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Old April 21st, 2014 #1
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Default Forest Brothers

The longest and bloodiest partisan war in modern Europe


Text: Aage Myhre, VilNews Editor-in-Chief

Lithuanian 'forest brothers' from the so-called "Vytis" military district.

Pictures: Mostly from the KGB Museum in Vilnius

Tell a Lithuanian that his country was liberated and that peace after WWII was restored on the 9th of May 1945, as the Russians claim. Tell him that this May 2011 it is 66 years since the Soviet Union and the Western world defeated Hitler's Nazi regime, and that Lithuania since then has been a free, happy country in line with what other European countries experienced after they were occupied in 1939 – 1940 and liberated in 1945. Do not be surprised if you get an angry and annoyed look back. For while we in the Western world, in Russia and in other parts of the world joyfully could celebrate the liberation and the recovered freedom after the World War, Lithuania, the other two Baltic states, and Ukraine were forced to realize that one war had been replaced by a new, much bloodier and more protracted war, lasting from 1944 to at least 1953. What we in the west celebrated in May 1945 was by Lithuanians and the other occupied countries experienced only in 1990 –1991.

The end of World War II saw a Germany dramatically reduced in size. Before long it was also divided into East and West. Germany's defeat meant that Poland and Czechoslovakia returned to the map of Europe after a six-year absence. But not so for Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine and northern East Prussia (Kaliningrad) that all remained occupied by the USSR.

Western radio stations told us, who were lucky enough to grow up on the western side of the iron curtain, thoroughly about the Hungarian uprising against the Soviet intervention in 1956, an uprising that resulted in 2,500 Hungarians and 700 Soviet soldiers losing their lives.

Western television stations showed us in detail what happened when Czechoslovakia was invaded in 1968 by more than 200,000 troops from the Warsaw Pact countries Soviet Union, Poland, East Germany, Hungary and Bulgaria - with the outcome that 72 Czechs and Slovaks were killed when they tried to resist.

However, we got almost nothing to know about the many, many times bloodier uprising against the Soviet that was happening right outside our own front door, in the Baltic States, through nine long years from 1944 to 1953.

It is estimated that approximately 30,000 Balts and 100,000 Soviet soldiers died in this bloody guerrilla war when Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians withdrew into the woods to organize its powerful armed partisan resistance after the Soviet Union at the end of the second World War, in 1944, pushed the German forces out, and Stalin decided to incorporate the Baltic States into his powerful autocracy instead of giving these countries their freedom and independence back. Today we know that this tragic, involuntary occupation and oppression was to last the whole 47 years, from 1944 to 1991.

Entering a Siberian Gulag (leaf from Eufrosinia Kersnovskaya's notebook). During the period 1940 – 1953 Stalin’s Soviet deported approximately 600,000 individuals from the Baltic States to Siberia. Around 100,000 of them never returned to their homelands.

In addition to the 30,000 Balts who died in direct combats with the Red Army during this nine-year guerrilla war, comes all those who died in or on their way to Siberia, all because of their resistance to the Soviet raids home in the Baltics. It is considered that Josef Stalin was responsible for the deportation of not less than 600,000 Baltic people to the permafrost concentration camps and the gulag prisons during these years, and that probably as many as 100,000 of them died during the stay or during the three-month journey where they were stuffed into icy cold, miserable cattle wagons with thin straw mats as mattresses, and very limited food rations to survive on during the long way to the cold hell, thousands of kilometres north and east.

We speak, in other words, about an almost unimaginable and too little known purges of totally 130,000 people from the Baltic States during the very first years after the Second World War. But let us not forget that also the approximately 100,000 Soviet soldiers who died were victims of the same madness that almost a quarter million people were exposed to by an inhuman despot, still by many is regarded as a hero in Russia, Georgia and other former Soviet republics. The despot Adolf Hitler almost pales in comparison.

In comparison, 58,000 Americans died during the Vietnam War in the years 1960-75, and we were all fed with regular updates on how the war evolved, almost minute by minute.

The distance between the free, western country of Sweden and Lithuania is less than 300 kilometres, shorter than the distance between Vilnius and Klaipeda. But despite the short distance, there was remarkable little information that reached the West about the tragic carnage that took place so close to our own front doors after the war.
We probably had enough to lick our wounds after five years of occupation and the World War II. Even today there are very few people who know much about the bloody Baltic guerrilla war. This is, for example all my Norwegian Encyclopaedia gives of information:

"The armed resistance against the Soviet regime took the form of guerrilla groups in the forests (forest brothers) and had a large scope. Only in 1953 the armed resistance ebbed out. "

Many of the partisans were young men returning to Lithuania from the West after WWII to fight for their beloved home country. Here are three of them, with their official and nick names: K. Sirvys - "Sakalas", J. Luksa - "Skirmantas", B. Trumpys - "Rytis". Very few ‘Western partisans’ returned to the West. Almost all of them were killed by the Soviets.

Partisans, or "forest brothers" as they called themselves, were found in all three Baltic countries, but it was in Lithuania that the major groupings were found. It was also here that the really huge death tolls came. It is considered that 22,000 partisans and 70,000 soldiers from the Red Army and NKVD were killed in Lithuania alone, this in addition to the approximately 60,000 Lithuanians who died in Siberia during the early post war years.

The Lithuanian partisans usually appeared in uniforms, with national insignias and identification of rank as like other nations' armies. It is said that the Lithuanian soldiers always saved the last bullet for themselves; they knew all too well that torture, a symbolic trial and execution by hanging, head shot or group execution awaited them if they were captured.

The post war Guerrilla War in Lithuania is normally divided into three different phases:

- The first phase lasted from July 1944 to May 1946, with violent skirmishes and casualties on both sides. More than 10,000 forest brothers lost their lives in battles and skirmishes during these two years. Partisans captured during this period small towns from the Soviet forces, local quisling units were disarmed and the occupants’ offices were destroyed. But the big losses meant that tactics had to be changed.

- The second phase lasted from May 1946 until November 1948. The Lithuanian units were then divided into smaller groups that hid in well-camouflaged bunkers. During this period a joint command was established for all Lithuanian forces fighting against the occupying army. Contacts were also made contacts with the West in this period, but no help arrived.

- The final phase lasted until May 1953. And despite the brutal oppression and forced collectivization, around 2,000 partisans were still active with their armed resistance against the occupation. During this period, they also worked extensively with informing the Lithuanian people by publishing newspapers, books and leaflets. Circulation varied from a few hundred to 5,000. Such publications lasted until 1959.

There were also parallel battles against Soviet forces in Estonia and in Latvia, but in much smaller scale. Only in Western Ukraine, there was fighting in the same scale as in Lithuania.

The Forest Brothers often used cellars, tunnels or more complex underground bunkers as their hideouts, such as the one depicted here.

The Baltic Partisan War came mostly to an end by May 1953, two months after Joseph Stalin died. But the last active resistance man in Lithuania shot himself, rather than surrender, as late as 1965, and the last partisan did not come out from his hiding place before 1986, 42 years after the guerrilla war in the Baltics started.

In 1955, the Soviet-controlled 'Radio Vilnius’ offered amnesty to all the partisans who were still hiding in Lithuania's deep forests, and in 1956 the KGB repeated a similar provision. Such amnesty-deals were of course meant only to lure the last forest brothers, so when the famous partisan leader 'Hawk' was taken that the same year, he was immediately given a symbolic trial and executed. Hawk was an American-born Lithuanian who had returned to his home country to fight the Soviet occupation.

Instead of giving themselves over to the Soviet occupiers, many chose to commit suicide, often by exploding a grenade right in their own faces in order to destroy them so much that they would not be identifiable and thereby create a risk to their relatives' lives. Such suicides occurred until around 1960. Many also managed to obtain false identity and get back into society without being detected.

Many of the Soviet Union's atrocities against the Baltic States have only come to light in earnest after 1991 when these countries regained their freedom and independence. A large part of the archives that mentioned the said matters were, however, brought to Moscow to prevent the World from having access to these highly revealing documents.

But, strangely, in 1994 a former KGB officer decided to go to the Lithuanian authorities with detailed information about how torture and executions had taken place at the KGB headquarters in the Vilnius city centre. He told that there had been secret burials for the victims, just on the outskirts of Vilnius. When the huge mass grave he had told about was found and opened, several hundred corpses of partisans were discovered, all in Lithuanian uniforms, and all obviously tortured to death.

One can ask whether it was a fatal mistake for a small country like Lithuania to so aggressively a predominance they had to understand they would not be able to defeat. Admittedly, there is a general perception that Lithuania thereby was avoiding most of the ‘russification’ that Stalin and later leaders implemented in all other Soviet republics. The Russians were simply too afraid of the Lithuanians as a result of the strong opposition during the post-war years, hence the proportion of Russians in Lithuania today represents only 6% of the population, compared to more than 30% in Latvia and around 25% in Estonia.

But the bloodshed in the Baltics, and the incredibly extensive deportations to Siberia, as a result of the partisan opposition, made that these three countries lost too many of their best men and women. The hero status they may have achieved around the world never became significantly large. We in the West did not know what really happened, and when we finally learned, far too many decades have passed to achieve a proper attention for the heroes, the very guerrilla war, the deportations and the unbelievable sufferings the Baltic people underwent on the Siberian permafrost during the 1940s and 1950s.

Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have paid an extremely high price for their rebellion behaviours, and are unlikely ever to receive the honour and the redress they deserve for their courage to fight the injustice they were subjected to during the ruthless Soviet period.

When World War II ended, the West chose to forget Lithuania

The historic meeting near the end of World War II, the Yalta Conference, became fatal for Lithuania. It involved three key allied leaders. Left to right: Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom; Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States; and Joseph Stalin, Premier of the Soviet Union.

For several years after World War the Balts believed that the U.S. and other Allied powers would come to their rescue and help to free them from the Soviet occupation. This was fatal.

The partisan leaders were familiar with the Atlantic Charter, which was signed by Churchill and Roosevelt 12 August 1941 aboard the U.S. cruiser Augusta in Newfoundland, a charter later acceded to on 1 January 1942 by all countries involved in the war against Germany and Japan - including the Soviet Union. This declaration stated that all territorial changes resulting from the war would only take place after the population's own desires, and that any people should have the right freely to choose their form of government.

What the Baltic people did not know, was that their case head was not at all discussed when the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, the U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Soviet leader Josef Stalin in February 1945 met in the city of Yalta on the Black Sea to lay the conditions for peace and the post-war period. The Baltic States were totally forgotten; but they did not know about it, and therefore continued the impossible fight against the evil superior force until 1953.

It has been speculated that Roosevelt's failing health may have been the reason why Stalin so easily got the upper hand at the Yalta Conference. The outcome was, in any case, very tragic for the Baltic States, and only in 2005 the American president, George W. Bush came here to apologise on behalf of the United States. Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, was also asked to apologise for the atrocities against the Baltic States in the years after Yalta. But Russia still considers that they 'liberated' the Baltics and sees no reason to excuse themselves. It went even so far that Putin declared Lithuania's President Valdas Adamkus 'persona non grata' after the latter refused to come to Moscow to participate in Russia’s anniversary celebration of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany on 9 May 2005.

In the years after WWII a number of Lithuanian agents were amazingly capable of getting in and out of the country several times, and in December 1947 a full delegation travelled to Western Europe to present their case to the Pope and to Western governments. But no countries or leaders dared go into conflict with Stalin's Soviet Union, and Lithuanians call for help was largely met with deaf ears.

Though not quite. Both U.S. and UK intelligence agencies gave their orders to see what might be done to create secret anti-communist organizations and operations behind the Iron Curtain. They also helped to organise the radio stations 'Radio Liberty' and 'Radio Free Europe', which for many years thereafter conveyed useful information to the Baltics. In 1951 came the 'Voice of America' on air, and thus gave hundreds of thousands of Baltic war refugees in the United States a voice back to their home countries at the Baltic Sea.

Unfortunately, the success of the Western intelligence services and their 'relief efforts' very much failed, which in retrospect largely is attributed to the British intelligence officer Kim Philby, the man who in reality was a Soviet spy who unfortunately contributed so actively to the killing of tens of thousands of Baltic people.

The intelligence organizations' attempts to help the Baltic States irritated Stalin violently, and he therefore imposed increasingly tough measures against the uprisings. His NKVD (later renamed the KGB) had more or less free hands to exercise extensive torture against individuals and groups believed being in league with the partisans. Vague suspicions were enough to allow use of cruel torture methods. Many were hanged or shot without any real form of litigation. A huge number of relatives and family members of the partisans were sent to slave labour camps in Siberia. All private farms were incorporated into collective farms to prevent them from continuing to provide food to the partisans, and many farmers were deported to Siberia. The West's attempts to help got quite the reverse effect. Tyranny had triumphed, and our close neighbours on the Baltic Sea's south coast were once again suffering in a most cruel way.

One of the many killed Lithuanian partisans, Juozas Luksa – "Skirmantas", Daumantas", after his death on the 4th of September 1951.
Photo: KGB

Few in the West know that Lithuania 500 years ago was considered Europe's largest country, stretching from the Baltic to the Black Sea. Few in our today's West know the proud and honourable cultural history of the Baltic countries, or that these countries were economically fully on par with Scandinavia until World War II, and few know about the heroic guerrilla war these three nations fought against the mighty Soviet Union after WWII.

During five world war years, the Baltic area became the incredibly bloody and sad battlefield where Stalin and Hitler pushed each other back and forth, with fatal and almost incomprehensible destruction and murders of hundreds of thousands innocent people as result. It was here that the Holocaust saw its very worst outcome on Earth, when 95% of the large Jewish population of Lithuania was exterminated. It was here that Europe's longest and bloodiest guerrilla war and the ensuing mass deportations to Siberia took place through more than a decade during and after WWII.

Hundreds of thousands of our closest neighbours died just outside our own front door (or were deported to the gulag camps in the permafrost of Siberia). These terrible things happened only 300 kilometres away from Lithuania’s closest Western coast, at the same time as we westerners celebrated our new freedom and the beginning of the new era we today know as the proud, free Western World.

Didn’t we in the West know, or did we prefer not to know?
Only force rules. Force is the first law - Adolf H. Man has become great through struggle - Adolf H. Strength lies not in defense but in attack - Adolf H.
Old April 21st, 2014 #2
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The Forest Brothers (Estonian: metsavennad) were the Estonian partisans who waged guerrilla warfare against Soviet rule during the Soviet invasion and occupation of the three Baltic states during, and after, World War II.

The Red Army occupied formerly independent Estonia in 1940–1941 and, after a period of occupation of Estonia by Nazi Germany, again in 1944–1945. As Stalinist repression intensified over the following years, thousands of residents of this country used the heavily-forested countryside as a natural refuge and basis for armed anti-Soviet resistance.

Resistance units varied in size and composition, ranging from individually operating guerrillas, armed primarily for self-defence, to large and well-organised groups able to engage significant Soviet forces in battle.

By the late 1940s and early 1950s the Forest Brothers were provided with supplies, liaison officers and logistical coordination by the British (MI6), American, and Swedish secret intelligence services. This support played a key role in directing the Baltic resistance movement, however it diminished significantly after MI6's Operation Jungle was severely compromised by the activities of British spies (Kim Philby and others) who forwarded information to the Soviets, enabling the KGB to identify, infiltrate and eliminate many Baltic guerrilla units and cut others off from any further contact with Western intelligence operatives.

The conflict between the Soviet armed forces and the Forest Brothers lasted over a decade and cost at least 50,000 lives. Estimates for the number of fighters in each country vary. Misiunas and Taagepera[6] estimate that figures reached between 10,000 and 15,000 in Latvia and 170,000 for Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania combined. Investigation of newly-opened Soviet archives by Baltic historians in the 1990s showed evidence that NKVD units dressed as forest brothers and committed atrocities in order to demoralize the civilian population.

