Lithuania Between World War II

Lithuania had occupied the territory of Klaipeda (Memel) in January 1923, which Germany had had to renounce in the Treaty of Versailles, and the annexation had been recognized by the Allies (8 May 1924), with the agreement that this territory was granted an autonomous regime. But this became the subject of frequent friction with Germany, especially after the advent of Nazism, and even more so after the German occupation of Czechoslovakia (March 15, 1939). On the 19th of the same month the Reich asked the Lithuanian government to cede the territory of Memel. Given the passive attitude of France, Great Britain and Italy, signatory powers of the Memel Convention and therefore co-responsible for the fate of the territory, Lithuania was forced to surrender, and on March 22, 1939 the territory (2848 sq. Km).

At the first symptoms of the Second World War, the three countries of the “Baltic Entente”, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, confirmed their intention to maintain the strictest neutrality (January 29, 1939). Therefore Lithuania refused to take part in the war against Poland, already attacked by the Reich and the Soviet Union, although Germany, which had urged it to take up arms (21 September 1939), assured it that it would not have fear difficulties on the part of the Soviet Union; moreover, due to agreements between it and the Reich, on 23 August 1939, Lithuania was to be considered under the German sphere of influence, which was then changed into the Soviet one as a result of the German-Russian treaty of 28 September of the same year.

On 11 October of the same year, under the armed threat of the USSR, Lithuania signed the mutual assistance pact with the Soviet Union which included the obligation to welcome Soviet garrisons in places of military importance. As a guarantee of the pact, Soviet troops crossed the Lithuanian border on June 15, 1940 and the Soviet Deputy Foreign Commissioner Dekanosov formed a people’s government, composed of social-communists, while the president of the republic A. Smetona left the national territory. On 1 July the parliament was dissolved, on 3 the concordat with the Holy See was denounced, on 7 the purge of all the elements of the various parties opposing the new regime began. On the 14th the new elections were held with single lists, which led to the formation of a social-communist chamber (79 members), which on 21 July, gathered in the Kaunas theater, voted for a new Soviet-type constitution. At the same time, at the invitation of the Soviet Deputy Commissioner Dekanosov, the request for the incorporation of Lithuania into the Soviet Union (July 20, 1940), as an autonomous federal republic, was approved, a request that the united assemblies of the Supreme Soviet accepted on August 3, 1940. An advantage could at least to withdraw Lithuania from this new situation, having obtained the restitution of Vilna and its territory (6656 sq. km. and 458,000 residents); starting from 1 May 1941 this city, which Lithuania had always continued to consider as its capital, returned to being one in fact. In this way Lithuania extended over 60,122 sq km. and counted (1940) 3,337,000 residents The repatriation of German-speaking citizens, numbering 50,471 (January 1941), contributed to making the problem of minorities less serious. The deportation of the anti-Soviet elements provoked on June 21, 1941, on the eve of the war between Germany and the USSR, an insurrection and the formation of a provisional government which proclaimed the restoration of Lithuanian independence. But this government was overwhelmed by the war; as soon as their offensive against the Russians began, the Germans entered Lithuania, and with the elimination of the provisional government, they subjected Lithuania to an occupation regime. Under the name of “Generalbezirk Litauen” (General District of Lithuania) the country, together with Estonia, Latvia and White Russia, became part of the General Commissariat of the Eastern Territory (Generalkommissariat Ostland), established on November 17, 1941. But even this arrangement was short-lived. Once the Baltic region was reoccupied by the Russians, Lithuania returned (autumn 1944) to being one of the Soviet republics. Once the territory of Memel has been aggregated, it now extends over 62,550 sq km, with just over 3 million residents. and its capital is Vilna.

In the economic field, a profound transformation took place following a radical agrarian reform, which led to the collectivization of the lands, canceling the agrarian reform of previous years. The nationalization of industries and banks has also been imposed. The war, the requisitions, the diseases have caused serious damage to the country. The Soviet Union then carried out extensive population swaps, transferring 120,000 Lithuanians to the northern Urals and to the war-damaged and depopulated areas of the Caucasus due to forced population transfers; many Lithuanians then followed the Germans in retreat, while many Russians came in exchange.

