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Chronology for Russians in Lithuania

Publisher Minorities at Risk Project
Publication Date 2004
Cite as Minorities at Risk Project, Chronology for Russians in Lithuania, 2004, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/469f38b6c.html [accessed 21 October 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
Date(s) Item
1101 - 1400 The Baltic peoples coexisted with their neighbors to the East and West until the 12th century when the organization and military prowess of the Scandinavians, Germanic peoples and Slavs surpassed their own. The Danes had conquered the Estonians, but by the middle of the 14th century, both Estonia and much of present-day Latvia (the area known as Livonia) came into the realm of the Teutonic Order. The hierarchy of German landowners persisted through even the rule by the Russian Empire.
1301 - 1800 Meanwhile, the Lithuanians were finding success against the Teutonic Order and even were able to expand their control to Belorussia and Russian cities such as Kiev and Smolensk. Early in the 15th century, the Lithuanians began allying with the Poles and became formal allies in 1569. They would not be separated as such until the final partition in 1795. In 1721, the Treaty of Nystad marked the formal absorption of Estonia and Livonia (Latvia) into the Russian Empire. However, the southern regions remained in Lithuanian (and thereby Polish) control until 1795 when the final partition of Poland placed Lithuania into the Russian Empire (see Hiden and Salmon, pp.10-13).
1801 - 1900 During the 19th century, the program of Russification brought an end to the privileged status of Germans in the regions of Estonia and Latvia. Czar Alexander III, in 1885, instituted Russian as the compulsory language of government. It also led to large-scale migration of Russian peasants into Latvia and Estonia. Meanwhile, the Lithuanians were experiencing even more severe forms of Russification. The local nobility had estates confiscated and distributed to the peasants and the Lithuanian language was repressed. The rural nature of Lithuania limited migration there from Russia.
1918 After the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Revolutionary government of Soviet Russia ceded the Baltic region to Germany in its armistice. Upon the defeat of Germany in World War I, each of the republics gained full independence, and by 1919 each had functioning sovereign governments.
Apr 19, 1919 Polish forces entered and established control over the Vilnius region of Lithuania, claiming it as historically Polish territory.
Jul 1 - Oct 31, 1920 The Lithuanian government accepted the help of the Soviet Russian government in evicting the Poles from the Vilnius region by August. In October, they signed the Treaty of Suwalki, designating the Vilnius region as Lithuanian; however, the Poles immediately marched back into Vilnius and maintained control until 1939.
Aug 23, 1939 The Molotov-Ribbentrob Non-Aggression Pact was signed between Germany and the Soviet Union. The effect of this pact was to divide up Eastern Europe for conquest by the two powers, and so by the summer of 1940, Soviet troops had seized control of the governments of the Baltic Republics.
1945 - 1960 After World War II, Stalinization led to a policy of heavy industrialization in the Baltics which led to massive immigration of non-Baltic peoples (mainly Russians) into Latvia and Estonia. Environmental damage to Estonia and Latvia was also more severe than that to Lithuania. The militarization of these strategically vital republics also contributed to the mass immigration. The immigrants were mostly military and blue-collar workers and they settled in urban areas taking mostly low-skill, menial labor. This has contributed to a sense of cultural superiority among native Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians.
1981 - 1990 Immigration continued after industrialization and planned immigration was abandoned due to the better living conditions found in the Baltics. Latvia has come on the verge of losing its ethnic majority. Many large cities have non-Latvian majorities.
Oct 1 - Nov 30, 1988 First of pro-Russian groups forms in Lithuania to promote and protect Russian rights. The group is part of a larger umbrella group called, Yedinstvo. A Russian Cultural Center is opened in Lithuania to promote Russian history and culture in November.
Feb 1989 80,000 Russians demonstrate in opposition to Lithuania's independence. The demonstration was organized by Yedinstvo (Unity), a pro-Russian and pro-Kremlin group.
Sep 1989 Yedinstvo closes headquarters and ceases to be active as a civic or political organization.
