Volume 23, No.3 - Fall 1977
Editor of this issue: Saulius Kuprys
ISSN 0024-5089
Copyright © 1977 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.


Later this fall, representatives of the 35 states that signed the final Act of the Helsinki Conference on August I, 1975, will meet in Belgrade to review the implementation of the Helsinki Accords. Preliminary meetings have already begun. Since the legal status of the Helsinki Accords is still a matter of controversy, the Belgrade Conference will be the testing ground for their pervasiveness, especially concerning the protection of human rights in Eastern Europe. The Congress of the United States created the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, to collect, review, document, and verify reports of violations of the rights protected by the Helsinki Accords. An outspoken member of the Commission, the Honorable Millicent Fenwick, .M,C. (R., 5th Dist., N.J. ) has submitted the fallowing statement to LITUANUS on the upcoming Belgrade Conference:


The conference itself is to deal with "substantive" subjects. It will review compliance with the provisions of the Final Act—military, economic, and social. It is the last section, the section dealing with human rights, that is the most controversial. It is here that such elementary human concerns as the right to rejoin family members in other countries, the right to travel, to receive mail and other information, to practice one's religion in peace—it is in this section that such rights are set forth. They are no longer internal affairs, as they used to be. They are there—written in black and white in an international accord signed by thirty-five Chiefs of State.

It is pitiful, in a way, that human beings should still be wrangling over such simple and basic concerns. Seven hundred sixty-two years after the signing of the Magna Carta, human beings are still not able to control the tyranny of the State. In so many countries—all Marxist—the permission to leave is like gold, like a valuable prize which is hard to win. These states have turned themselves into prisons. From the border of West Germany to the China Sea, no one is free to come and go at will.

And these are the very nations that base their political institutions on the philosophy of Marx, who said that in a Communist State the government would wither away—useless, because social justice would reign amid citizens happy and free. It is a paradox. With a stated goal of egalitarianism, they have developed a more rigidly stratified society than Europe has seen in centuries, a society governed by a few with boundless power over the lives of the rest. The rule of law does not prevail, because the rulers interpret the law.

During the hearings held before the Commission, the following areas were covered: family reunifications, religious liberty, minorities in the Soviet Union, cultural and educational exchanges, reports on Soviet repression, and U.S. policy at Belgrade. Testimony on conditions in Lithuania and the other Baltic States was received from Tomas Venclova, member of the Lithuanian Group to Promote Observance of the Helsinki Accords (see Lituanus Vol. 23, No, l, p 68) and Dr. Kazys Bobelis, president of the Lithuanian -American Council, who also submitted a well-documented report on religious persecution in Lithuania, prepared by Rev, Casimir Pugevičius, of the Lithuanian American Catholic Services. The following memorandum, abridged for publication, was also presented to the Commission by the Lithuanian American Community of the U.S.A., A.S. Gečys, president.



The main sources on the conditions of Lithuanian minorities in the Soviet Union and Soviet occupied countries are the Lithuanian underground publications, Lietuvos Katalikų Bažnyčios Kronika (Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania) and Aušra (The Dawn). These have been published without interruption since 1972 and 1975 respectively, and their reports have proved to be highly accurate and reliable.

Lithuanians in Byelorussia

The Soviet census of 1970 shows only 8,100 Lithuanians in Byelorussia. This data clearly understates their actual number since it barely accounts for the known Lithuanian settlements in central and eastern Byelorussia far from Lithuania. This would indicate that there are no Lithuanians left in the Grodno (Gardinas)l and Braslav (Breslauja) areas at the Lithuanian border, where other Soviet official sources indicate a sizeable Lithuanian population. The Grodno and Braslav areas are part of the territory that the Soviet Union until 1939 recognized as an integral part of Lithuania according to the peace treaty of July 12,1920 between Lithuania and Soviet Russia.2 Later in the same year this territory was occupied by Poland. After the collapse of Poland in 1939, the Soviet Union did not return Grodno and Braslav to Lithuania but attached them to the Byelorussian SSR, a constituent republic of the Soviet Union.3

