Act of the Re-Establishment of the State of Lithuania

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Act of the Re-Establishment of the State of Lithuania with signatures of the delegates

The Act of the Re-Establishment of the State of Lithuania or Act of March 11 (Lithuanian: Aktas dėl Lietuvos nepriklausomos valstybės atstatymo) was an independence declaration by Lithuania adopted on March 11, 1990, signed by all[1] members of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania led by Sąjūdis. The act emphasized restoration and legal continuity of the interwar-period Lithuania, which was occupied by the Soviet Union and annexed in June 1940. In March, 1990, it was the first of the 15 Soviet republics to declare independence, with the rest following to continue for 21 months, concluding with Kazakhstan's independence in 1991. These events (part of the broader process dubbed the "parade of sovereignties") led to the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991.

Background[edit]

Loss of independence[edit]

After the partitions of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in the 18th century, Lithuania was part of the Russian Empire. In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Council of Lithuania, chaired by Jonas Basanavičius, proclaimed the Act of Independence of Lithuania on February 16, 1918. Lithuania enjoyed independence for two decades. In August 1939, the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany signed the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact dividing Eastern Europe into spheres of influence. The Baltic states (Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia) were assigned to the Soviet sphere of influence and subsequently were occupied in June 1940 and converted into soviet socialist republics.

In Lithuania's case, President Antanas Smetona left the country rather than accept the occupation. He did not resign but turned over his presidential duties to Prime Minister Antanas Merkys as per the constitution. The next day, Merkys declared himself president in his own right. The cabinet confirmed Merkys in office, claiming that Smetona had effectively resigned by leaving the country.

Two days later, under Soviet pressure, Merkys appointed Justas Paleckis, a left-wing journalist and longtime opponent of the Smetona regime, as prime minister. Merkys then resigned at Moscow's insistence, making Paleckis acting president as well. The Soviets then used the Paleckis government to give the final Soviet takeover the appearance of legality.

The Paleckis government staged a heavily rigged election for a "People's Seimas," in which voters were presented with a single Communist-dominated list. The newly elected People's Seimas met on July 21 with only one piece of business–a resolution declaring Lithuania a Soviet republic and petitioning for admission to the Soviet Union, which carried unanimously. The Soviet Union duly "approved" the request on August 3. Since then, Soviet sources have maintained that Lithuania's petition to join the Soviet Union marked the culmination of a Lithuanian socialist revolution, and thus represented the legitimate desire of the Lithuanian people to join the Soviet Union.

The Soviet authorities undertook Sovietization policies: nationalization of all private property, collectivization of agriculture, suppression of the Catholic Church, and the imposition of totalitarian control. At the same time, free education and free national health system were also introduced. The armed anti-Soviet partisans were liquidated by 1953. Approximately 130,000 Lithuanians, dubbed "enemies of the people", were deported into Siberia (see June deportation and March deportation). After the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953, the Soviet Union adopted de-Stalinization policies and ended mass persecutions. Nonviolent resistance continued both in Lithuania and among the Lithuanian diaspora. These movements were secret, illegal, and more focused on social issues, human rights, and cultural affairs rather than political demands.

Independence movements[edit]

Map of the Eastern Bloc

As Mikhail Gorbachev attempted to revive the economy of the Soviet Union, he introduced glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring).

Gorbachev's political agenda went for great and deep changes within the Soviet government, as such, Gorbachev invited the Soviet public into open and public discussions unseen before.

For the Soviet Lithuanian dissidents and activists, it was a golden opportunity not to be missed, to bring their movements from underground into the public life.

On August 23, 1987 (the 48th anniversary of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact), the Lithuanian Liberty League organized the first public protest rally that did not result in arrests.

Encouraged by the non arrests, by mid-1988, a group of 35 intellectuals organized the Sąjūdis Reform Movement with the original goal of supporting, discussing, and implementing Gorbachev's reforms yet short of openly supporting independence from the USSR.

However, Sąjūdis grew in popularity, attracting large crowds to rallies in Vingis Park and therefore radicalizing its agenda, taking advantage of Gorbachev's passiveness.

In 1989, Sąjūdis, not afraid of angering Moscow and causing a violent crackdown, continuously pushed further with its demands: from limited discussions on Gorbachev's reforms, to demand greater say in economic decisions, to political autonomy within the Soviet Union.

