Lithuanian statehood: from past to future
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 Armed and unarmed resistance, 1944–1988



The armed resistance

In July 1944, at the beginning of the second occupation by the Soviet Union, several tens of thousands of Lithuanian patriots started an uneven fight with the invader. In 1944–1945, approx. 30 thousands of partisans gathered in the woods. The main goal of the armed resistance fighters that they declared in the most important documents, was to regain independence of Lithuania. Of course, there were several reasons that encouraged the Lithuanian fighters to make their personal decision to fight: experience of the first Soviet and Nazi occupation, nationalism, terrorism by Soviets, mobilisation of youth to the Soviet army that was especially relevant as the front was going, belief that the Western world would fulfil its obligations laid down in the Atlantic Charter, and would solve the issue of the statehood of Lithuania by diplomatic means or in a Peace Conference after the war would be finished. Later, after the Cold War had started, intervention of the Western world was also expected.  

The partisan war consists of three periods that are differentiated by the partisans’ fight tactics, change of organisational structures, creation of the supreme authority and suppression methods applied by occupational repressive bodies: 1944 summer – 1946 summer, 1946 summer – the end of the 1948, the end of the 1948 – 1953 spring.

The first period. In this period, the 1944 summer – the 1945 spring should be highlighted. When the USSR and Nazi Germany was still at war, illegal (according to the Hague Convention of 1907) mobilisation of Lithuanian men took place. This influenced formations of big partisan groups up to 200-300 fighters. At this time, tenacious battles with features of a positional war took place: the partisans were able to fight against great enemy forces, hold occupied villages, centres of volosts (traditional administrative subdivisions), and guardhouses for some time. Underground organisations were active as well.

In the autumn of 1944, the partisan groups started gathering into larger groups. This was greatly influenced by an underground military organisation “Lithuanian Liberty Army” (LLA), that was established during the occupation by the Nazi Germany and had the programme, statuses, and organisational structure. The essential aim of this organisation was re-establishment of the independent Lithuania. The first partisan districts absorbed the LLA organisational structure, and were formed according to the principle districts-companies-groups.

7 districts (later 9) formed until 1946: Vytis, Didžioji kova (the Great Battle), Žemaičiai, Tauras, Vytautas, Dainava and United Kęstutis district (from April 1948 was called as Kęstutis district). In 1947–1948, Algimantas and Prisikėlimas (Resurrection). The districts consisted 2-5 selected teams. Former Lithuanian army military officers led the formation of the districts as well as of lower structural formations. Following the example of the Lithuanian army, activities of partisans’ groups were tried to be regulated by statutes and rules, persons joining the partisan groups had to give a partisan oath, choose a pseudonym, keep discipline[1]. Partisans wore military uniforms with distinguishing marks.

Since 1945, the invader was announcing “amnesties” meaning that the partisans were encouraged to legalise themselves, end the armed fight, and promised to receive forgiveness for “terrible mistakes and crimes against the Homeland”. [2] Some of the partisans who came to legalise themselves were recruited by the Soviet State Security and involved into the fight against the partisans; the ones who did not agree to collaborate were put into jails or exiled.

At the beginning of the partisan war, the Soviet government used punitive military operations of large scale. In 1944–1945, the disorderly Chekist army killed approx. 12 thousands partisans and civilians, that is more than a half of all killed during the period of the partisan war.

From 1945 to 1952, exiles of greater or smaller scale took place. Entire families accused of communication with partisans and refusal to take place in collectivisation and sovietisation were sentenced to exile regardless of age and profession. The exile processes were initiated by the top executives of the Communist Party and the Administrative Soviet Government; the exiles were executed by local collaborators who received help from subdivisions of the Occupational Soviet Army, dislocated in the territory of Lithuania. Approx. 130 thousands of Lithuanians were exiled from Lithuania to Irkutsk, Krasnoyarsk, Tomsk, Komi, Buryatia, Tajikistan and other remote regions of Russia. 28 thousands died in the exile.

Photographs from the personal archive of Henrikas Jataučius: “Henrikas with other Lithuanians exiled to the Magadan region concentration camp, 1956–1957”; Salikliai family photographs from Irkutsk region, the personal archive of Danutė Rudzinkienė: “Work, study, wedding 1953–1957”

The second period. During this period, districts and smaller partisan military structures were formed. From 1946, districts formed areas. The first area – the South Lithuania (Nemunas) – was formed from Dainava and Tauras districts. In 1947, the East Lithuania (King Mindaugas) partisan area connected Vytautas, Algimantas, Didžioji kova and Vytis districts; in 1948, the West Lithuania (Sea) partisan area connected Žemaičiai, Kęstutis and Prisikėlimas districts.

