Vytautas Bruveris. The storm from the political scene has also entered the Presidential Palace

Presidential Palace
Presidential palace in Vilnius DELFI / Tomas Vinickas

Took away a gunpowder barrel from beneath the nation’s behind. This was the explanation of Vilnius Mayor R. Šimašius for his decision to secretly strip the Nazi administration official and anti-Soviet post-war resistance figure J. Noreika – General Vėtra‘s commemorative plaque from the wall of the Vrublevskiai library Vytautas Bruveris writes in lrytas.lt

Well if he really did, the barrel still exploded. With his stunt, R. Šimašius incited public discord the sort we have long not seen in the minefield we called 20th century historical memory.

A vėtra [a storm] is rampaging not only on social media, but also in politics. Take how the Conservatives’ leadership denounced the mayor’s actions, describing them as a provocation and even proposed to purchase the plaque from the municipality.

It’s nothing odd. R. Šimašius and his party, just like the Liberal Movement they broke away from, are the main competitors of the Conservatives, particularly in Vilnius.

After all, the broad masses of the public have split into at least six camps. One and probably the largest, is simply watching the fighting, as always with disinterest and not interfering with the “politics” it does not understand.

On the opposite side of the scale we have the radical right wing, nationalist, anti-liberal and anti-European camp, which appears ready to jump out of its day to day shoes – reinforced combat boots. It has already organised a small protest at the former location of the plaque, however is hurriedly seeking to organise a bigger one.

Of course, the protest will be held at the same place, which this group will seek to make into the new Klonis Street in Garliava and the Romuva of the Nation’s opposition to the forces of Evil. These forces are Brussels controlled “libtard-globalists” and the nearest allies and relatives of these – the Kremlin controlled “Jew-communists.”

Politicians in right wing opposition and the ruling party that approve of this camp, pander to it and are incited by it are already threatening R. Šimašius and his supporters with not only the wrath of the Nation, but also with prosecutors and courts. Alongside them is a significant part and, perhaps, even the majority of the patriotic camp, which in terms of ideology and world view is essentially opposed to the right wing radicals, but in this regard is fundamentally in agreement with it.

The main concern and fear of this camp is “Kremlin hybrid aggression” and “information warfare” against Lithuania, which is apparently performed day and night, with the main goal being post-war partisans. Thus, any association of partisans and resistance figures, particularly the most notable figures, with the Holocaust is apparently just a conscious or ignorant fuelling of Russian tanks.

According to representatives of this camp, R. Šimašius, having stripped away the commemorative plaque in one go, grants Russia and argument that even the Lithuanian government itself admits that our post-war partisans were killing Jews.

The fourth group is those, who agree with both the removal of the plaque and also how it was done. According to them, those, who contributed to Nazi actions in killing Lithuanian Jews in any way, are not worthy of any public commemoration and honouring – particularly one granted by the hands of the state.

Any merits by them in fighting Soviet occupation, according to this camp, are in no way redemptive and do not erase the stain of the Holocaust. Thus, J. Noreika, the former head of the Nazi-controlled Šiauliai district and signatory of an order regarding the creation of Jewish ghettoes and the stripping of their property is exactly such a figure.

Thus, the expedited removal of the plaque, regardless of how, according to the supporters of this camp, is a necessary and inevitable measure, which protects Lithuania’s prestige in the West and acts against the same Russian propaganda through not delaying.

The fifth is radicals found in the left, who claim that both J. Noreika and all other figures in the post-war resistance were not just Nazi supporters or assistants, but direct killers of Jews, whose hands were stained with the blood of their victims.

Meanwhile the sixth camp is probably the least numerous. These are professional historians and public figures, who agree that figures such as J. Noreika should not be honoured publicly and at the state level, but at the same time say that such individual and chaotic actions not only fail to resolve the problem, but only deepen it.

According to them, the source of such bickering, which ensures that they will continue for long decades in the country is not only that there’s nothing akin to national consensus, but not even any serious discussions on what the Lithuanian society’s involvement in the Jewish genocide was.

Firstly, how many Lithuanians directly participated in Jewish massacres and who were they? How many aided the murderers, ensuring the successful operation of the massive Holocaust mechanism? Which actions can be viewed as such aid or direct collaboration? Was the formation of ghettoes and stripping of property something to be held as part of the Holocaust?

