An extract from the book
Period of Occupations
World War II began on September 1, 1939. A large part of the world was drawn into the war and more than 50 million lives were lost. Before this war began, on March 22, 1939 Hitler's Germany occupied the Klaipeda territory. The pact formulated by V. Molotov and J. Ribbentrop on August 23rd with its attendant secret protocols sealed the fate of the Baltic countries, including Lithuania, and condemned them to death. On September 19th the Russian Red Army occupied Vilnius and, shortly thereafter, the entire Lithuanian territory which had been occupied by Poland. They acted as though they were in enemy territory and stole and destroyed all they could. They arrested many inhabitants and were preparing to create "socialism".
According to the October 10th treaty of mutual aid, Lithuania regained its capital Vilnius and approximately a fourth of the territory formerly occupied by Poland. Stalin incorporated the remaining territory into the Byelorussian SSR.
According to the same treaty Lithuania was required to allow the "temporary" installation of Red Army garrisons: a true Trojan horse in her territory. The recovered Vilnius territory was not as economically advanced as independent Lithuania and it was difficult to integrate it. The regrettable results of Polonisation came to light. Many people who identified themselves as Lithuanians no longer spoke their ancestral language. They tried to learn it, attended classes and Lithuanian schools. However, Polish activists did their utmost to ensure that Polonisation would continue, that it would remain just as it was during the period of Polish occupation.
Many completely Lithuanian settlements remained in the ethnic Lithuanian territory which was incorporated into Byelorussia. The Bolshevik government promised to allow Lithuanians to relocate to independent Lithuania. People prepared for the move, but the government kept postponing the departure date until, finally, the Bolsheviks occupied Lithuania itself.
Meanwhile, the war raged on in Western Europe. The Germans conquered one country after another. In the beginning of June, 1940, they approached Paris. Their victories inspired the Bolsheviks "to action". They fabricated charges against the governments of the Baltic states and then moved in the Red Army. The independence of these countries was forcibly eradicated. A farce was then played out including the "elections" to the Bolshevik Peoples' Congress (with no opposition candidates) and Lithuania's "voluntary" admission into Stalin's empire (on August 3rd). To mark that occasion, two small areas of the ethnic Lithuanian territory, which Stalin had earlier allocated to Byelorussia, were returned: the first around Druskininkai and Marcinkonys and the second around vencionys, Mielagenai, Adutikis, Tverecius. These were areas where Lithuanians comprised the absolute majority of the inhabitants.
After its "admission" Lithuania quickly fell under Sovietisation. In a short period of time the national state, which had been built up with difficulty over twenty years, was destroyed. Then came the arrests, terror, massive deportations to Siberia, simply put, genocide. Stalin's highly qualified assistants, specialists in the wholesale destruction of people, set to work. National culture was devastated. Many books were burned. The destruction of the Lithuanian nation and its language, which had begun in 1940, continued for fifty years.
The Lithuanian language lost its protected status. It was now dependent on foreigners, who had never wished it well. Accelerated instruction of Russian was introduced. Bolshevik elements were introduced into Lithuanian. For example the use of ponas 'sir, Mr' as a form of address was replaced with draugas 'comrade', literally 'friend'. The names of establishments, organisations, streets, newspapers, etc. were all adapted to Bolshevik terminology. The number of Russian loanwords increased significantly.
The terror which engulfed the Lithuanians ended when Germany declared war on Russia. People viewed this as their salvation. Their hatred for the invaders spilled over into open rebellion. But actually, one invader was replaced with another: instead of the red "heaven", a brown one appeared, which inflicted new wounds on the Lithuanian nation and exterminated almost all Lithuanian Jews. The Germans created an occupied Lithuanian General district (General-Bezirk Litauen) into which they incorporated the Amena (Osmyany) and Svyriai (Svir) districts which Stalin had given to Byelorussia, but they excluded the Lithuanian Druskininkai and Marcinkonys districts, which were given to East Prussia.
The Germans did not prohibit the opening of Lithuanian schools in eastern Lithuania, an area which had been subjected to Slavicisation throughout the ages. No Lithuanian schools had ever existed in this area before and Lithuanians had always been forced to attend only Polish or Russian schools. The Lithuanian spirit slowly began to revive in this "God forsaken corner". Some people quickly remembered the Lithuanian which their parents or grandparents had spoken, while others learned it anew. Unfortunately, all this was presently undermined by the Polish underground. In Poland the "Armija Krajowa" was fighting heroically against the Hitlerites, however, in eastern Lithuania it began a shameless campaign, using terror and violence against the unarmed local Lithuanians. Because of its "activities" the Lithuanian spirit was completely obliterated in many places and the ancestral language was never heard again. In those areas after the war only a few individuals ever dared to identify themselves as Lithuanians again.