Communication between the partisan units was kept with the help of partisan messengers. The messengers used to bring documents, packages of publications to the leader of the indicated unit. The documents were in cypher, names and places not mentioned; cyphers and pseudonyms changed often. In case of danger, the messengers also used to warn the fighters about the danger, bring medicine, search for a reliable doctor for the injured and provide paper for publications. Most often, the partisan messengers, especially for larger partisan units, were young women.

A photograph from the personal archive of Henrikas Jataučius “Vytautas district, Steel team partisans and messengers”, from the personal archive of Ona Nijolė Lepeškienė – list of medicine that was found in the hiding-place of Elė Radzevičiūtė Andriuškevičienė in Trakas forest (1946–1947).

During this period, an intensive intelligence-operative MGB tactics was applied using ever expanding network of agents and informers. Since the agent network was expanding, the chekists used to get more precise operative information and realised it sending inner agents to the partisans’ environment; groups of agents-hit-men were formed and used.

The nature of partisan activities changed – they had gained experience of conspiracy and communication system, the system of bunkers expanded, open confrontations with the army were avoided, more often ambushes were organised. Military moves were made more often against administrative institutions of the occupational government, resistance to sovietisation took various forms: elections interrupted, formation of kolkhozy (collective farms) interrupted, patriotic moods of the citizens were stimulated by spreading partisan publications and proclamations, fights against collaborators (strybki, agents, Soviet activists). As in every war, there were cases of violence and arbitrariness against civilians, although statutes of the military organisation and partisan decrees strictly forbade the fighters to perform such actions.

During this period, publishing of partisan press was thriving. In 1946–1947, information, printing, and information and propaganda departments were established in almost all districts. During the period of the partisan war, almost 80 publications were available for longer or shorter time. Most of them were printed using a typewriter at the beginning, they appeared in several of several hundred of copies, yet later, after purchasing more advanced press copying tools, editions increased up to 2000 copies. “Laisvės varpas” (the Bell of Freedom) was published even 176 times in Kęstutis district (more than any other propaganda publication). Propaganda press became one of the most important ways of fight.

Partisan publications contained reviews on international situation, nurturance of national culture, traditions, explanations about anti-human nature of the totalitarian system, encouragement not to forget spiritual values, history, not to succumb to the propaganda of the communist ideology, attempted to cultivate public spirit, morals, and love for Homeland. There was an urge to leave records for history about partisan fights and Soviet crimes. Apart from the magazines, various books, e. g. partisan songs, were also being published.

Lyrics of Lithuanian Freedom Fighters songs, text of the anti-Soviet prayer (11-1947–23-08-1951) are kept in the fund of the Lithuania’s Chief of Diplomacy Stasys Lozoraitis (LCVA, f. 668, ap. 1, b. 556); a proclamation (an article) “Lietuvi, nusimesk kaukę!” (“Lithuanian, take off your mask!”) that agitates the citizens to boycott the elections held by the Soviet authorities, kept in the personal archive of Nijolė Ona Lepeškienė.

Contacts with the Western world and Lithuanian foreign organisations were of crucial importance to the partisans, since they were expected to provide guns, medicine, communication means and, of course, there was a need for Western political support spreading the information about the ongoing Lithuanian war against the invaders and attempts to re-establish independency of Lithuania. The first partisan representatives, Jurgis Krikščiūnas and Juozas Lukša broke through to the West in the spring of 1947, and Kazimieras Pyplys and Juozas Lukša also escaped the Iron Curtain in December 1947. They brought documentary material about repressions by Soviet authorities in Lithuania, fights for freedom, and a letter of Lithuanian Catholics to the Holy Father that was spread in Western countries. K. Pyplys and J. Luška came back to Lithuania after one and a half year and more than two and a half, respectively, during a landing operation.

