LITHUANIAN QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
Volume 32, No. 3 - Fall 1986
Editor of this issue: Jonas Zdanys
Copyright © 1986 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.
THE STRUCTURE AND OPERATION OF LITHUANIA'S PARLIAMENTARY DEMOCRACY 1920 19391
JUOZAS B. LAUČKA
1. The Adoption of the Constitution
Even though the Constituent Assembly of Lithuania was elected (April 14-15, 1920) primarily to adopt the supreme law of the land and put a solid governmental structure into operation, it did not limit itself to this task. It plunged into the consideration, adoption and execution of many important laws, among them that of Land Reform.
At its tenth organizational meeting, on June 10,1922, the Assembly promulgated a new Provisional Constitution, a brief document of seven chapters and eighteen articles. The Constituent Assembly proclaimed Lithuania to be a democratic republic and itself representative and executive of the sovereign power: the people. The Speaker of the Assembly was designated also Acting President of the Republic.2 The President and the Cabinet of Ministers were to hold executive power subject to the Assembly's confidence.
Being responsible and responsive to the Assembly, the President and the Cabinet were actually subjected to the complete domination of the Parliament. This situation may be accepted as a logical one since the Constituent Assembly was the supreme organ of the state, the unchallengeable master of the nation's destiny during the transitional period toward a more permanent and stable form of government.3 Nevertheless, the Cabinet of Ministers shared the legislative initiative with the Assembly. The Speaker, as Acting President, was not directly responsible to the Assembly because his acts had to be countersigned by the Prime Minister or his delegated Minister. The Cabinet was to remain in office as long as it commanded the Assembly's confidence.
Despite the fact that they controlled an absolute majority of the Assembly, the Christian Democrats closely cooperated with the Populists. As a result, on June 11, 1920, both major parties formed a coalition Cabinet under the leadership of the Populist Prime Minister, Dr. Kazys Grinius.4
The Committee on the Constitution included the members representing all parties under the chairmanship of Christian Democrat Antanas Tumėnas.5 Populist leader Mykolas Sleževičius served as Vice-Chairman of this important committee which worked for twenty-six months and held more than one hundred sessions before the Constitution was ready for final adoption.6
In addition to many problems, the Constituent Assembly had to deal with several emergencies, including a military conflict with Poland over Vilnius and its Territory. Even during this emergency, when the country was actually in a state of war defending its territorial integrity violated by the military troops of its former ally, Poland,7 the Assembly suspended its sessions during the emergency period but it did not abdicate its leadership obligations in the state. Several Seimas members joined the armed forces; one of them died from the wounds inflicted during the battle at the war front.
On October 25, 1920, the Assembly established its "Little Seimas,"consisting of the Speaker and six members representing all the political parties and national minorities. This diminutive institution was authorized to adopt laws, to approve money appropriations and to supervise the government and the administration of the country.8 It. was also given the power to express no-confidence in the Cabinet of Ministers and in the State Controller. The "Little Seimas" was in operation for about four months. It asserted the Assembly's determination to remain the supreme authority acting on behalf of the people.
Throughout the hundred sessions of the full committee on the Constitution, and through the many more meetings of its subcommittees, the majority of the Assembly's leading forces agreed on the following basic principles of the governmental structure: the state should be a Democratic Republic; the state's sovereignty should be vested in the people who exercise their rights through their freely elected representatives; governmental functions should be performed by the legislative, executive and judicial branches; the President of the Republic should be elected by the Seimas; the Cabinet of Ministers should have the confidence of the Parliament (Seimas) elected by general, equal, direct and secret ballot; private ownership of land, home and business should be respected.
Apart from philosophical considerations and the influence of time, it is reasonable to assume that the major political parties were interested in guaranteeing a dominant position to the Parliament because they hoped to exploit it as a generating source of their ideologies. As Professor M. Romeris emphasizes, the Christian Democrats were confident that the elements of social tradition, and religious discipline, as well as the support of a powerful ecclesiastical organization in a country loyal to Catholicism, would be an advantage to them in general elections to the legislature. On the other side, the Populists hoped that their liberal ideology would attract the masses and that the legislative body would become the exponent of their political concepts.9
Projecting a governmental structure for the young state, both major parties Christian Democrats and Populists were equally eager to adopt the French-type parliamentary democracy, a system which at that time presented a chance for even the smallest political parties to gain some representation in the parliament. Both parties agreed on the need to assure supremacy of the Parliament,which was to be elected by general, direct ballot under the system of proportional representation. They both stood for superiority and domination of the parliamentary regime, rather than granting strong power to the chief executive or to the collective Cabinet of Ministers. This parliamentary system promised a great access of power to the parliament, entrusted with control of all the powers of state, legislative and executive.10 In this endeavor the Christian Democrats and the Populists were supported by the Social Democrats, who constituted the opposition in the Constituent Assembly. The Socialists and the Populists advocated much more. They campaigned for the elimination of the Presidency and the Cabinet of Ministers. According to their political concept, the presidium of the Parliament (Seimas) should take the place of the President and the various committees of the Seimas, rather than ministries, should be sufficient to conduct the affairs of the Republic.11
The coalition of the Christian Democrats and the Populists broke up in January, 1922, mainly because of ideological and economic differences. The chief obstacles to continued cooperation were the inability to agree on such questions as the separation of state and church, the teaching of religion in the elementary and secondary public schools, remuneration for nationalized land, and the size of private farmsteads.12
A religious issue was an important factor in the break up, at the final reading of the Constitution, when the Populists firmly opposed the inclusion of the phrase "In the name of the Almighty God" in the Preamble of the Constitution. The Constitution was adopted on August 1, 1922 by only the votes of the Christian Democrats, Jews and one non-partisan. The Populists and Socialists abstained.13
2. The Structure and Functions of the Legislature
The first two articles of the Constitution provide the key to the whole political structure of the Republic of Lithuania. They both are based on three fundamental principles: 1) the State is an independent democratic republic; 2) state sovereignty remains vested in the people; and 3) the governmental functions of the state are to be performed by the Legislative, the Executive and the Judicial branches.14
The legislative branch of the government was called the Seimas, members of which were "the representatives of the people,"15 elected by a general, equal, direct and secret ballot, under the proportional system.16 The number of representatives and the manner of conducting elections were reserved for election laws. All citizens qualified to vote, not under 24 years of age, were eligible to become Seimas members by election.17
For election purposes, the whole country was divided into several electoral districts, each of them assured of one representative for 25,000 inhabitants; if the remainder of any district's population was not less than 12,500 persons, then such a district was given one more representative.18 Any group of fifty eligible voters had a right to propose a list of candidates to the Committee of the Election District. The election itself throughout the country was supervised by the Supreme Election Committee appointed by the President of the Republic.
The Seimas seats were distributed by the electoral quota assigned for each district. The total number of votes cast in the district was divided by the number of representatives to be elected from that district. This electoral quota, divided into the number of votes cast for each party list, gave the number of representatives to be returned to each list. If all seats were not filled at the first counting of ballots, those remaining were allotted to the lists with the largest remainders.19
The voter had no choice regarding his preference as to which of his selected list's candidates should be considered the most desirable to be elected; he had to cast his ballot for the whole list without any alteration in the order of numbering marked in the officially approved list.20 The same person could be listed as a candidate in five electoral districts. However, after the election such a candidate, if he was victorious in more than one district, was free to choose the district he wished to represent in the Seimas.21 As there was no distribution of the Seimas seats on a nationwide basis, the right of proposing the same candidate in several districts afforded the central committees of the political parties an opportunity to attract more support for their lists with popular personalities known throughout the land.
Lithuania, like her Baltic neighbor republics of Latvia and Estonia, chose a unicameral Parliament. The political parties sought to assure a stronger position for themselves by standing firmly for a one-chamber Legislature.22 In the case of Lithuania, there were proposals to the Committee on the Constitution to establish a second chamber consisting of members representing different geographical districts and counties.23 However, no interest was demonstrated by any political party in this proposal. Their attitude was probably due to the lack of tradition. While it is true that the Old Grand Duchy of Lithuania had had a quasi-Parliament of two chambers, the writers of the Constitution looked upon the two-chamber Parliament as archaic and expressive of the nobility-dominated era to which nobody wanted to return. It is most probable that the authors of the Constitution, just like their counterparts in Latvia and Estonia, rejected the bicameral legislature as a dangerous and reactionary system.24
The tenure of the Seimas was set for three years. In case of war or martial law in more than half of the territory, the President had a right to extend the Seimas' tenure beyond its normal term. However, such an extension had to be confirmed by the Seimas itself.25
It is not by accident that the legislative power was mentioned first among the three branches in the Constitution. It was created to exist in the state not as co-equal with the other two and not even as primus inter pares. It was dominant and predominant for several reasons.
First of all, the legislative branch of the government, the Seimas, was of a continuous nature.26 The election of a new Seimas had to take place before the expiration of the old one. The term of the new Seimas began automatically upon the expiration of the previous Seimas' term.27 Even if the Seimas was dissolved by the President of the Republic, before its term ended, its Presidium remained active.28 It could not be otherwise because the Speaker was the number two man in the republic; in case of the President's sickness, temporal disability or departure abroad, the President's duties devolved upon the Speaker.29
The representatives of the Seimas, just as members of its counterpart Parliaments in Latvia, Estonia, the German Weimar Republic, France, Poland or Italy, were independent from the executive and judicial branches. They were bound by no mandates. They could not be recalled during the tenure of their election. They were assured of the privilege and the right to be guided only by their own consciences.30 No matter under which party or group the Seimas members were elected, they were considered as the representatives of the whole nation. Therefore, it was logical that the only requirement which the Seimas members had to fulfill was to take an oath or to give a solemn promise that they would be loyal to the Republic, protect its laws and conscientiously carry out their duties as representatives of the people.31
Members of the Seimas were immune from arrests; their persons were inviolable.32 An arrest of the representative could be effected only with the consent of the Seimas.33 According to the Constitution, this inviolability could be ignored only if the representative was caught in flagranti.
However, the arrest, even in such a case, had to be reported within forty-eight hours to the Speaker who would inform the Seimas at its next meeting.34 The liberty of the arrested member could be restored if that was the wish of the Seimas.35 In addition to their compensation, which was decided by the Seimas, the representatives were entitled to free transportation on all the railroads of Lithuania.36
The main functions of the Seimas could be categorized as follows: 1) legislative, the adoption of laws;37 2) supervision of the administration via questioning and interpellations; 3) budgetary; the budget was prepared by the executive branch; however, it was not valid without the confirmation of the Seimas;38 and 4) active participation in foreign policy by approving international treaties.39 The Seimas could also intervene with its investigations and standing committees.
