Volume 32, No. 1 - Spring 1986
Editor of this issue: Jonas Zdanys
ISSN 0024-5089
Copyright © 1986 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.



1. The Transitional Period Under Foreign Domination

The twenty-member Council of Lithuania (The Taryba), elected by the Lithuanian Conference held on September 18-22, 1917 in Vilnius and empowered to implement its principal resolution of the Conference — to re-establish and and organize the independent state of Lithuania — did not waste time. Being aware of the almost insurmountable obstacles forced upon the Lithuanian people by the German military occupation army and its administrative apparatus, the Taryba did what was possible under the circumstances for the good of the country and its people.

On September 24,1917, the Taryba elected its presidium" and adopted its work schedule for the foreseeable future. Its primary concern was to get German recognition of Lithuania as a separate national unit, a state with the minimum of attributes needed for statehood. For a long time, the German authorities avoided even mentioning such phrases as "Lithuanian state" or "independence." They spoke about the reconstruction of the country, about the maintenance of national character, about the free activities of the land but never of the state. It was distinctly to their advantage to hold Lithuania in their hands as a trump card to be used at a proper time. On the other hand, the Taryba did its best "to make the Germans open their mouths and utter that dangerous phrase 'Independent Lithuania'."3

The Taryba also was concerned with alleviating the harsh occupational regime; but all suggestions and requests to decrease the confiscations of food and animals, and to take effective measures against pillage, were greeted by silence on the part of the Germans.

As early as October 4,1917, the Taryba asked the military authorities for permission to establish direct contacts with the German government in Berlin and with Lithuanians abroad. The secretary of the Taryba went to Stockholm to meet with the Lithuanian representatives from Russia. At this meeting, held on October 18-20, 1917, the Taryba was recognized as "the supreme instrument to restore the Lithuanian State."4 Its five members were allowed to travel to Berne, Switzerland, where they attended a conference with Lithuanian representatives from other countries, held on November 2-10, 1917. This Lithuanian gathering also recognized in the Taryba "the supreme leadership of the Lithuanian nation and a nucleus for the Lithuanian government."5 It was the consensus of opinion in the Berne conference that a constitutional monarchy, governed under the system of parliamentary democracy, would be advantageous to Lithuania. The conference, however, pointed out that it was the Taryba's responsibility to see that the governmental system be established by appropriate and legal means.6

On the way home from Berne, the Taryba's delegation was confronted by a telegram from the chief of the German military government in Lithuania which demanded the Taryba to declare itself for union with the Reich. It was left with an alternative to face the treatment of Lithuania as only a subject for a revision of border lines...7 This threat was not the last one. In his reply to the Taryba's memorandum regarding the political future of the country, General Erich Ludendorf, the Chief of the German Supreme Staff, told the Taryba that it must help the Germans by advice and deeds.8

As a result of constant pressure, on December 1, 1917, the Taryba's delegation signed, in Berlin, a protocol with a representative of the Reich's Foreign Ministry, by which the Taryba retained its right to proclaim Lithuania as an independent state and to sever all previous ties with other countries. However, in accord with the compromise of the Vilnius Conference regarding the "certain relations with Germany," the Taryba's delegation, in its signed protocol, agreed that the Reich and Lithuania should enter into "a permanent and firm union." 9 In the same protocol it was spelled out that this "perpetual, firm union" would be created by military, communication, custom and monetary conventions. The protocol also included the Taryba's demands to mitigate the military regime and to recognize the appropriate rights of the Taryba.

The signed protocol did not have to wait for its approval by the Taryba. A few days later, a representative of the Reich's Foreign Ministry and of the Chancellor told the Taryba that the protocol of December 1 was no longer acceptable and that a new declaration of cooperation was ready for adoption.10 This newly drafted document was utterly different from the one agreed to. There was no mention of the election of the Constituent Assembly, and nothing was said about the German recognition of independence as a condition for relations with Germany.

After very heated debates, the Taryba, on December 11, 1917, adopted a compromise declaration in two parts.11 In the first part, the declaration said:

The Taryba...declares the re-establishment of the independent state of Lithuania with the capital in Vilnius, and its severance of all state ties which had bound it to the other states.

The second part covered future relations with Germany:

...the Taryba stands for a permanent and firm alliance with the German state which should be effected on the basis of military and communications and commercial, as well as similar custom and monetary systems.

Even though this resolution was adopted by a majority of fifteen votes, 12 the Taryba itself was sharply divided on the main issues. The declaration spelled appeasement. It received no enthusiasm in the country and provided the enemies of Lithuania with an accusation against the Taryba for serving the cause of German annexation.13 The Taryba hoped that it would be invited to participate as a spokesman for the Lithuanian people at the Brest-Litovsk Peace Conference. However, the declaration of December 11 was used by the Germans themselves at the Brest-Litovsk peace negotiations where they stated that the problem of Lithuania had been solved.14

In a new series of various efforts to undo what it had done, the Taryba met for a new session on January 8, 1918, and adopted a new resolution which was a modified version of the decision of December 11. It pointed out the need for a Constituent Assembly, democratically elected by all the people of Lithuania; it also stressed that it was the responsibility of the Constituent Assembly to determine the country's relations with its neighbors and to decide the internal structure of the state.15 After having been informed about the new decision of the Taryba, the German authorities completely ignored it.

