Friday, May 9, 2008
Reviewed work(s): Lithuania Awakening. by Alfred Erich Senn
Contemporary Sociology, Vol. 21, No. 3 (May, 1992), pp. 310-311
The resent changes in Easter Europe and the former Soviet Union have attracted enormous public attention and produced a large quantity of literature, from articles by leading Sovietologists to theoretical books about the phenomenon of Socialism. Much of it is topical and will be forgotten very soon. Some of it will have historical value. In the latter category, Lithuania Awakining chronicles, with commendable thoroughness and lack of bias, the emergence of one of the Baltic states from its fifty-year thralldom.
To be continued...
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Russian Review, Vol. 3, No. 1, (Autumn, 1943), pp. 34-44
BY HENRIKAS RABINAVICIUS
IN THE recent stormy years and perhaps even more so in recent months, the future of the three Baltic Republics, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, has been causing deep concern to those dealing with and responsible for the establishment of international peace, lasting friendly relations, and collaboration at the end of this war between the great western democracies, on one side, and the great Soviet totalitarian State, on the other. A serious difference of both a political and ideological nature exists between the English speaking democracies and the Soviet Union on this vexed question, as America and Great Britain have refused to recognize the annexation of the three Baltic republics by Soviet Russia. The three Baltic peoples, the Lithuanians, the Latvians, and the Estonians had been completely forgotten by the outside world, and were only brought to the attention of the present generation through the upheaval of 1914-1918. They took their place on the new map of Europe as fully recognized independent national entities in 1918- 1920. While the Allied and Associated Powers were slow in deciding, after 1918, whether or not to recognize the three new republics, Soviet Russia acted immediately and put into operation Lenin's doc- trine of self-determination of peoples, establishing full reciprocal diplomatic, consular, and commercial relations with them. Full de jure recognition by the Allies came later. Before Soviet Russia was forced into this war by Hitler's unprovoked attack, she had come to an understanding with Germany by which Germany recognized Soviet Russia's annexation of the Baltic States and the eastern part of Poland, while Soviet Russia recognized Germany's incorporation of Memel into the Reich and the annexation of the remaining part of Poland. *This and the following article are discussing the fate of the Baltic States and their relations with Russia from two different points of view. We believe that this discussion will permit our readers to reach a better understanding of this controversial problem of the Baltic Nations Thus we have witnessed a fourth partition of Poland by which Lithuania and the other two Baltic States were caught in the under- tow and submerged out of existence. It looked as if in twenty-three months (August 23, 1939-June 22, 1941) Russia and Germany had crowded into their relationship as much mutual understanding in regard to the division of territories that separated them, as it had taken them twenty-three years to accomplish a century and a half earlier (1772-1795). It will be remembered that in the year 1795, the Germans and the Russians were the principal parties in the third partition of Poland, by which Lithuania, an independent state in union with Poland, had also fallen under the crown of the Tsars. The territories of Estonia and Latvia (Livonia), which had been under Swedish sovereignty until 1721, were already a part of Russia at that time; and eastern Latvia, or Latgale, had come under Russian rule at the first partition of Poland in 1772. The old Russian government had been committing the folly of trying to wipe out by force the national spirit of the compact peoples inhabiting the lands separating Russia from Germany, the largest of which was the Polish people. Poland was renamed Privislinsky Krai (Vistula District), Lithuania was renamed Severo-Zapadny Krai (North-Western District), Estonia and Latvia were called Pribaltiisky Krai (Baltic District). The Russian authorities made them- selves believe that by obliterating the names of these peoples and by introducing discrimination against the native peoples, by favoring Russian settlers and the Greek Orthodox Church, and by using other sharp methods, they would stamp out the nationalist, separatist tendencies of these peoples. The results were quite the opposite. There is hardly a people in Europe with a more determined nationalistic spirit than the Poles. The Lithuanians, Latvians, and Estonians, because of their smaller numbers and their less turbulent history, for centuries lived a secluded, compact, distinct national life-engaging in their agricultural pursuits and passing on from generation to generation national characteristics of their own: a rich folklore in song, dance, and word, in their own distinct tongues, abounding in esthetic and philological wealth. The movements of great alien armies through their lands in the middle ages, whether Slav, Tartar, or Teuton, hardly disturbed the basic pattern of their distinct ethnic features. The Lithuanian people belong to the Indo-Germanic race. The Lithuanian language is one of the oldest European tongues which has preserved its ancient Sanscrit forms, bearing many resemblances to both Latin and Greek. The Latvians are both racially and linguistically related to the Lithuanians. The Estonians belong to the western branch of the Finno-Ugrian family, with a language akin to Finnish and distantly related to Magyar. From the earliest times, the Estonians inhabited the northern shores of the Baltic sea with the Latvians and the Lithuanians, their neighbors to the south, dwelling among the great forests and plains between the Dvina and Vistula rivers. Lithuanian history has been different and more eventful in development through the ages than that of its Latvian and Estonian neighbors. The Lithuanians had formed a state in more or less the present meaning of the term by the middle of the thirteenth century. While a succession of Lithuanian Grand Dukes were fighting continually the aggressive Teutonic Orders between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries, they also became involved in warfare with the Russian Principalities; and the Lithuanians expanded into the territories of Smolensk, Kiev, and Podolia. The Lithuanian State, however, was not strong enough to hold that great territorial expanse. Prolonged warfare with the Germans, on one side, and the Russians, on the other, reduced Lithuania's power. She entered into closer relations with Poland in order to strengthen herself against the more formidable common enemy, the Germans. An alliance was entered into between the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of Poland, which was consummated in the good old-fashioned way of a marriage between the Polish Queen Hedwiga and the Lithuanian Grand Duke Jogaila in 1386. The relationship between the two nations gradually developed into a still closer tie, which led to the pact known as the Union of Lublin concluded in 1569, by which Poland and Lithuania were linked into a dual monarchy in the same manner as Austria and Hungary were united up to the war of 1914-1918, with the Poles predominating over the Lithuanians, as the Austrians did over the Hungarians. It was through this Union that the Lithuanian people embraced the Roman Catholic faith, which remains the leading religion of Lithuania to this day. Polish ambitions to dominate Lithuania completely led to trouble between the two united parties, and many unsuccessful attempts were made by Lithuania before and after the Pact of Lublin to break her ties with Poland. While Poland was spreading her influence over Lithuania, the Latvians and Estonians were subjected to influence from across the Baltic Sea from the then all powerful Swedish Kingdom. In the sixteenth century, the age of Swedish rebirth under Gustavus Vasa, the Swedish fight for Reformation against Roman Catholicism be- came particularly pronounced. Sweden's territorial expansion was coupled with her opposition to Poland's spread of Catholicism; and after the year 1561 Sweden put down roots deep in the soil of Latvia and Estonia, as well as Finland. Riga, the largest city in the land of the Latvians, became the second important city of Sweden and a center of Protestantism. The leading religion of both the Estonians and Latvians remains Protestant to this day. Sweden ruled in Estonia for about one hundred and fifty years and in Latvia (Livonia) for about one hundred years. With the ascendancy of Peter the Great in Russia and after the historic battle of Poltava in 1709, when the Swedes were hopelessly defeated by the Russian army, Sweden lost her foothold in the Baltic provinces of Estonia and Livonia, which finally fell to Russia in 1721. The nationalist spirit of these races, subjugated by the Tsars, had hardly been heard of in the western world. Only when Russia went through troublesome days, did the outcry of the subjugated peoples reach the ears of the world. The Poles, especially, let