Only the Seimas could make the laws.40 It was the only institution which could amend the supreme law of the republic. The initiative to propose an amendment or supplement to the Constitution was given to the Seimas, to the executive branch of the government and to petitions by 50,000 citizens having the right to vote.41 However, any constitutional proposal became law only if it was adopted by a vote of three-fifths of all of the representatives of the Seimas.42 If any constitutional change was affirmed by a vote of four-fifths of all the representatives of the Seimas, it became law from the date of its promulgation.43
The main institutions of direct representation (the initiative and referendum) were applicable only in the change or amending of the Constitution. 25,000 citizens had the right to propose laws which have had to be considered by the Seimas.44 If these proposals were rejected or accepted by the Seimas, there was no obligatory referendum. In case of constitutional change or amendment, the Seimas' decision could be submitted for final outcome to the people by a general vote, if required by the President, or one-fourth of the Seimas members, or petition of 50,000 citizens having election rights.45
The Seimas had the exclusive right of impeaching the President and the Ministers for abuse of office and treason. An impeachment decision had to be adopted by the absolute majority of votes of all of the Seimas members. The competence to pass upon such cases was reserved to the Supreme Court.46 The President could be removed from office by a two-thirds vote of all the representatives.47 However, there was nothing explicit in the Constitution that would allow the Supreme Court to make a definite analysis of the real meaning of the aforesaid impeachment. Thus, although there was impeachment or removal of the President in Lithuania, it seems logical to conclude that the impeachment itself would not disqualify the President from office.
The executive branch was under the constant supervision and control of the Seimas, which had the right to propound questions and interpellations and to conduct investigations.48 The Cabinet's approval and its remaining in office depended upon the Seimas' confidence.49 The state budget and its administration had no validity if they were not confirmed by the Seimas.50 Even the conduct of foreign affairs, as stated earlier, was under the supervision of the Seimas. The government had to secure the Seimas' confirmation for peace treaties, commercial agreements, foreign loans, abandonment or cession of territory by the state.51 The power of declaration and ending also belonged to the Seimas.52
The conduct and the standing order of the Seimas' activities were adopted by the Seimas itself. These rules had the force of law.53
3. The Structure and Powers of the Executive: The President
The executive authority of the state was vested in the President and the Cabinet of Ministers.54 Here we find a definite tendency for collective leadership: semi-personal and semi-collegiate.55 In accordance with the description of his duties and functions, the President of the Republic (personal leadership) was at the summit of the government as the official representative of the executive authority. However, the Cabinet of Ministers (the collegium) was the working organ of the government. The President could not act without the Cabinet. The only act the President could perform alone was his oath, which he took upon assuming office.56
Any citizen eligible for election to the Seimas and who had reached the age of 35 could be elected as the President of the Republic.57 The President was elected by the Seimas for a three-year term, coinciding with its tenure.58 Owing his election to the Seimas and to nobody else, it was natural that the President would be expected to be grateful and subordinate to his electors, the legislative power. Even though he had the right to dissolve the Seimas,59 his constitutional power in this sphere was of a very limited nature. As soon as the new Seimas convened, the Presidential term expired and there was a new election.60 A President would risk a great deal in dissolving the Seimas, especially during his first term, as there could be no assurance that the membership of the new legislature might be less unfriendly to him than its predecessor assembly.61
The election of the President by the Seimas, rather than by any other institution or by the people themselves, was the result of a clash between two diverse viewpoints. The leftists in the Constituent Assembly stood against the Presidency as an institution. This attitude was prevalent among the Socialists in all three Baltic States.62 To the Socialists, the Presidency of one person seemed a monarchical remnant. They also argued that the Presidency for the small states was not practical and was too expensive. A collective leadership, the executive power of the Swiss type, was proposed by them.63
To the spokesmen for the center and rightist parties, the Presidency meant a workable and sound substitute for the second chamber of the legislature. The presidential veto, they argued, might "cool off" radical legislation; the President could become an institution above the parties and a soothing intermediary between the Seimas and the Cabinet; he could represent the stability and security of the state; and in case of a stubborn dispute, he could appeal directly to the people by dismissing the Seimas. These arguments of the Constitutent Assembly's majority prevailed.64
The Presidency was established in Lithuania without following the constitutional structures of those days in France, Czechoslovakia, Poland and other republics, where the Presidents had been elected by the National Assemblies consisting of two-chamber Parliaments.65 Such joint assemblies had no continuous status, and they were called ad hoc, just for the election of the President. Neither did Lithuania, like her neighbor Latvia, choose to follow the examples of Finland and Germany which entrusted the election of their Chief Executive directly to the people.
After the Social Democrats lost their battle against the institution of Presidency, they advocated the election of the President directly by the people. Their argument was presented in the following line: they remained opposed to the separate institution of Presidency; however, since the majority of the Seimas decided differently, they stood for the election of the President by the people rather than by the Seimas because, in a democracy all public officials should be elected by the people.66 There were also proposals that the President should be elected jointly by the Seimas and by the regional representatives.67 Obviously, the writers of the Constitution sought to avoid the complete absolutism of the legislature. At the same time, they were equally, if not more, eager to avoid a strong and independent Presidency. It seems that the classical doctrine of the separation of powers was considered by the constitutional authors as incompatible with the sovereignty of the people.68
In addition to several rights and prerogatives, the following functions were assigned to the President:
1. He represented the Republic, accredited diplomatic
representatives, and accepted the credentials of envoys from foreign countries.69
2. He appointed the Prime Minister and authorized him to form the Cabinet of Ministers, confirmed the same, and accepted the resignation of the Cabinet.70
3. He appointed and dismissed the State Controller.71
4. He had a restrictive veto in the legislative area. With the consent of the Cabinet, he had the right, within twenty-one days, to return the adopted law to the Seimas "with his comments" for another consideration. But he had to promulgate the law if it was then passed by "an absolute majority" of all the Seimas' members.72 The President was on par with the Seimas in one instance: if he objects to an amendment to the Constitution adopted by the Seimas, he had the Constitutional privilege of submitting it to the people for a decision by a general vote.73 He was powerless if the change of the Constitution was adopted by a vote of four-fifths of all the Seimas' members. Therefore, the President's right of veto was indeed a very limited suspensive veto.74
5. The President also was granted the right of pardon.75 It seems that the authors of the Constitution were not too concerned with this particular prerogative of the President for they did not define it very clearly. A general phrase of the first part of this brief article, that the President "shall have the right of pardon," evidently did not cover amnesty in the broadest sense of its meaning. Obviously, it presupposed sentences imposed by the court. This article, however, was more explicit in the cases of the Ministers convicted of abuse of office; they could be pardoned by the President only with the Seimas' consent. In all other cases, amnesty could be granted only in the manner prescribed by law.76
According to the Provisional Constitution of April 4, 1919, amnesty was the exclusive right of the President. This right was abolished by the Constituent Assembly's Provisional Constitution of June 10,1920; the President was given only the right to forgive the penalty, and the amnesty was left to the discretion of the Seimas.77
6. The President had the right to request the Speaker to call the legislature into session. In this respect, his right equaled the right of one-fourth of the number of the Seimas' members.78
7. He was the Commander-in-Chief of all armed forces of the Republic.79 With this constitutional power, the President was granted a greater importance. It increased his moral authority and tied him closely to the military. It also demonstrated civilian supremacy over the military authority. However, in case of war, the actual field leadership of the armed forces was to be given to a military man. Nevertheless, the civilian authority retained its superiority for the Cabinet remained responsible to the Seimas for the control and management of the armed forces.80
The President was granted extraordinary measures in case of war, armed revolt and other dangerous turmoils.81 In these instances, the Seimas was left in a passive role. If the Republic became involved in war, or if more than half of its territory was under martial law, the President had a right, by a special act, even without a formal initiative of the Cabinet of Ministers, to extend the Seimas' term beyond its normal tenure. However, this act had to be confirmed by the Seimas.
Other extraordinary acts which required a formal initiative of the Cabinet, were dealt with by Article 32: 1) a declaration of the existence of war or other emergency in the entire state or in certain parts thereof; 2) temporal suspension of the constitutional rights of citizens; and 3) the invoking of special means, including the use of force, for the prevention or removal of extraordinary dangers. Even though the President, with the consent of the Cabinet, was entitled to declare and to enforce such extraordinary measures, they had to be brought to the attention of the Seimas, In this instance, the Seimas had the power to affirm or to reject the President's acts post factum.82.
8. The President had the right to participate in the meetings of the Cabinet of Ministers, to preside over them and to require from the Cabinet or individual Ministers written information relating to their office.83 Obviously, he could influence the Cabinet's decisions by his personal authority and moral force.84 All the acts of the President, in order to have force, had to be countersigned by the Prime Minister or the proper Minister.85 Responsibility for the act rested with the Minister who countersigned. This was a logical conclusion in the parliamentary system, which demanded that the government's activities remain under the control of the legislative power. The acts issued on behalf of the Republic had to be confirmed by the Ministers having the Seimas' confidence.86 As a passive agent, the President could interfere in the activities of the Cabinet without formal power of decision. However, the Cabinet, as a working organ, assumed the role of active agent.
In general, in the President's person we find the official concentration of the State's ruling power and authority. All these factors add to his prestige and give him the sense of both dedication to and achievement for his people. His attributive competence to appoint such high officials as the Prime Minister, the diplomatic representatives, the chief military commander, the Justices, and others, undoubtedly elevate at least the President's authority, if not the power.87
The President's re-election was limited to no more than two three-year terms in succession.88 This was indeed a restrictive clause of the President's power. It was a safeguard of the legislative body against the chief executive becoming too popular and too influential. It obviated a potential danger to the system of parliamentary democracy. Evidently, the writers of the Constitution were hopeful that a person who could not be re-elected for a third term would be more passive and objective, less passionate and ambitious.89
The predominance of the legislature over the executive power was a continuous process because the Provisional Constitution of April 4, 1919, made the President subject to election by the Taryba. In case of the President's death or inability to perform presidential duties at any time, his duties were to be assumed not by the Prime Minister, but by the Chairman of the Taryba. This principle was accepted by the Constituent Assembly in its provisional Constitution of June 10, 1920, and given a recognition of permanency in the Constitution of 1922; whenever the President was unable to perform presidential duties, the Speaker became the Acting President.
The Presidency was continuous, except in such extraordinary events as death, resignation, or removal from office.
4. The Cabinet of Ministers
The formation of the Cabinet was entrusted to the President's initiative. The President selected and appointed the Prime Minister, authorizing him to form the Cabinet of Ministers. He also confirmed the Cabinet.90 The selection of the Ministers was an exclusive right of the Prime Minister, He was the "source" of the Cabinet and, therefore, he remained its active leader. The Prime Minister's power depended upon two constitutional institutions the Presidency and the Seimas. His selection and the initial approval of his Cabinet were in the hands of the President. The Cabinet's remaining in office was subject to the Seimas' confidence.91 For this reason the President was not at all free to choose any person he would prefer as his Prime Minister. His selection had to be based on the prospective appointee's ability to win the Seimas' confidence.