Some documents brought to the West are kept in the fund of the Office of the Chief Archivist of Lithuania (OCAL) of the Lithuania’s chief of diplomacy Stasys Lozoraitis (f.668) ap. 1, b. 553 “Lists of arrested and exiled Lithuanians, made by Lithuania’s partisans (01-01-1947–12-31-1947)”. The file contains: lists made by partisans from Dainava and Tauras districts that record citizens from Lithuania’s counties located within the performance boundaries of the abovementioned districts who were killed, arrested and exiled by the Soviet authorities. Dainava lists contain records on repressed citizens from Alytus county, Alytus, Birštonas, Daugai, Druskininkai, Jieznas, Marcinkoniai, Merkinė, Miroslavas, Onuškis, Simnas volosts and Leipalingis, Sangrūda volosts in Lazdijai county. Tauras district partisan lists contain records on repressed citizens from Balbieriškis, Gudeliai, Kavarskas, Liubavas, Marijampolė volosts in Marijampolė county, Bartninkai, Alvitas, Gižai, Gražiškiai, Keturvalakiai, Vilkaviškis volosts in Vilkaviškis county, and Šakiai county. Next to the surname of a person, there is also residence place, age, profession, date of repression, place of imprisonment, some lists provide surnames of persons killed in jails. Next to the surnames of the exiled persons there are records that they were exiled to Siberia. There are data about farms and movable property of the citizens confiscated by the Soviet authorities. Some lists contain records on repressed citizens of 1945–1946.

The audiovisual funds of the Chief Archivist of Lithuania also keep Juozas Lukša-Skirmantas, Juozas Šibaila-Merainis, Bronius Liesis-Naktis, Leonardas Grigonis-Užpalis, Adolfas Ramanauskas-Vanagas and other partisans’ photographs of messengers and partisans’ activities, partisans’ weaponry, communication means, study, meetings, household, partisans’ bodies violated by Soviet repressive structures; there are also other photographs: the Management of Dainava district congratulates Kazimieraitis team Vytautas group partisans who gathered to a convention in Varėna forest on April 23, 1948; work of Dainava district headquarter, on July 6, 1948; unknown partisan with winter camouflage. Photographs of Vytautas district Steel team partisans in 1948 and of the leader of the Steel team Juozas Petrauskas-Laimutis and partisan Stasys Mikelionis are kept in the personal archive of Henrikas Jatautis; photographs of Dainava district Šarūnas team armed partisans Vytautas Kliokys-Jūreivis and Vytautas Saliklis-Eimutis are kept in the personal archives of Danutė Rudzikienė.

During the third period, the most meaningful event was the congress of the leaders of Lithuanian partisans on February 10–20, 1949, held near Radviliškis, in a bunker of Prisikėlimas district headquarter, in Minaičiai village. During the congress, the following topics were discussed and agreed on: the Union of Lithuanian Freedom Fighter (LLKS) was established instead of the Joined Democratic Movement for Resistance, the new Statute of LLKS, regulations and other documents legalising the Movement as the organisation that controlled political and military fight for nations’ freedom and regulating the tactics of the Movement activities, LLKS political and ideological programme, fight strategy and organisational activities were implemented. The Council of the Movement was formed. It adopted a political declaration on February 16, 1949, announcing that after the re-establishment of independence of Lithuania, until the Seimas meeting, the duties of the President of the Republic of Lithuania must be fulfilled by the Head of LLKS Council Presidium who must form the Provisional Government and organise democratic elections. The Declaration together with other documents approved in the congress of the Lithuanian partisan leaders made a legal and political basis of the Lithuanian armed resistance, provided a new nature to the Freedom Fighters and legalised LLKS as the organisation for public organised armed resistance against the Soviet occupation and its Council as the only legal authority in the territory of the occupied Lithuania.

In the Congress, LLKS resolution “Dėl laisvė kovotojų ir gyventojų santykių pobūdžio” (“On Nature of Relationship between Freedom Fighters and Citizens”), LLKS Council Presidium’s “Kreipimasis į sąjūdžio dalyvius ir į visus krašto gyventojus” (“Appeal to the Movement Participants and All the Inhabitants of Lithuania”), LLKS Council Presidium’s resolution “Dėl visuomeninės dalies veiklos bei Sąjūdžio spaudos” (“On Public Activities and Movement Press”) were implemented. An official LLKS publication “Prie rymančio Rūpintojėlio” (“By the Resting Pensive Christ”) was decided to be published.

The armed resistance in the occupied Lithuania became gradually weaker: the support base was damaged (due to exiles), hit-men squads that lessened the number of partisans became more and more active, cases of treason became more often. An atmosphere of distrust was being encouraged using the arrested and recruited partisans.

The wide-ranging terror of the invaders, arrests, exiles, activity of inner agents and agents-hit-men, military-chekist operations and deaths of the Freedom Fighters were the factors that finally broke down the partisan resistance in the entire Lithuania. In 1953, the Lithuanian forests hid only a hundred and a half of partisans, single or in small groups, who acted several more year. The last partisan Kostas Liuberskis-Žvainys was killed on October 2, 1969.

