Baltic states under Soviet rule (1944–1991)
|Part of a series of articles on the|
|Occupation of the Baltic states|
The Baltic states under Soviet rule covers the period from the end of World War II in 1945, stretching from the sovietization to regaining the independence in 1991. The Baltic states were incorporated to the Soviet Union into the 1940 annexation as the Soviet socialist republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and the Soviets saw they regained the republics in 1944. The first secretary of the local Communist party was usually a post of a communist of Baltic nationality. The Baltic states regained their independence nearly fifty years later in the aftermath of the Soviet coup of 1991.
Resistance and deportations 
In the years 1945 and 1985 the Soviet Union executed the sovietization aiming the extinguishing the national identities of the Baltic peoples. The effect was archieved rather in large-scale industrialisation than direct attacks of culture, religion and freedom of expression. For the Soviet authorities the elimination of opposition and the transformation of the economics went hand in hand. The Soviet used massive deportations to eliminate the resistance of collectivisation and the support of partisans. The Baltic partisans resisted the Soviet rule via armed struggle for a number of years. The Estonian Forest brothers, as they were known, enjoyed the material support among the local population. The Soviets had already carried out the deportations in 1940–41, but the deportations between 1944–52 were much larger numbers. In March 1949, the top Soviet authorities organised a mass deportation of 90,000 Baltic nationals, labelled as enemies of the people, into inhospitable areas of the Soviet Union.
The total number of deported in 1944–55 has been estimated at 124,000 in Estonia, 136,000 in Latvia and 245,000 in Lithuania. The deportees were allowed to return after the secret speech of Nikita Khrushchev in 1956, however many did not survive in their years in Siberia. Large number of Baltic population fled westward in before the Soviet forces invaded in 1944. After the war, the Soviets outlined new borders for the Baltic republics. Lithuania gained Vilnius and Klaipeda regions, but Estonia and Latvia ceded some eastern territories to the Russian SSR. Estonia lost 5 percent and Latvia 2 percent of its prewar territory.
Industrialization and immigration 
The Soviets made large capital investments for energy resources and a manufacture of industrial and agricultural products. The purpose was to integrate the Baltic economics into the larger Soviet economic sphere. The industrial plans and a transport infrastructure were advanced by the Soviet standards. In all three republics, manufacturing industry was developed at the expense of other sectors, notably agriculture and housing. The rural economy suffered from the lack of investments and the collectivization. Baltic urban areas damaged during wartime and it took ten years to reachieved housing losses. New constructions were often poor quality and ethnic Russians immigrants were favored in housing.
Estonia and Latvia received large-scale immigration of industrial workers for other parts of the Soviet Union and changed the demographics changes dramatically. Lithuania received also immigration but in smaller scale. Ethnic Estonians constituted 88 percent before the war, but in 1970 the figure dropped to 60 percent. Ethnic Latvians constituted 75 percent, but the figure dropped to 56.8 percent in 1970 and further down to 52 percent in 1989. In contrast, in Lithuania the drop was only 4 percent. However, absence of Russian immigration was only a part of explanation as Lithuania gained Vilnius area, fewer Lithuanians fled west and the state lost its Jewish minority. There was a difference between ethnic Russians. People who moved from Russia before 1940 annexation and knew the local language were named as "local Russians", for they had better relations with locals than those who settled later.
Baltic communists had supported and participated the 1917 October Revolution in Russia. However, many of them died during the Great Purge in the 1930s. The new regimes of 1944 were established native communists who had fight in the Red Army. However, the Soviets also imported ethnic Russians to fill political, administrative and managerial posts. For example, the important post of second secretary of local Communist party was almost always ethnic Russian or a member of another Slavic nationality.
Everyday living 
The Baltic republic were isolated from the outside world between the late 1940s and the mid-1980s. The Soviets were sensitive about the Baltic area not only because its loyalty, but there was also located military installations, such as surveillance centres and a submarine base. The late 1960s Soviet democratic movements found support within Baltic intellectuals. The Soviet Union signed the Helsinki Accords and next year, a monitoring group was founded in Lithuania producing dissident publication in the 1970s and 1980s. Nationalism and religion inspired people to small-scale demonstrations and underground activities. The European Parliament passed a resolution supporting the Baltic cause in 1982.
The Soviet Union maintained ethnic diversity, but on the other hand it made efforts to impose uniformity. The new wave of the russification of education system began in the late 1970s to create a Soviet national identity. The education of Baltic children was conducted in their native languages, but the Russian language was compulsory. Furthermore, the Soviet authorities limited expression in literature and the visual arts. The song festivals remained a mean of national self-expression. Still, the intellectual life and scientific research were advance by Soviet standard. However, after 1975 there was increasing problems with shortage of consumer and food products, social problems, unchecked immigration and damage to the environment. By the 1980s there was social and political tension both within the Baltic republics and with Moscow.
