Showdown: The Lithuanian Rebellion & the Breakup of the Soviet Empire

By Grau, Lester W. | Military Review, July/August 1998 | Go to article overview

Showdown: The Lithuanian Rebellion & the Breakup of the Soviet Empire


Grau, Lester W., Military Review


SHOWDOWN: The Lithuanian Rebellion & the Breakup of the Soviet Empire by Richard J. Krickus. 244 pages. Brassey's Inc., Washington, DC. 1996. $24.95.

On 11 March 1990, Lithuania declared its independence from the teetering Soviet Union. The Kremlin met this challenge with political, military and economic bribes and pressures, which provoked the Lithuanian people into a rage that culminated in "Bloody Sunday"-13 January 1991.

Soviet armored vehicles and paratroopers moved against a Lithuanian crowd protecting the Vilnius television tower. Thirteen Lithuanians and a KGB officer were killed; 608 Lithuanians were subsequently wounded. Soviet military action did nothing to dampen Lithuanian ardor for independence. Moscow vainly tried to negotiate a union treaty, and Boris Yeltsin used the Baltic independence movements as a lever to create a Russian nationalist movement, which then formed a tactical alliance with the Baltic movements.

On 6 September 1991, after the unsuccessful August coup against President Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet Union recognized Lithuania's, Estonia's and Latvia's independence. Small nations had challenged the Soviet Union's power and regained independence. The Soviet realm was in an unrecoverable tailspin. By 26 December 1991, the Soviet Union passed into history, and 15 sovereign republics inherited the territory of the once-mighty empire. …

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