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Lithuanian-Bolshevist War - January 1919 - 12 July 1920

In their withdrawal, by a historic disregard of fair play, the Germans not merely refused to put at the disposal of the Lithuanian authorities the necessary means of defence, but under a military convention allowed the Bolshevist troops to march into evacuated zones at a mean distance of 10 kilometers. They were by this procedure moreover, directly violating the terms of the Armistice concluded with the Entente Powers on 11 November 1918.

Thus in lieu of the German appeared the Bolshevist menace. The Voldemar administration resigned on 26 December 1918, the new premier, M. Slezevicius, widening the Cabinet on coalition lines. Prof. Voldemar, whom the precarious situation of the country and the approaching Peace Conference called to Paris, served as Foreign Minister, M. Yeas as Finance Minister, M. Velykis as Minister of War. In January 1919 the near approach of the Bolsheviks to Vilna caused the removal of the Government to Kovno. Owing to this menace of the enemy and disputes over very urgent questions the Provisional National Assembly was elected with difficulty, but in session at Kaunas (Kovno) from January 16-23 Ioiq it recognized the Council of State ("Taryba") and the Slezevicius Cabinet as the regular Government of Lithuania, which had the confidence of the country.

Thereupon, although large stretches of territory were still in enemy occupation, the Taryba voted the provisional constitution, elected A. Smetona President of the State, and composed the statute for the election of the Constituent Assembly by universal, equal, direct and secret franchise according to a proportional system based on d'Hondt's distributive principle which contains elaborate safeguards against the tyranny of the majority.

Lithuania being essentially an agricultural country, as has been shown elsewhere, possessing a peasantry passionately attached to the land, Bolshevik propaganda has never stood the slightest chance of gaining a real hold upon the popular imagination. This fact was most strikingly shown during the contact between Lithuanian and Russian troops in Vilnius at the time of the joint occupation following the withdrawal of the Poles. The Soviet Revkoms (Revolutionary Committees) made desperate efforts to undermine the strong national feeling of the Lithuanian common soldier and by meetings and pamphlets appealed fervently to his class consciousness, but in vain.

Despite the most painful conditions, national defence began to be organized at first in the form of volunteers and afterwards by regular troops. Under these circumstances the Bolshevist advance reached its culminating point in May 1919, when the Soviet armies occupied Telshi and Shavii in the north and Olita in the south, thus threatening Kovno itself. Until September 1919 fighting took place against the Bolshevist forces, which were successfully cleared out of the northern districts of the country, and until December 1919 against the so-called Bermondt troops, and sporadically all through 1920 against Polish units.

The Constituent Assembly, or "Seimas," composed of 112 members, met on 15 May 1920. The President of the State, the National Council and the Cabinet resigned, and, all power passing to the assembly, the provisional Government gave way to the permanent Government.

In the summer of 1920 the Bolsheviki got the upper hand and drove the Poles back to their own frontiers, and the Lithuanians received the Soviet troops as deliverers from foreign tyranny. The state of war with Soviet Russia, however, continued until the Peace Treaty of 12 July 1920, whereunder the Soviet and Lithuanian Governments by which Lithuania was granted not only Vilna but also Grodno, Suwalki and Augustowo, cities southwest of Vilna, and a hundred miles nearer Warsaw. Lithuania received three million rubles in gold and 100,000 hectares of forest land for exploitation. Lithuania was bound under her treaty with Russia to observe strict neutrality in the event of war involving that country.

An agreement was concluded on 12 July 1920 between The Letts, the neighboring nation on the north of Lithuania, also concluded, 11 August 1920, a treaty with the Soviet by which the boundaries of Latvia were clearly defined and its independence recognized.



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Page last modified: 06-11-2012 17:16:08 ZULU