Act of the Re-Establishment of the State of Lithuania

The Act of the Re-Establishment of the State of Lithuania or Act of March 11 (Lithuanian: Aktas dėl Lietuvos nepriklausomos valstybės atstatymo) was an independence declaration by Lithuania adopted on March 11, 1990, signed by all[1] members of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania led by Sąjūdis. The act emphasized restoration and legal continuity of the interwar-period Lithuania, which was occupied by the USSR and lost independence in June 1940. It was the first time that an occupied state declared independence from the dissolving Soviet Union.


Loss of independence

After the partitions of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in the 18th century, Lithuania was part of the Russian Empire. In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Council of Lithuania, chaired by Jonas Basanavičius, proclaimed the Act of Independence of Lithuania on February 16, 1918. Lithuania enjoyed independence for two decades. In August 1939, the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany signed the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact dividing Eastern Europe into spheres of influence. The Baltic states (Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia) were assigned to the Soviet sphere of influence and subsequently were occupied in June 1940 and converted into soviet socialist republics.

In Lithuania's case, President Antanas Smetona left the country rather than accept the occupation. He did not resign but turned over his presidential duties to Prime Minister Antanas Merkys as per the constitution. The next day, Merkys declared himself president in his own right. Two days later, under Soviet pressure, he appointed Justas Paleckis, a left-wing journalist and longtime opponent of the Smetona regime, as prime minister. Merkys then resigned at Moscow's insistence, making Paleckis acting president as well. The Soviets then used the Paleckis government to give the final Soviet takeover the appearance of legality.

The Paleckis government staged a heavily rigged election for a "People's Seimas," in which voters were presented with a single Communist-dominated list. The newly-elected People's Seimas met on July 21 with only one piece of business–a resolution declaring Lithuania a Soviet republic and petitioning for admission to the Soviet Union, which carried unanimously. The Soviet Union duly "approved" the request on August 3. Since then, Soviet sources have maintained that Lithuania's petition to join the Soviet Union marked the culmination of a Lithuanian socialist revolution, and thus represented the legitimate desire of the Lithuanian people to join the Soviet Union.

The Soviet authorities undertook Sovietization policies: nationalization of all private property, collectivization of agriculture, suppression of the Catholic Church, and the imposition of totalitarian control. At the same time, free education and free national health system were also introduced. The armed anti-Soviet partisans were liquidated by 1953. Approximately 130,000 Lithuanians, dubbed "enemies of the people", were deported into Siberia (see June deportation and March deportation). After the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953, the Soviet Union adopted de-Stalinization policies and ended mass persecutions. Nonviolent resistance continued both in Lithuania and among the Lithuanian diaspora. These movements were secret, illegal, and more focused on social issues, human rights, and cultural affairs rather than political demands.

Independence movements

As Mikhail Gorbachev attempted to revive the economy of the Soviet Union, he introduced glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring).

Gorbachev's political agenda went for great and deep changes within the Soviet government, as such, Gorbachev invited the Soviet public into open and public discussions unseen before.

For the soviet Lithuanian dissidents, and activists, it was a golden opportunity not to be missed, to bring their movements from underground into the public life.

On August 23, 1987 (48th anniversary of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact), the Lithuanian Liberty League organized the first public protest rally that did not result in arrests.

Encouraged by the non arrests, by mid-1988, a group of 35 intellectuals organized the Sąjūdis Reform Movement with the original goal of supporting, discussing, and implementing Gorbachev's reforms yet short of openly supporting independence from the USSR.

However, Sąjūdis grew in popularity, attracting large crowds to rallies in Vingis Park and therefore radicalizing its agenda, taking advantage of Gorbachev's passiveness.

By 1989, Sąjūdis, not afraid of angering Moscow and causing a violent clampdown, continuously pushed further with its demands: from limited discussions on Gorbachev's reforms, to demand of greater say in economic decisions, to political autonomy within the Soviet Union.

