Chapter 2

SOVIETIZATION 1940-85

The annexation of Lithuania by the Soviet Union was followed by the implacable and remorseless demolition of the political, economic, social and cultural institutions established by the independent Lithuanian state in the inter-war decades. In their place was introduced all the apparatus of the Soviet system. Simultaneously, the élite of the Lithuanian government, political parties and civil service, the senior military and police officers, and the leaders of business and cultural life were arrested and sentenced to deportation or execution. Those who could fled the country. The loss of so much experience and talent was incalculable. The accompanying political repression and economic devastation, coupled with the onslaught on Lithuanian education and culture, was traumatic for the Lithuanian population. The rather passive acceptance of the annexation which had prevailed among the Lithuanian population in the summer of 1940 was now regretted. Perhaps part of this acquiescence arose from the goodwill which Moscow had earned in Lithuania as a result of its support over Vilnius in the inter-war decades. Goodwill was eroded by the Mutual Assistance Pact and fatally undermined for most people by the experience of occupation, which shattered the illusion that Sovietization might be tolerable or short-lived.

Although the communist government was cautious in implementing its policy of collectivization in agriculture, in almost all other respects it pressed ahead unhesitatingly with its programme. As a result the Lithuanian population was left in absolutely no doubt about the meaning of Sovietization. The result was dangerously counter-productive. For the next half century Lithuania resisted Moscow's rule. The resistance took many different forms, from sustained guerrilla warfare to the waving in public of Lithuanian flags, from samizdat publications to demonstrations at sports arenas. But at no time could the Soviets feel that Lithuanians had been won over either to Marxism-Leninism or to Soviet institutions and values.

Historians have tended to apply the term resistance mainly to the Resistance, the great guerrilla war which was at its height in Lithuania from 1944 to around 1950. But resistance both preceded and followed this dramatic episode. It existed in the first year of Soviet occupation,

LITHUANIA: STEPPING WESTWARD

-49-

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