June 27, 2010

Algirdas Brazauskas — "He was an honest man, a charismatic leader and outstanding politician."

"The memory of the first president of independent Lithuania will remain in the hearts of the people."



IN THE COMMENTS: bagoh20 begins with some decent-enough generic snark:
No matter who the subject, I find it hard to consider "outstanding politician" to be anything but an insult. I'm a bigot about politicians.
But it is not right for this occasion. Irene brings the gravitas:
Brazauskas was no ordinary, career politician. He became a politician as a result of extraordinary times. He was a courageous man who inspired the citizens to stand up to an awesome power.

Lithuania was under the Soviet yoke between 1944 and 1991. A documentary, Red Terror on the Amber Coast exposes these times. There now is a museum in the capital, Vilnius, dedicated to preserving the history of the Soviet genocide.

Many members of my family fled Lithuania in June 1944. Those who did not get out were deported to reeducation camps in the Gulag.

16 comments:

bagoh20 said...

No matter who the subject, I find it hard to consider "outstanding politician" to be anything but an insult. I'm a bigot about politicians.

Irene said...

Brazauskas was no ordinary, career politician. He became a politician as a result of extraordinary times. He was a courageous man who inspired the citizens to stand up to an awesome power.

Lithuania was under the Soviet yoke between 1944 and 1991. A documentary, Red Terror on the Amber Coast exposes these times. There now is a museum in the capital, Vilnius, dedicated to preserving the history of the Soviet genocide.

Many members of my family fled Lithuania in June 1944. Those who did not get out were deported to reeducation camps in the Gulag.

bagoh20 said...

I guess there is a time when politician is a noble pursuit: When in support of liberty and fighting tyranny. Even then it seems at best a necessary evil of gaining power to fight power. It should never be a career.

Fred4Pres said...

RIP. A brave man.

Irene said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Irene said...

"It should never be a career."
I agree, bagoh20, and I think that's why Brazauskas did not run for office again.

Here's the current President.

GMay said...

He can take his place alongside Vytautas the Great in my book.

Irene said...

GMay, "Vytautas" still is a common name that Lithuanians give to their sons.

bagoh20 said...

Brazauskas may have been a politician, but more importantly, he was an exception. We need some here.
Some who can say: This has not worked. It's failed. Let's do something different, even revolutionary, but within the system, as he did.

bagoh20 said...

The dissolution of the Soviet Empire is not generally seen for what it was. More important than a loss of a cold war, it was a victory of reason and freedom within it's own people.

It seems to me there is not sufficient recognition nor pride in this accomplishment considering how monumentally exceptional it was that after decades of the kind of violence and control the Soviet system used it was wiped out relatively peacefully.

That should be embraced as the start of a kind of exceptionalism similar to the kind that helped overcome it from abroad. The start of a new era of peaceful revolution around the world.

Those people have much to be proud of. The next step is for them to fight to make sure it is not replaced by a less than exceptional future. Men like Putin and Obama are dinosaurs that have no real place in that future.

former law student said...

His successor was the great Chicagoan, civil engineer, and Federal civil servant Valdas Adamkus.

Irene said...

fls, yes, Adamkus served as the regional head of the EPA; President Reagan appointed him to head up the division in 1981.

Adamkus appears at the end of the trailer of Red Terror on the Amber Coast.

Doug Wright said...

Irene: There were kids in my high school, class of '55, from Lithuania who talked about fleeing the Red Army in 1944. Their choice was to flee with the retreating Germans or stay at home and most likely be killed or imprisoned by the Russian Red Army. The trek to relative safety in Germany was covered with many perils and family members were killed or injured during that journey. These kids talked about being armed during that trek; defending themselves between the Red Army and their German traveling "companions."

The numbers of Lithuanians who settled in Minneapolis, NE or between the river and South High wasn't large but significant, kind of rivaling the numbers of Ukrainians who also clustered around there.

So, maybe now Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia can survive as countries until Putin raises his kingly flag. Or, maybe Putin will go the Roman route and be merely the First Man in Russia; all hail Putin the First.

Jim Gust said...

Brazauskas deserves little credit for Lithuania's restoration of independence. The more important actor was Vytautas Landsbergis, a co-founder of Sajudis, the movement that pushed independence forward. Brazauskas may deserve some credit for not crushing Sajudis, but at base he was an ordinary communist politician.

Valdas Adamkus, in contrast, was an extraordinary politician and patriot. He was influential in the U.S. for decades among Lithuanian emigres who kept the dream of independence alive.

I traveled to Vilnius, Lithuania, in July 1980. You cannot fully appreciate what communism did to people, just how awful it was, without having visited a communist country.

Irene said...

Jim, your clarification is right on target. Thank you.

I wish you well. My husband, Ray, danced with Vetra in the mid-1980s.

wv: trust.

Jim Gust said...

Irene, it's a small, small world.