The armed resistance – also called the partisan war, resistance – that took place in Lithuania is a unique and idiosyncratic phenomenon in history of Lithuania: it lasted for almost ten years; according to active collaboration in the armed resistance (number, professions, age) – during the period, more than 50 thousand people participated in the partisan war and approx. 100 thousand of people participated in the resistance (members of underground organisations, supporters). During this period, 20,5 thousand of partisans and their supporters were killed.

The armed resistance showed that moral values gained in the independent Lithuania were personal responsibility for the State, its future, preservation of national identity; determination of the most of the Lithuanian citizens while fighting against the invaders showed that for most of the Lithuanian people the priorities were re-establishment of the Independent Lithuania and not personal well-being. The period of the partisan war also revealed the extent of violence and crimes against humanity committed by the repressions of the Soviet (totalitarian) regime.


The unarmed resistance

After suppression the armed resistance, the unarmed resistance against the Soviet Union occupation started spreading. Various political processes affected the unarmed anti-Soviet resistance development: in 1956, Secretary General of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU CC) Nikita Khrushchev red an announcement in the 20th congress of the Communist Party that denounced the Stalin’s cult and unjustified repressions (this announcement was the beginning of political prisoners’ return to Lithuania); events in Hungary and Poland in 1956, the Soviet invasion in 1968 to Czechoslovakia and the Prague Spring, events in Poland in 1980–1982 and activities of “Solidarumas”. Anti-Soviet resistance in Lithuania was affected by movements of human rights and dissidents that started forming in the Soviet Union in the middle of 1960s.

The resistance movement was strengthened by international mass media that helped reaching Lithuanians under the Iron Curtain. Foreign radio stations “The Voice of America”, “Free Europe”, Vatican Radio announced information to Lithuanian people that helped to counterbalance the propaganda of the Soviet Union politics, broadcasted through the official mass information channels of the Soviet Union, and to maintain the opposition for the regime. This contributed to the break of absolute isolation.

In the 1970s, the active part of the unarmed resistance gained organised forms. The resistance developed, was differentiated according to tactics and ideology. With some exceptions, several trends of the unarmed resistance could be distinguished: religious, national and national-liberal.


Anti-Soviet unarmed resistance of youth

During 1950s-1970s, the youth was one of the most active part of the society that was critical towards the Soviet Union’s regime. During that period, illegal anti-Soviet youth and students’ groups and organisations formed in the entire Lithuania – in big cities as well as in province. Some of them had a fixed membership, formally approved regulations, activities programme, the ones who were willing to become a member could do this only after swearing an oath. One of such organisations was “Laisvoji Lietuva” (“The Free Lithuania”), established by students in Vilnius, in 1958. It had 30 members and sought for independence of Lithuania. The KGB detected the organisation in March, 1961 and five the most active members were sentenced. In Lithuanian higher education institutions, underground groups formed and spread anti-Soviet proclamations. One of such youth groups for fight against the Soviet regime was formed by Lithuanian State Conservatory student Jonas Volungevičius in 1965. Its distinctive feature was anti-Soviet letters-proclamations for students in Latvia and Estonia. In proclamations, the members of the group encouraged to fight together for independence of the Baltic States.[3]

During this period, approx. 70 of such groups were formed: they had 700 members in total. During the entire occupation period, every February 16th was mentioned in well seen places on the eve of the day, the Lithuanian flag was raised every time.

Youth of the occupied Lithuania commemorated the All Souls’ Day every year. During that day students and schoolchildren used to visit graves of Lithuanian patriarchs, remember their input into creation of the State. The news about rebellion in Hungary in October 1956 against the Soviet authorities gave rise to anti-Soviet moods in Lithuania. At the beginning of November, in Vilnius, Rasos cemetery and in Kaunas, the old cemetery, the All Souls’ Day commemorations developed into demonstrations. Showing solidarity with the Hungarian nation, people called “Long live Hungary!”, “Long live freedom!”, “Moscow away!”. Members of these demonstrations were scattered with the help of militia and army troops. More active members were arrested, custodial sentence was imposed on some of them. Many of the students who took part in these demonstrations were expelled from high schools. Events of the All Souls’ Day of the 1956 in Lithuania attracted international attention. They were described by the Western press and announced on foreign radio stations.[4]

Youth resistance against the Soviet system burst in single drastic protests: at the Kaunas Musical Theatre Square, on May 14, 1972, a nineteen-year-old Romas Kalanta burnt himself after calling “For Lithuania!”. Before his death, the young man made a record in his notebook: “Why should I live any longer? So that this regime would kill me slowly and ruthlessly? It’s better if I do kill myself, and straight away… We will never be free. They have forbade even the word FREEDOM” (the personal archive of Antanas Kalanta, the notebook of Romas Kalanta, a photograph of Romas Kalanta, 1972).