Receiving no favorable response from the Germans to its inquiries and requests, the Taryba dropped its conciliatory attitude and on February 16, 1918, it unanimously declared Lithuania restored as an independent State without any attachment to any other country.

This act, the official Declaration of the Independence of Lithuania, was signed by all twenty original members of the Taryba, elected by the Vilnius Conference in 1917. To the German officials, the Declaration was highly displeasing; as Professor Graham says, it "sought to completely frustrate the aims of the imperial government and to postpone the definite solution of Lithuania's problems until the convening of a constitutional assembly at a far distant date."16 Although the publication of this act was prohibited, the news spread rapidly in the country and abroad. Due to the lack of vigilance on the part of the censors, several German newspapers in Germany did print the Declaration of February 16th.

Finally, the Germans decided to grant their de jure recognition. This was done by a special manifesto of Kaiser Wilhelm II, signed on March 23, 1918.17 However, this recognition did little to satisfy the Taryba because it completely ignored the Act of February 16, 1918, and was conditioned on the Declaration of December 11, 1917. The manifesto spoke about the close ties within the "firm and permanent union." Nevertheless, it was a recognition, and the Taryba found an imperfect recognition better than no recognition at all.18 But this was not the end of the struggle. The Kaiser's manifesto did not grant the Taryba any authority over the judiciary, education, or communications.19 Very soon it became apparent that the Germans had other plans for Lithuania and that the manifesto brought no assurance whatever of independence. Saxony and Prussia began a "competition" for their "share of the spoils."20 Saxony's newspapers initiated a campaign for the annexation of Lithuania to Saxony; one Saxonian official was delegated to be the Reich Commissioner of the Baltic territories as an observer of "anything that might be of interest to it in Lithuania"21 On the other hand, the Prussian official sources demanded the annexation of Lithuania to the Reich through Prussia and the Hohenzoll-ern crown.22 Again Lithuania became the topic of annexa-tionists, as she and Poland had been in the eighteenth century among Austria, Prussia and Russia. This time the Germans argued among themselves as to which of their states Lithuania should be annexed.

The Taryba realized that it had to find effective ways to block the German plans of annexation. At that time it did not foresee the forthcoming defeat of the Reich at the hands of the Allies and, therefore, it made an effort by its own political maneuvering to free the country from its exclusive reliance on the Reich and its dynasty.23

On June 4, 1918, the Taryba decided to proclaim Lithuania a constitutional monarchy and to offer the royal crown to Prince Wilhelm, Duke of Urach, who had no ties with the ruling German dynasties. The king had to assume the name of Mindaugas II and to mount the throne according to the conditions prescribed by the Taryba.24 The candidacy of Urach was mainly advanced by the Zentrum leaders as "a Catholic, a well educated man, without any close relationship, political ties or intrigues with any German Dynasty."25 Prince Urach also had the support of the German Leftist parties.26 The Taryba's decision, however, was not unanimous; it was passed by thirteen to seven votes.27 The opposition argued that only the Constituent Assembly had the right to decide the governmental system for Lithuania and that this principle was accepted by the Vilnius Conference of 1917, which had elected the Taryba to carry out its decisions, one of which was the convocation of the Constituent Assembly. The oppositionists were openly against the monarchy in principle and came out strongly for a republican form of government. In protest against the "monarchical" decision, four members refused to collaborate with the Taryba in the future.28

Under the Declaratory Act of the Taryba of June 4, 1918, the executive power of the kingdom was to be exercised by the king through a Cabinet of Ministers designated by him and responsible to the parliament.29 The act, accepted by Prince Urach in Freiburg im Bresgau, on July 11, granted the king legislative initiative, but stressed strongly that every law must be passed by the representatives of the people. The king was given the initiative in the revision of the Constitution, and in this field his prerogative was equal to that of an absolute majority of the Lower Chamber. The Parliament was to consist of two chambers: the Council and the Lower Chamber (Seimas).30

The Declaratory Act of June 4, and Prince Urach's acceptance of the Taryba's offer, did not please Berlin at all. The Reich's government wanted the Taryba to declare Kaiser Wilhelm as the king of Lithuania. All Lithuanian newspapers were forbidden to write about the Taryba's invitation to Urach and were ordered to reprint without any commentary an editorial from the "Norddeutsche Allge-meine Zeitung." This had derided the Taryba's decision of June 4 as illegal and invalid because it had been contrary to the Kaiser's manifesto of March 23, 1918.31 "Lietuvos Aidas" (The Echo of Lithuania), edited by the Taryba's Chairman, Mr. Smetona, refused to reprint this editorial without its own comments and was closed for one month.32 The quarrel between the Taryba and the German government continued until the armistice.

