Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic

Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic
Литовская Советская Социалистическая Республика
Lietuvos Tarybų Socialistinė Respublika

Top flag (1953–1988)
Bottom flag (1988–1990/91)
State emblem (1978–1990)
Motto: Visų šalių proletarai, vienykitės! (Lithuanian)
"Workers of the world, unite!"
Location of the Lithuanian SSR within the Soviet Union.
Status Unrecognized Soviet Socialist Republic
(1940–1941, 1944–1990/91)
De facto sovereign entity (1989–1990/91)
Capital Vilnius
Common languages Lithuanian, Russian
Demonym Lithuanian
Government Stalinist one-party totalitarian dictatorship (1940–1953)
Unitary Marxist-Leninist one-party Soviet-style socialist republic (1953–1989)
Unitary semi-presidential republic (1989–1991)
First Secretary  
Antanas Sniečkus
Petras Griškevičius
Ringaudas Songaila
Algirdas Brazauskas
Chairman of the Supreme Council  
Vytautas Landsbergis
Historical era World War II · Cold War
16 June 1940
 SSR established
21 July 1940
 Illegally annexed by USSR, Lithuania continued de jure
3 August 1940
June 1941
 Soviet re-occupation
SSR re-established
September–November 1944
 Sovereignty declared
18 May 1989
11 March 1990
 Independence recognized by the State Council of the Soviet Union
6 September 1991
1989 65,200 km2 (25,200 sq mi)
Calling code 7 012
Today part of  Lithuania

The Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic (Lithuanian SSR; Lithuanian: Lietuvos Tarybų Socialistinė Respublika; Russian: Литовская Советская Социалистическая Республика, Litovskaya Sovetskaya Sotsialisticheskaya Respublika), one of the USSR republics that existed in 1940–1941 and 1944–1990, was formed on the basis of the Soviet occupation rule. It was also known as Soviet Lithuania. After 1946, its territory and borders mirrored those of today's Republic of Lithuania (with the exception of minor adjustments at the Belarusian border).

Established on 21 July 1940 as a puppet state,[1] during World War II in the territory of the previously independent Republic of Lithuania after it had been occupied by the Soviet army on 16 June 1940, in conformity with the terms of the 23 August 1939 Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact.

Between 1941 and 1944, the German invasion of the Soviet Union caused its de facto dissolution. However, with the retreat of the Germans in 1944–1945, Soviet hegemony was re-established, and existed for fifty years. As a result, many western countries (including the United States) continue to recognize Lithuania as an independent, sovereign de jure state subject to international law represented by the legations appointed by the pre-1940 Baltic states which functioned in various places through the Lithuanian Diplomatic Service.

On 18 May 1989, the Lithuanian SSR declared state sovereignty within its borders during perestroika. On 11 March 1990, the Republic of Lithuania was declared to be re-established as an independent state and the declaration (while considered illegal by the Soviet authorities) was recognized by Western powers immediately prior to the breakup of the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union itself recognized Lithuanian independence on 6 September 1991.


The premises for the establishment of the LSSR

On 23 August 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union signed the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact and its secret protocols.[2] These documents allowed the two states to divide Europe into spheres of influence. After originally falling into Germany's sphere of influence, when on 28 September 1939 the USSR and Germany signed the Frontier Treaty and its secret protocol, Lithuania was put into the USSR's sphere of influence in exchange for Poland, which had already been occupied.[3] The very next day, the USSR offered to Lithuania signing an agreement on the deployment of military bases on its territory. During the negotiations, the Lithuanian delegation was frankly told about the division of the spheres of influence. The Soviets threatened that if Lithuania refused to host the bases, Vilnius could be annexed to Belarus. It was on these conditions that a Lithuania–USSR agreement on mutual assistance was signed in Moscow on 10 October 1939, opening a door for Soviet regiments to Lithuania.[4] A total of 18,786 Red Army troops were deployed at strategically important locations within the country: Alytus, Prienai, Gaižiūnai, and Naujoji Vilnia.[5] This actually meant that the country had lost its neutrality and came under the direct influence of the USSR.

