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Litas commemorative coin dedicated to the 10th anniversary of Independence
The Act of the Re-Establishment of the State of Lithuania or Act of March 11 signed by the members of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania, proclaimed the re-establishment of Lithuaniamarker's independence on March 11, 1990.

History

Historical background

Between the 13th and 16th centuries, the Lithuanian people successfully defended their status as an independent nation-state by defeating attempts by the Polish, Prussian and Swedish empires to occupy and control their country. In the 16th century, a dynastic union was formed with Polandmarker which lasted until the 18th century, when the Russian Empire extended its control over the entire Baltic region - Lithuaniamarker, Estoniamarker and Latviamarker. The collapse of the Russian Empiremarker in 1917 resulted in a 22-year period of independence for all three of the Baltic States. On February 16, 1918 the Council of Lithuania, chaired by Jonas Basanavičius, proclaimed the restoration of an independent state of Lithuania. All three Baltic states were established as parliamentary democracies, but Lithuania in 1926 and the other two in 1934 became authoritarian regimes.

In August 1939, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact sealed the fates of all three Baltic states' inter-war independence. The Red Army then invaded Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia in 1940. However, Hitler’s attack on the Soviet Unionmarker in 1941 cut short the “Sovietization” of the region and led to a three-year German occupation. Soviet re-occupation in 1944 brought the imposition of totalitarian control, violent agricultural collectivization, mass deportations, and an influx of Russian settlers. Official statistics state that more than 120,000 people were deported from Lithuania to Siberiamarker and other parts of the Soviet Union. Some sources estimate the number at 300,000.

Throughout Soviet rule, national resistance was highly visible. Guerrilla movements and secret resistance organizations were formed. Although the death of Joseph Stalin resulted in a somewhat lessening of the terror and mass deportations, many people continued to be threatened and arrested. The Catholic Church, which traditionally had played a large role in Lithuanian lives, was instrumental in supporting the resistance. Lithuanians by the tens of thousands signed petitions and letters insisting that their rights as Catholics and as free citizens be respected. Underground newspapers such as Aušra (Dawn), Laisvės šauklys, Perspektyvos (Perspectives), and Šalin vergiją (Down with Slavery) encouraged people to organize and insist on greater independence and freedom. As Soviet politics liberalized in the late 1980’s, secessionist nationalism emerged. For example, in 1986 Lithuanians reinstated some of the pre-Soviet street names.

Preface

By the fall of 1988, protest demonstrations were organized to demand sovereignty. These demonstrations included one in Vingis Parkmarker in 1988 that emphasized the determination of the people of Lithuania to achieve independence. In the mid-1988 under leadership of intellectuals Sąjūdis was formed - the first official Lithuanian pro-independence movement. The program of democratic and nation rights was declared and won nation wide popularity. On August 23, 1989 (the fiftieth anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact) about 1,000,000 Lithuanians formed a Baltic Way (human chain) that stretched 370 miles and connected all three of the Baltic capitals as an act of symbolic protest and unity. All three Baltic States declared the primacy of sovereign laws over Soviet imposed rule. Also that year in Lithuania Christmas, Easter and February 16 (the anniversary of the 1918 proclamation of Lithuanian independence) were declared to be national holidays.

By early 1990 talk of outright independence was widespread. Elections that were held in March 1990 resulted in the first post-war non-communist government.

On Sunday, March 11, 1990 at 10.44 pm 124 members of the Supreme Council of the State of Lithuania (105 of them Sąjūdis-backed) with its chairman Vytautas Landsbergis voted to formally declare the re-establishment of the State of Lithuania. The independence was officially declared.

The Act

The Act stated:

Aftermath

The Act of the Re-Establishment of the State of Lithuania served as a model and inspiration to other Soviet republics. However, the issue of independence was not immediately settled and recognition by other countries was not certain. Mikhail Gorbachev called the Act of Independence illegal and the USSR demanded revocation of the Act and began applying sanctions against Lithuania including an economic blockade. In addition, on January 13, 1991 Soviet forces stormed the Parliament buildingmarker in Vilnius along with the Vilnius TV Towermarker. Unarmed civilian Lithuanians confronted Soviet soldiers. Fourteen people were killed and seven hundred injured in what became known as January Events.

Icelandmarker was the first to recognize Lithuanian independence on February 11, 1991. After the failed August Coup, it was followed by the United Statesmarker on September 2. President George H.W. Bush announced that if Russia were to use armed force against Lithuania, the U.S. would react accordingly. Finally, on September 6, 1991 Lithuania’s independence was recognized by the Soviet Union. Then recognition of Lithuania’s independence was quickly followed by several countries including: Hungarymarker, Bulgariamarker, Italymarker, Canadamarker, Polandmarker, Maltamarker, San Marinomarker, Portugalmarker, Romaniamarker, Ukrainemarker, Latviamarker and Estoniamarker. On September 17, 1991, it was welcomed as a member of the United Nations along with Estonia and Latvia.

The Lithuanian government is a parliamentary democracy, with lawmaking authority vested in its legislature, the Supreme Council. As such, the legislature selects the president and approves the president’s choice for prime minister and cabinet posts.

The Acts of February 16, 1918 and March 11, 1990 are among the most important in Lithuania’s history. They expanded possibilities for the country’s financial, cultural, scientific, and political well being and growth. As a result, Lithuanian citizens have basic rights of free speech and democratic representation. Lithuanians celebrate both dates as national holidays.

References

  1. Signatarai
  2. United Nations. Core document forming part of the reports of states parties : Lithuania. 1 October 1998. Accessed February 20, 2008. [1]
  3. Lietuvos Nepriklausomos Valstybes atstatymo Aktas


Further reading

  • The Oxford Companion to Politics of the World (p. 69, 70), edited by Joel Krieger, Copyright 1993 by the Oxford Universitymarker
  • Background Notes on Countries of the World 2003; Sep2003 Lithuania, (p. 12)
  • The Baltic Revolution; Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and The Path to Independence, Anatol Lieven, 1993;
  • Collapse of an Empire, Lessons for Modern Russia (pp. 175, 214, 217–219), Yegor Gaidar, copyright 2007 by the Brookings Institution
  • Why did the Soviet Union collapse, Understanding Historical Change, (p. 152–155), Robert Strayer, copyright 1998 by M.E.Sharpe, Inc.
  • Tarptautinis Lietuvos Nepriklausomybės pripažinimas http://ziniukai.com/content/view/434/2/
  • Lietuvos Kelias į Nepriklausomybę http://www.lrs.lt/datos/kovo11/lietuvos_kelias.htm



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