themselves be heard through a number of important exiles: Kosciuszko at the end of the eighteenth century, Chopin in the middle of the nineteenth, and in later years-Paderewski. In 1812, the Poles and Lithuanians tried in vain to exploit Napoleon's invasion of Russia to regain their freedom. After the Crimean War of 1854-1856, trouble started again to ferment in the western borderland, culminating in the open revolt of Poles and Lithuanians in the year 1863 which was ruthlessly suppressed by the Tsarist regime. Again, after the unsuccessful Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905, when the Russian people made an attempt to rid themselves of Tsarism-the Poles, the Finns, the Lithuanians, Latvians, and Estonians were all in open revolt for national freedom, which, however, was only won after the collapse of the Russian imperial regime in 1917. The years 1918-1919 formed a stormy period in the life of the three new Baltic Republics. The Lithuanian National Council declared the independence of Lithuania at Vilna on February 16, 1918, while still under German occupation. The occupational authorities confiscated the issue of a Lithuanian newspaper in Vilna which printed the Proclamation of Independence the following day. The first Lithuanian government was actually formed on Armistice Day, November 11, 1918. Estonian independence was declared eight days after the original Lithuanian attempt, on February 24, 1918, with the formation of a provisional government which was immediately dispersed by the German occupational authorities. The Latvian National Council, benefiting by the experience of her neighbors north and south with the German occupational authorities, declared the independence of Latvia in secret session on July 8, 1918, and the first Latvian government was formed on November 18, 1918. A handful of Lithuanian, Latvian, and Estonian communists, resident in Russia and partisans of the Bolshevik Revolution, were eager to enlist the help of the newly formed Red Army in putting up communist Soviet governments in the capitals-Vilna, Riga, and Tallinn. They did not find much difficulty in obtaining the de- sired aid from the Soviet government. In November, 1918, the Red Army began the invasion of the three Baltic countries; and on December 8, 1918, Lenin appointed a government of Soviet Estonia, and on December 23, gave recognition to the communist Soviet governments of Lithuania and Latvia. These steps were taken with the purpose of frustrating the newly formed national governmental bodies in these countries. The German troops, according to the armistice conditions laid down by the Allied Powers, were ordered to remain in the Baltic territories to help the newly forming national armies of the Baltic States to stem the Bolshevist invasion. The relationship between the German troops and the newly formed Baltic armies was hostile. Their officers hardly exchanged salutes. Trouble was brewing between them. In March, 1919, the Germans attacked and shot a Lithuanian military guard at the hotel in Kaunas in which an American military mission was lodged. In April, 1919, the Germans under the command of General von der Goltz arrested members of the Latvian national government and army and attempted to put into power the "Baltische Landeswehr," composed of Baltic Germans with pastor Needra as figurehead. Order, however, was restored shortly thereafter through the intervention of the Allied Military Mission stationed in Libau, Latvia. In spite of the defeat of the German armies by the Allies in 1918, the German military authorities in Berlin, a year later, still made attempts to keep a foothold in the Baltic territories. Von der Goltz's failure with the Landeswehr in April-June, 1919, did not fully discourage them. In the late autumn of 1919 a new venture was staged.
Baltic Nations German troops with a few Russians among them, dressed in Russian uniforms, under the leadership of a White Russian officer, Bermondt- Avaloff, receiving his instructions from the German military authorities in Berlin, took possession of the Lithuanian railroad running from Tilsit, Prussia, across Lithuania to the Latvian frontier and beyond to Riga. This scheme was performed under the guise of fighting Bolshevism, which had already practically been cleared from both countries. The Lithuanian and Latvian armies, with the Estonian army pressing the German remnants from the north, were strong enough by that time to liquidate this campaign with the backing of a British warship anchored outside Riga. The year 1920 brought a new era of stability to the Baltic States. The Lenin government, proclaiming since inception the principle of self-determination of peoples and its opposition to imperialism, having satisfied itself that the few Lithuanian, Latvian, and Estonian communists in Russia had no following in their home countries and that the Red Army had failed to establish itself in those countries, decided upon a new course of friendly relations with them. Negotiations were opened with the three governments. The first treaty was signed with Estonia on February 2, 1920; and Maxim Litvinov was sent as first Soviet Minister to Tallinn. A treaty with Lithuania followed on July 12, 1920; and on August 11, 1920, a treaty with Latvia was concluded. By these treaties Soviet Russia renounced forever all sovereign rights over these countries. Permanent and definite frontiers were fixed between them and Russia. All three countries began to seethe with creative activities in the administrative, educational, and economic fields. The most important venture initiated by the first Lithuanian Parliament was a bold agrarian reform by which feudal landlord- ship was abolished. The land poor and landless peasants were allotted adequate parcels of land with an agrarian bank providing long-term credits for agricultural development. Latvia and Estonia did likewise. A great outcry rose against this sweeping reform from the big landowners, who in Lithuania were mostly Poles and in Latvia and Estonia-German Barons. The three new national governments remained firm in the execution of the program, which in years to come proved to be a farsighted and beneficial step in the remark- able growth of the agricultural importance of the three Baltic States. The economic independence and stability of the well distributed and privately owned small farm holdings became the staunchest bulwark against any internal development of communism. Without force from the outside, with the succeeding years it became less and less possible for communism to make any headway whatsoever in the three Baltic Republics. While Latvia and Estonia were undisturbed in their work of re- construction, Lithuania was burdened with two territorial disputes: one over Vilna-with Poland; the other over Memel-with the Al- lied Powers, who by the Treaty of Versailles acquired the sovereign rights over Memel for the purpose of transferring these rights to Lithuania. The Allies, however, were procrastinating in this transfer; and only after a coup de force by Lithuanian insurgents in Memel against the French garrison there, did the Allied Powers cede Memel to Lithuania on February 16, 1923. A convention was entered into between the Allied Powers and Lithuania, by which autonomy was granted to the Memel Territory under Lithuanian sovereignty. Lithuania's dispute with Poland over Vilna proved to be a problem much more difficult to settle. An armed clash took place between Poland and Lithuania on October 9, 1920, when Polish troops under General Zeligowski marched on Vilna, the capital of Lithuania, and forced the government to retire to Kaunas. On November 23, 1920, both Poland and Lithuania acceded to the demand of the League of Nations to stop hostilities. The League undertook to arbitrate the dispute but failed in its task. No diplomatic relations existed between the two countries until they were forced upon Lithuania eighteen years later by an ultimatum from Poland in 1938. Outside of these two disturbances, the three Baltic Republics have enjoyed for over two decades prosperity and continuous, peaceful, and cultural development of independent statehood, participating in all phases of international collaboration among nations. Through an early introduction of compulsory education in these new republics, illiteracy became unknown among the rising generation. The printing of books on all subjects of human endeavor was remarkable in extent. Universities, technical schools, academies of art and music had capacity attendance in all three countries. The interrelations between the three small republics were marked throughout their period of independence by constant cordiality and were consistently growing closer and closer. Lithuania's disturbed relationship with Poland, however, on one hand, and Latvia's and Estonia's excellent relations with Poland, on the other, were the only impediments to a complete union between them. Generally speaking, the entire twenty years of independence of the three Baltic Republics were marked by distinct good relations of the Baltic Nations with Soviet Russia. During the first six years after their liberation from the Red Army invasion, there was a natural aftermath of suspicion that communism from the outside might again stifle the national