Books on Lithuania
Update No: 291 - (29/03/05)
To attend or not to attend; that is the question
History weighs down heavily on the Baltic states as in few other places in
Europe - excepting the Balkans of course! No Lithuanian has forgotten the rape
of their country by the Soviet Union in 1940 and again in 1945.
Lithuanian president Valdas Adamkus is quite likely to turn down Moscow's
invitation to attend celebrations in Moscow on May 9th of the 60th anniversary
of the defeat of Nazi Germany, Lithuanian television has reported, quoting its
sources within the state's administration, although the matter is not yet
Adamkus would neither confirm nor deny the report, saying in a statement only
that he would listen to public discussions on the matter before giving his final
word. "I have my own opinion on this question, but I have to approach the
Lithuanian public, to discuss everything in detail and than make a
decision," Adamkus said.
The celebrations raise positive and negative emotions for citizens of the three
Baltic states, which were incorporated in the Soviet Union in 1940, captured by
the Nazis, and then retaken by Soviet troops in 1945. Lithuania is perhaps the
least hostile of the three states toward Moscow, with little friction between
Balts and resident ethnic Russians, who number only 11% of the population, as
opposed to 20% in Estonia and 34% in Latvia.
Of the three presidents of the Baltic states, only Latvia's President Vaira
Vike-Freiberga has said she will go to Moscow. At the same time, she has made it
clear that she does not consider the Soviets to have liberated Latvia, but to
have occupied it. Estonia is yet to respond to the invitation.
Earlier this year, Adamkus said that if he was an ordinary citizen he would not
go to Moscow, but his decision on whether to attend would be made in accordance
with his responsibilities as head of Lithuania. "As a head of the state, I
feel responsibility for the country and people of Lithuania. I will take such a
decision that will serve the common good," he said.
The Kremlin still hopes Adamkus will come
Russian Transportation and Communications Minister Igor Levitin on March 20th
travelled to Lithuania for a dialogue at a meeting in Vilnius with Lithuania's
Foreign Minister Antanas Valenis. "I think we have to meet more often.
During the last two years there was no dialogue. If we don't hear each other,
and instead of a dialogue between each other we are engaged in a monologue for
TV cameras, nothing good will come out if it," Levitin said.
Valenis has demanded that Russia pay back Lithuanian citizens $7.29 million that
was taken out from Lithuanian branch of Vneshekonombank of the U.S.S.R. when the
Soviet Union collapsed and also that cultural items taken from Lithuania be
Meanwhile, the Lithuanian public seems strongly against Adamkus' participation,
according to opinions expressed by leading politicians. "So many Soviet
soldiers died freeing Lithuania," said Arturas Paulauskas, speaker of the
Lithuanian parliament in an interview with Latvian radio Lietuvos Radijas.
"They died without bringing freedom and without knowing that for the next
50 years Lithuania would carry the yoke of occupation."
"They, the soldiers, were going towards the West with a holy belief that
they were freeing Europe and Lithuania," he said. "Let's honour them,
but let's honour them at [our] home. Let's set a candle on the graves of each of
them, lay flowers. Let them know that they are not forgotten. But there should
be no trips to Moscow while politicians there keep declaring publicly and loudly
that there was no occupation. This is my position as a human being and a citizen
Vitautas Landsbergis, a European Parliament member for Lithuania and its former
president, said Russia has to recognize that the Soviet Union committed war
crimes against the Baltic States. Until it admits that, Estonia, Latvia and
Lithuania should maintain a hard line. "It would be right to honour on May
8th and 9th the memory of all that died. These who want can go to Gruto
park," Landsbergis said referring to a private museum that collected
statues of the Soviet era after Lithuania became an independent state.
Influential Russian magazine Expert has said that Lithuanian reaction is part of
a conspiracy against Russia initiated by Germany in order to equate the crimes
of Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin. "[An attempt] to wreck the Moscow
celebrations in this situation [means] a deliverance from an unpleasant feast
for Germany," the magazine wrote. "The idea of equating Stalin and
Hitler, to represent Hitler not as the main villain, but as one villain among
others, makes it possible [for Germany] to escape part of its guilt, to take off
a part of responsibility for a unique evil deed."
U.S. diplomat Richard Holbrook suggested that Adamkus should take into account
the opinions of Lithuanians and that of the Kremlin, which is apparently
threatening to punish Lithuania if it does not attend as well as urging it to
participate in the celebrations.
"Valdas Adamkus has a problem," Holbrook said in a comment in the
Washington Post. "The 79-year-old president of Lithuania has been invited -
personally, persistently, even threateningly - by Russian President Vladimir
Putin to an event that he really, doesn't think he should attend: the May 9th
celebrations in Moscow marking the 60th anniversary of the Soviet Union's
victory over Adolf Hitler.
"But Adamkus does not view May 9, 1945, as a day of liberation for his tiny
country and its Baltic neighbours. 'On that day we traded Hitler for Stalin, and
we should not celebrate it,' he tells visitors. Most Lithuanians, proud of their
central role in breaking up the Soviet Union in 1991, agree.
