by Arūnas Gumuliauskas, chairman, Lithuanian parliamentary Commission on the Battles for Freedom and State Historical Memory
Every year there are echoes throughout Lithuania on disputes regarding judgments of partisans and other freedom fighters. Different organizations, circles of intellectuals and ethnic minority representatives file complaints and express dismay over the fact Lithuania honors her heroes who laid down their lives for the ideal of independence. Sometimes more loudly, sometimes more quietly.
So this summer as well a wave of discontent and slander went out regarding the announcement of a year to commemorate the noble partisan Juozas Lukša-Daumantas. It’s frequently difficult to understand why this is happening. Many of us also fail to understand, it seems, because it’s not the most important issue with that story.
But, like it or not, a person can’t just be satiated. He must respect himself and be respected by others. That applies even more so to the state. That’s why our history is rewritten and always in a way intending to desecrate those who contributed to history, and you must begin to listen. Very rarely does something happen coincidentally in politics. So after a decade of the constant attempt to convince Lithuania she is a country of fighters stained with blood and of Jew-shooters, one has to understand the reasons for this and oppose it appropriately.
The tainting of Lithuania’s battles for freedom in our eyes, but most importantly in the eyes of the West and world, not coincidentally more or less corresponds to Russian military aggression at the beginning in Georgia and later in the Ukraine. Now it has been understood and is widely known that our non-friends are fighting an information war in the countries where they are seeking to break the loyalty of the societies there and their will to defend themselves. Clearly all of the Baltic states are the targets of this kind of war.
And the main front in this kind of propaganda war is history itself. One direction of lying awakens nostalgia for the Soviet era and pounds into heads the well-known dictum: “it was better under the Russians.” It appeals to people’s financial difficulties and the natural longing for the days of youth.
Objectively, the economic situation hasn’t improved for everyone in independent Lithuania. They are proposing pretending that since gasoline and heating were cheap, there were subsidies for an automobile and order in the apartment, then all other aspects of life–denunciation, fear, lying, technological backwardness–aren’t important.
A second line of lying is subtler and awakens derision and shame for those of whom we should really be proud. All means are employed to demonstrate to the citizens of Lithuania that the honorable episodes of our history–the battles for independence from 1918 to 1920, the June Uprising, that partisan war from 1944 to 1953 and finally even the movement for independence from the Soviet Union–were filled with shame and were targeted against other ethnic groups and peaceful civilians, and at best are meaningless and the result of historical circumstances.
This nakedly anti-Lithuanian propaganda can only affect that part of the public which is deeply engages in the television channels broadcast by countries in the East. But this rewriting of history is presented to the larger portion of the Lithuanian public by incomparably subtler means: at the hands of Lithuanian public figures or representatives of third parties, by “experts.”
Doubtless a large portion of them undertake the blackening of the reputation of our resisters sincerely and idealistically, not out of a desire to serve the forces opposed to us. But is there a difference, in the eyes of those forces? They gladly exploit this. But another portion of these people deliberately slander Lithuania and orchestrate their activities.
Perhaps the most important question is: who needs all this? Why this libel, these campaigns against the commanders of the partisans and the June Uprising, these conflicts with society and setting people against one another? The goal truly is not the search for truth or revenge against specific people.
By casting the shadow of Jew-shooting and Nazi collaboration upon the memory of the commanders of the partisan war and the organizers of the June Uprising, they are attempting to proclaim the entire anti-Soviet and anti-Nazi resistance as having been Nazi collaborators. That means our freedom fighters are war criminals and repressions against them are simply the fight against Nazi lackeys and bandits. Well-founded and justified, aimed at safeguarding peaceful civilians. This slander is extremely consistent and well thought-out.
Today it is totally clear there is an attempt to put in place a kind of “Nazi chain.” This is intended to connect in a logical way all the members of the anti-Soviet resistance, from the Lithuanian Activist Front (LAF) in 1941 which conducted the first uprising in history against a Soviet occupation, through the various later freedom fighter organizations right up to the Union of the Lithuanian Fight for Freedom and its February 16, 1949, declaration of Lithuanian independence.
A large number of the partisans had been members and founders of earlier organizations resisting occupation and their biographies can’t help but go back to the years of 1940 and 1941, where ties with the LAF are sought and found. When these connections are discovered, it is loudly proclaimed these partisans were Nazi collaborators, with the LAF named rather confidently as pro-Nazi by the propaganda machine.
That this is libel even patriotically-minded historians fear to say. Their strategy is to justify, saying the partisans didn’t belong to the LAF. By thinking this way, not only do we hand over half of the resistance into the hands of the slanderers, but more importantly, we condescend to the grotesque lie and betray the truth. We shouldn’t make excuses, but rather recognize this chain of lies, and tell the public, especially the young people, and our foreign partners about it. We have to break this chain, because actually it never existed before. It is being wrought today, by agents inimical to Lithuania.
When I came to the parliament in 2016, I understood very well this situation is intolerable, the situation wherein we leave state historical memory policy to go its own way. I had people who thought the same way, who also understood and heard my arguments. That’s why the Commission on State Historical Memory was resurrected in the Lithuanian parliament in 2017. To strengthen this line of thinking, a year later we joined it with another commission with topical overlap but until then just a temporary commission, the Commission on Battles for Freedom.
For the first time the Commission on Battles for Freedom and State Historical Memory became permanent, not just temporary, thus having a completely different status and different opportunities. Issues of historical memory, teaching the historical truth in the education system and educating the public, became, for the first time even, a state priority. This has formed a basis for resisting operations against Lithuania and, just as importantly, for reinvigorating positive activity, to teach about and celebrate our nation’s historical memory. All the same, it’s necessary to continue to investigate and expose those who have committed crimes against humanity.
It is obvious this is only the beginning. Our work won’t be finished as long as this “Nazi chain” forged by the propaganda directed against all of us is removed.
Full text in Lithuanian here.