VI. The World Wars and the Interwar Period, 1914–1945 > C. Europe, 1919–1945 > 17. The Baltic States
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  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
 
 
17. The Baltic States
a. Overview
 
The development of the three Baltic states after World War I was more or less along a common line. All were previously part of Russia; they were, during the war, occupied by the Germans, who ruled them through puppet regimes; after Germany's collapse, efforts were made by the Bolsheviks to recover these territories, which gave access to the Baltic. Through German and Allied aid, and by their own efforts, the Baltic forces drove out the Bolsheviks and established independent governments. In all three states there was a German minority of landed wealth and influence, against which agrarian legislation, involving the breakup of large estates, was directed. The democratic systems set up after the war gave rise to considerable confusion, with much party wrangling among Social Democrats, Agrarians, and others. Communism was an ever-present force, against which all the governments took vigorous measures. But after the victory of National Socialism in Germany, the Baltic states hastened to improve their relations with Soviet Russia in order to forestall German intervention on behalf of the German minorities. To present a common defense the Baltic states also signed the TREATIES OF THE BALTIC ENTENTE (Sept. 12, 1934).  1
By 1939 all three of the Baltic states had gone over to some form of dictatorship, not from deference to the German system, but rather to forge a stronger regime for ultimate resistance to Germany.  2
 
1940, July 21
 
Incorporation of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania into the Soviet Union after Moscow, with German aid, had in 1939 secured military bases in those countries (treaties of Sept. 29, Estonia; Oct. 4, Latvia; Oct. 10, Lithuania). Ultimatums of June 15, 16, 1940, charged hostile activities; Russia had occupied the Baltics militarily and had arranged for pro-Soviet administrations to request admittance to the Soviet Union.  3
Most political and military leaders were deported soon after annexation. The discovery of the bodies of some of those arrested and executed was well publicized by the Germans and contributed to the level of mass support for them during the first months of their occupation, and to atrocities against the Jews, accused of backing Soviet rule.  4
In all three republics, German invasion (June 1941) was accompanied by Baltic revolt. Provisional governments were set up in all three states but were soon closed by the Germans. Thousands in each state were recruited into police battalions, while the Germans formed SS legions in Latvia and Estonia. The Germans fostered cooperation with vague promises about the future of the Baltics. The Jewish population was herded into ghettoes and massacred. In July 1944 Jewish resistance in the remnant of the Vilna ghetto launched a revolt, but the ghetto was destroyed. The Balts who resisted the Germans did so as Baltic nationalists, not Soviet resisters; partisans were sometimes responsible for atrocities against Communists. In the summer of 1944 the Balts attempted to restore their national governments. By then the Red Army was pouring into the Baltic states, and these provisional governments lasted for only a few days. Hundreds of thousands of Balts fled with the Germans or across the Baltic to Sweden. Their places were taken by Russian-speaking immigrants and demobilized military personnel, securing the place of the Baltic states in the postwar Soviet Union.  5
 
 
 
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

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