In June 1940, as Nazi troops marched into Paris, the Soviet Red Army marched into Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia; seven weeks later, the USSR Supreme Soviet ratified the Soviet takeover of these states. For half a century, Soviet historians insisted that the three republics had voluntarily requested incorporation into the Soviet Union. Now it has become possible to examine the events of that tumultuous time more carefully.
Alfred Erich Senn, the author of books on the formation of the Lithuanian state in 1918-1920 and on the reestablishment of that independence in 1988-1991, has produced a fascinating account of the Soviet takeover, juxtaposing a picture of the disintegration and collapse of the old regime with the Soviets’ imposition of a new order. Discussing the historiography and the living memory of the events, he uses the image of a “shell game” that focused attention on the work of a supposedly “non-communist” government while in the hothouse conditions of military occupation Moscow undermined the state’s independent institutions and introduced a revolution from above.