Occupation of the Baltic states


Occupation of the Baltic states

The occupation of the Baltic states refers to the military occupation of the three Baltic states: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania by the Soviet Union under the auspices of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact on 14 June 1940[1][2] followed by their incorporation into the USSR as constituent republics, unrecognised internationally.[3]

On 22 June 1941 Nazi Germany attacked the USSR and within weeks occupied the Baltic territories. In July 1941 the Baltic territory was incorporated into the Reichskommissariat Ostland of the Third Reich.

As a result of the Baltic Offensive of 1944, Soviet Union recaptured most of the Baltic states and trapped remaining German forces in the Courland pocket until their formal surrender in May 1945.[4] The Soviet "annexation occupation" (Annexionsbesetzung or occupation sui generis)[5] of the Baltic states lasted until August 1991, when the Baltic states regained independence.

Territorial sovereignty was restored to the Baltic states in 1991 during the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The full withdrawal of troops deployed by Moscow was completed in August 1994.[6]

Contents

Background

Planned and actual divisions of Europe, according to the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, with later adjustments

Early in the morning of August 24, 1939, the Soviet Union and Germany signed a 10-year non-aggression pact, called the Molotov–Ribbentrop pact. Most notably, the pact contained a secret protocol by which the states of Northern and Eastern Europe were divided into German and Soviet "spheres of influence".[7] In the North, Finland, Estonia and Latvia were assigned to the Soviet sphere.[7] Poland was to be partitioned in the event of its "political rearrangement"—the areas east of the Narev, Vistula and San Rivers going to the Soviet Union while Germany would occupy the west.[7] Lithuania, adjacent to East Prussia, would be in the German sphere of influence, although a second secret protocol agreed in September 1939 assigned the majority of Lithuanian territory to the Soviet Union.[8] According to this secret protocol, Lithuania would regain its historical capital Vilnius, previously subjugated during the inter-war period by Poland.

Following the end of Soviet invasion of Poland on 6 October, the Soviets pressured Finland and the Baltic states to conclude mutual assistance treaties. The Soviets questioned the neutrality of Estonia after the escape of an interned Polish submarine on 18 September. A week later on 24 September, the Estonian foreign minister was given an ultimatum in Moscow. The Soviets demanded the conclusion of a treaty of mutual assistance to establish military bases in Estonia.[9][10] The Estonians had no choice but to accept naval, air and army bases on two Estonian islands and at the port of Paldiski.[9] The corresponding agreement was signed on 28 September 1939. Latvia followed on 5 October 1939 and Lithuania shortly thereafter, on 10 October 1939. The agreements permitted the Soviet Union to establish military bases on the Baltic states' territory for the duration of the European war[10] and to station 25,000 Soviet soldiers in Estonia, 30,000 in Latvia and 20,000 in Lithuania from October 1939.

Soviet occupation and annexation 1940–1941

In September and October 1939, the Soviet government compelled the Baltic states to conclude mutual assistance pacts which gave it the right to establish Soviet military bases.[11] In May 1940, the Soviets turned to the idea of direct military intervention, but still intended to rule through puppet regimes.[12] Their model was the Finnish Democratic Republic, a puppet regime set up by the Soviets on the first day of the Winter War.[13] The Soviets organised a press campaign against the allegedly pro-Allied sympathies of the Baltic governments. In May, the Germans invaded France, which was overrun and occupied a month later. In late May and early June, the Baltic states were accused of military collaboration against the Soviet Union. On 15 June, the Lithuanian government had no choice but to agree to the Soviet ultimatum and permit the entry of an unspecified number of Soviet troops. President Antanas Smetona proposed armed resistance to the Soviets but the government refused, proposing their own candidate to lead the regime.[12] However, the Soviets refused this offer and sent Vladimir Dekanozov to take charge of affairs while the Red Army occupied the state.[14]