The Ministers were responsible to the Seimas collectively and individually.92 Therefore, the Prime Minister was bound to select as Ministers those actually delegated by their parties rather than those preferred by himself. Another restriction was of a constitutional nature: the Prime Minister could choose only the number of Ministers determined by law.93
According to the Constitution, the Cabinet of Ministers would be an executive and ruling organ, having parity with the Seimas.94 In reality, this was not so. It was completely dependent upon the Seimas because, in case of non-confidence, the Cabinet of Ministers had to resign.95 This was a categorical and unilateral order to resign; it could not be otherwise in a parliamentary system where the Parliament was, in reality, an actual sovereign. In case of refusal to comply with the Seimas' non-confidence determination, the Seimas could use its budgetary power to enforce its decision. This constitutional prerogative was reserved for the Seimas alone.96 The right of impeachment by the Seimas also could be used if the Ministers would refuse to leave their office after losing the Seimas' confidence.97
Theoretically, in the case of a dispute with the Seimas, the President and the Cabinet had a self-defense weapon of dismissal. The President did not have to produce any reason
for the dismissal of the Seimas.98 As long as he had the Prime Minister's consent and his counter-signature, the dismissal was constitutionally valid. However, the same article of the Constitution required that the election of the new Seimas would take place within sixty days after the dissolution. Another restrictive clause to the President's power was perhaps more psychological than legal; as soon as the new Seimas met, there would be a new election of the President, even if his three-year term was not completed. 99 Therefore, by dismissing the Seimas, the President and the Prime Minister left themselves to potential replacement.
The Cabinet, as it was been stated previously, had the right to propose and submit laws to the Seimas. In the field of legislative initiative, the Cabinet acted as a group of experts preparing material for the Seimas. However, the minority of the Ministers also had the right to present, in writing, to the Seimas, their views in regard to the proposals submitted by the Cabinet.100
This clause, giving the right to the Ministers who found themselves in a minority to explain their opinion and its grounds to the Seimas, is completely alien to English conceptions of parliamentary government where all the members of the Cabinet must agree or at least appear to agree on every governmental measure or resign.101 Of course, it was advantageous for the Seimas to know the opinions and arguments of all the Ministers before it took any definite action on proposed laws, as the Seimas was and remained the final authority to adopt a law.
The main duty of the Cabinet was to "uphold the Constitution and administer the laws, conduct the internal and foreign policies and protect the inviolability of the territory." The Cabinet was also charged to "prepare an estimate of all the incomes and expenditures of the state for the ensuing year and submit the same to the Seimas for confirmation."102
5. The Relationship between the Executive and Legislature
As was pointed out before, the Constitution delegated the executive power to the President of the Republic and to the Cabinet of Ministers. The President was to be independent of the Cabinet because he had the right not only to appoint, but also to dismiss the Prime Minister as well as individual Ministers. He had a right to observe closely the Cabinet's activities because he was granted the authority to require the Ministers to give him written information relating to their office. Nevertheless, the President was powerless to make his decisions or acts valid without the counter-signature of the proper Minister. His neighborly President of Latvia had greater prerogatives, which empowered him to dismiss the Latvian Seimas and to appoint the Prime Minister without any counter-signature.103
In the letter and spirit of the Constitution, the President's right to choose the Ministers was limited as he could select and appoint only the Prime Minister. On his part, the Prime Minister was bound to choose such Ministers who would have the approval of the President and the confidence of the Seimas.
The Cabinet had the right of legislative initiative as it was allowed to "formulate and submit the proposed laws to the Seimas."104 The Constitution did not confer upon the President any legislative initiative except in one case: he had the right, just as well as the Seimas itself or 50,000 citizens, to propose an amendment to the Constitution.105 In addition, if the President did not agree with an adopted amendment, he had the right, within three months, to submit it for decision to referendum.106
As was stated before, the President was given the right to dissolve the Seimas, but as soon as the new Seimas convened, the Presidential term would expire and there would have to be a new election of the President. Actually, the executive branch of the government had no equal status or parity with the legislature; the President, the chief exponent of the executive power, could make no decision alone. His acts had to be confirmed by the Ministers having the confidence of the Seimas.107 However, there was a brief gap between the tenures of the President and the Seimas; the old President remained in office until the election of his successor by a newly elected legislature.108 The President's right to request a session of the Seimas would appear to equalize the powers of both branches to some degree; but it was practically nullified by a Constitutional requirement that such a meeting had to be called by the Speaker, not the President of the Republic.109
1. The Role of the Political Parties
In the formation of political parties, Lithuania was typical of the newly emerged states after World War I. As pointed out earlier, the Taryba's decision to establish the Constituent Assembly in accordance with the system of proportional representation offered a great incentive to form many parties or political groups for the elections. It was recognized that the proportional system promised a possibility even to fractional groups to win some representation in the legislature.1
In addition to the parties described in this study and which had existed before 1904, several new ones came into being on the eve of the election to the Constituent Assembly. The Christian Democratic leaders considered it insufficient to appeal for votes merely on ideological grounds. Therefore, they took an active part in establishing two separate political entities appealing to the city workers and to the farmers respectively. Thus, the Lithuanian Federation of Labor was formed in Kaunas on September 27, 1919, as an association of all Christian trade unions and various workers' organizations.2 About the same time, the Lithuanian Farmers' Union was established with the objective of uniting the farmers into cooperatives and loan associations. Soon after, both of these organizations began to be called by their political opponents as satellites of the Christian Democrats. All three parties worked together in the Constituent Assembly as a single parliamentary bloc.3 However, during the election they had their separate lists of candidates in some districts. One of the leading Christian Democrats was Aleksandras Stulginskis, the first chairman of their Central Committee when that body was organized in Lithuania.4 When the Farmers' Union was established, Mr. Stulginskis identified himself with this group and remained with it.5 The Christian Democrats campaigned in the election of 1920 with a platform adopted on September 11, 1918. At this conference their first program of 1904 was revised to accord with the political and social exigencies of the new situation. With minor changes, the new program remained in force through the period of independence. Its main objectives were:
The whole life of Lithuania should be 'conducted in accordance with Christian principles; its internal structure and foreign relations were to be decided by the one-chamber Constituent Assembly. The state should be a democratic republic. More important laws were to be adopted by referendum. Elections to the Parliament were to be universal, equal and direct, under a proportional representation system, without any prejudice toward sex, religion, or national origin. Freedom of religion, conscience, speech and meetings; free choice of living and working place; old age insurance were to be promulgated. The municipalities should take care of all local matters except those which had legally to remain at the disposition of the central government. The state should have the right to limit the size of land ownership; it should establish a Land Fund for the farmless and small land owners. All national minorities were to enjoy a cultural autonomy.
This was the program advocated by the Christian Democrats and their allies, the Labor Federation and the Farmers' Union.6 This solid bloc was challenged most formidably by the Populists and Social Democrats. The Populists were the inheritors of the Political legacy left by the Democratic Party, which stood firmly as a unifying force of the Liberals only until 1905. At that time, during the sessions of the Great Assembly of Vilnius, a considerable group of younger Democrats, mostly university students imbued with revolutionary slogans, formed a new political party that was to be more revolutionary in its program and more responsive to the peasants' needs. The political aims of this group were practically identical with the program of the Democrats, but they were more specifically targeted at the peasants. This new grouping called itself Union of Lithuanian Peasants and advocated very tangible goals: a higher economy for the peasants; organization of cooperatives; small credit and loan associations; progressive methods in agriculture, etc.7 By agreement with the Union of Peasants, the Democrats were to work among the intelligentsia and the city population.
The Democratic Party officially existed until 1917, when its annual conference in Petersburg decided to change the name in order to be more "consistent" with the revolutionary trends of the time. The word "Socialists" was quite an attraction at that time to younger Democrats, who convinced their older colleagues to change the party's name to the Lithuanian Populist Socialist Party.8 Both groups the Union of Peasants and the Populists worked in consort. Although they participated in the Constituent Assembly's election with their own separate lists of candidates, they operated in the Assembly as a single bloc.
The Populists as well as the Social Democrats conducted their election campaigns and their activities in the Constituent Assembly in accordance with their programs discussed in Chapter II.
No party was free from "splinters" and "defectors." In 1907 the Democrats lost one of their prominent personalities, Antanas Smetona, and the Christian Democrats one of their original founders and organizers, the Reverend Juozas Tumas-Vaižgantas, when both of them joined in a new endeavor to establish a newspaper, "Viltis" (Hope),9 with which they remained briefly. Then Mr. Smetona and his close associates formed a nucleus for a new political party in an effort to unite conservative Catholics and liberal Nationalists. The main activity of this newly organized group centered around the publications Vairas (The Wheel) and its most active participants emerged eventually into the Nationalist Party, initially known as Tautos Pažanga (Nation's Progress); it afterwards organized its own affiliate, Žemdirbių Sąjunga (Agrarian Association). The Nationalists actively participated in the Lithuanian Conference of 1917 in Vilnius and they were strongly represented in the twenty-member Taryba.10 In the national election to the Constituent Assembly their platform avoided all purely ideological disputes and limited itself to the propositions of national progress in general terms. However, the party failed to elect even one candidate to the Constituent Assembly, apparently having met its defeat because of popular suspicion over its stand on land reform. There were many who suspected that the Nationalists furthered close ties with the big estate owners and were, therefore, considered unfriendly to agrarian reform.11
Another party which failed in the elections was the Santara Liberals (The Concord), organized originally in Moscow early in 1917 by a group of intellectuals, some of them formerly Democrats who found themselves isolated from their political colleagues in several cities of Russia and Lithuania.12 The initiative rested with Jurgis Baltrušaitis, a well-known poet13 and his colleague, Petras Leonas, former member of the Duma. Its organizers strove to attract moderate liberals disagreeing with the Socialists and the Populists on the left, the Christian Democrats in the center, and the Nationalists on the right. Among the Santara ranks there were many outstanding personalities who contributed greatly to the country's political, cultural and social life even though they were unable to be heard directly in the halls of the Constituent Assembly.14
National minorities were allowed to take an active part in the political life, even though they did not constitute a significant portion of the population. From the very beginning of the formation of the state institutions, they had been granted equal political and cultural rights. In the Constituent Assembly, as well as in the Cabinets, the national minorities were given unrestricted opportunities to share responsibilities and creative efforts for the cause of their native land. For several years the Cabinets included one or two Ministers for nationality affairs (Jewish and Byelorussian). Each committee and subcommittee of the Constituent Assembly had at least one member representing the national minorities.15
The Assembly committees were formed in accordance with this proportion: Three Christian Democrats, two Populists, one Social Democrat, and one representing the national minorities.16 This arrangement appears to have been peculiar inasmuch as the Christian Democrat Party consented to be a minority in the committees. Of course, in practical politics it had nothing to lose since the final word belonged to the Assembly itself. Nevertheless, one assumes that the majority party demonstrated political maturity and tolerance toward other parties.
The same tolerance also prevailed in the organizational operation of the Constituent Assembly where the positions of the First Deputy Speaker and the First Secretary were reserved for the Populists. This arrangement remained even after the Christian Democrat-Populist coalition government broke up.
2. Problems and Responsibilities of Leadership
The major parties strove to capture state leadership by winning the confidence of the peasants who were the population's majority and the backbone of the nation. This was apparent even in the names of the various parties. The Democrats split themselves into the Peasants' Union and the Socialist Populist Peasants' Party. The Nationalists tried to win the masses by calling themselves the Association of Agrarians. The Christian Democrats succeeded in organizing the peasants into the Farmers' Union as a loyal member of their bloc.