development. These suspicions were alleviated by the trend of Moscow's friendliness and non-interference in the internal affairs of the three states. On September 28, 1926, a Soviet-Lithuanian Pact of Non- Aggression was signed. Later similar pacts were concluded with Latvia and Estonia. In 1933, the Baltic States adhered to the Soviet Convention for the Definition of Aggression. The official visit to Moscow of the Lithuanian Foreign Minister Lozoraitis in 1934, his conversations with Premier Molotov and other leading Soviet statesmen strengthened the ties of friendship and understanding between the two countries. The tendency of Lithuania to side with Russia, rather than with her western neighbor, Germany, in case of a military conflict was apparent during the years prior to the present war. The first note of suspicion that Soviet Russia had other than strategic intentions in the Baltic States was aroused in the summer of 1939, during the Anglo-Soviet negotiations in Moscow. The Soviet government demanded of the British government consent to certain measures to be taken by Russia in the Baltic States, which appeared to the British as interference in internal affairs of independent peoples; and Great Britain refused to be a party to it. On December 5, 1939, the British Foreign Secretary made the following statement in the House of Lords: We have tried to improve our relations with Russia, but in doing so we have always maintained the position that rights of third parties must remain intact and be un- affected by our negotiations. Events have shown that the judgment and the instincts of His Majesty's Government in refusing agreement with the Soviet Government on the terms of formulae covering the cases of indirect aggression on the Baltic States were right. For it is now plain that these formulae might have been the cloak of ulterior designs. As it is known, Herr von Ribbentrop, the Nazi Foreign Secretary, was less hesitant and scrupulous than Lord Halifax; and as a result of the Soviet-German Treaty of August 23, 1939, Soviet Russia was given by Germany a free hand to do as she pleased with the Baltic States. Upon Soviet occupation of the Vilna territory in September, 1939, after the complete collapse of Poland, the Lithuanian Foreign Minister Urbsys was invited on October 3, 1939, by Premier Molotov of Soviet Russia. Eight peaceful months had passed with the Soviet garrisons comfortably established in Lithuania and the other Baltic States. The Soviet troops behaved well; and the authorities, as well as the population as a whole, were little aware of their presence. As late as May 25, 1940, the Soviet Minister in Lithuania, Pozdniakov, together with the commander of the Soviet garrisons in Lithuania, affirmed to Foreign Minister Urbsys that there were no complaints to make, that everything was working out most satisfactorily with the execution of the treaty of October 10, 1939. One week later, in the beginning of June, 1940, after Germany's staggering success with her offensive in Western Europe, on the eve of the collapse of France, the Lithuanian Prime Minister and Foreign Minister were summoned to Moscow, and at midnight of June 14, after a few days of deliberation, were handed an ultimatum expiring nine hours later on the morning of June 15, demanding the 42 resignation of the Lithuanian government, the formation of a government acceptable to the Soviets, and the stationing of an un- limited number of Soviet troops in Lithuania. The same procedure was followed with Latvia and Estonia. In a few days the occupation of the three Baltic States by half a million of Soviet mechanized troops was completed. Thousands of persons were arrested all over the country. All newspapers were closed down and replaced by centrally controlled uniform communist papers. A general election was announced to take place on July 14, 1940. One and only one list of candidates containing a large majority of communists, hitherto unknown to the people, was offered on the ballot. The population was called upon by special proclamation to appear on July 14 at the electoral districts with their proper identity papers. It was announced in the proclamation that any adult citizen who failed'to get his identity paper stamped to the effect that he voted for the list presented, would be proclaimed and treated as an enemy of the people. After the election, it was announced that over 99 percent of the population voted for the new legislative body. On July 22, the newly elected Assembly proclaimed Lithuania's decision to ask the U.S.S.R. for inclusion into the Union. The Soviet Union granted this request. The same method was applied to Latvia and Estonia. On July 23, 1940, Acting Secretary of State, Sumner Welles, on behalf of the United States Government, issued the following statement which was published in the State Department Bulletin of July 27, 1940: During these past few days the devious processes where under the political independence and territorial integrity of the three small Baltic Republics-Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania-were to be deliberately annihilated by one of their more powerful neighbors, have been rapidly drawing to their conclusion. From the day when the peoples of these Republics first gained their independence and democratic form of government the people of the United States have watched their admirable progress in self-government with deep and sympathetic interest. The policy of this Government is universally known. The people of the United States are opposed to predatory activities no matter whether they are carried on by the use of force or by the threat of force. They are likewise opposed to any form of intervention on the part of one State, however powerful, in the domestic concerns of any other sovereign State, however weak. These principles constitute the very foundations upon which the existing relationship between the 21 sovereign Republics of the New World rests. The United States will continue to stand by these principles, because of the conviction of the American people that unless the doctrine in which these principles are inherent once again governs the relations between nations, the rule of reason, of justice, and of law-in other words, the basis of modern civilization itself- cannot be preserved. When the present world-wide bloody conflict comes to its end and the United Nations will be confronted with the task of establishing a more lasting peace than we have known in the first half of this century, no doubt proper account will also be taken of the rights of the small peoples in northeastern Europe. Judging by the sweeping changes taking place now in the Soviet Union, a striking example of which is the return of freedom to the Greek Orthodox Church, a step which would have been considered an utter impossibility only a few years ago, it is reasonable to expect that Stalin, dictated by wisdom, will cooperate with Roosevelt and Churchill in putting into force the Atlantic Charter and will permit the small Baltic peoples bordering on Russia to enjoy in complete independence their natural right of national self-expression for which they have been struggling for centuries and which for more than twenty years they have shown their ability and justified their right to claim.
Thursday, April 3, 2008
William Henry Chamberlin
Russian Review, Vol. 24, No. 3. (Jul., 1965), pp. 227-234.
0NE of the most striking and formidable results of the Second World War was the projection of the political frontier of the Soviet Union deep into Europe, far beyond the achievements of the most ambitious Tsars. Thanks first to his deals with Hitler, then to his success in bending Roosevelt and Churchill to accept his expansionist designs, Josef Stalin added some 25 million unwilling subjects to his totalitarian realm by annexing formally to the Soviet Union Latvia,Lithuania, Estonia, Eastern Poland, Bessarabia, Northern Bukovina, Koenigsberg and some parts of Finland and Czechoslovakia.
But this was only the smaller part of the growth of the Soviet empire. By the technique of governing foreign countries by means of satellite communist parties, often buttressed by Soviet military forces, Stalin brought into his empire, for all practical purposes, the following countries and areas: Poland, Czechoslovakia, Rumania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, the eastern part of Austria and a considerable area of Germany east of the line of the Elbe River. The Yugoslav communist leader, Josip Broz Tito, broke away from Soviet domination in 1948, and has subsequently played a balancing game between East and West, keeping a firm grasp on the essentials of sovereignty. And there was a general military evacuation of Austria, with agreement that the country be neutralized, in 1955.
During Stalin's lifetime the Soviet imperial grip was absolute. The international communist movement was completely under Soviet control and an obedient instrument of Soviet foreign policy. An article in a French communist publication by the French communist leader Jacques Duclos, who had doubtless received his cue from Moscow, was sufficient to displace Earl Browder from his position of leadership in the American Communist Party and to substitute the more extremist direction of William Z. Foster.
