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Laupäev, 04 August 2012 01:16
Laas Leivat - Estonian Life No. 31 2012
Lithuania's possible reparations claim to Moscow for damages inflicted on the country during the Soviet occupation will be met by Russia's counter-claim against Lithuania.
Russian Human Rights Commissioner Vladimir Lukin indicated with bravura that the Kremlin's claim will most likely be larger than one presented by Vilnius. Lukin added that Lithuania's initiative had political clout domestically whereby some must wrap themselves in ultra-patriotic colours from time to time. But internationally, such claims, he insisted, have very little meaning.
The Lithuanian decision to proceed with a claim has been neither impetuous nor hurried. Already back in 1992 Lithuanians decided via a referendum that damages suffered by the state or people are to be compensated. Russia had assumed the legal successor role to the collapsed Soviet Union.
Subsequently, amongst other initiatives, the Lithuanian parliament passed legislation in 2000 that would have the government appoint a delegation, which would discuss the issue of compensation with Russian representatives. Then Lithuanian government would have to present a sum representing the actual damages suffered by individuals during the Soviet occupation, through deportations and the return of descendants. The government was obliged to present to Russia the calculations regarding damages, inform the United Nations, European Council and European Union and launch bi-lateral meetings with Kremlin representatives to get compensation. This specific proposal was all tied into promises by Russia during its joining the European Council in 1996 to compensate for returning the formerly deported and their descendants. Observers felt that the specific compensation under discussion at the time to have been very limited in scope and thereby just a symbolic gesture on Moscow's side.
The current activity involves the formation of a Lithuanian commission charged with evaluating the damages inflicted on Lithuania by being annexed by the Soviet Union (1941-1991) – in another words a much broader claim covering 50 years of occupation. Terese Birute Burauskite, director general of the Genocide and Resistance Research Center who headed the team said the "conclusions have been submitted but the materials are confidential and it is up to the government to assess them."
The official commission was well represented by experts, including nine members of the Union of Political Prisoners and Deported, historians, archivists, the International Commission for the Assessment of Crimes and Nazi and Soviet Occupational Regimes (simlar to the commission established by Lennart Meri in Estonia), officials from the ministries of Justice, Foreign Affairs and Culture.
Are Lithuanian citizens determined to have the proposals presented and a compensation package be demanded from Russia? A survey indicates that 54% support the idea, 41% oppose while 5% are noncommittal.
The process must cope with tricky political considerations. The Lithuanian daily 'Lietuvos Rytas' recently wrote that Lithuania's president Dalia Grybauskaite has promised to improve relations with Russia. "But Lithuania's foreign policy was both passive and confrontational. // It is a shame that in recent years Russia has refused to recognize the terms of the agreement achieved at the time of Boris Yeltsin and that it denies ever more strongly the occupation of Lithuania by the Soviets. // It is nonetheless difficult to dissipate the feeling that the creation of the commission is but a show of activity aimed at hiding the inactivity of the conservative government and to please voters who sincerely hope for historical justice and compensation for the misfortune inflicted on Lithuania. // To face the painful Soviet past, one must simply wait for a more auspicious political climate in Russia."
Historians have often commented on Russia's inability or refusal to confront its painful past and that it is haunted by deeds that have not been honestly examined. A serious attempt to understand the meaning of the Soviet experience and millions of victims of Soviet Communism are all but forgotten. It is a bizarre notion that so many Russians still mourn the passing of the Soviet regime that denied them their fundamental rights.
Russian officials have shown their distain for such undertakings. In 2008, in response to a similar proposal by the incumbent Lithuanian president Valdas Adamkus, the Russian Duma foreign relations committee spokesman said that the notion was schizophrenic. Russian authorities this year have dismissed the proposal outright saying that such an issue doesn't even warrant any discussion or bilateral dialogue.
Russian Human Rights Commissioner Lukin has indicated that dialogue can only take place if Lithuania were to be willing to compensate Russia for the cost of establishing various enterprises in Lithuania after the war "with many Russian regions suffering as the working population moved to Lithuania for this construction". Most Western experts have viewed the deliberate mass migration of workers into the Baltic states as part of Moscow's plan to eventually displace the indigenous Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians with ethnic Russians. (The availability of new apartments for the immigrating workers and the "lack" of housing for indigenous residents was a blatantly obvious sign of Moscow's intentions.)
Laas Leivat (To be cont'd. Estonia next.)