By the time of the Baltic Way, a human chain spanning over 600 kilometres (370 mi) across the three Baltic states to mark the 50th anniversary of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, the official goal of Sąjūdis was now independence for Lithuania.

Similar processes happened in other Soviet republics during 1988-1991, collectively known as the "parade of sovereignties" , which were the major factor contributing to the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Democratic election[edit]

Parliamentary elections of February 1990 were the first free and democratic elections in Lithuania since 1926. The voters overwhelmingly voted for the candidates endorsed by Sąjūdis, even though the movement did not run as a political party. The result was the first post-war non-communist government. During its first assembly on March 11, 1990, the Supreme Soviet of the Lithuanian SSR elected Vytautas Landsbergis as its chairman and restored Lithuania's prewar name of the Republic of Lithuania. It then changed its name to the Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania, and formally declared the re-establishment of Lithuanian independence. The act was approved at 10:44 pm by 124 members of the council while six abstained.[1] There were no votes against.

The Act[edit]

SUPREME COUNCIL OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA

ACT

On the Re-establishment of the State of Lithuania

The Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania, expressing the will of the nation, decrees and solemnly proclaims that the execution of the sovereign powers of the State of Lithuania abolished by foreign forces in 1940, is re-established, and henceforth Lithuania is again an independent state.

The Act of Independence of February 16, 1918 of the Council of Lithuania and the Constituent Assembly decree of May 15, 1920 on the re-established democratic State of Lithuania never lost their legal effect and comprise the constitutional foundation of the State of Lithuania.

The territory of Lithuania is whole and indivisible, and the constitution of no other State is valid on it.

The State of Lithuania stresses its adherence to universally recognized principles of international law, recognizes the principle of inviolability of borders as formulated in the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe in Helsinki in 1975, and guarantees human, civil, and ethnic community rights.

The Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania, expressing sovereign power, by this Act begins to realize the complete sovereignty of the state.[2]

The Supreme Council took the line that Lithuania's original declaration of independence in 1918 was still valid, and considered the Act to be a reassertion of an independence that still legally existed under international law. It was based on the premise that Smetona never resigned, and Merkys' takeover of the presidency was illegal and unconstitutional. Lithuania's official position on the matter since then has been that all subsequent acts leading up to the Soviet annexation were ipso facto void.

Aftermath[edit]

Leaders of the Supreme Council of Lithuania on 11 March 1990, after the promulgation of the Act of the Re-Establishment of the State of Lithuania
Litas commemorative coin dedicated to the 10th anniversary of Independence

The Act of the Re-Establishment of the State of Lithuania served as a model and inspiration to other Soviet republics. However, the issue of independence was not immediately settled and recognition by other countries was not certain.

Mikhail Gorbachev called the Act of Independence illegal and the USSR demanded revocation of the Act and began applying sanctions against Lithuania including an economic blockade. In addition, on January 13, 1991 Soviet forces stormed the LRT building in Vilnius along with the Vilnius TV Tower.

Unarmed civilian Lithuanians confronted Soviet soldiers. Fourteen people were killed and seven hundred injured in what became known as January Events.

On May 31, 1990, the Supreme Soviet of Moldavian SSR voted to recognize the Restoration of the Independence of Lithuania.[3] The Parliament of Moldavia was the first legislature in the world to recognize Lithuania's independence, although Moldavia was still part of the Soviet Union. The Moldavian Supreme Soviet promised to establish an embassy to Lithuania in the near future.[4]

The Icelandic parliament recognised Lithuania's declaration of independence on February 11, 1991, by reaffirming Iceland's 1922 recognition, thus becoming the first nation outside the Soviet Union to do so

On February 11, 1991, the Icelandic parliament voted to confirm that Iceland's 1922 recognition of Lithuanian independence was still in full effect, as it never formally recognized the Soviet Union's control over Lithuania,[5] and that full diplomatic relations should be established as soon as possible.[6][7] In response, the Soviet Union recalled its ambassador to Iceland.[8] Iceland was later followed by Denmark,[9] Slovenia, Croatia (then a constituent republic of Yugoslavia), and Latvia. Denmark's ambassador to Lithuania arrived on August 26; he was the first foreign diplomat accredited to Lithuania after its declaration of independence.[10]