On 16 June, Latvia and Estonia also received ultimatums. The Red Army occupied the two remaining Baltic states shortly thereafter. The Soviets dispatched Andrey Vyshinsky to oversee the takeover of Latvia and Andrei Zhdanov to oversee the takeover of Estonia. On 18 and 21 June, new "popular front" governments were formed in each Baltic country, made up of Communists and fellow travelers.[14] Under Soviet surveillance, the new governments arranged rigged elections for new "people's assemblies." Voters were presented with a single list, and no opposition movements were allowed to file. A month later, the new assemblies met, with their sole piece of business being resolutions to join the Soviet Union. In each case, the resolutions passed by acclamation. The Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union duly accepted the requests in August, thus giving legal sanction to the takeover. Lithuania was incorporated into the Soviet Union on 3 August, Latvia on 5 August, and Estonia on 9 August.[14] The deposed presidents of Estonia (Konstantin Päts) and Latvia (Kārlis Ulmanis) were imprisoned and deported to the USSR and died later in Siberia and Central Asia. In June 1941, the new Soviet governments carried out mass deportations of "enemies of the people". Consequently, many Balts initially greeted the Germans as liberators when they invaded a week later.[11]

The Soviet Union immediately started to erect border fortifications along its newly acquired western border — the so-called Molotov Line.

German occupation 1941–1944

Ostland province and the Holocaust

On 22 June 1941 the Germans invaded the Soviet Union. The Baltic states, recently Sovietized by threats, force, and fraud, generally welcomed the German armed forces when they crossed the frontiers.[15] In Lithuania, a revolt broke out and an independent provisional government was established. As the German armies approached Riga and Tallinn, attempts to reestablish national governments were made. It was hoped that the Germans would reestablish Baltic independence. Such political hopes soon evaporated and Baltic cooperation became less forthright or ceased altogether.[16] The Germans aimed to annex the Baltic territories to the Third Reich where "suitable elements" were to be assimilated and "unsuitable elements" exterminated. In actual practice, the implementation of occupation policy was more complex; for administrative convenience the Baltic states were included with Belorussia in the Reichskommissariat Ostland.[17] The area was ruled by Hinrich Lohse who was obsessed with bureaucratic regulations.[17] The Baltic area was the only eastern region intended to become a full province of the Third Reich.[18]

Nazi racial attitudes to the Baltic people differed between Nazi authorities. In practice, racial policies were directed not against the majority of Balts but rather against the Jews. Large numbers of Jews were living in the major cities, notably in Vilnius, Kaunas and Riga. The German mobile killing units slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Jews; Einsatzgruppe A, assigned to the Baltic area, was the most effective of four units.[18] German policy forced the Jews into ghettos. In 1943 Heinrich Himmler ordered his forces to liquidate the ghettos and to transfer the survivors to concentration camps. Many Balts collaborated actively in the killing of Jews, and the Nazis managed to provoke pogroms locally, especially in Lithuania.[19] Only about ten percent of Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian Jews survived the war. However, for the majority of Baltic people, German rule was less harsh than Soviet rule had been, and it was less brutal than German occupations elsewhere in eastern Europe.[20] Local puppet regimes performed administrative tasks and schools were permitted to function. However, most people were denied the right to own land or businesses.[21]

Attempts to restore independence and the Soviet offensive of 1944

There were several attempts to restore independence during the occupation. On 22 June 1941 the Lithuanians overthrew Soviet rule two days before the Wehrmacht arrived in Kaunas, where the Germans then allowed a Provisional Government to function for over a month.[21] The Latvian Central Council was set up as an underground organisation in 1943, but it was destroyed by the Gestapo in 1945. In Estonia in 1941, Jüri Uluots proposed restoration of independence; later, by 1944, he had become a key figure in the secret National Committee. In September 1944, Uluots briefly became acting president of independent Estonia.[22] Unlike the French and the Poles, the Baltic states had no governments in exile located in the West. Consequently, Great Britain and the United States lacked any interest in the Baltic cause while the war against Germany remained undecided.[22] The discovery of the Katyn massacre in 1943 and callous conduct towards the Warsaw uprising in 1944 had cast shadows on relations; nevertheless, all three victors still displayed solidarity at the Yalta conference in 1945.[23]

By 1 March 1944 the siege of Leningrad was over and Soviet troops were on the border with Estonia.[24] The Soviets launched the Baltic Offensive, a twofold military-political operation to rout German forces, on 14 September. On 16 September the High Command of the German Army issued a plan in which Estonian forces would cover the German withdrawal.[25] The Soviets soon reached the Estonian capital Tallinn, where the NKVD's first mission was to stop anyone escaping from the state; however, many refugees did manage to escape to the West. The NKVD also targeted the members of the National Committee of the Republic of Estonia.[26] German and Latvian forces remained trapped in the Courland pocket until the end of the war, capitulating on 10 May 1945.

