Lithuania Recent History

The tenacious struggle of the Lithuanian press had the effect of abolishing, in 1904, the imperial Ukaz which prohibited the national language and script; and, when the first revolution broke out in Russia in 1905, the ground was already prepared in Lithuania for a more concrete demand for national freedom. On 25 October 1905 Basanavicius appealed to the Lithuanian people to send their representatives to Vilna. The Diet opened on 4 December with the participation of 2000 delegates from all social classes of the country to ask Petersburg for complete autonomy. After the first internal difficulties, however, Russia withdrew the granted autonomy and fully reaffirmed its rights as ruler of Lithuania. For Lithuania history, please check

In the autumn of 1915, during the World War, the Lithuanian territory was occupied by German troops and subjected to a military administration. A committee was then formed, chaired by Antonio Smetona, to protect the national interests in the face of the invaders. A conference held in Vilna from 18 to 23 September 1917 created a council (taryba) recognized by the German authorities, who on February 18, 1918 proclaimed the reconstitution of the Lithuanian state with Vilna as the capital and then elected Prince William of Urach of the house of Württemberg as king, with the name of Mindaugas II. Germany recognized Lithuania’s independence on 23 March after having forced Russia with the Brest-Litovsk peace (3 March) to renounce any claims on it. After the German defeat, a republic was instead proclaimed. Smetona became interim head of state. But the government was powerless to stem the Bolshevik agitation. On 30 December it had to take refuge in Kaunas because Vilna was occupied by Soviet troops, driven back on 19 April 1919 by the Poles. From the outset there was a conflict, which continues to this day, between Poland and Lithuania, since both claimed, beyond the territory of Vilna, those of Suvalki and Grodno. Pending a definitive solution, the Supreme Council of the Allied Powers subsequently set three dividing lines on 18 June, 27 July and 8 December 1919: the first two left Vilna to the Poles while the third attributed it to the Lithuanians. On 12 July 1920 Lithuania concluded the Moscow peace treaty with Russia by which the latter unconditionally renounced – in favor of Lithuania – its sovereignty over the disputed territory, including Vilna. On 7 October Lithuania concluded an agreement with Poland in Suvalki proclaiming an armistice and establishing a demarcation line that left Vilna to the Lithuanians. Two days later, however, the Polish general Zeligowski, acting under orders from Piłsudski, he returned Vilna to the Lithuanians, which aroused the protest of the Council of the League of Nations. With the peace treaty of Riga between Russians and Poles (March 18, 1921) Russia renounced any rights on the disputed lands between Poland and Lithuania and recognized that the belonging of these lands concerned exclusively these two states.

On March 31, 1921, Lithuania concluded an agreement with Latvia for the delimitation of the common border by acquiring the district of Polanga. On 21 September she was admitted to the League of Nations, which had already taken action to resolve her dispute with Poland. During the course of the year it was recognized de jure by Latvia, Estonia, Argentina, Mexico, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Holland, Finland and Brazil. Italy, France, England, Japan and the United States recognized it in 1922. On 1 August 1922 the constituent assembly approved the constitution. Elections for parliament followed (seimas), who on December 21 appointed A. Stulginskis president of the republic.

In January 1923 an insurrection broke out in the territory of Memel, which Germany with the Treaty of Versailles had ceded to the main powers and in which they had organized an interim international administration. The convention of May 8, 1924, drawn up under the aegis of the League of Nations, established Memel’s union with Lithuania (see memel). After the decision of the Conference of Ambassadors of March 15, 1923, which recognized the eastern borders of Poland and definitively attributed them to Vilna, the Lithuanian government protested, declaring that it did not recognize this decision.

Following the general elections of May 1926, which gave the majority to the left parties, K. Grinius was elected president of the republic and a radical-socialist ministry was set up, chaired by Sleževičius, who showed himself weak towards the communists and concluded a non-aggression pact with the Bolshevik government (28 September). This resulted in a military coup on the night of December 16-17. The president of the republic and the cabinet resigned. Smetona was elected president of the republic. The new ministry was constituted by Augustine Voldemaras, who dissolved the seimas on 12 April 1927 and ruled for about two years with dictatorial powers. In the following September he went to Rome, where he concluded a commercial treaty and an arbitration treaty with the Italian government as well as a concordat with the Holy See. In December he went to Geneva, where he met Pilsudski, and to Paris: in January 1928, to Berlin, where he entered into an arbitration treaty with Stresemann and a treaty establishing the borders between the two states. On May 15, 1928, a new constitution was issued, which by restricting the powers of the parliament strengthened those of the government and above all of the president of the republic. In September 1929 the prime minister A. Voldemaras was replaced by J. Tubelis, the composition of the national cabinet remaining unchanged. In 1930 A. Smetona was re-elected president of the republic. In 1931, the application of the concordat gave rise to friction with the Holy See. The conflict with Poland is always open: regular diplomatic relations were never established between the two states.

Lithuania Recent History