Soviet occupation of the Baltic states (1940)

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The Soviet occupation of the Baltic states covers the period from the SovietBaltic mutual assistance pacts in 1939, to their invasion and annexation in 1940, to the mass deportations of 1941.

Soviet Union 1922–1991 country in Europe and Asia

The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a socialist state in Eurasia that existed from 30 December 1922 to 26 December 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. The country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centres were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk.

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In September and October 1939 the Soviet government compelled the much smaller Baltic states to conclude mutual assistance pacts which gave the Soviets the right to establish military bases there. Following invasion by the Red Army in the summer of 1940, Soviet authorities compelled the Baltic governments to resign. The presidents of Estonia and Latvia were imprisoned and later died in Siberia. Under Soviet supervision, new puppet communist governments and fellow travelers arranged rigged elections with falsified results. Shortly thereafter, the newly elected "people's assemblies" passed resolutions requesting admission into the Soviet Union. In June 1941 the new Soviet governments carried out mass deportations of "enemies of the people". Consequently, at first many Balts greeted the Germans as liberators when they occupied the area a week later. [1]

Red Army 1917–1946 ground and air warfare branch of the Soviet Unions military

The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army, frequently shortened to Red Army was the army and the air force of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, and, after 1922, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The army was established immediately after the 1917 October Revolution. The Bolsheviks raised an army to oppose the military confederations of their adversaries during the Russian Civil War. Beginning in February 1946, the Red Army, along with the Soviet Navy, embodied the main component of the Soviet Armed Forces; taking the official name of "Soviet Army", until its dissolution in December 1991.

Estonia Republic in Northern Europe

Estonia, officially the Republic of Estonia, is a country in Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland with Finland on the other side, to the west by the Baltic Sea with Sweden on the other side, to the south by Latvia (343 km), and to the east by Lake Peipus and Russia (338.6 km). The territory of Estonia consists of a mainland and 2,222 islands in the Baltic Sea, covering a total area of 45,227 km2 (17,462 sq mi), water 2,839 km2 (1,096 sq mi), land area 42,388 km2 (16,366 sq mi), and is influenced by a humid continental climate. The official language of the country, Estonian, is the second most spoken Finnic language.

Latvia republic in Northeastern Europe

Latvia, officially the Republic of Latvia, is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. Since its independence, Latvia has been referred to as one of the Baltic states. It is bordered by Estonia to the north, Lithuania to the south, Russia to the east, and Belarus to the southeast, and shares a maritime border with Sweden to the west. Latvia has 1,957,200 inhabitants and a territory of 64,589 km2 (24,938 sq mi). The country has a temperate seasonal climate.

Background

After the Soviet invasion of Poland on 17 September 1939, in accordance with the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact the Soviet forces were given freedom over Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, an important aspect of the agreement to the Soviet government as they were afraid of Germany using the three states as a corridor to get close to Leningrad. [2] :31 The Soviets pressured Finland and the Baltic states to conclude mutual assistance treaties. The Soviets questioned the neutrality of Estonia following the escape of a Polish submarine from Tallinn on 18 September. A week later, on 24 September 1939, the Estonian foreign minister was given an ultimatum in Moscow. The Soviets demanded the conclusion of a treaty of mutual assistance to establish military bases in Estonia. [3] [4] The Estonians had no choice but to allow the establishment of Soviet naval, air and army bases on two Estonian islands and at the port of Paldiski. [3] The corresponding agreement was signed on 28 September 1939. Latvia followed on 5 October 1939 and Lithuania shortly thereafter, on 10 October 1939. The agreements permitted the Soviet Union to establish military bases on the Baltic states' territory for the duration of the European war, [4] and station 25,000 Soviet soldiers in Estonia, 30,000 in Latvia and 20,000 in Lithuania from October 1939.

Soviet invasion of Poland

The Soviet invasion of Poland was a military operation by the Soviet Union without a formal declaration of war. On 17 September 1939, the Soviet Union invaded Poland from the east, sixteen days after Germany invaded Poland from the west. Subsequent military operations lasted for the following 20 days and ended on 6 October 1939 with the two-way division and annexation of the entire territory of the Second Polish Republic by Germany and the Soviet Union. The Soviet invasion of Poland was secretly approved by Germany following the signing of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact on 23 August 1939.

Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact peace treaty

The Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact was a neutrality pact between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union signed in Moscow on 23 August 1939 by foreign ministers Joachim von Ribbentrop and Vyacheslav Molotov, respectively. The pact was also known as the Nazi–Soviet Pact, the Hitler–Stalin Pact, or the German–Soviet Nonaggression Pact.

Tallinn City in Harju, Estonia

Tallinn is the capital and largest city of Estonia. It is on the northern coast of the country, on the shore of the Gulf of Finland in Harju County. From the 13th century until 1918, the city was known as Reval. Tallinn occupies an area of 159.2 km2 (61.5 sq mi) and has a population of 453,033.

In 1939 Finland had rejected similar Soviet demands for Finland ceding or leasing parts of its territory. Consequently, the Soviet Union attacked Finland, starting the Winter War in November. The war ended in March 1940 with Finnish territorial losses exceeding the pre-war Soviet demands, but Finland kept its sovereignty. The Baltic states were neutral in the Winter War and the Soviets praised their relations with the USSR as exemplary. [5]

Finland Republic in Northern Europe

Finland, officially the Republic of Finland is a country in Northern Europe bordering the Baltic Sea, Gulf of Bothnia, and Gulf of Finland, between Norway to the north, Sweden to the northwest, and Russia to the east. Finland is a Nordic country and is situated in the geographical region of Fennoscandia. The capital and largest city is Helsinki. Other major cities are Espoo, Vantaa, Tampere, Oulu and Turku.

The background of the Winter War covers the period before the outbreak of the Winter War between Finland and the Soviet Union in 1939–1940, stretching from Finland's Declaration of Independence in 1917 to the Soviet-Finnish negotiations in 1938–1939. Before its independence, Finland was an autonomous grand duchy inside Imperial Russia. During the ensuing Finnish Civil War, the Red Guards, supported by the Russian Bolsheviks, were defeated. Fearful of Soviet designs, during the 1920s and 1930s, the Finns were constantly attempting to align themselves with Scandinavian neutrality, particularly with regard to Sweden. Furthermore, the Finns engaged in secret military co-operation with Estonia in the 1930s.

Winter War 1939–1940 war between the Soviet Union and Finland

The Winter War was a military conflict between the Soviet Union (USSR) and Finland. It began with a Soviet invasion of Finland on 30 November 1939, three months after the outbreak of World War II, and ended three and a half months later with the Moscow Peace Treaty on 13 March 1940. The League of Nations deemed the attack illegal and expelled the Soviet Union from the organisation.

Soviet occupation

Schematics of the Soviet military blockade and invasion of Estonia and Latvia in 1940 (Russian State Naval Archives) SovietBlockade1940.jpg
Schematics of the Soviet military blockade and invasion of Estonia and Latvia in 1940 (Russian State Naval Archives)

The Soviet troops allocated for possible military actions against the Baltic states numbered 435,000 troops, around 8,000 guns and mortars, over 3,000 tanks, and over 500 armoured cars. [6] On 3 June 1940 all Soviet military forces based in Baltic states were concentrated under the command of Aleksandr Loktionov. [7] On 9 June the directive 02622ss/ov was given to the Red Army's Leningrad Military District by Semyon Timoshenko to be ready by 12 June to a) capture the vessels of the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian navies in their bases or at sea; b) capture the Estonian and Latvian commercial fleets and all other vessels; c) prepare for an invasion and landing in Tallinn and Paldiski; d) close the Gulf of Riga and blockade the coasts of Estonia and Latvia in the Gulf of Finland and Baltic Sea; e) prevent an evacuation of the Estonian and Latvian governments, military forces and assets; f) provide naval support for an invasion towards Rakvere; and g) prevent Estonian and Latvian airplanes from flying either to Finland or Sweden. [8]

Aleksandr Loktionov Soviet general

Aleksandr Dmitrievich Loktionov was a Soviet general.

Leningrad Military District formerly part of the armed forces of the Russian Federation

The Leningrad Military District was a military district of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. In 2010 it was merged with the Moscow Military District, the Northern Fleet and the Baltic Fleet to form the new Western Military District.

Semyon Timoshenko Soviet military commander

Semyon Konstantinovich Timoshenko was a Soviet military commander and Marshal of the Soviet Union.

Soviet-organized rally in Riga, 1940 Demonstration in Riga. 1940 in Latvia. 015.jpg
Soviet-organized rally in Riga, 1940

On 12 June 1940, according to the director of the Russian State Archive of the Naval Department Pavel Petrov (C.Phil.) referring to the records in the archive, [9] [10] the Soviet Baltic Fleet was ordered to implement a total military blockade of Estonia. On 13 June at 10:40 AM Soviet forces started to move to their positions and were ready by 14 June at 10 PM: Four submarines and a number of light navy units were positioned in the Baltic Sea, in the Gulfs of Riga and Finland to isolate the Baltic states by the sea; a navy squadron including three destroyer divisions was positioned to the west of Naissaar in order to support the invasion; the 1st marine brigade's four battalions were positioned on the transport ships Sibir, 2nd Pjatiletka and Elton for landings on the islands Naissaare and Aegna; the transport ship Dnester and destroyers Storozevoi and Silnoi were positioned with troops for the invasion of the capital Tallinn; the 50th battalion was positioned on ships for an invasion near Kunda. 120 Soviet vessels participated in the naval blockade, including one cruiser, seven destroyers, and seventeen submarines, along with 219 airplanes including the 8th air-brigade with 84 DB-3 and Tupolev SB bombers and the 10th brigade with 62 airplanes. [11]

Baltic Fleet regional command of the Russian (and formerly Soviet) Navy

The Baltic Fleet is the fleet of the Russian Navy in the Baltic Sea.

Naissaar island

Naissaar is an island northwest of Tallinn in Estonia. The island covers an area of 18.6 square kilometres. It is 8 kilometres long and 3.5 kilometres wide, and lies about 8.5 kilometres from the mainland. The highest point on the island is Kunilamägi, which is 27 metres above sea level. The island consists predominantly of coniferous forest and piles of stones and boulders. As of 2005, the island had a population of ten. Now the island has three dozen or so permanent residents and some summer residents. Administratively the island is divided into three villages: Lõunaküla (Storbyn), Tagaküla (Bakbyn) and Väikeheinamaa (Lillängin).

Aegna island

Aegna is an Estonian island in the Bay of Tallinn in the Baltic Sea. Administratively it is part of the city of Tallinn, the capital of Estonia and is a sub district of the Kesklinn district.

On 14 June 1940 the Soviets issued an ultimatum to Lithuania. The Soviet military blockade of Estonia went into effect while the world's attention was focused on the fall of Paris to Nazi Germany. Two Soviet bombers downed the Finnish passenger airplane "Kaleva" flying from Tallinn to Helsinki carrying three diplomatic pouches from the U.S. legations in Tallinn, Riga and Helsinki. The US Foreign Service employee Henry W. Antheil Jr. was killed in the crash. [12]

1941 Soviet internal-passport issued in occupied Latvia, shortly before the German invasion. The holder was an elderly Jewish man being evacuated at the end to Kuibyshev, further east. 1941 Soviet occupational internal-passport issued in Latvia, shortly before the German invasion.jpg
1941 Soviet internal-passport issued in occupied Latvia, shortly before the German invasion. The holder was an elderly Jewish man being evacuated at the end to Kuibyshev, further east.

Red Army invades

Molotov had accused the Baltic states of conspiracy against the Soviet Union and delivered an ultimatum to all Baltic countries for the establishment of Soviet-approved governments. Threatening invasion and accusing the three states of violating the original pacts as well as forming a conspiracy against the Soviet Union, Moscow presented ultimatums, demanding new concessions, which included the replacement of their governments and allowing an unlimited number of troops to enter the three countries. [13] [14] [15] [16]

The Baltic governments had decided that, given their international isolation and the overwhelming Soviet forces on their borders and already on their territories, it was futile to actively resist and better to avoid bloodshed in an unwinnable war. [17] The occupation of the Baltic states coincided with a communist coup d'état in each country, supported by the Soviet troops. [18]

On 15 June the USSR invaded Lithuania. [19] The Soviet troops attacked the Latvian border guards at Masļenki. [20] On 16 June 1940 the USSR invaded Estonia and Latvia. [19] According to a Time magazine article published at the time of the invasions, in a matter of days around 500,000 Soviet Red Army troops occupied the three Baltic states – just one week before the Fall of France to Nazi Germany. [21]

Soviet troops in the hundreds of thousands entered Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania. [22] The Soviet military forces far outnumbered the armies of each country. [23]