Under Soviet rule 1944–1991

Resistance and deportations

After reoccupying the Baltic states, the Soviets implemented a program of sovietization, which was achieved through large-scale industrialisation rather than by overt attacks on culture, religion or freedom of expression.[27] The Soviets carried out massive deportations to eliminate any resistance to collectivisation or support of partisans.[28] Baltic partisans, such as the Forest brothers, continued to resist Soviet rule through armed struggle for a number of years.[29] The Soviets had previously carried out mass deportations in 1940–41, but the deportations between 1944–52 were even greater.[28] In March 1949 alone, the top Soviet authorities organised a mass deportation of 90,000 Baltic nationals.[30]

The total number deported in 1944–55 has been estimated at over half a million: 124,000 in Estonia, 136,000 in Latvia and 245,000 in Lithuania. The deportees were allowed to return after Nikita Khrushchev's secret speech in 1956 denouncing the excesses of Stalinism, however many did not survive their years of exile in Siberia.[28] After the war, the Soviets outlined new borders for the Baltic republics. The Lithuanian SSR gained the regions of Vilnius and Klaipėda while the Russian SFSR annexed territory from the eastern parts of the Estonian SSR (5% of prewar territory) and Latvian SSR (2%).[28]

Industrialization and immigration

The Soviets made large capital investments for energy resources and a manufacture of industrial and agricultural products. The purpose was to integrate the Baltic economies into the larger Soviet economic sphere.[31] In all three republics, manufacturing industry was developed at the expense of other sectors, notably agriculture and housing. The rural economy suffered from the lack of investments and the collectivization.[32] Baltic urban areas damaged during wartime and it took ten years to reachieved housing losses. New constructions were often poor quality and ethnic Russians immigrants were favored in housing.[33] Estonia and Latvia received large-scale immigration of industrial workers for other parts of the Soviet Union and changed the demographics changes dramatically. Lithuania also received immigration but in a smaller scale.[31]

Ethnic Estonians constituted 88 percent before the war, but in 1970 the figure dropped to 60 percent. Ethnic Latvians constituted 75 percent, but the figure dropped 57 percent in 1970 and further down to 50.7 percent in 1989. In contrast, the drop in Lithuania was only 4 percent.[33] Baltic communists had supported and participated the 1917 October Revolution in Russia. However, many of them died during the Great Purge in the 1930s. The new regimes of 1944 were established mostly by native communists who had fought in the Red Army. However, the Soviets also imported ethnic Russians to fill political, administrative and managerial posts.[34]

Restorations of independence

The period of stagnation brought the crisis of the Soviet system. The new Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in 1985 and responded with glastnost and perestroika. They were attempts to reform the Soviet system from above to avoid revolution from below. The reforms occasioned the reawakening of nationalism in the Baltic republics.[35] The first major demonstrations against the environment were Riga in November 1986 and the following spring in Tallinn. Small successful protests encouraged key individuals and by the end of 1988 the reform wing had gained the decisive positions in the Baltic republics.[36] At the same time, coalitions of reformists and populist forces assembled under the Popular Fronts.[37] The Supreme Soviet of the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic made the Estonian language the state language again in January 1989, and similar legislation was passed in Latvia and Lithuania soon after. The Baltic republics declared their aim for sovereignty: Estonia in November 1988, Lithuania in May 1989 and Latvia in July 1989.[38] The Baltic Way, that took place on 23 of August 1989, became the biggest manifestation of opposition to the Soviet rule.[39]

On 11 March 1990 the Lithuanian Supreme Soviet declared Lithuania's independence.[40] The pro-independence candidates received overwhelming majority in the Supreme Soviet elections of March 1990.[41] On 30 March 1990, the Estonian Supreme Soviet proclaimed the start of a transitional period to independence. On 4 May 1990, the Latvian Supreme Soviet made a similar declaration.[42] The Soviet Union immediately condemned all three declarations as illegal, saying that they had to go through the process of secession outlined in the Soviet Constitution of 1977. However, the Baltic states argued that the entire occupation process violated both international law and their own law. Therefore, they argued, they were merely reasserting an independence that still existed under international law.

