The Change in attitude of the Lithuanian political elite towards Poland in 1934–1939

Mokslo publikacijos / Scientific publications
Document Type:
Straipsnis / Article
Anglų kalba / English
The Change in attitude of the Lithuanian political elite towards Poland in 1934–1939
In the Journal:
Europa orientalis. 2018, no. 9, p. 81-123
Summary / Abstract:

ENThe present article analyses the efforts of the political elite of Lithuania to change the policy towards Poland in 1934–1939. The beginning of the changes is related to geopolitical changes, first of all, the coming of the National Socialists to power in Germany in 1933 and the German-Polish Agreement in 1934. Reacting to this, President Antanas Smetona appointed Stasys Lozoraits as the new Minister of Foreign Affairs, who did not have a negative attitude towards Poland. In addition, other famous society members expressed the opinion to soften the attitude towards Poland; after Stasys Raštikis was appointed as the Commander-in-Chief in 1935, a large number of officials supported this opinion. Still, the processes were not changing immediately: the Lithuanian press was still dominated by the image of a Pole as an enemy despite the fact that diplomats and officials saw Germany, which was getting increasingly stronger, as the main threat. The political elite gradually perceived that Lithuania could not regain Vilnius in the nearest future, but there was a real threat to lose Klaipėda, the gate to the sea. These factors preconditioned the first changes. In 1937, in the plans of the Lithuanian army, Germany was viewed as the main threat, and questions were raised that an agreement with Poland had to be made. It was difficult to achieve this; therefore, the relations were established by an unpleasant way, after the Polish ultimatum. This situation provoked a considerable moral and political crisis in Lithuania. The first Lithuanian Army volunteer, an officer, and diplomat Kazys Škirpa, who was renowned as the supporter of the “hard line” towards Poland, was appointed as the first envoy to Poland, while Aloyzas Valušis, the son-in-law of President Antanas Smetona was appointed as a military attaché. K. Škirpa attempted to change the relations with the Polish colleagues towards a more constructive direction and.K. Škirpa attempted to change the relations with the Polish colleagues towards a more constructive direction and warned them about the aggression of Germany and its real plans. The heads of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs sometimes had to stop the initiatives of the envoy, being afraid that society could understand them in a wrong way. For instance, the arrival of the influential members of the Polish political elite to Kaunas was postponed due to the start of winter, as it was explained. After the Munich Conference, Germany posed even more threat to Europe, particularly to Klaipėda. Poland was not interested in Lithuania losing the port, and this was one more reason for closer contacts. In order to soften the pressure from Germany, Lithuania sent K. Škirpa to Berlin, as he had many acquaintances among the authorities of the Third Reich. For the sake of strengthening relations with Poland, it transferred the diplomat and the signatory of February 16 Act, Jurgis Šaulys, to Warsaw, who was a strong supporter of renewing relations with Poland. Despite this, Germany annexed Klaipėda, while a closer connection between Lithuania and Poland was not created. Still, especially after the annexation of Klaipėda Region, Lithuanian society was much more favourable towards Poland. This was highlighted by the Lithuanian and Polish media, which described the visit of the Commander-in-Chief of the Lithuanian Army General, Stasys Raštikis, who was particularly popular in society, in a very warm way. The visit, which took place in May, 1939, was possibly the warmest episode in the Polish-Lithuanian relations during the whole interwar period. [From the publication]

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2022-03-01 17:31:51
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