Occupation of Baltic Republics

From Academic Kids

This term is generally used for the Soviet occupation of the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) in the first phases of World War II.

Contents

History of the Occupation

Before the beginning of World War II Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union signed an ostensible non-aggression treaty known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. In the secret appendix of the pact, Germany and the Soviet Union divided up Eastern Europe into spheres of influence: in Northern Europe, Finland, Estonia, Latvia (and, according to a later adjustment, Lithuania) were designated as falling in the Soviet zone. Poland was to be partitioned in the event of its "political rearrangement."

After the occupation and partition of Poland, the Soviet Union started pressuring Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania to accept territorial adaptions and Soviet bases on their soil. Eventually all states except Finland signed pacts of "defence and mutual assistance", which permitted the Soviet Union to station troops on their soil. After moving Red Army units into the Baltic states, the Soviet Union tried to occupy Finland by force in the Winter War of 1940, but had to settle for annexing Finnish Karelia and renting an isolated base in Hanko at the southwestern cape of Mainland Finland.

The spring of 1940 saw the German occupation of Denmark and Norway as well as a blitz through the Low Countries to France. These actions activated Soviet foreign policy towards the Baltic states, this time demanding political concessions: the removal of anti-Soviet elements from governments and free transition rights for Red Army personnel. The pressure culminated in demands for new elections. The elections were conducted by local communists loyal to Soviet Union and all non-communist candidates were disqualified. Outright fraud was also used in some voting places, to hide the fact that parts of the population were boycotting the rigged elections. The result was that all three Baltic states had communist majorities in their parliaments, and in August these three parliaments appealed to the Soviet government to be parts of Soviet Union. These appeals were satisfied - these republics were annexed to the Soviet Union.

The events in the Baltic Republics were not isolated. Also in Finland and the Scandinavian peninsula the great powers demanded adjustments of neutrality and sovereignty: Germany had pressured Sweden to grant transit rights for material and personnel transportation between Norway and ports of southern Sweden during the fightings in Norway, and achieved this after Norway's defeat. Immediately thereafter, the Soviet Union started pressuring Finland for transfer rights over land between the Hanko naval base and the Soviet border, established as a Finnish concession in the Moscow Peace Treaty, aswell as for control of the Petsamo nickel mine. In August, Finland granted transfer rights to German troops travelling between Northern Norway and ports of Gulf of Bothnia in a diplomatic effort to improve the relations with Nazi Germany that had been chilly since the mid-1930s, due to the ideological differences, which was clearly demonstrated when the Third Reich sided with the Soviet Union during the Winter War. Finland now managed to increase the political contacts with Germany, which was seen as the only hope against Soviet occupation. In September, Finland and the Soviet Union came to an agreement on Hanko transitations. When the Soviet foreign minister Molotov in November 1940 requested German acceptance, and passive support, for finishing the invasion of Finland, Hitler declined as he saw Finland as a potential ally in the upcoming invasion of the Soviet Union. The negotiations for Petsamo mines stalled for several months, until the indirect German support allowed the Finns to let those negotiations to lapse.

Germany occupied the Baltic Republics after Operation Barbarossa commencing the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. In the one year of Soviet occupation, from June 1940 to June 1941, approximately 50,000 people were imprisoned or executed.

German occupation policy in the area was also harsh. German authorities collaborated with some nationalist elements in the area who helped the Germans because they saw them as a chance to avoid domination by the USSR and communists. Other nationalists turned against the Germans as their occupation became increasingly brutal. In 1944 and 1945, the Red Army reoccupied the Baltic states and they became republics within the Soviet Union. The Soviet occupation remained fairly brutal until Stalin's death in 1953.

Historical Considerations

The fate of small countries in Northern Europe varied considerably. Denmark and Norway were occupied by Germany, Sweden had to make some concessions but with skillful foreign policy and a credible military it was able to stay out of the war.

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were occupied and annexed by the Soviet Union and it was 50 years before they regained their independence. The United States,in conformity with the principles of Stimson Doctrine (Sumner Welles' Declaration of July 23, 1940), as well as number of other Western countries never formally recognized the annexation, but did not interfere. Three Baltic States in 1940-1991 continued to exist as a states de jure according of international law all time of its factual occupation and annexation. Therefore some diplomatic and consular representations of the Baltic States continued to function in 1940 - 1991 in some Western countries (USA, Australia, etc.), dealing with a limited part of state functions of the Republic of Estonia, Republic of Latvia, and Republic of Lithuania accordingly. In July - August 1940 Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian envoys who continued to be accredited to the USA and UK governments made official protests against Soviet occupation and annexation of their countries. Members of Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian diplomatic services in Western countries continued to formulate and express the official opinion of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, and protected the interests of these countries and their citizens abroad all time during 1940-1991, i. e., until the restoration of independence of the Baltic States.

