Occupation and annexation of the Baltic states by the Soviet Union (1940)

Occupation and annexation of the Baltic states by the Soviet Union (1940)

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The occupation and annexation of the Baltic states by the Soviet Union covers the period from the Soviet
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

Baltic
Baltic states
The term Baltic states refers to the Baltic territories which gained independence from the Russian Empire in the wake of World War I: primarily the contiguous trio of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania ; Finland also fell within the scope of the term after initially gaining independence in the 1920s.The...

 mutual assistance pacts in 1939, to the illegal annexation
Annexation
Annexation is the de jure incorporation of some territory into another geo-political entity . Usually, it is implied that the territory and population being annexed is the smaller, more peripheral, and weaker of the two merging entities, barring physical size...

 in 1940, to the mass deportations of 1941. In September and October 1939 the Soviet government compelled the much smaller Baltic states to conclude mutual assistance pacts which gave the Soviets the right to establish military base
Military base
A military base is a facility directly owned and operated by or for the military or one of its branches that shelters military equipment and personnel, and facilitates training and operations. In general, a military base provides accommodations for one or more units, but it may also be used as a...

s there. In the summer of 1940, through intimidation
Intimidation
Intimidation is intentional behavior "which would cause a person of ordinary sensibilities" fear of injury or harm. It's not necessary to prove that the behavior was so violent as to cause terror or that the victim was actually frightened.Criminal threatening is the crime of intentionally or...

 and the presence of the Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

, the Baltic governments were compelled to resign. Under Soviet surveillance, new governments of Communists and fellow travelers arranged rigged elections. Soon the new puppet governments requested admission into the Soviet Union. The presidents of Estonia
Estonia
Estonia , officially the Republic of Estonia , is a state in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea, to the south by Latvia , and to the east by Lake Peipsi and the Russian Federation . Across the Baltic Sea lies...

 and Latvia
Latvia
Latvia , officially the Republic of Latvia , is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by Estonia , to the south by Lithuania , to the east by the Russian Federation , to the southeast by Belarus and shares maritime borders to the west with Sweden...

 were imprisoned and later died in Siberia
Siberia
Siberia is an extensive region constituting almost all of Northern Asia. Comprising the central and eastern portion of the Russian Federation, it was part of the Soviet Union from its beginning, as its predecessor states, the Tsardom of Russia and the Russian Empire, conquered it during the 16th...

. In June 1941 the new Soviet governments carried out mass deportations of "enemies of the people
Enemy of the people
The term enemy of the people is a fluid designation of political or class opponents of the group using the term. The term implies that the "enemies" in question are acting against society as a whole. It is similar to the notion of "enemy of the state". The term originated in Roman times as ,...

". Consequently, at first many Balts greeted the Germans
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 as liberators when they occupied the area.

Background



After the Soviet invasion of Poland
Soviet invasion of Poland
Soviet invasion of Poland can refer to:* the second phase of the Polish-Soviet War of 1920 when Soviet armies marched on Warsaw, Poland* Soviet invasion of Poland of 1939 when Soviet Union allied with Nazi Germany attacked Second Polish Republic...

 on 6 October, the Soviets pressured Finland and the Baltic states to conclude mutual assistance treaties. The Soviets questioned the neutrality of Estonia following the escape of a Polish submarine
Orzel incident
The Orzeł incident occurred at the beginning of World War II. The Polish submarine ORP Orzeł escaped from Tallinn in then-neutral Estonia. The Soviet Union used the incident as a pretext to justify the eventual annexation of Estonia.-The incident:...

 from Tallinn
Tallinn
Tallinn is the capital and largest city of Estonia. It occupies an area of with a population of 414,940. It is situated on the northern coast of the country, on the banks of the Gulf of Finland, south of Helsinki, east of Stockholm and west of Saint Petersburg. Tallinn's Old Town is in the list...

 on 18 September. A week after on 24 September, the Estonian foreign minister was given an ultimatum
Ultimatum
An ultimatum is a demand whose fulfillment is requested in a specified period of time and which is backed up by a threat to be followed through in case of noncompliance. An ultimatum is generally the final demand in a series of requests...

 in Moscow. The Soviets demanded the conclusion of a treaty of mutual assistance to establish military bases in Estonia. The Estonians had no choice but to accept naval, air and army bases on two Estonian islands and at the port of Paldiski
Paldiski
Paldiski is a town and Baltic Sea port situated on the Pakri peninsula of north-western Estonia. Originally a Swedish settlement known as Rågervik, it became a Russian naval base in the 18th century. The Russians renamed it Балтийский Порт Paldiski is a town and Baltic Sea port situated on the...