Even before the Red Army moved westward to Berlin and the Elbe, Stalin's domination over communist parties outside of Russia was complete. Many foreign communists who had sought asylum in the Soviet Union fell victim to the dictator's paranoid suspicions and perished or vanished into concentration camps. As M. K. Dziewanowski writes in his standard study of the Polish Communist Party:
Practically all Polish Communists who were in Soviet territory at that period (of the great purges of 1937-39) were either physically liquidated or sent to various concentration camps. . . . During 1937and 1939 twelve members of the Party Central Committee and numerous minor functionaries, altogether several hundred active members of the party, disappeared in one way of another . . . Paradoxically enough, most Polish survivors of the purge other than those who were either too insignificant to be purged or who served with the NKVD, owed their salvation to the fact that they were protected from Stalin by the walls of bourgeois prisons.
Once Soviet military occupation up to the lines of demarcation in Germany and Austria was an accomplished fact the Sovietization process proceeded by a terrifyingly simple pattern, with only minor variations because of local conditions in the various countries. First there was the pretense of an "anti-fascist" coalition government, in which communists always held the ministries of police and education. Then the non-communists were gradually eliminated until the final stage of a communist regime, modelled on the Soviet, was reached. Communists suspected of dissident, nationalist or other heretical views were purged as ruthlessly as the noncommunist "anti-fascists," Rajk in Hungary, Clementis and Slansky in Czechoslovakia, executed, Gomulka in Poland imprisoned and lucky to escape with his life, and many others throughout the satellite area.
When mainland China fell under communist rule in 1948-49 the noncommunist world seemed confronted with the grim specter of a monolithic totalitarian empire stretching from the Baltic to the China Sea, larger and more formidable than that of Genghis Khan.
But overextension carried within it the seeds of disintegration. Tito had successfully seceded in 1948. And after Stalin's death in 1953 flare-ups of revolt, in East Berlin and the Soviet Zone in 1953, in Poznan, in 1956, in Poland and Hungary in the autumn of the same year, showed that the proved communist formula of rule, unlimited propaganda plus unlimited terrorism, was losing some of its magic.
A demonstration of Soviet military force put down the revolt in East Germany and a more serious commitment of military force crushed the Hungarian freedom fighters, who received no aid from without, in 1956. The Poles, acting with more restraint than the Hungarians, were able to obtain some concessions, especially as regards the offensive Russification that had marked the first period of Soviet domination. The preponderance of Soviet military force was sufficient to crush open armed revolt.
But during the last years of the Khrushchev era there were less spectacular, but still important, signs of erosion of the Soviet East European empire, especially in the economic and cultural fields. What the recently deceased veteran Italian Communist leader, Palmiro Togliatti, characterized as polycentrism, the repudiation of the idea that Moscow alone should prescribe and dictate communist tactics and policies in other lands, gained considerable ground. In death as in life, Togliatti contributed to the success of his idea. For shortly before he died in the Soviet Union in the autumn of 1964 the veteran Italian communist leader drew up a memorandum on Soviet-Chinese differences. Siding with Moscow on most issues, Togliatti criticized quite sharply some alleged failings of Khrushchev in the conduct of his exchanges with Mao Tsetung and also his failure to carry the process of de –Stalinization further in the Soviet Union. After Togliatti's death this memorandum was published buy the Italian Communist Party leadership.
This would have been unthinkable m Stalin's time, as would have been the expressions of regret amongforeign Communist leaders over the fall of Khrushchev and the visits to Moscow of some foreign Communist delegations seeking information as to the causes of Khrushchev's abrupt removal. No victim of Stalin's massive purges received any tribute, except perhaps some standardized abuse from the cowed and submissive Communist parties outside the Soviet Union.
Several developments have favored this trend toward "polycentrism," toward increased autonomy for the minor partners in the Soviet bloc. The bitter quarrel between the two Communist giants, the Soviet Union and Red China, was one such development. Another was the relaxation of terror in the Soviet Union after Stalin's death. It was no longer possible, in the milder atmosphere of post-Stalin Russia, to kidnap or murder dissident foreign communists, or to consign them, if they were in the Soviet Union, to the concentration camp or the firing squad.
There was also the example of Tito's successful secession. No other East European communist ruler ventured to go so far. But, at various times and under various circumstances, there has been a slipping of the tighter bonds to Moscow. Excessive subservience to Russian models has been gradually eliminated. There has been a cautious opening of a few windows to the West in such spheres as cultural and trade relations. A growing influx of foreign tourists, from Western Europe and the United States, encouraged as a source of "bard" currency, strengthened the sense of cultural contact with the Wcst.
The cultural thaw in the Soviet Union, limited and tentative as it has been and broken by periodic freezes, has encouraged a similar trend in the satellite states. Intellectual magazines in Czechoslovakia and Hungary have been quick to reproduce the nonconformist utterances of such Soviet writers as the poet Evgeny Evtushenko. There has also been a certain amount of free discussion of conditions in other communist-ruled countries. So an East German writer used the Czech magazine Plamen as a forum for complaining about dogmatic criticism and cultural isolation in East Germany. A Czech author gave a detailed account of the difficulties of agriculture in Czechoslovakia in a Polish periodical. As Professor John Michael Montias recently wrote in an article in Foreign Affairs about communist rule in Eastern Europe:
Every blow against totalitarianism in one country is apt to be exploited by intellectuals in the rest of the bloc. And even Communists outside the bloc can on occasion serve as a liberating influence, as witness the impact of French Communist writers, such as Roger Garaudy, on Czech intellectuals in connection with the discussion on Kafka and alienation under socialism.
The Poles, always eager to emphasize their distinctiveness from Russians under any form of government, have been positively aggressive in sponsoring non-traditional forms of expression in music and art by such methods as holding festivals of new music in Warsaw. Even in Hungary, which experienced the most brutal repression of its freedom movement in 1956, there are signs of relaxed repression in such matters as permission to travel abroad, promotion of non-Communists to important posts and admission of students to universities without consideration of "class origin. "
In the satellite states, as in the Soviet Union itself, progress toward intellectual liberalism is very relative and is not uniform and uninterrupted. Poland, which made substantial gains in 1956, has experienced a good deal of wrangling between freedom-loving intellectuals and government bureaucrats who wish to limit and contract freedom of expression. But by and large the satellite states, although they remain Communist-ruled dictatorships, are becoming freer from Moscow dictation, politically and economically. One sign of this tendency is the extreme difficulty which Khrushchev, and Khrushchev's successors, have experienced in persuading the non-Soviet communist parties to subscribe to some form of excommunication of Red China from the world communist movement. The meeting of communist parties which finally took place in Moscow on March 1, 1965 after several postponements, seems to have been a case of the mountain laboring and producing a mouse. Not only were there large gaps in attendance, but the agenda and resolutions were much milder than the Soviet leaders would probably have desired.
Rumania offers an excellent case history in the erosion of Soviet imperial power. Khrushchev wanted to assign to Rumania the role mainly of a supplier of foodstuffs and raw materials within the Soviet bloc. But the Rumanian Communist leadership ignored Soviet advice and went ahead with its steel mills, confident of being able to obtain funds from the West through the sale of its wheat and oil.