A considerable number of Lithuanians are known to live in the sizeable Grodno area and the smaller one of Braslav. The Soviet Atlas of the Nationalities of the World, published in 1964, shows an area with a Lithuanian majority around Gervjaty (Gervėčiai), and indicates a sizeable Lithuanian minority around Pesesa.4 It is unlikely that only six years later, during the 1970 census, these Lithuanians could have disappeared without a trace. In 1975 a book was published in Vilnius (Vilna) on the Lithuanian dialect in the Gervjaty area.5 Obviously there must be speakers of that dialect. The underground journal Aušra has published a list of 93 villages in Byelorussia that are known to be inhabited by Lithuanians. From this list and other indications. Aušra estimates that there are about 50,000 ethnic Lithuanians in the Grodno and Braslav areas of Byelorussia.6 Therefore the census of 1970 which shows no Lithuanians in these areas must have been subject either to error or bias.

Violations of national rights of Lithuanians in Byelorussia

"Article 121 of the Constitution of the Soviet Union declares that 'citizens of the USSR have the right to education. This right is secured by teaching in schools in the native language.' The above right, guaranteed by the Constitution, is denied to the Lithuanians of the Byelorussian SSR, who are targets of a russianization effort using all means available. In Byelorussia Lithuanians are exposed to national discrimination."7

". . . There are no Lithuanian schools. The schools are Russian,

not Byelorussian . . . Children whose native language is Lithuanian are taught all the subjects in Russian beginning with the first grade (7 years of age). While in school they are forbidden to converse in Lithuanian. Children who do not know Russian find it very difficult to study in the Russian language. As a result, they are poor scholastic achievers, and Lithuanian children from Russian schools encounter difficulties in trying to enroll in special and higher schools, especially if they want to continue their education in Lithuania."8

"In localities of the Byelorussian SSR inhabited by Lithuanians, one never sees Lithuanian books, newspapers or magazines in the stands. Lithuanian newspapers are never to be seen in reading rooms, and school libraries do not accept Lithuanian books. Various obstacles are put in the way of Lithuanians in Byelorussia who want to subscribe to Lithuanian periodicals."9 These periodicals are published only in Lithuania, there being no Lithuanian newspapers in Byelorussia.

"No Lithuanian cultural establishments and organizations are allowed to function . . . Amateur cultural activities (folk dance, theatrical groups and choirs) are very important for the survival of national life. Any such amateur cultural activities are prohibited for Lithuanians in Byelorussia . . . Lithuanians in Byelorussia are not only forbidden to organize amateur cultural activities, but visits of cultural groups from Lithuania are also prohibited."10

", . . There is no Lithuanian intelligentsia left in Byelorussia; it has been liquidated. Not a single Lithuanian agronomist, physician, or teacher is working in his native area. The chief officials in all public offices and collective farms are non-Lithuanian, mostly newcomers moved into the area for the purposes of russianization. At present it is impossible for a member of the Lithuanian intelligentsia to get a job in Byelorussia , . . That is why the young Lithuanians from Byelorussia who complete their studies in Lithuania remain in Lithuania to work."11

From these reports of Lithuanian underground publications it is obvious that the Lithuanian minority in the Grodno and Braslav areas of Byelorussia is subject to a genocidal policy of forcible assimilation. In the process, both the national and human rights of Lithuanians are utterly disregarded, and they are subjected to a ruthless discrimination merely because of their Lithuanian language and ethnic origin.

Lithuanians in Kaliningrad Oblast (East Prussia)

The Potsdam Conference in 1945 placed Koenigsberg (later renamed Kaliningrad by the Soviets) and the adjacent area under Soviet administration pending the final determination of territorial questions at the peace settlement.12 This northern part of East Prussia was also called Lithuania Minor because it has been heavily inhabited by Lithuanians since ancient times. During centuries of German rule in the German state of Prussia many of them became germanized. After World War II the Soviets completely annihilated the original German and Lithuanian population by herding many of them into death camps; deporting an undetermined but considerable number to Siberia where most of them perished; and finally expelling all others, as well as survivors of the camps and Siberia, to West Germany.13 In the Helsinki Act the participating States reaffirmed their obligation to act in conformity with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.14 Article 13, part 2 of the Declaration states that "Everyone has the right ... to return to his country."15 So far none of the expelled East Prussian Lithuanians or Germans have been permitted to return to the Kaliningrad region.