. The corresponding agreement was signed on 28 September 1939. Latvia followed on 5 October 1939 and Lithuania shortly thereafter, on 10 October 1939. The agreements permitted the Soviet Union to establish military bases on the Baltic states' territory for the duration of the European war and station 25,000 Soviet soldiers in Estonia
Estonia
Estonia , officially the Republic of Estonia , is a state in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea, to the south by Latvia , and to the east by Lake Peipsi and the Russian Federation . Across the Baltic Sea lies...

, 30,000 in Latvia
Latvia
Latvia , officially the Republic of Latvia , is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by Estonia , to the south by Lithuania , to the east by the Russian Federation , to the southeast by Belarus and shares maritime borders to the west with Sweden...

 and 20,000 in Lithuania
Lithuania
Lithuania , officially the Republic of Lithuania is a country in Northern Europe, the biggest of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, whereby to the west lie Sweden and Denmark...

 from October 1939.

New Soviet ultimatums


In 1939 Finland
Finland
Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

 had rejected similar Soviet demands
Background of the Winter War
The background of the Winter War covers the period before the outbreak of the Winter War between Finland and the Soviet Union in 1939–1940, stretching from Finland's Declaration of Independence in 1917 to the Soviet-Finnish negotiations in 1938–1939. Before its independence, Finland was an...

 for military bases on Finnish territory. Consequently, the Soviet Union attacked Finland, starting the Winter War
Winter War
The Winter War was a military conflict between the Soviet Union and Finland. It began with a Soviet offensive on 30 November 1939 – three months after the start of World War II and the Soviet invasion of Poland – and ended on 13 March 1940 with the Moscow Peace Treaty...

 in November. The war ended in March 1940 with Finnish territorial losses, but Finland kept its sovereignty
Sovereignty
Sovereignty is the quality of having supreme, independent authority over a geographic area, such as a territory. It can be found in a power to rule and make law that rests on a political fact for which no purely legal explanation can be provided...

. The Baltic states were neutral in the Winter War and the Soviets praised their relations with the USSR as exemplary.

Soviet military plans



The Soviet troops allocated for possible military actions against the Baltic states numbered 435,000 troops, around 8,000 guns and mortars, over 3,000 tanks, and over 500 armoured cars. On June 3, 1940 all Soviet military forces based in Baltic states were concentrated under the command of Aleksandr Loktionov
Aleksandr Loktionov
Aleksandr Dmitrievich Loktionov was a Soviet general.In July 1940, after the Soviet occupation of the Baltic States Loktionov was appointed commander of Special Baltic Military District...

. On June 9 the directive 02622ss/ov was given to the Red Army's Leningrad Military District
Leningrad Military District
The Leningrad Military District was a military district of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. In 2010 it was merged with the Moscow Military District, the Northern Fleet and the Baltic Fleet to form the new Western Military District.-History:...

 by Semyon Timoshenko
Semyon Timoshenko
Semyon Konstantinovich Timoshenko was a Soviet military commander and senior professional officer of the Red Army at the beginning of the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941.-Early life:...

 to be ready by 12 June to a) capture the vessels of the Estonian
Estonian Navy
The Merevägi is the navy of Republic of Estonia and is part of the unified Kaitsevägi .In total, there are about four commissioned ships in the Estonian Navy, including three auxiliary ships; the displacement of the navy is under 10,000 tonnes making it one of the smallest navies in the world...

, Latvian and Lithuanian navies in their bases or at sea; b) capture the Estonian and Latvian commercial fleets and all other vessels; c) prepare for an invasion and landing in Tallinn and Paldiski
Paldiski
Paldiski is a town and Baltic Sea port situated on the Pakri peninsula of north-western Estonia. Originally a Swedish settlement known as Rågervik, it became a Russian naval base in the 18th century. The Russians renamed it Балтийский Порт Paldiski is a town and Baltic Sea port situated on the...