2. The Taryba Becomes the Provisional Legislative and Executive Power

The "Constitutional Monarchy" and its Declaratory Act of June 4, 1918, lost all validity even in the eyes of the Taryba's majority in October, 1918, when the military fortunes of the German armed forces began to wane. After fateful defeats on military fronts, the new Chancellor of the Reich, Prince Max of Baden, informed the Taryba on October 20, 1918, that the Germans would delegate full administrative and legislative power to the Lithuanian government as soon as it became established by Lithuanian law.33

Now was the moment for vigorous action by the Taryba. Indeed, it acted very swiftly. At its meeting on November 2, 1918, the Taryba annulled its previous invitation to Prince Urach and announced that the governmental system of Lithuania would be decided by the people themselves through their elected Constituent Assembly. At this meeting the Taryba proclaimed itself a legislative body of the country and, acting in this capacity, promulgated the First Provisional Constitution.34

Under the concept of its adopted Provisional Constitution, the Taryba acted as the guardian of the sovereign peoples' rights. The chief executive power was given to a collective leadership — a three-member Presidium elected from the Taryba's ranks. The Presidium was given the following powers:

1. To promulgate provisional laws and international treaties;

2. To appoint the Prime Minister and to delegate him to form the Cabinet;

3. To represent the State;

4. To appoint the diplomatic representatives and to receive foreign diplomats;

5. To supervise the armed forces;

6. To appoint the Supreme Chief of Army; and

7. To call into session the Taryba on its own initiative or at the request of a third of the Taryba's membership.

The Presidium was elected for an indefinite term and was wholly dependent on the Taryba's will. It was necessary for

the Cabinet to have the confidence of the Presidium and of the Taryba. The executive power given to the Presidium and its appointed Cabinet of Ministers was under constant control and supervision of the Taryba. The acts of the Presidium had to be signed by all three of its members and countersigned by the Prime Minister or an appropriate Minister. Evidently, fear of one person's absolutism dictated the choice of collective leadership over a single presidency. In this respect, Lithuania was more sensitive in restricting the executive power than her neighbor, Latvia, which had a Chief Executive from the first days of the state's establishment.

The Constituent Assembly was to be elected by general, equal, direct and secret balloting. It had to convene at Vilnius on a designated date and to assume its legal power when two-thirds of the members were assembled.

3. The Formation and Composition of the First Cabinets

Immediately following the adoption of the first Provisional Constitution, the Taryba elected its first Presidium35 and began a search for the first Prime Minister.

After consultations with political parties, the Presidium, on November 5, 1918, invited Professor Augustinas Voldemaras, member of the Taryba since July 13 of that year, to assume the post of Prime Minister and to form the Cabinet.36 Fresh from a trip abroad where he had met with many leaders of the allied countries and with the Lithuanian Americans, Professor Voldemaras sought to choose the Ministers without regard to their political partisanship.37 His Cabinet was presented to the Taryba on November 11,1918, when the Germans signed the Armistice. It consisted of these ministries: Foreign Affairs, Defense, Interior, Finance and Communications, Justice, Agriculture and State Resources, Education, Jewish Affairs, and Byelorussian Affairs.38 Mr. Voldemaras, in addition to the post of Prime Minister, assumed also the double duty of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Ministries.

Internally, the Cabinet was tragically helpless; it had no funds, no administrative apparatus, no police, no army and no diplomatic recognition of its political independence.39 Therefore, the two major concerns of the first Cabinet were internal organization of the state and diplomatic recognition abroad. Professor Voldemaras saw as his main task the establishment of diplomatic relations with greater powers on behalf of a peaceful and democratic country. To him and to some of his colleagues, it appeared that Lithuania was safe from any foreign invasion. Consequently, the first Cabinet did not consider the organization of the army as the primary concern of the state.40

Events, however, proved otherwise. When the German soldiers, contrary to the Allied terms, began their early withdrawal from Lithuania, the Bolshevik Russian armies became a threat in the east.

Evidently, the government did not suspect that the new Russian leaders who seized power during the 1917 Bolshevik revolution would have any aggressive desires toward Lithuania. For several months, Soviet Russia remained silent regarding Lithuania's status. Officially, the Kremlin's policy towards the "border nations" was conducted under a cloak of "non-interference" in the internal affairs of other peoples. Nevertheless, this "noninterference" did not protect Lithuania from military invasion nor from subversive activities of the Lithuanian speaking Communists trained in Moscow. Even the Communists admit that the first chapter of the Communist Party of Lithuania was organized and established in 1918 under the instructions and initiative of the Russian Communist Party: 38 Romeris, op. cit, p. 54.

