Lithuania pays tribute to victims of Soviet oppression; new memorial unveiled

  • 2015-06-15
  • From wire reports and TBT staff, VILNIUS

June 14 marked the Day of Mourning and Hope in Lithuania, while June 15 marked the Day of Occupation and Genocide. Across the country, thousands of people paid their respects to the victims of Soviet terror and mass deportations.

On the night of June 13-14, over 30,000 members of the Lithuanian intelligensia from across the country were deported to Siberia and the far north of the Soviet Union in livestock wagons. 

June 15 also marked the opening of the 12th Kilometre exhibition in the Seimas’ Stained Glass Gallery which pays tribute to deported Lithuanians murdered by the NKVD in Sverdlovsk between 1942 and 1943. 

A commemoration to the victims was also held in the March 11 Hall of the Seimas, and a flag raising ceremony, followed by a minute’s silence, took place in Vilnius’ Independence Square at noon.

Later in the day, the victims were honoured at the moment to political prisoners and deportees on Auku Street, the location of the country's former KGB headquarters, and the railway station of Naujoji Vilnia in Eastern Vilnius. 

In the village of Uta, border guard Aleksandras Barauskas was honoured. Barauskas was the first victim of the Soviet repression after being stabbed, then shot in the back of the head with a revolver. 

The day will also be marked by the unveiling of the Monument to the Fallen for Lithuanian Independence in Vilnius’ Antakalnis Cemetery. 

According to data from the Genocide and Research Centre of Lithuania, every third Lithuanian was a victim of the Soviet terror from 1940 to 1958. 

The USSR invaded Lithuania twice; firstly in 1940. It was then occupied by Nazi Germany in 1941 as a consequence of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact between the Nazis and the USSR being broken. In 1944, the Soviets returned until 1991. 

During the Soviet occupation, 800,000 Lithuanians were lost, with approximately 300,000 affected by imprisonment, as well as enforced labour and exile. While in exile in Siberia and the Russian north, one in three prisoners died from torture, starvation, or the region’s harsh climate. 

Over 440,000 Lithuanians fled the country during the Soviet era. 

Similar ceremonies in Latvia and Estonia also took place on June 14.