In Estonia total 14,000 - 15,000 men participated in fighting during 1944-1953. Estonian Forest Brothers were most active in Vőru County and border areas between Pärnu County and Lääne County, and between Tartu County and Viru County. During period November 1944 - November 1947 they made 773 armed attacks and killed about 1000 Soviets and their supporters. August Sabbe, the last surviving Forest Brother in Estonia, was discovered by KGB agents in 1978, he was posing as a fisherman. Instead of surrendering, he jumped into a river and hooked himself to a log, drowning.

The Forest Brothers were members of a resistance movement which fought a guerilla war against the Soviet occupation of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania during and after the World War II. Similar anti-Soviet resistance groups waged guerrilla warfare against Bolshevik rule in Poland, Belarus, Ukraine and Romania.

The first Forest Brother detachments were formed in June 1941, consisting mainly local people, who wanted to destroy the Soviet occupation since June 1940. They largely supported German Wehrmacht to liberate Baltic countries and for example, when Wehrmacht units reached Southern Estonia, they found that most of it was already controlled by Estonian partisans.

Forest Brothers continued fight in 1944-1945, when Soviet Union occupied their countries again. Their number is estimated about 200,000. For the beginning of 1960s, communists had eliminated most of the large and active Forest Brother groups. The surviving partisans centered only for self-defense and very few of them survived until the end of Soviet occupation.

With the German invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, Joseph Stalin made a public statement on the radio calling for a scorched earth policy in the areas to be abandoned on July 3. About 10,000 Forest Brothers, which had organized themselves into countrywide Omakaitse (Home Guard) organizations, attacked the forces of the NKVD, destruction battalions and the 8th Army (Major General Ljubovtsev), killing 4,800 and capturing 14,000. The battle of Tartu lasted for two weeks, and destroyed a large part of the city. Under the leadership of Friedrich Kurg, the Forest Brothers, drove out the Soviets from Tartu, behind the Rivers Pärnu – Emajőgi line. Thus they secured South Estonia under Estonian control by July 10.[9][10] The NKVD murdered 193 people in Tartu Prison on their retreat on July 8.

The German 18th Army crossed the Estonian southern border on July 7–9. The Germans resumed their advance in Estonia by working in cooperation with the Forest Brothers and the Omakaitse. In North Estonia, the destruction battalions had the greatest impact, being the last Baltic territory captured from the Soviets. The joint Estonian-German forces took Narva on August 17 and the Estonian capital Tallinn on August 28. On that day, the red flag shot down earlier on Pikk Hermann was replaced with the flag of Estonia by Fred Ise only to be changed by a German Reichskriegsflagge a few hours later. After the Soviets were driven out from Estonia, German Army Group North disarmed all the Forest Brother and Omakaitse groups.[11]

Southern Estonian partisan units were yet again summoned in August 1941 under the name of Estonian Omakaitse. Members were initially selected from the closest circle of friends. Later, candidate members were asked to sign a declaration that they were not members of a Communist organization. Estonian Omakaitse relied on the former regulations of Estonian Defence League and Estonian Army, insofar as they were consistent with the laws of German occupation.[12] The tasks of the Omakaitse were as follows:

- defense of the coast and borders

- fight against parachutists, sabotage, and espionage

- guarding militarily important objects

- fight against Communism

- assistance to Estonian Police and guaranteeing the general safety of the citizens

- providing assistance in case of large-scale accidents (fires, floods, diseases, etc.)

- providing military training for its members and other loyal citizens

- deepening and preserving the patriotic and national feelings of citizens.[12]

On 15 July, the Omakaitse had 10,200 members; on 1 December 1941, 40,599 members. Until February 1944 membership was around 40,000.[12]
Forest_Brothers Forest_Brothers


Forest Brothers

[by Geniya Derevyannykh]

The dissolution of the Russian Empire followed by the collapse of Germany, with a significant help from the West, allowed the Baltic States to establish their independence as early as 1919 (Misiunas and Taagepera, 8). This independence, however, was short-lived as the Soviet Union signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact with Nazi Germany in 1939; this Pact divided the Baltic States, with Estonia and Latvia under Soviet control and Lithuania under German control (Misiunas and Taagepera, 15). Nonetheless, in this short period of independence an enduring sense of national identity and the desire to preserve it “through maintenance of an independent state” (Misiunas and Taagepera, 42) was deeply rooted in the souls of the Baltic peoples. Their “stubbornness and endurance” coupled with an unyielding patriotism led to the formation of a strong partisan movement and a decade-long resistance to German and Soviet occupation (Lieven, 5).

Throughout Soviet occupation of the Baltic States in 1940-41, which was followed by German occupation in 1941 until 1944, many guerrilla groups were formed. None of them endured as strongly as the post-war partisan group of the Forest Brothers, who emerged in response to the second Soviet occupation in 1944. The Baltic people experienced in and bitter from the years of experience of Soviet occupation, formed a very strong opposition lasting almost ten years. Originally, these groups consisted of “soldiers, who served in German forces [and those who] collaborated with Germans” during their earlier occupation in fear of Soviet retribution, as well as of “patriotic Balts in general” (Lieven, 88). In Lithuania, priests played a major role in the resistance, fueled by fear that the clergy would be abolished under the Soviet atheist state. Later this movement was joined by people facing deportation under the Soviets, as well as peasants facing collectivization (Lieven, 88). Forests served as refuges and bases for these groups, giving rise to their name – Forest Brothers.

The ultimate goal of the movement was to resist Soviet occupation long enough for the West to intervene. The Forest Brothers’ main strategies were to maintain their positions, reduce local Communist control, and to punish anybody who displayed even the slightest degree of sympathy for the Soviets by destroying their property and even killing them.

Lack of weapons and difficulty acquiring ammunition led to many passive-resistance efforts, such as “disrupting the administration and social structuring [of] the occupation forces” (Misiunas and Taagepera, 86) by robbing and burning office buildings, where the administration operated, as well as utilizing the press. This ranged from mimeographed pamphlets and anti-Soviet flyers to well-organized periodicals such as Laisves Varpas (The Bells of Freedom). These publications contained local and foreign news, information acquired from “the administrating offices of the occupation regime,” as well as warnings, guidance and encouragement for the population (Misiunas and Taagepera, 85). Additionally, partisans produced fake Soviet documents, as part of their disruptive activities that would grant favorable treatments for Baltic people. One of the more successful operations was carried out during the Soviet elections of 1946-47. As the Soviet powers launched propaganda and threats to ensure full participation in the electoral processes, the Forest Brothers in return destroyed communication channels, attacked “armed guards at polling stations” and confiscated passports from local voters (Misiunas and Taagepera, 87). Combination of these activities proved disastrous to the elections as only a fraction of the population was actually able to cast their votes.

Even though weapon supplies were limited, the Forest Brothers managed to form a few small but efficient militant groups that effectively undermined the functions of local Soviet administrations. In Lithuania Forest Brothers were able to conduct 17-day officer training programs about once a year with an average class of 70 officers (Misiunas and Taagepera, 85).

The Baltic people were confident that eventually the West would intervene; meanwhile, the local population provided strong support for the resistance movement, villages for example supplying an adequate amount of food and clothing. However, the Soviet powers took the Forest Brothers’ resistance very seriously and sent military forces led by highly qualified command staff to crush the movement. As it became apparent that support from the West would never come and the Soviet regime gained strength and momentum, more people lost faith in the Forest Brothers and turned towards Communism. This ultimately led to a drastic drop in food supplies and other amenities necessary for the resistance movement. In desperate attempts to turn things around, partisans raided local villages, accused peasants of collaboration with the enemy, and dealt out brutal punishments. The Baltic people found themselves being terrorized from both sides: Soviet and local partisan groups. The Soviet military’s superiority and growing animosity of Baltic people towards the resistance led to a total collapse of the Forest Brothers by 1955. This resistance did, however, see some positive outcomes; during its operation the Forest Brothers provided protection for the local people against raids by Russians, which were dealt by the Soviet administrations with leniency at best, if not ignored completely. Also, heavy partisan activities in Lithuania deterred Russians “from moving to that republic” (Lieven, 89), and even slowed down collectivization in some areas, such as in Varena district in Lithuania. Where surrounding forests were partisan strongholds in Lithuania, only three percent of all farms were collectivized by 1950. In Estonia, the partisan stronghold of Haanja was only thirty percent collectivized by July 1950 (Misiunas and Taagepera, 99).

Since the Baltic States’ independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, the Forest Brothers have become a symbol of true national heroism for their fight against Soviet occupation of Baltic people. Today they share a similar idolization from the Balts that other Soviet partisan groups received for their resistance against the Nazis in Russia. Many books, documentaries and art works have been dedicated to the Forest Brothers, and to this day the Forest Brothers remain a major topic in the discussions of post-war Soviet occupation. In the activities of partisan movement were included not only disruptive actions against occupation but also intimidation, often violent and brutal, of local populations to deter them from cooperating with the enemy and to ensure their support for the resistance movement. Taking that fact into consideration, it can be quiet problematic to turn such partisan groups into national heroes. However, history proves us time and again that it is not impossible.

Only force rules. Force is the first law - Adolf H. Man has become great through struggle - Adolf H. Strength lies not in defense but in attack - Adolf H.
Old April 21st, 2014 #3
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The Invisible Front

In 1944, Soviet forces occupied Lithuania for the second time. At the first occupation, 1940-41, the government offered no resistance and the Lithuanians had quickly learned the brutal lessons of Communism. This time, they decided to resist.

Tens of thousands of young Lithuanian men and women from the villages, schools and universities took to the forests and formed a guerrilla movement, the so-called Forest Brothers.

One of their most charismatic leaders was Juozas Luksa, an architecture student. Along with his three brothers he joined the underground resistance, challenging the Soviets for years to come.

In 1947 Luksa broke out from the Soviet Union to seek support and to tell the tale of Lithuanians desperate resistance to the West.

When in Paris he met the love of his life, Nijole Brazenaite, and married her. He wrote a touching memoir about the origins of the resistance, which was later published by his wife.

Shortly after their wedding, Luksa returned to Lithuania, air dropped by the CIA, for intelligence gathering. Panicking, Moscow launched vast resources to hunt him down, once for all ending the threat from the resistance to Communist rule in Lithuania.

This is the story one of the twentieth centuries most significant anti-Soviet resistance movements, told through the words and experiences of Juozas Luksa and his fellow Forest Brothers. Their war was completely unknown to the public in the West. The Soviet Security forces, fighting against them, dubbed the conflict “The Invisible Front”.


Grim reminder of Estonia's Soviet past

After more than a decade of independence from the Soviet Union, Estonians are still learning about their troubled history - including the extraordinary tale of the so-called Forest Brothers.

The brothers were soldiers who resisted the Soviet Occupation in 1944 and survived in the forests for years after the end of World War II.

Sixty winters ago the young Alfred Karmann fled into the forests of southern Estonia to escape the advancing Red Army.

Like all Estonians, he had tasted life under both under the Soviets from 1940, and under Nazi Germany from the following year.

When the Russians returned, Mr Karmann found himself on the losing side, together with small bands of Estonian guerrillas, who came to be known as known as "Forest Brothers".

"We felt we had no other choice," he says. "Being still alive, with weapons in our hands, we decided we would stand on Estonian soil - we would not give up."

He makes no apologies for choosing to fight with the Nazis against the Soviet army. "The difference between them was that the Germans enslaved us and took our land. But the Russians destroyed the Estonian nation. They opposed - and still oppose - Estonian independence."

Underground existence

Mr Karmann became a fugitive, moving from one forest hideout to another. Once he was tracked and shot by a Russian soldier. He escaped, badly wounded, with a bullet in his left arm. His life was probably saved by some Latvian Forest Brothers who brought a trainee nurse to amputate his arm.

From then on he was mostly on his own. He spent eight winters underground, single-handedly excavating secret bunkers which he lined with timber and heated with a makeshift heating stove against the bitter cold.

In summer, with no snow to leave tell-tale tracks, he snatched furtive visits to his family.

Asked what motivated him to endure such hardships, Mr Karmann responds with one word: "Terror".

"We knew all too well what was going on in the Russian prison camps," he says: "Hunger, cold and terror. You could be shot dead without even going to court."

But Mr Karmann was eventually captured by the KGB, tortured and sentenced to 25 years hard labour.

Into exile

"They caught me by getting someone to spike my drink with drugs. Then they tied me by a rope around my hand and dragged me through the forest for a week to get me to show them all my hiding places. But when I was brought to court, I was sentenced alone, I betrayed none of my comrades."

Even after spending 13 years in Siberian camps, Mr Karmann's ordeal was not over. He was prevented from returning home and forced to spend another dozen years in exile in Latvia.

He was finally permitted to return home in 1981, where he found his wartime fiancee, Klena, still waiting for him - 37 years after he first took to the forest as an outlaw.

They had 11 years together before her death. Now a spry 82-year-old, and having endured so much, Mr Karmann warns that man has a continuing capacity for evil.

"Two thousand years after Christ died on the cross, mankind has learned nothing. But surrendering to evil does nothing for its victims. One should fight against evil, and not put one's head on the executioner's block."

Meelis Mottus' father and uncle were Forest Brothers. He has spent many hours with Mr Karmann, and it was Mr Mottus who persuaded the veteran survivor to tell his story.

Mr Karmann is now a figure of some awe for parties of schoolchildren who visit Mr Mottus's farm at Vorumaa, near the border with Latvia. Mr Mottus has preserved and restored some of the underground bunkers used by the Forest Brothers. He wants to tell their story - even though his own pain is clear.

"Men like my father, my uncle and Alfred Karmann," says Mr Mottus, "were not bandits or criminals. They are part of our history, of why Estonians fought for independence. That knowledge should be passed on to our children."

In the twilight of his stolen years, Alfred Karmann is becoming a modest symbol of his country's own survival.

Brothers of the Forest

There's a bombastic monument to the 'Great Patriotic War' of 1941 - 1945 on every street corner in Russia. You don't hear much of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact though or its secret appendix in which Hitler and Stalin carved up eastern europe between them. Finland, Estonia, Latvia and, later Lithuania fell in the Soviet shadow with Poland to be ripped apart between them come its "political rearrangement".

This Soviet 'free hand' was soon the iron fist in the face of the Baltic states, three nations who had finally won their independence from the Czarist empire in the bloody civil war which followed the Bolshevik coup.

The Nazis attacked Poland on September 1st 1939, the Soviets heroically invaded eastern Poland 16 days later, another fact curiously ommitted from the memorials. The rampant Soviets pressured Finland and the Baltics to take Red Army troops, blockaded the Baltics and invaded Finland in the 'Winter War' of 1940. On October 11, 1939 the NKVD issued the infamous Order 001223, mandating the deportation of 'anti-Soviet elements' from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to Russia. And so the fist tightened.

While the world watched Paris fall to the Germans on 14th of June 1940, the Soviets moved against the Baltic states. Several hundred thousand Red Army troops swarmed over the borders from the 14th to the 17th of June, resistance was useless.

Lithuanian President Smetona managed to flee through Germany and Switzerland to the USA where he died in 1944. On July 17, 1940, the acting president, Antanas Merkys, was imprisoned and deported to Saratov in the Soviet Union where he died in 1955. On July 22, the president of Latvia, Kārlis Ulmanis was arrested and deported, dieing in prison in Krasnovodsk on September 20, 1942. Estonian President Konstantin Päts was imprisoned by NKVD and died in the mental hospital of Kalinin on January 18, 1956.

Parliamentary "elections" were rigged by local communists loyal to the Soviet occupiers with non-communist candidates barred or brutalised. In August these puppet parliaments unanimously "appealed" to join the Soviet Union and the three republics were formally annexed. Over the next year, in a spirit of socialist fraternity, 50,000 people were imprisoned or executed in a programme of 'pacification'.

The republics were invaded again in late 1941 by the Nazis. Stalin's savage purges of the millitary and unquestioning belief in Hitler's good faith had left the Red Army helpless in the face of Barbarossa. Ask any Russian citizen, this was the start of the war. They were 'liberated' once more by the Soviets towards the end of 1944 and became Soviet socialist republics, completely subordinated to Moscow and the communist party. The first sweep of arrests of 'undesirables' began at once.