"Under the leadership of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Russia, under the leadership of great Stalin, such a party was really established."41

Before convoking the first conference of the party, one trusted Communist was called to Moscow to get its instructions for further moves. There he was told that "We are doing and will do everything to maintain and uphold you."42

According to a Communist historian (R. Šarmaitis), the first "Congress of the Communist Party of Lithuania" was held on October 1-3, in Vilnius and was attended by 34 delegates representing 17 chapters and two student organizations. He also points out that there were six guests. As only one name (Lithuania) of the six guests is given, it is not too risky to assume that the other five43 were special emissaries sent by Moscow. This gathering called itself "Legal and First Congress of the Communists in Lithuania and Byelorussia" and elected a seven-member Central Committee.

Soon after, in November, 1918, the Committee was enlarged by two members (Vincas Kapsukas-Mickevičius and Zigmas Angarietis-Aleksa), secretly sent from Moscow.44

The newly organized Central Committee on December 8, 1918, decided to form "the Provisional Revolutionary Workers' Government of Lithuania" and to issue a special declaration on this matter. After a review in Moscow, the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party made two changes in the drafted declaration of the "new government": 1. it deleted all mention of a call to the Lithuanians for "a close union with Russia" and 2. it changed the name of the "government." Instead of the "Workers' Government" the Vilnius clandestine Communist group was told to call itself "Provisional Revolutionary Workers' and Peasants' Government of Lithuania."45

Obviously, the Kremlin was seeking to lull the Lithuanian people into believing that the Communist Committee in Vilnius was standing for an independent Lithuania and that it was a genuine friend of the workers as well as of the peasants who constituted a great majority of the people.

When the official declaration of "the establishment of the Provisional Revolutionary Workers' and Peasants' Government of Lithuania" was announced in secretly printed leaflets on December 16, 1918,46 ten months after the Taryba in Vilnius declared the restoration of the independent Lithuanian state, the Soviet Russian army was marching toward Lithuania and Poland. It appears that the marching of the Red Army had been prearranged in Moscow to "coincide" with the activities of the organized underground Communist Committee in Vilnius. The Red Army succeeded at the beginning of its invasion, by occupying Vilnius on January 5, 1918 and later a few Lithuanian cities and towns. In all occupied territories it encouraged the formations of local "Soviets" (councils).

The serious threat to the newly restored state arose at an inopportune moment before the Soviet invasion of Lithuania. Kapsukas died in 1935, of natural causes. In honor of Kapsukas, the Soviet government of Lithuania has renamed the University of Lithuania and one city. Angarietis has been "rehabilitated" and is often remembered in official Party statements.

The first order to establish the armed forces of Lithuania was issued on November 23, 1918,47 but its actual organization was delayed. At the end of December, the country was left without its principal leaders: the Chairman of the Taryba, the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister were abroad for financial and diplomatic recognition negotiations. Under these circumstances, the Acting Chairman of the Taryba, Stasys Šlingas, invited Populist Mykolas Sleževičius to form a new Cabinet. Mr. Sleževičius completed his task on December 26, 1918.48

His broad coalition consisted of two Populists, one Santara Liberal, two Christian Democrats, two Social Democrats, three Nationalists and six non-partisans, two of them representing the Jewish and Byelorussian minorities.49

The first task of the new Cabinet was a formidable one: the organization of the country's defense. It made an immediate appeal to the people, asking urgently for army volunteers to defend the nation against the Soviet Russian invasion.50 At that very moment the seat of the government, Vilnius, was in danger of falling into the hands of the Bolsheviks advancing from the east. On January 2,1919, the Sleževičius government left Vilnius for Kaunas.51 Three days later Vilnius was entered by the Red Army.52

Confronted by serious dangers, the government repeated its appeal, asking the able men to join the armed forces from Kaunas, a provisional capital of the country. It also urged the people to establish local administrative organs throughout the land. Local governments emerged rapidly as the population formed township and county administrative bodies.53 Since there was no lack of volunteers, the army units were being formed rapidly.54

Despite the threats from outside, the Taryba deemed it necessary to convoke a Conference of Township Deputies, which was to be called The Second State Conference.55 In the opinion of the majority of the Taryba's members, its authority should be reasserted by the people as soon as possible. There were voices for the election of a new Taryba. The strongest advocates of a conference were the Socialists who, at that time, practically had no voice in the Taryba. The Christian Democrats wanted delegates to be elected by universal, equal, direct and secret ballot.56 However, the majority decided that the Conference should consist of the delegates sent by district, county and municipal councils.57