And on April 26, 1964 the Rumanian Workers (Communist) Party published a remarkably independent manifesto which has attracted less attention abroad than it deserves. This declaration offered a series of criticisms and recommendations to the Soviet and Communistparties, with the professed objective of mediating their conflict. And it repudiated in strong language the idea that some supra-national planning body, such as the COMECON (the economic association of communist-ruled states) should dictate to its members their proper lines of economic development. Then came a very strong assertion of Rumania's economic independence:
It is up to every Marxist-Leninist party, it is a sovereign right of every socialist state, to elaborate, choose or change the forms and methods of socialist construction . . . No party has or can have a privileged place, or can impose its line or opinions on other parties.
This is a sort of real life version of the film title, "The Mouse That Roared." Soviet troops were withdrawn from Rumania several years ago; but they could return at a moment's notice. Evidently, however, the Rumanian Communist leadership believes such a development, as a punishment for a declaration of economic independence, is improbable. The Rumanians also abstained from full participation in the March 1conference of representatives of communist parties.
What makes it easier for the ruling groups in the satellite states, within the general limits of a state-owned economy, to go their own way in economic experimentation and approaches for trade with the West is the tendency in the Soviet Union to grope around for more efficient methods of production. Khrushchev, before his fall, was constantly experimenting, now decentralizing industrial administration, now recentralizing, touring the agricultural circuit, scolding, demoting, changing-but without coming up with demonstrable formulas for making the cumbersome state economic bureaucracy work more smoothly and efficiently.
His successors have decided to give wider application to the proposals long advocated by Professor Yevsei Liberman: to allow at least some consumer goods industries to function on the basis of profits and other indications of meeting consumer demand, instead of trying to satisfy arbitrary production targets set by higher planning authorities. All too often this last method led to sad neglect of quality for the sake of quantity. Czechoslovakia has committed itself to a fairly radical reform of its methods of economic administration along the general lines proposed by Liberman.
The growth of polycentrism does not change the nature of the communist regimes in eastern and southeastern Europe. These continue to deny political and civil liberties which are taken for granted in free countries. They retain strong political and economic ties with Moscow. They may be expected to continue voting with the Soviet Union and against the United States on almost all issues in the United Nations, to get up occasional protest demonstrations against United States embassies. These governments remain alien, imposed from without and, in the event of a bigcrisis, would look to Moscow for support.
But the conclusion seems justified that the Soviet Union and such countries as Poland, Rumania, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria and East Germany no longer constitute, as in Stalin's time, a monolithic bloc, dominated down to the smallest administrative detail from Moscow. Subject to the overriding communist ideology, there is more freedom in cultural expression, in trade and internal economic development. There is at least a beginning of the erosion of the Soviet imperialism that seemed to grow stronger as the overseas empires of the European powers disappeared. The significance of polycentrism should not be exaggerated. But neither should it be overlooked as a factor in Europe's future evolution. The deal between the great German firm of Krupp and the Polish government for supplying German technical knowhow for Polish factories may prove to be the sign of a new era in East-West technical co-operation.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Tibet, the Olympics and the Baltic republics
THE highest point in the Baltic states is Big Egg Mountain in Estonia, at a towering 318 metres above sea level, about one-thirtieth of the height of Everest. That aside, the similarities between the Baltic states and Tibet are striking.
Both were wiped off the map by much larger neighbours, who criminalise any expression of national sentiment (the Tibetan flag is banned by the Chinese authorities, just as owning a flag in the colours of the pre-war Baltic republics guaranteed harsh punishment in the Soviet era). In both Tibet and the Baltics, public yearning for independence is matched by apathy from the outside world.
The Kremlin’s policy of using migration and forced Russification to counter “nationalist” tendencies in the Baltic states was pretty similar to China's current policy in Tibet. The bogus rhetoric of communist ethnic harmony (“Be like us and we can all be happy”) is almost identical, as is the genuine incomprehension among the dominant ethnic group (Russians in the Soviet Union, Han Chinese in the People’s Republic) that minorities have anything to complain about.
If by some historical fluke Tibet regains independence, it will face the same problems as Estonia and Latvia with their Soviet-era Russian migrants. Will the Chinese settlers who have so contemptuously refused to learn Tibetan become automatic citizens of the new country?
For both the Baltic states then and Tibet now, émigré outfits matter a lot. The Tibetan government-in-exile is the symbolic focus of the country’s statehood, maintaining legal continuity from the days when it ran a real country. The feeling of slightly desperate, dusty determination in Tibetan offices is uncannily like that in the Baltic states’ surviving embassies in the 1980s.
The big difference, of course, is the Dalai Lama, who has the star appeal of Pope John Paul II, Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi combined. Ernst Jaakson, the Estonian consul-general in New York, and Stasys Lozoraitis, the Lithuanian ambassador to the Vatican, were both deeply impressive, but hardly household names.
And now the Olympics. The Moscow games in 1980 and then the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984 were a chance for both sides to fight their propaganda war. The Kremlin staged the sailing events in Estonia, hoping to undermine the non-recognition policy maintained by most western countries (who regarded the Baltic republics as occupied territories rather than Soviet Socialist Republics).
In Washington, DC, a group calling themselves the Embassy 18 chained themselves to the then-Soviet embassy, hanging a banner across 16th St reading “Lithuania 1940, Afghanistan 1980”. It showed “Happy Mischa” (the cuddly ursine mascot of the Soviet Olympic effort) dancing on a pile of skulls.
Tibetan efforts against this year’s games will be more dramatic. Disrupting the torch-lighting ceremony in Athens was just the start. But does it do any good? Interfering with sport—a secular religion in much of the world—risks annoying the apolitical, rather than highlighting the desired cause.
At least it is clear that staging an Olympic games sharpens choices for a totalitarian regime. Even the most brutal party hacks and secret policemen realise that when you are trying to showcase your system, beating people up in public risks giving the wrong impression. What will the Chinese authorities do if thousands of athletes are wearing “illegal” Dalai Lama badges?
It is easy to forget how bleak the chances of restoring Baltic independence seemed only 25 years ago. Imagine the Tibetan team at the 2036 Olympics. Farfetched? Perhaps. But in 1980 few would have placed a bet on Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian teams appearing in international sport ever again.
Mar 27th 2008
From The Economist
Monday, February 18, 2008
Youthful laugh. Cantilena.
Girls are dancing in a circle,
And I, under the feet, under the ground –
Lying, listening in silence.
Enemies tasting my wine,
Friends mocking my lines,
Foreboding even onto my ribs –
Lying, listening in silence.
And when hot young (Russian) Nastė
Sits with a man among the flowers,
I wish I could bite them through the grass –
I lie oppressed in silence.
Jaunystės juokas. Kantilena.
Merginos soka rateliu, --
O as po kojom -- po velėna --
Guliu, klausausi ir tyliu.
Ragauja priesai mano vyną,
Draugai -- kvatojas is eiliu,
Rūstis net sonkaulius gaivina --
Guliu, klausausi ir tyliu.
O kai karstai mylėta Nastė
Su vyru sėdas tarp gėliu, --
Noreciau pro zoles ikasti --
Guliu uzsėstas ir tyliu.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Harper & Row Publishers, New York, 1976.
We were not left without news – they brought us daily a sort of half-sized newspaper. I sometimes had the task of reading it aloud to the whole cell, and I read it with expression, for there were things there which demanded it.
The tenth anniversary of the “liberation” of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania came around at this time. Some of those who understood Russian translated for the rest (I paused for them to do so), and what can only be called a howl went up from the bed platforms as they heard about the freedom and prosperity introduced into their countries for the first time in history. Each of these Balts (and a good third of all those in the transit prison were Balts) had left behind a ruined home, and was lucky if his family was still there and not on its way to Siberia with another batch of prisoners.
