6. Russia/Lithuania (1905-1920)


Crisis Phase (January 24 1905-November 30, 1918): Lithuanian workers demonstrated against the Russian government on January 24-29, 1905.  Lithuanian demonstrators clashed with government troops in Vilnius on October 15-17, 1905, resulting in the deaths of some 24 individuals.  Emperor Nicholas II granted civil liberties and a Duma to Russian citizens on October 17, 1905.  The 2,000-member Lithuanian Assembly (Seimas) chaired by Jonas Basanavicius convened in Vilnius on December 4, 1905, and the Seimas demanded autonomy for Lithuania on December 6, 1905.  Seven Lithuanian delegates attended the sessions of the Russian Duma from March 5 to June 15, 1907.  The Lithuanian National Assembly proclaimed a constitution on August 1, 1914.  German troops launched a military offensive against Russian troops in western Lithuania in April 1915, and German troops captured Vilnius on September 18-19, 1915.  The Lithuanian National Assembly chaired by Jonas Basanavicius convened in Vilnius on September 17, 1917, and the National Assembly demanded independence from Russia on September 23, 1917. The Lithuanian National Assembly established the 20-member Lithuanian National Council (Taryba) headed by Antanas Smetona on September 23, 1917.  Sweden, Switzerland, and the US provided diplomatic assistance (diplomatic recognition) to the National Council. The National Council formally declared the independence of Lithuania from Russia on December 11, 1917 and February 16, 1918.  Bolshevik Russian troops invaded Lithuania on February 17, 1918.  Bolshevik Russia recognized Lithuanian independence as a result of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk signed on March 3, 1918.  Germany recognized Lithuanian independence on March 23, 1918.  The Lithuanian Council  proclaimed the Kingdom of Lithuania on July 9, 1918, and the council elected German Duke Wilhelm von Urach as King Mindaugas II of Lithuania on July 13, 1918 (the election was revoked by the Lithuanian Council on November 2, 1918).  Augustinas Voldemaras formed a government as prime minister on November 11, 1918.

Conflict Phase (December 1, 1918-August 25, 1919):  Bolshevik Russian troops invaded Lithuania on December 1, 1918.  Bolsheviks proclaimed the Provisional Lithuanian Government of Workers and Peasants headed by Vincas Mickevicius-Kapsukas on December 8, 1918.  Bolshevik Russia recognized the communist government of Lithuania on December 22, 1918.  On December 20, 1918, Antanas Smetona and Prime Minister Voldemaras went to Germany to request military assistance.  German troops withdrew from Vilnius on December 31, 1918, and Bolshevik Russian troops occupied Vilnius on January 5-6, 1919.  Germany sent some 10,000 German volunteers to Lithuania in January 1919.  Lithuanian troops and Bolshevik Russian troops engaged in military hostilities beginning on February 10, 1919.  Antanas Smetona was elected president by the Lithuanian National Council on April 12, 1919.  Polish troops liberated Vilnius on April 19-20, 1919.  Bolshevik Russian and Lithuanian representatives agreed to a cessation of military hostilities on August 25, 1919.  Some 2,500 Lithuanian soldiers were killed during the conflict.

Post-Conflict Phase (August 26, 1919-August 8, 1920):  Lithuanian troops defeated anti-Bolshevik (“White”) Russian troops commanded by General Pavel Bermondt-Avalov near Radviliskis on November 21-22, 1919.  Anti-Bolshevik Russian troops withdrew from Lithuania on December 15, 1919.  German troops completed their withdrawal from Klaipeda (Memel) on February 12, 1920, and French troops occupied Klaipeda on February 12, 1920.  Elections for the Constituent Assembly were held on April 14-15, 1920, and the Christian Democratic Bloc won 59 out of 112 seats in the assembly.  The Peasant Union (PU) and Socialist Populist Democratic Party (SPDP) coalition won 28 seats in the assembly.  Bolshevik Russian and Lithuanian representatives began negotiations in  Moscow on May 7, 1920.  The Constituent Assembly convened in Kaunas on May 15, 1920, and approved a provisional constitution on June 10, 1920. Casimir Grinius formed a government as prime minister on June 10, 1920.  Poland provide de facto recognition of Lithuania on July 4, 1920.  Lithuanian and Bolshevik Russian representatives signed the Treaty of Moscow on July 12, 1920, which provided for Bolshevik Russian recognition of Lithuanian independence.  Bolshevik Russian troops launched a military offensive against Polish troops in Vilnius in July 1920, resulting in the capture of Vilnius on July 14, 1920.  The Lithuanian parliament ratified the Treaty of Moscow on August 8, 1920.

[Sources: Chase 1946; Gerutis 1969; Langer, 1972, 1040-1041; Page 1959.]