bnn.lv Latviski   bnn-news.com English   bnn-news.ru По-русски
Saturday 21.10.2017 | Name days: Severīns, Urzula
LithuaniaLithuania

Lithuania on January 13, 1991: what if Soviets had seized power that night?

FaceBook
Twitter
Draugiem
print
(No Ratings Yet)

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU

Linas Jegelevičius for the BNN

As Lithuania is commemorating the solemn 25th anniversary of the massacre on January 13, 1991, when 14 innocent defenders of Vilnius Television Tower were crushed to death by the Soviet tanks, few have ever given a thought on how different the path of the fledgling state would have been if the Soviet troops had seize power in Vilnius that night.

Would it have marked a new indefinite period of occupation and repressions? How much longer and steeper would the path to freedom have been?

Emphasis of State Defence Plan on massive non-cooperation

Andrius Butkevičius, deputy of Lithuania’s Supreme Council-Restoration Seimas during 1990-1992, the first Defence Minister and a key figure in Lithuania’s Interim Defence Command in charge of organization of state defence in 1990-1991, told BNN that most mistakenly tend to relate the-then state’s defence with the Supreme Council’s defence when speaking of the tragic night.

«Certainly, the focus then was on some key objects, the building of Supreme Council including, but we had drawn up an extensive defence plan in case of the nation’s new annexation before January 13, 1991. Its emphasis was on engagement of as a large mass of people in resistance against the Soviets as possible. We called it a single massive non-cooperation action that had to be coordinated from a Lithuanian government in exile had the Soviets seized power in the country during the tumultuous times,» Butkevičius told.

A single Soviet tank or plenty of them in a square do not suffice to exercise authority on the population, he underlined.

«In order to impose rule on a state a whole lot more than military might needs to be employed. People must either fear or respect authority that governs them, assist and collaborate with it. The nation back in the 1990s was already flying high on the spirit of freedom. For any aggressor, it would have been extremely hard or impossible to quench and root it out from the peoples’ consciousness,» the first Defence minister of restored state now believes.

Even if the Supreme Council had been occupied and all the deputies and Government members had been driven out, it would have not meant an end to the state, Butkevičius insisted.

«Anticipating that all the events can take a very dangerous turn and facing possibly new occupation of the state, we had formed an interim government that was supposed to operate in exile. In case of a state emergency, Vytautas Landsbergis, the chairman of Supreme Council- Restoration Seimas, Danutė Prunskienė, the Prime Minister, and Algirdas Saudargas, the Foreign Affairs minister, had to be swiftly transported to Poland to operate from there. We had hammered out agreement on that with the-then Polish Government,» remembered Butkevičius, a defence expert now consulting Ukraine.

Western journalists were an enormous force

Being one of the spearheads of the defence plan and one of its chief executioners, Butkevičius had a special mission in the scheme: boost the nation’s morale through global media networks in the West. Government members in exile, societal leaders and political friends in the West had to psyche up Lithuanians through the means of communication for a full-scale all-involving resistance, a

«The plan envisioned that, in case of new annexation, we would exert all possible efforts in getting the Western media’s full attention. Therefore the Western journalists covering events in Lithuania were seen as nuggets in the plan. They were granted entry to Lithuania by the Soviet secret service, KGB, but it had no means to affect what the journalists were shown in Lithuania, or what they would air from here. Those continuous TV coverages, especially live broadcasts by the biggest Western television networks like CNN and BBC have proved to be an enormous force in sending out a very powerful message to the West and the societies,» Butkevičius emphasized.

He says the Soviets were very perplexed not being able to do anything about that.

«There was Mikhail Gorbachev in Russia and they did not dare to go to extreme lengths in cordoning Lithuania off from foreign journalists. With the journalists blasting the Soviet system and heralding our striving of freedom, power was slipping off the KGB hands every day, every minute,» he noted. «Before the tragic night of January 13, the West had been rallying about Gorbachev, but after the night, there was quite a new situation: the West turned its back to him and fully embraced the Baltic nation and its quest for freedom. That was a defining moment.»

Tanks were a means of intimidation

Asked whether the Soviets would have run tanks against the peaceful demonstrators in the square at the Supreme Council, the defence analyst told that a «comprehensive package of military measures» would have likely been used if there had been a command to attack the Lithuanian Parliament.

«It is hard to tell how far aggressor would have gone. I reckon that the rattling tanks in proximity of the Parliament served as a means of intimidation first of all,» the analyst ponders today.

«Soviet generals assessing what was going on in Vilnius had to deal with a mind-blowing phenomenon: the people in the square were not frightened by the tanks. Aware and wary of a big toll of casualties had the tanks proceeded onto the square full of people, the planners must have considered a variety of softer measures first of all, the defence analyst believes.

“It could include immense psychological pressure, use of tear gas and et cetera. The tanks would have been employed too in making the way to the heavily-reinforced Parliament,» Butkevičius is convinced.