Mar 11, 1990 Lithuania declares its sovereignty and intention to re-establish independence.
Jun 1990 Approximately 5,000 Russian demonstrators meet near Vilnius. The rally was set up by the pro-Moscow group, Unity.
Jan 7, 1991 Approximately 2,000 to 5,000 demonstrators, both ethnic Russians and Poles, rally outside the Supreme Council in Vilnius. They called for a halt to moves towards independence.
Jan 13, 1991 Russian activists attack a Lithuania border checkpoint. Later, the activists are arrested and charged with rebellion and attempting to unseat the Lithuanian government.
Jan 14, 1991 Interior Ministry troops storm a radio station in Vilnius, killing 14. Lithuanians throughout the country protest the killings.
Feb 8, 1991 Lithuania holds a referendum on its independence drive over the objections of Moscow and its own Russian and Polish minorities.
Jul 29, 1991 Lithuania and Russia reach agreement allowing citizenship for Russians in Lithuania. The agreement grants citizenship to all Russians who were residents of Lithuania prior to the agreement. The result is that over 90% of the Russian minority in Lithuania qualify for citizenship.
Aug 19, 1991 The failed coup attempt against Gorbachev by Soviet hardliners allows the Baltics to establish independence and obtain recognition from the world community. After Yeltsin takes over from Gorbachev and dissolves the Soviet Union (December 1991), he officially recognizes the Baltic Republics. Russian groups in the predominantly Russian region of Visaginas (formerly Snieckus) are accused of backing the coup. The Lithuanian government in Vilnius disbands the local council in the Visaginas, and imposes direct rule upon them, appointing an ethnic-Russian administrator.
Nov 1991 Yedinstvo leader, Valeriy Ivanov is arrested with seven others in connection to the January unrest which threatened to topple the Lithuanian government.
Dec 11, 1991 Lithuania passes citizenship laws requiring immigrants since 1940 to meet language requirements in addition to being a resident for at least 10 years and renunciation of former citizenship. The effect of this law is minimal due to the July 29, 1991 agreement with Russia (well over 90% of non-Lithuanian ethnics are granted citizenship in 1991).
Jul 1992 The Helsinki Final Document calls for full withdrawal of Soviet troops from the Baltic Republics.
Sep 8, 1992 Lithuania and Russia sign an agreement guaranteeing withdrawal of Russian troops from Lithuania.
Oct 29, 1992 Boris Yeltsin halts the withdrawal of troops from all of the Baltic Republics over demands for compensation from the Baltic republics and to show concerns for the Russian minorities there.
Nov 1992 Yeltsin appeals to the U.N., citing human rights violations against Russian minorities in Baltics.
Nov 22, 1992 The local government elections are held. Polish groups charge that the elections were held in an atmosphere of "moral terror" even though turnout of Polish-Lithuanians in the Polish regions was estimated at 80% (Polish News Bulletin, Nov. 24, 1992). Turnout in Visaginas is well below the 50% threshold, so parliament dismisses the councils with new elections to be called for the districts later.
Feb 14, 1993 Elections are held in Lithuania for the remainder of the disbanded district councils that did not get filled in November. Turnout in Visaginas still does not break the 50% threshold, so the central government administrator continues to govern the district.
Aug 22, 1993 Russia renounces a promise to complete the withdrawal of its final troops from Lithuania.
Aug 30, 1993 Russia resumes withdrawal from Lithuania and completes it by the agreed upon deadline.
Apr 15, 1994 Lithuania's Constitutional Court overruled an amendment to the citizenship law which allowed ex-Soviet servicemen to obtain Lithuanian citizenship.
May 4, 1994 A group of eight Yedinstvo and Communist Party activists are sentenced for their parts in the unrest of January 1991. Moscow has called for their release and refers to them as "political prisoners."
May 12, 1994 The Lithuanian Parliament decides that social organizations, such as the Union of Poles, will not be allowed to field candidates in the upcoming local elections in November. They are required to register as political organizations. Polish parliamentary deputies support the decision.