The second Conference met in Kaunas on January 16, 1919, and held its sessions for one week. Its delegates represented the emerging forces in the cities and in the villages.58 At its opening, a great political unity and solidarity were demonstrated, in the election of its presidium, which comprised all major groups. Prime Minister Sleževičius proudly reported that the provisional government, under his leadership, comprised all patriotic groups, that it excluded only "the Communists who did not recognize parliamentarianism."59 However, the delegates felt free to criticize the Provisional Government for its domestic and foreign policies. The Christian Democrats demanded that the Taryba and the Cabinet initiate, without any delay, the preparatory work for the election of a Constituent Assembly. They also called for speedier action in passing a law of agrarian reform which would guarantee land first of all for all the landless and to small owners who volunteered for the armed forces.60

In their own way, the Populists, whose leader was the Prime Minister, cautioned against speedy action in adopting land reform. They wanted more flexibility and a freer hand for the Cabinet.61 They also criticized the Taryba for its actions which they termed as "efforts to monopolize the rights belonging to the state and the people."62 By implication, this criticism was also directed against the Taryba's past activities regarding the decision of June 4, 1918, to proclaim the country a constitutional monarchy. When the debates were over, the Conference adopted a resolution demanding a closer cooperation between the Taryba and the Cabinet.63

To make the Taryba appear more representative, the Conference elected five additional members, none of whom came from the ranks of the intelligentsia; all of them represented workers, artisans and peasants.64 After this election, the Second Conference disbanded on January 23, 919, never to return for more sessions.65 The Sleževičius Cabinet remained at the state helm.

To cope with the new situation resulting from the Russian invasion, the Taryba amended the Provisional Constitution on January 24, 1919, by granting the Cabinet of Ministers a right to adopt laws during its recess. Although at that time the Taryba's membership was comparatively small — only twenty-eight—it was felt that the Cabinet as a smaller body would be more flexible and able to meet more often and adopt necessary legislation without waiting for the Taryba's consent.66

Nevertheless, the Sleževičius Cabinet experienced difficulties with the Taryba whenever it sought more freedom in the execution of its administrative power. Despite its energetic action in organizing the country's military defenses and in intensified political maneuvering abroad, the second Cabinet lasted only until March 12,1919.

The third Cabinet, formed by Pranas Dovydaitis,67  included only his own Christian Democrats, the Nationalists and non-partisans. Its tenure was the shortest in Lithuanian history, less than one month. Its downfall was caused by internal frictions, after failing to receive the workable cooperation from the Taryba. It should be added that the Prime Minister, although by nature an intellectual, scholar and ascetic in his private life, was unable to find a working basis with his political colleagues. After only ten days in office, Professor Dovydaitis withdrew from active leadership in favor of his Minister of Interior, Aleksandras Stulginskis.68

The failure of the third Cabinet to reach a close cooperation with the Taryba brought about the changes in favor of those who demanded stronger executive power. On April 4, 1919, the Taryba adopted a new Provisional Constitution known as "The Fundamental Principles of the Provisional Constitution."69 The new changes affected mainly the executive power, by replacing the three-member presidium of the Taryba with the President of State. Antanas Smetona, until then Chairman of the Presidium, was elected as the first President of Lithuania on the same day that the new Constitution became valid, April 4, 1919.70

On April 12, 1919, Mr. Sleževičius was invited to form a Cabinet. Again he succeeded in organizing a broad, coalition government.71 The fourth Cabinet, lasting for six months, measured an improvement as far as the stability of the government was concerned, for the former three Ministries had endured less than two months each. Sleževičius resigned on October 2, 1919, after another failure to win the support of the Taryba for his policies.72 He was replaced by Ernestas Galvanauskas, a non-partisan.73 under whose leadership the country achieved a greater political stability and created its Constituent Assembly, elected on April 14-15, 1920.74 Until then the state was governed in accordance with the Fundamental Principles, proclaimed on April 4, 1919.

The above-mentioned document,75 consisting of eight short sections, was the supreme law of the land for more than one year. It made a firm foundation for the young state as a democratic republic.

The executive power was vested in the President, to be exercised through the Cabinet of Ministers, and to be responsible to the Taryba. The President had the authority to: (1) designate the Prime Minister, empower him to form a Cabinet of Ministers and to approve the Cabinets so organized; (2) appoint the heads of military and civil departments of the State and; (3) convene and adjourn the sessions of the Taryba. In addition, he was also granted legislative authority to issue laws between sessions of the Taryba or during their interruption through the approval of the Cabinet Ministers. He also had a right to select and appoint the Comptroller of the State whose duty it was to see that the apportionment and administration of revenue and expenditures of State finances, and of other property under the protection of the State, be legally and duly performed. The office of the State Comptroller was a new institution in the governmental structure of Lithuania. The Comptroller was responsible to the Taryba and had to resign if there was a loss of confidence vote.

