Antanas Merkys

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Antanas Merkys
Antanas Merkys
de facto acting President of Lithuania
In office
15 June 1940 – 17 June 1940
Preceded by Antanas Smetona
Succeeded by Justas Paleckis
14th Prime Minister of Lithuania
In office
21 November 1939 – 17 June 1940
Preceded by Jonas Černius
Succeeded by Justas Paleckis
Personal details
Born (1887-01-20)20 January 1887
Bajorai, near Skapiškis, Lithuania (then part of the Russian Empire)
Died 5 March 1955(1955-03-05) (aged 68)
Vladimir Oblast, Soviet Union
Nationality Lithuanian
Political party Lithuanian Nationalist Union
Relations Father: Karolis Merkys
Mother: Ona Plukaitė-Merkienė
Alma mater Saint Vladimir University
Occupation Politician, lawyer

Antanas Merkys (About this sound pronunciation ; born on 1 February 1887 in Bajorai, near Skapiškis, Vilna Governorate of the Russian Empire; died on 5 March 1955 in Vladimir Oblast, Soviet Union) was the last Prime Minister of independent Lithuania, serving from November 1939 to June 1940. When the Soviet Union presented an ultimatum to Lithuania demanding that it accept a Soviet garrison, President Antanas Smetona fled the country leaving Merkys as the acting president. Merkys ostensibly cooperated with the Soviets and handed over the power to Justas Paleckis, who formed the so-called People's Government of Lithuania. When Merkys attempted to flee the country, he was captured and deported to the interior of Russia, where he died in 1955.

Biography[edit]

A. Merkys in 1921

Educated in law, Merkys served in the Russian Army during World War I (1914–18). In 1919, he served as the newly independent Lithuania's Minister of Defence before serving with the Lithuanian Army until his decommissioning in 1922. He then practised as a lawyer.

After the Klaipėda Revolt of 1923, Merkys became secretary to the Klaipėda Region Commissioner, Antanas Smetona. Following the 1926 Lithuanian coup d'état, he became Minister of Defence again until 1927, when he was made Governor of Klaipėda Region. In 1932, German demands prompted his removal as Governor and Merkys returned to practising law.[1] He became Mayor of Kaunas in 1933 and served in this position until 1939.[2] In 1936 was elected to the Fourth Seimas of Lithuania. On 17 November 1939 he became Prime Minister.

Soviet ultimatum and occupation[edit]

When, on 14 June 1940, the Soviet Union presented an ultimatum to Lithuania, Smetona proposed armed resistance. Merkys suggested accepting the ultimatum and offered to resign as Prime Minister, but he temporarily remained in office. Merkys agreed to Soviet demands that Smetona be arrested, but was unsuccessful in doing so. Rather than accept the demands, Smetona fled to Germany and then to Switzerland. Before leaving the country, he symbolically turned over his presidential duties to Merkys. Under the Constitution of 1938, the prime minister served as acting president whenever the president was unable to carry out his duties.

The day after Smetona's departure, Merkys announced on national radio that he had removed Smetona and was now president in his own right. This violated the Lithuanian constitution, since Smetona never formally resigned. As such, Merkys is not recognized as a legitimate president by Lithuanian diplomats.[3] Lithuania also takes the line that since Merkys' seizure of the presidency was illegal, all actions leading up to Lithuania's annexation by the Soviet Union later that year were ipso facto void.

On 17 June 1940 Merkys acceded to more Soviet demands, a) Skučas and Povilaitis were arrested, by police sent by Antanas Merkys, near the Lithuanian border [4] and b) appointing Justas Paleckis as the new Prime Minister. Merkys resigned later that day, making Paleckis acting president as well. A month later he attempted to escape to Sweden, but was arrested in Riga. He and his family were deported to Saratov in Russia. In 1941 Merkys was imprisoned. In 1954, during the period of de-Stalinization, Merkys was released from prison but not allowed to return to Lithuania. He lived in Vladimir until his death the following year, on 5 March 1955. Subsequently his grave could not be located but a symbolic cenotaph dedicated to Merkys' memory is in the Petrašiūnai Cemetery in Kaunas.[2]

See also[edit]

Prime Minister of Lithuania

List of rulers of Lithuania

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Antanas Merkys" (in Lithuanian). Seimas. 3 November 2003. 
  2. ^ a b "Antanas Merkys". Žymūs Kauno žmonės: atminimo įamžinimas (in Lithuanian). Kauno apskrities viešoji biblioteka. 2004. 
  3. ^ "Presidents of the Republic of Lithuania". Office of the President of the Republic of Lithuania. 
  4. ^ Wiki Kazys Skucas
Preceded by
Jonas Černius
Prime Minister of Lithuania
21 November 1939 – 17 June 1940
Succeeded by
Justas Paleckis