Lithuanian Diplomatic Service

Lithuanian Diplomatic Service
Lietuvos diplomatinė tarnyba
Flag Coat of arms
Capital Vilnius (de jure)
Capital-in-exile London
Washington, D.C.
Vatican City
Buenos Aires
Government Transitional government
Historical era Cold War
   Established June 1940
   Lithuanian Independence 11 March 1990
Preceded by
Succeeded by
History of Lithuania

The Lithuanian Diplomatic Service was a network of Lithuanian diplomats who represented independent Lithuania after its occupation by the Soviet Union in June 1940. The service continued to function on the basis of pre-war embassies and consulates until the collapse of the Soviet Union in August 1991.


The Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact divided Eastern Europe into spheres of influence. Lithuania, along with Latvia and Estonia, came into the Soviet sphere. Instead of an outright military invasion, the Soviets wanted to portray that the Baltic states joined the Soviet Union voluntarily. After unconditional acceptance the ultimatum of June 13, 1940, Lithuania was occupied by Red Army and the Lithuanian government was replaced by the Soviet-approved People's Government. Republic of Lithuania was converted into the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic and officially annexed to the Soviet Union on August 3.

The United States did not recognize the annexation as legitimate according to the long-standing Stimson Doctrine. The Welles Declaration of July 23, 1940, applied the doctrine to the Baltic situation. The Executive Order 8484 protected financial assets of the Baltic states. Many western countries followed the American example and did not recognize the occupation. This formed the basis for the state continuity of the Baltic states and enabled Lithuanian diplomats stationed in various embassies and consulates continue their work on behalf of the independent Lithuania.


1940: Surviving the occupation

Already in November 1939, Lithuanian diplomats presented a memorandum to President Antanas Smetona suggesting several reforms that, in case of an emergency, would enable them to form a government in exile and continue to perform diplomatic functions with limited interruptions. However, the only change was a coded telegram number 288, variously dated from May 30 to June 3, 1940, from Minister of Foreign Affairs Juozas Urbšys that in case of a "catastrophe" Stasys Lozoraitis, Minister Plenipotentiary in Rome, was appointed as the chief of diplomacy. Petras Klimas in Paris and Jurgis Šaulys in Bern were appointed as Lozoraitis' deputies. Therefore, the diplomats were caught unprepared and disorganized when Lithuania lost its independence.[1]

Initially, the diplomats were confused and disoriented by the events in Lithuania. As many Lithuanian politicians, they did not believe that Lithuania would be transformed into a soviet socialist republic and incorporated into the Soviet Union. They adopted a cautious wait and see approach. When on July 6, Vincas Krėvė-Mickevičius, Soviet-appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs, called the diplomats to appear in Kaunas, they all refused citing health reasons. After the newly elected People's Seimas voted to petition Soviet Union to accept the Lithuanian SSR on July 21, diplomats presented protest notes to governments of countries to which they were accredited. The Soviets retaliated by firing the diplomats, revoking their citizenship, confiscating their property in Lithuania, and prohibiting them from returning. When such threats were ignored, the Lithuanian SSR officially recalled and liquidated all embassies and consulates on August 9, 1940.

The fate of Lithuanian missions depended on the host nation. Allies of the Soviet Union (Kingdom of Italy, Nazi Germany, Occupied France) and Sweden, a neutral country, transferred Lithuanian embassies and consulates to Soviet officials (see the case of Villa Lituania in Rome) but did not fully revoke diplomatic privileges of the Lithuanian diplomats. Switzerland revoked diplomatic recognition of the Lithuanian legation, but Switzerland did not establish diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union until 1946. Thus, even when officially closed, several legations continued their functions unofficially. Other countries, most notably United States, did not recognize the occupation and allowed the diplomats to continue their functions.

Failure of the National Committee

On August 9–12 and September 19–25, 1940, several remaining Lithuanian diplomats met in Bern and Rome to discuss the situation and coordinate future actions. The most pressing issues were establishment of government in exile and funding of the embassies and consulates. The diplomats saw Nazi Germany as the only power capable of defeating Soviet Union and hoped that opportunities to reestablish an independent Lithuania might arise in case of a war between Germany and Russia. Advocated by Kazys Škirpa, the diplomats rather reluctantly adopted a pro-German attitude. The diplomats also established the four-member National Committee (Lithuanian: Tautinis komitetas), modeled after the Czechoslovak National Liberation Committee and chaired by former Prime Minister Ernestas Galvanauskas, that was supposed to be an embryo or a prototype of a recognized government in exile. Galvanauskas was to become Prime Minister and acting President in exile.