; d) close the Gulf of Riga
Gulf of Riga
The Gulf of Riga, or Bay of Riga, is a bay of the Baltic Sea between Latvia and Estonia. According to C.Michael Hogan, a saline stratification layer is found at a depth of approximately seventy metres....

 and blockade the coasts of Estonia and Latvia in the Gulf of Finland
Gulf of Finland
The Gulf of Finland is the easternmost arm of the Baltic Sea. It extends between Finland and Estonia all the way to Saint Petersburg in Russia, where the river Neva drains into it. Other major cities around the gulf include Helsinki and Tallinn...

 and Baltic Sea
Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea is a brackish mediterranean sea located in Northern Europe, from 53°N to 66°N latitude and from 20°E to 26°E longitude. It is bounded by the Scandinavian Peninsula, the mainland of Europe, and the Danish islands. It drains into the Kattegat by way of the Øresund, the Great Belt and...

; e) prevent an evacuation of the Estonian and Latvian governments, military forces and assets; f) provide naval support for an invasion towards Rakvere
Rakvere
Rakvere is a town in northern Estonia and the county seat of Lääne-Viru County, 20 km south of the Gulf of Finland.-History:The earliest signs of human settlement dating back to the 3rd-5th centuries AD have been found on the present theatre hill. Probably to protect that settlement, a wooden...

; and g) prevent Estonian and Latvian airplanes from flying either to Finland or Sweden.

On June 12, 1940, according to the director of the Russian State Archive of the Naval Department Pavel Petrov (C.Phil.) referring to the records in the archive, the Soviet Baltic Fleet
Baltic Fleet
The Twice Red Banner Baltic Fleet - is the Russian Navy's presence in the Baltic Sea. In previous historical periods, it has been part of the navy of Imperial Russia and later the Soviet Union. The Fleet gained the 'Twice Red Banner' appellation during the Soviet period, indicating two awards of...

  was ordered to implement a total military blockade of Estonia. On June 13 at 10:40 AM Soviet forces started to move to their positions and were ready by June 14 at 10 PM: Four submarines and a number of light navy units were positioned in the Baltic Sea, in the Gulfs of Riga and Finland to isolate the Baltic states by the sea; a navy squadron including three destroyer divisions was positioned to the west of Naissaar
Naissaar
Naissaar is an island northwest of Tallinn in Estonia. The island covers an area of 18.6 km². It is 13-14 km long and 6 km wide, and lies about 8.5 km from the mainland. The highest point on the island is Kunilamägi, which is 27 meters above sea-level. The island consists predominantly of...

 in order to support the invasion; the 1st marine brigade's four battalions were positioned on the transport ships Sibir, 2nd Pjatiletka and Elton for landings on the islands Naissaare and Aegna
Aegna
Aegna is an Estonian island in the Bay of Tallinn in the Baltic Sea. Administratively it is part of the city of Tallinn, the capital of Estonia and is a sub district of the Kesklinn district.-Geography:...

; the transport ship Dnester and destroyers Storozevoi and Silnoi were positioned with troops for the invasion of the capital Tallinn; the 50th battalion was positioned on ships for an invasion near Kunda. 120 Soviet vessels participated in the naval blockade, including one cruiser, seven destroyers, and seventeen submarines, along with 219 airplanes including the 8th air-brigade with 84 DB-3 and Tupolev SB
Tupolev SB
The Tupolev ANT-40, also known by its service name Tupolev SB , and development co-name TsAGI-40, was a high speed twin-engined three-seat monoplane bomber, first flown in 1934....

 bomber
Bomber
A bomber is a military aircraft designed to attack ground and sea targets, by dropping bombs on them, or – in recent years – by launching cruise missiles at them.-Classifications of bombers:...

s and the 10th brigade with 62 airplanes.