Does the open and honest admission that certain leaders of the post-war resistance have, to one extent or another, contributed to the Nazi government that killed Jews completely discredit the post-war partisan struggle and legitimise Russian propaganda regarding it or, on the contrary, does it strengthen state and public health and resilience?

As you can see, some of these questions sound purely rhetorical, but the reality is that on the national level, on the level of the state and society, there is no consensus on them, quite the contrary – a real civil war.

And according the sixth camp’s members, this will continue until the nation sits down around the gunpowder barrel and makes it a discussion table.

Even President G. Nausėda entered the stage.

He declared that he takes the side of those, who say that the main problem and source of all woes is that there is lack of a national level agreement on fundamental questions related to both Nazi and Soviet occupation and the crimes of these regimes.

The head of state admitted that the special international commission to evaluate and investigate these crimes has done much work so far, just as many other professional historians, but this does not suffice in the search of national consensus.

The Presidential Palace declared it would seek to be a “moderator” for the national consensus, promising to gather a special group, which would be comprised of culture, public and academic figures.

At the same time, the head of state urged politicians to cease invading this sensitive area and to declare a moratorium on the removal and destruction of any relics of historical memory.

All these declarations can be approved, but two variables are notable.

First of all, what is the head of state’s own position on the plaque to J. Noreika? He agrees that it should not be, but disagrees with the means of removal? Or perhaps the plaque should have remained? Does he not have any opinion at all on this, leaving the resolution of the mater to “professionals”?

Second, what does a “moratorium” on removing or changing historical relics actually mean and how long should it last? Where is the guarantee that expert discussions will not take decades more and thus make it convenient to once again avoid not only answers to acute questions on specific historical figures, but also actions linked to those questions?

By the way, G. Nausėda‘s current rhetoric is reminiscent of his predecessor D. Grybauskaitė. When fierce and noisy discussions regarding values would erupt, she would only say her piece when it would be no longer appropriate to remain silent.

But her statements would either say nothing or declare that such discussions are overall unnecessary.

Why? Perhaps due to either being unsure what position would benefit public relations more or out of a fear of it harming ratings.

Thus, does the role of the president as a “moderator”, which G. Nausėda spoke of a number of times prior to the elections and after them, not actually mean that the head of state simply takes no position when he is unwilling or afraid to do so?

All the while a position is exactly very much needed from the president at that time.

On the other hand, it hasn’t been a month since the president’s inauguration, thus we perhaps should be more patient and wait a bit until he enacts his pledges to be a brave, active and, most importantly, open head of state.

So far, the president’s position is also rather unclear regarding an important question of day to day politics as the formation of a cabinet.

Of course, specific minister candidacies, their political affiliations, the composition of the Seimas ruling majority is primarily a matter for the parliamentarians themselves and not the president. However, this likely does to prevent the president from finally publicly declaring his positions on, for example, the fate of specific ministers, instead of remaining secretive, though meetings with ministry heads or candidates to such posts are continuing.

Currently, this position is presented in doses – only stating what ministers, according to G. Nausėda, should retain their seats.

Perhaps the president and his team decided to first make the full negotiation circle, consecutively agreeing on a European commissioner candidacy and only then declaring an opinion.

“Farmer” delegated Prime Minister S. Skvernelis is also upholding such rules of the game – he talks about the forming of the cabinet ambiguously, as if some Siberian shaman repelling evil spirits.

So far, fragments of the real or supposed positions of the president only diffuse through closed doors.

Take that he would supposedly want to provoke the withdrawal of V. Tomashevski’s Electoral Action of Poles from the ruling majority, making it into a minority held by the leash of the opposition.

Based on such a scenario, withdrawal could apparently be provoked by preventing some Polish-nominated representatives from taking charge of the ministries of interior affairs and transport and communications.

Will G. Nausėda manage to do this or at least force the “Farmers” to, for example, to leave R. Masiulis in his position despite them wanting to punish him?

Will the president manage to corner R. Karbauskis so that a female candidate would also be proposed for the office of European commissioner, despite the “Farmer” leader’s loud declarations that they will not resolve issues of gender inequality in Europe?

How many points after this round will we be able to give the “Farmers”, how many to the prime minister now playing an independent game and how many – to the still warming up president?

There remains little time to when the whole cabinet must be presented, after which its new programme likely will have to be voted on. Perhaps it will be clearer then, how much the new “moderator” in chief will be will be worth.

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