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Freedom Collection

Interviews with Vytautas Landsbergis

Interviewed December 10, 2023

The first movement of newly established or elected leadership of Sajudis [Sajudis, meaning “movement” in Lithuanian, was a civil society organization formed in 1988 to advocate the restoration of the country’s independence from the USSR.] with Communist– local Communist party leadership in Vilnius [the capital of Lithuania], they [the Communists] went with a proposal that we should not try to establish the mass movement of Lithuania. But we are good guys with good ideas serving the same goal as perestroika. [Perestroika, a Russian word meaning “restructuring” refers to the efforts by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to reform the USSR’s political and economic systems.] And there are forces inside of the [Lithuanian] Communist Party wishing the same. We could be good advisors and assistants to them to do it commonly.

We– well practically, it was me who refused such an approach, saying that, “You are not the Soviet Communist Party. You are of different links. They are hopeless retrograde Communists and influential among you. And they [the Lithuanian Communists] are more progressive. We may work with those progressive communists but fight those retrogrades; it is your choice now to choose a path. Will you go with the people?” As we like to say that we do represent people. The masses are supporting us. And our course to establish mass movement with sections, with branches covering all Lithuania was going on. There was a lot of cautiousness.

There was opposition from local Communists and so on, provocations and so on that it was not going to be stopped. So we could speak being convinced that they are with us. And then after the elections event to this People´s Deputy Congress in Moscow, it was evident. 36 to 6. [Sajudis won 36 seats of Lithuania’s 42 seats in the 1989 elections to the newly established Congress of People’s Deputies.] What you can say about people´s will? We are elected and given a mandate to speak on behalf of our electorate, which is a national electorate. So the communist party went to be split. And maybe they were people of realist thinking.

Very probably, they got permission from Moscow, from Gorbachev, to proclaim [a] separation from Soviet Communist Party, to save the face in people´s eyes, that they are also for independence. And then when we approached already to the general elections of our new parliament– differentiation was in wording– was rather subtle but sufficiently clear, especially when people remembered how their behavior was a year ago, half a year ago. And if they are now claiming that they are for independence, — what independence and when? Sajudis’ [position] was independence now. They were for independence somewhere and in good opportunities. And so the people voted for Sajudis. We had an overwhelming victory to our national parliament.

The parliament elected me to lead it. And we established our own government of– but was established as a coalition including Communists as well, those progressive or pro-independence Communists, and of course balancing, because they were still influential. Especially some persons with the good charisma of behavior among the people, they were influential. And we wanted to get them together, to work together.