The sacrifice of R. Kalanta shocked Kaunas society, especially the youth. On May 18, the Soviet authorities with the help of KGB put forward the funerals by several hours and, against the will of relatives and friends, buried the young man at other place of Romainiai cemetery (the personal archive of Antanas Kalanta, Romas Kalanta funeral procession, 18- 05-1972). This was an attempt to prevent possible unrests and information spread abroad, however the authorities got an opposite effect: people who came to the funeral outraged that R. Kalanta had been already buried and this was one more spark which triggered two-day massive demonstrations.

On May 18–19, massive youth demonstrations took place, they shouted “Long live Freedom! Invaders, go away from Lithuania!” (the personal archive of Antanas Kalanta, demonstration “Kaunas Spring”, 18-05-1972). Encounters between the demonstrators and militia took place: militia attacked the youth, hit them, and dragged into cars, the demonstrators defended themselves by building barricades, throwing the militia cars; only the arrived internal troops managed to disperse demonstrators. More than three thousand students, schoolchildren, and workers participated in the demonstrations; 400 of them were arrested, 50 were brought to administrative responsibility and 10 were prosecuted, 8 of them sentenced to prison from one to three years.[5] The demonstrators showed publically an aspiration for Freedom and Independence.

Events of “Kaunas Spring” in 1972 caused great repercussions in Lithuania as well as overseas. Many Lithuanians used to commemorate the May 14th every year. (The personal archive of Antanas Kalanta, a photograph “A monument built on the slope of Dubysa on the road Kaunas-Klaipėda by students from Vilnius with an inscription “To Romas Kalanta, who sacrificed for Lithuania”. 06-1972). Lithuanians who lived abroad held commemoration ceremonies in memory of R. Kalanta, built monuments, published books. (The personal archive of Antanas Kalanta, a photograph “Commemoration-meeting for the 5th anniversary of Romas Kalanta tragic death, Chicago, 15-05-1977”, a photograph “A monument to Romas Kalanta at the cemetery of Saint Casimir, in Chicago, 14-05-1990”).

Only after the re-establishment of independence of Lithuania, on December 27, 1990, an order was issued to consider the R. Kalanta grave as a historical monument of local significance, and on July 4, 2000, Romas Kalanta received (after his death) the Order of the Cross of Vytis, 1st grade. In 2005, he was given a Freedom Fighter’s status (the personal archive of Antanas Kalanta, a photograph “On the occasion of independence of Lithuania, President of the Republic of Lithuania, Valdas Adamkus, awards Romas Kalanta (after his death) with the Order of the Cross of Vytis, 1st grade” 06-07-2000).


Movement of the Catholic Church and for believers’ rights

Resistance of the Catholic Church against the Soviet regime was also rising. This was influenced by the position of the Church that became worse in the clash of 1950s and 1960s: worse household conditions, constraints on pastoral activities, constraints on joining the Seminary, repressions against priests, ban to place crosses and ring church bells. Rights of the believers were also violated: people of many professions were forbidden to go to church, the believers suffered insults and faced moral sanctions. More and more believers started expressing their discontent, they felt a need to demand for their own rights and rights of the Church, fight against forced atheism.

Resistance of the Catholic Church became more active in 1965–1966 when secret priests' meetings started where priests from various dioceses participated. Priests from Vilkaviškis diocese were especially active: Alfonsas Svarinskas, Sigitas Tamkevičius, Juozas Zdebskis, Konstantinas Ambrasas, Vaclovas Degutis, Albinas Deltuva, Gvidonas Dovidaitis, Petras Dumbliauskas, Vincentas Jalinskas, Lionginas Kunevičius, Jonas Maksvytis, Ignas Plioraitis, Pranciškus Račiūnas, Vaclovas Stakėnas, Juozas Žemaitis. The meetings were irregular, held once a month. Meetings in other dioceses were also held: at priest Bronislavas Antanaitis, priest Jonas Lauriūnas in Panevėžys diocese, priest Algimantas Keinas in Vilnius diocese.[6] During the meetings, priests discussed Church issues, anti-church policy by the Soviet regime, authorities' obstacles for pastoral activities, ways to disobey the Soviet authorities' orders that contradict the Cannon Law: teach children the Catechism, participate in Feast Days, write letters to officers and present demands.

