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5 Apr, 2023 19:43

Baltic state’s president admits Communist past

Lithuania’s leader called the decision to join the Party a “youthful mistake”
Baltic state’s president admits Communist past

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda confirmed on Wednesday that he had joined the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1988, as reported by several media outlets. 

He had not disclosed the membership during the 2019 presidential campaign, in which he ran as an independent.

“Right after graduating [from university], I was faced with an offer to join the Party for the sake of greater career opportunities as a scientist. After some thought, I succumbed to this,” Nauseda told the BNS news agency. He described the decision as a “youthful mistake.”

Nauseda’s admission confirmed the reporting by Laisves TV journalist Dovidas Pancerovas, who had found the president’s party card and accompanying documentation in the state archives.

The documents showed Nauseda had applied for CPSU membership on May 20, 1988, shortly after he graduated from Vilnius University with a degree in economics. He received the party card on June 27 of that year. In the questionnaire Nauseda submitted to Lithuania’s Central Electoral Commission in 2018, the field about his past or present political affiliation had been left blank. 

Responding to the revelations on Wednesday, the president’s office said the field had been optional, and that Nauseda never participated in any CPSU activities once the Lithuanian independence movement, known as Sajudis, was launched.

Any association with the USSR has been frowned upon in the Baltic state, due to the Sajudis narrative that Lithuania had been under “Soviet occupation” between 1945 and 1991, when it declared independence.

Sajudis was founded on June 3, 1988, just days after Nauseda had sought CPSU membership – but before he received his party card. Pancerovas noted that Nauseda “tends to associate himself with Sajudis” in his speeches, although he was on the “opposite side of the barricades, at least formally,” at the time. The journalist qualified his Facebook post to say that CPSU membership alone did not mean Nausedas had “chosen the other side” or that it represented an “indelible stain.”

That Nauseda chose to hide his past may end up far more damning. His former campaign aides Alge Budrite and Aistis Zabarauskas told BNS that the revelation came as a complete surprise to them.

“Personally, I did not know about any membership in the Communist Party,” said Budrite. “I can honestly say that if someone asked, I was sure that no one would intentionally hide this fact.”

Nauseda’s predecessor Dalia Grybauskaite had disclosed her CPSU membership (1979-1989), as well as the splinter Communist Party of Lithuania, of which she was a member until 1990. She was the first president of Lithuania to be re-elected to a consecutive term, and was in office for a decade.

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