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|President of Lithuania
(Posthumously recognized in 2009, then officially Chairman of the Lithuanian Movement for Freedom)
February 16, 1949 – November 26, 1954
|Preceded by||Antanas Merkys
(Last head of state before Soviet annexation)
|Succeeded by||Vytautas Landsbergis
(First head of state of Independent Lithuania in 1991)
|Born||March 15, 1909
Palanga, then Russian Empire, now Lithuania
|Died||November 26, 1954
Moscow, Soviet Union
Jonas Žemaitis (also known under his codename Vytautas; March 15, 1909 in Palanga – November 26, 1954 in Moscow) was one of the leaders of armed resistance against the Soviet occupation in Lithuania and acknowledged as the Head of State of contemporary occupied Lithuania.
Žemaitis was born in Jonas Žemaitis and Petronėlė Daukšaitė's family. Despite the fact that his father was non-religious, Žemaitis was christened in Palanga's church. From 1910 to 1917 he lived with his parents in Poland, Lomża, where his uncle A. Daukša owned a big dairy. In Lomża Žemaitis attended a primary school while his parents were working. In 1917, Žemaitis returned to Lithuania and settled down in Šiluva's region, Kiaulininkai village, where the grandparents of Žemaitis lived. In 1921, he finished Raseiniai Gymnasium First Class. In 1926, started studying in Kaunas Military School. In 1929 he finished this school and became a lieutenant. Žemaitis started soldiering in The Second Flock Of Artillery as a commander. 1936 - 1938 Žemaitis studied in Fontainebleu school of artillery (Ecole d’Artillerie de Fontainebleau). After the pupillage Žemaitis acquired the rank of captain and directed to flocks of Lithuania military forces.
After the USSR occupation of Lithuania in 1940, Žemaitis continued his active service in the 617th flock of artillery, where he had position of head of swarm school. A beginning of war between the USSR and Nazi Germany waylayed Žemaitis in the ground of Varėna. After the order of retreating to the east, Žemaitis and a group of soldiers consciously fell behind and surrendered to the captivity of Germans. He did not want to serve to Nazis, so retired and settled down in Kaunas. He worked as a technician of peat extraction.
In 1944 he joined the Lithuanian Territorial Defense Force, organized by Povilas Plechavičius. After the force was disbanded by the Nazis, Žemaitis went into hiding. When the Red Army returned to Lithuania, Žemaitis joined the Lithuanian Freedom Army and the Lithuanian partisans, steadily rising to a position of leadership. In February 1949 he established the Union of Lithuanian Freedom Fighters and became its chairman; he worked to continue partisan resistance to Soviet occupation and legitimize the actions of the partisans. In December 1951 he was stricken with a cerebral hemorrhage and became paralyzed. In May 1953 his place of hiding was discovered by Soviet agents and he was arrested. After being transported to Moscow, he was interrogated by Lavrentiy Beria and was executed in the Butyrka prison in 1954.
Jonas Žemaitis is the namesake of the General Jonas Žemaitis Military Academy of Lithuania. In 1995 a documentary Ketvirtasis Prezidentas (The Fourth President) was released about his life.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Jonas Žemaitis.|
- (Lithuanian) Samogitian Museum ALKA
- (Lithuanian) Lietuvos gyventojų genocido ir rezistencijos tyrimo centras
- "Partizanų vadas J.Žemaitis pripažintas Lietuvos valstybės vadovu" (in Lithuanian). Lietuvos rytas. 2009-03-12. Retrieved 2009-03-14.