In their bid for the exclusive right to represent and defend the interests of the urban and rural workers, the Social Democrats had a formidable opponent in the Federation of Labor. These two groups differed mainly in their attitude towards religion and private ownership. To the Federation people, religion was considered as a positive, important and tangible force in the state's life and thus entitled to active public support. Therefore, in the Constituent Assembly the united efforts of the Social Democrats and of the Populists to secularize public education were strongly rejected by the Federation and the rest of the Christian Democratic bloc.17
From the earliest days of the Constituent Assembly, the Social Democrats were determined and eager to stay aloof from the leadership of the state and to present a strong opposition to the government in order, as their leader Steponas Kairys said, to serve the interests of the working man.18 They refused to accept any responsibility for the deeds of those who "had power in their hands."19
Although the Populists, by joining the Christian Democrats in a coalition government, shared the leadership of the executive branch of the government for a considerable time, they agreed on many issues with the Social Democrats during debates on the State Constitution. Both parties agreed on the leadership of the Republic by strongly objecting to the institution of the Presidency. As early as May 21, 1920, the Social Democrats proposed that the Speaker of the Constituent Assembly should also be the Acting President of the Republic.20 This view was shared by the majority of the Assembly with the qualification that this dual performance by one person was to be enforced only during the tenure of the Constituent Assembly. At that time the Social Democrats also proposed that the Cabinet of Ministers should come exclusively from the ranks of the legislature. However, this proposal was rejected mainly by the Christian Democrats by a vote of 56 to 39.21 This vote proved that the Social Democrats and Populists agreed in general that the actual leadership of the executive branch of the government should rest in the legislative power.
In their struggle against the separate institution of the Presidency, the Populists argued that the Seimas, as the representative of the sovereign people, should have full power of the State and, therefore, there could not be any separation of the governmental functions in the state.22 They also argued that the democratic government should be one and indivisible, belonging to the people, who, in turn, act through their elected representatives assembled in the Parliament.23
The question of the Presidency produced one of the more heated debates in the Assembly. Even the solid Christian Democratic bloc was divided on the election method. Some members, especially those of the Farmers' Union, favored a proposal that the President should be elected directly by the people. They also suggested a longer tenure of office rather than having it coincide with a three-year term of the Seimas.24 During the first reading of the Constitution's project, the motion to have the President elected by the Seimas rather than by the people directly was carried by a vote of 29 to 27, while the rest abstained.25
Apparently, the core of discussion took place in the meetings of the Committee on the Constitution, the records of which are not currently available, in this country. The Constitution's rapporteur usually was very brief in presenting the proposals to the Assembly after they had been passed or debated by the Committee.
In defending the institution of the Presidency, Msgr. Justinas Staugaitis stated that none of the new constitutions of Germany, Czechoslovakia and Finland had abandoned it.26 In his opinion, the President, as a leader of the state, should perform the duties of the Protector of the Constitution. He pleaded for the opportunity to test the workability of a democratic system with the Presidency, as an institution, preserving a balance against the absolutism of the Seimas.27
Replying to the arguments that there was no constitutional precedent to combine the duties of the head of a democratic state and the Speaker, Mr. Sleževičius said: "We, ourselves have clear evidence here our Speaker is also the President of the Republic . . . He is in constant contact with us, he feels as we do."28 Evidently, this argument was addressed to the Christian Democrats, whose prominent leader, Aleksandras Stulginskis, was then Speaker. However, it failed. After the third reading of the Article on the Presidency, the proposal to make the Speaker the President of the Republic as well was rejected by a vote of 57 to 30. When the final ballot was taken on the Presidency, the Populists and some Social Democrats walked out of the session and the decision was reached without their presence by a vote of 55 to 1.29
There was also an extensive debate as to who should substitute for the President in case of his sickness or travel abroad. Originally, the proposals favored the Prime Minister. However, at the suggestion of Mr. Zigmas Starkus,30 a Christian Democrat and a member of the Committee on the Constitution, the Constituent Assembly designated the Speaker by a vote of 46 to 22.31 By this decision, the Constituent Assembly followed the examples of several other parliamentary systems.32 It was a significant victory for the Populists and Social Democrats, who methodically defended the superiority of the legislative institutions against the executive branch of the government.
3. The Operation of Coalition Governments
All the governments formed during the first four years of regained independence were organized on a coalition basis.
The broadest of them were the second and fourth Cabinets under the premiership of Mykolas Sleževičius, the Populist leader. He managed to surround himself with the Christian Democrats, Populists, Nationalists, Santara Liberals, Social Democrats, non-partisans, and the national minorities.33
The first Cabinet of Mr. Sleževičius resigned after less than three months in office, due not to the diverse strife of the parties but to the difficulties in getting along with the three-man Presidium of the Taryba.34 Mr. Sleževičius agreed to become Premier again after the Taryba replaced the Presidium with the Presidency of one man, Mr. Antanas Smetona. This time Mr. Sleževičius' Cabinet, composed of the members from the same political groups as his original one, functioned almost six months. His aim seems to have been to subordinate partisan and personal interests to the cause of the young Republic. During his term in office, he emphasized his conviction that Lithuania had been able to emerge as an independent state only because of its peoples' unity and solidarity.35r. Sleževičius resigned again after the Nationalists refused to give him full cooperation and withdrew from the Cabinet. Apparently the main reason for discord was the Nationalists' demand that Professor A. Voldemaras should be appointed as Foreign Minister, a position he held in the first three cabinets.36 The fifth Cabinet, the last to be formed during the Taryba's tenure, under the leadership of Ernestas Galvanauskas, did not represent a coalition as broad as his predecessor's it included neither the Populists nor the Social Democrats. Nevertheless, it was Mr. Smetona's and Mr. Galvanauskas' fortune to lead the nation through the final phases of the state's provisional organization until the election of the Constituent Assembly.
It is obvious that the Christian Democrats, controlling an absolute majority of the Constituent Assembly's membership, were in a position to organize a new Cabinet of Ministers from their own ranks exclusively. They chose, however, a different path by determining to share the authority, prestige and responsibility of the government with the Populists, Santara Liberals, non-partisans and the national minorities. Only the Social Democrats rejected an invitation to join the coalition Cabinet.37 As it was pointed out earlier, the Santara group had no representation in the Constituent Assembly. The Christian Democrats were satisfied with the election of Mr. Aleksandras Stulginskis, their outstanding leader, as the Speaker of the Constituent Assembly and Acting President of the Republic. Mr. Stulginskis entrusted the formation of the sixth Cabinet to Dr. Kazys Grinius, a veteran Populist leader who, until then, held no post in the government. Apparently, Dr. Grinius was considered more acceptable to all political groups as a person who stood aloof from the realities of governmental responsibilities. Dr. Grinius' Cabinet included only two Christian Democrats among eleven Ministers.38
During the debates over the declaration of the new government, Msgr. M. Krupavičius, speaking as the leader of the Christian Democrats, pledged his party's support and stressed the need for unity among all the political parties. After pointing out that the new Cabinet was formed on a coalition basis at the time when one single party constituted an absolute majority of the Parliament, Msgr. Krupavičius explained that this "action alien to parliamentary practice" was taken because of "the difficult times." He further stated that "the burden of the government must be borne equally by the whole society, by all of those groups which are willing to work for the good of the Republic."39
Professor Albinas Rimka, speaking on behalf of the Populists, assured his party's confidence and cooperation in the government and also pointed out that no party of the coalition would forsake its program. He indicated that the struggle of ideas would continue.40 The representatives of the national minorities also expressed their satisfaction with the coalition government. When the vote of confidence was taken, the Social Democrats absented themselves from the session. Thus, the government won unanimous approval of the Constituent Assembly.41
The coalition Cabinet under Dr. Grinius remained in power until January 13, 1922, longer than the total tenure of the five previous Cabinets. It survived several serious crises of the young Republic and it fell chiefly because of ideological differences. The break became apparent when the principal partners of the coalition, the Christian Democrats and the Populists, could not compromise their positions on several domestic issues. The Populists were against any subsidies to private schools and compulsory religious instruction in public schools. They did not favor the free distribution of land to religious institutions and they were against the remuneration of big land owners for the nationalization of their land. The Populists also opposed a legislative proposal that the professors of the Faculty of Theology and Philosophy would be selected in accordance with the Church Canons.42 The Populists' objections were expounded by Mr. Sleževičius, while Dr. Grinius remained completely silent. Although Msgr. Krupavičius rejected all the complaints and the charges of his former political partners, the Populists did not change their decision. Following the recall of Dr. Grinius by his party, the remainder of the Cabinet resigned.
The Christian Democrats, however, pursued their determination to cooperate with other political groups on a coalition basis, although obviously without compromising their principal goals. On February 8, 1922, Mr. Ernestas Galvanauskas won the Assembly's confidence as the new Prime Minister whose Cabinet consisted of ten ministers.
The new government included only one Christian Democrat, and the remaining nine ministers were non-partisans, most of them leaning toward the Populists and other liberals.43 It stayed in office until the Constituent Assembly completed its legislative tenure. This was the period when the most important laws were adopted by the Constituent Assembly.
It is rather difficult to perceive political phenomena such as Lithuania's coalition governments, which were created during the Constituent Assembly's era. These Cabinets were supported and sustained mainly by a single party and had enough numerical strength to see that a government of its own members would be established. There were some voices asserting that the Christian Democrats sought to escape the full responsibility for the executive branch of the government due to lack of enough qualified statesmen in their midst. This assertion can hardly be considered seriously, however, because there is no evidence that the Christian Democrats were poorer in this respect than the other parties. Most probably, the coalition movement reflected the general feeling of the need for unity and cooperation among all patriotic political groupings. It seems that most of the political leaders were aware of the necessity to submerge their ambitions in order to have a united domestic front in the face of a constant danger from abroad and vis-a-vis the determined efforts to gain the recognition of the international community. According to Msgr. M. Krupavičius, the Christian Democrats dismissed their own ambitions and abandoned some advantages of one-party rule in order to assure the nation's unity and solidarity and to present Lithuania to the world as a united nation, mature and fully prepared for independent statehood.44
The parliamentary system established in Lithuania by her Constituent Assembly was typical of the governmental regimes which prevailed at that time in the countries leaning toward the French-type parliamentarianism. It did work during the period with which this study is concerned. Its further development and evolution are the subjects of another study.
