THE VOICE OF INTERNATIONAL LITHUANIA
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But privately, in the homes Lithuanians were sticking to the proud traditions of Christmas from centuries back in time. Christmas Worship in churches was banned, so also the religious ceremonies took place at home in the families.
In 1980 there were probably many who had given up the idea that Lithuania would again be a free country, but in spite of the hopelessness one held the strong traditions alive as much as one could.
The years of Soviet control had deteriorated Lithuania in most areas. The range of foods and other work in shops and markets were severely restricted, but most people still managed to create good Christmas meals using fruits and vegetables they had grown in their own gardens outside the towns and by ‘trading’ goods from farmers who managed to ‘steal’ meat and other food products from the collective farms they worked for.
Stalin and his subordinates in Lithuania considered the majority of the nation to be their enemies. From the very first day of their return to Lithuania, they intended to rule with an iron hand. In normal circumstances, a new regime usually adopts some form of a "carrot and stick" policy. For example, some sectors of the population are wooed, while others are more or less repressed. The communists in Lithuania employed only the "stick." Avoidance of punishment was considered reward enough. Some effort was made to win support of the poorer peasants, yet even these efforts were unsystematic and less than wholehearted. The regime was confident of its ability to forcibly suppress any resistance without making any concessions. Lithuanians were to accept Soviet rule on Soviet terms.
During the same period, another 200,000 people were thrown into prisons in Lithuania and elsewhere in the Soviet Union. Some 150,000 of them were sent to the Gulags, Soviet Russia‘s concentration camps, situated mostly in Siberia.
Altogether, approximately 600,000 prisoners were deported from the Soviet occupied Baltic States - Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. There were some 10 million inhabitants in all three Baltic States on the eve of the Soviet occupation. Proportionately, the number of Baltic prisoners would have been equal to a loss of 20 million people in the United States or 5 million in Great Britain.
The mass deportations to Siberia continued until the death of Josef Stalin in 1953, but many prisoners remained in the camps also during the time of Nikita Khrushchev.
In a book by Anatol Marchenko published in Germany in 1973, he tells about his experiences from Soviet prisons and concentration camps in the early 1960s. One of his stories is about three Lithuanian prisoners who tried to escape from the convoy in a forest. Two of them were quickly caught, then shot many times in the legs, then ordered to get up which they could not do, then kicked and trampled by guards, then bitten and torn up by police dogs and only then stabbed to death with bayonets. All this with witty remarks by the officer, of the kind; "Now, free Lithuania, crawl, you'll get your independence straight off!"
This is one of thousand stories you can read in many now available books about the Soviet horrors. From 1917 to 1991, politics in the USSR started and finished with the Communist Party; it was the only game in town.
It has been estimated that the losses of the Lithuanian partisan war amounted to 70,000 Soviet soldiers and 22,000 Lithuanian ‘Forest Brothers’, making this war one of the longest and bloodiest guerrilla wars in the history of the world.
For comparison, the United States lost 58,000 soldiers in Vietnam.
The people who ruled the Lithuania during the Soviet years were dictators; some more brutal than others. The Communist Party owned everything - land, factories, housing, and farms. The masses went about their daily lives under the direction of the Party. They were told where to live, where to work, and where to travel. There was very little freedom of choice in anything. The ideal behind this system was that everyone lived and worked for the good of the community.
But, the power of the Soviet Union, under the domination of Russia, was built on sand not rock. Under communism, individuals learned to lie back and do nothing and the idea of everything being owned by the community instead of individuals meant that nobody felt responsible for upkeep and maintenance; or as it is expressed in a Spanish proverb: "The cow of many is well milked and badly fed."
But even if there existed both humor and good days for people during those years, the extreme sufferings the USSR meant for this part of Europe should never be forgotten.
The United States, United Kingdom, and other countries considered the occupation of Lithuania by the USSR illegal, citing the Stimson Doctrine, in 1940, but recognized all borders of the USSR at post-World War II conferences. In spite of this, the United States refused to recognize the annexation of Lithuania or the other Baltic States, by the Soviet Union, at any time of the existence of the USSR.
The political and economic crisis that began in the U.S.S.R. in the mid-1980s also affected Lithuania and Lithuanians as well as other Balts offered active support to Gorbachev's program of social and political reforms. Under the leadership of intellectuals the Lithuanian reform movement Sajudis was formed in mid-1988 and declared a program of democratic and national rights winning nation-wide popularity. On Sajudis' demand 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 Sajudis and with Sajudis support Algirdas Brazauskas was elected First Secretary of the Central Committee of the LCP in 1988. In December 1989 the Brazauskas-led LCP split from the CPSU and became an independent party renaming itself in 1990 the Lithuanian Democratic Labor Party.
In 1990 Sajudis-backed candidates won the elections to the Lithuanian Supreme Soviet. On March 11 1990 its chairman Vytautas Landsbergis proclaimed the restoration of Lithuanian independence formed a new Cabinet of Ministers headed by Kazimiera Prunskiene and adopted the Provisional Fundamental Law of the state and a number of by-laws. The U.S.S.R. demanded to revoke the act and began employing political and economic sanctions against Lithuania as well as demonstrating military force.
On January 10 1991 U.S.S.R. authorities seized the central publishing house and other premises in Vilnius and unsuccessfully attempted to overthrow the elected government by sponsoring a local "National Salvation Committee." Three days later the Soviet Army forcibly took over the TV tower killing 14 civilians and injuring 700. During the national plebiscite on February 9, 91% of those who took part in the voting (76% of all eligible voters) voted in favor of an independent democratic Lithuania. Led by the tenacious Landsbergis Lithuania's leadership continued to seek Western diplomatic recognition of its independence. Soviet military-security forces continued forced conscription occasional seizure of buildings attacking customs posts and sometimes killing customs and police officials.
On 4 February 1991, Iceland became the first country to recognize Lithuanian independence. After the Soviet August Coup, independent Lithuania received wide official recognition and joined the United Nations on 17 September 1991. The last Soviet troops left Lithuania on 31 August 1993 – even earlier than they departed from East Germany, which had not seen repression in recent times on the same level as the 1991 Vilnius massacre.
Lithuania became a member of the United Nations in 1991 and a full member of NATO and the European Union in spring 2004.
Noncommunist Lithuania fed and clothed its citizens without any assistance from abroad during the interwar independence period. And the levels of agricultural production were high by comparison to the Soviet Union;
Following its forceful incorporation into the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in 1940, Lithuania was subjected to the Soviet development model based on Marxism-Leninism, as interpreted by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, as its theoretical underpinning; the first "scientifically based economic system in human history", as Bolsheviks claimed. The Bolshevik interpretation of economic processes and development goals was made obligatory in both the theoretical and practical dimensions. New methods of economic management /central planning/ were introduced which deeply changed the entire decision-making processes. The country's economic administration was completely overhauled.
The Soviet occupation of Lithuania lasted nearly half a century.
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