Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Descent of Terror Upon the Baltics: 14 June 1941
In August 1940, the USSR annexed the formerly independent states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. The Soviet occupation forces visited a brutal reign of terror upon the civilian population of these countries. Less than a year after annexing the Baltic nations, the Soviet Union undertook a massive deportation of individuals prominent in the political and economic life of these republics. Categories of people subject to deportation along with their families included members of nationalist parties, policemen, land owners, factory owners and civil servants. The NKVD had in fact already arrested many of these people and transported them to labor camps in the interior of the USSR. In the process the Soviet occupation regime confiscated their property, thus impoverishing their families. The NKVD then applied mass deportations to their families as a further form of collective punishment. On 14 June 1941, the NKVD rounded up and forcibly deported over 17,500 Lithuanians, 17,000 Latvians and 6,000 Estonians according to official Soviet records. The armed NKVD men gave these men, women and children only a short time to gather a few possessions into exile with them. The soldiers packed the deportees into overcrowded and unsanitary cattle cars headed eastward into the USSR. In a single day the NKVD expelled over 40,000 people from their homelands, many of them forever. The Stalin regime sent these deportees to Novosibirsk, Kazakhstan, Krasnoyarsk, Kirov and Komi. Here they lived under NKVD surveillance and severe legal restrictions. They could not leave their assigned places of exile and became subject to harsh administrative punishments for minor infractions. A lack of proper winter clothing, shoes, food, shelter and medical care resulted in massive mortality among the deportees. The crime of 14 June 1941 has become an important collective national memory among the people of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. It is commemorated every year both in the Baltic states and among their diasporas.