True Lithuania

Did Lithuania join the Soviet Union and was Lithuania communist?

No, Lithuania never joined the Soviet Union and very few Lithuanians were communists. Lithuania was illegally occupied and annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940 using coercion and the presence of the military force.

In 1939, the Soviet Union presented an ultimatum to Lithuania requiring Lithuania to permit Soviet troops into its territory. The number of the Soviet troops required to accept was larger than the number of soldiers of the Lithuanian army. Understanding that resistance was futile (at the time the Soviet Union cooperated with Nazi Germany and had recently defeated Poland), Lithuania accepted the ultimatum. Lithuania briefly remained independent but the Soviet troops within its territory effectively made it impossible to defend its territory. In 1940 they were used as a pressure tool to depose the government of Lithuania. The president of Lithuania fled to the USA.

Soon after the occupation, Soviets began expulsions and mass murders of various Lithuanian population groups.

Had Lithuania rejected the ultimatum of 1939, it would have faced a certain war against the Soviet Union. Finland rejected a similar ultimatum in 1939, resulting in Winter War. Latvia and Estonia accepted similar ultimatums.

In Lithuania, communism was never popular. Even in theory, it couldn't have been, as Lithuania was an agricultural country with few industrial workers and Maoism was not yet born. Furthermore, Lithuanian already had been redistributed from the nobility to peasants during the 1920s land reform. This meant that the regular Lithuanian peasants (rather than some aristocrats who inherited their lands) were the primary target for Soviet nationalization-of-most-property and mass-persecution campaigns.

While there were Lithuanians who joined the Soviet communist party after the occupation began to seem undefeatable, most of those people simply did it for gains in influence and material conditions (membership in the Communist party was beneficial for a career in Soviet-occupied Lithuania).

Moreover, once the possibility of restoring Lithuania became real (~1989), even the Lithuanian members of the Soviet Communist Party severed their ties with the Soviet Communist Party and created a separate Lithuanian Communist Party, which soon renamed itself Lithuanian Democratic Labor Party and abandoned any relations with communism or dictatorship.

Why so many people believe Lithuania joined the Soviet Union or was communist?

This myth rests entirely in the Soviet propaganda which sought to promote the Soviet Union as peacefully unified.

Soviet historians worked hard in order to find communist Lithuanians in the history of early 20th century Lithuania. These once-barely-known figures were suddenly elevated to the status of martyrs and representatives of the "real opinions" of the whole Lithuanian nation by the Soviet propaganda after the Soviet occupation of Lithuania. Supposedly, the existence of a few Lithuanian communists before the Soviet occupation proved that Lithuania wanted communism and to be a part of the Soviet Union.

Why is the myth of the once-communist Lithuania so insulting to Lithuanians?

Communism always was and still is a real anathema to most Lithuanians, a system responsible for their country being economically ravaged. The Soviet occupation resulted in hundreds of thousands of Lithuanian deaths (see "Soviet Union has liberated Lithuania" myth) and this was something most Lithuanians foresighted but simply had no means to resist, being a small nation.

Interestingly, there is another exactly opposite (and equally wrong) myth that Lithuania supported Nazi Germany during World War 2.

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