Most of the Estonian Defence Forces and the Estonian Defence League surrendered according to the orders of the Estonian Government and were disarmed by the Red Army. [24] [25] Only the Estonian Independent Signal Battalion stationed in Tallinn at Raua Street showed resistance to the Red Army and "People's Self-Defence" Communist militia, [26] fighting the invading troops on 21 June 1940. [27] As the Red Army brought in additional reinforcements supported by six armoured fighting vehicles, the battle lasted several hours until sundown. Finally the military resistance was ended with negotiations and the Independent Signal Battalion surrendered and was disarmed. [28] There were two dead Estonian servicemen, Aleksei Männikus and Johannes Mandre, and several wounded on the Estonian side and about ten killed and more wounded on the Soviet side. [29] [30] The Soviet militia that participated in the battle was led by Nikolai Stepulov. [31]

Western Reaction

Governments in exile - with legations in London - were recognised by a number of Western governments throughout the Cold War. With the reestablishment of independence by the Soviet Republics leaving the USSR, these governments in exile were integrated into the new governing establishments.

Sovietization of the Baltic states

PlaqueMemorizingEstonianGovernment.jpg
Plaque on the building of Government of Estonia, Toompea, commemorating government members killed by communist terror
Propaganda News Item on Soviet Takeover of Lithuania - Memorial Museum Adjacent to Ninth Fort - Nazi Genocide Site - Kaunas - Lithuania (27306653623) (2).jpg
Soviet propaganda newspaper in Lithuanian language. Black text in the right square says: "The Stalin Constitution's sun already shines to the Lithuanian land and so our hearts rejoice by singing in honor of the great Stalin.

Political repressions followed with mass deportations of around 130,000 citizens carried out by the Soviets. [2] :48 The Serov Instructions, "On the Procedure for carrying out the Deportation of Anti-Soviet Elements from Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia", contained detailed procedures and protocols to observe in the deportation of Baltic nationals.

The Soviets began a constitutional metamorphosis of the Baltic states by first forming transitional "People's Governments." [32] Led by Stalin’s close associates, [33] and local communist supporters as well as officials brought in from the Soviet Union, they forced the presidents and governments of all three countries to resign, replacing them with the provisional People's Governments.

On 14–15 July, following illegal amendments to the electoral laws of the respective states, rigged parliamentary elections for the "People's Parliaments" [34] were conducted by local Communists loyal to the Soviet Union. The laws were worded in such a way that the Communists and their allies were the only ones allowed to run. [34] [35] The election results were completely fabricated: the Soviet press service released them early, with the results having already appeared in print in a London newspaper a full 24 hours before the polls closed. [36] [37] The "People's Parliaments" met on 21 July, each with only one piece of business—a request to join the Soviet Union. These requests carried unanimously. In early August, the Supreme Soviet of the USSR "accepted" all three requests. The official Soviet line was that all three Baltic states carried out socialist revolutions and voluntarily requested to join the Soviet Union.

The new Soviet-installed governments in the Baltic states began to align their policies with current Soviet practices. [38] According to the prevailing doctrine in the process, the old "bourgeois" societies were destroyed so that new socialist societies, run by loyal Soviet citizens, could be constructed in their place. [38]

See also

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Soviet–Estonian Mutual Assistance Treaty

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Soviet–Latvian Mutual Assistance Treaty

