From Defence to Revolution: Lithuanian Paramilitary Groups in 1918 and 1919
Volume 28 (2014): Paramilitarism in the Eastern Baltics, 1918–1940: Cases Studies and Comparisons = Paramilitarizmas Rytų Baltijos regione 1918–1940: atvejo studijos ir lyginimai, pp. 43–56
Pub. online: 19 December 2014 Type: Article Open Access
19 December 2014
19 December 2014
The article explores various linkages between the violence of the Great War and the postwar conflict in independent Lithuania. The author focuses on several key Lithuanian paramilitary groups that emerged as a result of the collapse of the German occupying regime, the Bolshevik advance, and the ensuing power struggle in 1918 and 1919. It explores their grassroots origins, their motivation to fight, and their role in processes of forming a community, and state and nation-building. The author argues that these armed paramilitary formations contributed to the militarisation of the country’s civilian life. Having emerged in the contested peripheral regions of Lithuania, they were led by veterans of the Great War acting as independent warlords. Besides providing security for local people, these formations occasionally engaged in terror against civilians who were perceived as harmful elements that had to be purged from local communities. These paramilitary formations also showed a degree of operational freedom, by controlling certain peripheral regions for considerable periods of time. But the state was able to share its monopoly on legal violence with them only for as long as its own survival required the mobilisation of all economic and human resources for the war.