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Everyone of us is a footprint of history

Ever since I set foot in this country I have found some common characters of Lithuanians. Their being extremely proud of their nationality and the transport by which every time they emphasize the peculiarities of their culture and language have definitely increased curiosity about the history of this small country.

In fact, if all know broadly about the Soviet occupation, the repression of political dissidents and the inexistence of liberalism, so much of this same story remains unknown, preserved only in history books.

Nevertheless, in Vilnius inside the building formerly used by the Soviet Secret Service KGB now stands a museum, through, established as a tangible trace of memory for people who have the duty not to forget.

Immediately after the fall of the Soviet Union and the regained independence, in 1992 with a directive of the Ministry of Culture and Education the museum was founded and it have been dedicated to the victims of the atrocious genocide. Only five years after the museum was physically open to the public with the aim of showing original documents and evidences from the field of the genocide that had been systematically perpetrated against the people of this proud nation.

It is interesting to note that of the 40,000 visitors who annually cross the door of the museum more than an half are children of the schools to which it is proper to teach the value of memory and collective history as a source of inspiration for a more peaceful future.

The museum offers a thematic chronological exhibition covering the dramatic and insecure years dating from the World War II to the early 90s testifying the practices of a stable regime relying on repression.

The ground floor presented documents from the signing of non-aggression pact between Germany and the USSR signed in 1939 by their respective foreign ministers Ribbentrop-Molotov over the spheres of influence of the two regimes. It has marked the history of the country hopelessly and slowly destroying every kind of local government autonomy from Moscow’s orders, repressing political opposition through the mass deportations and communist propaganda. In 1940 after elections marked by fraud and falsifications the People’s Seimas declared that Lithuania was a Soviet Socialist Republic and from there on begun a total reorganization of the country in which it was set a new currency, a new political ideology and even new customs. The Catholic religion, so dear to Lithuanians, was completely banned and with it began the first purges against all those who openly disagreed with the methods used by the regime, the total lack of freedom’s rights and the complete impossibility of criticism. The firsts to suffer these reprisals were the members of the old government, politicians but also public figures and intellectuals. Thus began the first large flow of deportations that reinstate myriads of people in the most remote regions of Siberia, in very hard labour camps whole families were separated and humiliated. While women and children were abandoned to themselves in exiled communities far from civilization, their men died to support the war effort and the forced industrialization imposed for the growth of the Union.

In 1944, after three years of Nazi occupation, testified by documents as authentic manuscripts, photographs and personal belongings, a guerrilla warfare started and lasted nine years, fought for the restoration of the independence of the State. Only many years later in 1949, when the same movement was losing much of its lifeblood were adopted documents intended to formalize the establishment of a joint command between the various brigades and above them an authority had formed to oppose the puppet government that had been artificially placed by USSR. The resistance was carried out through specific political and focused actions at vulnerable targets, while among the populations were widespread counter-propaganda tools to strengthen the patriotic spirit and the national identity. The battle then virtually spread to all levels of society becoming unarmed. Partisans were supported and fed by civil population indeed. However due to both the isolation caused by the Iron Curtain, in one hand and the rising difficulty in establish strong relationships with the West in the other, enabled the USSR to unleash its full repression potential against the movement and destroy it in a short time. It is in fact during these years, until the 1956 that took place the second largest flow of deportation of all those considered to be freedom fighters, participating in the movement for the independence and freedom of Lithuania. The inhuman conditions in which prisoners were forced to survive lead to a wave of violent protests and strikes in the camps all duly and bloodily suppressed.

After these troubled years with the normalization of the internal situation even dissidence changed face, between the 60s and 70s behind a religious movement that took on more and more force, it grew even the pressing political questions that criticized the USSR and demanded respect and the recognition of the basic human rights, which in meantime acquired the rank of inalienable to all individual. Street demonstrations and national symbols were raised with increasing frequency, and in 1978 the Lithuanian Freedom League was founded. Only after the democratization process was launched inside the USSR, in Lithuania was possible to elect a Supreme Council that on 11 March 1990 declared the independence of the country.

A special section of the exhibition in the museum is dedicated to Soviet intelligence (KGB) stationed in this place. Through documents that were found just in the archives stored in those rooms they try to show the methods through which in those years the secret police gathered and falsified information. This exhibition explains in detail the organizational structure, how the staff was so widespread throughout the territory and especially the brutality perpetrated. It is possible to visit the prisons that have been left unchanged.

Learn about the history of a country is critical to interpret the current choices of its political class, because we everybody is just what our history makes us.

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