it if you don’t have a castle at the end?”