VILNIUS - A controversial book compiled jointly by Lithuanian and Russian historians on Lithuania and the Soviet Union during World War II was presented in Vilnius on June 10.
Historian Antanas Kulakauskas, who moderated the presentation, said that the book provided documentary material to better understand the topic. The publication, he added, represents Lithuanian historians' first attempt at presenting the controversial issue to Russian society.
One of the book's editors, Professor Alvydas Nikzentaitis, said the publication contained documents related to the events of 1939-1940. About 70 percent of the documents published in the book are new, having been recently taken from Russian archives.
"It is not a coincidence that the collection of documents is published in the Russian language. We no longer need to discuss the events of 1939-1940, while the Russian audience may find the documents interesting," said Nikzentaitis.
The existence of such a joint effort came as a shock to many, since Russia continues to deny the half-century occupation of the Baltic states. But as Nikzentaits explained, the book is intended for the Russian market, with presentations planned in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad.
Although it has yet to be published, the book has already triggered enormous interest 's and no small amount of controversy 's among politicians. Some politicians said the text, written by Lithuanian and Russian historians, would provide "new" interpretations of Lithuania's 1940 occupation.
Kulakauskas dismissed the reproaches as misunderstanding.
"It was just a suspicion, and I do not know what it might be based upon. (...) It was a misunderstanding, there is no provocation. It is a regular scientific publication. There was not a Russian-language collection of documents to publicly deny the 'no occupation' propaganda in Russia. There are only documents, no interpretations," Kulakauskas told journalists.
Opposition Conservatives have expressed astonishment over the words of Lithuanian Ambassador to Russia Rimantas Sidlauskas, who said the publication would reflect the views of both countries regarding the events of 1939-1940, which Lithuania sees as the start of the Soviet occupation and Russia views as "friendly assistance."
The Conservatives then said: "Fears we have expressed in public on several occasions are becoming a reality 's there are attempts to involve Lithuania in a discussion about things that are already obvious to the entire world."
The party even asked then Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis to state the Foreign Ministry's role in marketing the publication, financing the book and questions about those representing Lithuania's historical opinion.
The minister said that fears over an alleged attempt to rewrite history in the publication were ungrounded. He accentuated that the book was yet another opportunity to share Lithuania's version of events with Russians.
Still, Russia has so far refused to condemn the fact of the Soviet occupation of the Baltic states, and in recent years has insisted that the annexation of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia amounted to voluntary accession to the Soviet Union.