Road to independence 
Soviet reforms 
The period of stagnation brought the crisis of the Soviet system and reforms could not be long delayed. The new Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in 1985 and responded with glastnost and perestroika. They were attempts to reform the Soviet system from above to avoid revolution from below. The reforms occasioned the reawaking of nationalism in the Baltic republics, known as the Singing Revolution. The first major demonstrations against the environment were Riga in November 1986 and the following spring in Tallinn. Small successful protests encouraged key individuals and by the end of 1988 the reform wing had gained the decisive positions in the Baltic republics.
At the same time, coalitions of reformists and populist forces assembled under the Popular Fronts. They concentrated largely on call for autonomy rather than independence. The Supreme Soviet of the Estonian Supreme Soviet made the Estonian language the state language again in January 1989, and similar legistlation was passed in Latvia and Lithuania soon after. Next, the Baltic republics declared their sovereignty in November 1988 in Estonia, in May 1989 in Lithuania and July 1989 in Latvia. The Estonian Supreme Soviet reserved the right to veto law of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union. The Lithuanian Supreme Soviet even referred to Lithuania's independent past and its illegal annexation into the Soviet Union in 1940. The Latvian Supreme Soviet was more cautious. The presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union condemned the Estonian legistlation as unconstitutional.
The first Supreme Soviet elections took place in March 1989. There was still only one legal communist party, but the availability of multi-candidate choice encouraged the popular fronts and other groups to spread their own electoral message. The Communist Party in all three Baltic republics was divided along nationalist lines, and political leaders were increasingly responding to people rather than the party. The biggest demonstration was the Baltic Way in August 1989, where people protested the fiftieth anniversary of the Molotov–Ribbentrop treaty by a human chain linking hands across the three republics. Still by 1990, there was no call for political independence but demands for economic independence from Moscow.
Restoration of independencies 
In February 1990, the Lithuanian Supreme Soviet elections lead to the Sąjūdis-backed pro-nationalists two-thirds majority. On 11 March 1990 the Lithuanian Supreme Soviet declared Lithuania's independence. As a result, the Soviets imposed a blockade on 17 April. Latvia and Estonia lagged behind as they had a large and objective Russian minorities represented. At the same, the Popular fronts were in increasing pressure in Latvia and Estonia, as citizens committee movement planned prepared for wholly non-Soviet elections to take place at or near the Supreme Soviet elections. They saw that independence could never restored legally by organs of the occupying powers and only citizens of prewar republics were qualified voters. The pro-independence candidates received overwhelming majority in the Supreme Soviet elections of March 1990. On 30 March 1990, the Estonian Supereme Soviet made declaration of independence. More exactly, it decalted the 1940 annexation illegal and begin transition towards Republic of Estonia. On 4 May 1990, the Latvian Supreme Soviet made a similar declaration.
On 12 May 1990 the leaders of the Baltic republics signed a joint declaration of the Baltic Entente. By mid-June the Soviets started negotiations with the Baltic republics as they agreed to freeze their declarations of independence. The Soviets had a bigger challenge elsewhere, as the Russian federal republic proclaimed of sovereignty in June. Simultaneously the Baltic republics also started to negotiate directly with the Russian federal republic. In Autumn 1990, they set up a customs border between Baltic states, Russian federation and Belorussia. After the failed negotiations the Soviets made a dramatic attempt to break the deadlock and sent military troops to Lithuania and Latvia in January 1991. The attempts failed, dozens of civilians were killed and the Soviet troops decided to retreat. In August 1991, the hard-line members attempted to take control of the Soviet Union. A day after the coup on 21 August, the Estonian proclaimed independence. Shortly afterwards Soviet paratroops seized the Tallinn television tower. The Latvian parliament made similar a declaration at the same day. The coup failed but the Collapse of the Soviet Union became unavoidable. On 28 August, the European Community welcomed the restoration of the sovereignty and independence of the Baltic states. The Soviet Union recognised the Baltic independence on 6 September 1991. The Russian troops stayed for additional three years, as Boris Yeltsin linked the issue of Russian minorities with troop withdrawals. Lithuania was the first to have the Russian troops withdrawn from its territory in 1993. On July 26, 1994 the Russian troops withdraw from Estonia and on 31 August 1994, the Russian troops withdrew from the Latvia. The last Russian troops in the Baltics remained stationed in Paldiski until the Russian military abandoned it's site there on September 26, 1995 and at the Skrunda-1 radar station until it's subsequent return to Latvia on August 31, 1998. The last Russian soldier left Skrunda-1 in October 1999, thus having Russia end it's military presence on Baltic soil.
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- Ethnic composition of population by USSR republics. 1970 census(Russian)
- Ethnic composition of population by USSR republics. 1989 census(Russian)
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