Volume 26, No.1 - Spring 1980
Editor of this issue: Thomas Remeikis
ISSN 0024-5089
Copyright © 1980 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.

Sotsialisticheskie revoliutsii 1940 goda v Litve, Latvii i Estonii. Vosstanovlennie Sovetskoi vlasti (The Socialist Revolutions of 1940 in Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. Restoration of Soviet Power) (Moskva: "Nauka", 1978), 532 pages.

Soviet rule in the Baltic countries, already lasting forty years, has failed to eradicate the memory of independence or develop a sense of legitimacy of the current status among the peoples involved. Neither has this status been accepted as legitimate in Western opinion and diplomacy. These are the conclusions suggested by the new massive study on the so-called internal revolution and establishment of Soviet power in the Baltic States by the principal Soviet scientific institutes. The study was prepared under the auspices of the Institute of Marxism-Leninism of the Central Committee of the CPSU and the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. Also involved were the Institutes of Party History of the Central Committees of the Communist Parties of Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and the Institutes of History of the Academies of Sciences of the three republics. The authors are among the best known political historians in the three republics (i.e., Šarmaitis, Drizul, Žiugžda, Mints, and others). How is this highly powerful political-historical team explaining the occupation and incorporation of the Baltic States into the Soviet Union four decades ago? We present two commentaries on the book in question: the first one is by the editors of the Newsletter From Behind the Iron Curtain (No. 501, March, 1979), published by the Estonian Information Center in Stockholm; the second is by the editors of the Information Service of the United Baltic Appeal (News Release No. 329, July 29, 1979), published in New York.

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Moscow describes the occupation of the Baltic countries in 1940 as the restoration of Soviet power in these areas, because Bolshevik Councils (Soviets) ruled there for a short period of time after the outbreak of the October Revolution. The time of bourgeois governments in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania (sovereign republics), Moscow says, was merely an interlude in the normal process of the October Revolution.

In order to justify this restoration theory once again, a bulky book has been published as the result of a ten-year research under the direction of Israel Mints, a member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences. The purpose of the book becomes obvious from the introductory statement, which presents a historical review of developments preceding the events of 1940. The purpose is to finally disprove the distortions by bourgeois historians of the events that took place in the Baltic countries in 1940.

Though characterized as a study based on fundamental scholarly research, this book does not disclose anything new beyond the earlier Soviet interpretation of the occupation and annexation of the Baltic States. No explanations are given regarding the secret clauses of the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact that defined the so-called spheres of interest, nor of the roles played in the events in the Baltic countries in 1940 by Moscow's emissaries Zhdanov (in Estonia), Vishinsky (in Latvia) and Dekanozov (in Lithuania). The book merely reiterates what has long since been heard from Moscow: "From the very beginning, the people's governments (established on instructions from and under the supervision of these emissaries — editor's note) realized the wishes of the revolutionary proletariat and the policies of the Communist Party which aimed at creating conditions favorable to the restoration of Soviet power.. . . These governments fulfilled the functions of a dictatorship of the proletariat."

As we know, the first function of these governments was to carry out the Kremlin-style elections, which later became known as "Baltic elections." Next, parliaments formed in line with the Kremlin model, at sessions held in Tallinn, Riga, and Kaunas on July 21,1940, proclaimed that the independent republics of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania had become Soviet Socialist Republics, and applied for admission to the Soviet Union. There was no talk of restoration of Soviet power in the Baltic countries at that time, rather, all of this was said to happen "at the desire of the people", which was quoted as the only motivation for this fateful political game in the Baltic area.

The "restoration of Soviet power" was invented as a justification of the events of 1940 later when Baltic refugees, who had witnessed these developments, began to disclose the background of these actions, and when the secret clauses of the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact became known to the world. At that time the Kremlin's claims of the "people's desire" to destroy their own sovereignty no longer appeared plausible. The Western powers learned that large Red Army units were present in the Baltic States when all this was happening. The recent book could not totally bypass this fact. The book mentions that Soviet army units were sent to Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania (under treaties forced upon them that granted military bases to the Soviet Union in October 1939), and it admits that a certain contingent was added in mid-June of 1940. The role of the Soviet army units in the Baltic States is described as follows: ". . . the presence of Red Army units in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania protected the Baltic countries against interference by foreign imperialists. It demoralized the bourgeoisie and inspired the revolutionary masses to fight against the fascist dictatorship."