By mid-June the Soviets started negotiations with the Baltic republics. The Soviets had a bigger challenge elsewhere, as the Russian federal republic proclaimed of sovereignty in June.[43] Simultaneously the Baltic republics also started to negotiate directly with the Russian federal republic.[43] After the failed negotiations the Soviets made a dramatic but failed attempt to break the deadlock and sent in military troops killing twenty and injuring hundreds of civilians in what became known as the "Vilnius massacre" and "The Barricades" in Latvia during January 1991.[44] In August 1991, the hard-line members attempted to take control of the Soviet Union. A day after the coup on 21 August, the Estonians proclaimed full independence. The Latvian parliament made similar a declaration on the same day. The coup failed but the collapse of the Soviet Union became unavoidable.[45] After the coup collapsed, the Soviet government recognised the independence of all three Baltic states on 6 September 1991.

Withdrawal of Russian troops

The Russian Federation assumed the burden and the subsequent withdrawal of the occupation force, consisting of about 150,000 former Soviet, now Russian, troops stationed in the Baltic states.[46] As of 1992 there were still 120,000 Russian troops there,[47] as well as a large number of military pensioners, particularly in Estonia and Latvia.

During the period of negotiations, Russia hoped to obtain facilities such as the Liepaja naval base, the Skrunda anti-ballistic missile radar station and the Ventspils space-monitoring station in Latvia and the Paldiski submarine base in Estonia, as well as transit rights to Kaliningrad through Lithuania.

Contention arose when Russia threatened to keep its troops where they were. Moscow's linkage to specific legislation guaranteeing the civil rights of ethnic Russians was seen as an implied threat in the West, in the U.N. General Assembly and by Baltic leaders, who viewed it as Russian imperialism.[47]

Lithuania was the first to complete the withdrawal of Russian troops—on August 31, 1993[48]—owing in part to the Kaliningrad issue.[47]

Subsequent agreements to withdraw troops from Latvia were signed on April 30, 1994, and from Estonia on July 26, 1994.[49] Continued linkage on the part of Russia resulted in a threat by the U.S. Senate in mid-July to halt all aid to Russia in case the forces were not withdrawn by the end of August.[49] Final withdrawal was completed on August 31, 1994.[50]

Aftermath

According to Yaël Ronen, of the Minerva Center for Human Rights at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, illegal regimes typically take measures to change the demographic structure of the territory held by the regime, usually via two methods: the forced removal of the local population and transfer their own populations into the territory.[51] He cites the case of the Baltic states as an example of where this phenomenon has occurred, with the deportations of 1949 combined with large waves of immigration in 1945-50 and 1961-70.[51] When the illegal regime transitioned to a lawful regime in 1991, the status of these settlers become an issue.[51]

In the years following the reestablishment of Baltic independence, tensions have remained between indigenous Balts and Russian speaking settlers in Estonia and Latvia. While requirements for getting citizenship in the Baltic states are relatively liberal,[52] a lack of attention to the rights of Russian-speaking and stateless individuals in the Baltic states has been noted by some experts, whereas all international organisations agree that no forms of systematic discrimination towards the Russian-speaking and often stateless population can be observed.[53] In addition, Baltic citizens have used the occupation as grounds for financial compensation from Russia[54], Andrei Tsygankov indicating: "Baltic elites have become open and specific about the sums of money they expect in return for their 'occupation' - ranging from $24 to $100 billion."[55] Nevertheless, Tsygankov does describe the post-WWII Soviet presence as imposing "fifty years of colonial status" upon the Baltic states.[56]

Legal status

International views

Most Western Bloc governments maintained that Baltic sovereignty had not been legitimately been overridden[57] and thus continued to recognize the Baltic states as sovereign political entities represented by the legations appointed by the pre-1940 Baltic states which functioned in Washington and elsewhere[58].

