Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic (1918–1919)

Infobox Former Country
native_name = Lietuvos Tarybų Socialistinė Respublika
Литовская Советская Социалистическая Республика
conventional_long_name = Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic
common_name = Lithuanian SSR
continent = Europe
era = World War I
government_type = Socialist republic|
year_start = 1918
year_end = 1919
event_start =
date_start = 16 December 1918
event_end = Merger with SSR of Byelorussia
date_end = 27 February 1919
event_pre = Provisional revolutionary government formed
date_pre = 8 December 1918
event1 = Recognition by Soviet Russia
date_event1 = 24 December 1918
event2 = Capture of Vilnius
date_event2 = 5 January 1919
event_post =
date_post = |
p1 = Lithuania
flag_p1 = Flag of Lithuania 1918-1940.svg
s1 = Lithuanian–Belorussian Soviet Socialist Republic
flag_s1 = Flag of the Lithuanian-Byelorussian SSR.svg|

image_map_caption = |
capital = Vilnius
common_languages = Lithuanian, Russian, Belarusian, Polish, Yiddish
leader1 = Vincas Mickevičius-Kapsukas
year_leader1 = 1918–1919
title_leader = Chairman of the revolutionary government
legislature = Provisional revolutionary government

The Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic (LSSR) was an early short-lived Soviet republic declared on December 16, 1918 by the provisional revolutionary government, led by Vincas Mickevičius-Kapsukas. It ceased to exist on February 27, 1919, when it was merged with the Socialist Soviet Republic of Byelorussia to form the Lithuanian–Belorussian Soviet Socialist Republic, commonly referred to as Litbel. While efforts were made to represent LSSR as a state declared and supported by local residents, it was largely Moscow-orchestrated entity to justify the Lithuanian–Soviet War. As a Soviet historian, adhering to official propaganda, put it: "The fact that the Government of Soviet Russia recognized a young Soviet Lithuanian Republic unmasked the lie of the USA and British imperialists that Soviet Russia allegedly sought rapacious aims with regard to the Baltic countries." Lithuanians generally did not support Soviet causes and rallied for their own national state, declared independent on February 16, 1918, by the Council of Lithuania.


Germany lost World War I and signed the Compiègne Armistice on November 11, 1918. German military started retreating from the former Ober Ost territories. Two days later the government of the Soviet Russia renounced the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, which had assured Lithuania's independence.cite book|title=Transformation in Russia and International Law |url= |first=Tarja |last=Langstrom |publisher=Martinus Nijhoff Publishers |year=2003 |isbn=9004137548 |pages=52] Soviets launched a westward offensive against Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine in order to spread the global proletarian revolution and replace national independence movements with Soviet republics. [cite book| first=Norman |last=Davies |title=Europe: A History | publisher=HarperPerennial |year=1998 |isbn=0-06-097468-0 |pages=934 ] Their forces followed retreating German troops and reached Lithuania by the end of December 1918.


In Lithuania communists were not active until late summer 1918. The Communist Party of Lithuania (CPL) was organized between October 1–3, 1918, during the first Congress of the CPL in Vilnius, attended by 34 delegates.cite book| first=Constantine R. |last=Jurgėla |title=Lithuania: The Outpost of Freedom |year=1976 |publisher=Valkyrie Press |isbn=0-912760-17-6 |pages=161–165] Pranas Eidukevičius was elected as the first chairman. The party decided to follow examples set by the Russian Communist Party (bolshevik) and organize a socialist revolution in Lithuania. On December 8, CPL formed the eight-member provisional revolutionary government, led by Vincas Mickevičius-Kapsukas. Other members were: Zigmas Aleksa-Angarietis, Pranas Svotelis-Proletaras, Semyon Dimanstein, Kazimierz Cichowski, Aleksandras Jakševičius, Konstantinas Kernovičius and A. Weinstein. [cite journal| title=The Revolution in Lithuania 1918–19 | first=J. D. |last=White |journal=Soviet Studies |issue=23 |volume=2 |date=October 1971 |issn=0038-5859 |pages=192–193] Modern historians doubt if the provisional government really met in Vilnius as claimed by Soviet sources. [lt icon cite book| first=Vytautas |last=Lesčius |url= | title=Lietuvos kariuomenė nepriklausomybės kovose 1918–1920 |year=2004 |location=Vilnius |publisher=General Jonas Žemaitis Military Academy of Lithuania |series=Lietuvos kariuomenės istorija | isbn=9955-423-23-4 |pages=32] The government issued a manifesto, printed with December 16 date, declaring establishment of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic.

A draft of the manifesto, prepared by Kapsukas, stressed the need of close ties with communist Russia and ended with a slogan "Long live the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic with incorporate Soviet Lithuania!" The final version, edited by the Russian Communist Party, eliminated references to the union with icon cite book | last=Eidintas | first=Alfonsas | title=Lietuvos Respublikos prezidentai | year=1991 | publisher=Šviesa | location=Vilnius | isbn=5-430-01059-6 | pages=36] Kapsukas did not want to establish an independent Soviet republic as he had campaigned for many years against social-patriotism, separatism, and Lithuanian independence. He accepted ideas of Rosa Luxemburg and rejected the right of self-determination. [cite journal| title=National Communism and World Revolution: The Political Consequences of German MilitaryWithdrawal from the Baltic Area in 1918–19 | first=James D. |last=White |journal=Europe–Asia Studies |issue=46 |volume=8 |year=1994 |issn=0966-8136 |pages=1363]

