By John Szlupas, M.D.
[The Survey; July 27, 1918]
[Dr. Szlupas recently returned from Lithuania by way of Sweden. The present communication is in response to a request for information.—Editor.]
TO THE EDITOR: That in Germany the annexationist Pan-German party is again coming to the front is evidenced, besides many other circumstances, by the treatment which Lithuania now experiences from Germany.
On February 16, 1918, the Council of State of Lithuania (Lietuvos Taryba) in Vilnius has proclaimed Lithuania's independence. Pressed by members of the Central party and the Independent Socialists, Hertling, on March 23, recognized in the name of the Kaiser and of Germany Lithuania's independence under condition that Lithuania subscribe to certain military, traffic, customs and financial compacts, which means Lithuania should practically become a vassal state of Germany.
The Lithuanians have known the Germans since the twelfth century and were continually fighting their Drang nach Osten. In the present world-war, their country was overrun by the German armies and suffered severe requisitions, military oppression and exploitation in many ways, without means of shaking off the hated yoke, until the Russian revolution and the Bolshevistic anarchy came to its unforeseen assistance.
In order to allay the irritation of the people, Ysenburg Bierstein was recalled, by von Falkenhausen continued to rule the country in the same sweet German spirit. The Lithuanians made a passive resistance to the greed of Germany, always expecting that somehow the Entente Powers would be able to come to their aid. Yet England and France doubted if the Lithuanians as a nation were not sympathizing with the Germans.
Already in my Essay on Lithuanian, published this year in Stockholm, I have pointed out the aspirations of the nation to establish a Lithuanian-Lettic Republic, and the endeavor to form a confederation in the East of Europe between Lithuania-Lettonia, Ukraine, Esthonia and Finland, in order to oppose the pressure of Germany and the limitation of freedom of the new nations just mentioned. Yet the Entente is busy to reestablish Russia, an impossible undertaking under the present circumstances, since the Great Russian people are ignorant, semi-barbarians, disorganized to the core, do not possess the necessary initiative, hate England and suspect even America of exploiting intentions.
It is natural, then, that the idea of the confederation of the smaller progressive races should have been thrown to the winds, although the confederation would be helpful to the Allies in many ways. Although these people, being disarmed, cannot think of an armed revolt against Germany at present, yet when the Czecho-Slovaks are fighting their way through Siberia and are trying to establish order there, the confederation would not give rest to the Germans at their Eastern border.
The Lithuanian State Council, according to diplomatic despatches from Geneva dated July 8, has entered a vigorous protest against the German greed, against the annexationist tendencies, against curtailment of the powers of the council of state, and against the subordination of Lithuanian affairs to the German Bureau of the Interior.
Lithuania badly needs the moral support of the Entente Powers; and it would be of inestimable value to them if only the Entente should recognize Lithuania's independence and relieve the nation's apprehensions concerning its independent future. Lithuania will not join either aristocratic Poland or the anarchical Russia or the autocratic Germany. The Lithuanians and the Letts are democratic peoples; they have faith in President Wilson, and the recognition of Lithuania's independence (in the form of a Lithuanian-Lettic republic) would work like magic in strengthening their resistance against Germany.
The formation of a confederation between the Lithuanians and the Letts, the Ukrainians, the Esthonians and Finns, possesses possibilities for the future of Eastern Europe of much greater importance than the momentary restoration of indolent Russia. How soon the Entente Powers will comprehend the real interest of civilization in Eastern Europe is a riddle at the present moment.
© J. Fred MacDonald, 2013
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THE HEADLONG FURY
A Novel of World War One
By J. Fred MacDonald