Soviet power was resisted by the people of the Baltic states, even in the failure to re-establish independence after the German defeat. The Balts believed the Western powers would make good their promise to free eastern europe from tyranny, oppose its de facto annexation by the Soviets, and come to their aid.

Around 100,000 Latvians, Estonians and Lithuanians escaped the Soviets into the vast wooded hinterlands by the end of 1944. Joined by young men evading conscription into the Red Army and members of Estonia's Self Defence Union, they made up the core of the post-war baltic armed resistance movement - The Forest Brothers.

At first the partisans clung to the belief that a new war would break out between the western powers and the Soviet Union over its contemptuous breach of the pledge at Yalta to hold free elections in the countries they occupied. The brothers armed and hid themselves, waiting for the call. The west chose a policy of appeasement however, and the Soviets tightened their grip, installing puppet communist governments in what were to become the countries of the Warsaw Pact. As the Iron curtain came down the Soviets moved against the forest brothers' families and supporters in the villages and towns. The agent network of the notorious NKVD secret police expanded and raids in forests and on farms became ever more frequent. Passive resistance was not sufficient any more to survive.

In 1945 the Forest Brothers began their counter attack. Smaller Red Army and and security units were ambushed and, in forest courts, they judged party activists, tax collectors and other active collaborators of the hostile power. Food, clothes and other supplies were 'requisitioned' from co-operative stores and state dairies. The NKDV registered 340 attacks by the "manifestations of banditism" including 126 "terror acts" and 7 "diversions".

The brothers lived and worked in groups of six to ten, acting independently. There was no central command to be broken by the waves of Soviet arrests, torture and executions. In Lithuania, where resistance was best organized, armed guerrillas effectively controlled whole regions of the countryside until 1949.

The Soviets counter offensive was the 'March deportations' of 1949. After a brief "second wave" of new recruits the brutal liquidation of farm households, deportation and collectivization by force deprived the forest brothers of their support infrastructure. By 1953 the Soviet authorities had suppressed the active armed resistance, although a few brave men hunkered down in the forests for decades. During this heroic fight for freedom about 2000 forest brothers were killed in Estonia, thousands were arrested and sent to Siberian prison camps. In all the Soviet Union's bloody post WWII suppression of Baltic independence cost another 50,000 lives.

War in the Woods

The history of the Forest Brothers' resistance was suppressed in the Soviet Union and ignored by western academics all too often sympathetic to Moscow. In the late 1980s, as the grip of the arthritic Soviet bear began to weaken, a young historian named Mart Laar had the courage to investigate the topic, despite vigorous opposition by Soviet authorities. Travelling from village to village, Laar and his colleagues collected the stories of survivors of Soviet atrocities and veterans and supporters of the resistance movement. Mark Laar become the first Prime Minister of a newly independent Estonia in 1992.

"A Soviet army officer, decided to take a shortcut home while on leave and march through Oobikuorg, a popular village festival site. To his delight, he found a festival in full swing. A band played, some people danced, others dipped moonshine into their mugs from a vat by the edge of the clearing.

"The officer made himself comfortable among the village folk, filled his mug, and enjoyed himself immensely. Suddenly, the words being sung to a traditional melody struck him as unfamiliar: 'I want to be home when Estonia is free, when Laidoner [Johan, Commander-in-Chief of the Estonian military, deported by the Soviets in 1940 - ed] commands the forces, when I hold the Estonian kroon in my hand.' The officer took a closer look around the festival site. In the distance, he now noticed a neatly constructed pyramid of side arms and light machine guns with a guard standing alongside. Suddenly, it dawned on him that he had stumbled into a Forest Brothers celebration. Apparently, the revelers had anticipated this moment of realization, because at that instant, a pair of armed men stepped up to him and politely asked him to surrender his weapons and identity papers. The officer had no choice. After complying with the request, he was handed another mug of moonshine and the merrymaking continued.

"When the officer reported the incident to the security office the following day, he was harshly reprimanded and finally stripped of his rank, because the officials failed to understand why he hadn't arrested all those Forest Brothers."

Alfred Eerick

"They were saying World War II was over, for us, though, a new war was just beginning."

Escaping conscription into the Army of his nation's occupiers, Eerik spent the next eight years in the forbidding forest in a primitive bunker fashioned of cold mud and stone. His sole luxury was a portable shortwave radio, tuned to Voice of America's Estonian service.

"Being in the forest was clearly an act of civil disobedience. On one hand, we were saving ourselves. But on the other hand, we were also trying to save our country."

"Nobody believed that Estonia would, for decades and decades, be left in the hands of the Soviets,"
said Laar. "That wasn't even a possibility. It's only a question of time, everybody thought. But after decades went by, the idea about the West coming to their aid disappeared. The fight in the forest became a personal thing. These people fought because they simply wanted to die as free men."

And die they did. By the early 1950s a forest brother might stay alive a year. For Eerik, the end came in 1953. By then, his wife, fearing deportation herself, had joined him in the forest. One fateful winter's day, their bunker in southern Estonia was suddenly surrounded. Reluctantly, Eerik urged his wife to surrender to the KGB troops outside, reasoning that at least her life would be spared. As he slipped out a side entrance and fled for his life on cross-country skis, he heard the rattle of gunfire behind him. Fleeing into the forest, the ski patrols soon captured him for interrogation where he learned that the shots had he heard were the troops spraying his wife with machine gun fire.

"The interrogators beat me so hard,"
sighed Eerik, shaking his head. "At that point, I wished I was dead."

After languishing without trial in an Estonian prison Eerik was given a 15-year jail term as an 'enemy of the people'. When he finally stepped from behind the bars of his Siberian prison cell, it was 1968, the year of the Soviet invasion of Prague.

"These people fought a war without a battleground, and they went through water and fire to do it,"
he said. "I would say we were heroes because we always kept our backs straight—we kept our dignity."

Dignity cost Eerik his beloved wife and 23 years of his life, from the time he went to the forest to the time of his release. At 86 years of age Eerik harbored no bitterness about his long ordeal or the cold blooded murder of his wife, nor does he crave revenge. He does, however, have one wish. If he could, he'd like to rouse one of his KGB interrogators from his grave—the one who so confidently proclaimed that Estonia would never again be free.

"I'd want to give him a message," said Eerik, his blue eyes gleaming. "I'd tell him, 'Look, look around you, the time of independence did come back, and I am—once again—a free man.'"*

Unbowed by 40 years of deportations, oppression, propaganda and crude 'russification' the Balts rode the 1989 wave of anti-communist protests throughout occupied eastern europe and rose in mass, peaceful civil disobedience against the occupiers. Between a third and a half of the entire population joined hands along the borders in one such display of defiance.

Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia finally regained their freedom in 1991, after the failure of the communist hardliner's coup and the collapse of the Soviet Union. The impossible dream of the 'Brothers of the Forest' had finally been realised. The Baltic states were free and joined the E.U. and NATO in 2004.

Even today, even in their homelands, the story of the Forest Brothers is almost forgotten and the band of surviving brothers grows fewer every year. A film by Jonas Vaitkus˙s, Vienui Vieni, came out in 2004. The title - 'Utterly Alone' - is as poignant as the story is stark, following the brutal struggle of the partisans˙ cause. This thesis does far more justice to the Forest Brothers than a mere dog can do here while the links here covers the gamut of Soviet crimes. It's a long list.

Sources - Wikipedia, Tartu City Museum, War in the Woods by Mark Larr, Photos from Estonian Arms and free sources. *The extended Alfred Eerik interview is from the Baltic City Paper Magazine.

August Sabe was among the last of the Estonian Forest Brothers to survive. After years of living off the land he was found, at the age of 56, in 1978 by two KGB agents posing as fishermen. Refusing to the last to submit to capture he jumped into the lake, hooked himself to a submerged log and ended his own life a free man. Oskar Lillenurm, the last known Forest Brother, was found dead in Läänemaa county in the spring of 1980. On June 26, 1999 the ashes of Estonian freedom fighter Alfons Rebane were returned to his homeland for reburial with full millitary honours. He fought against the Soviet occupation from 1940 to 1941 in the Estonian army, served as a leader of the Estonian Legion fighting the Soviets during the German occupation and, after the annexation of 1944, became a leader of "Operation Jungle" in the British Secret Service (SIS) supporting the Baltic resistance.

The Photograph shows Forest Brother Arnold Linderman.

"Whatever the merits, or demerits, of the many years thereafter during which Communism was in power in Moscow, it is a plain and indisputable fact that the very existence of the USSR encouraged working people everywhere to throw of the shackles of colonial rule." - English Labour Party Politician Tony Benn writing in 1992.

Only force rules. Force is the first law - Adolf H. Man has become great through struggle - Adolf H. Strength lies not in defense but in attack - Adolf H.
Old April 21st, 2014 #4
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The Strategy and Activity of the Forest Brothers: 1947–1950

By: Colonel Martin Herem, Estonian Army

The Forest Brothers' resistance movement in post–world war II Estonia is a topic that has received quite a lot of attention in recent literature, from many different perspectives.2 At the same time, no study has been published so far that examines the Forest Brothers' activities as a military operation. Such research is, at first sight, made difficult by the shortage of source materials, as well as the general opinion that the Estonian Forest Brothers were not an organized movement. Furthermore, the failure of their campaign—the defeat of the Forest Brothers and Estonia's domination by the Soviet Union—may indicate to some that there is little to be learned. Nevertheless, with regard to Estonia's national defense as well as the current campaigns against international terrorism, it is important to understand the reasons behind the ultimate failure of the Forest Brothers.

This article looks at the Forest Brothers during their most active period of resistance, from 1947 to 1950. In those years, a resistance fighter named Richard Saaliste, along with his brother and three other men, played a key part in the strategic preparations for a hoped-for outbreak of war between the USSR and the Western countries. Their strategy will henceforward be referred to, for brevity's sake, as the JORSS strategy. JORSS—an acronym of the surnames Jerlet, Oras, Raadik, Saaliste, Saaliste—was used by the resistance fighters as a radiogram signature in their attempts to establish communication with the Western countries.3

The aim of this article is to evaluate the JORSS strategy and the reasons behind the initial successes and ultimate failure of the Forest Brothers who tried to implement it, by considering the resistance movement in the context of Estonian society at the time. This context is taken to include the society, population, economy, and culture of the Estonian SSR, as well as the anti-resistance activities of the Soviet authorities. Changes in the environment that had an effect on the strategy of the resistance movement are another facet of the evaluation. This method of evaluation, applied here to the Forest Brothers, is adapted from the study "How Men Rebel: An Organizational Model for Insurgency," by William Bender and Craig L. Johnson (hereafter, Bender-Johnson), which describes a method for evaluating resistance movements based on the authors' examination of several theories on organization and resistance.4 This article, in turn, is a brief outline of the author's master's thesis, which applied the Bender-Johnson method to a far more detailed case study of the Forest Brothers.5

General Characteristics of the Estonian Rebellion: 1944–1953

As mentioned previously, JORSS was only a small part of the anti-Soviet resistance that spread across Eastern Europe following World War II, and it shared most of the larger movement's characteristics. The Soviet occupation of the Republic of Estonia in 1940, a result of the Molotov–Ribbentrop nonaggression pact between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, inspired two stages of the Forest Brothers' movement: from 1940 to 1941, and from 1944 to 1953. Both of these stages were characterized by an armed resistance movement in support of an anticipated invasion by the United States and European countries. What made the second stage different, however, was the fact that there was no active warfare as such going on from 1945; instead, the resistance was fuelled by the hope for a new onset of war. Estonians in the post-war years had many reasons to hide and fight against the Soviet regime. In 1940–1941 they had endured the Soviet reign of terror that followed occupation. That experience impelled thousands of Estonians to volunteer to serve in the German armed forces' Home Guard during the German occupation. And that in turn was reason enough for them to go into the forest and incite rebellion when the Soviet forces came back in 1944.

Regardless of the number of people who took part in the resistance movement in different periods, and the activity of the Forest Brothers as evaluated by various methods, the entire Forest Brothers' movement must be regarded as an ideological conflict between Soviet rule and the citizens of the occupied territory. In documents on the Forest Brothers from the USSR Committee for State Security (the secret police), the movement is commonly described as nationalist banditry, a bourgeois nationalist underground resistance movement, and a profoundly nationalist underground resistance movement directed at vigorous anti-Soviet operations.6 The "political banditry"7 of the western regions of the USSR was thus distinguished in official documents from the "criminal banditry" of people's struggle for material survival in the rest of the Soviet republics, even by the Soviet authorities themselves.8 Even though the resistance movements in post-war Ukraine, Lithuania, and Latvia were substantially more widespread, active, and organized, the Estonian Forest Brothers must not be underestimated due to their lack of organization. Although they were eradicated, and no broader resistance movement existed in Estonia as far as we know, the Forest Brothers deserve a place in the theory of resistance. In Mao Zedong's three-stage theory of guerrilla warfare, the post-war Forest Brothers' movement falls under the first stage: the creation of an organization that encompasses a conflict of ideologies, armed fighters, and a purpose for the resistance.9

The post–World War II Forest Brothers' movement has been divided into periods by several authors. Most agree on the years 1944–1945, which were characterized by the ongoing war in Europe and quite a large number of men—estimated at 15,000–20,000—hiding in the forest. This number represents more than 1% of the population at the time.10 During the second period, 1945–1949, the anti-Soviet activities of the Forest Brothers were more dynamic and better organized. The last period of active armed resistance is considered to be the interval from the March deportation of 1949 until 1953, during which the major groups of Forest Brothers were eliminated.11

The casualties on both sides, Forest Brothers and Soviets (including civilians), show the intensity of the conflict. A total of 1,870 armed contacts were recorded during these years. Seventy-four percent of them were directed by the resistance fighters against civilian supporters of the occupation, collective farms, and other public entities.12 A closer study of the victims usually reveals a common reason: revenge against informants and other collaborators who harmed Estonian civilians or the Forest Brothers themselves.13 According to these records, the Forest Brothers killed 1,009 people associated with the Soviet regime: 49% civilians, 29% Soviet activists and voluntary members of destruction battalions, 12% members of the security forces, 5% civilians cooperating with the Soviet security forces, and 5% military personnel. The Forest Brothers' losses during these nine years totaled 16,620 people: 1,495 killed and 9,870 arrested, while another 5,255 surrendered.14 Many of those who were arrested or who surrendered were punished by death or sent to Siberia. The intensity of the resistance was relatively high for such a short period of time. More than a thousand people killed in 1,870 attacks over nine years is not a big number in itself, but it is striking when compared to some other modern insurgent movements.15

JORSS Strategy and Structure

The most important person behind JORSS was Richard Saaliste, one of the best-known leaders of the Forest Brothers. Saaliste was a farmer and reserve officer in 1940 when the Soviet Union first occupied Estonia. By 1941, he had fled into the forest and begun his struggle against the Soviet occupation. Like thousands of other Estonians during the German occupation, Saaliste joined the Home Guard, where he served as a battalion commander. He was wounded twice and in 1944 escaped to Sweden.

In late 1946, Saaliste returned to Estonia, a move that was extremely unusual. The exact reasons behind his return are still unclear. On the one hand, he was performing a task, assigned by Estonians leaders in Sweden, to arrange for the evacuation of certain individuals to Sweden. On the other hand, he began to make contact with the Forest Brothers right after his arrival back in Estonia. Researchers have discussed a possible connection with the intelligence services of some Western countries, but such contacts have never been proved. Other key personnel of JORSS could be called "career Forest Brothers," using the terminology of the Soviet security services. These men were declared outlaws in 1944 or 1945, were not organized on more than a group level up to that point, and, somewhat surprisingly, had no civilian blood on their hands. All of them, however, had battle experience from service in the German army.