In 1968–1974, priests of Lithuania drew up 21 collective petition on pastoral activities constraints, lack of religious literature and more intensive repressions. Protection of the believers' rights became a movement of wide extent in Lithuania. Its distinctive feature was that members of the movement used legal and public forms of activities, except secret creation of plans and collection of signatures.[7] One of notable petitions is a petition prepared in 1972 to the Secretary General of CPSU CC, Leonid Brezhnev, on Cartholic rights constraints and priests sentenced for teaching children the Catechism. The petition was signed by 17 thousand Lithuanian priests. With the help of Russian dissidents, the petition, called “17 tūkstančių katalikų memorandumu” (“Memorandum of 17 thousand Catholics”) reached the Western world and caused great outrage against the Soviet regime.[8]

Violation of Soviet laws that forbade teaching children the Catechism was an open confrontation with the system. Because of ignorance of this ban, three bishops were exiled to remote parishes in 1958–1961 without the right to be bishops, and in 1970–1971 priests Prosperas Bubnys, Antanas Šeškevičius, and Juozas Zdebskis were sentenced to imprisonment.

Eucharist Youth Movement (EBS) formed in 1969. Apart from religious activities they organised conversations on patriotic topics, readings, collaborated in organising religious processions, participated actively in political court processes, and collected signatures for petitions and protests. [9]

Confrontation with the Soviet authorities took place in 1970–1971, after establishment of an Underground Seminary. There were several reasons that influenced its establishment. At the time, there were only Kaunas Seminary in Lithuania and its activities were under constraints, acceptance of ordinands was constantly decreased. After several years, due to deaths of priests, there could be a lack of priests to satisfy even the minimum needs of the believers. Number of persons joining the Seminary also lessened because of KGB attempts to recruit the future priests. The Underground Seminary that existed until 1988–1989, gave consecrations to 29 priests, yet, as they could not get registration certificates, they engaged in missionary activities. [10]

The Catholic Committee for Protection of the Rights of Believers (TTGKK) [11] was established on November 13, 1978. It did not set political objectives and aimed to protect Constitutional rights of the Church and believers by legal and public moves. The Committee was formed by priests Jonas Kauneckas, Alfonsas Svarinskas, Sigitas Tamkevičius, Vincentas Vėlavičius, and Juozas Zdebskis. The Committee’s objectives were to bring the Soviet authorities attention to facts of discrimination of the Church and believers, inform the leadership of the Church and society about the position of believers in Lithuania and other Soviet republics, achieve that Soviet laws related to the Church and believers affairs would not contradict international USSR agreements.[12] Fulfilling the described aims, the Committee played an important role in the unarmed fight for the independent Lithuania. TTGKK members were persecuted by the Soviet regime, A. Svarinskas and S. Tamkevičius were arrested in 1983–1983, other members were terrorised and threatened. Since the end of the 1983, the TTGKK activities went underground.

“The Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania” (LKBK) whose publication started in 1972 was the most significant publication of underground periodical press. Existence of LKBK was influenced by several reasons: the necessity to record and announce facts about constraints on Church activities, persecution of believers and violation of human rights, to print the evidence documentation, provide information to Western countries. The set example was a self-publishing publication “Chronika tekuščich sobytij” by Russian dissidents in Moscow, started in 1965. Initiator and editor of LKBK was priest Sigitas Tamkevičius, and after his arrest the editorial work was done by priest Jonas Boruta.[13] LKBK spread in Lithuania and with the help of Russian dissidents (Sergejus Kovaliovas, Aleksandras Lavutas, Tatjana Velikonova) it was brought to Western countries, reproduced and spread. LKBK is the only propaganda publication translated into various languages: 7 volumes in English language, 3 volumes in Spanish language and 1 in Portuguese and 1 in French language.[14] LKBK information returned to Lithuania on foreign radio stations. LKBK information encouraged believers to fight for freedom of religion and conscience, disciplined the ones that were prone to collaborationism, and cherished manifestations of nationalism. Two priests (A. Svarinskas and S. Tamkevičius), four nuns (including Sister Nijolė Sadūnaitė (A photograph from the personal archive of felicija Nijolė Sadūnaitė “Sister Felicija Nijolė Sadūnaitė by the hospital in Siberia, where she worked in 1977–1980), 11 lay people, including Russian dissidents Sergejus Kovaliovas (Sergei Kovalev), Tatjana Velikanova (Tatiana Velikanova) were arrested and sentenced to imprisonment because of LKBK publication. KGB persecutions, arrests, lagers, and exiles failed to win against profound faith, sense of duty to the Homeland and its freedom. The last issue of LKBK was published on March 19, 1989 and its uninterrupted publication period was the longest for an underground publication in the USSR. 81 issues were published in total.

