Vilnius Free City
|Conventional short name:|
|Local:||Vilnius, Vilnia, Wilen, Vilna|
|Official:||Lithuanian, Belarussian, Venedic, Russian|
|Burgermeister:||Antanas Merkys (never assumed full power)|
Vilnius Free City (sometimes referred to as Vilnius area) was an entity established by the Russians in 1947 after they retook control of the city in the later part of the Second Great War. It consisted of the city of Vilnius. The reason for this was that Vilnius was seen as a major centre of their culture both by Lithuanians and Belarusians, who prior to this were both part of the same country (Lithuania), of which Vilnius was the capital. Lithuanians claimed that they had much more valid reasons to claim the city, however, Russia in general favoured a Slavic-Belarusian nationality.
Four languages were declared official (Lithuanian, Belarusian, Venedic and Russian), while another, unofficial language - Yiddish - was a very significant minority language. The Russian army continued to stay in Vilnius and because of that Russia continued to have the ability to exercise power over both the Lithuanian and Belarusian governments stationed there.
Lithuanians saw the status of Vilnius as robbing them of their capital city. Belarusians in general saw Lithuanians and, to some extent, Veneds as former oppressors. Meanwhile, the native Jews demanded that Yiddish be made an official language, but the ruling government was reluctant to give such a status. All these reasons created high racial tensions in the Vilnius Free City.
In theory, the Free City was meant to be ruled by a burgermeister and a city council, who would be appointed by a joint decision of Lithuanian and Belarusian leaderships; however the governments did not agree on who would become a burgermeister, both suggesting different candidates, thus in reality Russian marshal Georgy Zhukov ruled the city. SNORist governments of Lithaunia and Belarus both tolerated this de facto, as they both wanted the order to be kept and internal disputes to be prevented (especially during times of war); however, Russia told them not to. Thus the planned civilian rule of the burgermeister never took power; instead, an "interim military rule" was established and a Marshall (Georgy Zhukov) was appointed to promote order. Zhukov's rule proved to be ineffective, however, and in 1948 the Vilnius Free City reminded a warzone, with people being murdered in the streets and frequent battles being held between gangs of different ethnic groups, pogroms against Jews and each other. All sides blamed the others for starting these events; Lithuanians as well blamed Belarus for allegedly supporting Slavic immigration to Vilnius Free City aimed at increasing the percentage of Slavic citizens. The city was under near-constant curfew, and the underfunded and demoralized Russian army tried to keep the order. The army was known for frequent violations of human rights as well, allegedly murdering, raping, and punishing opponents (political and otherwise) without any trials. Lithuanians, Veneds and Jews claimed that there were racist feelings against them amongst the Russian army; however the then-official SNORist governments of Veneda and Lithuania turned a blind eye to this, not wanting to aggravate Russia.
It is estimated that up to 25,000 people were killed in the riots or by the Russian army in Vilnius Free City during these two years. In late 1948, Vilnius became the major area of the militant actions by the Brotherhood of National Honour. Mass protests in Lithuanian cities required the immediate return of the Vilnius Free City to Lithuania, however, SNORist government of Lithuania dispersed these protests. Similar protests happened in Belarus, which demanded a quick end to the conflict.
With the talks in Visby about recreating the RTC, Belarussian government moved to Minsk. Unbeknownst to other governments, it was done before the actual decision to recreate RTC was reached and most probably was influenced by the lack of order in the Free City as well.
In 1949, when the Republic of the Two Crowns was formed as a neutral country, Vilnius became an integral part of Lithuania - one of two states inside the Republic - and as well continued to be the Lithuanian capital city. The Vilnius Free City as an entity ceased to exist.
This page was created by Abdul-aziz.