It was the President's prerogative to return to the Cabinet of Ministers, with his comments, any proposed bill approved by the Cabinet. If the Cabinet again approved the law after reconsideration of the President's objections, and if the President found this law objectionable, then the proposed law would be submitted to the Taryba, which had to be immediately convened. This aspect of the Provisional Constitution envisaged a discord between the President and the Cabinet which seems to be contrary to Article 9, which authorized the President "to designate the Prime Minister, empower him to form a Cabinet of Ministers and approve Cabinets so formed." This suggested the need of mutual confidence and an appropriate sharing of responsibility. However, the right to propose the laws was assigned to the Taryba and the Cabinet of Ministers. It seems that the authors of the revised Constitution remained faithful to their original fear not to grant too much power to one person. This fear was reflected by depriving the President of the right to propose and issue laws on his own initiative.

The President and the Cabinet of Ministers, acting together, were authorized to "enact and promulgate the law for the election of the Constituent Assembly." For this action it was not necessary to consult the supreme provisional legislative power, the Taryba. This great trust of the Taryba was not compromised by the executive power which adopted a law that guaranteed the population a complete and full freedom to nominate and elect the candidates to the Constituent Assembly by universal, direct and equal vote under the proportional system.

4. The Convocation of the Constituent Assembly

A significant step towards the creation of a stable governmental structure was made on June 16, 1919, when the fourth Cabinet established a special commission to  prepare a law for the election to the Constituent Assembly.76 Although the election law, drawn up by this commission was promulgated on December 2 of that year, the election itself had to be delayed for several months.77 The government had to give priority for solving many serious problems which faced the nation. Among the most difficult concerns were the establishment of normal relations with the neighbors, seeking diplomatic recognition of the great powers, organization of the armed forces, protracted battles against the invasion armies of the Russian Bolsheviks and of the Russo-German forces of Bermondt,78 and coping with the financial crisis and with other serious situations.

Finally, in February, 1920, the government declared that the election to the Constituent Assembly would be held on April 14-15 of that year. The whole country was divided into eleven election districts, five of which were not under Lithuanian control.79 Four districts claimed by Lithuania as its ethnographic territory in the east were ruled then by the Poles and the fifth district consisted of the Klaipėda (Mėmei) territory detached by the Entente from Germany with a view to handing it over to Lithuania.80 The territory under the control of the government was to elect 112 deputies; one for each 15,000 inhabitants.

All persons deprived of voting rights by the courts, were excluded from participation in the election. Soldiers were granted voting privileges — their voting age was lowered to 17. All other voters had to have attained the age of 21.81 In

general, the law provided for universal, equal, direct and secret ballot under proportional representation.82 The right of all political parties and groups to offer their lists of candidates for the Assembly was assured. This right was a real incentive for the active participation of many political groupings. More than thirty groups competed for the election for 112 seats. The Communists, not legalized, had their list under an assumed name.

The voting was very high, the general average throughout the country being 85 percent, and running as high as 92 percent in some districts.83

As a result of the elections of April 14-15, 1920, to the Constituent Assembly,84 its membership consisted of 59 Christian Democrats, 28 Populists, 13 Social Democrats, 2 non-partisans and 10 national minority representatives (6 Jews, 3 Poles and 1 German). The other political groups failed to receive a representation in the Assembly. Among those were President Smetona's led Nationalists and the Santara Liberals headed by Professor Leonas, Chairman of the Supreme Election Committee. The Communists and their sympathizers ran under the assumed names of the Union of Working People which received 2,535 votes from about 700,000 votes cast at the election.85

Youth predominated in the Assembly as only eight of the 112 members were over fifty. Twenty-nine representatives were younger than 30 years.86 According to professions and occupations, there were ten lawyers, eight physicians, ten writers, seven civil employees, six army officers, three engineers, three artisans, twenty-two farmers, and thirty professors and priests.87

The Constituent Assembly was opened by President Smetona on May 15,1920, under the visible signs of a great national enthusiasm. In his welcoming address, Mr. Smetona praised the Lithuanian people for their struggles and sacrifices for independence and pointed out that the election of the Constituent Assembly had proven to the world their national ripeness for statehood.88

After electing Aleksandras Stulginskis as its Speaker, the Constituent Assembly solemnly and unanimously reaffirmed the Taryba's Declaration of February 16th, 1918, that Lithuania was re-establishing her independent and sovereign state.89