Newly formed LSSR asked for assistance from the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR or Soviet Russia). RSFSR recognized LSSR as an independent state on December 22. The same day Red Army took over Zarasai and Švenčionys. The manifesto was published in Vilnius only on Decembeer 24. [lt icon cite book| title=Lietuvos Respublikos prezidentai |editor=Antanas Drilinga |publisher=Valstybės leidybos centras |location=Vilnius |year=1995 |pages=51 | isbn=9986-09-055-5] It seems that the provisional government split up and did not attempt to gain wider recognition. Lithuanian army was in its infant stages and could not offer resistance to the Soviet advance. On January 5 Red Army captured Vilnius. By the end of January 1919 Soviets controlled about ⅔ of the Lithuanian icon cite encyclopedia | encyclopedia=Lietuvių enciklopedija | title=Lietuvos kariuomenė (1918–1944) |first=Kazys |last=Ališauskas | location=Boston, Massachusetts | publisher=Lietuvių enciklopedijos leidykla |year=1953–1966 |volume=XV |pages=94–99 |id=LCC|55020366 ]


LSSR did not have any real power and had to rely on Russian assistance. On January 21, RSFSR granted a loan of 100 million rubles to the provisional government. [lt icon cite book| first=Vytautas |last=Lesčius |url= | title=Lietuvos kariuomenė nepriklausomybės kovose 1918–1920 |year=2004 |location=Vilnius |publisher=General Jonas Žemaitis Military Academy of Lithuania |series=Lietuvos kariuomenės istorija | isbn=9955-423-23-4 |pages=29] LSSR did not form its own army. In February 1919 Kapsukas sent a telegram to Moscow arguing that conscription of local Lithuanians to the Red Army would only encourage Lithuanians to volunteer for the Lithuanian army.cite book | last=Eidintas | first=Alfonsas | coauthors=Vytautas Žalys, Alfred Erich Senn | editor=Ed. Edvardas Tuskenis | title=Lithuania in European Politics: The Years of the First Republic, 1918–1940 | edition=Paperback | url=,M1 | year=1999 | month=September | publisher=St. Martin's Press | location=New York | isbn=0-312-22458-3 |pages=36] In the occupied territory the Soviets created revolutionary committees and soviets based on structures developed in Russia. They nationalized commercial institutions and large estates. The land was to be used for collective farming instead of being redistributed to small farmers.cite book| url= |title=Lithuania: Stepping Westward |first=Thomas |last=Lane |publisher=Routledge |year=2001 |isbn=0415267315 |pages=7–8] Economic difficulties and cash shortage is illustrated by a decree published in January 1919 prohibiting financial institutions to pay out more than 250 rubles in one week to any resident. [lt icon cite journal |first=Linas |last=Kvizikevičius |coauthors=Saulius Sarcevičius |title=Pinigų cirkuliacijos Lietuvoje bruožai 1915−1919 m. |journal=Istorija. Lietuvos aukštųjų mokyklų mokslo darbai |url= |year=2007 |issue=68 |issn=1392-0456 |pages=35] The Soviet propagated internationalism and atheism in a country of staunch Catholics and determined nationalists. Soviets were generally supported by the industrial working class, but it was too small in Lithuania. Such policies alienated local population and contributed to the eventual defeat of the Soviets.

Dissolution and aftermath

Between February 8 and 15, 1919, Lithuanian and German volunteers stopped Soviet advance and prevented them from taking Kaunas, the temporary capital of Lithuania. At the end of February Germans started an offensive in Latvia and northern Lithuania. [cite book| title=The Baltic States: The Years of Independence |first=Georg von |last=Rauch |year=1970 |publisher=University of California Press| isbn=0-520-02600-4 |pages=60] Faced with military difficulties and unreceptive locals, the Soviets decided to combine weak Lithuanian and Byelorussian SSRs into the Lithuanian–Belorussian Soviet Socialist Republic or Litbel, led by Kapsukas. [cite book| title=The Russian Civil War |url= |first=Evan |last=Mawdsley | publisher=Pegasus Books |year=2007 |isbn=1933648155 |pages=118] The communist parties were also merged into the Communist Party (bolsheviks) of Lithuania and Belorussia. However, that had little effect and Polish forces took Vilnius in April and Minsk in August 1919 during the Polish–Soviet War.cite book| title=The Reconstruction of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569–1999 |url=,M1 |first=Timothy |last=Snyder |publisher=Yale University Press |year=2004 |isbn=030010586X |pages=62–63] Litbel was also dissolved.

When the tide turned in the Polish–Soviet War, the Soviets captured Vilnius on July 14, 1920. They did not transfer the city to Lithuanian administration, as agreed in the Soviet–Lithuanian Peace Treaty, signed just two days before. Instead Soviets planned a coup to overthrow Lithuanian government and re-establish a Soviet republic as they did with the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic.cite book | last=Eidintas | first=Alfonsas | coauthors=Vytautas Žalys, Alfred Erich Senn | editor=Ed. Edvardas Tuskenis | title=Lithuania in European Politics: The Years of the First Republic, 1918–1940 | edition=Paperback | url=,M1 | year=1999 | month=September | publisher=St. Martin's Press | location=New York | isbn=0-312-22458-3 |pages=70] However, Soviets lost the Battle of Warsaw and were pushed back by the Poles. Some historians credit this victory for saving Lithuania's independence from the Soviet coup. [cite journal| first=Alfred Erich |last=Senn |authorlink=Alfred Erich Senn |title=The Formation of the Lithuanian Foreign Office, 1918–1921| journal=Slavic Review | issue=21 |volume=3 |date=September 1962 |issn=0037-6779 | pages=500–507] During the interwar years, Lithuanian–Soviet relations were generally friendly, but at the outbreak of World War II the Soviet Union occupied Lithuania in July 1940. Official Soviet propaganda described the occupation as "restoration of the Soviet power by revolutionary masses."


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