It is significant that the JORSS boycotted the strongest Estonian resistance organization at this time: the Armed Resistance Union (RVL). The RVL had a hierarchical structure and recruited members, including civilians in legal positions, with the objective of restoring an independent Estonian republic. Like JORSS, they understood that the restoration of an independent state would be possible only with the direct support of Western countries. But JORSS regarded a formal anti-Soviet organization as necessary only when the international situation, i.e., a commitment to armed intervention from the West, warranted it.16 Until then, the preparatory organizational work had to be carried out. Hence, JORSS leaders disagreed with the RVL's principles of operation, although their anti-Soviet objectives were the same.17 They believed that the RVL, with its conventional organizational structure, was doomed to failure from the moment of its creation, and would be discovered by the MGB (as the Soviet secret police were known at the time) very soon. JORSS leaders, in contrast, opposed any formal registration of the members of the organization, whether through lists, forms, or symbols. They were against including legal citizens in the organization, who might want to restrict the activity of the Forest Brothers with organizational principles, and regarded such activity by the leadership of the RVL as mistaken.

The Strategy

The objective of the JORSS strategy was to win support among the Forest Brothers and the general population for the overthrow of Soviet rule in the Estonian SSR, in the event of a war between the Western countries and the Soviet Union. In other words, the JORSS strategy was based on anticipation of a political or military intervention by the Western countries. This was a common strategic feature of the resistance groups in all three Baltic states. None of the resistance movements aimed at overthrowing Soviet rule on its own, but presumed that an intervention by countries hostile to Moscow would end the occupation of the Baltic states.18 This hope was fed daily through anti-Soviet propaganda in the news media, including Western radio services from Italy, Switzerland, Turkey, and Sweden, Radio Rias from the U.S. zone in Germany, Voice of America Moscow, Estonian programs in German, and anti-Soviet programs on the BBC. In addition, Saaliste had with him some newspapers issued by Estonian expatriates in Germany and Sweden promoting this idea.

What made the JORSS strategy different were a few details, especially with regard to the organizational structure. The best way to explain the strategy is with a widely used method that focuses on the objective, desired outcomes, methods of achieving those outcomes, and resources (see Table 1).19

A characteristic feature of the Forest Brothers was the structure of JORSS. First of all, it should be clarified that it was not an organization in the common sense. The Forest Brothers themselves denied the existence of any such organization. During an interrogation in 1952, V. Oras claimed that the group only went so far as to make preparations for establishing a Forest Brothers' organization when the situation was right, i.e., once a war was underway. This may be a little disingenuous: even a relatively unstructured group can indeed be called an organization, if an organization is understood to consist of a knowingly coordinated social union that is an identifiable entity and works steadily towards a common goal.

Judging by the statements of the Forest Brothers themselves, the organization even had a structure that covered all of Estonia. According to that structure, Estonia was divided into three parts. Two of the parts were reportedly managed by a major and a captain, and the third part by Richard Saaliste. The structure itself was planned and generally created as follows.

Structure of the "organization" (see Figure 1):

Government-in-exile (primarily in Sweden at this time): managed the three staffs (henceforward, 1/3 staffs), each of which oversaw one third of Estonian territory, through directions for long-term action. Further instructions were relayed through proxies, by mail, via broadcast radio in coded messages,20 or by direct radio communications.

1/3 staff: managed the staff branches. To a lesser extent, each staff, consisting of three to five individuals, also coordinated its activity with the other two 1/3 staffs.21 Contact with the staff branches was maintained above all to initiate coordinated fighting and to give specific orders during combat. The instruction these staffs provided in anticipation of coming war was aimed at the survival of the personnel in a hostile environment and to further their political education.

Staff branch: maintained constant contact with the 1/3 staff, groups of Forest Brothers, and individuals hiding in their region. The staff branches also were usually three to five people, depending on who was available and the territory and population to be coordinated. Again, most of the instructions they disseminated were to support the survival of personnel in a wartime environment and to provide political education with leaflets and brochures. If necessary, cooperation would be coordinated before the war. In addition, this group received information from other Forest Brothers and supporters by means of personal interviews. The instructions from the staff branch were designed to support survival and reduce conflicting activities among the different groups of Forest Brothers. Intelligence-related tasks were normally not given to groups or individuals but were performed by members of the staff branch.

Groups of Forest Brothers/individual members: made their own plans for hiding and operating. They carried out no specific orders or tasks coming from the staff branches. Contact with supporters and informants reinforced the activity or security of the group and was not usually intended to fulfill the needs or tasks of the staff branch.


Supporters of the resistance included farms or individuals who helped sustain the Forest Brothers with material goods or resources, accommodation, medical aid, or transportation, depending on their situation. Their support was organized in an ad hoc fashion, based on their specific capabilities and ideological attitude. A supporter could not go directly to the Forest Brothers but had instead to arrange a meeting with an individual. Meetings could also be set up through intermediaries or a "mailbox" (drop box) arrangement. Information was communicated through personal meetings. In the event of a particular danger, preset signals were used to spread the word. The Forest Brothers made use of informants who were in the service of Soviet authorities, mostly to gather security-related information and relay it at agreed meetings. Communication of crucial information might also take place through a mailbox or via an intermediary. It is important to note that many of the farms run by sympathizers relied on Forest Brothers to work in exchange for food. These farmers then shared in the loot when the Forest Brothers attacked Soviet-run collective farms and cooperatives. This largesse served as a sort of deposit that encouraged further support in later months. The entire structure was designed essentially to serve the strategic goal of maintaining armed strength. In other words, the structure itself did not support operations, but rather the communication of information.

There was no specialization throughout the different management levels of JORSS. For instance, intelligence work was performed according to the abilities of specific individuals. The means and opportunities of each group were determined for that particular group alone. At the same time, each group was prepared to support other groups if security was at stake, because any breach of security threatened the entire resistance movement. The size of the group depended on the experience of the individual Forest Brothers and the task environment (support and risk). There were no joint funds above the group level—each band had to support itself. All documented structures and lists were forbidden. Information on the location and number of Forest Brothers maintained by the 1/3 staff, however, would enable leaders to quickly restructure a fighting force in the event of war.

The decentralized organization characteristic of the resistance in the Baltic States was also noted by contemporary Russian military analysts. According to them, the lack of common leadership was compensated for by strong discipline on the local level, sustained by the social status of being a Forest Brother and the enforced discipline of hiding and undertaking covert actions over the course of several years while surrounded by the enemy.22 In today's terms, such an organizational structure and system of subordination can be compared to al Qaeda, which also lacks a conventional hierarchical chain of command.23

Information from the archives of the MGB indicates that the various Forest Brothers' groups were aware of each other's existence and had the opportunity to contact one another in accordance with the objectives and methods of the JORSS strategy. It is nevertheless difficult to determine the size, location, and members of the groups precisely, because these kept changing. The thesis from which this article was drawn contains a basic list of the Forest Brothers who were in contact with the branch staff either in person or through proxies.24 The list includes a total of more than 130 people in hiding between 1947 and 1949 who were known to branch staff and could have been mobilized for concentrated action at short notice.25 There were men and women of various backgrounds among them, although the women would likely have played only a supporting role in combat.

To sum up the question of communicating with Forest Brothers' groups and uniting individual resistance fighters, it can be said that more than 100 people were at least in contact with JORSS in 1949. The territory in which they were most active was situated about 50 km from the Estonian capital of Tallinn, and covered an area approximately 60 km square of rural and forested land. There are many examples of Forest Brothers' activities far away from this "main territory," but it should be noted that the whole of Estonia is only about 350 km square.

The Results of the Study

The thesis analyzed the Forest Brothers and the JORSS strategy on the basis of the five theoretical requirements for a resistance movement (the Bender- Johnson method described in the introduction). This section discusses the results of that study, and what it revealed about the strengths and weaknesses of the strategy.

Requirement No. 1: The structure and strategy of a resistance movement must match the environment.

The JORSS strategy was based on an understanding of the prevailing circumstances and the power of the Soviet authorities; hence, it focused on overthrowing Soviet rule only in the event of an outbreak of international war. The tactics were instead based on limiting attacks (usually only on collaborators), so as to maintain a minimal presence in the "market" of Estonian society, and the replenishment of supplies (through attacks on state enterprises and institutions).

The concern was that a more aggressive strategy would only invite a show of force by the Soviets, as occurred in Lithuania in 1947, when brutal attacks by resistance fighters were met with an additional 70,000 troops brought in from Russia. This strategy of minimal violence was adopted by most Forest Brothers.

The JORSS strategy, as well as the Forest Brothers' operations, was based on an awareness of enemy tactics and therefore avoided frequent small-scale actions; the movement thus prevented the Soviets from differentiating between the various regions and groups. This hindered the ability of the enemy to accurately analyze the Forest Brothers, and thus their ability to concentrate countermeasures in specific regions.

The JORSS leaders and, to an extent, the Forest Brothers realized the difficult economic situation of their principal support base—the Estonian population. At the end of the 1940s, the Soviet Union, anticipating another war, increased taxes and appropriated such a large percentage of agricultural output that many Estonians suffered from hunger. At the same time, Moscow severely devalued the currency through "reforms." This difficult economic situation was also taken into consideration, for the most part, by the Forest Brothers when planning their activities. At the same time, JORSS staff exercised no higherlevel control in that area nor did they give any instructions of a more specific nature. The weakness of the strategy sometimes manifested when Forest Brothers engaged in the public robbery of private property. The resulting Soviet propaganda and economic controls had a negative impact on the market of sympathizers for the Forest Brothers and lost them support. This in turn enabled the Soviet authorities to develop their intelligence network more effectively.

The strategy as well as the activity of the Forest Brothers showed that working for the people who were sympathetic to them was an important way for the resistance fighters to create a material support base for themselves. The replenishment of supplies through labor was one of the strongest aspects of the strategy and the Forest Brothers' operations. It not only enhanced their base of support but also helped them avoid conflicts with the Soviet authorities, and prevented further deterioration of conditions for the local population (as simple confiscation would have caused).

It must be noted here that the majority of the Forest Brothers studied in the course of this research were arrested and/or killed as a result of intelligence work by Soviet security agents. The available sources suggest, however, that all of those who collaborated with the security agencies were recruited from among legal citizens or those whom the authorities had legalized, with the help of compromising circumstances (e.g., they had served in the German army or the Home Guard, or had recently left the resistance), and that none of them was a current member of the Forest Brothers.

Requirement No. 2: The organization must possess a market and demonstrate its presence in the market.

The dissemination of information, as a means to maintain presence in the market of public opinion, should be regarded as a strength of the strategy. This requirement, however, was only partially fulfilled by the Forest Brothers, primarily with leaflets and other forms of propaganda. The fact that the groups did not spread information about their operational successes, such as attacking Communist activists and collective farms, was a weak spot of the strategy, and lost them the opportunity to gain wider support. It also allowed the Soviet authorities to spread uncontested misinformation about supposed atrocities committed by the Forest Brothers. The restrictions the Soviet authorities put on the dissemination of information (e.g., access to printing facilities), along with the constant barrage of Soviet propaganda, in fairness, made it difficult for the Forest Brothers to meet their information objectives. Meanwhile, the Soviet authorities were busy taking over the opinion market by other means as well, such as managing the safety and welfare of the population. Hence, even if the Forest Brothers had been better at disseminating anti-Soviet information among Estonia's inhabitants, they would not have prevented the Soviet authorities from monopolizing the market.

The maintenance of market share in the form of relaying international information and raising political awareness was also a strength of the strategy. These tactics were put into practice, but again there was a shortcoming in the organizational structure. The number of individuals doing the work was too small, and they all had concurrent duties, which made it impossible for them to work to the best of their abilities in any one area of responsibility.

Requirement No. 3: The structure of a resistance movement should be closed.

In principle, the organizational structure of the Forest Brothers matched the environmental circumstances and the goals of the strategy. It was a closed organization that made the inclusion of new members quite difficult, and the connections among the groups were not susceptible to the counteractivities of the security agencies. This is supported by several examples where the attempted elimination of a group as a whole was unsuccessful, or an attack on one group did not lead the security agents to other groups. In other words, there was no "domino effect" among the rest of the units when Forest Brothers were captured. Nevertheless, there were some significant exceptions. For instance, the elimination of Richard Saaliste and his group became possible through the connections of one person whom the authorities had arrested. At the same time, however, other groups were not threatened by the arrest of their members. Because, as a matter of policy, there were no clear terms of subordination or member lists to be discovered, security service investigation records reveal that the security agencies never grasped the structure of the organization, and this hindered them in planning operations. This closed organizational structure thus can be considered a strength of the resistance's strategy and activities.

When a closed organization is operating in a hostile environment, limiting the information that is available to any individual is of critical importance. Adherence to this rule would have rendered agency work ineffective, but the activity of the Forest Brothers reveals numerous examples where this rule was broadly disregarded. One good example is the case of a legal civilian, a former Estonian officer, who was believed to be a Forest Brother but was actually a Soviet agent. Other Forest Brothers passed information to him that he did not need to know. This breach of discipline enabled the security agencies to largely eliminate three groups of Forest Brothers, including the leader of a 1/3 staff. It should be stressed here that this episode constituted a remarkable violation of the strategy. At the same time, the organization proved unable to respond to such violations and introduce changes to its activities that would prevent another incident.

Forest Brothers were directed to not trust anyone who had changed their ideological view and gave support to the Communists; all contact was to stop immediately. This guidance, however, mistook the real threat. As described earlier, recruited agents cooperated with the regime not because of ideological principles but most often because their background with the German armed forces or the Home Guard, or with the Forest Brothers themselves, left them and their families vulnerable to threats of deportation. This blind spot meant that the strategy focused on ideological differences to evaluate threats, while the Forest Brothers' actual betrayers were not in fact different from themselves. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to say how much this instruction was followed during resistance activities and whether doing so resulted in any actual harm to the Forest Brothers. Such an instruction most likely demonstrates the general views of the Forest Brothers—that is, threats were judged on the basis of ideological stances. Adherence to this directive, combined with violations of the rules of confidentiality, however, had potentially catastrophic consequences for the organization. Taking into account the general environment of Estonia at the time, this instruction can be regarded as a deficiency of the strategy. Despite the instruction given in the strategy that units should operate in an unfamiliar area, this was rarely followed by the Forest Brothers. Most of them were based in their native region, which ensured a better base of material support, access to information, and familiarity with the area of operations. They also enjoyed freedom of movement and a very good overview of the security agencies operating in the area. Although the reasoning behind the strategy's directive is not unsound, the fact that the Forest Brothers largely chose to do the opposite should be seen as a strength.

The requirement to limit the information given to supporters is in large part the same as the rule concerning interactions with legal citizens. Excessive knowledge in the possession of supporters who were arrested served as the basis for successful MGB intelligence work. The Forest Brothers' activities in that area must be regarded as a violation of the strategy.

There are several examples proving that the speed of communications between organizational levels was at least satisfactory. It would likely have served its purpose in the event of war. In addition, the communication network fulfilled security requirements, and, as a result, there is no evidence that it had a negative effect on the activity of the organization. Hence, communication can be regarded as a strength of the strategy and activities.

Requirement No. 4: The success of the organization lies in increasing its numbers and fighting.

From the creation of the JORSS organization in 1947 to its eradication in 1949, it maintained contacts with the Estonian resistance according to strategy, so that concentrated armed action could have been organized in case of the outbreak of war. Hence, this aspect must be deemed a strength of the organization.

The factor that put an end to the growth of the resistance movement was the success of the security forces in infiltrating the organization and recruiting collaborators, which led to subsequent successful attacks against the Forest Brothers. Hence, while the need to raise additional support that came with an increase in group numbers and agent infiltration were not the only reasons behind the dissolution of the organization, they both played a part in it. The failure of the Forest Brothers in the fight against the Soviet security agencies started with the strategy, which touched on the area of recruitment only briefly. Based on the activity of the Forest Brothers, it can be said that they were successful with regard to the growth of the organization and operational planning, while their weakness lay primarily in poor countermeasures against the work of the security agencies. This weakness manifested mainly in violations of the rules of confidentiality. Accordingly, the tendency for the weaknesses of the strategy to be compounded in practice should be regarded as the reason for the movement's failure.

Requirement No. 5: Success depends on short-term as well as longterm organizational decisions.

