Liberating the Baltic nations from Nazi occupation cost more than a quarter of a million Red Army soldiers their lives. Now, though, the ‘father of Lithuanian Independence’ wants Russia to pay the country in cash as compensation.
Vytautas Landsbergis, the former chairman of the Supreme Council of Lithuania, who led the nation as it broke away from the USSR, made the comments as part of an interview with the local Delfi news outlet on Saturday, saying that Moscow should shell out for Soviet-era repressions, despite the fact they were carried out by leaders from a range of modern-day countries.
The Baltic nation was a constituent part of the communist federation of Soviet Republics from the end of WWII until 1990, when it declared independence. During that period, it was governed from Moscow, but by communist chiefs from a number of different modern-day countries, including Joseph Stalin who, along with his brutal secret police chief Lavrentiy Beria, hailed from Georgia, and for close to two decades by Ukrainian Leonid Brezhnev.
Possibly unsurprisingly, Landsbergis now says that negotiations with Moscow have stalled despite passing a statute requiring Vilnius to seek a settlement “on compensation for damage caused as a result of the occupation of the USSR.” The politician, who later served as the Speaker of the country’s parliament, argued that talks should be resumed, “otherwise we will betray ourselves, our principles and the still valid law.”
Journalist Edmundas Jakilaitis, who conducted the interview, pushed Landsbergis on the amount proposed by way of compensation, pointing to previous suggestions that the sum could be as high as $800 billion. “We are talking about the GDP of modern Lithuania over several years,” he said. “The direct damage was attributed to the murder of Lithuanians, damage caused by genocide, repression and persecution of the resistance. And also the damage associated with the nationalization of the property of the population, forced drives to collective farms, expropriation of securities of legal entities and many other events.”
The Baltic nations consider their membership of the Soviet Union to have been an illegal occupation, despite their leadership during the era having been drawn from local communist politicians. Together with Estonia and Latvia, Lithuania was among the first to begin the process of exiting the USSR under Premier Mikhail Gorbachev at the end of the 1980s. They have since refused to participate in the Commonwealth of Independent States, formed to foster ties between former members of the bloc.
It is unclear why Landsbergis holds Russia solely responsible for the repressions of the Soviet Union. Much of the collectivization and political repression discussed during the interview took place on the orders of Stalin, who started his revolutionary career in Georgia before rising to the top of the bloc, which spanned 15 republics and encompassed dozens of ethnic groups.
Likewise, after the death of Stalin, the USSR was run by Nikita Khrushchev, who grew up in Ukraine and served as first secretary of Kiev’s Communist Party before taking over the reins in Moscow. His successor, Brezhnev was also born in modern-day Ukraine and became the Union’s second-longest serving leader.
To date, Russia has not introduced serious proposals to request compensation from either Georgia nor Ukraine for their role in the policies of the Soviet Union.
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