The Baltic states,[59][60] the United States[61][62] and its courts of law,[63] the European Parliament,[64][65][66] the European Court of Human Rights[67] and the United Nations Human Rights Council[68] have all stated that these three countries were invaded, occupied and illegally incorporated into the Soviet Union under provisions[69] of the 1939 Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, first by the Soviet Union, then by Nazi Germany from 1941 to 1944, and again by the Soviet Union from 1944 to 1991.[70][71][72][73][74][75][76][77] This policy of non-recognition has given rise to the principle of legal continuity, which holds that de jure, the Baltic states have remained independent states under illegal occupation throughout the period 1940–91.[78][79][80]

Russian view

In its reassessment of Soviet history that began during perestroika in 1989, the USSR condemned the 1939 secret protocol between Germany and itself.[81] However, the USSR never formally acknowledged its presence in the Baltics as an occupation or that it annexed these states,[82] and considered the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republics as its constituent republics. Nationalist-patriotic[83] Russian historiography and school textbooks continue to maintain that the Baltic states voluntarily joined the Soviet Union after their peoples all carried out socialist revolutions independent of Soviet influence.[84] The Russian government and its state officials insist that incorporation of the Baltic states was in accordance with international law [85][86] and gained de jure recognition by the agreements made in the Yalta and Potsdam conferences and by the Helsinki Accords[87][88], whereas the Accords only committed existing frontiers would not be violated.[89] However, Russia agreed to Europe's demand to "assist persons deported from the occupied Baltic states" upon joining the Council of Europe.[90][91][92] Additionally, when the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic signed a separate treaty with Lithuania, it acknowledged that the 1940 annexation was a violation of Lithuanian sovereignty and recognised the de jure continuity of the Lithuanian state.[93][94]

State continuity of the Baltic states

The Baltic claim of continuity with the pre-war republics has been accepted by most Western powers.[95] As a consequence of the policy of non-recognition of the Soviet seizure of these countries,[78][79] combined with the resistance by the Baltic people to the Soviet regime, the uninterrupted functioning of rudimentary state organs in exile in combination with the fundamental legal principle of ex injuria jus non oritur, that no legal benefit can be derived from an illegal act, the seizure of the Baltic states was judged to be illegal[96] thus sovereign title never passed to the Soviet Union and the Baltic states continued to exist as subjects of international law.[97]

The official position of Russia, which chose in 1991 to be the legal and direct successor of the USSR[98], is that Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania joined freely of their own accord in 1940, and, with the dissolution of the USSR, these countries became newly created entities in 1991. Russia's stance is based upon the desire to avoid financial liability, the view being that acknowledging the Soviet occupation would set the stage for future compensation claims from the Baltic states.[99]

Soviet and Russian historiography

Soviet historians saw the 1940 incorporation as a voluntary entry into the USSR by the Balts. Soviet historiography inherited a Russian concept of history from the age of Kievan Rus and carried it through to the Russian Empire and the Soviet state. It promoted the interests of Russia and the USSR in the Baltic area, and it reflected the belief of most Russians that they had moral and historical rights to control and to Russianize the whole of the former empire.[100] To Soviet historians, the 1940 annexation was not only a voluntary entry but was also the natural thing to do. This concept taught that the military security of mother Russia was solidified and that nothing could argue against it.[101]

Soviet sources prior to Perestroika

Upon the reassessment of Soviet history in USSR that began during Perestroika, the USSR had condemned the 1939 secret protocol between Germany and itself that had led to the invasion and occupation of the three Baltic countries.[81]

Prior to Perestroika, the Soviet Union denied the existence of the secret protocols and viewed the events of 1939-40 as follows: The Government of the Soviet Union suggested that the Governments of the Baltic countries conclude mutual assistance treaties between the countries. Pressure from working people forced the governments of the Baltic countries to accept this suggestion. The Pacts of Mutual Assistance were then signed[102] which allowed the USSR to station a limited number of Red Army units in the Baltic countries. Economic difficulties and dissatisfaction of the populace with the Baltic governments' policies that had sabotaged fulfillment of the Pact and the Baltic countries governments' political orientation towards Germany lead to a revolutionary situation in June, 1940. To guarantee fulfillment of the Pact additional military units entered Baltic countries, welcomed by the workers who demanded the resignations of the Baltic governments. In June under the leadership of the Communist Parties political demonstrations by workers were held. The fascist governments were overthrown, and workers' governments formed. In July 1940, elections for the Baltic Parliaments were held. The "Working People’s Unions", created by an initiative of the Communist Parties, received the majority of the votes.[103] The Parliaments adopted the declarations of the restoration of Soviet powers in Baltic countries and proclaimed the Soviet Socialist Republics. Declarations of Estonia's, Latvia's and Lithuania's wishes to join the USSR were adopted and the Supreme Soviet of the USSR petitioned accordingly. The requests were approved by the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. The Stalin-edited Falsifiers of History, published in 1948, states regarding the need for the June 1940 invasions that "[p]acts had been concluded with the Baltic States, but there were as yet no Soviet troops there capable of holding' the defenses."[104] It also states regarding those invasions that "[o]nly enemies of democracy or people who had lost their senses could describe those actions of the Soviet Government as aggression."[105]

