Staunton, January 13 – Twenty-two years ago today, as all independent investigations have confirmed, Soviet forces shot and killed 13 unarmed Lithuanian demonstrators at the Vilnius television tower, an event that galvanized the independence movement in that Baltic republic and triggered drives for independence from the USSR elsewhere.
But at the time of those events and shortly thereafter, pro-communist and pro-Soviet writers came up with an alternative explanation: they insisted that the Lithuanian Sajudis movement had organized the entire event as a provocation to the point of having its own operatives shoot and kill their fellow Lithuanians.
And some of those have even insisted that this conspiracy was part of a broader plot involving Vytautas Landsbergis who supposedly saw such a step as a necessary precondition to establishing a “fascist” and anti-Russian regime in Lithuania and even the United States which supposedly wanted a distraction as it moved to attack Iraq’s Saddam Hussein.
The most hyperbolic of these conspiracy theories have fallen as a result of their own internal inconsistencies – Landsbergis is no fascist and Washington’s Desert Storm campaign in fact limited its response to Moscow’s actions in Lithuania – but others have enough plausibility for some to discredit Lithuania’s drive to recover its de facto independence and its subsequent policies.
Such conspiracy theories about the Vilnius events of January 13, 1991, would be of limited interest were it not for two things. On the one hand, they continue to circulate among some writers in the Russian capital. And on the other, the thinking of Soviet leaders that stood behind them, if not the specific details, appear to be informing Moscow’s policy now.
On Friday, the portal of Moscow’s Strategic Culture Foundation featured a 1500-word article by Nikolay Malishevsky that repeats most of the claims against Lithuania, Sajudis, and Landsbergis by the conspiracy theorists and provides what he says is proof of all of them (www.fondsk.ru/news/2013/01/11/litva-rastoptannaja-pravda.html
The portal draws that conclusion only after offering numerous selections from archival records of the discussions of the senior Soviet leadership at that time, discussions that featured both those who were prepared to reach out to the opposition and those who were prepared to do whatever was necessary to avoid doing so.