Juozas Urbšys

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Juozas Urbšys
Juozas Urbšys.jpg
Born (1896-02-29)February 29, 1896
Died April 30, 1991(1991-04-30) (aged 95)

Juozas Urbšys (February 29, 1896 in Šeteniai – April 30, 1991 Kaunas) was a prominent interwar Lithuanian diplomat, the last head of foreign affairs in independent interwar Lithuania,[1][2] and a translator. He served in the military between 1916 and 1922, afterwards joining the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 1938 Urbšys was named its head and served in this position until Lithuania's occupation in 1940. Urbšys was imprisoned by the Soviet authorities in 1940 and deported to Siberia, where he spent the next 13 years in various prisons.[2] Urbšys died in 1991, having lived long enough to see Lithuania's independence restored, and was buried in Petrašiūnai Cemetery, Kaunas.

Biography[edit]

Juozas Urbšys was born on February 29, 1896 in Šeteniai, a village north of Kėdainiai.[3] In 1907 Urbšys attended a school in Panevėžys, graduating in 1914. Soon afterwards he pursued his education in Riga, Latvia. The outbreak of World War I interrupted his studies and he enlisted in the army in 1916.[4] A few years later, Urbšys completed his education at Chugujevo military school (Russian: Чугуево), returning to Lithuania in 1918 after Lithuania re-established its independence. He continued to serve in the Lithuanian military until 1922.

After joining the foreign service, Urbšys worked in Berlin, Germany between 1922 and 1927.[3] His next assignment was in Paris, France, a post he held until 1932. Urbšys was then named Lithuanian Minister Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Latvia, although he did not hold this position for long; in 1934 he was appointed the head of the political department in the Foreign Affairs Ministry.[4] In 1938 he became the Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs.[4] Urbšys' service in this capacity coincided with significant international developments.

Rumors arose in 1939 that Nazi Germany would attempt to re-annex the Baltic Seaport city of Klaipėda from Lithuania (the city and its surrounding area had until 1919 been part of the German province of Memelland). Urbšys had been representing Lithuania during the coronation of Pope Pius XII in Rome on March 12; while returning to Lithuania, he stopped in Berlin in an attempt to clarify the rumors. On March 20 Ribbentrop, the German foreign minister, met with Urbšys.[5] Ribbentrop demanded the cession of Klaipėda to Germany and threatened military action. Urbšys relayed the ultimatum to the Lithuanian government. While a clear deadline was not given, Lithuania was told to make a speedy decision, and that any clashes or German casualties would inevitably provoke a response from the German military.[5] Without any material international support, Lithuania had no choice but to accept the ultimatum.[6] Lithuanian diplomats characterized the acceptance as a "necessary evil" that preserved its independence and hoped it was merely a temporary retreat.[6]

Another major diplomatic development occurred during October 1939. During the course of a visit to the Soviet Union, Urbšys met with Vyacheslav Molotov, Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars and the People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs. Joseph Stalin joined the group soon afterwards.[7] During the discussion a draft of a mutual assistance pact was presented, which resulted in the stationing of Red Army troops in Lithuania. The city of Vilnius and its surrounding region, which had been annexed by Poland in 1920, was returned to Lithuania. However, after about one year, the Soviet authorities presented an ultimatum that ended Lithuania's independence. Urbšys' career as head minister ended in 1940. Soviet authorities sent him initially to a prison in Tambov; he was later moved to prisons in Saratov, Ivanov and elsewhere.[5] Of his 13 years in prison, 11 were spent in solitary confinement.[2] He was released in 1954 to live in what was now the Lithuanian SSR. Later he briefly lived in Germany.

Urbšys continued to make his living by translating works in the French language into Lithuanian. He regained notability after publishing his memoirs in 1988, a work described as one of the first to address Lithuanian history under Soviet rule.[2] After Lithuania again regained its independence, Urbšys was named an honorary citizen of Kėdainiai (in 1990) and Kaunas (1991). His health was frail, preventing him from fully participating in the political process of independence, but he enjoyed the authority and respect of the Lithuanian people.[2] Urbšys died on April 30, 1991. After lying in state at the city of Kaunas' War Museum, he was entombed in Petrašiūnai Cemetery.

Two schools have been named for Juozas Urbšys: Kaunas 29th Secondary School and a school in Tiskūnai.

1935 - Royal Order of the Pole Star (Sweden), Commander 1st class

Works[edit]

Juozas Urbšys translated works by Georges Duhamel and Pierre Beaumarchais, among others. His memoir, Lithuania During the Fatal Years, 1939-40, was published in 1988.[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Gerhard L. Weinberg. A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II. 1994 p.946
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Juozas Urbsys Is Dead; Lithuania Aide Was 95". New York Times. 1991-05-02. Retrieved 2008-05-28. 
  3. ^ a b LR užsienio reikalų ministerija. Juozas Urbšys (1938 12 05 – 1940 06 16). Retrieved on 2008-05-28
  4. ^ a b c Juozas Urbšys. Retrieved on 2008-05-28
  5. ^ a b c Skirius, Juozas (2002). "Klaipėdos krašto aneksija 1939–1940 m.". Gimtoji istorija. Nuo 7 iki 12 klasės (in Lithuanian). Vilnius: Elektroninės leidybos namai. ISBN 9986-9216-9-4. Retrieved 2008-03-14. 
  6. ^ a b Eidintas, Alfonsas; Vytautas Žalys; Alfred Erich Senn (September 1999). Ed. Edvardas Tuskenis, ed. Lithuania in European Politics: The Years of the First Republic, 1918-1940 (Paperback ed.). New York: St. Martin's Press. pp. 162–166. ISBN 0-312-22458-3. 
  7. ^ Lituanus. Lithuania and Soviet Union 1939-1940. Retrieved on 2008-05-28