4. Long-Range Problems of Territorial Boundaries
From the very first days since the Declaration of Independence, the government's domestic policies were conditioned by the problem of achieving and retaining the territorial boundaries that were considered by the Lithuanian leaders as ethnographic and essential for the state's survival. In this field, the Lithuanians encountered several obstacles owing to the territorial claims by their neighbors.45
According to the Lithuanian view, their Republic should have been allowed to retain its ethnographic area of 34,019 square miles, which was recognized by Soviet Russia by the Treaty of Moscow signed on July 12, 1920.46 However, Vilnius and its contiguous territory, which comprised approximately one-third of this area, was claimed by the Poles.47
As was stated earlier, the Lithuanian government was forced to withdraw from Vilnius to Kaunas in the first week of January, 1919, when the Soviet Red armies entered there on their military move to occupy the rest of the country. Thereafter, the city's administration changed hands several times. On April 19,1919, Vilnius was taken by the Poles, who routed the Bolsheviks and remained in the city until July 14, 1920.48
On August 25, 1920, the Lithuanians returned to Vilnius in accordance with the Treaty of Moscow. As the Russo-Polish war continued, Moscow urged the Lithuanians to join its fight against the Poles and promised territorial compensation.49 Lithuania, however, remaining neutral, refused to align herself with a power which only several months before tried to occupy the whole country. Nevertheless, the Poles accused the Lithuanians of helping the Soviet Russians.50 Finally, extensive military clashes took place between the forces of the two former allies. Under the auspices of the League of Nations' Military Control Commission, on October 7, 1920, at Suvalkai (Suwalki in Polish), representatives of both countries signed an agreement establishing a temporary demarcation line which was to remain in force until the final determination of all disputes by peaceful means. Within the terms of this pact, Vilnius was left in Lithuanian possession. But this agreement was shattered by a fait accompli.51
On October 9, 1920, several Polish divisions under the command of General Zeligowski, a close friend of Polish Chief of State Pilsudskį, crossed the agreed demarcation line, attacked the scattered Lithuanian forces and seized Vilnius, defended by only three battalions.52 Officially, the Polish government disassociated itself from Zeligowsky's armies and actions, but Pilsudskį confessed to their paternity later.53 At the intervention of the League of Nations, military clashes were stopped and a series of diplomatic negotiations were initiated. Much time was consumed in discussing the so-called Hymans Plan, which proposed the restoration of Vilnius and its region to Lithuania as an autonomous canton in exchange for the establishment of close political, military, and economic relations between the two states.54
After Poland refused to return to the status quo ante October 9, 1920, the Lithuanian government, with the unanimous approval of the Constituent Assembly, rejected the Hymans Plan.55 The Poles also rejected it. The same fate befell all other international efforts to reconcile two previous allies and Vilnius remained in the hands of the Poles. As a sign of protest, the Lithuanian government refused to establish any relations with Poland.56
The dispute over Vilnius and its aftermath are described by Polish Professor Oscar Halecki as follows:57
On the 9th October (1920) General Zeligowski took the town, although the Polish plenipotentiaries had quite unnecessarily agreed, two days previously, to a temporary line of demarcation leaving it on the Lithuanian side. The military method of deciding the question . . . reacted fatally on the future relations between Poland and Lithuania. The conciliatory action of the League of Nations prevented a war . . . but Lithuania never consented to acknowledge the incorporation.
The question of the recovery of Vilnius remained a serious problem for all Lithuanian governments. It contained historical, cultural, national, and political aspects. The people and the government regarded Vilnius as a cradle of the nation's history and traditions.58 It was the ancient capital of the Grand Duchy.
Here was established the first and the only university of the country. Here were published the first Lithuanian books. Here was the center of all political activities since the loss of independence in 1795 until the Declaration of Independence in 1918. On the other hand, the Poles offered their arguments asserting that Vilnius had become a Polish cultural center.59 They claimed that it had no Lithuanian character, that the University of Vilnius produced an entire line of Polish scholars and thinkers, that Vilnius had become "the time-honored patrimony of the Polish people."60
Being aware of all these aspects of the problem, it is easier to understand the fruitlessness of many efforts to reach a reconciliation between the two countries. The Lithuanian political parties had no quarrels among themselves over the Vilnius question. They all stood for a firm and uncompromising position regarding the possession of Vilnius. When the armed clashes erupted between the Lithuanian and Polish forces in 1920, Populist leader Sleževičius was called to head the Supreme Defense Committee.61 The opposition Social Democrats demanded the cancellation of the Hymans Plan negotiations as early as September 9, 1921.62 The government defended its decision to negotiate by arguing that the conferences had been proposed by the League of Nations and that the reaching of an understanding was in the interest of both countries.63 No party would have had any significant number of followers if it had dared to suggest any proposal to Poland which would mean normal relations without the possession of Vilnius.64
The tension over Vilnius was the main reason for the failure to establish an effective alliance of Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland as a potential force vis-a-vis big neighbors.65 Even Latvia and Estonia were reluctant to become closely allied with Lithuania because of the latter's dispute with Poland.66
Another territorial problem which also played a very significant role in determining foreign and domestic policies was the adjudication of the Klaipėda territory from Germany. By the Versailles Treaty, Germany renounced the possession of its former seaport of Klaipėda (Mėmei in German) and its adjacent territory, a strip of land of 1,109 square miles, on the Baltic coast north of the Nemunas River. Although this area had been under German control since the thirteenth century, it had remained very heavily populated by the Lithuanians.67 In a reply to German objections, the Allied Powers pointed out that this region, as a whole, had been predominantly Lithuanian in origin and speech. They also emphasized that Klaipėda was the only sea outlet for Lithuania.68 Nevertheless, this territory with its 140,000 inhabitants at first was transferred to the French administration, pending further decision. Such an action of the Allies was a great blow to the Lithuanians and their leaders who had defended the nation's claims at the Versailles Conference.
During the French administration, German activists worked for the establishment of the Klaipėda region as a so-called free state. French sources favored the idea of converting Klaipėda into a free city on the model of Danzig.69 These and other activities and plans caused great concern in Lithuania. All the political parties, including the national minorities, urged the government to be more alert and take a firm action which would lead to the union with the Klaipėda territory. After an interpellation presented by the Social Democrats, the Constituent Assembly adopted unanimously a joint resolution calling for the immediate transfer of the Klaipėda territory with the seaport to Lithuanian sovereignty.70 Some members of the Constituent Assembly, especially Jewish, urged the government to appeal directly to the Klaipėda population by pointing out the economic advantages to them. In Klaipėda itself, among the Lithuanian-minded inhabitants, there was a strong movement for the union with Lithuania proper.
The political parties were content with the government's assurances that it would seek the transfer of the territory, that it would guarantee the people of Klaipėda on autonomy in culture, local administration, economic and religious affairs.71
1. Recognition by the International Community
Lithuania's efforts to gain the Western World's recognition as a sovereign state after its reestablishment in 1918 were confronted by the massive opposition of the Russian and pro-Russian circles wherever they found it possible to reach the ears and eyes of the Great Powers: at the Versailles Conference, in London, in Paris, in Rome, in Washington. The various groups, organized into the Russian Political Conference, appealed to the Allied Powers as early as March 6, 1919, by pleading that no final decision would be made regarding the statehood of Lithuania and her two Baltic neighbors without the consent of the Russians.1
Despite the energetic efforts of the well-organized Lithuanian-Americans, the U.S. government upheld for a long time the pro-Russian position for the cause of "indivisible Russia." In a reply to the Lithuanian American Council's petition of November 14, 1918, three days after the first Cabinet of Ministers had been formed in Vilnius, the State Department declared that the United States was not prepared to recognize any new government in Lithuania at that time.2 The U.S. Delegation in Paris came out against the admission of the Lithuanian delegation on the official grounds of "a lack of information."3 The same negative policy toward recognition also prevailed among the other Allied Powers. As a consequence, even the names of Lithuania and the other Baltic States were omitted in the Treaty of Versailles. According to British sources, the Allied Powers thus hoped to preserve "a territorially indivisible
Russia" which could be given back intact "in the event of some form of constitutional monarchy being established."4
When the Constituent Assembly convened for its first session, Germany was the only great power that had recognized Lithuania de jure. In addition to Germany, only Latvia and Estonia had established full diplomatic relations with Lithuania. De facto recognition in 1919 was given by Norway (August 22), Great Britain (September), and Finland (November 17). A few days before the convocation of the Constituent Assembly, France also extended its de facto recognition. On July 4, 1920, Poland informed the government that it was recognizing the Constituent Assembly and the government as de facto institutions.5
The international atmosphere became more favorable to Lithuania after July 12, 1920, when she concluded a peace treaty with Moscow whereby Soviet Russia renounced "for all time" any sovereignty it had over Lithuania and recognized Lithuania as a sovereign and independent state.6 Argentina was the first Latin American country to recognize her de jure.
This was done on March 14, 1921. A great diplomatic victory was achieved on September 22,1921, when Lithuania was admitted as a full member of the League of Nations.7 Her admission was discussed for the first time at a plenary session on November 15, 1920, under the sponsorship of Colombia, Italy, Paraguay, Persia, and Portugal.8
U.S. de jure recognition was granted only on July 28, 1922. It was considered the most important diplomatic achievement in the annals of the young Republic.9 The news of U.S. recognition reached Lithuanians practically on the eve of the adoption of their State Constitution. Especially pleased were the Constituent Assembly members, many of whom held the opinion that a non-recognition by the great states might lead to the loss of independence. The government, however, did not lose proper perspective of the situation and acted in foreign relations as if it had been accepted by all the important powers. Its patience and perseverance produced affirmative results.
The entrance into the League of Nations was followed by the recognition of Sweden, Holland, Finland, Brazil, and Czechoslovakia. After United States' de jure recognition, more governments joined the community of the countries granting recognition.10 On November 10, 1922, the Vatican extended its full recognition.11 Great Britain, France, Italy, and Japan granted their de jure recognition only on December 20, 1922.12 Thus, by the end of 1922, the young Republic, functioning under its democratic Constitution adopted by the Constituent Assembly,13 became recognized as a sovereign nation by the most important states of all the continents.
2. Agrarian Reform
Since 1905, all political parties were advocating agrarian reform, which would assure a just distribution of land and a more effective system of agriculture. These promises were repeated in their revised programs and election platforms. As early as December 1, 1918, a Land Reform Commission was established within the Ministry of Agriculture to do spade work for agrarian reform.14
Before World War I, about 450 families possessed 22 percent of the country's arable land and forestry, each of them owning at least 800 hectares.15 The total amount of arable land was about 4 million hectares.16 According to a preliminary study made in 1919, about 60,000 landless peasants and 40,000 small holders had expressed a desire to acquire land for their permanent ownership.17 This was very convincing evidence of the necessity to ensure appropriate action in carrying out social and economic reforms. Distribution of land was initiated in 1919 in compliance with the government's promises to the volunteer soldiers.
The Preliminary Land Reform Law was adopted by the Constituent Assembly on August 18, 1920, barely three months after its convocation. Primarily, it legalized the dispossession of entailed estates consisting of land confiscated by the Russians in retaliation for the participation in the freedom revolts of 1831 and 1863.18
The principal Land Reform Law was adopted by the Constituent Assembly on April 3, 1922.19 It main objectives were to provide land for the landless, to endow small owners with additional land and thus help them to become more economically independent, to make hitherto unused and waste fields productive, and to modernize agricultural methods.20 The established State Land Fund was authorized to dispose of about 720,000 hectares previously held by big land owners.21 Thus more than 45,000 new farmsteads were established and over 200,000 persons were provided with a regular means of livelihood.22 Each new farmer also was granted adequate building material and a modest sum of money for his initial inventory and the first sowing.23 A significant amount of land was assigned for schools, public playgrounds, organizations, and various governmental institutions.24 The law also provided that the churches, monasteries and buildings be restored to their legal owners from whom they had been confiscated by the Tsars.25 It also provided for assistance in changing the land tilling system. In accordance with the same legislation, 9,600 villages with an area of about 2 million hectares were assured of subdivision into self-contained homesteads. With this change, the ancient common pasture-lands and servitudes were eliminated and the peasants were freed from the necessity to maintain a common system of crop rotation.