Occupation and annexation

When Germany launched its military campaign in Western Europe in May 1940, the USSR invaded the Baltic states.[6] On 14 June 1940, an ultimatum was served to Lithuania on the alleged grounds of abduction of Red Army troops. The ultimatum said Lithuania should remove officials that were the USSR found unsuitable (the Minister of the Interior and the Head of the Security Department); replace the government; allow an unlimited number of Red Army troops to enter the country. The acceptance of the ultimatum meant the loss of the statehood, yet V. Molotov declared to J. Urbšys that, whatever the reply may be, "the troops will enter Lithuania tomorrow nonetheless".[7] This document was a violation of every prior agreement between Lithuania and the USSR and of the international law governing the relations of sovereign states.[8] The last session of the government of the Republic of Lithuania was called to discuss the ultimatum,[8] with most of the members in favour of accepting the ultimatum. On 15 June, President Smetona left Lithuania for the West, leaving Prime Minister Antanas Merkys in his stead and expecting to come back when the geopolitical situation changes,[9] while the 8th and 11th armies of the USSR (a total of 15 divisions) crossed the borders of the Republic of Lithuania. Flying squads took over the airports of Kaunas, Radviliškis, Šiauliai. Regiments of the Red Army put a stop to possible resistance, disarmed the Lithuanian military, took over its assets, and supported local communists. Under pressure from Moscow, on 17 June 1940 A. Merkys appointed Justas Paleckis Prime Minister and resigned soon after. J. Paleckis then assumed presidential duties, and Vincas Krėvė was appointed Prime Minister[10] The Communist Party was legalised again and began publication of its papers and staging meetings to support the new government. At the same time, the opposition, its newspapers, organisations were outlawed, and ties with abroad cut short. On July 14–15, elections to the People's Parliament took place. The only contender was the Union of Working People of Lithuania, which had been founded by far-left radicals and their supporters. Citizens were mandated to attend the elections, and the results of the elections were likely falsified. At its first meeting on 21 July, the new Parliament declared that Lithuania had expressed its will to become part of the USSR. Resolutions to effectuate the country's sovietisation were made the very same day. On 3 August, a Lithuanian delegation of prominent public figures was dispatched to Moscow to sign the document of Lithuania's accession to the USSR. After the document had been signed, Lithuania was annexed to become part of the USSR.[11] On 25 August 1940, an extraordinary session of the People's Parliament ratified the Constitution of the LSSR (in form and substance similar to the USSR Constitution of 5 December 1936).

The war between Germany and the USSR and the second Soviet occupation

Lithuania was dragged into the war on 22 June 1941, with Germany invading the USSR. Back in November 1940, the Lithuanian activist front, founded in Berlin and led by Kazys Škirpa, organised an uprising in Kaunas and Vilnius. The Lithuanians drove the Soviets out and formed a provisional government under Juozas Ambrazevičius. The provisional government was looking forward to recognition from the Germans, but was disbanded by the Nazis, who had no intentions of granting any rights of political independence to Lithuania. In 1941–1944, Lithuania was made part of the German Reichskommissariat Ostland as a general region of Lithuania under the government of a civil administration. In July–October 1944, with the frontline moving westwards, the USSR entered Lithuania once again, and the second Soviet government began. The first post-war elections took place in the winter of 1946 to elect 35 representatives to the LSSR Supreme Council. Since the populace were slacking, the results were likely falsified to show an attendance rate of at least 90% and to establish an absolute victory for the candidates from the Communist Party. The LSSR Supreme Council under J. Paleckis was formally the supreme governmental authority. In reality, the reigns were in the hands of the first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, a post held by A. Sniečkus for many years.

