Historical clothing design of the day is from the Air Force – Roundels series, the the roundels used by the Air Force of Lithuania from 1920-1921. Each day a new design is chosen and an article is posted to highlight the historical significance of the design.
During World War I Lithuania was incorporated into Ober Ost, occupational German government. As the war progressed, it became evident that Germany would not reach an effective victory and would have to compromise with the Russian Empire. As open annexation could result in a public relations backlash, the Germans planned to form a network of formally independent states that would in fact be completely dependent on Germany, the so-called Mitteleuropa. The Germans allowed the Vilnius Conference (September 18–22, 1917) to convene, demanding that Lithuanians declare loyalty to Germany and agree to an annexation. The Conference elected a 20-member Council of Lithuania and empowered it to act as the executive authority of the Lithuanian people. The Council adopted the Act of Independence of Lithuania on February 16, 1918. It declared Lithuania as an independent republic, organized according to democratic principles. The Germans, still present in the country, did not support such a declaration and hindered any attempts to establish the proclaimed independence. To prevent being incorporated into the German Empire, Lithuanians elected Monaco-born King Mindaugas II as the titular monarch of the Kingdom of Lithuania in July 1918. Mindaugas II never assumed the throne.
Germany lost the war and signed the Armistice of Compiègne on November 11, 1918. Lithuanians quickly formed their first government, led by Augustinas Voldemaras, adopted a provisional constitution, and started organizing basic administrative structures. As the defeated German army was withdrawing from the Eastern Front, it was followed by the Soviet forces, whose intention was to spread the global proletarian revolution. They created a number of puppet states, including the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic. By the end of December the Red Army reached Lithuanian borders, starting the Lithuanian–Soviet War. The Lithuanian government evacuated from Vilnius to Kaunas, the temporary capital of Lithuania. Vilnius was captured on January 5, 1919. As the Lithuanian army was in its infant stages, the Soviet forces moved largely unopposed and by mid-January 1919 controlled about ⅔ of the Lithuanian territory. From April 1919 the Lithuanian war went parallel with the Polish–Soviet War. Poland had territorial claims over Lithuania, especially the Vilnius Region, and these tensions spilled over into the Polish–Lithuanian War. In mid-May the Lithuanian army, commanded by General Silvestras Žukauskas, began an offensive against the Soviets in northeastern Lithuania. By the end of August 1919, the Soviets were pushed out of the Lithuanian territory. When the Soviets were defeated, Lithuanian army was deployed against the paramilitary West Russian Volunteer Army, who invaded northern Lithuania. They were rouse German and Russian soldiers who sought to retain German control over the former Ober Ost. West Russian Volunteers were defeated and pushed out by the end of 1919. Thus the first phase of the Lithuanian Wars of Independence was over and Lithuanians could direct attention to internal affairs.
The Constituent Assembly of Lithuania was elected in April and first met in May 1920. In June it adopted the third provisional constitution and in July signed the Soviet–Lithuanian Peace Treaty. In the treaty the Soviet Union recognized fully independent Lithuania and its claims to the disputed Vilnius Region. The treaty increased hostilities between Poland and Lithuania. To prevent further fighting, the Suwałki Agreement was signed in October. But before it went into effect, Polish General Lucjan Żeligowski staged a military action presented as a mutiny, invaded Lithuania, captured Vilnius, and established a short-lived Republic of Central Lithuania. For 19 years Kaunas became the temporary capital of Lithuania. The League of Nations attempted to mediate the dispute and Paul Hymans proposed plans of a Polish–Lithuanian union. However, the negotiations broke down as neither side agreed to the compromise. The Central Lithuania held a plebiscite and was incorporated into Poland in March 1922. The Vilnius Region dispute was not resolved. Lithuania broke all relations with Poland refusing to recognize, even de facto, its control over Vilnius, the historical capital of Lithuania with at that time largely Polish-speaking population. The dispute continued to dominate Lithuanian foreign policy and doomed the relations with Poland for the entire interwar period.
The Constituent Assembly, which adjourned in October 1920 due to threats from Poland, gathered again and initiated many reforms needed in the new state: obtained international recognition and membership in the League of Nations, passed the law of land reform, introduced national currency litas, and adopted the final constitution in August 1922. Lithuania became a democratic state, with Seimas (parliament) elected by men and women for a three-year term. The Seimas elected the president. The First Seimas was elected in October 1922, but could not form a government as the votes split equally 38–38 and was forced to resign. Its only lasting achievement was the Klaipėda Revolt in January 1923. Lithuania took advantage of the Ruhr Crisis and captured the Klaipėda Region, a territory detached from East Prussia according to the Treaty of Versailles, and placed under French administration. The region was incorporated as an autonomous district of Lithuania in May 1924. For Lithuania it was the only access to the Baltic Sea and an important industrial center. The Revolt was the last armed conflict in Lithuania before World War II. The Second Seimas, elected in May 1923, was the only Seimas in independent Lithuania that served the full term. The Seimas continued the land reform, introduced social support systems, started repaying foreign debt. Strides were made in education: the network of primary and secondary schools was expanded and first universities were established in Kaunas.
The Third Seimas was elected in May 1926. For the first time Lithuanian Christian Democrats (krikdemai) lost their majority and became an opposition. It was sharply criticized for signing the Soviet–Lithuanian Non-Aggression Pact and accused of “Bolshevization” of Lithuania. As a result of growing tensions, the government was deposed during the 1926 Lithuanian coup d’état in December. The coup, organized by the military, was supported by the Lithuanian Nationalists Union (tautininkai) and Lithuanian Christian Democrats. They installed Antanas Smetona as the President and Augustinas Voldemaras as the Prime Minister. Smetona suppressed the opposition and remained as an authoritarian leader until June 1940.
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