The maintenance of resistance forces as a long-term decision is a strength of the strategy; however, this was not supported by the short-term activities of the Forest Brothers. Group leaders should have made immediate decisions, for example, to enforce confidentiality or limit attacks against the Soviets, in order to improve the groups' ability to remain in hiding. Opportunities to make such decisions or changes came: 1) after the arrest of Oras in March 1949—the loss of a significant political and operational leader; 2) after the March 1949 deportation of approximately 30,000 people suspected to have connections with the Forest Brothers—a change in the general environment, which heightened fear and insecurity; and 3) after the elimination of the Forest Brothers in the second half of 1949—the success of enemy tactics and agent networks.26 Despite knowing that the secret police were successfully recruiting among their support base, the Forest Brothers failed to adjust their communications strategies or reevaluate their relations with supporters.

Contacts with individuals working in different Soviet power structures ensured that the resistance movement had access to the data it required for general intelligence-related activities as well as the information needed for personal security. There are several examples in the archives of the resistance's contacts with such people and the information the Forest Brothers received from them. Furthermore, the Forest Brothers' awareness of the security agencies' ongoing activities points to the fact that they had sources in the agencies and elsewhere in the Soviet power structures. Despite the eventual dissolution of the organization, their intelligence activity within the Soviet power structures can be regarded as a strength of the activity.


The primary objective of the JORSS strategy—survival of the Forest Brothers as an armed force for the purpose of war between the Western countries and the Soviet Union—based on an understanding of the resistance's capabilities, can be considered a strength of the strategy. The strategy thus identified three desired outcomes. Achieving them would have made it possible to support the overthrow of Soviet rule in the Estonian SSR in the event of a larger war.27 The first outcome required to accomplish the strategic objective of organizational survival was to avoid direct contact with the security agencies and other armed structures. This excluded any attack on the Soviet armed forces or their bases. Armed actions were mostly aimed at replenishing the supply base. Attacks against collaborators or leaders at the local government level were not regulated, but they were avoided by and large as well.

Both spying on the security agencies to increase personal safety and adherence to rules of confidentiality certainly played an important part in the strategy, but these were not regulated in the strategy in detail. In order to mobilize the armed forces of the Forest Brothers in the event of war, the JORSS leadership, specifically the staff branches, had to make contact with different groups and individuals, and establish constant communication. For them to undertake concentrated armed warfare, military support from the Western countries was deemed crucial.

The second outcome set for the JORSS organization was to convince the population to join in the effort to overthrow Soviet rule, as well as hinder the Soviets' mobilization within the Estonian SSR in the event of a war. To attain that outcome, the strategy emphasized spreading political propaganda among the inhabitants, including the dissemination of international anti-Soviet news. Gathering information on the attitudes of the population likely served the same purpose.

The third outcome was to gather information on the situation in the Estonian SSR with regard to population, economy, armed units, and public order and relay it to the Estonian expatriates to help the Western countries prepare for war.

From 1947 on, the Forest Brothers largely performed the tasks set in the JORSS strategy. The research for this study has uncovered some facts that suggest that the scope of the organization, both geographically and with regard to the number of individuals and groups, was probably much greater than the 130 people identified in the thesis. Groups had stable contacts that would have made it possible to bring them together at short notice to support the military action of the Western countries. The author estimates that the high point of operational alertness was from summer 1948 to autumn 1949. Despite the enemy's superiority with regard to weapons and personnel, the Forest Brothers operated effectively during that period, both in staying hidden and in their attacks on state enterprises, institutions, and Soviet activists.

The Forest Brothers' success was aided by years of experience, familiarity with the local environment and remarkably good connections in the security agencies, which made it possible to avoid anti-resistance operations. The connections are illustrated by their awareness of enemy activities as well as relative freedom to move over distances of dozens of kilometers— during daytime, on roads, and by public transportation. The large relative importance of working for local residents as a way to replenish their supplies and win support is also remarkable.

In that period of just over a year, the Forest Brothers were also active in disseminating political information. They compiled informative written materials in a deliberate and coordinated manner, from foreign media channels and personal observations made in Estonia. The author estimates that the level of activity in the field of strategic intelligence, where the data requested by Saaliste was being gathered, was just as high. Given the objective of the strategy—to win over the population— these areas in particular should be highlighted in a positive sense, because the preparations were meant for war, not for the immediate overthrow of Soviet rule. Such activity was much better suited to the strategic goals and opportunities provided by the environment than direct armed conflicts with the Soviet authorities.

Strategic weaknesses, however, developed into catastrophic flaws in practice. As the security agencies realized the ineffectiveness of their counter-resistance strategy, despite having much greater numbers of personnel, the MGB began to focus increasingly on intelligence work. The experience its agents had gained in earlier years and from other regions of the Soviet Union certainly helped. In the author's opinion, the environment of the Estonian SSR was extremely fruitful for counter-resistance activities in 1949. The continually changing social order, the deteriorating economic situation, and the lack of personal security turned people's attention away from the ideology of national independence and toward personal survival. Individuals who had served in the German army or Home Guard, or who had once been Forest Brothers, were excellent targets for agency recruitment due to their compromising past and the ensuing fear of persecution. Such individuals, of course, most likely still harbored anti-Soviet views and were not a particular threat to the Forest Brothers. Nevertheless, the road to success for the secret police was paved by the aforementioned lack of specificity in the JORSS strategy, the organization's unresponsive leadership, and repeated violations of confidentiality in practice.

The systematic, patient, and ruthless activity of the Soviet security agencies— still despised in Estonia to this day—eradicated practically the entire resistance organization between autumn 1949 and spring 1950. Although some experienced leaders of the Forest Brothers survived, the steady losses meant yet more shattered hopes for the so-called rank-and-file members and supporters, and they began to focus more of their attention on personal welfare than on resistance.

The reasons behind the defeat of the Forest Brothers' movement, as this article shows, are different from the assumptions commonly held by historians today. The movement's failure was not directly caused by the loss of people's support, the March deportation of 1949 and the resulting increase in the number of those in hiding, nor the superiority of the security agencies with regard to personnel and weaponry. The main reason was that the group violated the rules of confidentiality to a remarkable extent, which gave the security forces excellent opportunities to plan exact strikes. Or to put it even more simply: the reason behind the eradication of the Forest Brothers lies in the betrayals committed by those who found themselves betrayed.
Only force rules. Force is the first law - Adolf H. Man has become great through struggle - Adolf H. Strength lies not in defense but in attack - Adolf H.
Old April 21st, 2014 #5
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Estonia’s Forest Brothers in 1941: Goals, Capabilities, and Outcomes
By: Captain Olavi Punga, Estonian Army

Immediately after the Soviet Union's occupation and annexation of Estonia in June 1940, Estonians commenced various types of resistance, both passive and open, against this foreign power. In the context of the conventional warfare that prevailed in the 20th century, the resistance that arose in Estonia, culminating in the summer of 1941 as the German invasion of the Soviet Union commenced, was viewed by Soviet historians as an inseparable part of World War II (or, as it was officially known in the Soviet Union, the Great Patriotic War). Estonians, in contrast, referred to the anti-Soviet resistance in 1941 as the Summer War and called the participants the Forest Brothers.

The Soviet Union never officially recognized the Summer War as such for two reasons. First, in the Soviet theory of warfare, the theoretical premises for the type of irregular warfare carried out by the Forest Brothers had been dismissed.1 Second, the Soviet political system cultivated the idea that Estonia had voluntarily joined the Soviet Union in 1940. The Estonian refugees who were exiled from their homeland during and after World War II took the memory of the Summer War with them, but later research on this topic has been fairly limited. That is why the Summer War has so far been a subject of research primarily for Estonian historians, who have published their works in Estonian. The term Forest Brothers, commonly used in Estonian literature, has been overshadowed in Soviet or Soviet-biased literature by the use of more general terms such as guerrilla or partisan.

The year of the first Soviet occupation of Estonia caused a small but gradually increasing number of Estonians throughout the country to withdraw from society and go into hiding. They were soon referred to as the Forest Brothers. For several days beginning on 14 June 1941, the Peoples' Commissariat for Internal Affairs (or Narodnyy Komissariat Vnutrennikh Del, abbreviated NKVD) deported thousands of people thought to be "anti-Soviet elements" from Estonia.2 More Estonians reacted by becoming fugitives, hiding in the forests and marshes to escape any subsequent deportations.3

The Influence of the Forest Brothers on the Conduct of War

The activities of the Forest Brothers against the Soviet government and its representatives varied greatly, from pranks to well-planned military actions directed against local collaborators and Red Army units. The intensity of the Forest Brothers' activities varied over time, depending largely on the local situation and reflecting the influence of the larger German–Soviet conflict.

The idea of combat activities without a clearly defined front was unknown to the Red Army at the time. Both its leadership and rank and file were unprepared for such warfare, and the Forest Brothers' irregular tactics initially caused confusion and panic in the Red Army. It is possible that activities conducted by the local Forest Brothers were the main reason that the headquarters of the Soviet Eighth Army, which had retreated to Estonia following the initial German attack of Operation Barbarossa, was forced to leave the Suure-Kambja area in Tartumaa on 6 July 1941. The headquarters was relocated to the north, four kilometers from Pőltsamaa, which had been assaulted by the local Forest Brothers two days earlier. On the same day, Lieutenant General F. Ivanov ordered the Soviet 11th Rifle Division to "most ruthlessly clear the Army's rear area of bandit and diversion groups."4 Despite the large number of Soviet units that were engaged in these missions against the Forest Brothers, however, Red Army soldiers who fled to the rear later explained that they abandoned their positions because they feared being surrounded, even though the German forces were still far away.

It is important to understand the position of the Estonians as Germany began its invasion of the USSR. After a year of "Sovietization" and terror, Estonian civil society was virtually destroyed. The German invasion gave people hope for relief from Soviet terror and for the restoration of Estonian statehood. But this did not mean the Forest Brothers gave unconditional support to the German forces. Rather, the Forest Brothers viewed the Wehrmacht as a temporary ally in their mutual fight against the Soviet Union.

The Soviet forces that either were stationed in or had retreated to Estonia, as well as the local "red" activists, went through a very intense period of combat from 4–12 July 1941, due to the various resistance operations conducted by the Forest Brothers. During this period, as panicked Communist activists and refugees fled before the oncoming German forces, Pärnu, Valga, Vőru, Sakala, and Tartumaa counties came under the Forest Brothers' partial or complete control, even before the advancing German forces reached these areas.5 North of the Pärnu–Emajőe line, numerous small and large battles took place between the Forest Brothers and various Soviet military units. In the middle of July 1941, an operational pause descended on the war in Estonia, a pause that changed the character of the Summer War. An increase in the number of Soviet units fighting against them, as well as more efficient counterinsurgency operations, temporarily stalled the Forest Brothers' hitherto extremely active armed resistance. The Forest Brothers in the northern parts of Sakala and Tartumaa counties, located in the Soviet close rear, suffered heavy losses, caused mostly by NKVD operational units and so-called destruction battalions, and Red Army battalions that had been withdrawn from Latvia and southern Estonia.

Once the Soviet units had recovered from their retreat and the initial confusion caused by the Forest Brothers' attacks, the new commander of the Eighth Army and the newly appointed rear guard commander were able to reestablish command and control over their units. At the same time, the Red Baltic Fleet established contact with the Eighth Army. Subsequently, most Soviet forces in Estonia managed to establish communications and improve cooperation and attempted to seize the initiative in their counterinsurgency operations. The rear guard forces were directed to support the missions assigned to the Army units. In addition, agent networks were established with the purpose of gathering information about the locations of the Forest Brothers' units, and plans to search and locate insurgents in specific areas were put into action. The number of patrols and guard posts was increased to protect vital communication assets, while border guard detachments, railroad security units, operational units, and the destruction battalions, all under the command of the NKVD, assumed concrete areas of responsibility.6

The countermeasures undertaken by the Soviet forces increased the number of armed contacts with the resistance fighters, but these actions had no significant influence on the numbers or fighting will of the Forest Brothers. The Forest Brothers in Harjumaa and Järvamaa counties, caught by a larger operation of the Soviet rear guard forces that was intended to destroy a reconnaissance group sent in from Finland, were affected more than the others. In general, the Soviet rear guard units were successful in a limited number of operations in which one or more of the following was true:

- the exact location of the Forest Brothers was known from intelligence or agent network information;
- military tracking dogs were used in searches;
- the Forest Brothers did not cover their tracks sufficiently; and
- the Soviets gained the cooperation of local civilians through various methods, including torture.

The Goals of the Forest Brothers

The people who took refuge in the forests were by no means adventurers or "Wild West" outlaws. Nor were they like the ideological heroes of Soviet propaganda films. They were common folk, and probably only a very small fraction of them had a full understanding of the war raging in their country. A person did not become a Forest Brother based on orders or political guidance; it was simply his (or sometimes her) own choice. Estonians' options were limited to enduring the oppression of the new system, moving or being moved to Russia under Soviet authority, or hiding in Estonia as a Forest Brother.

There were different reasons for supporting or living as a Forest Brother, but the most important reason was a desire to avoid the heavy hand of the occupying power and thus survive. By isolating themselves from general society, it was possible for the Forest Brothers to avoid the direct oppression of the Soviets, but they had no guarantees for their continued survival. They considered the possession of firearms to be their only solid assurance. A lack of weapons was the impetus for the initial actions carried out by the Forest Brothers. They used all possible means to arm themselves, such as purchasing guns from hunters, exchanging weapons for vodka with the militsia (Soviet police force), stealing a rifle or pistol from a sleeping soldier, as well as attacking individual soldiers. Once armed, the Forest Brothers were ready to defend themselves and their loved ones, as well as their property. The majority of activities conducted by the Forest Brothers served the sole purpose of saving lives and private property. Many people who joined the Forest Brothers, however, were motivated by their desire to resist the enemy—not just the Red Army but all representatives of the occupation regime. In general, the Forest Brothers fought with these two primary purposes: to defend themselves and to resist the Soviet occupiers. For these small, scattered guerilla units, trying for a larger goal such as destroying the occupying forces would have been suicidal.

Military Capabilities

It is very difficult to give even a general overview of the Forest Brothers' military capabilities. The main factor that determined which skills would be developed was the presence of personnel with relevant military experience and the capability to lead. Among the Forest Brothers, however, nobody had any special training in the conduct of war in the enemy's rear, or in the environment of guerrilla warfare. Former members of the military, border guards, and Kaitseliit (the militia-based Estonian Defense League, founded in 1918 to protect Estonian independence) were the best prepared.

The Forest Brothers lacked a higher command element and a larger structure (on the county or national level). This lack had both positive and negative effects for them. For example, when any member of the Forest Brothers was captured, the enemy couldn't extract the necessary information, even by torture, that would lead to the capture or destruction of others. On the negative side, however, the Forest Brothers were unable to bring together a sufficient level of manpower and firepower to take over any significant population centers, to disrupt the activities of the destruction battalions, or undertake other such large-scale operations. This weakness was exacerbated by the Forest Brothers' poor armaments and minimal means of transportation, as well as a lack of access to timely information.

Nevertheless, the Forest Brothers' lack of organization, varying unit sizes, and uneven levels of armament meant that the Red Army rarely knew the capability of the unit it was facing. Consequently, the Soviets rarely were able to assemble the appropriate forces to counter the Forest Brothers' units.

The source materials describing the Forest Brothers' activities include several ambiguous terms describing the size of their formations: group, band, and camp. While these are all common appellations, they are vague in terms of indicating actual personnel strength, firepower, command and control structure, and combat capabilities. Based on incomplete data, the total number of Forest Brothers has been estimated at around 12,000. Compared with national armies at that time, this would have been roughly equivalent to the size of an infantry division, but the Forest Brothers were scattered in small groups across the countryside. Considering the partial or sometimes complete lack of command and control, armaments, training, and supporting structures, the overall combat capabilities of the Forest Brothers could not have been very high. But this is only in the context of conventional warfare. The simple lack of reliable, good-quality weapons and adequate ammunition were the most common reasons for the Forest Brothers' failures in battles. The main strengths of the Forest Brothers were their loose organization, their ability to blend into the environment, and the rest of Estonian society's overall positive attitude towards them.