The sovietisation of Lithuania

The sovietisation of Lithuania began with the strengthening of the supervision of the Communist Party. Officials faithful to the government were sent from Moscow to Lithuania to set up bodies of local governance. To make sure that everything was being done on the initiative of the locals, the appointed heads of said bodies were exclusively Lithuanian, who had trustworthy Russian-speaking specialists for assistants – it was these latter that controlled the situation for all practical purposes. By the spring of 1945 , 6,100 Russian-speaking workers were sent to Lithuania.[11] A second nationalisation kicked off since day one. The people were being deprived of all of their property but personal belongings. This was followed by the collectivisation, which started in 1947, with people being forced to join the kolkhozes[12] These were being established on the grounds of well-off farmers, who would be exiled, and their farms would be turned into kolkhoz farmhouses where livestock of the peasants from the surrounding areas would be kept. Since kolkhozes had to donate a large portion of their produce to the state, the people working there lived in somewhat poorer conditions than the rest of the nation. The pay would often be delayed and made in kind. They were not allowed to move to cities, because they had no IDs. The collectivisation eventually ended in 1953. The collectivisation went hand in hand with industrialisation. The territory of Lithuania became home to factories, power plants, in a bid to involve the country into the economic system of the whole of the USSR. The output of major factories would be exported from the republic for absence of local demand. The entire process of industrialisation was inevitably followed by urbanisation as villages for the workers had to be established or expanded in the vicinity of the new factories.[13] That was how new towns, such as Elektrėnai, Jonava, Naujoji Akmenė, Visaginas, were built. This was where residents would be relocated not only from other LSSR towns and villages, but from other USSR republics as well. To ensure the success of the sovietisation, tools of culture and science were employed.[14] All symbols of the former Republic of Lithuania were being removed from all sources available to the public, the country had its history rewritten, its achievements belittled. The veneration of Stalin was being spread actively by erasing the names of famous Lithuanian figures from the people's minds. The role of Russia and the USSR in the history of Lithuania was often highlighted. The society was encouraged into joining the Communist Party and communist organisations. Science, art were ridden by ideology and controlled by censorship mechanisms. To strengthen the influence on the society, people were encouraged into atheism. Lithuania would be secularised, monasteries closed, religion classes taboo, church-goers victimised.

Armed resistance

The second Soviet occupation was followed by armed resistance from the residents of Lithuania in 1944–1953, aiming to restore an independent state of Lithuania, establish capitalism and eradicate communism in the country, bring back the national values and freedom of faith. Partisans were people of various social backgrounds, age groups, and education. The authorities labelled them bandits. They were forced into the woods and into armed resistance by the Soviet rule. Armed resistance had three stages. Stage one began in the summer of 1944 and ended in the summer of 1946. In that period, large companies were formed with no uniform organisation. Armed skirmishes with the RA were quite common. Stage two covered the period from the summer of 1946 until the end of 1948. At that time, a partisan organisational structure was formed, and companies diminished to 5–15 people who lived in bunkers. Guerrilla warfare with surprise hits was the tactic. Stage three continued since 1949 until the end of 1953. During the period, the so-called Union of Lithuanian Freedom Fighters under Jonas Žemaitis–Vytautas was founded. Companies became smaller still and only consisted of 3 to 5 people; open skirmishes were a rarity, opting for sabotage and terrorism instead. Despite the fact that guerrilla warfare had failed to achieve its objective to 'liberate' Lithuania and had claimed the lives of more than 20,000 fighters, the armed resistance showed the world that Lithuania's joining the USSR had not been a voluntary act and highlighted the desire of many Lithuanians be independent.[15]

Deportations of LSSR citizens

In the fall of 1944, the first lists of 'bandits' and 'bandit families' appeared, which included members or family members of armed resistance. Deportees were marshalled and put on a USSR-bound train in Kaunas in early May 1945, reaching their destination in Tajikistan in summer. Once there, they were forced into gratuitous labour at cotton plantations.[16] In May 1945, a decision was made to have a new wave of deportations from every county. Battlegroups were made of NKVD and NKGB staff and NKVD troops – the destruction battalions, or istrebitels. On 18–21 February 1946, deportations began in four counties: Alytus, Marijampolė, Lazdijai, and Tauragės. However, on 12 December 1947 the CC of the LCP resolved that repressions against the supporters of resistance in Lithuania were weak and that additional measures were in order.[17] A new series of deportations began the very same day. A total of 2,782 people were deported in December. In January–February 1948, another 1,134 persons[18] were exiled from every county in Lithuania. By May 1948, the number of deportees had risen to 13,304. Most of them found themselves in exile due to the class fight they were engaged in. In May 1948, preparations for very large-scale deportations were being made, with 30,118 staff members from USSR repressive structures engaged for that purpose.[19] On 22–23 May 1948, large-scale deportation operation called Vesna began, leading to 36,932 arrests, a figure that later increased to 40,002. The second major deportation operation took place on 25–28 March 1949. Over four days, the authorities put 28,981 persons into livestock cars and dispatched them deep into the USSR. Some people went into hiding and managed to escape the deportations, but then a manhunt began in April. As a result, another two echelons left for the remote regions of the USSR. During March–April 1949, a total of some 32,000 people were deported from Lithuania. By 1952, 10 more operations were staged, but of a smaller scale. The last deportations took place in 1953, when people were taken to the district of Tomsk and the regions of Altai and Krasnoyarsk.[20]