After the German army retreated from Lithuania and it was once more occupied by the Bolsheviks, in the summer of 1944 many people fled to the West. They feared the returning "liberators" would recommence their earlier terror: that people would again be deported to Siberia and that the NKVD would run wild. Those who fled hoped to reach the American or British army and then quickly return to their homeland.
Unfortunately, their departure was to last a long time and for many it was to last forever. Lithuanians hoped that after the Germans were defeated by the Allies, they would, as dictated by the 1941 Atlantic Charter, restore independence to the three Baltic states occupied by the Bolsheviks during the war. However, the West, lulled by Stalin, clearly distinguished and condemned only the Nazis, but the Bolsheviks were tolerated and so they satisfied Stalin's insatiable appetite.
That was how the most reactionary ideology - Bolshevism - whose dreadful existence had brought unspeakable horrors to the countries which they subjugated, was saved and allowed to continue for several more decades. Lithuania was destined to experience such terrors as are now hard to relate. Thousands of Lithuanians were tortured in jails and in the GULAG concentration camps, where many died a martyr's death.
Lithuanian agriculture was destroyed by forced collectivisation. But most of all, the nation was being destroyed by a genocide of the spirit, the utter lies and demagogy of the Bolsheviks, the enforced atheism with its concomitant decline in morality, and isolation from the rest of the world.
The nation resisted the invaders and then began a deadly fight. The best men went into the forests and the partisan war began. Lacking foreign aid, advisers, military bases and modern weaponry, the Lithuanian partisans managed to fight for more than eight years against the "invincible" army. They then came under fire of General P. Vetrov's infamous killers, who had earlier "dispatched" the Chechens and the Ingush from their native Caucasus and the Tartars from Crimea. The despoiled (often still alive) bodies of the partisans were laid out in city and town squares to shock the populace. As a result of the war and occupation Lithuania lost a third of its population (Poland lost a sixth). The depleted population was increased with newcomers from the East, who arrived in their thousands, forced their will on the local people, disregarded Lithuanian culture and traditions and defamed the Lithuanian language.
There was a short respite when Stalin died, when the "thaw" of the 1950s began. Shortly thereafter there was a long period of stagnation when the Communist Party's upper echelons gained power. They were noted for relentlessly blackening Lithuania's past, for trying to instil a feeling of inferiority in the Lithuanians, for total Russification, etc. The Lithuanian nation persistently opposed these tactics. Lithuanians had a more extensive underground press than anyone else in the Soviet Union and a greater number of dissidents.
The occupation had a particularly great impact on eastern Lithuania. The Bolsheviks changed the borders of Byelorussia and Lithuania. The Smolensk, Novel, Starodub, etc. districts which had been part of Byelorussia since early times were given to Russia, and the Byelorussian border was moved to the west, into ethnic Lithuanian territory. The Amena (Osmyany) and Svyriai (Svir) districts were taken away from Lithuania, however, the Druskininkai-Marcinkonys section which had been annexed by the Germans, as well as the Klaipeda territory, were returned to Lithuania. According to the terms of the 1944 treaty between the USSR and Poland, approximately 200,000 people were repatriated from Lithuania, mostly from the former Vilnius territory. Among them there were many Lithuanians who identified themselves as Poles in order to escape Stalin's terror. They were quickly replaced with newcomers. Russians moved mainly into the cities and the countryside was filled with immigrants from the neighbouring Byelorussian districts, who inundated the Vilnius territory and became "Poles". Around 1950 Stalin decided that the Lithuanianisation of the Vilnius Region ran counter to Soviet interests. Lithuanian (and even Russian) schools were extensively changed into Polish schools.