Jun 9, 1994 The Lithuanian Polish Union, the Russian community, the Society of the BelaRussian Language in the Vilnius region and the Fund for Russian Culture have urged President Algirdas Brazauskas to introduce amendments to the law on elections to local councils adopted by the Seimas on 31st May. The organizations claim that the new law, which bans social organizations from participation in local elections, is an unfair restriction which targets minorities. Most of the groups that represent minority interests are not official political parties, but are set up as social organizations. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts. 7/14/94)
Nov 6, 1994 A railway bridge 35km west of Vilnius was blown up and almost completely destroyed. No casualties were reported. The parliament chairman and the premier regard the act as "terrorism and sabotage". Four versions of the blowing up of the bridge, all involving Russia or Russians, are under investigation by law and order officers. It was thought that the bridge could have been blown up by the former Vilnius OMON (special-purpose militia) "to mark the 77th anniversary of the Bolshevik coup d'etat in Russia". Another thought was that the act could have been carried out by extremist Lithuanian right-wing forces to impede an agreement with Russia on military transit. Yet another theory was that the bridge could have been blown up by Russia's special services so that Russia could prove the insecurity of railways passing through Lithuanian territory, making it easier to obtain Western credit to build the Kaliningrad - St Petersburg ferry line. According to the fourth theory, the explosion could be linked to the murder trial of journalist Vytas Lingys. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 11/9/94)
Dec 8, 1994 Petr Frolov, the chairman of the Lithuanian Russian community, has told the ELTA agency that a party of national minorities will be founded in Lithuania. The citizens of Lithuania of various nationalities will be able to join the party and to integrate into the official life of Lithuania. The party will take part in the presidential, Seimas and local government elections. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 12/8/94)
Feb 10, 1995 The Russian community in Lithuania has claimed that the Russian and Lithuanian governments violate the ethnic Russians' rights to information and freedom of travel. The RSL accused the Lithuanian government of interfering with its attempts to broadcast Russian radio and television programs to Russians living in Lithuania. The RSL further accused both the Lithuanian and Russian governments of not doing enough to ensure that Russians living in Lithuania can obtain free and multiple entry visas to visit relatives who live in Russia. The RSL has stated that if the situation does not change, they will once again picket the Lithuanian Seimas and the Russian embassy in Vilnius, and will not vote for Lithuania's Democratic Party of Labour at the forthcoming elections to local government. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 2/16/95)
Apr 9, 1995 The Cabinet of Ministers of Lithuania approved the temporary agreement between the governments of Lithuania and Russia on mutual trips by citizens of the two countries. The agreement was signed in Moscow and concerned mostly residents of the Kaliningrad Region and frontier districts in which Lithuanian citizens live. In accordance with these documents, citizens of the Russian Federation permanently residing on the territory of the Kaliningrad Region, have the right to visit Lithuania for 30 days without any visa. Also Competent bodies of the two countries will grant multiple visas for one year to persons who have close relatives in the Russian Federation or Lithuania. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 3/9/95)
May 9, 1995 An act of vandalism was committed in the Lithuanian city of Siauliai on the day of the 50th anniversary of the Russian victory over the Nazis. Tombs of Soviet soldiers at the cemetery in the center of the city were doused in gasoline. The tombs were cleaned in time for an evening celebration and remembrance ceremony. The ceremony during which veterans came to the cemetery to lay flowers on soldiers' tombs was upset by demonstrators holding posters that said "The war ended for us on 31st August 1993" (the day when the last Russian troops left Lithuania) and "9th May is a holiday of lackeys". (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 5/12/95)
Jun 26, 1995 The Russian State Duma voiced a resolute protest as Lithuania refused to grant entry visas to a group of Russian MPs from the Duma committee for CIS affairs and contacts with the Russian diaspora, after town councillors of Visaginas--whose ethnic Russian community makes 80 per cent of the population--invited them for a working visit. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 6/26/95)