With the enforcement of land reform,26 Lithuania became a state of small and middle-size farmers. Two-thirds of the farms were smaller than 15 hectares, and the average farm was 30 hectares.27 There was an abundance of agriculture produce for home requirements and for export. By increasing the number of self-supporting independent families, the government was able to prevent any danger of violent social revolution from within.28 These changes strengthened the peoples' attachment to their sovereign nation and thus contributed considerably to the Republic's domestic tranquility, economic stability, and potential prosperity.
3. Economic Recovery
World War I left Lithuania in ruins and economic chaos. About 12,000 villages, with 14,270 farms, were completely destroyed. The same fate befell some 3,000 homesteads and 50 towns, with 57,800 buildings. Cattle were decreased by 47 percent, horses by 38 percent, and sheep by 40 percent.29
There was no sound currency, for the Russian rubles and the German Marks were practically worthless. Often this alien currency had been circulated widely as rapidly as the official and unofficial printing presses could operate.30 The country had to wait for its own currency until October 1, 1922, when the Bank of Lithuania issued the first series of monetary notes, named Litas.31
The Bank of Lithuania was established on August 11, 1922, in accordance with a special law passed by the Constituent Assembly. Its functions were to regulate the circulation of money, to facilitate payments in the country and abroad, to establish a stable currency system, and to encourage the growth of agriculture, commerce, and industry.32 It was given the exclusive right of note circulation, one-third of which was to be covered by gold.33 One Litas was to be equal to 0.150452 gram of pure gold.33 Its parity was fixed at ,the rate of ten Litas for one U.S. gold dollar.34 The first emission of Litas was guaranteed by three million gold rubles received from Soviet Russia in accordance with the Peace Treaty. Reserve funds were accumulated by U.S. dollars and export money.35
In addition to the Bank of Lithuania, in which the state held the controlling percentage of the shares, the government also encouraged private banking. The major institutions in this field were the Commercial Bank, established in 1920; the Agricultural Bank, 1921; the Central Jewish Cooperative Bank and the Credit Bank, both organized in 1921.36
Lithuania's manufacturing industries before the war were not significant at all, mostly connected with the preparation of foodstuffs, tanning or the industry of bricks, glass, and pottery. There also was a timber industry.37 Lithuania was in great need of raw markets in exchange for timber, flax, bacon, and dairy products.38 Industrial development, however, grew quite rapidly: in 1920 there were 2,474 certificates issued for the new industrial establishments; in 1921, 4,011; and in 1922, 4,933.39
Foreign trade also made very visible progress as the statistical figures demonstrate (in millions of Litas):40
In general, the government conducted its financial policy on a sound and economical basis. As early as 1921, the state's budget was balanced.41
4. Cultural Progress
If cultural progress could or should be measured by the number and kind of schools, Lithuania would be considered as having achieved great accomplishments in a brief period. Even during the war, the number of her grammar schools was increased. When the Russians left the country on the heels of the advancing German armies in 1915, there were 875 grammar (four-year) schools with 1,022 teachers.42 By the year 1919, we find 1,036 schools with 1,232 teachers and 45,540 pupils. In the year 1922, as growth continued, Lithuania counted 1,659 grammar schools with 2,183 teachers and 120,023 pupils.43
This progress was assured by the great efforts of the government and private organizations. Already, at the end of December, 1918, the Ministry of Education called a conference of teachers which adopted fundamental principles for the establishment, administration, and curricula of the elementary schools. The Law of Education, adopted by the Constituent Assembly on October 4, 1922, instituted a compulsory four-year elementary education, free of any tuition. In a short time illiteracy was reduced from 84 percent to 15 percent.44 A shortage of teachers was eliminated by increasing the number of teacher colleges and special courses. In 1919 there were only three teacher colleges with 149 students, in comparison with seven, having 90 instructors and 841 students, in 1922.45
The eight-year high schools were established by the state, municipalities and private organizations. No matter under whose auspices the schools were established and maintained, they were recognized and supported by the state. The growth of high schools is reflected in these statistics:46
No. of Schools
The University of Lithuania 47 was established on February 16, 1922, by special legislation of the Constituent Assembly. In its first statute was a copy of one adopted by the Taryba on December 5,1919, when it was drafted for the University of Vilnius. The university had six faculties: Theology-Philosophy, Law, Humanities, Medicine, Mathematics, and Technology.48 In the spring semester of 1922 it assumed its work with 53 professors and 481 students; in the fall semester of that year the university's family consisted of 102 professors and 1,168 students.49 The university was granted broad autonomy in its educational and scientific pursuits and in its own administrative matters. The Rector was to be elected by the professors themselves on a rotation basiseach year there was to be a new Rector, chosen from a different faculty. Each faculty conducted its activities autonomously and published its own publication in the form of a scholarly journal.
During the period 1920-1922, there were established the State Opera, the State Theater, the Conservatory of Music, the Academy of Fine Arts, and numerous literary and scientific periodicals.
Many ideological and professional organizations, with chapters throughout the country, did their best to foster education among the broad masses.
The Short-lived Parliamentary System
Despite its promising beginning during the first years of regained independence, Lithuania's parliamentary system did not last long enough for the country to experience the full flowering of democracy. It lasted officially until April 12, 1927, when the President of the Republic, Antanas Smetona dissolved the third Seimas (elected in May, 1926) and did not set a date for a new election as was required by the Constitution. From that day, Lithuania became similar to other European countries experiencing authoritarian regimes.1
The parliamentary system did not last probably because its moderate political parties (Christian Democrats and Populists) were unable to revive the coalition government that had been effective during the first two years of the Constituent Assembly. The former partners went their own separate ways due to ideological differences and personality clashes. Both parties rejected even the most positive programs proposed by the other.
The election of the third Seimas (May, 1926) did not produce a stable majority either to the centrist or leftist political formations. The Christian Democrats (30) and "leftist" grouping (37) of the Populists and Social Democrats could not form a government by their own strength which would win the confidence of the majority of the 85 members of the Seimas.2 The Populists and Social Democrats, eager to assume the leadership of the state, sought and received the support of the representatives of national minorities (12 representatives). Thus, a new coalition was formed. However, this agreement was not without certain concessions.3
In June, 1926, the new government replaced the Cabinet which had consisted of the Christian Democrats. It was led by Mykolas Sleževičius, a Populist, an experienced statesman, former Prime Minister. The new president was Kazys Grinius, also a former Prime Minister, a leader of the Populists. Both of them had to listen to the demands of their coalition partners, the Social Democrats and the national minorities.
The Social Democrats demanded to immediately remove the "emergency status" which was in effect since 1919 when Lithuania was in danger of losing its independence.4 The emergency status granted some power to the Ministry of Interior to take administrative measures in coping with the "anti-state" activities of persons and institutions. Later, the Polish minority demanded the establishment of more schools conducted in Polish, while at the same time Lithuanian schools in the Vilnius area under the Polish administration were being practically eliminated.5
Shortly after the new government lifted the restrictions of the "emergency status," strikes and disorderly streef demonstrations in Kaunas and other cities took place, adding to the discontent of many people.6 Many suspected Communists had infiltrated into the professional unions although the clandestine Communist party had a very small membership.7 Many people were unhappy with the Sleževičius government's change in policy from the previous government toward the Catholic Church, especially for its ignoring the recently established ecclesiastical province of Lithuania and refusing to recognize the appointments of religious teachers by the new bishops.8 In addition, the army officers became restless when the government dismissed several high-ranking officers.9 University students also became enraged when their public demonstration in Kaunas protesting the establishment of more schools for national minorities was dispersed by the police (November, 1926).
All of this unrest created a political climate conducive to a small group of young army officers to exploit the situation for their plans. They conspired to organize a military coup d'etat and, if successful, turn the leadership of the country over to Antanas Smetona, the first president of the state to Augustinas Voldemaras, the first Prime Minister.10 Both of these statesmen were Nationalists and not too friendly toward the parliamentary system under which they were not able to use their talents for public service since both of them and their party lost in the elections to the Constituent Assembly and to the first and second Seimas.11
The military coup took place on December 17, 1926 when the government was prepared to celebrate President Grinius' 60th birthday.12 A group of young army officers took several military units out of their barracks and surrounded without any resistance the Seimas building, the President's residence, the offices of the Cabinet of Ministers, swiftly took over the Post Office with some help of the university students. That happened in the early hours past midnight.
Having seized and detained most members of the government, the revolutionists demanded its resignation and proclaimed Antanas Smetona "the Leader of the Nation." After consultations with several intermediaries, President Grinius agreed to step aside if some arrangements could be made to preserve the constitutional requirement. A way to do this was found very quickly. Grinius accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Sleževičius and his Cabinet and consented to the appointment of Voldemaras as a new Prime Minister if the latter would agree to obey the Constitution.13 After receiving this assurance, Dr. Grinius resigned and Mr. Smetona was elected by the Seimas as the new President.14 The Populists and the Social Democrats did not attend this session. The Voldemaras Cabinet included two Christian Democrats and two Farmers Party (formerly Santara) members. Thus officially the new government appeared as if it was ready to continue the democratic functioning of the state.
The new post-coup "coalition" lasted only until April 12, 1927. When the Seimas voted no-confidence in the Voldemaras Cabinet for its detention of one Populist representative for an alleged conspiracy to overturn the government, the President dismissed the Seimas and did not proclaim new elections, which the constitution declared must be held within 60 days. Protesting this unilateral action, the Christian Democrats recalled their two members from the Cabinet and began to oppose the Nationalist government.15 The same action was also taken by the Peasants Party.
From April 1927, Lithuanian political life entered a new chapter. President Smetona and Prime Minister Voldemaras instituted an authoritarian regime which was to survive until 1939.16 In May 1928, the President proclaimed a new constitution depriving the Parliament of principal powers granted by the 1922 Constitution. The new constitution strengthened the President's power and minimized the rights of the Parliament (Seimas). The president was to be elected for a term of seven years, not by the Seimas but by "the special representatives of the nation."17 In accordance with the 1928 Constitution, President Smetona was reelected in Dec. 1931 for a seven year term.18 By that time, the government restricted the political parties, except the Nationalists, from engaging in any public activity.19
The new regime was described by some as dictatorial. Some political observers called it a "period of restricted democracy" which lasted until March 22, 1939, when a new coalition Government was formed after Lithuania was forced to accept the ultimatum of Nazi Germany to cede the Klaipėda region to Germany.20 A new government headed by General Jonas Černius, first active military officer appointed for the Prime Minister's post, included a few Christian Democrats and Populists21 who were selected not as representatives of their respective parties but as individuals well-known in the country. This even changed the internal political atmosphere by creating hopes to expect a return of the state to a more democratic structure.
Eight months later, the Černius Cabinet resigned after the government had to allow the Soviet Union (October 10, 1939) to establish its military bases in several strategic places in Lithuania in "exchange" for the return of Vilnius and its adjacent area to Lithuania. At that time, Vilnius was in Soviet hands after Poland was crushed by Nazi and Soviet armies.22 A new Cabinet was formed by Antanas Merkys, a Nationalist, and it included the same number of non-Nationalists as the previous one.