Russian historiography in the post-Soviet era

There was relatively little interest in the history of the Baltic states during the Soviet era, which were generally treated as a single entity owing to the uniformity of Soviet policy in these territories. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, two general camps have evolved in Russian historiography. One, the liberal-democratic (либерально-демократическое), condemn Stalin's actions and Molotov-Ribbentrop pact and do not recognize the Baltic states as having joined the USSR voluntarily. The other, the national-patriotic (национально-патриотическое), contend the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact was necessary to the security of the Soviet Union, that the Baltics' joining the USSR was the will of the proletariat—both in line with the politics of the Soviet period, "the 'need to ensure the security of the USSR,' 'people's revolution' and 'joining voluntarily'"—and that supporters of Baltic independence were the operatives of western intelligence agencies seeking to topple the USSR.[83]

Soviet-Russian historian Vilnis Sīpols argues that Stalin's ultimata of 1940 were defensive measures taken because of German threat and had no connection with the 'socialist revolutions' in the Baltic states.[106]

The arguments that the USSR had to annex the Baltic states in order to defend the security of those countries and to avoid German invasion into the three republics can be found in the college textbook “The Modern History of Fatherland”.[107]

Sergey Chernichenko, a jurist and vice-president of the Russian Association of International Law, argues there was no declared state of war between the Baltic states and the Soviet Union in 1940, and that Soviet troops occupied the Baltic states with their agreement—nor did violation by the USSR of prior treaty provisions constitute occupation. Subsequent annexation was neither an act of aggression nor forcible and was completely legal according to international law as of 1940. Accusations of "deporation" of Baltic nationals by the Soviet Union is therefore baseless, as individuals cannot be deported within their own country. He characterizes the (Waffen) SS of being convicted at Nuremberg as a criminal organization and their commemoration in the "openly encouraged pro-Nazi" (откровенно поощряются пронацистские) Baltics as heroes seeking to liberate the Baltics (from the Soviets) an act of "nationalistic blindness" (националистическое ослепление). With regard to the current situation in the Baltics, Chernichenko contends the "theory of occupation" is the official thesis used to justify the "discrimination of Russian-speaking inhabitants" in Estonia and Latvia and prophesies the three Baltic governments will fail in their attempt to rewrite history.[108]

According to the revisionist historian Oleg Platonov "from the point of view of the national interests of Russia, unification was historically just, as it returned to the composition of the state ancient Russian lands, albeit partially inhabited by other peoples." The Molotov-Ribbentrop pact and protocols, including the dismemberment of Poland, merely redressed the tearing away from Russia of its historical territories by "anti-Russian revolution" and "foreign intervention."[109]

On the other hand Professor and Dean of the School of International Relations and Vice-Rector of Saint Petersburg State University, Konstantin K. Khudoley views the 1940 incorporation of the Baltic states as not voluntary, he considers the elections were not free and fair and the decisions of the newly elected parliaments to join the Soviet Union cannot be considered legitimate as these decisions were not approved by the upper chambers of the parliaments of the respective Baltic states. He also contends that the incorporation of the Baltic states had no military value in defence of possible German aggression as it bolstered anti-Soviet public opinion in the future allies Britain and the USA, turned the native populations against the Soviet Union and the subsequent guerrilla movement in the Baltic states after the Second World War caused domestic problems for the Soviet Union.[89]

Position of the Russian Federation

With the advent of Perestroika and its reassessment of Soviet history, the Supreme Soviet of the USSR in 1989 condemned the 1939 secret protocol between Germany and itself that had led to the division of Eastern Europe and the invasion and occupation of the three Baltic countries.[81]