Dissident movement

Even after the guerrilla resistance had been quelled, the Soviet authorities failed to suppress the movement for Lithuania's independence. Underground dissident groups had been active since 1950's, publishing their periodicals and catholic literature.[21] They fostered national culture, preserved historical memory, instigated patriotism and hopes for independence. In the 1970s, the dissidents established the Lithuanian Freedom League under Antanas Terleckas. Founded in Vilnius in the wake of the international conference in Helsinki, Finland, which recognised the borders established after the Second World War, the Helsinki Group demanded that Lithuania's occupation be recognised illegal and the Molotov–Ribbentrop pact be condemned.[22] In 1972, young Romas Kalanta burned himself in Kaunas in a public display of protest against the regime. This act was followed by public protests, which showed that a large portion of the people were against the regime.[23] The Catholic Church took an active part in opposing the oppression. The clergy published the chronicles of the Catholic Church of Lithuania that were secretly distributed in Lithuania and abroad. The faithful would gather in small groups to teach the children religion, celebrate religious holidays, and used national and religious symbols. The most active repressed figures of the movement were Vincentas Sladkevičius, Sigitas Tamkevičius, Nijolė Sadūnaitė.[24] The dissident movement boosted the nation's morale, made people remember their history and values with the passage of time.Thanks to its doings, the world would receive information about the situation in the LSSR, human rights violations, which made Moscow soften the regime.[25]

Cultural life in the LSSR

The Soviets loved to promote the people's art. Every exhibition, book, movie, play, museum, and the education system had to be guided by the ideological context and pass government inspection. Since 1950, Songs Festivals would be staged on a regular basis, featuring Lithuanian folk songs and music that did not oppose the Soviet ideology. People's artists had to portray the imagined perfect life of kolkhoz farmers and workers, their fight against the bourgeoisie over social justice, and their values, which were industriousness, honour, justice, integrity, and loyalty to the ideals of communism. The most meritorious people's artists would be awarded the title of the Emeritus People's Artist. By the 1950s, some 500 monuments, sculptures, pieces of architecture relating to the independence period were demolished and replaced with new ones that were dedicated to Soviet ideological, cultural, and artistic figures. Eventually, lest they abandon their creative potential, Lithuanian artists went for Aesopian language, allegory, and symbolism. The political warming that started after the death of Stalin brought forth a new generation of writers. In their work, they dealt with human feelings and certain aspects of the history of Lithuania. Music, too, reflected a strong historical theme, issues of national identity. Theatre had a highly important role to play in the society. The language of theatre was that of Aesop. Lithuanian theatre was among the strongest in the USSR.

