1940-54 Soviet Deportations From Lithuania
In less than two weeks Lithuania will again sadly memorialize the first Soviet mass deportation of Lithuanian residents on June 14 - 19, 1941. That was the first, but not the last Soviet mass deportation from Lithuania. And Russian deportations on a smaller scale began much earlier. I'll cover in this post:
The latest estimates of how many were deported in June 1941
Who was deported in June 1941, by ethnicity and by other factors
How many and who were deported from the onset of Soviet occupation in 1940 until June 1941
When Russian deportations from Lithuania began
Find out if and when your ethnic Lithuanian relatives were deported by the Soviets
1. How many people were deported from Lithuania in June 14 - 19, 1941?
From 17,585 (Historian V. Kašauskienė: “Deportations from Lithuania under Stalin. 1940 – 1953,” Lithuanian Historical Studies 3,1998, 80) to 18,000 (Historian S. Sužiedėlis, private communication, June 2023).
2. Who were they?
Lithuanians: 70%; Jews: 9.2%; Poles: 17.7%; Russians: 2%.As published by J. Juškaitė April 5, 2016 at https://manoteises.lt/straipsnis/kulturologe-v-davoliute-tremtys-buvo-sulietuvintos-ir-sukatalikintos/ and based on the calculations of A. Anušauskas quoted in the interview in V. Davoliūtė's article "Multidirectional memory and the deportation of Lithuanian Jews", Ethnicity Studies, 2015/2. P. 134, Lithuanian Social Research Center, 2015
Ethnic Lithuanians weren't the only ones deported in June '41: historian Arvydas Anušauskas has called those exiles multi-ethnic: 40.9% were leaders and activists of former parties and social organizations of the Republic of Lithuania and their family members; 23.3% were former businessmen, high state officials, wealthy farmers (Kulaks) and their families; 11.9% were former policemen and state security; 1.9% were former military officers (V. Kašauskienė) . S. Sužiedėlis, in a June 2023 private communication, confirms that almost 10% were Jews.
And, as S. Atamukas writes in his 2018 “Lietuvos žydų keliai. Atmintis, tikėjimas, viltis” ("Paths of Lithuanian Jews. Memory, faith, hope") under Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic NKGB order no. 0023 of April 25, 1941, issued to prepare the way for new deportations, the NKGB compiled lists of “anti-Soviet and counter-revolutionary elements.” NKGB categories for scheduling deportations included: “Land owners, large factory owners, wholesale merchants and owners of buildings, the Jewish national counter-revolution: the heads of all Zionist organizations and permanent employees of press enterprises, Bund leaders and permanent employees of their press organs. Also [members of] the Union of Jews who Fought in the Battles for Lithuanian Independence, Jewish combatants (soldiers), the Beitar union (youth Zionist union), the EL-AL organization and the Revisionist Party.” https://www.lzb.lt/en/2018/06/14/lithuania-marks-day-of-mourning-and-hope-on-june-14/
If you think I'm belaboring this aspect of the deportations, I'm including this information to counter the sadly inaccurate view that Bolsheviks=Jews, and that the slaughtering and deporting to concentration camps of Lithuania's Jews just before and during Nazi occupation, 1941-44, was somehow rightful punishment for the Soviet June '41 deportations. There are still Lithuanian nationalists who believe this.
3. How many/who were deported from summer 1940 until June 1941?
Soviet deportations began almost as soon as Lithuania was occupied in June 1940. "In Soviet eyes, at the initial stage of incorporation [into the USSR] Lithuanian society was not ready for transformation into socialism. The legacy of the “bourgeois past” was to be destroyed. To that end, the Soviet authorities had to neutralize those elements of the society who seemed to be dangerous in this or that way for the socialist reconstruction. Of course the political establishment was the primary target due to its direct association with the nationalistic regime of independent Lithuania. V.S. Vardys defines the arrests on July 11 – 12, 1940 as “softening up” before the new “free elections.” (Vardys, “Aggression, Soviet Style, 1939 – 1940,” in "Lithuania Under the Soviets: Portrait of a Nation, 1940 – 1960"). During that operation about 2,000 former Baltic politicians and officials were rounded up and deported to the far-off regions of the U.S.S.R. The former Lithuanian prime minister Merkys, Lithuanian foreign minister Urbšys as well as Latvian president Ulmanis and his Estonian colleague Päts shared the fate of their compatriots and went to exile. Thousands of representatives of the Baltic elites followed them (including future Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, who was arrested in Vilnius in summer 1940 and deported to the Soviet Arctic)."
"500-2,000 were probably exiled to prisons or elsewhere before June 1941, or are not counted in the usual deportation statistics, since they were taken out of the country in a different operation during the period. A rough 'guesstimate' is that a total of 20,000 were expelled from Lithuania during the first Soviet occupation ending June 1941. Also, from 1944-54, about 130,000 more were deported, almost all ethnic Lithuanians suspected of aiding the anti-Soviet resistance." (S. Sužiedėlis, private communication, June 2023)
4. When did Russian deportations from Lithuania start?
No start date, just two examples of 19th century Russian deportations:
In 1863's massive Polish-Lithuanian insurrection against the Russian Empire, some 66,000 Lithuanian serfs, traders, and clergy took up arms against the Russian government. Soon the rebellion was crushed, leaving thousands dead or exiled to Siberia.
(See my post of February 9, 2022: https://www.lithuanianjournal.org/post/myths-about-lithuania-1-russia-banned-lithuanian ) After the 1864 ban on Lithuanian publications in Latin script, book smugglers had to cross three lines of Russian security guards. If the individual was caught, the smuggler was either imprisoned locally for one to five years, or deported to Siberia for a three to five year period. The number of book smugglers that were caught or punished is unclear, but the first major arrest seems to have occurred between 1870 and 1871, when Russian forces sentenced 11 associates of Motiejus Kazimieras Valančius, Catholic Bishop of Samogitia. Eight of the smugglers—five priests, a farmer, and a noble—were exiled to Siberia.
5. Find out if, when, and why your ethnic Lithuanian relatives were deported by the Soviets
Here's a Lithuanian site where you can enter a Lithuanian surname and get details on arrests and deportations of Lithuanians by Soviet Russia.
An example, entering just the surname Piliponis (the surname of my maternal great-grandfather), with results in Lithuanian, and translated into English: