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Part of the Singing Revolution and the Cold War. Soviet-occupied Estonia , Latvia and Lithuania. Lithuania : the rebirth of a nation, Author Ashbourne, Alexandra Elizabeth Godfrey. Supervisor Vysny, Paul. Metadata Show full item record.
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Abstract The thesis Lithuania: the Rebirth of a Nation, examines the first years of the rebirth and regeneration of Lithuania in the face of the legacy of the Soviet Occupation. It studies the essential components of rebirth: the creation of domestic, foreign and security policies and the revitalising of the economy as Lithuania broke away from the USSR. The Soviet Occupation grafted the mentality of homo sovieticus onto the Lithuanian people and its effect is charted when observing the processes surrounding Lithuania's rejuvenation.
In her study Alexandra Ashbourne strives to delineate the specific problems faced by the Lithuanian state after its long subordination to and absorption by the Soviet Union, and to ascertain how well it managed in the first four years of regeneration. Looking at four specific areas of state policy: domestic, foreign relations, defense and security and economic, she seeks to measure, essentially, how successfully Lithuania dealt with the burdens of the past. The pre past, to a large extent, shaped the expectation and goals of the new state, which, as Ashbourne points out, "completely failed to anticipate the dramatic impact of the legacy of the 50 years of Soviet occupation.
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Currently, and six years beyond the end of Ashbourne's study, Lithuania is still waiting for admission into western military NATO and political-economic European Union structures and will continue to wait a few more years. Despite falling well short of the aspirations Lithuania did manage to achieve quite a bit in terms of institution-building and administrative consolidation in its first four years.
Due credit must be given for establishing basic state organs out of practically nothing; unlike the former Soviet satellites, which at least maintained separate if entirely subservient military and administrative structures, foreign and domestic policy and economic planning. These are the mundanities of sovereignty and though in the satellite countries they may have been terribly corrupt, inefficient and cowed at least they existed and the importance of this should not be underestimated.
The only tangible links to independence consisted of a few derelict missions established by the government-in-exile, most of which were run by aging staffs many of whom had lost hope or interest in Lithuanian independence. One of the most interesting accounts concerns the drama surrounding the Lithuanian embassy in London. The building itself was acquired in for "The People of Lithuania" by interwar Minister Balutis, but put in Deputy Minister Balickas's name in order to prevent it from being seized by the Soviet authorities.
Over the years Balickas grew accustomed to calling the building home and was reluctant to have it converted back to a working foreign mission.
As a reward for his years of holding vigil, Balickas was appointed ambassador shortly after independence but remained hostile to people visiting his 'home' and resulted in the embassy being run from a solitary attic room. This incident also links to another interesting issue Ashbourne raises several times throughout her work; relations between the new state and the Lithuanian diaspora.
By all accounts the new state failed to effectively co-opt its vast diaspora, which perhaps could have given it significant advantages in developing several policy areas and benefiting from the groups' potentially significant material resources. For example, looser policies regarding dual citizenship may have facilitated the privatization process.
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Instead of allowing for dual citizenship the Lithuanian government instituted a policy that required giving up all other citizenship rights in favor of Lithuanian citizenship. Though patriotism among Lithuanians living abroad was on the whole quite strong, giving up a western passport was a proposition most were unwilling to entertain. This certainly would have been a tremendously difficult choice for the some , Lithuanians living in the United States. And citizenship, along with permanent residency, was required in order to be considered for the restitution and land reform schemes as well as to be eligible to purchase property.
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In addition to the difficulties of acquiring citizenship, offers of assistance made by the emigre community were often simply flatly refused - thus only alienating them further. Ashbourne concludes that, especially as compared to neighboring Latvia and Estonia, this alienation "has without a doubt been a brake on Lithuania's redevelopment. Aside from what can be called grievous miscalculations, Lithuania was burdened by several problems shared by almost all the post-communist countries and societies: inefficient and cumbersome bureaucracy, lack of transparency in all sectors, rampant corruption of public officials, little training in diplomatic protocol, on the administrative side and a passive public on the other.
In short, the absence of a civil society with all its concomitant structures.
This concept of the need for civil society has become far more prominent as almost all of the transition countries have hit stumbling blocs that have prevented them from fully 'normalizing' or, more accurately, westernizing.