The collapse

In the 1980s, the USSR sank into a deep economic crisis. In 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev was elected head of state, undertaking a series of liberal reforms and ending the Cold War. This encouraged the activity of anti-communist movements within the USSR, the LSSR included.[26] On 23 August 1987, the so-called Lithuanian Freedom League initiated an unsanctioned meeting in front of the monument to Adomas Mickevičius in Vilnius. At the meeting, the Molotov–Ribbentrop pact was condemned for the first time in public. The idea of the meeting was supported by western radio stations. The first informal organisations, clubs for environmental and monument protection. In May 1987, the Lithuanian Cultural Fund was established to engage in environmental activity and the protection of Lithuanian cultural assets. On 3 June 1988, the Lithuanian Reformation Movement was founded, its mission to restore the statehood of Lithuania. Supporters of its ideas formed groups for the support of the LRM across Lithuania. On 23 August 1988, a massive meeting was staged at Vingis Park in Vilnius, with a turnout of about 250,000 people. A year later, on 23 August 1989, marking 50 years of the Molotov–Ribbentrop pact and aiming to draw the world's eye to the occupation of the Baltic states, the Baltic Way event was staged.[27] Held by the Lithuanian Reformation Movement, the Baltic Way was a chain of people holding hands that stretched for nearly 600 km to connect the three Baltic capitals of Vilnius, Riga, and Tallinn. It was a display of the aspiration of the Lithuanian, Latvian, and Estonian people to part ways with the USSR. The LSSR de facto ceased to exist on 11 March 1990, with the Reconstituent Seimas declaring Lithuania's independence restored. Since Lithuania's membership in the USSR was considered a violation of the international law and void, there was no formal procedure of secession from the USSR.


Lithuania declared sovereignty on its territory on 18 May 1989 and declared independence from the Soviet Union on 11 March 1990 as the Republic of Lithuania. Lithuania was the first Baltic state to assert state continuity and the first Soviet Republic to remove "Soviet" from its name (though not the first Soviet Republic to assert its national sovereignty and the supremacy of its national laws over the laws of the Soviet Union; see Estonian Sovereignty Declaration). All legal ties of the Soviet Union's sovereignty over the republic were cut as Lithuania declared the restitution of its independence. The Soviet Union claimed that this declaration was illegal, as Lithuania had to follow the process of secession mandated in the Soviet Constitution if it wanted to leave.

Lithuania contended that the entire process by which Lithuania joined the Soviet Union violated both Lithuanian and international law so it was merely reasserting an independence that previously existed. The Soviet Union threatened to invade, but the Russian SFSR's declaration of sovereignty on June 12 meant that the Soviet Union could not enforce Lithuania's retention.

While other republics held the union-wide referendum in March to restructure the Soviet Union in a loose form, Lithuania, along with Estonia, Latvia, Armenia, Georgia, and Moldova backed out from the votes, it held an independence referendum earlier that month with the majority of 93.2% voters accepted it.

Iceland immediately recognised Lithuania's independence. Most other countries followed suit after the failed coup in August, with the State Council of the Soviet Union recognising Lithuania's independence on 6 September 1991. The Soviet Union officially ceased to exist on 26 December 1991. After independence, Lithuania joined the United Nations on 17 September 1991 and joined the European Union and NATO in 2004.

First secretaries of the Communist Party of Lithuania

First secretaries of the Communist Party of Lithuania:[28]

  • Antanas Sniečkus, 1944–1974
  • Petras Griškevičius, 1974–1987
  • Ringaudas Songaila, 1987–1988
  • Algirdas Brazauskas, 1988–1989


Collectivization in the Lithuanian SSR took place between 1947 and 1952.[29]

The 1990 per capita GDP of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic was $8,591, which was above the average for the rest of the Soviet Union of $6,871.[30] This was still half or less than half of the per capita GDPs of adjacent countries Norway ($18,470), Sweden ($17,680) and Finland ($16,868).[30] Overall, in the Eastern Bloc, the inefficiency of systems without competition or market-clearing prices became costly and unsustainable, especially with the increasing complexity of world economics.[31] Such systems, which required party-state planning at all levels, ended up collapsing under the weight of accumulated economic inefficiencies, with various attempts at reform merely contributing to the acceleration of crisis-generating tendencies.[32]

In astronomy

A minor planet 2577 Litva discovered in 1975 by a Soviet astronomer Nikolai Stepanovich Chernykh is named after the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic.[33]