1 This is a second article in a series on Lithuania by the author. The first one appeared in Lituanus, Vol. 30, No. 4,1984, pp. 5-25. The sources not mentioned in the previous presentation will be fully referred to, while the rest will be briefly pointed out by giving names of the authors and pages of their publications.
2 Nationalist A. Smetona, Social Democrat St. Kairys and non-partisan Jurgis Šaulys were elected Chairman, first Vice-Chairman and Secretary, respectively by nineteen out of a possible twenty votes each. Nationalist Reverend Vladas Mironas was elected second Vice-Chairman (thirteen votes); and Liberal Petras Klimas, second Secretary (eleven votes). Even though no one of them was elected to the presidium, the Christian Democrats supported the candidates for the three most important posts. See Ivinskis, op. cit., p. 623.
3 Romeris, op. cit. p. 32.
4 Purickis, op. cit., p. 53.
5 Purickis, op. cit., p. 56.
6 Ivinskis, op. cit., p. 626. See also Stulginskis, op. cit., p. 223.
7 P. Klimas, "Lietuvos Valstybės Kūrimas" (The Establishment of the Lithuanian State), Pirmasis Nepriklausomos Lietuvos Dešimtmetis, op. cit., p. 9.
8 Ivinskis, op. cit., p. 628
9 Klimas. Der Werdegang, pp. 102-104.
10 Ivinskis, op. cit., p. 632.
11 Ibid., p. 632; Senn op. cit., p. 30.
12 Three Socialists voted against it; one member (Christian Democrat A. Stulginskis) abstained and one was absent. See Z. Ivinskis, "Lietuva 1918 m. ir Vasario 16 Aktas" (Lithuania in 1918 and the Act of February 16), Židinys, XXIX (1939), 38.
13 Romeris, op. cit., p. 35.
14 Klimas, Der Werdegang, p. xxi.
15 Ibid., p. 110.
16 Graham, op. cit., p. 368.
17 Klimas, Der Werdegang, p. 779; see a/so Šapoka, op. cit., p. 543; Jurgėla, op. cit., p. 509.
18 Page, op. cit., p. 54.
19 Romeris, op. cit., p. 41.
20 There were historical ties between Lithuania and Saxony: two Saxon princes had been elected as grand dukes of Lithuania and kings of Poland (Friedrich August II, 1697-1706 and 1709-1733, and August II, 1733-1763; both of them kept a few Saxon military units in Lithuania for some time). This fact perhaps could have played some role in the Saxonian ambitions to annex Lithuania in 1918. Royal Institute of International Affairs. The Baltic States (London: Oxford Press, 1939), p. 23. See also Šapoka, op. cit., p. 370 and p. 390.
21 Page, op. cit., p. 92.
22 Ibid.
23 Romeris, op. cit., p. 43.
24 Stulginskis, op. cit., p. 275.
The name of Mindaugas was chosen obviously to underscore Lithuania's ancient statehood; King Mindaugas I ruled Lithuania from 1251-1263.
25 Romeris, op. cit., p. 43 See also Erzberger, op. cit., p. 186.
26 Klimas, Der Werdegang, p. xxviii
27 Ibid.
28 More details on the dissension are provided by Romeris, op. cit., p. 46, and by Stulginskis, op.'cit., p. 276-277. The official invitation to Urach was signed by the Taryba's presidium.
29 German text in Klimas, Der Werdegang, p. 145; English in Graham, op. cit. p. 711.
30 G. Linde, Die deutsche Politik in Litauen im ersten Weltkrieg, Wiesbaden, 1965. (The German Policy in Lithuania during the World War I.) p. 173-176. See also Šapoka, op. cit., p. 545.
31 Lindę, op. cit., p.
32 Ibid. Klimas, op. cit., p. xxix.
33 Klimas, Der Werdegang, p. xxxv; see also Graham, op. cit, p. 371.
34 Full text in Klimas, Der Werdegang, pp. 213-215. See also Romeris, op. cit., pp. 52-53.
35 It consisted of Chairman Antanas Smetona and two Vice-Chairmen, Canon Justinas Staugaitis and Stasys Šilingas. Father Staugaitis later became Speaker of the Seimas and the first Bishop of Telšiai (established 1926). Mr. Šilingas later was Minister of Justice.
36 Klimas, Iš mano atsiminimo, op. cit., p. 171.
37 The first Cabinet included three Nationalists, one Santara Liberal and five non-partisans. The Christian Democrats did not join it for personal reasons.
39 Senn, op. cit., p. 50.
40 Šapoka, op. cit., p. 548.
41 R. Šarmaitis, "Lietuvos Komunistų Partijos Įsteigimas " (The Establishment of the Communist Party of Lithuania) in Komunistas, Vilnius, 1959, nr. 10. p. 38.
42 Ibid. p. 40.
43 Ibid., p. 44.