This "fact," quoted in the book, is supposed to disprove the "assertions of reactionary law specialists and historians that the Baltic countries were occupied and that the people's governments were illegal," as some reviewers of the book, who write in the spirit of Moscow, have pointed out.

Neither the authors of the book nor the communist reviewers have taken the trouble to explain against what "foreign imperialists" the Baltic countries were to be protected, even though the vast majority of all archive documents (in the free countries) concerning 1940 have been available to the researchers. "This fundamental research" is not aimed at bringing the truth to light. Instead, it is one more attempt, the most extensively planned one thus far, to prove the quasi-theory of the restoration of Soviet power in the Baltic countries — a shortlived rule (in 1918-1919) of terrorism.

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Let us remember:

September, 1939 - Soviets forced by military threats all three Baltic nations to sign the "Mutual Assistance Treaty" with Moscow and to grant military bases to Soviet armed forces in their territories.

Soviets forcibly occupied Lithuania on June 15, 1940 and Latvia and Estonia on June 17, 1940. Moscow sent top emissaries to the Baltic States: Vishinsky to Riga, Zhdanov to Tallinn, Dekanozov to Kaunas. In all three Baltic States similar puppet governments were formed by the Moscow emissaries, and similar puppet parliaments were elected. By mistake the "results" of these "elections" in Latvia were published in London the day before they even took place.

All three parliaments immediately, without a single opposing voice, voted for the resolution: to renounce independence and to ask admittance into the Soviet Union! All three Baltic States were magnanimously "accepted" into the Soviet Union: Lithuania on August 3, 1940, Latvia on August 5,1940, and Estonia on August 6,1940. The Iron Curtain fell between the Baltic States and the free world.

In a striking doctrinal innovation, Moscow is now presenting the forceful Red Army takeover of the three Baltic republics in 1940 as a shining example of peaceful revolution. The change in line on the Baltics appeared in the leading Soviet theoretical journal Kommunist (No. 3,1979) in a book review of a study of the Baltic takeover published last year after a claimed ten-year research effort. According to the Kommunist, the book describes a growing revolutionary situation in the Baltic countries following the outbreak of the second World War and in consequence of popular dissatisfaction with ties between the existing regimes and Nazi Germany which coincided with a worsening economic situation and increased political repression. Accordingly, the review explained:

Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia proved to be the weak link in the imperialist chain. The victory of the 1940 revolutions marked a new breach within the imperialist system and one more step in the development of the world's revolutionary process initiated by the Great October Revolution.

These revolutions, Kommunist said, were the "first victorious revolutions in history not accompanied by armed risings or civil war" and confirmed Lenin's predictions of the "possibility for a peaceful yielding of power by the bourgeoisie under circumstances in which its opposition has been doomed to failure in advance." At this point Kommunist added the significant comment that "under present circumstances such a course of events has become more realistic."

While contending that the basic impetus came from domestic forces, the book was quoted as assigning a decisive albeit "peaceful" role to the Soviet armed forces:

Soviet forces did not interfere in the domestic affairs of the Baltic countries, strictly observing the stipulations of the mutual aid pacts concluded between them and the USSR. Meanwhile, the presence of Soviet troops on Lithuanian, Latvian, and Estonian territory protected the Baltic from the interference of foreign imperialists. This demoralized the forces of the bourgeoisie and inspired the revolutionary masses to this struggle for the overthrow of the fascist dictatorship."

By presenting the 1940 Baltic developments as a model for a peaceful takeover, Moscow appears to be extending into a new dimension the increasingly emphasized "external role" of the Soviet armed forces in support of the worldwide revolutionary cause.