The National Committee encountered a multitude of obstacles. First, no country was willing to recognize the Lithuanian government in exile. The diplomats explored possibilities that Spain or Portugal might be receptive, but the wartime situation was too unstable. Second, President Smetona, who fled Lithuania just before the occupation, refused to recognize Galvanauskas as Prime Minister due to his role in the People's Government. Instead, Smetona signed the so-called Kybartai Acts. These backdated acts were supposedly written in Kybartai just before Smetona crossed the Lithuanian–German border on June 14, 1940. The acts dismissed Antanas Merkys and appointed Stasys Lozoraitis as both Prime Minister and acting President. These acts were supposed to invalidate the People's Government and establish state continuity. However, they became a controversial legal fiction with no practical purpose. Third, diplomats did not want to jeopardize their already fragile situation: foreign governments recognized them as diplomatic representatives of the independent Lithuania; if they were to declare themselves as representatives of the unrecognized National Committee, their diplomatic status might be revoked. Fourth, personality conflicts and opinion differences impeded collaboration. Fifth, difficult wartime conditions prevented effective communication and the Committee never met in person. Additionally, the diplomats were reluctant to travel for extended periods fearing that it might constitute abandonment of their diplomatic posts. The Committee became obsolete when the Provisional Government of Lithuania was formed during the Uprising of June 1941 in Lithuania. Thus, the National Committee was a failed attempt to establish a government in exile.


One of the persistent difficulties of the diplomatic service was to obtain funds for its activities. The first few months were financed by funds held on hand, personal loans, and other improvised means.[2] All embassies and consulates cut salaries and other expenses reducing their budgets 3–4 times.[3] In August 1940, diplomats envisioned creation of a special fund, supported by donations of Lithuanian diaspora, particularly Lithuanian Americans.[4] However, the solution was not ideal as the diplomatic service would have become dependent on various political groups of Lithuanian Americans.[5] Therefore, the idea was abandoned when the United States Department of State agreed to allow the diplomats to draw on Lithuanian reserves held by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.[6]

Before June 1940, Lithuania had gold reserves in the United States (Federal Reserve), United Kingdom (Bank of England), France (Banque de France), Sweden (Sveriges Riksbank), and Switzerland (Bank for International Settlements).[7] Sweden transferred the funds to the Soviet Union. Initially, England froze the reserves and refused to transfer it to either Lithuanian diplomats or the Soviet Union;[4] however, in 1967, the First Wilson ministry used the reserve in settling mutual claims with the Soviet Union.[8] Swiss bank secrecy laws prevented the transfer of the gold to Lithuanian diplomats.[9] Reserves in France were similarly not available. Thus only the funds held by the Federal Reserve were available: 2,493.6 kilograms (80,170 ozt) of gold reserve and a currency reserve.[4][10]

The funds were made available, but were supervised by the State Department and the Department of the Treasury. With limited exceptions, the funds were made available only for the use of American embassies and consulates.[11] Therefore, embassies elsewhere had to be subsidized by the Lithuanian embassy in Washington. Initially, the diplomats drew only on the currency reserve, which sustained the diplomatic service until 1950.[11] The gold reserve, valued at approximately $2.8 million, was sold in 1950 and 1955 and conservatively invested into Treasury bills and diversified industrial shares.[12] The annual budget of the diplomatic service was approximately $100,000. Therefore, the funds lasted until 1980.[13]

Once the funds were exhausted, Lithuanian diplomats and American officials considered various solutions: donations by the Lithuanian community, consolidation or closure of Lithuanian consulates, sale of the embassy building in Washington, direct financing by the U.S. (Representative Charles F. Dougherty introduced HR 5407 to that effect), loan from the U.S., etc.[14] Eventually, a solution was found when State Department brokered a deal with the Latvian diplomatic service, which was much better off financially.[13] Based on a verbal agreement between Anatols Dinbergs and Stasys Antanas Bačkis, Latvians agreed to provide interest-free annual loan of $120,000 from investment returns generated on their reserves to the Lithuanians.[15] The last such loan, increased to $148,000, was received in mid 1991. In total, Latvians loaned $1.523 million.[16] The loan was repaid by independent Lithuania in 2005.[17]