Using tanks, it was inevitable to avoid multiple casualties, which would have dealt the Soviets a devastating blow on the international arena.

«As far as I know, the Soviets’ plan to occupy the Parliament included meticulously calculated synchronic foray of paratroopers into the building through the underground communication network and the roof,» Butkevičius said.

Ukraine’s path to freedom is similar to Lithuania’s

Personally in charge of Supreme Council’s chairman Vytautas Landsbergis, Butkevičius reveals now he had laid out a special plan for his and Prime Minister Danutė Prunskienė’s retreat in case the Parliament is occupied.

«But both of them refused to follow it. It foresaw their transportation to Poland using Lithuanian aviation. I do not want to go into details now as far as what type of aviation transport had to be used for the purpose, but the plan was real and feasible,» Butkevičius asserted.

One of the fulcrums of the restored state’s defence now spends most of his time in Ukraine consulting the Government on defence issues.

«The situation we see in Ukraine is pretty much analogous to that we had in the early 1990s. Like us, Ukrainians used civil disobedience-based techniques in overthrowing the Viktor Yanukovych regime. Like us, they shed off their blood on the way to freedom, but, again a similarity, it has been gained with a loss of life that, under other circumstances, would have been much bigger,» former Defence minister believes.

Massive tear gas attack was most plausible

Darius Petrošius, a Lithuanian MP and chairman of the Lithuanian Parliament’s Commission for Parliamentary Scrutiny of Operative Activities (CPSOA), believes that no repeated annexation of Lithuania would have quashed the spirit of freedom.

«Sąjūdis (Lithuania’s national movement for change in the late 1980s and early 1990s-L.J) was an extremely powerful force that even the ubiquitous special Soviet services could not reign in. It they had succeeded in seizing the Parliament that tragic night, I don’t think they would have retained power for long. The yearning for freedom and independence was too big to quell it,» Petrošius told BNN.

He says he finds it hard even today to accept the idea of Soviet tanks could have been sent to the Parliament square.

«It’s hard to speculate what the hostile forces had planned, but I reckon that a more plausible scenario of occupying the Parliament could have been this: special paratrooper units might have been ordered to enter the building with a simultaneous massive tear gas attack used to clear the square.
Perhaps some acoustic attacks could be used too to disperse the people, too. The tanks, of course, would have been employed too, but, again, I find it hard to believe they could roll onto the people. Remember, all the Western TV cameras were zeroing in on what was going in the square.»

And if the combat vehicles had proceeded onto the crowd, numbers of lost life could reach hundreds.

«I’d say that we would have not found out the real scope of casualties. It would not have reflected in any statistics then,» the parliamentarian is convinced.

Spirit of freedom was flying too high

Alvydas Ziabkus, journalist of daily «Lietuvos Rytas», also believes that, at the end of the day, Lithuania would have come out victorious against the crumbling Soviet Union.

«Freedom might have waited longer, but the quest for it could not be stifled. Especially after the August coup (In August 1991, Soviet hardliners futilely attempted to overthrow Mikhail Gorbachev, Secretary General of the Communist Party, in a desperate attempt to save the collapsing Soviet Union-L.J),» Ziabkus told BNN.

Administratively, he says the Soviets have taken over key sites and symbols of power in Vilnius and Lithuania, but the spirit of freedom had encompassed too a big mass of people, so to get it out of the people’s minds and hearts was an impossible task.

«I believe the way how the hostile troops could be acting on the premises of the Lithuanian Parliament could be similar to the way the Soviet army acted at the Russian Parliament during coup against Gorbachev in August of 1991.

«There were shots, skirmishes and a few casualties there with the military’s indecisiveness lingering in the air. But Vilnius, I reckon, was at a bigger risk, because some of the generals, farther from Moscow, could act on their own then,» Ziabkus believes.

Ref: 020/111.111.111.3112


Leave a reply

Professor: by taking money away from science, the state shoots itself in the foot

The matter regarding insufficient funding for science has recently become more topical in the public space. President of Latvian Academy of Sciences Ojārs Spārītis is rather critical of the situation: Latvia has lied to the European Union and European Commission about making sure that funding for science reaches 1.5% of GDP by 2020.

To prevent fraud, audit of MPC recipients to be performed in Latvia

Latvian Economy Ministry intends to perform an audit of mandatory procurement component recipients and use new regulations to combat fraudulent activities, as confirmed by Economy Minister Arvils Ašeradens.

Rail Baltic procurements to be processed using Electronic Procurements System

Following the changes to Latvian Republic’s Public Procurements Law, all new procurements for Rail Baltica administered by RB RAIL will be processed using a free electronic information system and its e-contest subsystem.

Estonian construction price index pushed up by wages

The construction price index in Estonia has in July-September of 2017 increased by 0.9% in comparison to second quarter this year and by 1.7% from July-September of 2016, Estonian statisticians have estimated.