The Stalinist Polonisation of the Vilnius territory had begun and was more brutal than that of the Poles during their occupation. Under Bolshevik rule, a great, even fatal blow was struck to the Lithuanian spirit in this area. In many of the settlements where after the war almost everyone spoke or at least understood some Lithuanian, now only the elderly still remember it. For instance, according to official 1933 data, approx 90% of the people in the neighbourhood of Paskonys spoke Lithuanian, in 1979 barely 30% registered themselves as Lithuanians, and in the even more Lithuanian neighbourhood of Dievenikes barely 19%. The ethnic map was being repainted in new colours. However, Lithuanian traditions were maintained in all of these places: Lithuanian roadside crosses (torn down by the Bolsheviks in many places), home woven cloth, towels, blankets with Lithuanian patterns, Lithuanian flower gardens,unaltered methods of farming, as well as Lithuanian customs, legends, superstitions and fragments of ancient mythology prevailed.
Southeastern Lithuania became a true linguistic mosaic. Monolingualism disappeared and during the occupational period this area was dominated by four languages. Besides the official Lithuanian and Russian languages, an important role was and still is played by the "common" Byelorussian and the local Polish (polszczyzna litewska). The latter is significantly different from that used in Poland and extends throughout the Lithuanian and Byelorussian speaking territories. Only educated people speak some standard Polish. In this region people's nationalities frequently do not correspond to their native languages. At present the linguistic features of southeastern Lithuania are so diverse that it is difficult to delineate them on a linguistic map. It was possible to identify distinct language areas only with respect to which language was both dominant and native in a given area. That is why Russian does not appear: it is the newest language imported into the area, which spread only after the war and is used by most people (the frequency varies) along with their native languages. Russian is not native to any of the non-immigrant local inhabitants.
After the war the Lithuanians who lived in the ethnic Lithuanian territory which had become a part of Byelorussia experienced even worse conditions than those in Lithuania. All Lithuanian schools were closed immediately after the war. Byelorussian schools were opened (they were later Russified) and it was forbidden to speak Lithuanian even during recess, just as in Czarist times. The Lithuanian press was shut down. Contacts with Lithuania were severed and even cultural interactions were obstructed. The activity of the Church was completely crippled and the last Lithuanian priest in Byelorussia was arrested immediately after the war ended.
Lithuanians were forcibly registered as Byelorussians, Poles, Russians, so that officially this area would be devoid of Lithuanians. When dialectologists now visit some of the settlements in that area (the subdialects are very interesting and archaic) it is common for them to learn that the last person who still spoke Lithuanian died just a year or two ago.
The Lithuanians who lived in the Punsk, Sejny and in part of the Suwalki districts which were incorporated into Poland fared slightly better. Unlike those living in the USSR territories, they escaped the Stalinist terror, enforced collectivisation and were not coerced into accepting Bolshevik traditions, atheism, etc. However, even here there were no Lithuanian schools at first. Only in the 1950s was Lithuanian allowed to be taught as a course, and later in a few places all classes were taught in Lithuanian. In 1956 a Lithuanian high school was established in Punsk. Initially all church services were conducted in Polish, but later Lithuanian was returned to a few of them. Since 1957 the Lithuanians in Poland have had their own cultural association and have published the newspaper Aura (Dawn). However, they also experienced discrimination. It was forbidden to speak Lithuanian publicly until 1950 (by phone as late as 1990).
The Klaipeda territory suffered much during the war. The retreating Hitlerites evacuated most of the populace into the depths of Germany. Many of those Lithuanians later settled in the West. Many of the remaining Lithuanians were deported to Siberia. Hence, relatively few of the original inhabitants survived in the Klaipeda territory. Dialectologists tried to document their language, as well as the disappearing eastern Lithuanian subdialects, because they were so very important to comparative Indo-European linguistics.
The East Prussian Lithuanians hoped that their lands would be incorporated into Lithuania after the war and they would no longer be persecuted. However, Stalin treated them the same as the Germans. The terror began. Both Germans and Lithuanians were driven from their homes and summarily executed. Famine was widespread and genocide had begun. East Prussia was divided between the USSR and Poland at the Potsdam Conference. Stalin decided to give the USSR part to the Russian Federation, which did not even share a common border with it. That area was then quickly settled with Russians. Lithuania lost its proximity to the Germans which had existed for over 700 years and were now surrounded by Slavs. The Bolsheviks tried to make the people believe that since early times East Prussia had always been Slavic territory' (an absurdity). Toponyms were changed so that the territory would appear more Russian. Russian toponyms were introduced everywhere. They not only replaced the Germanised forms imposed by the Hitlerites, but also the Lithuanian and Prussian terms which had survived since early times. Even hydronyms were replaced, which has rarely happened in world history.