Finland was geographically much worse placed than Sweden, and had to suffer two wars (Winter War and Continuation War) with territorial losses, and had to bend its foreign policy for the Soviet Union after the war (Finlandization), but it remained independent, capitalist and had a democratic political system after World War II.

Timeline of Occupation of Baltic Republics in World War II

  • December, 1938 Elections of local council in Memel brings absolute majority to Nazis (26 of 29 seats).
  • March 23, 1939 Germany occupies Memel region from Lithuania.
  • August 23, 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact signed. Pact gave Soviets free hand for Estonia, Latvia and Finland.
  • September 24, 1939 Soviet Union demands rights to establish bases to Estonia.
  • September 28, 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact modified so that most of Lithuania was moved to the Soviet sphere.
  • September 28, 1939 Estonia gives in to Soviet demands of bases.
  • October 2, 1939 Soviet Union demands mutual assistance pact with Latvia.
  • October 5, 1939 Latvian gives in to Soviet bases.
  • October 5, 1939 Soviet Union starts negotiations with Finland for bases and territory exchanges.
  • October 10, 1939 Lithuania gives in to Soviet bases.
  • October 11, 1939 NKVD issues basic order (No 001223) for deportations of anti-Soviet elements from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to Russia.
  • October 18, 1939 First Red Army units enter Estonia.
  • November 13, 1939 Finland rejects Soviet demands.
  • November 30, 1939 Winter War against Finland starts.
  • December 1, 1939 Terijoki Government, Soviet puppet government of Finland is created in occupied Terijoki border county near Leningrad.
  • January 29, 1940 Soviets "forget" Terijoki government.
  • March 13, 1940 Winter War ends with Moscow Peace Treaty.
  • April 9, 1940 Germany invades Denmark and Norway.
  • June 10, 1940 Germany occupies Norway.
  • June 14, 1940 Paris falls to Germans.
  • June 14, 1940 Soviet air force shoot down Finnish passenger plane "Kaleva" flying from Tallinn to Helsinki.
  • June 14, 1940 Soviet air and naval blockade of Estonia starts.
  • June 14, 1940 Soviet Union gives ultimatum to Lithuania to form a new government and allow free access for Red Army. The president of Lithuania, Antanas Smetona, proposes armed resistance but as he doesn't get support from government or armed forces, he resigns. Prime minister Antanas Merkys assumes presidential duties.
  • June 15, 1940 Soviet Union occupies Lithuania. President Smetona flees through Germany first to Switzerland then to USA 1941, where he dies on January 9, 1944 in Cleveland.
  • June 15, 1940 at 03:00 Soviet troops stormed and captured Latvian border posts Masļenkos (Maslenkis) and Smaiļi.
  • June 16, 1940 Similar ultimatums were given to Estonia and Latvia.
  • June 17, 1940 Estonia and Latvia gave in to the Soviet demands and are occupied.
  • June 18, 1940 Sweden and Germany sign treaty allowing transfer of German soldiers from Norway using Swedish territory.
  • June 20, 1940 New Latvian government of Moscow approved ministers is formed.
  • June 21, 1940 New Estonian government containing only left-wing activists is formed. Soviets arrange a number of Red Army backed demonstrations in several cities.
  • June 22, 1940 France surrenders.
  • July 8, 1940 Sweden and Germany sign treaty allowing transfer of German war material between Norway and ports in Southern Sweden.
  • July 14-July 15, 1940 Elections in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, where non-communist candidates were disqualified, harassed and beaten.
  • July 17, 1940 The acting president of Lithuania, Antanas Merkys, is imprisoned and deported to Saratov, Soviet Union. He dies March 5, 1955.
  • July 21-July 23, 1940 New Estonian assembly transforms Estonia according the Soviet style.
  • July 21, 1940 New Latvian Saeima accepts wide nationalisation and sovietization decrees.
  • July 22, 1940 The president of Latvia, Kārlis Ulmanis, is arrested and deported to Russia never returning. He died in a prison in Krasnovodsk on September 20, 1942.
  • July 30, 1940 The president of Estonia, Konstantin Päts, is imprisoned by NKVD and deported to Russia where dies in the mental hospital of Kalinin on January 18, 1956.
  • August 3, 1940 Soviet Union annexes Lithuania.
  • August 5, 1940 Soviet Union annexes Latvia.
  • August 6, 1940 Soviet Union annexes Estonia.
  • September 6, 1940 Soviet Union gets troop and material transfer rights from Finland between Hanko and Soviet border.
  • September 22, 1940 Germany gets troop and material transfer rights from Finland between northern Norway and ports of Gulf of Bothnia.
  • November 12, 1940 Germany refuses Soviet Union demands for right to handle Finland as they will in negotiations in Berlin.
  • June 14, 1941 First mass deportations from Estonia (10 000), Latvia (15 000) and Lithuania (18 000) to Siberia.
  • June 22, 1941 Operation Barbarossa, Germany invades Soviet Union.
  • June 25, 1941 Continuation War starts between Finland and Soviet Union.

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