See also


  1. Ronen, Yaël (2011). Transition from Illegal Regimes Under International Law. Cambridge University Press. p. 17. ISBN 978-0-521-19777-9.
  2. Šepetys N., Molotovo – Ribbentropo paktas ir Lietuva, Vilnius, 2006.
  3. Snyder, Timothy (2004). The Reconstruction of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569–1999. Yale University Press. pp. 62–63. ISBN 0-300-10586-X.
  4. http://www.š
  5. Lithuania in 1940–1990. A History of Lithuania under Occupation, ed. Anušauskas A., Genocide and Resistance Research Centre of Lithuania, Vilnius, 2007.
  6. Christie, Kenneth, Historical Injustice and Democratic Transition in Eastern Asia and Northern Europe: Ghosts at the Table of Democracy, RoutledgeCurzon, 2002, ISBN 0-7007-1599-1
  7. Urbšys J., Lietuva lemtingaisiais 1939–1940 metais, Tautos fondas, 1988.
  8. 1 2 Audėnas J., Paskutinis posėdis, Vilnius, 1990.
  9. Eidintas, A. Antanas Smetona and His Lithuania, Brill/Rodopi, 2015.
  10. Senn A. E., Lithuania 1940– Revolution from Above, Rodopi, 2007.
  11. 1 2 Breslavskienė L, Lietuvos okupacija ir aneksija 1939-1940: dokumentų rinkinys, Vilnius: Mintis, 1993.
  12. The History of the SSR of Lithuania, vol. 4, Vilnius, 1947.
  13. Grybkauskas S., Sovietinė nomenklatūra ir pramonė Lietuvoje 1965-1985 metais / Lietuvos istorijos institutas. – Vilnius: LII leidykla, 2011.
  14. Epochas jungiantis nacionalizmas: tautos (de)konstravimas tarpukario, sovietmečio ir posovietmečio Lietuvoje / Lietuvos istorijos institutas. – Vilnius: Lietuvos istorijos instituto leidykla, 2013
  15. Gailius B., Partizanai tada ir šiandien, Vilnius, 2006.
  16. Lithuania in 1940–1990, ed. A. Anušauskas, Vilnius: GRRCL, 2005, p. 293.
  17. Lietuvos sovietizacija 1944–1947 m.: VKP(b) CK dokumentai, sud. M. Pocius, Vilnius: Lietuvos istorijos institutas, 2015, p. 126.
  18. Tremtis prie Mano upės, sud. V. G. Navickaitė, Vilnius: Lietuvos nacionalinis muziejus, 2008, p. 7.
  19. Lietuvos gyventojų trėmimai 1941, 1945–1952 m., Vilnius, 1994, p. 210.
  20. Lietuvos kovų ir kančių istorija. Lietuvos gyventojų trėmimai 1940–1941; 1944–1953 m. Sovietinės okupacija valdžios dokumentuose, red. A. Tyla, Vilnius: Lietuvos istorijos institutas, 1995, p. 101
  21. V. Vasiliauskaitė, [null Lietuvos Ir Vidurio Rytų Europos šalių periodinė savivalda], 1972–1989, 2006.
  22. Lietuvos Helsinkio grupė (dokumentai, atsiminimai, laiškai), sudarė V. Petkus, Ž. Račkauskaitė, . Uoka, 1999.
  23. Bagušauskas J. R., [null Lietuvos jaunimo pasipriešinimas sovietiniam režimui ir jo slopinimas], 1999.
  25. Tininis V., Sovietinė Lietuva ir jos veikėjai, Vilnius, 1994.
  26. Ivanauskas V., Lietuviškoji nomenklatūra biurokratinėje sistemoje. Tarp stagnacijos ir dinamikos (1968-1988 m.), Vilnius, 2011.
  27. Anušauskas A., Kelias į nepriklausomybę – Lietuvos sąjūdis, Kaunas, 2010.
  29. O'Connor 2003, p. xx–xxi
  30. 1 2 Maddison 2006, p. 185
  31. Hardt & Kaufman 1995, p. 1
  32. Hardt & Kaufman 1995, p. 10
  33. Dictionary of Minor Planet Names - p. 210


  • Hardt, John Pearce; Kaufman, Richard F. (1995). East-Central European Economies in Transition. M.E. Sharpe. ISBN 1-56324-612-0. 
  • Maddison, Angus (2006). The world economy. OECD Publishing. ISBN 92-64-02261-9. 
  • O'Connor, Kevin (2003). The history of the Baltic States. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 0-313-32355-0. 

Coordinates: 55°30′N 24°0′E / 55.500°N 24.000°E / 55.500; 24.000

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