But for the Baltic States in 1940,it was not exile, but the camps – or for some people, death by shooting in stone-walled prison yards. In 1941, again, as the Soviet armies retreated, they seized as many well-to-do, influential, and prominent people as they could, and carried or drove them off like precious trophies, and then tipped them like dung onto the frostbound soil of the Archipelago. (The arrests were invariably made at night, only 100 kilograms of baggage was allowed for a whole family, and heads of families were segregated as they boarded the train, for imprisonment and destruction.) Thereafter, the Baltic States were threatened (over Leningrad radio) with ruthless punishment and vengeance throughout the war. When they returned in 1944 the victors carried out their threats, and imprisoned people in droves.
The main epidemics of banishment hit the Baltic States in 1948 (the recalcitrant Lithuanians), in 1949 (all three nations), and in 1951 (the Lithuanians again). In these same years the Western Ukraine, too, was being scraped clean, and there, too, the last deportations tool place in 1951.
For every nation exiled, an epic will someday be written – on its separation from its native land, and its destruction in Siberia. Only the nations themselves can voice their feelings about all they have lived though: we have no words to speak for them, and we must not get under their feet.
Published in Canada by Fitzhenry & Whiteside Limited, Don Mills, Ontario, 1972.
Russia Moves West
THE NEWS the Lithuanian Minister in Moscow brought home on September 30 was received in Kaunas with a cautious optimism. Ladas Natkevicius presented his Foreign Minister with an invitation from the Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars to visit the Kremlin to discuss matters of mutual interest that had arisen as a result of recent events in Eastern Europe. The government complied, and by October 3 Foreign Minister Juozas Urbsys was on his way to Moscow.
Reluctant to predict what lay ahead, Lietuvos Aidas (see Lietuvos Aidas , October 3, 1939, p.1.) merely observed in general terms that conditions in Eastern Europe had changed during preceding month. Consequently, it had become necessary to review the new situation. The Catholic organ similarly declined to speculate on the sum and substance of talks with the “new Russia.” It expressed assurances that the Lithuanian delegation would do everything humanly possible to guard the nation’s liberty and hoped for the best:
Edited by V. Stanley Vardys and Romuald J. Misiunas
The contributors are an international group of scholars including, along with Professors Misiunas and Vardys, Edgar Anderson, Olavi Arens, David M. Crowe, Jr., Alexander Dallin, Dennis J. Dunn, Michael Garleff (West Germany), David Kirby (England), Boris Meissner, Julius P. Slavenas, Aba Strazhas (Israel), and Charles L. Sullivan.
Introduction: The Baltic Peoples in Historical Perspective
This book examines the rise, the struggle for life, and the fall of the three Baltic States – Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. The immensely rich and tense drama of Baltic nation building – from birth to death – was played within a single generation between the two world wars of 1914–1918 and 1939–1945. The Baltic peoples themselves, however, are of ancient lineage, their roots going back into the early history of the Christian era.
The Differences and Similarities of Historical Development
A historical survey of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania is faced with the question of diversity and similarity. Until recent times, observers tended to assert the diversity of the area almost as an expression of the obvious. The British authors of the prewar survey The Baltic States (Royal Institute of International Affairs, The Baltic States, London, 1939.) deemed “the grouping together of the three Baltic states [as] to some extent arbitrary” in that their differences were at least as striking as their similarities. Most German Scholars used to classify Estonia and Latvia alone as “Baltic provinces” or “Baltic” countries, and it was only in 1970 that Georg von Rauch, the dean of German Baltic historians, crossed the Rubicon with the publication of Geschichte der baltischen Staaten (Georg von Rauch, Geschichte der baltischen Staaten ( Stuttgard, 1970; English translation, Berkeley, Calif., 1974). In the book he felt it necessary to explain why he chose the “unusual” approach of tying together Lithuania’s history with that of the other two countries. The old separation has become inoperative. The Baltic identity has been forged by fate. The interwar political and social experiences, the wartime occupation by great-power belligerents, and the postwar imposition of the Russian embodiment of Marxism have illuminated the existence of past bonds. The new sense of community, of a distinct culture bloc, has been reinforced by a self-perception of differences from the rest of the Soviet Union. The one unalterable difference lies in ethnic and linguistic diversity. The Finno-Ugric Estonians speak a language radically different from those of their two neighbors to the south. Latvian and Lithuanian are the only living varieties of the Indo-European Baltic family.
Published by Speller & Sons, Publishers, Inc. New York, 1073.
A Documentary History 1939-1945
Book jacket notes:
A microcosm is often very useful for gaining a deeper insight into a broad problem, and Lithuania’s unfortunate position on the border of both the U.S.S.S. and Germany made it an excellent microcosm. For instance, the final Soviet-German agreements concerning Finland, Estonia, and Latvia were made ion August 23, 1939. The question of Poland was disposed of by September 28. Lithuania, however, although directly involved in both these agreements, continued to be a problem under discussion until January, 1941, two months after the German decision to attack the Soviet Union had profoundly altered the basis for their collaboration with the Soviets. Thus, the German-Soviet actions on Lithuania cover almost the entire period of the collaboration of the two powers. Furthermore, as a chronic and difficult problem, Lithuania occupies a prominent place in their relations and involves prominent personalities of the two governments. Finally, these high ranking officials who became embroiled in the problem felt themselves rather chez eux in the discussions and behaved with a revealing candidness not to be found in their contacts with the West.
In addition, Lithuania underwent three separate invasions and occupations, Soviet in 1940, German in 1941, and Soviet again in 1944, and in the first two cases was one if the original examples of a new method, both Soviet and German, of dealing with conquered territory – in other words, something of a test case. The Soviet occupations are interesting as well for the reaction of the nationalistic population to the internationalistic ideology of their traditionally expansionist conquerors.
Finally, the vicissitudes of the Lithuanian liberation movement against the Soviet Union and Germany, both at home and abroad, from a well-documented cross section of the problems of such movements, as well as an interesting sidelight on one of the more curious ambivalencies of U.S. foreign policy, the problem of adapting the lofty and universal principals proclaimed by its presidents with the realities of great-power politics.
The tendency today by historians to avoid the most momentous event in modern history – Nazi-Soviet collaboration – is regrettable, and it is earnestly hoped that this study will in some way counter this trend. This book is a worthy contribution to regional study of Europe, and of interest to historians, diplomats, and political scientists, as well as students eager to locate new material for their research.
In 1972 the KGB even required the aid of paratroopers to quell nationalistic demonstrations in Lithuania. While such public protests are routine in the West, they are extraordinary in the Soviet Union, and their occurrence is symptomatic of profound strains to which the nationality problem continues to subject Soviet society.
Published by Bantam Books, Inc. New York, 1974.
The KGB arrested Father Juozas Zdebsis in August 1971, accusing him of teaching the catechism to Catholic children in Prienai, Lithuania, in preparation for their first communion. Fearing demonstrations, the authorities tried to keep the date and place of his trial secret. But on the morning of the trial, November 11, 1971, some six hundred men, women, and children gathered before the People’s Court in Kaunas, many carrying flowers. As police and KGB plainclothesmen dispersed them, one woman suffered a broken rib, another was knocked unconscious, and others were dragged by their heels to the vans. It was over quickly, although bloodstains and trampled flowers still had to be removed from the courthouse steps.