"But Putin seems almost desperate to have all the former Soviet republics
honour Russia on May 9th; he has even used his most potent threat, hinting that
if Adamkus does not go, it could affect Russia's shipments of oil and gas,"
A new cult of Stalin alarms the Lithuanians
The Russians are showing a new veneration for Stalin. One half of them in a
new poll regard him as having been a wise ruler and one quarter would vote for
him today to rule Russia again.
A report that Russia would unveil a new statue to Joseph Stalin on May 9th all
but made President Valdas Adamkus make up his mind not to participate in the
Victory Day celebrations on that day, although Moscow city officials moved
quickly to deny the information.
Oleg Tolkachov, a member of Russia's Federation Council, the upper house of
Parliament, told the Echo Moskvy radio station that Moscow would erect a statue
to Stalin, whom many Russians credit for winning World War II, at the Poklonnaya
Gora memorial complex. But Mikhail Solomentsev, a Moscow city spokesman, denied
the statement, saying the city intended to erect a statue depicting four typical
soldiers of the anti-Hitler coalition.
Despite assurances from Moscow officials, there was a report that a monument to
Stalin would appear in the Belgorod region, site of the Kursk tank battle - the
largest armour confrontation in warfare - and another complex of sculptures,
including one depicting Stalin, in Crimea. Both new monuments will reportedly be
unveiled in May.
Lithuanian Ambassador to Russia Rimantas Sidlauskas felt obliged to inquire at
Russia's Foreign Ministry if the information could be confirmed. Adamkus has yet
to make up his mind about whether to attend the WWII ceremonies, but Lithuanian
politicians categorically opposed his participation should the unveiling of a
Stalin statue be part of the events.
Adamkus' foreign affairs adviser, Edminas Bagdonas, admitted that any such
monument would seriously affect the president's final decision.
Lithuania indignant over not being invited to Davos
Whether Adamkus attends the celebration in Moscow is one delicate affair of
diplomacy. But the fact that no Lithuanian leaders were invited to the annual
meeting of the World Economic Forum, which opened in Davos, Switzerland, on
January 26th, is regarded as deeply offensive in Vilnius.
Adamkus, who was vacationing in Mexico at the time at a health resort, did not
receive an invitation to Davos. But nor did Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas,
recently re-appointed to the job and the stayer among Lithuanian politicians.
Members of the Lithuanian government believe that "Vilnius is now taking
the consequences of the impeachment, as a result of which President Rolandas
Paksas was removed from his post," said Nemira Pumprickaite, press attache
of the Lithuanian prime minister.
The architects of the Lithuanian foreign policy from the Seimas (parliament) of
Lithuania believe that the organisers of the World Economic Forum made a
Vaclovas Stankevicius, head of the Seimas commission for NATO affairs, described
the situation as "an insult to the Lithuanian state." He reminded his
press conference audience of the fact that Lithuania had been invited to Davos
even in those days when it had not been a member of the European Union and NATO.
What is this all about?
Actually, the man that matters in Vilnius is not Adamkus at all, but a very
different figure from a totally different world, Brazauskas.
Both are now old men, Adamkus being a septuagenarian and Brazauskas being almost
that at 68. But the ABC of the matter, if A stands for Adamkus and B for
Brazauskas, is C - what country you were living in for all those years. Adamkus
was a US resident and citizen for half a century before coming back to preside
over his original homeland. Brazauskas has remained a Lithuanian resident all
his life, even though that meant being a Soviet, not Lithuanian, citizen for
half a century.
The Lithuanian Dubcek-cum-Gorbachev
The political landscape in Lithuania is strewn with the corpses of those who
have underestimated Algirdas Brazauskas. He has been communist president and
prime minister and then ex-communist president and now prime minister again.
Yet more bodies litter the ground after the ex-president and one-time communist
recently manoeuvred himself into none other than the prime minister's chair. As
a former ranking communist, the 68-year-old certainly doesn't seem to have the
credentials to lead a nation that is as devoutly anti-communist as it is
devoutly Catholic. But he has proven consistently throughout his career that he
has uncanny political instincts-a remarkable ability to quickly determine which
way the winds are blowing, and to adapt accordingly.
In 1989, he was the Dubcek of the Baltic, leading a Baltic Spring, far more
likely to outlast the short-lived Prague Spring of his Czech predecessor. He led
the Lithuanian Communist Party when it formally cut ties with Moscow, a bold
move at the time that appeared to anticipate the very collapse of the Soviet
Union. While Brazauskas started positioning himself early for the inevitable
break-up, it took most other Soviet-era leaders-not least of all Mikhail
Gorbachev-years to grasp what was happening then. (Some are still trying.)