On August 26, 1991, Lithuanian border guards were posted at border crossings between Lithuania and Russia, and the Republic of Lithuania began issuing visas.[11] The first visas were issued to members of the Lithuanian Opera Company, a Chicago-based group of Americans of Lithuanian descent who had arrived to perform for three weeks in the country.[11] At first, citizens of the Soviet Union and anyone with a visa for the Soviet Union automatically qualified for a visa upon arrival to Lithuania; later, the country instituted its own visa rules.[11]

After the failed August Coup, Lithuanian independence recognition was reconfirmed by the United States on September 2.[12] President George H. W. Bush announced that if the Soviet Union were to use armed force against Lithuania, the U.S. would react accordingly. Bush's administration said that he had been waiting to recognize Lithuanian independence until the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union did so first, but Bush later decided he could not wait any longer.[12]

Finally, on September 6, 1991 Lithuania's independence was recognized by the State Council of the Soviet Union.[13] Its recognition of Lithuania's independence was quickly followed by several countries including China, India, and Belarus as well as Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

On September 17, 1991, the United Nations admitted Lithuania as a member.[14] On the same day, the United Nations also admitted Estonia, Latvia, Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, North Korea, and South Korea as members.[14]

On March 29, 2004, Lithuania became a member of NATO.[15] On May 1, 2004, Lithuania also became a member of the European Union.[16] NATO. The country banned displays of Soviet and Nazi symbols in 2008.

Chronology of recognition of the Re-Establishment of the State of Lithuania[17]
Date Country
May 31, 1990  Moldavian SSR[4]
February 11, 1991  Iceland[5]
February 28, 1991  Denmark[9]
May 16, 1991  Slovenia
July 27, 1991  Russian SFSR
August 3, 1991  Croatia
August 23, 1991  Latvia
August 24, 1991  Norway
August 24, 1991  Hungary
August 25, 1991  Argentina
August 25, 1991  France
August 26, 1991  Bulgaria
August 26, 1991  Italy
August 26, 1991  Canada
August 26, 1991  Poland
August 26, 1991  Malta
August 26, 1991  Portugal
August 26, 1991  Romania
August 26, 1991  San Marino
August 26, 1991  Ukraine
August 27, 1991  Albania
August 27, 1991  Australia
August 27, 1991  Belgium
August 27, 1991  United Kingdom
August 27, 1991  Georgia
August 27, 1991  Spain
August 27, 1991  Luxembourg
August 27, 1991  Sweden
August 27, 1991  Germany
August 27, 1991  Ireland
August 27, 1991  Estonia
August 28, 1991  Austria
August 28, 1991  Chile
August 28, 1991  New Zealand
August 28, 1991  South Africa
August 28, 1991  Finland
August 28, 1991   Switzerland
August 28, 1991  Uruguay
August 29, 1991 Czechoslovakia
August 29, 1991  Mongolia
August 30, 1991  Vatican City
August 31, 1991  Kyrgyzstan
September 2, 1991  Ecuador
September 2, 1991  Netherlands
September 2, 1991  United States
September 3, 1991  Greece
September 3, 1991 Libya
September 3, 1991  Nicaragua
September 3, 1991  Turkey
September 4, 1991  Brazil
September 4, 1991  Israel
September 4, 1991  Tunisia
September 5, 1991  South Korea
September 5, 1991  Mexico
September 6, 1991  Guinea
September 6, 1991  Japan
September 6, 1991  Colombia
September 6, 1991  Singapore
September 6, 1991  Egypt
September 6, 1991  Soviet Union[13]
September 7, 1991  Afghanistan
September 7, 1991  China
September 7, 1991  North Korea
September 7, 1991  Peru
September 7, 1991  Senegal
September 7, 1991  Bangladesh
September 8, 1991  Pakistan
September 9, 1991  Bolivia
September 9, 1991  India
September 9, 1991  Cuba
September 9, 1991  Syria
September 9, 1991  Thailand
September 9, 1991  Vietnam
September 9, 1991  Cape Verde
September 10, 1991 Azerbaijan
September 10, 1991  Iran
September 10, 1991  Nepal
September 11, 1991 Madagascar
September 12, 1991 Armenia
September 12, 1991  Cyprus
September 13, 1991  Yemen
September 15, 1991  Bahrain
September 15, 1991  Jordan
September 15, 1991  Kuwait
September 15, 1991  Philippines
September 16, 1991  Saudi Arabia
September 17, 1991  Indonesia
September 19, 1991  United Arab Emirates
September 20, 1991  Laos
September 24, 1991  Turkmenistan
September 25, 1991  Panama
September 30, 1991  Uzbekistan
September 30, 1991  Namibia
October 22, 1991  Mauritania
October 22, 1991  Yugoslavia[18]
November 2, 1991  Sri Lanka
December 23, 1991  Ghana
December 23, 1991  Kazakhstan
December 24, 1991  Mozambique
December 25, 1991 Tajikistan
December 27, 1991  Algeria
December 27, 1991  Belarus
December 30, 1991  Lebanon
January 2, 1992 Iraq
January 6, 1992  Burundi
January 16, 1992  Burkina Faso
January 25, 1992  Mali
January 31, 1992  Benin
February 21, 1992  Costa Rica
March 17, 1992  Zimbabwe
September 25, 1992  El Salvador
November 6, 1992  Bosnia and Herzegovina
November 10, 1992  Nigeria
January 12, 1993  Chad