About ten children were interrogated as witnesses. “What did he teach you?” the procurator asked a girl little more than nine years old.
“Not to steal or break windows,” she answered. Several children were frightened to answer and simply cried.
The procurator summed up his case: “Children get all the teaching they need at school; there is no reason for them to go to church for more. We shall not allow children to be taught anywhere except at school.” The sentence: one year in a corrective labor camp for Father Zdebsis. As he was led away, witness could see the effects of beatings on his face.
--June 15, 1945, in Aukstosios Panemunes district, Silenai village, NKVD solders came to a farm, made a search, and after not having found anything, decided to rape the farmer's owners daughter. The parents wanted to protect the daughter. The Russian threw him in to the well and raped the mother and daughter and then shot them.
--In the fall of 1947, in the district of Pakuonis, in Lukiskes village the sergeant major of the local Red Army unit came to farmer Drulia. Noticing the his daughter Anele he demanded to have her. When the girl refused and started to run, the Russian shot the farmer's wife his brother, a four year old child and the daughter Maria, who while wounded, he raped and then shot twice in the head. Because of these horrible events, after four days Drulia hanged himself. All of the victims are buried in the Islauzos perish cemetery.
-- On August 15 th, 1946, in Kalvarijos District, Susnykai village, a KGB platoon was searching a farm looking for freedom fighters. The whole family was ordered to lie on the floor, or they would be shot. After looting the house, the solders dragged the farmer's wife and 14-year old daughter into another room and gang raped them. The girl never recovered.
It is dinner time on a muggy Sunday afternoon in late July, and we are gathered around the table as usual. Father sits at the head, with mother on his right and our maid-servant, Ona, beside her. My four brothers and I are seated around them, filling up whatever places are left.
Wordlessly, father picks up a spoon and starts sipping his cold buttermilk-beet soup. We imitate his example without really wanting to do so. It is too hot and too noisy. Mortar shells destined for distant targets whine and whistle high in the air above our roof. Sometimes their targets are not so distant, and then the resulting explosions shake the walls and rattle the windowpanes. We are anxious and tense as we wait for the inevitable to happen. And we dread it so much the more because we know that it is inevitable. We can sense its presence in each other's eyes, feel it all around us in the room, in the house, everywhere....
Half-way through dinner we are startled by the tread of heavy military boots nearby, and look up to see a handful of German soldiers striding into our dining room. Hunger, fatigue, and the same kind of anxiety which has been plaguing us all day are written on their faces. "Essen ", one of them whispers and starts to push his way towards the table. His comrades crown in close beside him, leaving us little choice. We get up and let the Germans finish what remains of our meal. There is not nearly enough to satisfy the hunger of a tow-headed young private, who pulls out his automatic and orders mother to show him the way to the larder. A few minutes later he returns with a huge chunk of smoked bacon which he starts to devour as though it were some kind of prize.
The highest ranking of our uninvited guests has usurped father's place at the head of the table. We cannot help staring at him: for some reason, he has shaved only one half of his chin.
"Those damned Russians!" he grumbles. "They've been hot on our heels all day. The devils didn't even give me time to get a decent shave"!
But then his anger suddenly gives way to resignation, and he concluded with a sigh.
"Oh, well. What does it matter? It's all over, anyway: with us and with Germany".
Such were the last words if the last German to set foot on our land...
In 1947, the author broke through the Iron Curtain. In 1948, he presented himself to the Scandinavian and West European democracies as a special delegate acting in behalf of the Lithuanian underground. He brought a letter form Lithuanian Catholics to Pope Pius XII and a considerable amount of documentary evidence about the situation in Lithuania. He remained abroad for three and a half years, seeking help for the resistance movement in Lithuania and maintaining contact with organizations based abroad which were working for the freedom in Lithuania. At the same time, he wrote Fighters from Freedom, a factual history of the resistance activities in Lithuania. He returned to his father land at the end of 1950 to continue his leadership of the resistance. He was betrayed by defectors and died in battle in a forest between Veiveriai ir Prienai in September of 1951.
His real name was Juozas Luksa. He was regarded with respect and admiration by the Lithuanian partisans. He understood well the psychology of leadership and, in addition, was gifted with a poetic talent which he used to compose a number of songs for the underground. The Communists considered him to be one of the most dangerous figures of the resistance and sought revenge on his entire family. His four brothers and his 74-year-old father were either killed or deported to Siberia by the Russians. Of his other close relatives, eleven were killed and twenty were deported.
Luksa’s memories, as well as the songs he composed to celebrate the cause of the freedom fighters, were greatly instrumental in creating a partisan “cult” among Lithuanians and served to influence a number of Lithuanian writers who had managed to escape to the free world.
(Based on Encyclopedia Lituanica)
Published by Manyland Books, Inc. 1975.
THE STORY OF THE RED ARMY SOLDIER, VASILI
One day, during the summer of 1943, my brother Juozas happened to be ploughing a field not very far from the outskirts of the forest. They day passed without incident. However, just as dusk was beginning to fall, a figure darted out of the woods and made for the spot where my brother was still hard at work.
“Thank God!” the figure exclaimed in Russian and collapsed with relief right in the middle of a furrow. Closer inspection revealed it to be that of a man – obviously a P.O.W. He had, in fact, only recently escaped from a German stalag in East Prussia. He looked perfectly awful. He had no shoes, and his clothing consisted of rags which were close to falling off altogether. Although he seemed to be no more than nineteen years old, his face was already deeply marked with the lines of fatigue. He begged Juozas to bring him something to eat; he even offered to take over the ploughing while Juozas went back to the house to get it. Juozas agreed. Turning the plow over to Vasili, he hurried home and explained the situation to mother. But as he was returning to the field with a generous bundle of food which she had prepared, he simply had to stop and laugh. Vasili was obviously no farmer: the plough kept slipping out of his hands and spoiling the furrow, while Vasili himself was already dripping with perspiration.
They sat down to eat. Between mouthfuls, Vasili began to relate how he had managed to obtain food after his escape from the East Prussian prison camp. He would hover near farms which lay close to the outskirts of the forest, waiting until the women came into the fields to milk the cows. Then he would go up to them and beg them for a little milk. (He even carried a small pail for the purpose.) The women seldom turned down his request, and in this manner he had managed to subsist for nearly five weeks. But it was a dog’s life at best. Could Juozas get him some sort of work as a day laborer with people who could be trusted?
Vasili didn’t think it advisable to travel any farther just now. He would certainly never be able to reach his home town, which was somewhere in the vicinity of Moscow. Nor did he expect to find such generous people in other parts of his country as he had found in Lithuania. So what about it? Would Juozas be willing to help him? Juozas promised to do what he could. And it was only because of his help and protection that Vasili survived to see his own kind again.
Now, he was leaving to rejoin his old Army unit, and had come over to say good-bye. In order to express his gratitude, he had brought along parting gifts of honey and home-distilled vodka. He had also prepared an affidavit in his own handwriting to the effect that Juozas had concealed and protected him, a Russian, at the risk of his own life and liberty all during the German occupation. Juozas did not want to accept this affidavit at first, but Vasili insisted. A time would come when Juozas would be thankful for it, he said – adding that he knew how many people in our village had already been arrested simply because they had been unable to show concrete proof of their loyalty to the Soviets. Under the Communist regime, the mere inability of a suspect to prove his innocence afforded sufficient grounds for a jail sentence. And Vasili, having been born and bred in the “Soviet Paradise,” knew its modus operandi only too well. As a result, he kept pestering Juozas to take it until the latter had no choice except to give in. Then, after hearty handshakes all around, we parted. We promised not to forget each other. Neither time nor the misfortunes of war, we felt, could weaken the bonds of our mutual friendship.