The window of opportunity opened for Brazauskas again when the centrist
government of Rolandas Paksas suddenly collapsed in July of 2001 after the
centre-left New Union, citing differences over economic policy, withdrew its
support and formed an alliance with Brazauskas's Social Democrats. In a speech
following his approval by parliament, Prime Minister Brazauskas promised to
continue the country's pro-EU, pro-NATO course while also doing more to help the
poor. "We will seek to channel Lithuania's progress and growth towards a
socially oriented market," he said.
In contrast to typically weak-kneed ex-communists and in spite of his track
record as an opportunist, the burly, white-haired Brazauskas has at times shown
surprising political backbone. Over the grumbling of some of his countrymen, for
instance, he travelled to Israel when he was Lithuanian president to apologize
on Lithuania's behalf for the role some of his countrymen played in murdering
Jews during the Nazi occupation. When one Holocaust survivor stopped Brazauskas
on an Israeli street explaining that his family was massacred by Lithuanian
collaborators, he leaned over, kissed the man, and asked him for forgiveness.
Brazauskas was president as a member of the Democratic Labour Party, made up of
reform-minded ex-communists, until 1998. Afterwards, he spent much of his time
on hunting trips and many believed he'd stay in the political background;
convinced of that themselves, local journalists dubbed him "Lithuanian
Pensioner No. 1." Before elections last year, though, he stormed back,
helping the Social Democrats win more legislative seats than any other party. He
expressed anger when his party was locked out of power by the centrist Liberal
Union-New Union coalition.
Many average Lithuanians see Brazauskas as affable and down-to-earth. But some
businessmen worry that he'll raise taxes and delay what they say is a badly
needed war on bureaucracy. Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus is thought to
prefer centre-right parties; but reluctantly nominated Brazauskas when it became
clear he was the only candidate capable of winning parliamentary approval. But
Adamkus said he would be watching and wouldn't hesitate to criticize the new
Continuity in foreign and domestic policy
Brazauskas intends to maintain the continuity of the country's foreign
policy, he said after his candidacy for the post of head of government had been
submitted by President Adamkus. According to Brazauskas, the government's main
aims would remain the country's membership of NATO and the European Union and
friendly relations with neighbours.
As for domestic policy, Brazauskas noted, it should be more socially-oriented.
In a socially-oriented free market the initiative and competition should be
agreed with social justice. For a country which has unemployed and poverty,
social justice is especially important, the premier believes. According to
preliminary data, Brazauskas has the support of more than 80 members in a
LAL finally goes up for auction
Discussions about privatising Lithuanian Airlines, the state's flagship carrier,
have been going on for months. Words were finally put into writing on March 9
when the government approved a privatisation program, setting the initial price
at 9.3 million litas (2.7 million euros).
Lithuanian electricity export drops by 60 per cent
After the first power-generating set of the Ignalina nuclear power plant in
Lithuania was shut down on December 31, 2004 at the European Union's demand,
Lithuania's electricity export dropped by 60 per cent, to 771.5 million
kilowatt/hours in January-February, Rimantas Jozaitis, the director-general of
Lietuvos Energy Company, said. This state-owned enterprise is the operator of
Lithuania's power networks, ITAR-TASS News Agency reported.
"With the stoppage of the first reactor of the Ignalina nuclear power plant
and the operation of only one power-generating set, Lithuania's output of
electricity dropped to one third, so energy export has sharply dwindled this
year," the director-general said. Russia's Kaliningrad region was the main
buyer of Lithuanian electricity in the two months of 2005. The deliveries to the
Kaliningrad region made up 694.6 million kilowatt/hours of electricity.
Jozaitis has forecast that the export of Lithuanian electricity will drop to
418.8 million kilowatt/hours in March.
The Lithuanian company exported 7.3 billion kilowatt/hours of electricity in
2004. Lietuvos Energy plans to decrease the deliveries of electricity to foreign
clients by over 72 percent, to 2 billion kilowatt/hours, this year.
FOREIGN ECONOMIC COOPERATION
Lithuania and Hungary to develop economic cooperation
On 7 March, during the meeting between Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs,
Antanas Valionis, and the President of Hungary, Ferenc Mádl, the necessity to
develop economic cooperation between Lithuania and Hungary was emphasized.
Valionis paid an official visit to Budapest on 7-8 March.
In the meeting bilateral Lithuanian and Hungarian cooperation was stated to be
very good, but it appears essential to strengthen economic links between
countries, promote more active contacts of countries' business communities,
attract bilateral investments and increase cultural and scientific cooperation.
The same day Valionis with Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ferenc Somogyi,
talked over the aims of the European Neighbourhood Policy.
Lithuanian and Hungarian foreign ministers stressed that the EU-Ukraine Action
plan should be implemented as quickly as possible and the country be granted
The ministers exchanged opinions on regional cooperation and its perspectives in
an enlarged European Union and NATO.
According to Somogyi, Hungary will seek closer cooperation of the Vyshegrad
Group with Lithuania and other Baltic States.
The Vyshegrad group consists of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and
Hungary. The latter will chair the group from July of this year.