Fate was not kind to this government. President Smetona and the Cabinet did everything possible to preserve the neutrality of the country during World War II and to assure its political independence. However, the big neighbor in the East had its own plan whose execution was guaranteed by the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact's secret protocols of August and September of 1939. The military occupation of Lithuania by the Soviet Union on June 15, 1940 enslaved at least temporarily the life of an independent state and suppressed the exercise of elementary human rights of its proud people.
1 This is a third article in a series about Lithuania by the author. The second one appeared in LITUANUS, Vol., XXXII No. 1 1986, p.25-46. The sources not mentioned in the previous presentations will be fully referred to, while the rest will be briefly pointed out by giving the names of the authors and pages of their publications.
2 Sruogienė, op. cit., pp. 75-76. See also Rolnik, op. cit. p. 53.
3 Roemeris, op. cit,, p. 467.
4 Social Democrats and Nationalists were also invited to join the coalition government. Both parties declined the invitation and decided to remain in the opposition Social Democrats in the Seimas, and the Nationalists who had no representation in Seimas opposed the government in their press and other activities. See Sruogiene, op. cit., p. 76 and also Gediminas Galva Ernestas Galvanauskas (Chicago: 1982), p. 152.
5 Later Professor of Constitutional Law, Minister of Justice, Speaker of the Seimas, and Prime Minister.
6 Rolnik, op. cit., p. 55.
7 On October 9, 1920, Polish troops crossed a previously agreed line of demarcation, occupied Vilnius and began their aggressive march deeper in Lithuania. See Gerutis, op. cit., pp. 168-170 and also Sruogienė, op. cit. p. 105.
8 Roemeris, op. cit., p. 128.
9 Roemeris, op. cit., p. 185-186.
10 Agnes Headlam-Morley, The New Democratic Constitutions of Europe (London: Oxford University Press, 1923), p. 177.
11 Roemeris, op. cit., p. 181.
12 Vladas Viliamas, "Lietuvos Seimai" (The Seimas of Lithuania), Tėvynės Sargas, V(1954), 90.
13 Ibid., pp. 90-93.
14 Lithuania, The Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania of 7922. Articles 1 and 2. Hereafter, the abbreviation LC will stand for the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania. The English text used in this study may be found in Graham, op. cit., pp. 720-735.
15 LC., Art. 22.
16 Ibid., Art. 23.
17 Ibid., Art. 24.
18 Lithuania, Vyriausybės Žinios (Government Herald), Nr. 93 (1922). This official publication for promulgating laws will be cited hereafter as V2.
19 VŽ., Nr. 98 (1922).
22 Rolnik, op. cit. p. 33.
23 Ibid. p. 84, fn. 104.
24 M. Roemeris, Reprezentacija ir Mandatas (The Representation and the Mandate) (Kaunas: Lietuvos Universitetas, 1926), p. 135.
25 LC.,Art. 25.
26 Robinson, op. cit., p. 303.
27 LC, Art. 26.
28 Ibid. Art. 52.
29 Ibid., Art. 45.
30 Ibid., Art. 36. The wording of this article is almost identical to Article 21 of the Weimar Constitution. See: Gerhard Anschutz, Die Verfassung des Deutschen Reichs (Berlin: Verlag von Georg Stilke, 1928), p. 114.
31 LC., Art. 35.
32 Ibid., Art. 37.
33 Ibid., Art. 38.
36 Ibid., Art. 39.
37 Ibid., Art. 27.
38 Ibid., Art. 28.
39 Ibid., Art. 30.
40 Ibid., Art. 27.
41 Ibid., Art. 102.
42 Ibid., Art. 103.
44 Ibid., Art. 20.
45 Ibid., Art. 103.
46 Ibid., Art. 63.
47 Ibid., Art. 44.
48 Ibid., Art. 28.
49 Ibid., Art. 59.
50 Ibid., Art. 29.
51 Ibid., Art. 30.
52 Ibid, Art. 31.
53 Ibid, Art. 33.
54 Ibid., Art. 4š.
55 Roemeris, Lietuvos Konstitucinės, p. 279.
56 LC, Art. 42.
57 Ibid, Art. 43.
58 Ibid., Art. 44.
59 Ibid., Art. 52.
61 Nevertheless, this right was used by President A. Stulginskis on March 13,1923, when he dissolved the first regular Seimas after a deadlock over the confirmation of the Cabinet of Ministers headed by Mr. Galvanauskas (the opposition's non-confidence motion resulted in a tie vote, 38 to 38 with two abstentions). The President was successful; the second Seimas provided his Christian Democrats with an absolute majority (40 out of 78 seats). Mr. Stulginskis, re-elected for the second term, reappointed Prime Minister Galvanauskas. See V. Viliamas, "Antrasis Lietuvos Seimas" (The Second Seimas of Lithuania), Tėvynės Sargas, Nr. 1 (13) (1956), pp. 51-53.
62 Rolnik, op. cit., p. 87.
63 Ibid., p. 89.
64 Rolnik, op. cit., pp. 88-89.
65 Roemeris, Lietuvos Konstitucinės, p. 263.
66 LSS., (1922), 218th Session. See also Rolnik, op. cit., p. 90, fn. 137.
67 Ibid., p. 91.
68 Headlam-Morley, op. cit., p. 189.
69 LC.,Art. 46.
70 Ibid., Art. 47.
71 Ibid., Art. 48.
72 Ibid., Art. 50. 73Ibid., Art. 103.
74 Headlam-Morley, op. cit. , p. 170.
75 LC, Art. 51.
76 Ibid., Art. 65.
77 Roemeris, Lietuvos Konstitucinės, p. 35.
78 LC., Art. 34.
79 Ibid., Art. 53.
81 Ibid., Arts. 25 and 32.
82 Ibid., Art. 32.
83 Ibid., Art. 55.
84 Roemeris, Lietuvos Konstitucinės, p. 234.
85 LC, Art. 55.
86 Roemeris, Lietuvos Konstitucinės, p. 285.
87 Ibid., p. 343.
88 LC., Art. 44.
89 Roemeris, Lietuvos Konstitucinės, p. 337.
90 LC., Art. 47.
91 Ibid., Art. 59.
92 Ibid., Art. 56.
94 Ibid., Arts. 2 and 40.
95 Roemeris, Reprezentacija ir Mandatas, p. 100.
96 LC, Art. 29.
97 Ibid., Art. 63.
98 Ibid., Art. 52.
100 Ibid., Art. 40.
101 Headlam-Morley, op. cit. , p. 225.
102 LC, Art. 94.
103 The Latvian Constitution of February 15, 1922, Arts. 43, 53, and 56. Published in Graham, op. cit., pp. 695-705.
104 LC, Art. 55.
105 Ibid., Art. 102.
106 Ibid., Art. 103.
107 Ibid., Art. 55.
108 Ibid, Art. 44
109 Ibid., Art. 34.
1 Headlam-Morley, )0p. cit., p. 117.
2 "Lietuvos Darbo Federacija" (Lithuanian Labor Federation), Tėvynės Sargas. V (1955), 64.
3 Royal Institute, op. cit., p. 57.
4 Pranas Vainuskas, "Lietuvių Krikščionių Demokratų Partijos Centro Komitetai" (The Central Committees of the Lithuanian Christian Democrat Party), Tėvynės Sargas, V (1955), 72. This conference was held on September 23, 1917.
5 Algirdas J. Kasulaitis, Lithuanian Christian Democracy (Chicago: Leo XIII Fund, 1976), pp. 77-78.
6 Full text of the program may be found in Tėvynės Sargas, II (1949), 133-136.
7 Almantas, op. at., p. 21. One of the leading organizers of the new party was Ernestas Galvanauskas; later disassociated from close ties with any political party, he distinguished himself as a great statesman, especially in the economic and financial planning fields and in diplomacy.
8 Ibid., pp. 25-26. In 1922 both parties merged into a single party under the name of the Lithuanian Populist Peasant Union. For convenience and clarity, this group in the study is called the Populists (in Lithuanian-Liaudininkai), the name most often used in Lithuanian political literature.
9 Šapoka, op. cit., p. 522.
10 The first President (Smetona) and the first Premier (Voldemaras) came from their ranks. Dr. J. Basanavičius also associated with them while serving his beloved nation in the Taryba.
11 Senn, op. cit, p. 72; see also Pakštas, World War, op. cit, p. 20.
12 Rapolas Skipitis, Nepriklausomą Lietuvą Statant (The Restoration of Independent Lithuania) (Chicago: 1961), p. 390.
13 Later Lithuania's diplomatic representative in Moscow and Paris.
14 Among these were Tomas Noruševičius (engineer and diplomat), Tadas Petkevičius (lawyer, professor), Rapolas Skipitis (jurist, member of the Grinius Cabinet), diplomat Vaclovas Sidzikauskas (Minister in Berlin and London), poet and playwright Balys Sruoga, painter-artist Adomas Varnas, economist Petras Šalčius, and others.
15 At that time the population of Lithuania was 2,012,173. The percentage of the nationalities was as follows: Lithuanians 84.4 Jews 7.6 Poles 3.2 Russians 2.4 Germans 1.2 Latvians 0.7 Others 0.2 Foreigners 0.3 The representation in the Constituent Assembly was: Lithuanians, 91 percent; Jews, 5.5 percent; Poles, 2.5 percent and the Germans, 1 percent. See Lietuva Skaitlinėmis (La Lithuanie En Chiffres), published by Centralinis Statistikos Biuras (Kaunas: 1923), also Rolnik, op. cit., p. 45.
16 LSS, Vol. I (1920).
17 Headlam-Morley, op. cit., p. 55.
18 LSS, I (1920), 152.
20 Ibid., Vol. I. 5th Session.
22 LSS, II (1922), 84-91.
23 Ibid, I (1922), 8.
24 Ibid, II (1922), 104.
25 Ibid, I (1922), 71.
26 Ibid, II (1922), 104.
27 Ibid, I (1922), 78.
28 Ibid., p. 85.
29 Ibid., 11(1922), 96.
30 Later Minister of Interior, Controller of the State, member of the State Council
31 LSS, II (1922), 96.
32 Article 40 of the Polish Constitution of March 17. 1921, said: "The Speaker assumes the rights of the President if the position is rendered vacant by death, resignation or any other cause." See Milton H. Andrew, Twelve Leading Constitutions (Campton: American University Series, 1931).
33 LVŽ, Nr. 1 (1918).
34 Rūkas, op. cit., p. 125.
35 Ibid., p. 126.
36 Ibid, p. 127.
37 From a personal correspondence with Msgr. Mykolas Krupavičius.
38 Harrison, op. cit., p. 220.
39 LSS (1920), p. 158.
40 Ibid., p. 155. Mr. Rimka was an active member of the Committee on Land Reform, one of the protagonists of agrarian reform; later he served as Finance Minister, professor of economics, author of several books.