Aug 11, 1995 The Russian-language newspaper Ekho Litvy', published in Vilnius, is initiating a project to unite all Russians living in Lithuania in a single organization. The newspaper published an appeal to its readers asking that they support the editorial board in founding an " independent, apolitical organization or union, which would unite Russians and individuals of other ethnic groups, sharing Russian as a common native tongue". The appeal says that the organizations of ethnic minorities and the " Union of Russians in Lithuania", currently being organized, are political organizations, representing only a part of the political spectrum and aiming to participate in the governing of the country. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 8/15/95)
Aug 16, 1995 The Vilnius migration office issued residence permits to the former leader of the pro-Soviet Yedinstvo organization, Valeriy Ivanov, and several of his comrades. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 3/9/95)
Aug 31, 1995 Lithuanian leaders celebrated the second anniversary of the withdrawal of the Russian troops stationed in Lithuania. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 9/4/95)
Oct 28, 1995 A new political organization, the Union of Russians of Lithuania, held its first constituent conference. The new organization aims to "stop Russians being pushed aside from power bodies in Lithuania". The organization will also fight to change what it calls "Lithuania's one-sided orientation towards the West". (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 10/31/95)
Dec 16, 1995 A new nongovernmental organization, the Russian Assembly of Lithuania, held its constituent conference in Vilnius. The assembly approved its charter, which says that the organization is nonpolitical and includes people of different ethnic backgrounds united by the Russian language and culture. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 12/18/95)
Mar 20, 1996 The Russian Ministry for Nationalities has earmarked 200 million roubles for implementing a program to help Lithuania's Russian-speaking population. The program provides for raising the skills of teachers teaching the Russian language and Russian literature in Lithuania's Russian-language schools. Furthermore, 100 children from Russian-speaking Lithuanian families will have an opportunity to spend the summer in Kaliningrad Region's health centers and holiday camps. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 3/20/96)
Jul 9, 1996 Vilnius TV is set to broadcast special programmes for Lithuania's Russian-speaking population after it finally resolves financing problems. The station is planning to broadcast Lithuanian language lessons for Russian speakers and an information programme in Russian for those who speak very little Lithuanian or do not speak it at all. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 7/12/96)
Sep 16, 1996 The Electoral Action of the Union of Lithuanian Poles announced it is going to take part in the forthcoming elections jointly with Russian and Belarusian organizations. The list of candidates presented by the LLSRA contains 31 individuals of Polish, Russian and Belarusian nationality, including seven women. The 10 candidates at the top of the list include two Russians and a Belarusian. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 9/16/96)
Mar 12, 1997 The Lithuanian parliamentary chairman, Vytautas Landsbergis, met representatives of Lithuania's Russian organizations and promised support in resolving the community's most important problems. According to the parliamentary chairman, the major emphasis at the meeting had been on culture and education. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 3/14/97)
Apr 3, 1997 The [Lithuanian] Central Electoral Commission has confirmed the official outcome of the municipal elections that took place on 23rd March. The Lithuanian Russians Union will occupy seven of the approximately 1500 available seats. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 4/3/97)
Jul 17, 1997 Russia denounced as politically motivated the Vilnius court ruling to sentence the former leader of the pro-Soviet organization Unity, Valeriy Ivanov, to one year's imprisonment for questioning in his book "Lithuanian prison", the authenticity of the official version of the cause of human casualties [which stated that Lithuanian civilians had been killed by Soviet troops] in the January 1991 attempt by Soviet troops to seize power. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts,7/21/97)
Sep 11, 1997 The Vilnius court of appeals confirmed an earlier verdict passed on Russian citizen Valeriy Ivanov. Ivanov was sentenced to one year's imprisonment and a 17,500 dollar fine for "slandering the Lithuanian state" in his book "Lithuanian prison". (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 9/20/97)
May 2, 1998 The interior minister of Lithuania is attempting to deport Russian citizen Valeriy Ivanov, who has spoken out, and written various publications against the Lithuanian government and its treatment of the Russian minority living there. Prime Minister Vagnorius allegedly said at a closed meeting of the ruling Conservative party Homeland Union that "Valeriy Ivanov does not bother us". It is believed that the prime minister is apprehensive that Valeriy Ivanov's deportation may harm Lithuania's chances of accelerating the start of the country's EU membership talks. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 5/2/98)