Surplus of Latvia’s government budget reached 9.5 million euros in 2016

In 2016 general government budget surplus accounted for EUR 9.5 million or 0.04 % of the Gross Domestic Product, whereas general government consolidated gross debt amounted to EUR 10 091.6 million or 40.6 % of the GDP.

Latvia to invest EUR 5.9 million into formation of unified port network

Ports of Riga planning region and Kurzeme planning region have commenced an important tourism project. The goal of this project is creating a unified yacht port network in Latvia and Estonia with quality services that would allow developing sailing tourism and attract foreign sailing enthusiasts in the future, reports the regions’ representative Inese Ozoliņa.

Graft-suspected Tartu deputy mayors resign

In Estonia's second largest city, Tartu, Deputy Mayors Artjom Suvorov and Valvo Semilarski have stepped down from office, Estonian press reported, after the politicians were arrested under suspicion of graft.

Expert: workers of Latvia’s NGO sector have high ‘burnout’ risk

Workers of Latvia’s NGO sector have a high burnout risk, said once the director of Providus Dace Akule in an interview to Latvijas Radio.

Producer: many young people come to work in the film industry

Latvia’s film industry has been steadily growing these past several years, and it is especially gratifying that many young people are coming to work in the industry, says director and producer, representative of Film Angels Productions Jānis Kalējs.

Pollution blamed for every sixth premature death globally

Nine million premature deaths globally in 2015 are said to be related to pollution, a study has found pointing to presence of harmful matter in air, water and workplace as the three main risk factors.

Infectologist: influenza kills biologically the weakest, including children and pregnant women

Influenza is an infection that affects both children and adults. However, it kills those who are biologically weak, says Immunization State Council chairperson and infectologist of Children’s Vaccination Centre Dace Zavadska.

Investor activity made easier between Latvia and Vietnam

An intergovernmental agreement has been signed between the Republic of Latvia and Socialist Republic of Vietnam on prevention of double taxation and tax avoidance in relation to income tax.

Colder masses of air to enter Latvia in coming days; precipitation to be limited

Although high atmospheric pressure will be present above Latvia in the coming days, southern regions in Latvia will experience short-term precipitation on Saturday, 12 October, caused by the cyclone active above Poland. Colder masses of air will enter Latvia in the coming days.

Maltese journalist said to be killed by remotely-controlled explosive

Officials in Malta have unveiled it is assumed that investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered by an explosive places under her car, which was detonated remotely.

Prime Minister: Latvia cannot accept additional asylum seekers

Latvia cannot afford to resettle additional asylum seekers, said Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis during his meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Thursday, 19 October.

Scandinavians purchase tourism company in Lithuania; changes expected in Latvia too

Dutch Otravo online travel organization has expanded and has purchased Lithuanian online travel agency Interno Partneris, thereby entering the Baltic market.

Ombudsman: non-citizen status matter should be resolved in next decade

The next ten years may be the transition period to ‘put an end’ to the non-citizen status in Latvia, said ombudsman Juris Jansons in an interview to LTV programme Rīta panorama.

Swedish Foreign Minister: harassment exists at highest political level

The Foreign Affairs Minister of Sweden, Margot Wallström, has commended the current sexual assault and harassment awareness campaign in social media and urged to fellow politicians to address the problem.

Latvenergo recognized as Latvia’s most valuable company for tenth time

Latvenergo has been recognized as Latvia’s most valuable company in 2017. Its value grew 34% in comparison with 2016, according to the TOP 101 list of Latvia’s most valuable companies compiled by Prudentia and Nasdaq Riga.

Number of births and number of deaths decline in Latvia

During the first nine months of this year 15,723 babies were born in Latvia, which is 1,113 children fewer than in the corresponding period of the last year.

CC applies binding conditions for the sale of MTG Broadcasting AB

Latvian Competition Council has decided to permit Bite Lietuva to purchase MTG Broadcasting AB group’s businesses in Latvia. CC has applied several binding conditions to prevent a possible impact on competition on the television services and advertisement market.

Eesti Energia warns: Limiting CO2 emissions on capacity could endanger energy supply

Estonian energy giant Eesti Energia has evaluated that a plan under discussion in the European Union to introduce a carbon dioxide release limit for capacity mechanisms to qualify for subsidies could adversely affect the security of supply in Estonia and the Baltic states.

Solidarity tax norm recognized as non-compliant with Latvia’s Constitution

On Thursday, 19 October, the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Latvia declared the Solidarity tax norm as non-compliant with the country’s Constitution.

Survey: Riga residents go to the doctor’s the most often

34% of residents undergo regular health checks, according to Mana Aptieka & Apotheka health index. In addition, women are twice as serious about health checks as men.

LG cozies up with idea of rebuilding railway tracks to Reņģe, Latvia

Lithuania‘s Lietuvos Geležinkeliai has sent a mixed message as to what it intends to do next following an EC fine of nearly 28 million against it over the dismantling a 19-km railway stretch with the Latvian village of Rengė.