Literature. – Lithuanian literature of the decade preceding the World War is characterized by the predominance of lyric poetry which, gradually detaching itself from popular songs, increasingly adapts to the spirit and forms of Western poetry. For Lithuania 1996, please check

Symbolism is linked to the often hermetic art of Faustas Kirša (born in 1891) with the collections of poems Giesm ė s (Canti) and Maldos ant akmens (Prayer on the rock, 1936), while his poem Pelenai (Ashes) has strong satirical accents. Neosymbolist could also be defined as Stasys Santvaras (b. 1902); the religiously inspired poet Bernardas Braždžionis (b.1907) appears instead, with his daring formal experiments, close to expressionism (Krintan è ios Zvaig ž d ė s, Shooting Stars, 1934). Rather outside the poetic schools remain Henrikas Radauskas, born in 1910 and the poetess Salomėja Nėris (who died in 1947) whose verses (Anksti ry ṭ a, In the morning; Per l ūž tant ị led ạ, Through the breaking ice) they stand out for their harmony and simplicity. In the play, alongside Vincas Krèvé-Mickevicius and Vydunas (v. XXXV, p. 627), emerge: Balys Sruoga especially with the historical drama in verse Mil ž ino paunksm ė j (In the shadow of the giant), which deals with Vytautas the Grande, Petras Vaičiūnas (b.1890), and Antanas Gustaitis (b.1907), author of the comedy Slogu èiai (Incubi), where the life of civil servants is represented. The activity in the field of fiction is more fruitful and more varied. While in the novels Siegfried Immerselbe atsijaunina (SI rejuvenates), directed against German racism, by Ignas Šeinius (b.1887) and Karjeristai (The careerists) by Juozas Grušas (b.1901) the satirical element prevails, the great novel Altoriu š e š ė liy (In the shadow of the altars, 1935) by Vincas Mykolaitis Pūtinas (b. 1896) is all centered on a psychological problem. On the other hand, the short stories by Antanas Vaičiulaitis (see in this App) and the novels (Broli ȧ i Domeikos, Fratelli D., 1936) by Liūdas Dovydénas (b.1906), and the writers Sofia Čiūrlionienė (Š ventmar ė, Maria la bigotta, 1937) and Jeva Simonaitytė (Auk š uju Š imoniu likimas, The fate of the A. Š family., 1935).

The various events of the war and the post-war period have partly crushed the activity of Lithuanian writers, and partly have changed their spirit and tendency. The poet Jonas Kossu Aleksandriškis now follows the elegiac attitudes of the pre-war period with predominantly patriotic themes. The same themes predominate, as well as in the more recent work of the aforementioned Faustas Kirša, also in the poems of the very young (b. In 1917) Kazys Bradūnas (Svetimoji duona, Foreign bread, 1945; Vilniaus varpai, The bells of Vilna, 1947; Maras, Plague, poem, 1947) and by Stasys Santvaras (Laivai palau ž tom bur ė m, Ships with broken sails, 1946). Among the older poets deserves emphasize the fruitful activity in Lithuanian Jurgis Baltrušaitis (v. VI, p. 9) which, after the collections A š aru vainikai (Crowns of tears, 1942) and Aukuro d ¾ ever (Smoking dell ‘ ara, 1944) was recently (1948) published in the United States a volume of poems representing him as a poet, philosopher, master of classical forms. In the play, in addition to the aforementioned Krėvė, Sruoga and Grušas, we note Antanas Skéma (b. In 1911). At the novel while still having the lovers (Kry ž iai, Croci, 1947 by Vincas Ramonas) narrators prefer the novella (Savame kra š te, In the Native Country, 1946, by Stepas Zobarskas; Kur baku ž ė samanota, Where there is the little house covered with moss, 1947, by Antanas Vaičiulaitis) and show a marked fondness for descriptions of country life (Anoj pus ė j e ž ero, Across the lake, 1947, by Andriušis Pulgis). Most of the writers cited continued or started their emigration business; on current literary life in Lithuania there is no news.

Lithuania Between World War II