By the time of the Baltic Way, a human chain spanning over 600 kilometres (370 mi) across the three Baltic states to mark the 50th anniversary of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, full independence was the official goal of Sąjūdis.

Democratic election

Parliamentary elections of February 1990 were the first free and democratic elections in Lithuania since World War II. The people overwhelmingly voted for the candidates endorsed by Sąjūdis, even though the movement did not run as a political party. The result was the first post-war non-communist government. During its first assembly on March 11, 1990, the Supreme Soviet of the Lithuanian SSR elected Vytautas Landsbergis as its chairman and restored Lithuania's prewar name of the Republic of Lithuania. It then changed its name to the Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania, and formally declared the re-establishment of Lithuanian independence. The act was approved at 10:44 pm by 124 members of the council while six abstained.[1] There were no votes against.

The Act



On the Re-establishment of the State of Lithuania

The Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania, expressing the will of the nation, decrees and solemnly proclaims that the execution of the sovereign powers of the State of Lithuania abolished by foreign forces in 1940, is re-established, and henceforth Lithuania is again an independent state.

The Act of Independence of 16 February 1918 of the Council of Lithuania and the Constituent Assembly decree of 15 May 1920 on the re-established democratic State of Lithuania never lost their legal effect and comprise the constitutional foundation of the State of Lithuania.

The territory of Lithuania is whole and indivisible, and the constitution of no other State is valid on it.

The State of Lithuania stresses its adherence to universally recognized principles of international law, recognizes the principle of inviolability of borders as formulated in the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe in Helsinki in 1975, and guarantees human, civil, and ethnic community rights.

The Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania, expressing sovereign power, by this Act begins to realize the complete sovereignty of the state.[2]

The Supreme Council took the line that Lithuania's original declaration of independence in 1918 was still valid, and considered the Act to be a reassertion of an independence that still legally existed under international law. It was based on the premise that Smetona never resigned, and Merkys' takeover of the presidency was illegal and unconstitutional. Lithuania's official position on the matter since then has been that all subsequent acts leading up to the Soviet annexation were ipso facto void.


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 building in Vilnius along with the Vilnius TV Tower. Unarmed civilian Lithuanians confronted Soviet soldiers. Fourteen people were killed and seven hundred injured in what became known as January Events.

On May 31, 1990, the Supreme Soviet of Moldavian SSR voted to recognize the Restoration of the Independence of Lithuania.[3] The Parliament of Moldavia was the first in the world to recognize Lithuania's Independence, but Moldavia was still part of the Soviet Union.

On February 11, 1991, the Icelandic parliament voted to confirm that Iceland's 1922 recognition of Lithuanian independence was still in full effect, as it never formally recognized the Soviet Union's control over Lithuania,[4] and that full diplomatic relations should be established as soon as possible.[5][6] They were followed by Denmark, Slovenia and Croatia (within Yugoslavia) and Latvia.

After the failed August Coup, Lithuanian independence recognition was reconfirmed by the United States on September 2.

President George H.W. Bush announced that if the Soviet Union 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 China, India and Belarus as well as Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

On September 17, 1991, it was welcomed as a member of the United Nations along with Estonia and Latvia.

Since 2004, Lithuania along with Estonia and Latvia became members of the European Union and NATO. The country eventually banned displays of Soviet and Nazi symbols in 2008.

