The Soviet economic blockade of Lithuania (Lithuanian: Lietuvos ekonominė blokada) was the economic blockade imposed by the Soviet Union on Lithuania between 18 April and 29 June 1990. It began soon after Lithuania declared restoration of its independence on 11 March 1990. The Soviets hoped that the economic difficulties would force the Lithuanian leadership to revoke or suspend the independence restoration. Even though Lithuania entered into negotiations to end the blockade, the Soviet Union did not regain control of the country, later resorting to military means in an attempt to stop the independence process.
After World War II, the Baltic states had been incorporated into the Soviet Union after military occupation and annexation. By late 1980s, after some liberalization efforts introduced by the regime, massive demonstrations against the Soviet regime began, leading to the Singing Revolution.
On 11 March 1990, Lithuania became the first republic to restore its independence from the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union demanded to renounce the independence declaration, but Lithuania rejected the demand and its leader Vytautas Landsbergis appealed to the "democratic nations" to recognize the country's independence. According to Philip Zelikow and Condoleezza Rice, Moscow decided to try an economic blockade, hoping to instigate a popular revolt against the Lithuanian leadership.
On 13 April 1990, Mikhail Gorbachev, President of the Soviet Union, and Nikolai Ryzhkov, Chairman of the Council of Ministers issued an ultimatum to Lithuania demanding to revoke the Act of March 11 and to restore the supremacy of the Soviet laws within 2 days. The Lithuanian government refused.
On 18 April, at 21:25, the Soviet Union imposed an economic embargo on Lithuania. Initially, the supply of 40-60 types of raw materials and other products were cut off. Notably, the supply of oil was stopped and gas deliveries decreased by 80%. The USSR also suspended the movement of goods and restricted sales of fuel. The blockade worsened a few days later, when the USSR stopped supplying coal, gas, and pharmaceuticals, including the most essential drugs and vaccines for hospitals. Economic pressure was soon complemented by military pressure and intimidation, including the seizure of buildings and assaults on civilians by Soviet troops.
On 20 April, President of France François Mitterrand and Chancellor of Germany Helmut Kohl urged Lithuania to temporarily suspend the independence restoration process and asked to negotiate with Moscow. Meanwhile, then-Prime Minister of Lithuania Kazimira Prunskienė visited Oslo, Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Ottawa, seeking economic and political support. On 4 May, she met US President George H. W. Bush and, on May 9, Margaret Thatcher, the UK Prime Minister. The American and British leaders expressed only limited support for Lithuanians and urged to look for a compromise with the Soviets. However, internally, the Bush administration decided to postpone trade normalizations with the Soviet Union until Gorbachev lifted the blockade of Lithuania. On 17 May, Kazimira Prunskienė met with Gorbachev. That meeting notwithstanding, the Soviet leader still demanded immediate revocation or suspension of the Lithuanian independence restoration.
On 29 June, the Supreme Council of Lithuania declared a 100-day moratorium on the "legal actions arising from" (Lithuanian: iš jo kylančius teisinius veiksmus) the 11 March declaration of restoration of Lithuania, which was to take effect once the negotiations with the Soviet Union started. While the declaration did not constitute the moratorium on independence itself. Following this declaration, the Kremlin decided to suspend the economic blockade and enter into negotiations with Lithuania.
Lithuania suffered significant economic damage, with hundreds of factories being forced to close. The Mažeikiai oil refinery had to stop its operations. Petrol was rationed to 20 litres per person and queues to petrol stations were observed to reach multiple kilometres. As a result of that, oil supply was cut for the Kaliningrad Oblast, which at the time was an exclave of the RSFSR between Lithuania and Poland.
The blockade helped Lithuania prioritize trade deals with other countries, sped up market liberalization processes, and forced Lithuania to realign its economy towards western Europe. For example, the then-Health Minister of Lithuania Juozas Olekas noted that the country lacked medical supplies, but managed to establish a good relationship with Denmark, thanks to which the shortage of vaccines for hospitals was largely alleviated.
Since the economic blockade failed to produce the desired result, the Soviet Union attempted to regain the control of Lithuania militarily, which led to the January Events in 1991. Soviet aggression against Lithuania continued further until the 1991 Soviet coup d'état attempt and the subsequent recognition of Lithuanian independence by the Russian SFSR and the Soviet Union itself.
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For that, Gorbachev had no stomach. Instead, he tried an economic blockade of Lithuania. He had expected a popular revolt against Lithuania’s breakaway leaders
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