44 Both of them were active participants in the Russian Socialist revolutionary movement since 1904. Both of them served prison sentences and had been exiled to Siberia for anti-Tsar activities. In 1913, Kapsukas fled to the U.S. In 1917, he returned to Russia and together with Angarietis joined the Russian Communist Party. By appointment of Lenin and Stalin, Kapsukas served in Soviet Russia as a Commissar for Lithuanian affairs and distinguished himself in abolishing various Lithuanian war relief and refugee organizations in Russia. He also prepared a group of Lithuanian refugees to return to their country for underground activities against its efforts to regain Lithuania's independence. Angarietis was his close collaborator. Kapsukas escaped the "purge" of many of his Communist friends. However, his friend Angarietis met a tragic fate — he was arrested by the Soviet security people in 1939 and executed on May 22, 1940, just about three weeks
45 Senn, op. cit., p. 64.
46 Izvestia, Dec. 25, 1918 quoted in Lietuva, New York, 1954, nr. 5, p. 70.
47 Jurgėla, op. cit, p. 513.
48 Sruogienė, op. cit., p. 892.
49 E.J. Harrison, Lithuania (London: Hazel, Watson and Viney, 1928), p. 217-218.
50 Senn, op. cit., p. 69.
51 Rūkas (ed.) op. cut., p. 90.
52 Senn, op. cit, p. 71.
53 Page, op. cit, p. 142.
54 Ibid.
55 Page, op. cit. p. 142; see also Seen, op. cit. p. 82.
56 "Antroji Konferencija" (The Second Conference), Tėvynės Sargas II (1949), 162.
57 Ibid, p. 163
58 Its members listed their political affiliations as follows: 93 Christian Democrats, 44 non-partisans, 38 Populists, 7 Nationalists, 2 Santara Liberals, 5 Jews and 1 Byelorussian. Ibid. p. 164.
59 The Communist Party, since its members opposed Lithuania's independence, was not legalized and sought to conduct its activities under different names. See V. Stanley Vardys "The Rise of Authoritarian Rule in the Baltic States" in Vardys and Misiūnas The Baltic States in Peace and War 1977- 1945 (The Pennsylvania State University, 1978), p. 67. See also "Antroji Konferencija," op. cit., p. 164.
60 Antroji Konferencija, op. cit., p. 181.
61 Senn, op. cit., p. 83.
62 "Antroji Konferencija," op. cit., p. 172.
63 Senn, op. cit., p. 83.
64 Graham, op. cit., p. 374; more details and the names of new members are provided in "Antroji Konferencija," op. cit., p. 181. According to this source, the proposal to enlarge the Taryba was raised by the Christian Democrats.
65 Graham, op. cit., p. 374.
66 Simas Sužiedėlis, "Lietuvos Taryba" (The Council of Lithuania), Lietuviu Enciklopedija XVI, 163.
67 Later, professor of philosophy, editor and publisher of several scientific magazines, author and leader of the Catholic Youth "Ateitis" and Christian workers' movements. In 1941 he was arrested by the Soviet security agents and deported to Siberia where he died in 1942.
68 Senn, op. cit., p. 99.
69 Jakob Robinson, Der litauische Staat und seineVerfassungsentwicklung (Jahrbuch des offentlichen Rechtes, Vol. XVI, 1928).
70 Šapoka, op. cit., p. 546.
71 The Cabinet included two Populists, four Nationalists, one Santara Liberal, two Christian Democrats, two Social Democrats and four non-partisans. See Harrison, op. cit., p. 219.
72 Senn, op. cit. p. 172.
73 His Cabinet consisted of four non-parisans, three Nationalists and two Christian Democrats. See Harrison, op. cit., p. 220.
74 Graham, op. cit.,p. 376.
75 The English text may be found in ibid, pp. 715-720.
76 The chairman of this commission was Petras Leonas, former member of the Duma, first Minister of Justice, later Professor of Law, Dean of the Faculty of Law of the Lithuanian University.
77 Šapoka, op. cit., p. 569.
78 The remnants of the Tenth German Army, reinforced by former Russian prisoners of war, under the nominal command of Russian Colonel Bermondt-Avalov, tried to take over Lithuania on behalf of the "Russian Empire." They were decisively defeated by the Lithuanians on November 22, 1919, at Radviliškis. See Jurgėla, op. cit. pp. 514-516; and Page, op. cit., p. 165.
79 Romeris, op.cit., pp. 102-103.
80 Royal Institute, op. cit, p. 94; see also Senn op cit., p. 141.
81 Romeris, op. cit., pp. 97-98.
82 Graham, op. cit., p. 376.
83 Hirsch Rolnik, Die Baltischen Staaten Litauenn, Lettland und ihr Verfassungsrecht Leipzig: Universitatsverlag von Robert Noske, 1927, p. 46.
84 Lietuvos Statistikos Metraštis (Statistical Almanac of Lithuania) Kaunas: 1927, pp. 5, 72-89.
85 Ibid., See also Graham, op. cit., p. 569.
86 Purickis, op. cit., p. 103!
87 Sruogienė, op. cit., p. 38-42.
88 The original text in Lietuvos Steigiamojo Seimo Darbai (The Records of the Constituent Assembly of Lithuania) (Kaunas: 1920-1922). This official source will be referred to hereafter by the abbreviation LSS.
89 Albertas Gerutis, Lithuania, 700 Years (Manyland Books, Woodhaven, N.Y. :1984), p. 196.