In 1975, the Final Act of Security and Co-operation in Europe was signed in Helsinki. Although the Soviet Union signed the document as well, it did not plan implementing articles that declared and protected human rights, free spread of information and freedom of movement. When the Helsinki Group was formed in Moscow to control how the USSR fulfilled its obligations, organisations with analogous aims were formed in other republics of the USSR, including Lithuania. The Lithuanian Helsinki Group (LHG) was established by a former political prisoner Viktoras Petkus, priest Karolis Garuckas, doctor of physics Eitanas Finkelšteinas, poet and former political prisoner Ona Lukauskaitė-Poškienė, and poet Tomas Venclova on November 25, 1976. The most important activities of LHG were recording of violations of human rights, spread this information to Western countries and prepare documentation. Until 1981, LHG prepared more than 30 documents about violations of freedom of conscious, activities of religious communities, right to choose a residence, constraints on freedom of movement, repressions against priests, violations of freedom of beliefs, problems of political prisoners, violations of people’s rights, use of psychiatry for political punishments. LHG planned on acting publically in this way demonstrating that its activities are not against the regime. However, KGB and the Communist Party of Lithuania treated this public group as an anti-Soviet organisation: Viktoras Petkus was arrested in 1977, LHG members Algirdas Statkevičius, Mečislovas Jurevičius, and Vytautas Vaičiūnas were arrested in 1980–1981. In November of the same year, LHG member priest Bronius Laurinavičius died in a car accident under mysterious circumstances.[15]

The Lithuanian Liberty League (LLL), established on June 15, 1978, was the most radical organisation of national direction for unarmed resistance. Its objectives were development of religious, national and political conscious, and raising of the Lithuanian independence issue in international forums. The biggest contribution to the establishment of LLL was made by Antanas terleckas. Heart of LLL was Julius Sasnauskas, Romualdas Ragaišis, Jonas Pratusevičius, Vytautas Bogušis, Andrius Tučkus and other publishers of an underground resistance publication “Laisvės Šauklys” (“The Herald of Freedom”). LLL had no strict structure, acted secretly, and everyone who knew its objectives could join the organisation. One of LLL directions was to publicise and denounce the secret protocols of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact that the Soviet Union did not acknowledge.[16] In 1979, the LLL members prepared “Moralinis ultimatumas TSRS Vyriausybei” (“The Moral Ultimatum to the Government of the USSR”) that was called “45-ių pabaltijiečių memorandumu” (“The Baltic Appeal”). It was addressed to the USSR, governments of Federal Republic of Germany, the German Democratic Republic, governments of states that signed the Atlantic Charter and the Secretary General of UN. The memorandum, signed by 35 Lithuanians, six Latvians, four Estonians and several Russian dissidents, including an academician Andrejus Sacharovas (Andrej Sakharov), lists all crimes committed by the Soviet Union to the occupied countries. It required denouncing agreements made on August 23, 1939 and later and the secret protocols between the Soviet Union and Germany and re-establish independence of Lithuania.[17]

Increased activities of LLL attracted attention of the repressive structures which caused the beginning of arrests: J. Sasnauskas, A. Statkevičius, and A. Terleckas arrested in 1979–1980. LLL muted its activities until the 1987.

Modernisation and democratisation of the Soviet Union, called perestroika (restructuring), started in 1985 after Mikhail Gorbachev became the leader of the USSR. Many leaders of the unarmed resistance organisations came back from exile locations and jails in 1987. On August 23, 1987, during the commemoration of the 48th anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and its secret protocols, LLL organised the first public unauthorised rally in Vilnius, at the monument for Adomas Mickevičius (Adam Mickiewicz). During the rally, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and its secret protocols that influenced occupation of the Baltic States were condemned, people required independence of Lithuania. The rally became the turning-point in most of Lithuanians conscious; it was the beginning of the road to the Sąjūdis and Independence.

1970s is a very important period for the unarmed resistance during which active groups formed. The most important role in their activities was played by underground Catholic and national liberal and cultural press. All this contributed to strengthening of striving for freedom, protection of values, formation of democratic ideas and led to creation of statehood.