As a rule, guerrilla tactics do not differ greatly from those of conventional small military units. The Forest Brothers implemented some tactics that were more or less adapted from the Estonian Defense Forces' doctrine. The decentralized nature of the Forest Brothers' units and the loose connections between key personnel meant that when a unit of Forest Brothers faced an armed confrontation, it would be able to disperse without significant casualties, or to escape encirclement by breaking into smaller groups. The unit later reassembled elsewhere or simply moved to another area. The Forest Brothers themselves referred to this technique as evaporation tactics: "to disappear from a battle they had started at the right moment in order to disrupt the enemy by opening fire from another direction."7 This tactic underlay the sustainability of the camp or group-centered structure of the Forest Brothers.

Outcomes of the Forest Brothers' Activities

One of the most significant outcomes of the Forest Brothers' resistance was the disruption of Red Army movements and government communications: road blocks, ambushes, and blown-up bridges made railways and highways impassable, while phone lines were cut to slow or prevent the transmission of orders and information. These attacks not only affected the Red Army's command and control capabilities, but also limited the activities of the local Soviet-controlled governing bodies.

Initially, the goal of the Forest Brothers in cutting phone lines was to disrupt the activities of local officials. Later, when the repair crews were assigned armed escorts, the disruptions were mostly used to acquire weapons from these escorts. Before 1941, the communication lines of the Soviet Baltic Special Military District units in Estonia were based on the local phone lines, and even when the war commenced in June 1941, radio communication was almost never used. For this reason, operations by the Forest Brothers to destroy phone lines sometimes caused a complete communications blackout in several areas, and forced the Soviet units to deploy significant forces to secure their communication lines. The attacks disrupted not only communications between the Northwestern Front and the Eighth Army headquarters, but also command and control over the Eighth Army and Red Baltic Fleet fighting units.

In another bid to acquire weapons, the Forest Brothers also attacked various Red Army air surveillance posts, successfully in most cases. These attacks resulted in serious disruptions and gaps in the early warning system of the Tallinn air defense network.

On the level of their individual lives, the Forest Brothers were largely successful. Out of more than 12,000 Forest Brothers, only 561 have been confirmed as killed. This means that at least 11,439 Forest Brothers survived and escaped the regime's oppressions in 1941.8 What is even more important is that while in hiding they felt safe from the reach of the Soviet terror. On a group level, the Forest Brothers minimized the reach and results of several Sovietorganized repression campaigns. For example, they were able to significantly impede the mobilization of conscripts and reservists, forced evacuations, the use of common people in building defensive positions, and requisitions of farm animals and agricultural products.

There have been several statements concerning the use of scorched earth tactics by the Red Army in Estonia in 1941. Compared to the destruction that occurred in Russia during the Soviets' retreat from the advancing German army, such claims don't apply in Estonia's case. When Stalin gave the order over the radio to utilize scorched earth tactics across the Soviet Union, the main idea was to destroy anything and everything that could aid the enemy. In Estonia, much was destroyed, but not everything. This outcome raises some questions. First, why were Stalin's orders not fully obeyed in Estonia? Second, what or who may have interfered with the execution orders? Third, who or what could have prevented the Red Army throughout Estonia from obeying Stalin's orders? There were too few Estonian Communists, and they lacked any authority or power over the Red Army to prevent it from acting on those orders. The advancing German units moved quite fast, but even they could not reach everywhere fast enough to prevent destruction. The evidence points to the Forest Brothers, who guarded their own and their neighbors' households and attempted to prevent the retreating Red Army units from wreaking havoc.

Epilogue: German Occupation

The more active units of the Estonian resistance tried to continue their fight for the complete liberation of their homeland, even after the Wehrmacht had reached the territory already liberated from Soviet control by the Forest Brothers. Along the Pärnu–Emajőe front, former Forest Brothers participated in direct combat against the Red Army until the German reserves arrived. After that, most of the self-formed Forest Brothers' units were simply disbanded by the Germans, as only Germans were allowed to fight under arms on the front. Only in a few cases were former Forest Brothers permitted to participate in combat as a unit, usually to counter intensified resistance put up by the Red Army or to reinforce insufficient German forces in a particular sector.

A handful of less active Forest Brothers continued to live in the forest for days after the front had passed through, before they were informed of the change of power from Soviet to German hands. Most Forest Brothers gradually followed the front, leaving the forests and going home. After the reoccupation of Estonia by the Red Army in 1944, many of those Forest Brothers who had engaged in resistance against the Soviet power in 1941 were persecuted, and many, with their families, were exiled to Siberia.

Closing Remarks

It was common in the Soviet Union to characterize the Estonian Forest Brothers in the context of World War II as supporters of Germany. The main logic behind this (and in some instances, the historical interpretation of Russian historians today) was simple: Because the Forest Brothers were the opponents of the Soviet regime, they were supporters of Germany. This logic was also supported by descriptions of the Forest Brothers' activities recorded during the war.9 However, as Estonian historians repeatedly highlight, there are important flaws in this train of thought. Estonians did not support Germans or the official fascist ideology of Germany. Instead, they saw the Germans as liberators from the Soviet occupation and its oppressions, and thus as their allies against the Soviet Union.

Consequently, the topic of the Forest Brothers has been a favorite subject in Soviet propaganda from World War II to recent times. Connecting the Estonian Forest Brothers to one of the warring parties in World War II enabled Soviet propagandists to apply derogatory labels, such as traitors of the fatherland, bandits, or criminals, in order to smear the Forest Brothers' name. In modern days, the term terrorists has also been added. This is just one example of how the history of the Soviet occupation has been distorted for the sake of propaganda. The authors and supporters of such statements demonstrate a poor knowledge of history and of military operations.

Following the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and the first War of Chechnya, in 1997 the Russian Ministry of Defense and the Interior Forces Headquarters conducted a joint large-scale study on small wars. In one of its findings, the study highlighted the need for small war theory to be reinstated in the Russian military's formal "science of war." This step gives us hope that perhaps, one day, the Forest Brothers will be viewed as equal to guerrillas and partisans, and the Summer War will be on equal footing with other small wars. Such a change is not needed to enhance the dignity of those who participated or were killed; it would, however, allow historians to draw more fair and objective conclusions based on the theory of unconventional warfare.
Only force rules. Force is the first law - Adolf H. Man has become great through struggle - Adolf H. Strength lies not in defense but in attack - Adolf H.
Old April 21st, 2014 #6
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Introduction and Background

Since June 1940, the nation of Lithuania has been illegally occupied by the Soviet Union. With the exception of a brief occupation by Hitler's Reich, Lithuania has remained under oppressive Soviet rule. The people of Lithuania did not meekly accept their fate. The ensuing political and military resistance movement was of significant magnitude in recent history. Students of history and political science forget or never learn of the efforts made by the Lithuanian people or those of the Ukrainians and other nationalities. The standard history texts will not talk of the resistance or will mention the resistance in a brief footnote at best. The forgotten and ignored resistance was of great political and military significance.

On February 16, 1918, in the wake of the Russian revolution, the independence of the Republic of Lithuania was proclaimed. After brief conflicts with the Soviet Union and Poland, the sovereignty of Lithuania was restored. In the following years, the new republic was recognized by most of the world's nations, including the United States and the Soviet Union. Throughout the twenties and thirties, the country prospered, while the economy grew. At the outbreak of the Second World War, Lithuania remained neutral. The independence of the Baltic states was in its last year, however. On August 23,1939, the Non-Aggression Pact between the Third Reich and the Soviet Union was secretly signed by Ribbentrop (for Hitler) and Molotov (for Stalin). One of the clauses of this clandestine agreement placed the Baltic states (Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia) in a Soviet sphere of influence. On October 10, 1939, Stalin's government coerced the Lithuanian government of President Antanas Smetona to sign a "Mutual Assistance Treaty" which provided for Soviet garrisons in Lithuania and a Soviet guarantee of Lithuania's sovereignty. On June 15, 1940, in violation of several treaties and international law, the Soviet Union occupied Lithuania after issuing an ultimatum. Throughout the initial Soviet occupation (1940-41), the Nazi occupation (1941-44), and the second Soviet occupation (1944 to the present)1, the fiercely independent and nationalistic Lithuanians fought to resist the invaders, both German and Soviet. Although faced by overwhelming opposition, the Lithuanians actively resisted the occupation of their nation, showing that aggression was not accepted without a heavy price in blood.

The First Soviet Occupation

After June 15, 1940, various political events occurred in Lithuania and the other Baltic republics. President Smetona and some of the members of the legal government fled Lithuania. In their wake, the Soviet occupying forces set up a puppet government. Through a rigged election, wherein non-communist candidates were intimidated, arrested, or silenced, the newly formed "People's Diet" was dominated by the Communist Party. The Diet "asked" that the Lithuanian Republic be disbanded and that the Soviet Union annex Lithuania. On August 3, 1940, the Soviet Union formally annexed the Lithuanian nation.

The month of August brought the full force of Stalin's secret police apparatus to bear in Lithuania. Lithuanian law was abolished and replaced by Soviet justice. One of the first acts of the NKVD (Stalin's secret police) was to persecute the remnants of the Republic's government and suppress the Roman Catholic Church. (Lithuania was, and still is, 90 percent Roman Catholic.) During 1940 and 1941,19 members of the Lithuanian cabinet, 14 ranking members of the leading National party, and 9 leaders of other political parties were deported.2 Churches and synagogues were confiscated. All of the monasteries were closed. Of four seminaries, only the one located at Kaunas remained open, although it was soon converted into an army barracks. The religious press was silenced and wide scale destruction of religious books occurred. On January 21, 1941, all members of the clergy were prohibited from receiving salaries and were forced to pay special taxes. During the first year of occupation, 15 priests were executed for conducting religious services. All of these instances of oppression are merely examples; the full extent of religious suppression was far greater.3 Clearly, the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion, written in the Soviet constitution, did not apply to the Lithuanians.

Soviet oppression was not limited to the Church and former government officials. All privately owned land larger than 30 hectares was declared to be state property. About 385,000 hectares (more than 800,000 acres) were confiscated, without compensation, from 27,000 landowners.4 Kolkhozes (collective farms) and Sovkhozes (state farms) were planned. In the cities, all banks, industries, and businesses were nationalized, again without compensation. By the spring of 1941, the Lithuanian Litas, the unit of currency, was banned. Any bank deposits worth more than 1,000 rubles were impounded by the occupiers. The Lithuanian economy was mauled and agriculture disintegrated. The economy had been sovietized.

This was not the full extent of the Soviet terror apparatus. The Lithuanian armed forces, although 20- to 30,000 in number, were dismembered and neutralized. The armed forces were incorporated into the Red Army, purged repeatedly, and staffed by Russian commissars.

The final, and most devastating step of the terror were the deportations that occurred in June 1941. The NKVD realized that certain groups might pose a threat/in theory or in reality, to the communization and russification of Lithuania. A list of 23 different groups were considered a threat to the occupation:

1. Former members of legislative bodies and prominent members of political parties

2. Army officers from the Russian Civil War (1917-1921)

3. Prosecutors, judges, and attorneys

4. Government and municipal officials

5. Policemen and prison officials

6. Members of the National Guard

7. Mayors

8. Border and prison guards

9. Active members of the press

10. Active members of the farmers' union

11. Business owners

12. Large real estate owners

13. Ship owners

14. Stockholders

15. Hoteliers and restaurateurs

16. Members of any organization considered to be right wing

17. Members of the White Guard

18. Members of anti-communist organizations

19. Relatives of any person abroad

20. Families against whom reprisals had been taken during the Soviet regime

21. Active members in labor unions

22. Persons with anti-communist relatives abroad

23. Clergymen and active members of religious organizations.5

Under article 58 in the Soviet penal code, any relative or associate of a person charged with a political crime could be found guilty of that crime. Given these provisions, nearly the entire population of Lithuania was liable to be prosecuted, deported, tortured, or executed at the whim of the NKVD. From June 14 to June 21, 1941, the first wave of Soviet deportations occurred. In one week, 30,425 deportees in 871 freight cars were sent to various remote regions of the Soviet Union.6 According to Joseph Vizulis and the Estonian Information Center, at least 7,777 children under 18 were included in this deportation.7 It is an accepted estimate that approximately 75,000 Lithuanians were executed, imprisoned, deported, placed in internal exile, or simply disappeared during 1940-41. Given the population of Lithuania (more than 3 million in 1939), this number is more than two percent of the entire population.

Despite the intent of the Soviet occupation forces, the policies of the Soviet government did not stifle dissent. From the beginning of the occupation, Lithuanian patriots planned resistance. Although the Soviets sought out and removed potential troublemakers, any attempt to resist the universally unpopular Soviets had overwhelming public support. In the days immediately following the occupation, both passive and armed resistance groups began to covertly organize as early as August of 1940. Although much information is lacking, acts of passive resistance in outright defiance of the Soviet government occurred. In the puppet elections for the "People's Diet", only 15 percent of the eligible voters cast ballots. Hundreds of ballots were cast for a cartoon character. Political rallies and parades were sparsely attended. Portraits of Lenin and Stalin were stolen from public places. The concert of the Red Army Chorus was disrupted by crowds singing patriotic songs. High schools and colleges became sources of sedition. National flags appeared out of nowhere. In response, the Soviet government rounded up many activists.

On October 9, 1940, a coordinated resistance group, calling itself the Lithuanian Activist Front (Hereafter referred to as the LAP) was formed in Kaunas. The leader and one of the founders of this organization was Colonel Kazys Škirpa, the Republic of Lithuania's Minister-Plenipotentiary to Berlin, who had remained in exile after June 1940. The LAP was organized with its leadership under Co. Škirpa in Berlin, two centers (in the Lithuanian cities of Vilnius and Kaunas), and hundreds of three man "cells" across the country. The eventual goal of the LAP was to incite a revolt when the leadership determined that the conditions were right. Arms were stockpiled and plans were made. The NKVD was alarmed by the fact that the highly compartmented LAP could not be seriously compromised. The LAP began to serve as a unified resistance command, absorbing such resistance groups as the Iron Wolf and the Lithuanian Freedom Army, of later fame. According to Vardys, the LAP grew to a strength of 36,000 members, a very significant underground movement.8

The 1941 Revolt and Declaration of Independence

On June 22, 1941, Hitler's Germany invaded the Soviet Union. As the panzers rolled over the routed Red Army, news of the invasion spread like fire across Lithuania. In a matter of hours, the LAP went into action in Kaunas. By noon on the 23rd, the telegraph and telephone center, the central post office, police headquarters, arsenals, and the radio station in the city of Kaunas were controlled by LAP members. In a dramatic radio broadcast, the LAP announced the formation of a Lithuanian Provisional Government. The revolt spread throughout the country. Many of the major cities were liberated by LAP members. The retreating Red Army was harassed. For a few brief weeks, the Lithuanians believed that their republic has been restored. The German army arrived in Lithuania to find a functioning government; the Germans did not fire a shot to take the city of Kaunas.

The joy of the Lithuanian people was dampened, however. Out of the estimated 100,000 persons participating in the revolt, 2,000 had died. The retreating Soviets paused only to massacre political prisoners and others who simply got in the way of the Soviet retreat. For example, in the Rainiai forest, 76 high school students and Boy Scouts were brutally tortured, murdered, and mutilated.9

German Occupation — 1941 to 1944

Nazi Germany soon became the Soviet Union's heir. The Lithuanian Provisional Government was disbanded. Under the leadership of Reichkommisar Heinrich Lohse, the German government formed an administrative region known as Ostland, which was composed of the three Baltic states and Byelorussia. Adrian von Renteln was appointed as the General Commissioner for Lithuania. The German administration maintained the land and business policies of the Soviets. Although the civil administration of occupied Lithuania was quite unpopular, other Nazi policies provoked overt discontent. One such policy was the "recruitment" of Lithuanian men for forced labor throughout the Reich. In the spring of 1942, Lithuanian trustees in the occupational government were ordered to mobilize 100,000 Lithuanians for labor in Germany. Only five percent of the quota was filled, and Gestapo agents and SS troopers resorted to wholesale abduction of Lithuanian youths in order to fill their quotas. The Gestapo also persecuted Lithuanians considered to be threats to the occupation. Thousands were jailed or executed. The LAP was suppressed and many of its leaders were jailed. Finally, any study of Lithuania during this era must include the Nazi Party's systematic destruction of the Jews. During the Second World War, at least 200,000 Lithuanian citizens of Jewish origin were deported or killed. The nature of the Nazi occupation was little different from the Soviet occupation. Resistance was inspired by the acts of the Nazi occupier. The Lithuanians resisted the Nazi overlords as well.

