Lithuania 1940

Revolution from Above


In June 1940, as Nazi troops marched into Paris, the Soviet Red Army marched into Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia; seven weeks later, the USSR Supreme Soviet ratified the Soviet takeover of these states. For half a century, Soviet historians insisted that the three republics had voluntarily requested incorporation into the Soviet Union. Now it has become possible to examine the events of that tumultuous time more carefully.
Alfred Erich Senn, the author of books on the formation of the Lithuanian state in 1918-1920 and on the reestablishment of that independence in 1988-1991, has produced a fascinating account of the Soviet takeover, juxtaposing a picture of the disintegration and collapse of the old regime with the Soviets’ imposition of a new order. Discussing the historiography and the living memory of the events, he uses the image of a “shell game” that focused attention on the work of a supposedly “non-communist” government while in the hothouse conditions of military occupation Moscow undermined the state’s independent institutions and introduced a revolution from above.

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Alfred Erich Senn is Professor Emeritus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA, and he is an adjunct professor at Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas, Lithuania. Besides his work on Lithuania, he is the author of The Russian Revolution in Switzerland (1971) and Power, Politics and the Olympic Games (1999).
"there is more to Alfred Senn’s book than you might expect. It certainly contains a mass of empirical detail about the twelve months from August 1939 to August 1940 but does not let the weight of this material overshadow valuable broader insights into themes that simply must be central to a modern history of Lithuania." - in: Slavic Review, Vol. 67, Nr. 4 (Winter 2008)
"Senn is a leading American historian of Lithuania with many publications … Senn’s book is the first detailed English-language account of this complex story. Combining archival documents with printed and unprinted memoirs, he convincingly criticizes Russian and Soviet historians of Lithuania who assert the 'constitutionality' of the Soviet occupation" - in: American Historical Review (December 2008)
"The author gives a stunning picture of how the Lithuanian state disintegrated with the collapse of Smetona’s authoritarian regime (like a “house of cards”, too), influenced by social and ethnic conflicts." - in: Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas 56 (2008) H. 4
"for Western readers without access to the Lithuanian language this is an extremely valuable and judicious restatement of a long-accepted thesis among Lithuanian historians … the timing of this book is impeccable in the light of a current Russian campaign of disinformation … [Senn] is able to present the English-speaking world with the latest fruits of Lithuanian historiography … If widely-read, as it deserves to be, it should counter the recent waves of anti-Baltic propaganda emanating from Moscow." - in: Central and Eastern European Review, Vol. 2 (2008)
"Alfred Erich Senn’s volume is a purposeful effort to counter the Russian interpretation of the events of 1940. Focusing on the Lithuanian case, he challenges the notion that incorporation [in the Soviet Union] was attended by widespread popular support. Senn offers a compelling argument that Moscow organized and orchestrated a campaign from above that resulted in the forcible incorporation of a largely unwilling population. Largely focusing on an analysis of the actions of key players based on archival data, memoirs, and newspaper accounts, he falls back on his own well-honed historical judgement to fill the gaps." - in: The Russian Review, Vol. 67, No. 2 (April 2008)
The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact
The Vilnius Complex
A Trojan Horse?
An Uncertain Winter
The Soviet Invasion
The Refugee
Moscow’s Proconsul
The People’s Government
From Underground
“The Moor Can Go”
The Class Struggle
The Elections
The Balance Sheet