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "LR AT AKTO Dėl Lietuvos nepriklausomos valstybės atstatymo signatarai". Lietuvos Respublikos Seimas.
  2. ^ "Supreme Council - Reconstituent Seimas 1990 - 1992". Lietuvos Respublikos Seimas.
  3. ^ "Prime Minister thanks Moldova for recognizing Lithuania's Independence in 1990". January 29, 2010. Retrieved April 1, 2015.
  4. ^ a b "Moldavia Regognizes Lithuania". Chicago Tribune. 1 June 1990. p. 9.
  5. ^ a b "Svo fIjótt sem verða má". Þjóðviljinn (in Icelandic). February 12, 1991. Retrieved October 28, 2018.
  6. ^ "Stjórnmálasamband verði tekið upp svo fljótt sem verða má". Morgunblaðið (in Icelandic). February 12, 1991. Retrieved October 28, 2018.
  7. ^ "Viðurkenning á sjálfstæði í fullu gildi". Dagblaðið Vísir (in Icelandic). February 12, 1991. Retrieved October 28, 2018.
  8. ^ "Soviets Recall Envoy After Iceland Recognizes Lithuania". Associated Press. The Los Angeles Times. 14 February 1991. p. P2.
  9. ^ a b "Vote threatens civil war, Latvians told". Associated Press. 1 March 1991. p. 3A.
  10. ^ Mellgren, Doug (August 27, 1991). "First foreign envoy to Baltics arrives in Lithuania". Associated Press. The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA). p. 8A.
  11. ^ a b c Witt, Howard (August 27, 1991). "Lithuania Displays Stamp of a Sovereign Nation". Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois, USA). p. 1, 6.
  12. ^ a b Page, Susan (3 September 1991). "Bush recognizes Baltic republics". Newsday (Long Island, New York, USA). Hartford Courant. p. A1.
  13. ^ a b Tamayo, Juan O. (7 September 1991). "Kremlin recognizes Baltics' independence". The Miami Herald (Miami, Florida, USA). p. 20A.
  14. ^ a b Curry, George E. (18 September 1991). "Baltics, Koreas join UN; Saudi is president". Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois, USA). p. 5.
  15. ^ Raum, Tom (30 March 2004). "Bush hails new NATO members; alliance eyes Iraq role". Associated Press. The Philadelphia Inquirer. p. A2.
  16. ^ McCabe, Aileen (1 May 2004). "The East Gets In". CanWest News Service. Edmonton Journal (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada). p. 17.
  17. ^ "Atkurtos Lietuvos nepriklausomos valstybės pripažinimo chronologija". Retrieved April 7, 2015.
  18. ^ "Political Relations with Serbia". Embassy of the Republic of Lithuania to Hungary. September 22, 2014.

Further reading[edit]

  • The Oxford Companion to Politics of the World (p. 69, 70), Joel Krieger (editor), Oxford University, 1993.
  • Background Notes on Countries of the World 2003; September 2003, Lithuania, (p. 12)
  • The Baltic Revolution; Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and The Path to Independence, Anatol Lieven, 1993.
  • Collapse of an Empire, Lessons for Modern Russia (pp. 175, 214, 217–219), Yegor Gaidar, Brookings Institution, 2007.
  • Why did the Soviet Union collapse, Understanding Historical Change, (p. 152–155), Robert Strayer, M.E.Sharpe, 1998.
  • Ilgūnas, Gediminas. "Lietuvos kelias į 1990 m. kovo 11-ąją (1940-1990 m.)". Lietuvos Respublikos Seimas.