Organized resistance was incoherent at first, since the leadership of the LAP had been disrupted. Small political and guerilla resistance groups slowly formed, often without concrete leadership or organization. In time, a number of resistance groups grew in strength and effectiveness. The Union of Lithuanian Freedom Fighters (known by its Lithuanian initials LLKS) and the Lithuanian Front (a Catholic activist group) were formed in 1941. In 1942, the Lithuanian Unity Movement (a youth movement) and the Lithuanian Freedom Army (a purely military/guerilla group) were organized. Finally, the Lithuanian Nationalist party, which had partially cooperated with the Nazi administration, joined the ranks of the underground after the Germans silenced the party. These groups, and others, waged a war against the occupiers in many different forms. However, military resistance was avoided, since such efforts would militarily aid the Red Army.

An important facet of resistance was opposition by members of the local governments in Lithuania. After the German invasion, the Reichkommisar established the Council-General, an office composed of Lithuanians to assist with the administration of Lithuania. While pretending to be collaborators, many members of this puppet government covertly contributed to the resistance movement in various ways. For example, Dr. Germantas-Meškauskas, the Councillor-General for Education, worked incessantly to preserve Lithuanian culture and educational institutions from nazification. Dr. Germantas-Meškauskas was deported to the Stutthof concentration camp after two years of covert resistance, where he died.10 As a result of their resistance, five of the nine members of the Council-General ended their lives at the Stutthof concentration camp. Another aspect of this sort of resistance was the recalcitrance of the Lithuanian police. Because of manpower shortages, the Germans were forced to use Lithuanians as policemen. As well as conventional police duties, the Gestapo attempted to use Lithuanian police for political oppression. Unfortunately for the Gestapo, many policemen cooperated with the resistance by disposing of evidence, protecting resistance agents, and providing advance notice of Gestapo and police raids and searches. Through the efforts of Lithuanian policemen, the resistance at times was protected from the Gestapo.

An extremely important part of the Lithuanian resistance to the Nazi occupation was the proliferation of an extensive underground press. The first manifestation of clandestine publications was the distribution of pro memoria, brief bulletins of news and resistance literature. Because few Lithuanians received accurate news from official sources, underground literature soon became very popular. Soon, full newspapers, printed with great difficulty and under adverse conditions, appeared. Many of the underground factions, both violent and non-violent, issued publications. The LLKS mimeographed the newspaper Laisvės Kovotojas (Freedom Fighter), which had a circulation of 20,000 and the papers "Word of Freedom" and Apžvalga The Lithuanian Front published its own newspapers as well: / Laisvę (Toward Freedom), Lietuvių Biuletenis (Lithuanian Bulletin), Vardan Tiesos (In the Name of Truth), and Lietuvos Judas (a compilation of Lithuanian collaborators). The Lithuanian Unity Movement published Atžalynas (The Sapling). The Lithuanian Freedom Army (LFA) published regular bulletins. A number of other publications, including the influential Nepriklausoma Lietuva (Independent Lithuania, published by the Populist Party) were distributed across the country. Although fiercely combated by the Gestapo, the publishers and distributors of these clandestine journals accomplished several important goals of the resistance. The Lithuanian press served to unite the people against the oppressor, to provide communication from the resistance leadership to the people, to warn the populace of the policies of the occupier, and to provide uncensored news from abroad. The Lithuanian underground media accomplished these goals, despite constant disruption by the Nazi authorities.11

Another facet of the German occupation were the continuing attempts by the authorities to mobilize Lithuanian manpower to further the Nazi war effort. The German losses on the Russian front in 1942 and 1943, as well as the withdrawal of the Italian, Hungarian, and Rumanian armies left the German military with an acute shortage of troops in the East. In the eyes of many German leaders, the Baltic Republics could provide a satisfactory solution to the manpower problem. E. J. Harrison, the former British Vice-Consul in Lithuania, summarizes the German view of Lithuania's military utility.

In some ways such a force (troops from the Baltic states) would perhaps prove to be even more valuable than the withdrawn Italian, Hungarian, Rumanian units; they had a better knowledge of Russian and the Russians; they inveterately hated the Soviet regime of which they had had a taste for one year, and they dreaded the possibility of its return.12

Given the recruitment for SS legions in Estonia and Latvia, the Germans estimated that Lithuanians could provide 250,000 soldiers. However, the German manpower managers in Berlin did not take into account the fiercely independent nature of the Lithuanians. The recruiting drive was bitterly opposed by the Lithuanian intellectuals and the underground press. Fierce reprisals were undertaken, but Lithuania, along with Poland, became one of only two occupied nations that had no native SS Legion. Of the Lithuanian soldiers drafted into German service, many deserted. The Lithuanians in German service had one of the highest desertion rates of any group during the Second World War. As a result of the continued German oppression, especially the attempted formation of the SS legion, the Lithuanian resistance hardened. By the spring of 1943, the Lithuanian resistance organizations began to consolidate and form a unified high command. Representatives of several pre-occupation political parties formed the Vyriausias Lietuvių Komitetas (VLK — The Supreme Lithuanian Committee). The VLK was composed of the Nationalist, Populist, Social Democrat, and several other parties. The VLK was instrumental in combating the formation of the SS legion through a determined media campaign. A number of factions, including the LLKS soon affiliated themselves with the VLK. A member of the LLKS, Algirdas Vokietaitis, was dispatched by the VLK as an envoy to the West. Vokietaitis crossed the Baltic Sea to Sweden on a fishing boat and arrived as the official representative of the Lithuanian resistance. As well as the VLK, a group known as the National Council was formed out of the Christian Democratic party (another prewar political party), the Lithuanian Front, and the Unity Movement. The National Council was primarily a Roman Catholic organization. Both the VLK and the National Council worked at a feverish pace against the German occupation through their support of the underground press, draft evasion, and other forms of resistance.

The two resistance organizations were unable to cooperate effectively; friction between the VLK and the national Council developed. Undoubtedly, Gestapo officials were pleased by the friction between the two groups. During the summer and fall of 1943, the leadership of the VLK and the National Council met to discuss unification. As a result, the groups merged to form the Vyriausias Lietuvos Išlaisvinimo Komitetas (VLIK — The Supreme Committee for the Liberation of Lithuania.)13 The VLIK provided the national leadership for the Lithuanian Republic. The VLIK soon set up a nationwide network of resistance organizations and published its proclamations in the underground press. On February 16, 1944 (Lithuanian Independence Day), the VLIK issued a proclamation containing ten clauses outlining the position of the resistance. These clauses included the restoration of the 1938 constitution, the formation of a provisional government, a re-affirmation of the Lithuanian democratic ideal, and the re-constitution of the Lithuanian Army.14 The VLIK realized that the German occupation would soon end and the Soviets would have to be resisted once again.

The last year of German occupation brought redoubled efforts to conscript Lithuanians. One German official, Major General Just, succeeded in forming several construction battalions. Despite Soviet allegations, these battalions were composed of draftees, not volunteers; the battalions did not indicate public support for Nazism.

In early 1944, groups of Soviet guerrillas combated the Germans and wreaked havoc in eastern Lithuania. The Germans decided to permit the formation of a Lithuanian Territorial Defense Force under Lithuanian leadership to fight the oncoming Red Army. A Lithuanian officer General Povilas Plechavičius was placed in command. Fourteen battalions and an officer's school were planned. This defense force was to be under the command of Lithuanians and was intended to operate in Lithuanian territory. Under these conditions, the resistance endorsed the force. Surprisingly, about 20,000 volunteers, twice the requirement, appeared at recruitment points. The success of this recruitment was due to three factors: the impending arrival of the hated Soviets, the confidence in General Plechavičius, and the possibility of serving a strictly Lithuanian cause. Despite the successful recruitment, German duplicity prevailed. The Home Formation, as the Lithuanians called it, was equipped with obsolete weapons, little ammunition, and few uniforms. The German command began to disrupt the Home Formation by randomly ordering the battalions to different parts of the country without the knowledge of the Lithuanian commanders. Although the Germans attempted to disrupt the Home Formation, the Lithuanian officers, most of whom were officers in the prewar Lithuanian Army, openly displayed their patriotic beliefs.

The Home Formation was short ived. Upon the German discovery of the VLIK, the Nazi authorities informed General Plechavičius that they were taking command of the force. At this time, many soldiers of the Home Formation split into small groups and melted into the rural areas, where they planned for guerrilla warfare against the Soviets. On May 15, 1944, the entire senior staff of the Home Formation was arrested. The next morning, German troops attacked the officer's school and the remaining cadets resisted.15 In the eastern regions of Lithuania, seven battalions (nearly half the Home Formation) fled into the forests. Of the 10,000 members of the Home Formation, the Germans captured 3,400, some of whom were forced into the German Army. During the course of the German occupation, severe damage had been inflicted. As many as 200,000 Jews had been deported, most of whom died in extermination camps. Some 75,000 men had been impressed for factory labor in Germany. About 20,000 men had been conscripted for the German military. Several thousand political prisoners had been liquidated. More than 100,000 refugees fled westward. Some $600 million worth of property, goods, and currency had been seized.16 However, the impact of the impending Soviet re-occupation promised to be even greater.

The Second Soviet Occupation — 1944 to the Present

In July and August 1944, Lithuania became a heated battleground as the Red Army drove towards Berlin. On July 14, Vilnius was captured by the Soviets. On July 31, Kaunas fell.

The second occupation resumed the practices of the first. The Church was suppressed and the intelligentsia were harassed and obstructed. Stalin's tyranny remained unchanged.

The second Soviet occupation was violently resisted from the start. Tens of thousands of Lithuanians armed themselves against the invader. The almost universal support for the resistance can be explained by several factors. The Lithuanian people had no illusions about the intentions of the Soviets. Nearly anyone with a history of nationalism or open dissent had three choices: flee, join the resistance, or face the wrath of the Soviets. Many relatives of resistance members had little choice. Relatives were occasionally executed as a deterrent to opposition. Hundreds, maybe thousands, took to the forests in order to escape conscription into the Red Army, where Lithuanians were universally mistreated by Russian officers and NCOs. Some joined the resistance out of fear, since innocent peasants were often imprisoned merely to terrorize the nation. The Roman Catholic Church gave its support to the partisans; indeed, many priests actively served in the resistance. The battle lines were drawn and the Lithuanian population was forced to resist the Soviets en masse.

Arrayed in opposition to the resistance was the combined military and secret police infrastructure of the Soviet Union. By 1948, eight divisions of the Red Army were stationed in Lithuania. These were not second or third line conscript outfits with obsolete equipment; these Red Army units were veteran combat infantry armed with modern weapons and supported by tanks, artillery, and the world's largest military intelligence organization. The Soviet Air Force stationed units to support the Red Army. A far greater threat to the Lithuanian freedom fighters was the NKVD. The NKVD was not only a secret police organization. The NKVD had its own infantry troops, as well as an efficient network of intelligence operatives and informants, and a brutal terror apparatus. With security forces numbering more than 100,000 men stationed in a nation of only 3 million people, the true extent of the resistance can be ascertained.17

In general, the Lithuanian resistance was organized like an inverted pyramid. The first layer of the resistance was composed of active partisans. Also known as the "Forest Brothers", the partisans were armed with captured German and Soviet weapons, including Czechoslovakian Skoda machine guns, Soviet "Maxim" machine guns, and a few mortars. The partisans lived in the forests and isolated farms of rural Lithuania. Many active partisans wore old Lithuanian military uniforms, emphasizing the fact that they were uniformed combatants engaged in warfare, not bandits engaged in criminal acts, as the Soviets attempted to portray the resistance. There was a high rate of turnover in the partisan units; the average active life span of a partisan was two years.

The second layer of the resistance was the passive fighters. The passive fighters were also armed, but they lived "legal" lives, fighting only when an opportunity presented itself. Finally, there were the supporters, who comprised a substantial portion of the population. The supporters provided supplies, shelter, and intelligence to the partisans, as well as supporting the underground press and other resistance activities.

The membership of the various resistance groups was incredibly diverse. Although the majority of the resistance came from the worker and peasant classes (the same groups that the occupation claimed to serve), people of almost every background served. Priests, professors, large employers, Boy Scouts, high school and college students, teachers, lawyers, and many others took up arms against the Soviets. Women were not only couriers and nurses, but armed guerillas who fought admirably. In some cases whole families joined the resistance. Escaped German POW's and Red Army deserters joined the battle. The leadership of the movement was provided by the intelligentsia, and many command positions were filled by former officers of the Lithuanian Army. Membership in the resistance cut across traditional political barriers. Nearly every non-communist political belief was represented in the ranks of the resistance. From these observations, it can be seen that the resistance had a wide popular backing.

At first, the resistance groups were small. However, nearly all of the resistance groups had much in common. The various underground groups were based upon the ideals of Lithuanian nationalism and Roman Catholicism. Most groups had solemn oaths of secrecy, under penalty of death. In addition, most groups had common goals. Apart from the admittedly distant goal of independence, the resistance groups strived to prevent the sovietization of Lithuania and to fight the oppressor wherever possible. The partisans carried out a number of operations in order to achieve their goals, including disrupting the establishment of Soviet institutions, punishment of collaborators, collection and distribution of intelligence, documentation of Soviet crimes, protection of the civilian population, and maintaining the underground press.

According to several sources, including Vardys and Gerutis, the resistance had more than 30,000 active participants at its height, one percent of the population of Lithuania. At the height of the Vietnam conflict, membership in the Viet Cong among the people of South Vietnam was a fraction of this percentage. If any indicator can demonstrate the significance of the Lithuanian resistance campaign, the figure of 30,000 will.

As the Red Army rolled into Lithuania, the largest and best organized partisans were the Samogitians, under the leadership of General Motiejus Pečiulionis. The Samogitians were comparatively well armed and had several thousand partisans. The Soviets avoided open confrontation with the Samogitians at first; the Soviets resorted to a campaign of provocations. By the start of 1945, the partisans could be found everywhere except near the Red Army garrisons. The resistance had no centralized command, since each commander had his own strategies and objectives. Nonetheless, the basic objectives of the resistance were universal: paralyze local communist activities, obstruct communist plans, and destroy NKVD units in the provinces. The various groups of partisans soon gained the respect of the local populace. Effective Soviet government was not possible in many rural districts because of the assassination of Soviet officials. By April 1945, the resistance controlled some districts and established local governments.18 The Red Army and NKVD did not dare to venture into some regions of the countryside in less than company or battalion strength, especially at night.

Many of the brave exploits of the resistance will remain unknown. Much of the information about the resistance perished in the forests of Lithuania or in labor camps in Siberia and Central Asia. Individual stories of partisan actions will be used as examples, but an anthology of resistance tales is beyond the scope of systematic, objective documentation.