The original population has been replaced by settlers from the Soviet Union and Soviet occupied countries.16 Most of the settlers are Russians and Byelorussians, but in 1970 there were also 24,000 Lithuanians in the Kaliningrad oblast who constituted about 3.5 percent of the total population. Just like the Lithuanians in Byelorussia they have no national rights. In the Kaliningrad oblast there are no Lithuanian schools, no Lithuanian newspapers, no Lithuanian books in the bookstores and libraries and no Lithuanian cultural organizations or activities.

Lithuanians in Siberia

There are also about 40,000 Lithuanians in Siberia. They are the surviving deportees and former political prisoners who are still not permitted to return to Lithuania. They are not allowed to have any Lithuanian schools, newspapers and organizations of any kind.


According to the last population census of 1970, Lithuanians constitute 80.1 percent of the total population of Lithuania. However, a long-term Soviet policy of induced population movements clearly aims at eventually reducing Lithuanians to a minority in their own country. Under an ambitious program of rapid industrialization, several new industries are being established in Lithuania, which has neither the natural resources, markets, or skilled workers for such enterprises. Oil refining and heavy machine building are the most obvious examples. The result is an influx of Russian workers who have been given priority for the perennially short living space. Every conceivable inducement is used to bring Russian settlers to Lithuania, and, at the same time, young Lithuanians are being offered exceptionally good jobs in the Soviet Union.

The results of Russian colonization in Latvia and Estonia show that such a policy of colonization presents a deadly danger to the survival of the Baltic nations. "Between 1959 and 1970 (that is, in 11 years) the proportion of the Latvians has diminished from 62 percent (1959) to 56.S percent (1970) and that of the Estonians from 74.65 percent to 68.2 percent of the total population of their respective republics. On the other hand, the percentage of Russians has risen from 31 percent to 36.1 percent (an increase of 205,000) in Latvia and from 22.2 percent to 27.2 percent (an increase of 114,000) in Estonia."17


The Helsinki Act declares that "The participating States will respect the equal rights of people and their right to self-determination, acting at all times in conformity with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and with the relevant norms of international law, including those relating to territorial integrity of States." It continues to state that "By virtue of the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, all peoples always have the right, in full freedom, to determine, when and as they wish, their internal and external political status, without external interference, and to pursue as they wish their political, economic, social and cultural development."18

Since the Soviet occupation of 1940 the Lithuanian people have striven to exercise their right of self-determination in order to achieve restoration of Lithuania's independence.

Lithuania was occupied by the Soviet Union as a direct result of the Soviet-Nazi deal agreed upon in the secret Molotov-Ribbentrop protocols of 1939.(19) "The introduction of Soviet government in Lithuania and the incorporation of Lithuania into the Soviet Union was carried out contrary to the will of the Lithuanian nation, by force of the Soviet Union: through the introduction of the Red Army into Lithuanian territory; through the holding of elections under duress, blackmail and deceit: and through the dictated decision of the People's Diet, necessary to legalize the aggrandizing acts of the Soviet Union."20

Soviet occupation of Lithuania and its incorporation into the Soviet Union has never been recognized by the United States, Canada, France, the United Kingdom and a number of other countries. But it is even more important that the Lithuanian people did not accept their fate. Armed insurrection in 1941, guerilla war against the Soviets in 1944-1952, underground resistance, self-immolation of Romas Kalanta on 14 May 1972 in front of the building in Kaunas where Lithuania's incorporation into the Soviet Union was proclaimed in 1940 and the large scale demonstrations and riots in Kaunas after Kalanta's funeral, are all various forms of a determined and incessant resistance that indicates that the Lithuanian people refuse to be merged into the Soviet Union. Their struggle for restoration of Lithuania's independence continues without interruption.