Escape to Western countries as a form of resistance against the Soviet regime

At the end of 1940s, some of Lithuanians started thinking about escape from the Soviet Union due to stronger repressions and weaker resistance against the Soviet regime. An attempt to escape on November 23, 1970 had considerable repercussion: during an official meeting of the Soviet Union floating base "Tarybų Lietuva" (“The Soviet Lithuania”) and USA cost security ship “Vigilant” in the USA territorial waters, Simas Kudirka who worked as an operator in the Soviet ship, jumped to the USA ship and asked for political asylum. The Americans agreed at first, yet later returned the Lithuanian to the Soviets. Such actions of the American officials gave rise to massive discontent in the USA. TV stations broadcasted special programmes, some radio stations updated their announcements every hour.

In December 1970, S. Kudirka was arrested and sentenced to imprisonment for 10 years for treason to the Homeland. Most likely, the huge attention from the USA influenced this comparably mild punishment and contributed to S. Kudirka release from the place of detention in 1974 and he was allowed to emigrate to the USA together with his family.[18]

Every attempt to escape from the Soviet Union used to attract the world’s attention to the position of the occupied state and often ventilated the issue of illegal occupation and annexation. 

[1]     Gaškaitė N., „Pasipriešinimo istorija 1944 – 1953 metai“, Vilnius, 2006, p. 40
[2]     Paleckis J., Gedvilas M., Sniečkus A., „Į lietuvių tautą“, Tiesa, 1945, Nr. 32, p. 1 - 2
[3] Ž. Račkauskaitė, Pasipriešinimas sovietiniam režimui Lietuvoje septintajame – aštuntajame dešimtmetyje, Genocidas ir rezistencija, 1998, nr. 4, p. 60.
[4] K. Burinskaitė, Vengrijos sukilimo ir Prahos pavasario atgarsiai Lietuvoje, Lituanistica, 2009, t. 55, nr. 1–2 (77–78), p. 43.
[5] Ten pat, p. 71.
[6] „Lietuvos Katalikų Bažnyčios kronikos“ genezė ir KGB kova prieš ją: Lietuvos Katalikų Bažnyčios padėtis sovietmetyje, Lietuvos katalikų bažnyčios kronika, 1997, t. 11, d. I, p. 28.
[7] Lietuvos katalikų memorandumas, Lietuvos Katalikų Bažnyčios Kronika, 1974, t. 1, nr. 2, p. 74.
[8] Lietuvos katalikų memorandumas, Lietuvos Katalikų Bažnyčios Kronika, 1974, t. 1, nr. 2, p. 74–77.
[9] R. Labanauskas, Eucharistijos bičiulių sąjūdžio ištakos ir raida 1969–1973 m., Genocidas ir rezistencija, 2003, nr. 1 (13), p. 101.
[10] Pogrindžio kunigų seminarija: XX a. aštuntojo dešimtmečio Lietuvos antisovietinio pogrindžio dokumentai, sud. J. Boruta, D. Ratkutė, Vilnius, 2002, p. 12–13.
[11] TTGKK nariais buvo kunigai: Alfonsas Svarinskas, Sigitas Tamkevičius, Juozas Zdebskis, Jonas Kauneckas, Vincentas Vėlavičius. Žr. plačiau: A. Liekis, Nenugalėtoji Lietuva, Vilnius, 1993, t. 2, p. 56.
[12] Tikinčiųjų Teisių Gynimo Katalikų Komiteto Kreipimasis. Žr. plačiau: A. Liekis, Nenugalėtoji Lietuva, Vilnius, 1993, t. 2, p. 55–56.
[13] Kun. J. Boruta SJ, Viešpatie, kokia malonė, kad leidai, Lietuvos katalikų bažnyčios kronika, 1997, t. 11, d. III, p. 443-451.
[14] A. Ruzgas, Rezistentų pogrindiniai periodiniai leidiniai. okupacijų metai, 1940–1989: leidinių sąvadas, , Vilnius, 2010, p. 171–177.
[15] Ž. Račkauskaitė, Pasipriešinimas sovietiniam režimui Lietuvoje aštuntajame dešimtmetyje, Genocidas ir rezistencija, 1999, nr. 6, p. 103.
[16]Lietuvos Laisvės Lyga: nuo „Laisvės Šauklio“ iki nepriklausomybės, sud. G. Šidlauskas, Vilnius, 2004, kn. 1, p. 12
[17] Lietuvos Laisvės Lyga: nuo „Laisvės Šauklio“ iki nepriklausomybės, sud. G. Šidlauskas, Vilnius, 2004, kn. 1, p. 403.
[18] A. Fabijonavičiūtė, Lietuvių gyventojų pabėgimai ir mėginimai ištrūkti iš Sovietų Sąjungos, Genocidas ir rezistencija, 2001, nr. 10, p. 154.



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