And now that we have set up the premise, today we really get down and dirty into this Combat Royale between the husky Balt, Linas Antanas Linkevičius, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania — vs. his pugnacious opponent, the Russian Ambassador to Lithuania, Alexander Ivanovich Udaltsov.
Who threw the first punch? Well, at first glance it looks like it was Mr. Udaltsov, on Thursday June 8. Below, I will translate excerpts from his interview with a Lithuanian weekly magazine, in which he made several trenchant points. In Udaltsov’s his defense, he was deeply provoked. This feud has been going on for years now — decades actually — ever since that bitter divorce.
And yes, it can be called a divorce! Even an arranged, or a forced, marriage, is still a marriage. And the subsequent divorce leads to bitter squabbling over property, and who owes alimony. In the year 1992 a referendum was held, in which 90% of Lithuanian citizens voted “Yes” to the idea that Russia owed them reparations for the so-called “Soviet occupation”. In 1995 a commission was created, which came up with a concrete number: 23 billion Euros. That’s a lot of dough. And in 2000 the Lithuanian Parliament passed a law obligating the government to conduct negotiations with the Russian Federation regarding these “reparations” demands.
Moscow routinely rejects these reparation claims out of hand and tells the Balts to go fly a kite. For starters, the Russian Federation does not accept the premise that neither Lithuania (nor the two other Baltic States) were “occupied” by the Soviet Union. There’s a lot of back-history — which only people who have read 100 books can even pretend to sort out — and, besides, that’s just one of those “he said – she said” things. It’s all a matter of interpretation. Two competing views of history, two competing realities that can never be reconciled. An everlasting feud which sometimes dies down, and then flares up again at certain intervals. Usually when internal political needs, or the funding needs of NATO require people to get all fired up.
This recent spat began when Lithuania announced that it planned to build a fence along the border with the Russian province/enclave of Kaliningrad (formerly German Königsberg). Liths: “Oh, you bad Russians already invaded Crimea, and we’re next!” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov mocked the Liths for their idea. Which wasn’t even their idea — it came from NATO, which is busy scaring and pumping up their Captive Nations in preparation for various wars. A fence, of course, is not capable of stopping, neither tanks nor cigarette smugglers; but is useful for ideological posturing and whipping up one’s own population. Nationalistic Balts eager to go to war against Russia may well find themselves serving in some remote unit on the Iraqi border. All for the greater good. Anyhow, Lavrov called the whole fence idea a “Russophobic action”. Following in the footsteps of his boss, Ambassador Udaltsov took his criticisms of Lithuania one step further, remarking that “the actions of official Vilnius, which have practically severed all contacts [with Russia] at the international level, have driven our relationship into a dead-end.”
Recall that Udaltsov is Russia’s Ambassador to Lithuania. It is his job to try to get along, to engage the other side and try to find common ground, areas of cooperation, etc. But now he feels like he can’t even barely do his job any more, with the other side all decked out openly in war paint.
In his interview with the weekly magazine “Lithuanian Courier”, Udaltsov complained bitterly: “Let me remind you that just a few days ago the Head of the Foreign Ministry of Russia himself characterized the course of the Lithuanian government, in regard to our government, as hostile.”
Let me give you a picture of just the past few weeks — we saw not one, but two rallies of the non-systemic Russian Opposition converging on Lithuania; and when I say Opposition I really mean various shades of opponents of the Kremlin (…); then some international conference devoted to the situation of the Crimean Tatars (…); and then the construction of this fence on the border with Kalinigrad Oblast. And finally, the decision to close still another Russian school in the capital of Lithuania.
I’m not even speaking about the deep Russophobia, but just the daily reports of the Lithuanian special services in their (supposed) analysis of (Russian) threats to their national security, larded, as usual, with spy scares and other scarecrows, in an attempt to accuse our diplomats of engaging in espionage.
Not one single official Russian person is going to so much as discuss the question of reparations and the supposed damage suffered by Lithuania in the USSR years. Let alone the concept of “occupation”.
According to Udaltsov, it’s actually the other way around: Lithuania owes Russia money. Udaltsov went on to name a specific amount which he says Lithuania owes Russia: $72 billion dollars.
