When Congress returns from Easter recess, Representative John Shimkus (R-IL) plans to introduce a joint resolution with the Senate to call on the government of the Russian Federation to admit to the illegal occupation and annexation of the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania by the Soviet Union from 1940 to 1991.
Twenty-five cosponsors are needed before the House of Represenatives Subcommittee on Europe of the International Relations Committee will consider the resolution. Currently the draft resolution has seven cosponsors: Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Cochairman of the House Baltic Caucus, Christopher Cox (R-CA), David Dreier (R-CA), Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), James McGovern (D-MA) and Michael Rogers (R-MI). Representative Elton Gallegly (R-CA) is the Chairman of the Subcommittee and Representative Robert Wexler (D-FL) is the Ranking Member.
Between World War I and World War II, the Baltic countries were independent and sovereign nations and respected members of the international community. In 1939, however, they were illegally partitioned between Hitler and Stalin as part of the infamous Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Hitler gave Stalin the green light to seize the Baltic countries while Stalin acquiesced in Hitler’s invasion of Poland and laid the foundation not only for World War II, but also for Soviet hegemony over Eastern Europe for the next five decades.
Soon after German troops invaded Poland in September 1939, Soviet forces entered the Baltic countries in 1940 and incorporated them into the Soviet Union, but were driven out by the Germans a year later. The Soviets retook the Baltics in 1944/45. The Baltic countries gained independence only after the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union.
The forcible incorporation of the Baltic countries into the Soviet Union was one of the greatest tragedies of the 20th century. Ten American Presidents, five Democrats and five Republicans, refused to recognize the Baltic nations as part of the Soviet Union.
Over 600,000 Balts perished under Soviet rule. If not murdered outright, hundreds of thousands Baltic citizens were rounded up and loaded into railroad cars to be shipped to Siberian concentration camps were they froze to death or died of starvation. Not one Russian has been tried by the Russian government for these crimes against the Baltic people.
While Germany has acknowledged and apologized for its complicity in the rape of the Baltic countries, Russia has not. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have one simple request–to recognize that the Soviet Union committed crimes against their people. In other words they are asking the Kremlin to do exactly what Germany did decades ago in relation to Nazi Germany.
However, the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, and Russian politicians reject the Baltic peoples’ view that the Soviet Union invaded the Baltic countries in 1940 under a secret pact with Nazi Germany. They also deny that the incorporation of the Baltic nations against their will into the Soviet Union amounts to an occupation.
“This is a ridiculous statement, and it defies history and defies the facts that everyone knows…This is an outrageous rewrite of history…We thought that the end of the Russian empire would be the end of revisionist history. Unfortunately, Mr. Putin and his leadership in Moscow are starting to turn back to the same old ways,” stated U.S. Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL)
Dmitry Peskov, Deputy Press Secretary to President Putin, recently told reporters, “There is no possibility of its [Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact] juridical evaluation due to current realities.”
Mr. Shimkus’ proposed resolution notes that the occupation and annexation of the Baltic countries is one of the largest remaining unacknowledged incidents of oppression in Russian history. The admission by the Russian government of this black blot on Soviet history would “significantly increase good will, respect and cooperation among the affected people and wil enhance regional stability” and democracy building in the region.
Baltic American leaders are urging their members to contact their congresspersons to urge them to cosposor Mr. Shimkus” resolution, As the resolutions has not yet been introduced, it has no number. Congresspersons interested in signing up as cosponsors should contcact Ms. Greta Hanson on Mr. Shimkus staff at (202) 225-5271. It is hoped the the resolution will pass the Congress by May 9, 2005 when western leaders gather in Moscow to commemorate the end of World War II in Europe.
You may find your congressperson by contacting the County Clerk or by checking Thomas Guide to Congress on the Internet— http://thomas.loc.gov —clicking House or Senate Directory and then following the appropriate directions on the various pages.
There is Congressional precedent for the Shimkus resolution. In 2003, the U.S. House of Representatives adopted H.Con.Res 226 calling on the government of Japan to issue a clear and unambiguous apology to Korean and Chinese women forced into sexual slavery during and prior to World War II.
Follow future updates by checking BAFL’s website or contacting BAFL or JBANC people, or ALA Information Bureau. But please do not call on this Representative Shimkus’ office.
Thank you for your support.
Baltic American Freedom League