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References

Citations

  1. Gerner & Hedlund (1993). p. 59.
  2. 1 2 Buttar, Prit. Between Giants. ISBN   978 1 78096 163 7.
  3. 1 2 Hiden & Salmon (1994). p. 110.
  4. 1 2 The Baltic States: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania by David J. Smith, Page 24, ISBN   0-415-28580-1
  5. Mälksoo (2003). p. 83.
  6. Mikhail Meltyukhov Stalin's Missed Chance p. 198, available at
  7. Pavel Petrov, p. 153
  8. Pavel Petrov, p. 154
  9. (in Finnish) Pavel Petrov at Finnish Defence Forces home page
  10. (in Russian) documents published from the State Archive of the Russian Navy
  11. Pavel Petrov, p. 164
  12. The Last Flight from Tallinn Archived 2009-03-25 at the Wayback Machine at American Foreign Service Association
  13. The World Book Encyclopedia ISBN   0-7166-0103-6
  14. For Lithuania see, for instance, Thomas Remeikis (1975). "The decision of the Lithuanian government to accept the Soviet ultimatum of 14 June 1940". Lituanus. 21 (4 – Winter 1975). Retrieved 2007-03-03.
  15. see report of Latvian Chargé d'affaires, Fricis Kociņš, regarding the talks with Soviet Foreign Commissar Molotov in I.Grava-Kreituse, I.Feldmanis, J.Goldmanis, A.Stranga. (1995). Latvijas okupācija un aneksija 1939–1940: Dokumenti un materiāli. (The Occupation and Annexation of Latvia: 1939–1940. Documents and Materials.) (in Latvian). pp. 348–350. Archived from the original on 2008-11-06.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  16. for Estonia see, for instance, Tanel Kerikmäe; Hannes Vallikivi (2000). "State Continuity in the Light of Estonian Treaties Concluded before World War II". Juridica International (I 2000): 30–39. Archived from the original on 2007-06-29. Retrieved 2007-03-03.
  17. The Baltic States: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania p.19 ISBN   0-415-28580-1
  18. Estonia: Identity and Independence by Jean-Jacques Subrenat, David Cousins, Alexander Harding, Richard C. Waterhouse ISBN   90-420-0890-3
  19. 1 2 Five Years of Dates at Time magazine on Monday, Jun. 24, 1940
  20. The Occupation of Latvia Archived 2007-11-23 at the Wayback Machine at Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Latvia
  21. Germany Over All, TIME Magazine , June 24, 1940
  22. Nearly 650,000 soldiers, according to Kenneth Christie; Robert Cribb (2002). Historical Injustice and Democratic Transition in Eastern Asia and Northern Europe: Ghosts at the Table of Democracy. RoutledgeCurzon. p. 83. ISBN   0-7007-1599-1.
  23. Stephane Courtois; Werth, Nicolas; Panne, Jean-Louis; Paczkowski, Andrzej; Bartosek, Karel; Margolin, Jean-Louis & Kramer, Mark (1999). The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression. Harvard University Press. ISBN   0-674-07608-7.
  24. June 14 the Estonian government surrendered without offering any military resistance; The occupation authorities began...by disarming the Estonian Army and removing the higher military command from powerErtl, Alan (2008). Toward an Understanding of Europe. Universal-Publishers. p. 394. ISBN   1-59942-983-7.
  25. The Estonian armed forces were disarmed by the Soviet occupation in June 1940Miljan, Toivo (2004). Historical Dictionary of Estonia. Scarecrow Press. p. 111. ISBN   0-8108-4904-6.
  26. Baltic States: A Study of Their Origin and National Development, Their Seizure and Incorporation Into the U.S.S.R. W. S. Hein. p. 280.
  27. "The President of the Republic acquainted himself with the Estonian Defence Forces". Press Service of the Office of the President. December 19, 2001. Archived from the original on 21 August 2009. Retrieved 2 January 2009.
  28. (in Estonian) 51 years from the Raua Street Battle at Estonian Defence Forces Home Page
  29. 784 AE. "Riigikogu avaldus kommunistliku režiimi kuritegudest Eestis" (in Estonian). Riigikogu. Archived from the original on 21 June 2007. Retrieved 2 January 2009.
  30. Lohmus, Alo (10 November 2007). "Kaitseväelastest said kurja saatuse sunnil korpusepoisid" (in Estonian). Archived from the original on 21 August 2009. Retrieved 2 January 2009.
  31. "Põlva maakonna 2005.a. lahtised meistrivõistlused mälumängus" (in Estonian). kilb.ee. 22 February 2005. Archived from the original on June 15, 2008. Retrieved 2 January 2009.
  32. Misiunas & Taagepera 1993 , p. 20
  33. in addition to the envoys accredited in Baltic countries, Soviet government sent the following special emissaries: to Lithuania: Deputy Commissar of Foreign Affairs Dekanozov; to Latvia: Vishinski, the representative of the Council of Ministers; to Estonia: Regional Party Leader of Leningrad Zhdanov. "Analytical list of documents, V. Friction in the Baltic States and Balkans, June 4, 1940 – September 21, 1940". Telegram of German Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Schulenburg) to the German Foreign Office. Retrieved 2007-03-03.
  34. 1 2 Misiunas & Taagepera 1993 , pp. 26–7
  35. Attitudes of the Major Soviet Nationalities, Center for International Studies, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1973
  36. Mangulis, Visvaldis (1983). "VIII. September 1939 to June 1941". Latvia in the Wars of the 20th century. Princeton Junction: Cognition Books. ISBN   0-912881-00-3.
  37. Švābe, Arvīds. The Story of Latvia. Latvian National Foundation. Stockholm. 1949.
  38. 1 2 O'Connor 2003 , p. 117

Bibliography

Further reading