By Šarūnas Liekis
Read or Download 1939: The Year that Changed Everything in Lithuania's History (On the Boundary of Two Worlds: Identity, Freedom, & Moral Imagination in the Baltics, 20) PDF
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Extra info for 1939: The Year that Changed Everything in Lithuania's History (On the Boundary of Two Worlds: Identity, Freedom, & Moral Imagination in the Baltics, 20)
The first constitution of the Republic of Estonia, adopted in 1920, established a parliamentary form of government. Between 1921 and 1931, Estonia had 11 governments. Political parties were banned and the parliament was not in session in 1934-1938 as the country was ruled by decree by Konstantin Päts, who was eventually elected as the first President of the Republic in 1938. In 1924 the Soviet Union attempted to instigate a rebellion led by the Estonian Communist Party. They planned to create a Soviet government and to prepare the ground for the country’s annexation by the Soviet Union.
A coup took place on May 15, 1934 under the leadership of the Army, the Aizsargi (National Guard) with the support of the Agrarian party leadership. Ulmanis dismissed the Parliament, disbanded the political parties and governed as Prime Minister of a personally- appointed cabinet of ministers. It should be mentioned that there was no suppression of the opposition or intimidation towards political opponents through state coercion. As in all the Baltic States, the dictatorship suppressed any public critique of the regime by intimidation and keeping a close eye on any signs of political opposition and censure of the press.
There were no limits put on his service in office. Deep down the regime lacked legitimacy due to its illegal transfer of power. A military curfew existed (with a short pause from November 1, 1938 till March 22, 1939) throughout the whole time Smetona’s regime was in charge. Ironically, the equivalent of the military curfew (a strengthened defence status) was reintroduced immediately after the loss of the Klaipėda region to Nazi Germany following the ultimatum of March 20, 1939. This political and administrative move was not aimed at providing defence of the country, but to subdue any political unrest and opposition.