Act of the Re-Establishment of the State of Lithuania

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 signed by the members of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania, proclaimed the re-establishment of Lithuania's independence on March 11, 1990.


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 Poland which lasted until the 18th century, when the Russian Empire extended its control over the entire Baltic region - Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia. The collapse of the Russian Empire 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 Union 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 Siberia 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" ("No to 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.


By the fall of 1988, protest demonstrations were organized to demand sovereignty. These demonstrations included one in Vingis Park 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 [Signatarai. [ ] ] 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:cquote


:::::::::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 February 16, 1918 of the Council of Lithuania and the Constituent Assembly decree of May 15, 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. [Lietuvos Respublikos Seimas. [ Supreme Council - Reconstituent Seimas 1990 - 1992] ]


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.

Iceland was the first to recognize Lithuanian independence on February 11, 1991 [United Nations. "Core document forming part of the reports of states parties : Lithuania." 1 October 1998. Accessed February 20, 2008. [] ] . After the failed August Coup, it was followed by the United States on September 2. President George H.W. Bush announced that if Russia was 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: Hungary, Bulgaria, Italy, Canada, Poland, Malta, San Marino, Portugal, Romania, Ukraine, Latvia and Estonia. 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 [Lietuvos Nepriklausomos Valstybes atstatymo Aktas. [] ] are among the most important in Lithuania’s history. They opened expanded possibilities for the country’s financial, cultural, scientific, and political well being and growth. As a result, Lithuanian citizens are now enjoying basic rights of free speech and democratic representation. Lithuanians celebrate both dates with respect, national pride, and appreciation for the sacrifices made by their fellow countrymen. On those days the national flag is proudly displayed, and the Lithuanian anthem can be heard throughout the land.


Further reading

*The Oxford Companion to Politics of the Word (p.69, 70), Edited by Joel Krieger, Copyright 1993 by the Oxford University
*Background Notes on Countries of the Word 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(p.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
*Lietuvos Kelias į Nepriklausomybę

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