41 LSS (1920), 18th Session.
42 Ibid., (1922), 158th Session.
43 Harrison, op. cit., p. 221. For more details on the declaration or Mr. Galvanauskas, see LSS, Session of February 8, 1922.
44 From a personal letter to the author of this article.
45 Manning, op. cit., p. 154.
46 Pakštas, The Boundaries, p. 7. For an extensive review and appraisal of the Lithuanian-Soviet relations, see Albert Tarulis, Soviet Policy Toward the Baltic States 1918-1940 (South Bend, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1959).
47 Pakštas, Lithuania and World War II, p. 23. Nevertheless, in territorial size, Lithuania, without the disputed eastern area, was larger than Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Luxemburg, Switzerland, Estonia, or Lich-tenstein.
48 Casimir Graužinis, La Question de Vilna (Paris: Faculte de Droit de L'Universite de Paris, Jouve and Cie, 1927), p. 44.
49 Purickis, "Kova už Vilnių" (The Struggle for Vilnius), Pirmasis Dešimtmetis, p. 104.
50 Robert Machray, Poland 7974-7937 (London: George Alien and Unwin Ltd., 1932), p. 167.
51 Roemeris, Lietuvos Konstitucinės Teisės Paskaitos, pp. 142-145; Jurgėla, op. cit., p. 522; Manning, op. cit., p. 153.
52 Jurgėla, op. cit., p. 522.
53 Machray, op. cit., p, 170.
54 LSS, Session of December 21, 1921.
55 Paul Hymans, Belgian Foreign Minister, at the request of the League of Nations, presided over the conferences of the two countries. For extensive material on the Vilnius question, see above mentioned Graužinis and Machray sources. Informative material may be found in The Lithuanian-Polish Dispute, prepared by the Lithuanian Delegation and published in London by Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1921. It presents argumentations of both sides on their claims to Vilnius. See also, The Vilna Question. Consultations of MM A. De Lapradella, Louis Le Fur, and Andre N. Mandelstam, concerning the binding force of the decision of the Conference of Ambassadors of March 15,1923. Published in London by Hazell, Watson and Viney, 1921.
56 Royal Institute, op. cit., p. 91.
57 Halecki, op. cit., p. 286.
58 Graužinis, op. cit., p. 178.
59 Page, op. cit., p. 171.
60 See The Lithuanian-Polish Dispute, pp. 74, 76, 87.
61 Rūkas, op. cit., p. 326
62 LSS, 121st Session.
63 Ibid. The government's position was presented by Foreign Minister Purickis.
64 The Conference of Ambassadors on March 15, 1923, decided to recognize the eastern boundaries as they existed at that time. That meant the recognition of Vilnius to Poland. On her part, Lithuania protested against this decision as void. She maintained that the Conference had no right to dispose of the territories previously administered by Russia which were returned to Lithuania in accordance with the Peace Treaty of Moscow. See Graham, op. cit.,p. 469; o. 282. Šapoka, op. cit.,pp. 560-566; and Jurgėla, op. cit., pp. 522-524. For the Polish view see Roman Debicki, Foreign Policy of Poland 7979-7939 (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1962), pp. 26, 41-44.
65 Manning, op. cit., p. 160
66 Royal Institute, op. cit., p. 63.
67 Royal Institute, op. cit., p. 93. It was bounded on the south by the East Prussian frontier and on the northeast by what used to be the pre-war Russo-Cerman frontier.
68 Ibid. fn. 2.
69 Ibid., p. 95.
70 LSS, Sessions of November 8 and 11, 1921.
71 The climax of the situation was reached on January 15, 1923, when the local Lithuanian population, under the leadership of the Aid Committee for Lithuania Minor, and with significant aid from Lithuania, effected a successful revolt against the small French forces and proclaimed a complete union with Lithuania. Consequently, on February 16,1923, the Ambassadors' Conference declared that the Klaipėda territory was to be considered a unit under the sovereignty of Lithuania. See Alvin C. Eincholz, The Baltic States (Washington: U.S. Department of Commerce, 1928), p. 46. Final transfer of the territory took place in 1924. Its administration was subject to the Statute of Klaipėda.
1 Senn, op. cit., p. 95
2 United States, Foreign Relations: 1918, Russia, II, 856.
3 Ibid., 1919, Russia, p. 618.
4 Royal Institute, op. cit., p. 27.
5 Harrison, op. cit., pp. 204-205.
6 Šapoka, op. cit., p. 550.
7 Macartney, op. cit., p. 115.
8 Šapoka, op. cit., p. 576.
9 U.S. recognition was also greeted with great joy by the Lithuanian-Americans who had spared no effort in keeping the cause of their forefathers' land alive in America. An extensive documentation and presentation of Lithuanian-American activities may be found in Jurgėla, Lithuania and the United States: The Establishment of State Relations, unpublished Ph.D. dissertation (New York: Department of History, Fordham University, 1954). See also Pakštas, "Amerikos Lietuviai Katalikai Kovoje dėl Lietuvos Nepriklausomybės," Amerikos Lietuvių Katalikų Darbai (Catholic Action of the Lithuanian Americans) (New York: 1943).
10 Harrison, op. cit., pp. 209-211.
11 Prunskis, op. cit., p. 24.
12 Šapoka, op. cit., p. 576.
13 The Constitution was promulgated on August 6, 1922. See VŽ (1922), Nr. 100.
14 J.Audėnas), "Lietuvos Žemės Reformos Pradininkai." (The Pioneers of Lithuanian Land Reform), Varpas, Nr, 1 (New York, 1953), pp. 105-107. Its executive secretary was Albinas Rimka, an active proponent of land reform, author of several publications on the subject.
15 Simutis, op. cit., p. 25.
16 J. Krikščiūnas, "Žemės Ūkis" (The Agriculture), Pirmasis Dešimtmetis, p. 206.
17 League of Nations, op. cit, p. 14.
18 Simutis, op. cit, pp. 26-27; Graham, op. cit, p. 383. The very first ones given land were 488 volunteer soldiers. During the first two years of agrarian reform, 2,498 soldiers were granted land. See Žemės Ūkio Ministerijos Metraštis (Statistical Almanac of the Ministry of Agriculture of Lithuania) (Kaunas: 1924), p. 215.
19 VŽ (1922), Nr. 83. The bill was discussed at the meetings of the Committee on Land Reform and at 27 plenary sessions of the Assembly.
20 Graham, op. cit., p. 383.
21 Krikščiūnas, op. cit., p. 206
22 Simutis, op. cit., p. 29.
23 Krikščiūnas, op. cit., p. 208.
24 Simutis, op. cit., p. 29.
25 Prunskis, op. cit., p. 120.
26 A substantial part of the agrarian reform was executed by the Ministry of Agriculture under the leadership of Jonas Aleksa (June 19,1920 July 2, 1923) and Msgr. Mykolas Krupavičius (July 2, 1923 June 15, 1926). One of the first initiators of the Agrarian Reform was Prof. Albinas Rimka, a Populist member of the Constituent Assembly, later Minister of Finance. See J.A. (audėnas) "Lietuvos Žemės Reformos Pradininkai" (The Initiators of Lithuania's Agrarian Reform) in Varpas, 1953, nr. 1.
27 Vladas Juodeika, "Žemės Valdymo Klausimu" (On the Question of the Land Management), Lietuva, Nr. 3 (1953), pp. 47-48.
28 Manning, op. cit., p. 169.
29 Vladas Jurgutis. Pinigai (The Money) (Kaunas: 1938), op. cit., p. 237.
30 Manning, op. cit., p. 162.
31 Simutis, op. cit., p. 104.
32 Eincholz, op. cit., p. 60.
33 Royal Institute, op. cit., p. 132.
34 Simutis, op. cit., p. 105. The Litas remained the only European currency which was not devaluated until the day Lithuania was occupied by the Soviets.
35 Jurgutis, op. cit., p. 243.
36 Eincholz, op. cit., pp. 63-64.
37 Royal Institute, op. cit., p. 119.
38 Ibid., p. 121.
39 Ibid., p. 122.
41 Eincholz, op. cit., p. 61.
42 League of Nations, op. cit., p. 28.
43 Pirmasis Dešimtmetis, op. cit, p. 314.
44 Pakštas, Lithuania and World War, p. 18.
45 Pirmasis Dešimtmetis, op. cit., p. 315.
46 Ibid., p. 330.
47 In 1930, the university was named in honor in Vytautas the Great.
48 Later, a new faculty was added: the Faculty of Evangelical Theology, which prepared Protestant ministers.
49 Pirmasis Dešimtmetis, op. cit., pp. 337-338.
1 V. Stanley Vardys, "The Rise of Authoritarian Rule in the Baltic States" in The Baltic States in Peace and War 7977-7945, edited by V. Stanley Vardys and Romuald J. Misiūnas (The Pennsylvania State University, 1978), p. 68. See also Juozas Prunskis, Comparative Law, Ecclesiastical and Civil, in Lithuanian Concordat (Washington: The Catholic University Press, 1945), pp. 7-8.
2 Kazys Pakštas, Lithuania and World War II, op. cit. p. 20.
3 Gerutis, op. cit., p. 219.
4 Šapoka, op. cit., p. 589.
5 Gerutis, op. cit., p. 219.
6 Ibid, p. 219.
7 Vardys, The Rise, op. cit., p. 62. See also: Redakcinė Kolegija (Editorial Board), Lietuvos TSR Istorija (Vilnius: Mokslas, 1975). This Communist publication points out that the membership of the Party of Lithuania at the beginning of 1941 was 2,054. According to Pakštas, op. cit., p. 21, the Communists in June, 1940 had only 1,863.
8 Šapoka, p. 590.
9 Gerutis, op. cit., p. 220.
10 Galva, op. cit., p. 152.
11 Only in 1926 did they gain seats (3) in the third Seimas thanks to the formation of a united block with the Populists in several election districts. In addition to Smetona and Voldemaras, the Rev. Vladas Mironas was a third member of the Nationalist faction elected to the Seimas.
12 Gerutis, op. cit., p. 220.
13 Ibid., p. 221.
14 Petras Maldeikis. Mykolas Krupavičius (Chicago: Lietuvių Krikščionių Demokratų Sąjunga, 1975), p.p. 200-201.
15 The leadership of the Christian Democrats denied that they participated in the 1926 coup. According to their leader, Msgr. Mykolas Krupavičius, the Christian Democrats agreed to cooperate after the coup with its organizers for fear of a civil war. See Vardys, The rise, op. cit., p. 69.
16 Šapoka, op. cit., p. 591.
17 Prunskis, op. cit. p. 8. See also Šapoka, op. cit., p. 592.
18 "The special representatives of the nation" were elected by the County, District and City councils in accordance with the regulations of the government. Mr. Smetona was declared reelected by an unanimous vote.
19 In 1926, by a decree of the Ministry of Interior the Christian Democrats, the Populists and other opposition parties were banned. Only the Nationalists were left to be active in the country's political scene. See B.Almantas, "Viduriniosios Lietuvių Politinės Srovės Kelias," in Varpas (The Bell), 1953, Nr. 1, p. 28.
20 Gerutis, op. cit., p. 230.
21 Pakštas, op. cit., p. 22.
22 Gerutis, op. cit., p. 232.