The Poles followed suit to a degree and in "their' part of East Prussia they replaced many names of Baltic origin with Polish names. East Prussian Lithuanian, which had played such an important role in the history of the Lithuanian language and from which current standard Lithuanian was derived, was also annihilated.
Many Lithuanians now live outside ethnic Lithuania: the descendants of earlier emigrés, those who fled during the war, deportees, etc. Approximately 30,000 40,000 live in Latvia, at least 10,000 in Byelorussia, more than 100,000 in the Russian Federation (mostly deportees, many of whom returned to Lithuania), perhaps 20,000 30,000 in the other republics of the Soviet Union. Outside Lithuania not a single Lithuanian school existed in the entire Soviet Union. Understandably, the number of Lithuanian speakers quickly decreased.
Beyond the USSR borders, the ranks of the older emigrés were increased with the new immigrants, many of whom were part of the intelligentsia, the Lithuanian élite. They worked on and were involved in many cultural activities, especially those living in the United States. They published many Lithuanian books and periodicals, among which there are some linguistic publications. Including the earlier immigrants, approximately one million people of Lithuanian origin now live in the United States, of whom perhaps only a third still speak Lithuanian. Many Lithuanians live in Brazil (appx 50,000), Argentina (appx 35,000), Canada (appx 30,000), Australia (appx 10,000) and elsewhere. In all these countries Lithuanian has been influenced by the local languages and has diverged somewhat from that spoken in Lithuania.
In the years after the war the language in Lithuania itself experienced a difficult period. Enforced emigration, deportations, concentration camps and genocide reduced the number of Lithuanian speakers by a third. The sphere in which Lithuanian could be used was getting smaller. It was ousted from diplomatic affairs, the army and after that, from various other governmental spheres. Its public use also quickly decreased. First it was ousted from the Communist Party and administration, then from interdepartmental communications, from various official establishments then from the spheres of industrial production, sports and communal services. Lithuanian was replaced everywhere with Russian. A Lithuanian who wanted to communicate with another Lithuanian in some establishment often had to write in Russian. Many of the leading bureaucrats, even in the service industry, were relocated Russians. In the course of over twenty years not only did they not learn to speak Lithuanian, but they had not even learned how to greet someone in Lithuanian. It was impossible to communicate in Lithuanian in many official Lithuanian establishments.
The functionality of Lithuanian decreased in the press, on radio and television and even in schools. It was being quickly removed from academia. Russification became more intense than it had been in Czarist times. What the Czarist régime could not achieve in a century, the Bolsheviks accomplished in a few decades.
The Lithuanian nation became bilingual. The Bolsheviks tried to "scientifically" justify Russification. They created a so called "fusion" of nations and languages theory. In 1979 a special "scholarly" conference was held in Tashkent, after which extremely favourable conditions for Russification were created in Lithuania. They were so bold as to even introduce Russian into kindergartens. Lithuanian was relegated to a secondary "local" status and lost its prestige.
Many Lithuanians spoke their native language more poorly than Russian and its normal development was interrupted. There was a conscious attempt to make Lithuanian more like Russian. At the same time it was claimed that Lithuanian had never before flourished like it did under the Bolsheviks. In fact, the consequences of spontaneous unregulated bilingualism were felt in all aspects of Lithuanian. Those people who were influenced by Russian to a greater degree developed Russian accents. This Russian pronunciation flowed from speakers at meetings, through television and radio, sometimes even from the theatre stage.
The lexicon of spoken Lithuanian became permeated with Russianisms. People even began using some Russian words which had not been morphologically integrated, the original Russian words were merely inserted in speech. People began using Lithuanian words as though they were Russian, i.e., not with their original Lithuanian meanings, but rather with the meaning that their Russian equivalents had, e.g.,the noun 'eile' came to mean 'several', 'some', 'a group', 'many', because the Russian equivalent had has those meanings. Instead of using the instrumental (e.g., 'derliu nueme kombainu', the crop was harvested with a combine') Lithuanians began inserting the unnecessary word pagalba 'help' which is modeled on the Russian, e.g., 'derliu nueme kombaino pagalba' - 'the crop was harvested with the help of a combine'.
The use of Russian cases, reflexive forms, prefixes and prepositions became prevalent. The syntax and sentence structure became Russified.