|President of Lithuania (not recognized)|
17 June 1940 – 3 August 1940
|Preceded by||Antanas Merkys|
|Succeeded by||Algirdas Mykolas Brazauskas|
10 January 1899|
|Died||26 January 1980(aged 81)|
Justas Paleckis (born 22 January [O.S. 10 January] 1899 in Telšiai; died 26 January 1980) was a Lithuanian journalist and politician. He was acting president of Lithuania after the Soviet invasion while Lithuania was still ostensibly independent, in office from 17 June – 3 August 1940. He then remained as the nominal head of state of the Lithuanian SSR until 1967.
In 1926–1927, he was a director of the Lithuanian official news agency, ELTA. He later voiced opposition to the ruling elite in Lithuania; in this way, he became a suitable candidate for the Lithuanian communists (manipulated by Soviet envoy Vladimir Dekanozov) to become the puppet leader of Lithuania in the Soviets' planned takeover of the country in 1940.
After President Antanas Smetona fled to the US when the Soviet Union occupied the country, Prime Minister Antanas Merkys became acting president. A day after Smetona left the country, Merkys announced he had formally ousted Smetona and taken over the presidency himself. He then appointed Paleckis prime minister. Merkys himself resigned, making Paleckis acting president as well. These moves are now considered illegal and unconstitutional, since Smetona never resigned. As such, Lithuanian diplomats do not count Paleckis as a legitimate president.
By this time, Lithuania had been occupied by Soviet troops. His appointment as Prime Minister was made under orders form the Soviet embassy in Kaunas. Aided by specialists sent in from Moscow, Soviet deputy foreign minister Vladimir Dekanozov worked through the Lithuanian Communist Party, while the cabinet of ministers, headed by Paleckis, served an administrative function. Dekanozov and Paleckis brought a number of non-Communists into the first "People's government", but in historical retrospect it is clear that they constituted window dressing for the Soviet takeover. In order to save face, the Soviet Union attempted to cover its annexation of the Baltic States with a cloak of legality. Therefore Moscow ordered the Paleckis government to carry out elections for a "People's Seimas" on 14–15 July. Voters were presented with a single list of candidates containing only Communists and their allies. The People's Seimas met on 21 July, with only one order of business—a request for admission to the Soviet Union, which was unanimously carried. A few days later, Moscow "accepted" the request—thus giving credence to the official line that Lithuania had carried out a socialist revolution and requested admission to the Soviet Union.
Paleckis remained as head of state, a post which was named Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Lithuanian SSR, until 1967. As such, he personally signed orders authorizing the mass deportation of several figures from independent Lithuania. With his agreement, Merkys and Minister of Foreign Affairs Juozas Urbšys were deported to Russian SFSR. The intelligentsia and Lithuania's elite were considered as enemies and were among the first sentenced to deportation or death. He worked closely with NKVD residents in Lithuania (M. Gedvilas, M. Mickis).
During 1940–1953, some 132,000 Lithuanians were deported to remote areas of the USSR: Siberia, the Arctic Circle zone and Central Asia. They were not allowed to leave remote villages. More than 70 percent of the deportees were women and children. There were 50,000 women and 39,000 children deported to remote areas of the USSR. Some 30,000 of the deportees died there mostly because of slave work and starvation. Some 50,000 of the deportees were not able to return to Lithuania. During the same period, another 200,000 people were thrown into prisons. Some 150,000 of them were sent to the Gulag (the USSR‘s concentration camps), situated mostly in Siberia.
He served as Chairman of the Soviet of Nationalities (1966–1970).
- "Presidents of the Republic of Lithuania". Office of the President of the Republic of Lithuania.