Chronology of recognition of the Re-Establishment of the State of Lithuania[7]
Date Country
May 31, 1990 Moldavia
February 11, 1991 Iceland
February 28, 1991 Denmark
May 16, 1991 Slovenia
July 27, 1991 Russian SFSR
August 3, 1991 Croatia
August 23, 1991 Latvia
August 24, 1991 Norway
August 24, 1991 Hungary
August 25, 1991 Argentina
August 25, 1991 France
August 26, 1991 Bulgaria
August 26, 1991 Italy
August 26, 1991 Canada
August 26, 1991 Poland
August 26, 1991 Malta
August 26, 1991 Portugal
August 26, 1991 Romania
August 26, 1991 San Marino
August 26, 1991 Ukraine
August 27, 1991 Albania
August 27, 1991 Australia
August 27, 1991 Belgium
August 27, 1991 United Kingdom
August 27, 1991 Georgia
August 27, 1991 Spain
August 27, 1991 Luxembourg
August 27, 1991 Sweden
August 27, 1991 Germany
August 27, 1991 Ireland
August 27, 1991 Estonia
August 28, 1991 Austria
August 28, 1991 Chile
August 28, 1991 New Zealand
August 28, 1991 South Africa
August 28, 1991 Finland
August 28, 1991  Switzerland
August 28, 1991 Uruguay
August 29, 1991 Czechoslovakia
August 29, 1991 Mongolia
August 30, 1991  Vatican City
August 31, 1991 Kyrgyzstan
September 2, 1991 Ecuador
September 2, 1991 Netherlands
September 2, 1991 United States
September 3, 1991 Greece
September 3, 1991 Libya
September 3, 1991 Nicaragua
September 3, 1991 Turkey
September 4, 1991 Brazil
September 4, 1991 Israel
September 4, 1991 Tunisia
September 5, 1991 South Korea
September 5, 1991 Mexico
September 6, 1991 Guinea
September 6, 1991 Japan
September 6, 1991 Colombia
September 6, 1991 Singapore
September 6, 1991 Egypt
September 6, 1991 Soviet Union
September 7, 1991 Afghanistan
September 7, 1991 China
September 7, 1991 North Korea
September 7, 1991 Peru
September 7, 1991 Senegal
September 7, 1991 Bangladesh
September 8, 1991 Pakistan
September 9, 1991 Bolivia
September 9, 1991 India
September 9, 1991 Cuba
September 9, 1991 Syria
September 9, 1991 Thailand
September 9, 1991 Vietnam
September 9, 1991 Cape Verde
September 10, 1991 Azerbaijan
September 10, 1991 Iran
September 10, 1991   Nepal
September 11, 1991 Madagascar
September 12, 1991 Armenia
September 12, 1991 Cyprus
September 13, 1991 Yemen
September 15, 1991 Bahrain
September 15, 1991 Jordan
September 15, 1991 Kuwait
September 15, 1991 Philippines
September 16, 1991 Saudi Arabia
September 17, 1991 Indonesia
September 19, 1991 United Arab Emirates
September 20, 1991 Laos
September 24, 1991 Turkmenistan
September 25, 1991 Panama
September 30, 1991 Uzbekistan
September 30, 1991 Namibia
October 22, 1991 Mauritania
October 22, 1991 Yugoslavia[8]
November 2, 1991 Sri Lanka
December 23, 1991 Ghana
December 23, 1991 Kazakhstan
December 24, 1991 Mozambique
December 25, 1991 Tajikistan
December 27, 1991 Algeria
December 27, 1991 Belarus
December 30, 1991 Lebanon
January 2, 1992 Iraq
January 6, 1992 Burundi
January 16, 1992 Burkina Faso
January 25, 1992 Mali
January 31, 1992 Benin
February 21, 1992 Costa Rica
March 17, 1992 Zimbabwe
September 25, 1992 El Salvador
November 6, 1992 Bosnia and Herzegovina
November 10, 1992 Nigeria
January 12, 1993 Chad

See also


Further reading

  • The Oxford Companion to Politics of the World (p. 69, 70), Joel Krieger (editor), Oxford University, 1993.
  • Background Notes on Countries of the World 2003; September 2003, 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, 217219), Yegor Gaidar, Brookings Institution, 2007.
  • Why did the Soviet Union collapse, Understanding Historical Change, (p. 152155), Robert Strayer, M.E.Sharpe, 1998.
  • Ilgūnas, Gediminas. "Lietuvos kelias į 1990 m. kovo 11-ąją (1940-1990 m.)". Lietuvos Respublikos Seimas.
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