Soon after Vasili’s departure for regions unknown, Juozas and I embarked on our own journey to Kaunas. We reached Kaunas without incident and headed straight for the university to pick up the draft exemption cards which the administration had promised us. Then we wandered about a bit, looking for any colleagues who might have arrived before us. We found quite a few of them already hard at work on various repair projects around the campus, even thought the new semester was still a long way off. Not to be outdone, Juozas and I decided to join a group which was cleaning up after a detachment of Red Army men had been using the university as their headquarters until a little while ago. These individuals must have gone far out of their way to turn the place into a shambles, for they had managed to leave it looking just a trifle worse than a pigsty. Weeks of back-breaking labour were needed to put everything back to rights – only Juozas and I had to beg off after a couple of days because we found ourselves running short of food. Neither of us had thought it necessary to bring very much from home, figuring that by this time we would be able to buy at least some of the essentials in the Kaunas markets. Unfortunately, we had figured wrong. There was not a morsel of food for sale in the entire city – leaving us with the options of starving to death on campus or making the long trek back to the farm. Needless to say, the latter alternative seemed far more enticing to us.
But trying to leave Kaunas turned out to be something of a feat in itself. Civilian train service had been suspended at the beginning of the occupation, and no one was really sure whether the trains were running again or not. As for motor cars or busses, they might just as well have never existed for anyone who wasn’t in the Red Army. In short, if we hoped to get anywhere at all, we would have to start walking. And walk we did, right out of the city: Juozas and I and our colleague, Jurgis, who lived in a neighboring village.
Just outside the city of Garliava, we spotted three Red Army officers coming up behind us in an American jeep. We waved, and the jeep screeched to a stop. The sergeant-major who was at the wheel offered to take us wherever we wanted to go in exchange for a bottle of vodka. Naturally, we accepted his proposition at once. As a matter of fact, we even tripled the going rate and promised to give each of the Russians as bottle – not to mention a hearty supper on top. At first, we asked to be taken no further than our aunt’s house, since it was easily accessible from the main road. However, when we happened to mention that we were university students, the other officers (a captain and a lieutenant, respectively) became very affable and insisted on driving us all the way home. Somewhat reluctantly, we agreed. Although we were happy not to have to trouble our aunt, we had great doubts about being able to reach our village without suffering some kind of mechanical breakdown. The road over which we would have to travel was long and in the worst possible condition, and the jeep was overloaded already. But the sergeant-major merely laughed at our fears. The road hadn’t been invented that could stop a jeep, he informed us. And he was right, too. This marvel of American ingenuity carried us straight to the door with no trouble whatsoever.
Mother was overjoyed to see us. She and One busted about the kitchen preparing the promised meal, while I busied myself with the task of opening up bottles. I couldn’t resist teasing Ona a little.
“Well now, Ona,” I said. “Isn’t this a fine lot of stout, hearty fellows? Why don’t you see if you can hit it off with one of them? You know how much they love chasing after Lithuanian girls”!
Ona threw me a dirty look and snorted. “If they’re your idea of men, then you can have them! Stinkpots! Nothing but stinkpots is what they are! Reeking of herring and God-only-knows what else! Why, a body can’t even walk past them without wanting to throw up. That’s for your so-called men!” she added, giving the most buxom of her anatomy a resounding smack.
Shortly afterwards, my brother came in from the fields and we sat down to eat. We didn’t beak up until some two hours later. The sergeant-major was the first to finish. He rose from the table and staggered to our storage room for a nap. (Luckily, we had already taken the precaution of securing our valuables under lock and key!) Then the captain also excused himself and went off to sleep God knows where. And with his departure the lieutenant suddenly found his tongue.
“How I envy you this Saturday evening, “ he sighed.
“How pleasant it must be for the whole family to get together! Do many families in your country get a chance to do the same thing?”
“You’ll find them almost everywhere, “ said brother Andrius.
“Then you are indeed fortunate people! But we… Many of us don’t even know who our mothers and fathers are. We have been torn from our parents as infants.” The lieutenant stopped speaking and looked thoughtful for a moment. Then he went on.
“How I would like to be spending such an evening with my own family: chatting with my brothers, and sharing their troubles and cares. . . . We Russians are human beings, too!” His eyes filled with tears and he fell silent again.
Then he glanced around the room before continuing, “When we were fighting at Ilman . . . at Minsk, we were told over and over again that we were doing it to liberate the proletariat from the exploiters. But we have been in Lithuania nearly a month, and we have yet to meet anyone who has been exploited. We haven’t heard of anyone being denounced as an exploiter, either. The only ones the people seem to be denouncing are the Red Army men. Because we brought you slavery. But you think we wanted to? How I hate this damn uniform”!
With a sudden movement, the lieutenant tire the medals from his jacket and flung them away. They made such a clatter as they fell to the floor that our cats jumped up from where they had been sleeping under the table and scattered in every direction of the room.
“My father’s bones are rotting away in Siberian concentration camp while I . . . I’m helping his executioners to enslave millions of others! And why do you think I am doing it? Because I don’t want to end up like him! Oh, I know, the government promised us the world! Anything to make us lay down our lives for them! Look here! They even started spreading rumors that each kolkhoznik would get his own plot of land after war. But it won’t happen, believe me! What will happen is that kolkhozes will be introduced in your country, too. And then you’ll have nothing of your own, either. And they’ll keep telling you how good life in the Soviet Union is. But we who have lived there know better! Look here! Two armies have ravaged your land, and you still have plenty of everything left. That’s because you work for the love of it – for yourselves and for your families. Your tables are piled high with food. Why, you even have enough to feed me – a stranger and an enemy solder. But in my motherland – in the wealthy Russia – people are walking around in rags and starving!
The lieutenant might have gone on in this manner all night if we hadn’t decided to shut him up. We were still sober enough to realize that he could get himself into a lot of trouble with such talk if he was sincere. On the other hand, if he was just doing it to provoke us into saying something derogatory against the Soviet Union – well, we already had troubles enough. At any rate, Jurgis gathered up his medals and weighed them thoughtfully in the palm of his hand,
“Pin them again, Kolya, “ he urged. “Believe me, we appreciate what they stand for as well as you do. Pin them on then we’ll all pay my village a visit.
Although the lieutenant seemed very reluctant to do so, he finally pinned the medals back on and left the house with Jurgis and Juozas. Much to the captain’s annoyance, he did not return until mid-morning of the following day. The officers had orders to report to Command Headquarters at the front by twelve o’clock noon, and they would have to rush quite a bit because of his tardiness if they wanted to make it. After a hurried breakfast and a solemn promise to visit us again soon, they departed.
Only then did I become aware of how much this little hitchhiking episode had actually cost me: my wrist watch was missing! It must have been filched by the sergeant-major while I was asleep sometime during the night. Since I had also bedded down in the storage room, I must have provided him with an opportunity which he couldn’t resist. He had been so light-fingered, too, that I never even noticed the loss until the Russians were well out of sight. Needless to say, we never heard from any of them again.