On June 14, 1940, the Soviets issued an ultimatum to Lithuania
1940 Soviet ultimatum to Lithuania
The Soviet Union issued an ultimatum to Lithuania before midnight of June 14, 1940. The Soviets, using a formal pretext, demanded to allow an unspecified number of Soviet soldiers to enter the Lithuanian territory and to form a new pro-Soviet government...

. The Soviet military blockade of Estonia went into effect while the world's attention was focused on the fall of Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 to Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

. Two Soviet bombers downed the Finnish passenger airplane "Kaleva
Kaleva (airplane)
Kaleva, registered OH-ALL, was a civilian Junkers Ju 52 passenger and transport plane, belonging to the Finnish carrier Aero O/Y. The aircraft was shot down by two Soviet Ilyushin DB-3 bombers during peacetime between the Soviet Union and Finland on June 14, 1940, while en route from Tallinn to...

" flying from Tallinn to Helsinki carrying three diplomatic pouches from the U.S. legations in Tallinn
Tallinn
Tallinn is the capital and largest city of Estonia. It occupies an area of with a population of 414,940. It is situated on the northern coast of the country, on the banks of the Gulf of Finland, south of Helsinki, east of Stockholm and west of Saint Petersburg. Tallinn's Old Town is in the list...

, Riga
Riga
Riga is the capital and largest city of Latvia. With 702,891 inhabitants Riga is the largest city of the Baltic states, one of the largest cities in Northern Europe and home to more than one third of Latvia's population. The city is an important seaport and a major industrial, commercial,...

 and Helsinki
Helsinki
Helsinki is the capital and largest city in Finland. It is in the region of Uusimaa, located in southern Finland, on the shore of the Gulf of Finland, an arm of the Baltic Sea. The population of the city of Helsinki is , making it by far the most populous municipality in Finland. Helsinki is...

. The US Foreign Service employee Henry W. Antheil, Jr.
Henry W. Antheil, Jr.
Henry William Antheil, Jr. was born in Trenton, New Jersey, USA.Henry W. Antheil, Jr., younger brother of noted composer George Antheil, was a clerk at the U.S. legation in Helsinki...

 was killed in the crash.

Red Army invades


On June 15, the USSR invaded Lithuania and Soviet troops attacked the Latvian border guards at Masļenki
Maslenki
The Maslenki incident, was an attack by Soviet NKVD troops on 15 June 1940 against the Latvian border posts in district of Abrene at the then USSR/Latvian Republic border on the eve of Soviet occupation of Latvia....

. On June 16, 1940, the USSR invaded Estonia and Latvia. According to a Time magazine article published at the time of the invasions, in a matter of days around 500,000 Soviet Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

 troops occupied the three Baltic nations—just one week before the Fall of France to Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

.

Molotov
Vyacheslav Molotov
Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov was a Soviet politician and diplomat, an Old Bolshevik and a leading figure in the Soviet government from the 1920s, when he rose to power as a protégé of Joseph Stalin, to 1957, when he was dismissed from the Presidium of the Central Committee by Nikita Khrushchev...

 accused the Baltic states of conspiracy against the Soviet Union and delivered an ultimatum to all Baltic countries for the establishment of Soviet-approved governments. Threatening invasion and accusing the three states of violating the original pacts as well as forming a conspiracy against the Soviet Union, Moscow presented ultimatums, demanding new concessions, which included the replacement of their governments and allowing an unlimited number of troops to enter the three countries. Hundreds of thousands Soviet troops entered Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania. These additional Soviet military forces far outnumbered the armies of each country.

The Baltic governments had decided that, given their international isolation and the overwhelming Soviet forces on their borders and already on their territories, it was futile to actively resist and better to avoid bloodshed in an unwinnable war. The occupation of the Baltic states coincided with a communist coup d'état
Coup d'état
A coup d'état state, literally: strike/blow of state)—also known as a coup, putsch, and overthrow—is the sudden, extrajudicial deposition of a government, usually by a small group of the existing state establishment—typically the military—to replace the deposed government with another body; either...

 in each country, supported by the Soviet troops.

