Justas Paleckis

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Justas Paleckis
Paleckis in 1961
Acting President of Lithuania
De facto (not recognized)
In office
17 June 1940 – 24 August 1940
Preceded byAntanas Merkys
Succeeded byHimself as Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Lithuanian SSR
Prime Minister of Lithuania
De facto (not recognized)
In office
16 June 1940 – 24 August 1940
Preceded byAntanas Merkys
Succeeded byVincas Krėvė-Mickevičius
Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Lithuanian SSR
In office
25 August 1940 – 14 April 1967
Preceded byHimself as de facto President of Lithuania
Succeeded byMotiejus Šumauskas
Personal details
Born(1899-01-10)10 January 1899
Telšiai, Kovno Governorate, Russian Empire
Died26 January 1980(1980-01-26) (aged 81)
Vilnius, Lithuanian SSR, Soviet Union
Political partyLithuanian Popular Peasants' Union (1926–27)
Communist Party of Lithuania (1940–80)
Alma materVytautas Magnus University

Justas Paleckis (22 January [O.S. 10 January] 1899 – 26 January 1980) was a Lithuanian Soviet author, journalist and politician. He was nominal acting president of Lithuania after the Soviet invasion while Lithuania was still ostensibly independent, in office from 17 June to 3 August 1940. He then remained the head of state of the Lithuanian SSR until 1967.

Life and career[edit]

Paleckis was born in Telšiai in 1899 in to the family of a blacksmith of noble origin. 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 (subordinate to Soviet envoy Vladimir Dekanozov) to become the leader of Lithuania in the Soviets' planned takeover of the country in 1940. Paleckis had connections to the Lithuanian Communist Party from the early 1930s.

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 government records do not recognize Paleckis as a legitimate president.[1]

By this time, Lithuania had been occupied by Soviet troops. Paleckis' 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".[citation needed]

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. When the People's Seimas met on 21 July, it had only one order of business—a resolution declaring Lithuania a Soviet republic and requesting 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 independent of Moscow's influence and requested admission to the Soviet Union. Since regaining independence in 1990, Lithuania has maintained that since Smetona never resigned, Merkys and Paleckis had no legitimate claim to the presidency, rendering all acts leading up to the Soviet annexation ipso facto void.[citation needed]

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. However, the real power now lay with local Communist Party boss Antanas Sniečkus. As a head of state, Paleckis personally signed orders authorizing the mass deportation of several figures[further explanation needed] from independent Lithuania. With his agreement, Merkys and Minister of Foreign Affairs Juozas Urbšys were deported to the 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). Paleckis signed documents and, as a representative of Soviet Russia, took responsibility for the deportations.

During 1940–1953, some 132,000 Lithuanians were deported to remote areas of the USSR: Siberia, the Arctic Circle zone and Central Asia. More than 70% of the deportees were women and children. During the same period, another 200,000 people were imprisoned. Some 150,000 of them were sent to the Gulags, situated mostly in Siberia.

He served as Chairman of the Soviet of Nationalities from 1966 to 1970.[2]

His son Justas Vincas Paleckis is a politician and Member of the European Parliament and an active politician.[3]

Paleckis was also awarded the Hero of Socialist Labour of the Soviet Union.[4][5]

Party political offices
Preceded by Chairman of the Soviet of Nationalities
2 August 1966 – 14 July 1970
Succeeded by


  1. ^ "Presidents of the Republic of Lithuania". Office of the President of the Republic of Lithuania.
  2. ^ "СОЮЗ СОВЕТСКИХ СОЦИАЛИСТИЧЕСКИХ РЕСПУБЛИК". 28 September 2011. Archived from the original on 28 September 2011.
  3. ^ English Homepage of Justas Vincas Paleckis.
  4. ^ https://c8.alamy.com/comp/B9EJ8D/justas-paleckis-a-soviet-statesman-party-activist-lithuanian-writer-B9EJ8D.jpg[bare URL image file]
  5. ^ https://media2.nekropole.info/2013/12/Justas-Paleckis.jpg[bare URL image file]