O P I N I O N
Note: For our readers’ interest, we provide an English translation (by Geoff Vasil) of Giedrius Grabauskas’s article, “Kodel paminama žodžio laisvė?” that appeared on 6 January 2014 in Akcentai.info at: http://www.akcentai.info/271-kodel-paminama-zodzio-laisve.html.
As in all signed articles, the opinions are those of the author.
The final part of the opinion piece, starting here, deals with issues that Defending History focuses in on, including the glorification of Holocaust collaborators, campaigns from high places against those who dissent, and the related implications for human rights and democracy in NATO and the EU.
Why is Freedom of Speech Being Trampled?
by Giedrius Grabauskas
Real passions were inflamed at the end of last year over famous Russian singer Oleg Gazmanov’s song “Sdelan v SSSR.” The stoking of this kind of hysteria continues this year. More oil was poured on the fire after Gazmanov performed a concert in Vilnius on December 29 . Even the Lithuanian Interior Ministry got in on the action, issuing a statement on Gazmanov’s concert the next day, December 30, which read:
“Gazmanov, who performed a song glorifying the Soviet Union during a concert in Vilnius, is inciting discord and demonstrating disrespect for Lithuanian history. Violations of international law and occupation cannot be justified through any internationalist slogans.”
All of these hysterical attacked aimed at Gazmanov’s song comprise only a small portion of the Russophobia campaign being conducted in Lithuania for many years now.
Russophobia Campaign: Primitive, but Well Financed
This campaign is highly directed and well financed. As is well known, many people in Lithuania are extremely dubious of the incitements to Russophobia. These attacks, including the constant accusation the Russian government or Russian singers are responsible for all manner of events, or the constant refrain about the danger Russians pose, recall those same primitive accusations of yesteryear when Jews or Communists were blamed for everything. The inherent absurdity of this is reflected in the old joke, “если в кране нет воды, так воду выпили жиды,” or, “A drunk tractor operator capsized, the Communists are to blame!”
Let’s Compare “Freedom” Then and Now
What else recalls “tales from the basement” is that official events and different media organs continually claim the current Lithuania is really free and prosperous, whereas Soviet times were quite awful. Many people cherish fond memories of Soviet times. And the current freedom is only window-dressing.
Let’s ask some fundamental questions here: why was the statue of Liudas Gira in Vilnius dismantled in September of 2013, while statues commemorating Fascist henchmen such as J. Noreika, J. Krikštaponis, J. Žemaitis, V. V. Itkauskas, J. Misiūnas and others were not? On what basis was the book by the writer J. Baltušis, considered a classic, removed from library shelves? Why, in supposedly “free” Lithuania, do A. Paleckis, D. Raugalienė, V. Anankienė, G. Grabauskas, A. Bosas, I. Krinickis, D. Šulcas, L. Vaitonienė, J. Vaikšnoras, A. Drižius and many other politicians, journalists and public figures who refuse to go along with the organized crime gangs face constant persecution? Why was the BNS [Baltic News Service] headquarters searched, and why are BNS reporters arrested even in the parliament?
Case against Grabauskas and Bosas Proves Fascism Returning
At the end of November, 2013, the Vilnius District Prosecutor’s Office brought a criminal case against the journalists and members of the Lithuania Without Nazism association G. Grabauskas and A. Bosas regarding their articles about the fascist criminals J. Noreika, J. Krikštaponis, J. Barzda, V. Vitkauskas and other alleged “heroes of the nation.” Some of these articles were published in Laisvas Laikraštis [“Free Paper,” owned and operated by Aurimas Drižius]. The historians P. Freidheim and J. Melamed, the publicist E. Balčiūnas and a whole slew of academics and intellectuals who treat the Holocaust and other Fascist crimes have written about these “national heroes” before.
But this time those who worship Fascist criminals decided to take direct action; a large group of well-known Russophobes and antisemites wrote statements to the prosecutor’s office accusing Grabauskas and Bosas of libeling these alleged heroes of the nation and desecrating their “shining” memory. Initially prosecutors spoke to the authors of the articles by phone, but later demanded they be interrogated in person at the First Vilnius Police Commission on December 23, which they were.
Vilnius police are conducting the case against Grabauskas and Bosas on instructions from the prosecutors at the current time. Grabauskas and Bosas didn’t pull the infamous rabid executioners out of thin air, but used a large number of sources in Lithuanian, Russian and English. Besides the already-mentioned Balčiūnas, Melamed and Freidheim, works by A. Pakalniškis, Efraim Oshry, Yitzhak Arad and many other books, articles and assorted material by people who either lived through the Holocaust and other Fascist crimes personally or have studied these matters. Shouldn’t all of these authors of books and articles, at least several dozen people, be attacked and persecuted as well?
President D. Grybauskaitė offered her own view on this issue at the end of last year, saying review was needed of the scandalous facts in commemorating those who might have participated in mass murder and in commemorating the so-called Provisional Government of Lithuania formed on June 25, 1941, which in fact acted as a pro-Nazi puppet government and created the National Labor Security [TDA in Lithuanian] battalions which perpetrated mass murders in Lithuania and in the territory of neighboring countries. The president’s statement was resolute and she spoke in favor of forming a commission to make inquiries into these scandalous processes.
Public Figures Experience Brutal Pressure and Violence in Lithuania
One example is D. Šulcas, the chairman of the Lithuanian Union of Human Rights Watchers, who in October of 2013 was sentenced to three months’ prison time and fined 3,500 litas for preparing and signing a petition, and who is still being persecuted. Šulcas, a member of several different organizations, including the JDJ Confederation, the Lithuanian Defense of Human Rights Association and Lithuania without Nazism, has filed an appeal. His case will be tried yet again. But the persecution of Šulcas is not limited to ostensibly legal methods: his automobile was set alight on December 4 . The official investigation of that incident has led nowhere so far.
Igor Krinickis, a member of Lithuania Without Nazism and the Vytis association, has experienced much worse. On December 3 he was kidnapped. He was found unconscious and heavily wounded on December 8 outside Kaunas. He spent much time in intensive care and the state of his health is very poor even now. He was an active public figure and took part in many civic campaigns in Vilnius and Kaunas, took part in many protests including pickets of the US embassy [in Vilnius], prosecutors’ offices and the Kaunas municipality administration building. He also had a long-standing battle against influential criminals who tried to steal his apartment.