Most of the Estonian Defence Forces and the Estonian Defence League
Estonian Defence League
The Estonian Defence League is the name of the unified paramilitary armed forces of the Republic of Estonia. The Defence League is a paramilitary defence organization which aim is to guarantee the preservation of the independence and sovereignty of the state, the integrity of its land area and its...

 surrendered
Surrender (military)
Surrender is when soldiers, nations or other combatants stop fighting and eventually become prisoners of war, either as individuals or when ordered to by their officers. A white flag is a common symbol of surrender, as is the gesture of raising one's hands empty and open above one's head.When the...

 according to the orders of the Estonian Government and were disarmed by the Red Army. Only the Estonian Independent Signal Battalion stationed in Tallinn at Raua Street showed resistance to the Red Army and "People's Self-Defence" Communist militia, fighting the invading troops on 21 June 1940. As the Red Army brought in additional reinforcements supported by six armoured fighting vehicle
Armoured fighting vehicle
An armoured fighting vehicle is a combat vehicle, protected by strong armour and armed with weapons. AFVs can be wheeled or tracked....

s, the battle lasted several hours until sundown. Finally the military resistance was ended with negotiation
Negotiation
Negotiation is a dialogue between two or more people or parties, intended to reach an understanding, resolve point of difference, or gain advantage in outcome of dialogue, to produce an agreement upon courses of action, to bargain for individual or collective advantage, to craft outcomes to satisfy...

s and the Independent Signal Battalion surrendered and was disarmed. There were two dead Estonian servicemen, Aleksei Männikus and Johannes Mandre, and several wounded on the Estonian side and about ten killed and more wounded on the Soviet side. The Soviet militia that participated in the battle was led by Nikolai Stepulov
Nikolai Stepulov
Nikolai Stepulov was an Estonian boxer who competed in the 1936 Summer Olympics.In 1936 he won the silver medal in the lightweight class after losing the final against Imre Harangi.-References:*...

.

Sovietization of the Baltic states




Political repressions followed with mass deportations
June deportation
June deportation was the first in the series of mass Soviet deportations of tens of thousands of people from the Baltic states, Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova starting June 14, 1941 that followed the occupation and annexation of the Baltic states. The procedure for deporting the "anti-Soviet...

 carried out by the Soviets. The Serov Instructions, "On the Procedure for carrying out the Deportation of Anti-Soviet Elements from Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia", contained detailed procedures and protocols to observe in the deportation of Baltic nationals.

The Soviets began a constitutional metamorphosis of the Baltic states by first forming transitional "People's Governments." Led by Stalin’s close associates, and local communist supporters as well as official brought in from the Soviet Union, they forced the presidents and governments of all three countries to resign, replacing them with the provisional People's Governments.

On July 14–15, following illegal amendments to the electoral laws of the respective states, rigged parliamentary elections for the "People's Parliament
People's Parliament
The People's Seimas was a puppet legislature organized in order to legitimate the occupation and annexation of Lithuania by the Soviet Union. After the Soviet ultimatum in June 1940, a new pro-Soviet government was formed, known as the People's Government. The new government dismissed the Fourth...

s" were conducted by local Communists loyal to the Soviet Union. Because of new election restrictions in the amended electoral laws, only the Communists and their allies were effectively allowed to run. The election results were completely fabricated: the Soviet press service released them early, with the result that they had already appeared in print in a London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 newspaper a full 24 hours before the polls closed.

The new Soviet-installed governments in the Baltic states began to align their policies with current Soviet practices. According to the prevailing doctrine in the process, the old "bourgeois" societies were destroyed so that new socialist societies, run by loyal Soviet citizens, could be constructed in their place.

See also

  • Soviet occupation of Latvia in 1940
    Soviet occupation of Latvia in 1940
    The Soviet occupation of Latvia in 1940 refers, according to the European Court of Human Rights, the Government of Latvia, the State Department of the United States of America, and the European Union, to the military occupation of the Republic of Latvia by the Soviet Union ostensibly under the...

  • Occupation and annexation of the Baltic states by the Soviet Union (1944)
    Occupation and annexation of the Baltic states by the Soviet Union (1944)
    The Soviet Union reoccupied most of the territory of the Baltic states 1944 in the Soviet Baltic offensive during World War II. The Soviet offensive regained control over the three Baltic capitals but failed to capture the Courland Pocket where the retreating Wehrmacht and Latvian forces held out...


Further reading