Immediately after the Helsinki conference the National People's Front in Lithuania in its political bulletin of 25 December 1975 and declaration of 1976 demanded that the Soviet government relinquish its control over the Baltic States and called for free democratic elections and a plebiscite, and also for secession from the Soviet Union and re-establishment of the national independence of Lithuania 21 On 5 April 1977, *The Financial Times* of London reported that a series of nationalist incidents recently took place in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius: "... a Lithuanian Soviet Republic flag was torn down from the dormitory of Vilnius State University; students removed a portrait of Lenin from the central post office; signs saying Tree Lithuania—Russians get out,' appeared on public buildings; and the old Lithuanian national flag was raised for a brief moment above the Ministry of Internal Affairs which has charge of the Police."22

In theory, self-determination of the Lithuanian people and restoration of Lithuania's independence should be implemented without any major obstacles since the Soviet Constitution recognizes the right of its constituent republics to secede from the Soviet Union, Nevertheless, even after the conclusion of the Helsinki Act which includes a strong re-affirmation of self-determination, the Soviet authorities strictly enforce Article 1 of the Soviet Law on the Criminal Responsibility for Crimes Against the State, which considers any attempt to detach any part of the Soviet territory as high treason and punishes it accordingly by a prison term or death before a firing squad.

It is an internal matter of the Soviet Union that its Law on Crimes Against the State apparently takes precedence over the Soviet Constitution, but it should be an international concern that this law conflicts with the obligation to respect the right of self-determination of all peoples, an obligation that the Soviet Union has freely accepted by signing the United Nations Charter and the Helsinki Act.


1 In this statement the official names of cities and other localities are used. Lithuanian and other historical names are indicated in parentheses.
2 Kasias, Bronius J., The USSR-German Aggression Against Lithuania. Robert Speller & Sons, Publishers, Inc., New York, 1973 (further referred to as Kasias, op. cit.); "Treaty of Peace between Lithuania and the Russian Socialist Federal Soviet Republic," Article 2. pp 69-71.
3 Kasias, op. cit., "Protocol Between Lithuania and the USSR of October 27, 1939," pp 151-158 and "Decree of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR,"pp 158-161.
4 Atlas Narodov Mira (Atlas of the Nationalities of the World), Glavnoe Upravlenie Geodezii Kartografii Gosudarstvennogo Geoiogicheskogo Komitetą SSSR, Institut Etnografii im. N. N. Miklucho-Maklaja. Akademii Nauk SSSR, Moskva, 1964, p 16.
5 Draugas (The Friend), May 24, 1975, No. 122, "Okupuotoje Lietuvoje" (In Occupied Lithuania), p 6.
6 Aušra (The Dawn), Feb. 16, 1977, No. 5(45), "Lietuvių padėtis Baltarusijos TSR" (The Condition of Lithuanians in the Byelorussian SSR), pp 24-38.
7 Ibid,
8 Ibid.
9 Ibid.
10 Lietuvos Katalikų Bažnyčios Kronika (Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania), Jan. 25, 1976, No. 21.
11 Aušra (The Dawn), Feb. 16, 1977, No. 5(45), "Lietuviu padėtis Baltarusijos TSR" (The Condition of Lithuanians in the Byelorussian SSR), pp 24-38.
12 Mee, Charles L.,]-, Meeting at Potsdam, Dell Publishing Co., New York, 1976, Appendix II, "Potsdam Declaration," p 279.
13 Sužiedėlis, Simas, Ed., Encyclopedia Lituanica, Published by Juozas Kapočius, Boston, 1972 (further referred to as Encyclopedia Lituanica), Volume II, "Gastos," p 284.
14 The Department of State Bulletin, Sept. 1, 1975, No. 1888, "Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe: Final Act" (further referred to as The Department of State Bulletin), p 325.
15 Whiteman, Marjorie M., Ed., Digest of International Law, Department of State Publication 7873, Washington, 1965, Volume 5,."Human Rights," p239.
16 Encyclopedia Lituanica, op. cit., Volume III, "Lithuania Minor," p 382.
17 The Violations of Human Rights in Soviet Occupied Lithuania: A Report for 1975, "A Memorandum of Baltic Democrats to the Participants of the Helsinki Conference," p 37.
18 The Department of State Bulletin, op. cit., pp 325-326.
19 Kasias, op. cit., "Secret Protocol to the Russo-German Nonaggression Pact of Aug. 23, 1939," pp 129-130, and also "German-Soviet Secret Protocol," pp 286-288.
20 Aušra (The Dawn), June 15, 1976, No. 3(43).
21 The Violations of Human Rights in Soviet Occupied Lithuania: A Report far 1976, The Lithuanian American Community, 1977, pp 75-76 and 79-S2.
22 The Financial Times. Apr. 5, 1977. David Satter, "Nationalism in Lithuania, the Ghost in the Machine."