Udaltsov reminded people that Lithuania was primarily an agrarian nation before its entry into the Soviet Union. The little economic potential that it did possess, was mostly destroyed during World War II.
“As a member of the Soviet Union, Lithuania acquired the possibility to develop its economy to a greater degree than its own internal resources would have permitted. This helped not only in the rapid restoration of all that was destroyed during the war, but also going on to create an industrial base from scratch.”
Udaltsov calculates that, between the years 1940-1990, something like $65 billion dollars were invested in the Lithuanian economy. “As a result, chemical and petrochemical industries were created; some of the largest enterprises were constructed, here are some examples: The Mažeikiai oil refinery. The Kedainiai chemical factory. The Jonava fertilizer factory. The nuclear power plant in Ignalina. Taking all this into account, one can see how absurd it is for the Lithuanian side to talk about Russia, as the inheritor state of the Soviet Union, compensating them for the supposed damage they suffered during the time they were a Soviet republic.
“As the largest republic in the Soviet Union, it was the Russian Republic which made the main contribution to the common budget, and as such would be fully within its rights to submit to Lithuania a counter-suit for compensation of monies which, by the way, when invested in Lithuania were at the expense of the other republics as well; and also for compensation of other expenses incurred, for example energy, raw materials, etc. which they obtained at a significant discount from the world rate. All in all, the bill comes to around $72 billion dollars.”
Linkevičius reacted bluntly to Udaltsov’s counter-suit: “This whole thing is absurd,” he stated in his interview with Delfi. “This declaration,” an outraged Link went on to say, “is both ridiculous and infuriating. It particularly arouses ire, since it was made on the eve of our Day of Mourning and Hope, our Day of Occupation and Genocide, which we celebrate. To speak of such matters after what the whole world recognizes as the occupation of our country, after we lost our independence, after all the harm that was done to our people and to our state — and then to name a sum of money — this is extremely offensive!”
This Mourney-Hopey thing, by the way, which Liths celebrate every June 14, commemorate deportations of Lithuanians to Soviet regions far away from the front lines. The deportations started on the night of June 14, 1941, barely a week before all the Baltics were overrun by the Nazi army. The number of deported is disputed, of course; the pro-Lith wiki entry claims an eventual total of around 130,000 people, 70% of them women and children. This is probably an inflated number, which does not necessarily reflect on the justice or injustice of the act itself. Let’s just say that Stalin had his reasons. But that after Stalin’s death in 1953 the deported ones were allowed to return to their former homes. Which also does not necessarily constitute a formal “rehabilitation” of each and every individual.
Busy bees that they were, the Soviet NKVD was said to have made a list of major Lithuanian anti-Soviet elements, which included Lithuanian Nationalist and Fascist political parties, capitalists and landlords and politicized Catholic organizations. In other words, regardless of what Lithuanians claim, the targeted groups were not random; were not based on ethnicity or genetics; and therefore the deportations do not fit into the legal definition of genocide, however the Balts would like these unfortunate events to be viewed by the world; and however they desire to equate their suffering with that of the Jewish people at the hands of the Nazis. The fact that women and even children were deported from their homes is troublesome; but, looking at it from the bright side, at least the families got to stay together!
So What About the Snakes?
Discerning readers, who know my love of elaborate metaphors, are wondering if I close this catfight by tying back to the Serpent Princess Eglė. Where is my metaphor? Who is who? Well, Eglė is obviously the nation of Lithuania herself. But who is her handsome Snake Prince Žilvinas? Is he the Soviet Union, to whom Eglė was enticed into an unsuitable (but fruitful) marriage? Or is he the EU?
And what about those siblings of hers? Well, recall that Eglė’s family consisted of 15 siblings: herself, her two sisters, and her 12 brothers. Now, just by coincidence, the Soviet Union consisted of 15 Republics, including Lithuania! See, the metaphor is starting to work!
By which, the Serpents are actually the EU, whisking their beautiful bride away from her true family – ha ha!
Which would make Prince Žilvinas NATO. Sure, he is so handsome and smart in his little uniform, not to mention such a wonderful husband (even though he forces his wife to perform impossible chores)… but when all is said and done, Žilvinas is still just a snake disguised as a prince.