A Short History of Vilnius


history of Vilnius

With the USSR collapsing, Lithuania declared the restoration of its independence. A new Vilnius history has begun. The USSR did not want to recognise it and began an economic blockade.

At the beginning of January 1991, paratroopers, tanks and Alpha, which was the KGB’s counter terrorist team were sent to the city. They seized the most important channels of broadcasting.

On the night of January 13th , 14 people were killed and more than 700 were injured while defending the TV Tower. They did not dare attack the Parliament, as it was defended from tanks by thousands of unarmed civilians from all over Lithuania.

There was a fear of shedding the blood of more innocent people, which would incite a negative reaction around the world. By the end of the year, the USSR had collapsed, thus no barriers remained in confirming Lithuanian independence. Lithuania, like other European countries, chose a path of democracy and the free market.

2004 was an important year for Lithuania as the country became a member of the European Union and NATO. There is strong belief that Lithuania will not be alone when faced with aggression.

Interwar Vilnius (1918-1940)

history of Vilnius

Poland did not want to consent to lithuania’s declaration of independence in 1918.

In 1920, Polish army battalions occupied Vilnius under the unofficial direction of J.Pilsudski, the leader of Poland.

The Vilnius region, renamed “Central Lithuania” was joined to the Polish state.

Lithuania never recognised the seizure of the Vilnius region.

Kaunas became the provisional capital of the country.

Lithuania regained Vilnius only at the beginning of the Second World War, however soon it lost its own independence.

Occupied Vilnius (1940-1990)

Vilnius history

Germany and Soviet Union divided up Eastern Europe according to a secret protocol of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Lithuania fell under the USSR’s sphere of influence and was occupied. A total of 780,922 inhabitants of Lithuania (approximately 300,000 of which were exiled to Siberia) became victims of Nazism and Communism.

During the war about 40% of Vilnius’s buildings were destroyed. The city lost a large part of its inhabitants. The Nazis annihilated 70,000 Jews, almost the entire community in the city. After the war 100,000 Polish-speaking Vilnius residents left for Poland. People from the USSR as well as Lithuanian regions moved to the empty city.

The Communist Party ruled over all aspects of life in the Soviet Union. It was a time of repressions, fear, and being forced to adapt. The nation, which has regained independence, will continue to bear unhealed wounds for a long time.

More Vilnius Historical Photos

hisotry of vilnius

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