Jun 30, 1998 The Lithuanian Seimas parliament today adopted a law recognizing the former USSR's KGB as a "criminal organization". The author and initiator of the draft law was parliament speaker Vytautas Landsbergis. From the day the law comes into force former KGB officials will be "prohibited for a period of 10 years" from working as officials or employees of the Republic of Lithuania in bodies of power and administration, in the defence system, the Interior Ministry, state security and other law-enforcement bodies, in customs services, or as lawyers or notaries. Nor will they be able to work as schoolteachers, in banks or at strategic economic facilities. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 7/2/98)
Nov 28, 1998 A Russian journalist, Vladimir Yakovlev, asked for a political asylum in Lithuania and received a permission to stay here temporarily. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 11/28/98)
Dec 15, 1998 The Vilnius District Court has started looking into a Russian citizen's claim against the Lithuanian Justice Ministry over the refusal to register the bylaws of a pro-Soviet organization, called Rossiya. Meshcheryakov the organizations leader said the organization's aims and methods did not contradict the Lithuanian constitution and no member of the organization belonged to any organization acting against Lithuania's independence. The Justice Ministry has said it refused to register the organization because some of its founders fought against Lithuania's independence in 1990 and 1991. Also, the groups leader, Meshcheryakov, has allegedly been active in different pro-Soviet institutions - Yedinstvo Unity , the Social Federation of Lithuanian Workers, and the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic's Citizens' Committee. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 12/16/98)
Dec 22, 1998 According to the press release issued by the Russian embassy, the situation and state of health of some Russian citizens in Lithuania raises concern among the Russian general public. The release refers to persons who have been sentenced or are being tried for antistate activities in Lithuania. The release also stated that solutions should be sought to the problems of Russian schools in Lithuania, their diminishing number, the lack of textbooks and teachers, and other problems. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 12/30/98)
Jan 14, 1999 Lithuania may take an unprecedented move and try an 84-year-old Russian citizen accused of genocide in absentia. Petras Raslanas, who is accused of organizing what is known as the Rainiai massacre, in which 76 Lithuanian civillians in northern Lithuania were killed during the early years of Soviet occupation , now lives in the Russian town of Balashikha in Moscow Region, where has been hiding from the Lithuanian authorities. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 1/14/99)
Jan 22, 1999 The leaders of 20 Lithuanian organizations, including law-enforcement agencies, schools, banks and private firms, have drawn up lists which include a total of about 50 former KGB employees. The joint commission of the State Security Department and the Genocide and Resistance Research Center said that all individuals entered on the list would be dismissed. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 1/22/99)
Feb 12, 1999 Lithuanian Communist leader Mykolas Burokevicius and others,including some citizens of the Russian Federation have been charged with conspiring to seize power in Lithuania in January 1991". The Russian state Duma has voiced its concern, and considers the charges and imprisonment of Russian citizens a violation of Lithuanian law, and of basic human rights. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 2/15/99)
Mar 19, 1999 The Russian Embassy in Vilnius has voiced its concern over "recurrent acts of vandalism against the graves of former Soviet servicemen in Lithuania" and urged the country's authorities to punish those responsible. During the most recent occurrence of vandalism, on 10th March, vandals removed two plaques from a memorial, overturned about 40 tombstones and destroyed part of the cemetery's fence. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 3/19/99)
May 3, 1999 Lithuanian border officials forced a 30-member Russian military team off a Moscow-Kaliningrad train on the Lithuanian-Belarusian border because the group did not have a Lithuanian Defence Ministry permit. Any group over three soldiers is considered to be a military brigade. Lithuania has adopted strict rules to regulate military transit across its territory. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 5/3/99)
Jul 3, 1999 Lithuanian border guards have not let a Russian military brigade enter the country due to its failure to produce a valid permit for military transit. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 7/3/99)

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