Throughout the spring of 1945 the partisans grew bold in their activities. Because of excellent leadership and their familiarity with the local terrain and guerrilla tactics, the partisans inflicted great losses on Soviet units. Sometimes the partisans would successfully ambush units ten times their size. In the forest and fields, like any group of insurgents, the partisans had nearly complete freedom of movement, allowing them to choose where, when, and who to fight. The resistance fighters rarely confronted the Red Army, but concentrated on the NKVD troops, who were seen as a greater threat to the civilian population. In southern and western Lithuania the partisans were limited to smaller units. In the large, dense forests of eastern and northern Lithuania, larger groups, often as many as several hundred, conducted operations. The patriot leader Žalgiris led 800 men. Large battles, occasionally involving entire regiments of NKVD troops were fought. The occupation, considered at first to be an easy task for a superpower, evolved into a quagmire, not unlike the recent Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

One of the early tactics of the Soviets was called the istrebiteli ("destroyer") program. This program organized and equipped local Lithuanian villagers to fight against the insurgents. Each township was to establish a unit of 30 men under NKVD leaders. These units were not paid, receiving only weapons and ration cards. Mostly the dregs of society comprised, the istrebiteli units. The men of these units engaged in many criminal activities with the apparent sanction of the Soviet authorities. As for the success of the istrebiteli, there was little. In combat, the istrebiteli performed poorly, and many units were infiltrated by partisans.

Many individual members and occasional whole units deserted. A number of units were mauled or destroyed. The entire program was a complete failure. The failure of the program disproved the Soviet myth that the violence in Lithuania was a civil war.

In July 1945,10,000 new NKVD troops arrived in Lithuania. October brought wild rumors of a partisan assault on the city of Kaunas. Throughout the fall and winter of 1945, the rebels continued their struggle. Local government was paralyzed by the killings of Soviet officials. Few people had desire to work in government positions. Soviet officials engaged in "land reform" (nationalization of farmer's holdings) were obstructed. The Soviets, a military superpower with the most powerful police apparatus in the world, were not able to govern a small nation of 3 million inhabitants. The situation in many places approached anarchy. In the first half of 1946, occupation authorities recorded over 800 acts of sabotage.19 The Soviet authorities soon realized that the situation was polarized and that extreme measures would be necessary to pacify Lithuania.

The NKVD began a series of vicious reprisal operations against the partisans. Between June 28, and July 16, 1946, about 7,000 NKVD troopers performed a search-and-destroy operation in southern and western Lithuanian Thirty-one partisans were killed but more than 299 NKVD soldiers died.20 Another large operation occurred in August, which resulted in the deaths of more than 200 partisans, including several leaders. Again, the Soviet losses outweighed the partisan losses. A third operation of similar magnitude was conducted in September. It has been estimated that 9,000 partisans and direct supporters died between Jurte 1944 and June 1946. However, these losses did not deter young men from joining the movement, and effective partisan control of the countryside was only temporarily disrupted. These operations resulted in a severe shortage of trained partisan officers in many units. In 1946, 72 officers graduated from an underground partisan cadet school. The second officer's course was attacked and dispersed in 1948. Afghanistan was not the Soviet Union's first experience with guerilla warfare.

Throughout 1945, 1946 and 1947, there were several attempts to unify the partisans into a single organization. VLIK had been eliminated in Lithuania itself and existed only in exile. In 1945, a group called the Lithuanian Council of Liberation (Lietuvos Išlaisvinimo Taryba) was formed, but was soon discovered by the NKVD and eliminated. The survivors formed the Committee of Unity, which made some efforts at unifying the resistance. This group was also eliminated. In June 1946, resistance leaders, with the encouragement of émigrés abroad, formed the United Movement for Democratic Resistance (Bendrasis Demokratinio Pasipriešinimo Sąjūdis). Because of arguments about strategy and organization and the organization's proposal that armed resistance be ended, the UMDR eventually failed. For the next few years, there was little central coordination of the resistance; coordination was the result of cooperation between different districts, not the result of directives from a central headquarters. Each rural district organized to fit its own needs.

In 1946 and 1947, the partisans effectively obstructed the Soviet elections in Lithuania. In February 1946, the Soviet authorities were preparing to hold elections for the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R., a mere formality. Only one candidate for an office appeared on a ballot. The voters received pre-marked ballots and merely dropped them in a box. The partisans terrorized Soviet election officials and disrupted balloting operations. Despite Soviet efforts to coerce the Lithuanians to vote in order to maintain the appearance of democracy, less than one-third of the eligible voters cast ballots. Soviet officials reported the turnout as 96 percent and submitted thousands of ballots. In February 1947, the authorities prepared to hold elections for the Lithuanian Supreme Soviet. Because of the disruption of the previous elections, many precautions were taken: additional units of the Red Army were sent to Lithuania to preserve order and detachments of troops were posted at every polling place. When election day came, nearly all of Lithuania stayed home. Armed election committees coerced voters and cast thousands of votes themselves. Because of the efforts of the resistance, the Soviet government could not even maintain a facade of democratic elections.

The underground press continued to publish despite the NKVD's brutal attempts to silence it. The worst difficulty faced by the press was the chronic shortage of paper, a condition existing throughout the Soviet Union. Sometimes partisans were forced to raid Soviet warehouses and administrative offices for paper. In 1945 and 1946 the press was somewhat centralized. The press was decentralized in 1947 when it became apparent that the NKVD's suppression efforts were effective. Each local resistance organization published their periodical at least once each month. In some units the circulation was several thousand. The press performed well, publishing journals under grave threat of imprisonment or execution. Until 1952, the underground press was a persistent rival to the Soviet sponsored press. In Lithuania today, an underground press survives, providing an alternative to the Soviet media.

The Lithuanian resistance maintained contact with the West. In 1945 the liaison agent Daunoras secretly entered Lithuania and made contact with Colonel Kazimieraitis, the leader of the partisans in Tauras district. Daunoras returned west and for the next two years he communicated intermittently with the underground in Lithuania. In December 1947, a group of envoys from the resistance, led by the partisan Juozas Lukša, made their way to the West to seek assistance from the western democracies. Lukša brought many documents, appeals to the Pope and the governments of the West. In addition, Lukša made contact with VLIK and the intelligence services of several western nations. Unfortunately, the appeals of Lukša fell largely on deaf ears. The partisans in Lithuania had, for many years, hoped for assistance from the United States and other nations in their struggle. Some leaders predicted that a third world war would occur, pitting the western nations against the Soviet Union. The partisans gradually perceived the international political climate. Disillusionment followed:

They delivered (the resistance) to death at Yalta, Postdam, . . . The same mistakes are being repeated. The West does not dare raise a voice in protest against the destruction of our nation; it does not even want to know that we have lost confidence in them, that we are continuing the struggle . . . Long and terribly bloody is the struggle before our eyes . . . We can only continue the struggle by the most ingenious methods which would give us the necessary conditions until the necessary moment.21

The partisans were almost completely on their own. However, their pleas were heard in some quarters, including the intelligence agencies of the West.

During the first years of the Cold War, the intelligence services of the United States and Great Britain pursued a policy known as "positive intervention". Part of the ClA's responsibility in this policy was the secret support of anti-communist resistance movements behind the Iron Curtain and the operation of radio stations in the west, such as Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe. The CIA and the British were involved in projects in Albania, the Baltic States, Poland, and the Ukraine. All of the projects were failures, possibly because of Kim Philby, a British intelligence officer who was secretly a Soviet agent. Philby managed the Albanian project and had access to information on other projects, including the Lithuanian operation.22

The CIA and MI-6 (British Intelligence) Lithuanian operation consisted only of two groups of Lithuanian agents parachuted into Lithuania. On October 2, 1950, Juozas Lukša and two others were dropped into Lithuania. General Kruglov personally commanded the manhunt to find Lukša. After a year, Lukša was cornered by security forces and died before he could be captured. The second mission consisted of two men and included the leader Julijonas Butėnas. Butėnas parachuted into Lithuania on April 19, 1951 and began his search to locate Lukša. Within a month, Butėnas was trapped and committed suicide before he could be captured. The handful of agents sent by the West did little to aid the resistance, although Lukša was responsible for a period of renewed guerilla activity.23 The ClA's half-hearted attempt to aid the Lithuanian partisans resulted in nothing tangible. It may be argued that if the CIA had the ability to parachute agents into Lithuania, then it had the ability to airdrop vitally needed supplies and information.

From the beginning of the armed resistance, the Soviets were gravely concerned about the situation in Lithuania. In the fall of 1944, Lieutenant General Sergei Kruglov, the Deputy Minister of the Interior, was assigned to organize counter-insurgency efforts in Lithuania. Kruglov had been assigned to pacify Lithuania because of Stalin's dissatisfaction with the events there. Kruglov ordered that no efforts should be spared to liquidate the partisans. The NKVD soon became incredibly brutal in its efforts to destroy the opposition. Suspected partisans were tortured and executed. Friends and relatives of known resistance members were imprisoned and sent to labor camps in Siberia, usually without trial or formal charges. Farms and homes where partisans supposedly took refuge were burned to the ground and their occupants were arrested. The bodies of killed partisans were mutilated and publicly displayed. These tactics only increased the hate of the Soviet occupation, but they also delivered results to the Soviets. Subsequently, the Soviet authorities adopted new strategies. The private farmers, perhaps the strongest supporters of the resistance, faced the forced confiscation and collectivization of their land. This act alone was the most effective tool against the partisans. The farmers were no longer able to supply the guerillas with food and refuge. The most vicious tactic was the wholesale deportation of approximately 300,000 Lithuanians in order to deprive the resistance of supporters. This number represents one out of every ten Lithuanians. The Soviet oppression soon became genocide, the systematic destruction of a nation. As well as forced deportation, the Soviets attempted to discredit the partisans by sending bands of NKVD men disguised as partisans to commit atrocities. Many Lithuanian civilians began to distrust partisans because of this strategy. These brutal efforts eventually achieved their goal. The resistance began to whither and die.

Throughout this period, the partisans were called "bandits" or "criminals" by the Soviet authorities. This propaganda tactic was intended to deny the partisans any political legitimacy and to harm their public and international image. Soviet history works will still label the various resistance members in Lithuania, the Ukraine, and the other Baltic republics as "bandits."

In 1950, the resistance was unified under an organization called the Movement of Lithuania's Struggle for Freedom (MLSF, Lietuvos Laisvės Kovų Sąjūdis). The MLSF was active in nine districts and waged war on active and passive fronts. By this time, the ranks of the resistance had dwindled significantly, causing the MLSF to change its strategy. The partisans were unable to engage in many guerilla skirmishes because of manpower and equipment shortages. Instead, the guerillas resorted to sabotage and infiltration of Soviet collective farms. The partisans soon realized that their war would soon end. Only a handful of embittered men stayed in the forests to do battle with the occupier. In 1952, collectivization was complete and the resistance died. The MLSF decided to demobilize in favor of passive resistance. Passive resistance continues to this day.

The last large unit of guerillas, the Iron Wolf unit, survived until the fall of 1952. This did not represent the end of the armed resistance. In 1955, Radio Vilnius offered an amnesty to partisans, indicating that the government still perceived a guerilla threat. In March 1956, the KGB offered yet another amnesty. In 1956 riots broke out, partly in protest of the Soviet intervention in Hungary. Also in 1956, the partisan leader Vanagas (the Hawk, Adolfas Ramanauskas, a U.S. born leader of the Resistance) was captured and hanged in Kaunas. In 1957, several men were arrested for armed resistance. In 1959, fifteen years after the Soviet re-occupation of Lithuania, three partisans were captured in Samogitia. Many partisans committed suicide, sometimes by detonating grenades at face level so that their faces would not be identified, thereby dooming their relatives to imprisonment. Thousands of partisans re-entered civilian life under assumed names and family histories. Many probably survive to this day. Finally, it must be remembered that although the partisans retreated and demobilized, they never surrendered. Perhaps the Lithuanians, who are still engaged in fighting the occupier, have won a moral victory. Resistance, in the passive form, continues throughout the Baltic states.

Concluding Remarks

Realistically, the Lithuanians' chance for victory was slim at best, yet they tried very hard to make life difficult for the Soviet occupiers. The Lithuanian resistance knew of the words of the Atlantic Charter, a declaration of policy jointly issued by President Franklin Roosevelt of the United States and Prime Minister Winston Churchill of Britain in 1941. The third clause of this statement respects "the right of all people to choose the form of government under which they will live" and wishes "to see sovereign rights and self government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them."24 The resistance believed that the West would implement the Atlantic Charter and demand freedom for the occupied nations. The resistance did not believe that they could defeat the occupation forces; they only sought to delay and harass the Soviets until help arrived. The resistance hoped for liberation from the West. Their disappointment was acute.

In the face of grave danger, the Lithuanian "Forest Brotherhood" waged a guerilla action that defies belief. With almost no outside aid, the Lithuanians waged a twelve-year effort (1940 to 1952) to liberate their nation. It has been estimated that the Soviet Union's losses amount to around 70,000 NKVD and Red Army deaths. For comparison, the United States lost 58,000 lives in the 15-year Vietnam conflict (1960 to 1975). In strictly military terms, the Lithuanian insurrection is on an equal footing with the Vietnam conflict. Perhaps additional parallels can be drawn between Lithuania and Afghanistan. If the Afghans fight with only a fraction of the tenacity of the Lithuanians, the Soviets may face a losing battle.

When one adds the Lithuanian insurrection to the rebellions in Latvia, Estonia, and the Ukraine, a grave threat to Stalin's policies can be seen. Only through genocide, torture, and the wholesale obliteration of villages could the Soviets suppress the rebels. In the process, Lithuania was mauled. Over ten percent of the Lithuanian population was deported. Only these barbaric measures defeated the Lithuanian freedom fighters. If the measures necessary to contain an insurrection are a valid measure of the magnitude of the guerillas, then the Lithuanian resistance was significant.

The Lithuanian partisans fought with uncommon bravery and determination against a military superpower. The partisans felt that they were not only fighting for Lithuania, but for the free world. As many as 40,000 Lithuanians died for this cause. Whether the West recognizes it or not, the Lithuanians fought bravely for democracy, as did others, such as Ukrainians, Poles, Latvians, and Estonians. Perhaps they died for us.

Lithuanian freedom fighter officer awards a female citizen. In 1944-1953 Lithuanian forests sheltered an entire guerilla state with its own government, army and courts of law. Some vainly hoped for Western help, for others tough life in forest helped avoid an even quicker death in Soviet genocide. In order to intimidate the remaining population Soviets used to pubically display guerilla corpses in town squares.

Soviet Occupation of Lithuania (1944-1990)
From the Soviet occupation in 1944 to the death of Stalin in 1953 Eastern Europe was a Stalin’s playfield with human rights practically non-existent. Lithuanian nation was not expelled in its entirety, unlike Chechens or Crimean Tatars for example, but as many as half a million Lithuanians were, many dying or losing heath in the cold GULAGs of Siberia, others died in prisons. Additionally, many of Lithuania’s Poles (200 000) were expelled to Poland by Stalin (in trains marked with slogans “We are returning home” despite of the fact that the Polish-speaking minority existed in Lithuania for centuries). Lithuanians of Klaipėda region were expelled to Germany together with the Germans of Lithuania (170 000 people). At the same time Lithuanian cities like Vilnius and Klaipėda were heavily settled by ethnic Russians with Lithuania’s Russian population share increasing more than threefold in a decade (from 2,5% to 8,5%). All these persecutions triggered the longest major guerilla war in modern Europe. This Lithuanian armed resistance was crushed by large Soviet forces by mid 1950s with some 30 000 partisans killed. Under Stalin Lithuania lost 32% of its pre-WW2 population.

Furthermore most of Lithuania Minor was annexed to Russia as Kaliningrad Oblast. After a brutal genocide (300 000 locals murdered, among them 130 000 Lithuanians) the region's population was replaced by Soviet settlers and new Russian placenames were coined for its towns and features. This effectively ended the history of Lithuania Minor.

Nikita Khrushchev’s destalinization (1953-1964) changed some policies (those people exiled to Siberia who were not yet dead gained limited freedom and the settling of Lithuania by ethnic Russians slowed down) but most things left unchanged. The agriculture remained collectivized and its outputs greatly diminished (especially when taking into regard the improved technologies), the property remained nationalized, the ownership of Lithuanian symbols and any criticism of communism or the Soviet occupation were still punished by long terms of imprisonment (in jails or insane assylums) and the Lithuanians living in other parts of Soviet Union as well as those living in the multi-ethnic Vilnius region were russified.

Only force rules. Force is the first law - Adolf H. Man has become great through struggle - Adolf H. Strength lies not in defense but in attack - Adolf H.


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