Sunday, November 17, 2019

A Comparison of Two Lithuanian Meetings Moscow TV May Regret Making

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 14 – The Kremlin’s First Channel has attacked the just completed Seventh Free Russia Forum in Vilnius for sharing the program of Lithuania’s Forest Brothers who after World War II fought for the restoration of that Baltic country’s independence. Moscow TV even suggested that the Free Russia Forum participants should be called “City Brothers.”

            According to the channel, those who met in an underground conference in 1949 and those who assembled very publicly in 2019 shared the same central focus and the same guiding principle --“the dismemberment of Russia” (

            “To polemicize with propagandists of the First Channel naturally is a fool’s errand,” Russian commentator Andrey Illarionov says. But its latest attack provides the occasion to talk about what was really the main goals of the Movement of Fighters of the Liberation of Lithuania (

            That movement had as its goals “the creation of an independent, free and democratic Lithuania,” on the basis of the principles of the Atlantic Charter and the UN Declaration of Human Rights, and US President Harry Truman’s Four Freedoms and Twelve Points, the commentator continues.

            The Movement of Fighters for the Liberation of Lithuania was created on July 10, 1948 by Brigadier General Jonas Žemaitis, who had adopted the nom de guerre of Vitautas. In February 1949 at a village near Šiauliai, he held a congress of partisan commanders who adopted a declaration concerning the movement’s political goals.

            Illarionov provides both a photostat of the original declaration and a translation into Russian of its provisions.  They fully conformed to the democratic principles that Lithuania after decades of struggle has succeeded in living up to now that it has recovered its de facto independence from the empire centered on Moscow.

            Given the central role of Žemaitis, Soviet security agencies did everything they could to capture him.  But despite pressure and the arrests of his family and acquaintances, they did not succeed until after he had suffered a stroke and was incapacitated. Then, four years after the declaration, he was arrested on May 30, 1953, taken to Moscow and shot in November 1954.

             On March 11, 1990, following the Sajudis victory in Lithuanian elections that led to the declaration of the restoration of Lithuanian independence, the Vilnius authorities decided to name Lithuania’s military academy in his honor.  Then, in 2009, he was officially proclaimed to have been the fourth president of the Lithuanian Republic (1949-1954).

            The just completed Free Russia Forum has a long way to go to match the heroism of President Žemaitis, but there is no question that there is a remarkable continuity between his ideals that ultimately triumphed and those that participants in the Forum are seeking to achieve, one Moscow may regret drawing attention to. 

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