Vytautas Landsbergis: Lithuania Under Communism

Vytautas Landsbergis: Lithuania Under Communism


The feeling was very much depressing, and
oppressive, and depressing with such outbreaks of hope as a revolution in Hungary, events
in Poland, strikes and confrontation between the Polish workers with the communist regime.
[The anti-communist Hungarian Revolution of 1956 was brutally suppressed by Soviet military
force. Strikes and demonstrations in Poland occurred sporadically through the 1970s, leading
to the foundation of the Solidarity independent labor union in 1980.] Of course, events in East Germany were not
so well known then for us. But I remember Hungary. It was a great hope for the people
of my generation. As we have heard that Khrushchev ordered Soviet troops to leave Hungary, the
next day he ordered [them] to come back and to crush the revolution. [Nikita Khrushchev
(1894 – 1971) served as First Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party from 1953 to
1964.] But this chance, the Hungarians could proclaim themselves independent from Soviet
domination, calling on them to leave, calling on Western democracies to help. It was something
unbelievable. Of course, it was crushed in blood. But the
same way the later events in Poland and especially in Czechoslovakia — Prague Spring. [The establishment
of the independent Solidarity labor union in 1980 and a period of relative freedom was
squelched by the imposition of martial law in 1981. In 1968, moderate reformers took
control of the Czechoslovak Communist Party and instituted a period of liberalization
known as the Prague Spring. A military invasion by the USSR and its allies in August 1968
ended the Prague Spring and returned the country to orthodox communism.] There were always the waves of hope that the
changes are possible. The changes have to come also to Soviet Union, not only into the
satellite countries of the Soviet Union. And finally the Polish solidarity movement, Solidarność,
appeared on the scene. It was absolutely unbelievable that a workers union [was formed]. But they
felt their strength and power. And the communist government went to the disobedient workers
to negotiate how [it could] live further. So it was again a milestone and a sign that
changes will come and that ways may be found as well in Czechoslovakia and then in Poland
by nonviolent political, maybe parliamentary, confrontation, resistance, opposition. Maybe
a real political opposition will be allowed or will dare to stand on its own. It became a framework for our future activities
and for Lithuanian Sajudis as [a] nonviolent, but strongly political, democratic movement
for liberation. [Sajudis, meaning “movement” in Lithuanian, was a civil society organization
formed in 1988 to advocate the restoration of the country’s independence from the USSR.]

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