By Rokas M. Tracevskis

Last year Wesley Clark, the NATO supreme army commander in Europe, visited Lithuania. He asked Jonas Kronkaitis, commander of the Lithuanian armed forces, to conduct a study of the anti-Soviet Lithuanian armed resistance after World War II. Kronkaitis promised to do this. The Lithuanian commander of the armed forces spoke about it during their annual meeting in Ariogala last summer.

Thousands of veterans of the armed resistance, former prisoners of Soviet concentration camps and deportees gather each year to talk about the old days and to meet former brothers-in-arms.

Based on his impressions when he visited, Clark would definitely be happy to read the book "The Anti-Soviet Resistance in the Baltic States" which was published at the end of last year. This book was issued on the initiative of the Genocide and Resistance Center of Lithuania.

"It is the first serious study about anti-Soviet resistance printed in English in the Baltics. Our center was the co-ordinator of the work of historians in the three Baltic states. Work on the book took a year and a half. 1,500 copies were printed. It is for sale in the Baltics as well as in the United States and other Western countries. The book has sold well and we are thinking about issuing additional copies. This means it is a success," said Dalia Kuodyte, general director of the Genocide and Resistance Center of Lithuania and one of the book's authors.

The book comprises 14 studies which deal with resistance to Soviet occupation in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. The authors are six Lithuanians, three Latvians and three Estonians. The book is illustrated with historical photos showing anti-Soviet partisans.

Articles in the book are based on primary sources, documents of partisans and Soviet repressive structures - the KGB and its forerunners the NKVD and the MGB. The documentation makes this book different from Soviet era propaganda brochures about this period in the Baltics as well as from books issued in the West which were based on a few underground documents, Soviet publications and rumors, say the authors.

When the Soviet Union and Germany signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, named after the foreign ministers of each country, Europe was divided into Soviet and Nazi spheres of influence, the USSR occupied the Baltic countries based upon this secret agreement. The book's authors wrote that Balts, suffering from mass Soviet repression, waited for a breakdown in the strategic alliance between Germany and the USSR and the war between them. The conflict between the two totalitarian powers was seen as an opportunity to restore independence, wrote the Baltic historians. They state that Balts had the best feelings for Western democracies but American and British interference in the Baltics was unrealistic at the beginning of World War II.

On June 22, 1941 the Nazi-Soviet war began. Lithuanians began an anti-Soviet armed insurrection. The Red Army was severely beaten by the Lithuanians in most areas of the country. The re-establishment of Lithuanian independence was announced on radio and an interim government was formed.

Nazi troops entered Lithuania which was mostly cleared of Soviet armed forces by Lithuanians themselves.

However, the Nazis had no intention of recognizing an independent Lithuania. All Lithuanian political parties were banned, the provisional government was dissolved, the Lithuanian flag on Gediminas tower in Vilnius was removed and the Nazi repression started.

Similar events took place in Latvia and Estonia. Latvians also cleared some parts of their territories of Soviet soldiers just before the arrival of the Germans. In Estonia, the Estonian partisans and German army closely cooperated in fighting the Soviet army in 1941. The Germans were greeted as the liberators of the Baltics in 1941, but the Nazi regime soon proved to be not much better than that of the Soviet occupation, the authors say.

"The Baltic states occupied by Nazi Germany at first cherished the hope that Germany would restore their independence. Soon that hope was replaced by a deep disappointment which led to the formation of an opposition, which was strongest in Lithuania. The better organization and greater activity of the Lithuanian resistance under the German occupation supported the armed opposition to the new Soviet occupation in 1944, which was more extensive than the guerrilla movements in either Estonia or Latvia," wrote Indrek Jurjo, researcher from Estonian State Archives.

Most of the book deals with the partisan anti-Soviet war from 1944 to 1953. Small partisan units survived even after this period. The partisan war started in all territories occupied by the USSR after the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact.

Arvydas Anusauskas, researcher from the Genocide and Resistance Center of Lithuania, compared the fights in the occupied countries. His overview is based on the documents of MGB, the forerunner of KGB.

In 1947 the figures for partisans killed by Soviet troops are as follows: Estonia - 39, Latvia - 106, Lithuania - 1,344, western Ukraine - 4,136, western Belarus - 60.

"In the armed resistance in 1947, in the areas occupied by the Soviet Union, only Lithuania and western Ukraine can be compared in scale and intensity. The number of freedom fighters killed in Lithuania was three times lower than in the Ukraine, although the number of partisan attacks in both countries was very similar (1,333 and 1,603 respectively). The armed resistance in Latvia in 1947 differed in scale from that in Lithuania by nine to 15 times, according to all figures. The movement in Estonia was from three to four times smaller than in Latvia," Anusauskas wrote.

Nijole Gaskaite-Zemaitiene, a historian at the same research center, wrote that because of the greater scale of the partisan war, people from the USSR were reluctant to settle in Lithuania "unlike in the other two Baltic states."

Authors of the book also wrote about the Soviet atrocities that fuelled the partisan movement. The burning alive of entire farmers' families and their houses by the Red Army was recorded in various districts of Lithuania.

The Soviet army's anti-partisan activities tactics were barbaric. "Undressed, tied up with rosaries, the mutilated corpses of the killed partisans were put on show to the public" in town squares, Gaskaite-Zemaitiene wrote.

"Some 20,200 partisans were killed, 140,000 people were sent to concentration camps and 118,000 deported," she summed up numbers of Lithuanian victims at the end of partisan war.

At the beginning of the anti-Soviet resistance, partisans hoped that Western democracies would help the occupied nations. However, it proved to be too idealistic a view of the world.

"The hopes of a small country like Latvia were of no importance to the large Western democracies," wrote Vineta Rolmane, researcher from the University of Latvia.

Jurjo wrote that the West was interested only in intelligence information about Soviet troops but not in the resistance movements themselves. The Baltic partisans fought alone.

"It was the underground existence of a legitimate military and political power, without any external support, which was doomed to failure," wrote Gaskaite-Zemaitiene.

Lionginas Baliukevicius, head of Lithuanian partisans of Southern Lithuania, wrote that the Baltic peoples are "poor politicians".

"They have not learned to buy and sell their homeland. They have not learned to trade in their feelings. Therefore they are good soldiers who are not afraid of laying down their lives for the homeland," Baliukevicius wrote in his diary. He was killed on June 24, 1950.

"A country which does not fight for its freedom will lose it," wrote Mart Laar, Estonian historian and current prime minister, one of the authors of this book.