While this action did not state the Soviet presence in the Baltics was an occupation, the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic and Republic of Lithuania affirmed so in a subsequent agreement in the midst of the collapse of the Soviet Union. Russia, in the preamble of its July 29, 1991, "Treaty Between the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic and the Republic of Lithuania on the Basis for Relations between States," declared that once the USSR had eliminated the consequences of the 1940 annexation which violated Lithuania’s sovereignty, Russia-Lithuania relations would further improve.[94]

Meanwhile, Russia's current official position directly contradicts its earlier rapprochement with Lithuania.[110] as well as its signing of membership to the Council of Europe, where it agreed to obligations and commitments including "iv. as regards the compensation for those persons deported from the occupied Baltic states and the descendants of deportees, as stated in Opinion No. 193 (1996), paragraph 7.xii, to settle these issues as quickly as possible...."[92][111] The Russian government and state officials maintain that the Soviet annexation of the Baltic states was legitimate[112] and that the Soviet Union liberated the countries from the Nazis.[113] They assert that Soviet troops initially entered the Baltic countries in 1940 following agreements and with the consent of the governments of the Baltic republics. Their position is that the USSR was not in a state of war and was not engaged in combat activities on the territories of the three Baltic states, therefore, the word "occupation" cannot be used.[114] "The assertions about [the] 'occupation' by the Soviet Union and the related claims ignore all legal, historical and political realities, and are therefore utterly groundless."—Russian Foreign Ministry.

This particular Russian viewpoint of Soviet conduct on the eve of the Second World War is called the "Myth of 1939–40" by Associate Professor of International Affairs David Mendeloff who states this interpretation that the Soviet Union had neither "occupied" the Baltic states in 1939, nor "annexed" them the following year is a widely held and deeply embedded in Russian historical consciousness.[115]

Treaties affecting USSR–Baltic relations

After the Baltic states proclaimed independence following the signing of the Armistice, Bolshevist Russia invaded at the end of 1918.[116] Izvestia said in its December 25, 1918, issue: "Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are directly on the road from Russia to Western Europe and therefore a hindrance to our revolutions... This separating wall has to be destroyed." Bolshevist Russia, however, did not gain control of the Baltics and in 1920 concluded peace treaties with all three states. Subsequently, at the initiative of the Soviet Union,[117] additional non-aggression treaties were concluded with all three Baltic States:

  • Peace treaties
  • Non-aggression treaties
  • Kellogg-Briand Pact and Litvinov's Pact
  • The Convention for the Definition of Aggression
  • The Pacts of Mutual Assistance
  • Treaties the USSR signed between 1940 and 1945

Timeline

See also

References

Citations

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  2. ^ Ziemele, Ineta (2003). "State Continuity, Succession and Responsibility: Reparations to the Baltic States and their Peoples?". Baltic Yearbook of International Law (Martinus Nijhoff) 3: 165–190. 
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  76. ^ See, for instance, position expressed by the European Parliament, which condemned "the fact that the occupation of these formerly independent and neutral States by the Soviet Union occurred in 1940 following the Molotov/Ribbentrop pact, and continues." European Parliament (January 13, 1983). "Resolution on the situation in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania". Official Journal of the European Communities. C 42/78. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/8/80/Europarliament13011983.jpg. 
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  81. ^ a b c The Forty-Third Session of the UN Sub-Commission at Google Scholar
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  83. ^ a b cf. e.g. Boris Sokolov's article offering an overview Эстония и Прибалтика в составе СССР (1940-1991) в российской историографии (Estonia and the Baltic countries in the USSR (1940-1991) in Russian historiography). Accessed 30 January 2011.
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  85. ^ Combs, Dick (2008). Inside The Soviet Alternate Universe. Penn State Press. pp. 258, 259. ISBN 9780271033556. http://books.google.com/?id=U9twRiRKd6wC&pg=PA258&dq. "The Putin administration has stubbornly refused to admit the fact of Soviet occupation of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia following World War II, although Putin has acknowledged that in 1989, during Gorbachev's reign, the Soviet parliament officially denounced the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939, which led to the forcible incorporation of the three Baltic states into the Soviet Union." 
  86. ^ Bugajski, Janusz (2004). Cold peace. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 109. ISBN 0275983625. http://books.google.com/?id=YOeeyIT6B4wC&pg=PA109&dq. "Russian officials persistently claim that the Baltic states entered the USSR voluntarily and legally at the close of World War II and failed to acknowledge that Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania were under Soviet occupation for fifty years." 
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