Locations and personnel

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as of January 1, 1939, Lithuania had 15 embassies (London, Paris, Berlin, Washington, D.C., Moscow, Rome, Holy See, Brussels, Buenos Aires, Riga, Tallinn, Geneva (to the League of Nations), Prague, and Warsaw), eight general consulates (New York, Copenhagen, Toronto, Königsberg, Zürich, Roterdam, Tel Aviv, Klaipėda), six consulates (Chicago, São Paulo, Riga, Daugavpils, Liepāja, Tilsit), seven honorary general consulates, 33 honorary consulates, and six honorary vice-consulates.[18]

In fall 1940, the Lithuanian diplomatic service had five embassies (Washington, D.C., London, the Holy See, Geneva and Buenos Aires), two general consulates (New York and Tel Aviv), and two consulates (Chicago and São Paulo).

Location Function Name Notes
Chief of Diplomacy Stasys Lozoraitis (1940–1983†)
Stasys Antanas Bačkis (1983–1991)
Washington, D.C., United States Embassy Povilas Žadeikis (1934–1957†)
Juozas Kajeckas (1957–1976)
Stasys Antanas Bačkis (1976–1987)
Stasys Lozoraitis (junior) (1987–1993)
London, United Kingdom Embassy Bronius Kazys Balutis (1934–1967†)
Vincas Balickas (1967–1993)
Holy See, Vatican Embassy Stasys Girdvainis (1939–1970†)
Stasys Lozoraitis (junior) (1970–1992)
Geneva/Bern, League of Nations Embassy Jurgis Šaulys (1939–1946) League of Nations was dissolved in 1946.
Buenos Aires, Argentina Embassy Kazimieras Graužinis (1939–1947) Moved to Montevideo, Uruguay, after Argentina established diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union in June 1946.[19]
Montevideo, Uruguay Embassy Kazimieras Graužinis (1947–1961)
Anatolijus Grišonas (1961–1977†)
Moved from Buenos Aires. Graužinis suffered a heart attack in 1961 and died in 1962. Closed when no replacement could be found for Grišonas.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Embassy Fritz J. Meier (1941–1961) Opened and appointed after the occupation. Closed after Brazil established diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union in November 1961.[20] Unofficially continued until Meier's death in 1967.[21]
New York City, United States General consulate Jonas Budrys (1936–1964†)
Vytautas Stašinskas (1964–1967†)
Anicetas Simutis (1967–1994)
Tel Aviv, Palestine General consulate Nachmanas Rachmilevičius (1935–1942†)
Geršonas Valkauskas (1942–1947)
Closed when Palestine revoked recognition of Lithuanian diplomats in February 1947.[22]
Chicago, United States (Honorary) Consulate Petras Povilas Daužvardis (1937–1971†)
Juzefa Daužvardienė (1971–1985)
Vaclovas Kleiza (1985–1998)
After Daužvardis' death in 1971, his wife Juzefa was recognized as General Honorary Consul. She did not have Lithuanian citizenship, thus could not be General Consul. She resigned in 1985 due to poor health and was replaced by General Honorary Consul Kleiza.[23]
São Paulo, Brazil Consulate Aleksandras Polišaitis (1938–1961) Closed after Brazil established diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union in November 1961.[20] Unofficially continued until Polišaitis' death in 1966.[24]
Note: † symbol indicates person's year of death


  1. Jonušauskas (2003), p. 43
  2. Jonušauskas (2003), p. 253, 257
  3. Jonušauskas (2003), p. 255
  4. 1 2 3 Jonušauskas (2003), p. 253
  5. Jonušauskas (2003), p. 260
  6. Jonušauskas (2003), p. 254
  7. Gryva 2005, pp. 61, 64
  8. Ziemele (2005), p. 85
  9. Jonušauskas (2003), p. 252
  10. Gryva 2005, p. 64
  11. 1 2 Jonušauskas (2003), p. 257
  12. Jonušauskas (2003), pp. 258–259
  13. 1 2 Jonušauskas (2003), p. 262
  14. Jonušauskas (2003), pp. 259–261
  15. Jonušauskas (2003), p. 263
  16. Jonušauskas (2003), p. 265
  17. "Lietuvos Respublikos užsienio politikos įvykiai 2005 metais" (in Lithuanian). Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Retrieved 2015-02-14.
  18. Jonušauskas (2003), p. 38
  19. Blasier (1988), p. 28
  20. 1 2 Miller (1989), p. 172
  21. Jonušauskas (2003), p. 322
  22. BNS (2003)
  23. Remienė (2004)
  24. Jonušauskas (2003), p. 326
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