As a result of transformation processes in Central Europe initiated in the late 80's, Poland and later Lithuania fully restored their independence. Both countries and both nations faced the difficult task of self-arrangement of their mutual relations.
In 1976, Polish League for Independence published its Program, in which policy with respect to Eastern neighbours was based on the recommendations of the monthly "Kultura" published in Paris. Since 1977, the Workers' Defence Committee (KOR) paid considerable attention to issues related to the eastern neighbours of Poland. One could not fail to estimate the role of the Polish radio and television, which were received on the territory of Lithuania and provided independent information about changes taking place in Poland and worldwide, and above all, about the "Solidarity" movement.
In 1980, both the Polish opposition and some Roman Catholic bishops and priests, for instance Bishop Karol Wojtyła (who later became Pope John Paul II), disseminated the ideas of shared responsibility for the former Polish conflicts in the East and emphasized the need for consent with eastern neighbours. In 1972, Father Jan Zieja addressed to Lithuanians, Belarusians and Ukrainians the following words: "We forgive and ask for forgiveness".
In 1980 and 1981, "Solidarity" became the mass social-political movement, supported the Program of "Kultura" and promoted the ideas that the Polish opposition and Polish people had much in common with the opposition movements of the eastern neighbours. These ideas are revealed in the Decision of the "Solidarity" Congress in 1981 called "Message to the Workers of Eastern Europe" addressed to all nations in the communist bloc.
The "Solidarity" movement had indirect, but undoubtedly a significant impact on the attitude of Lithuanians towards Poland and Poles (e.g. Letter to Chairman of "Solidarity" L. Wałęsa from the environment of the Lithuanian Catholic opposition of "The Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania" ).
The martial law temporarily stopped this process, but one cannot fail to note that the events in Poland influenced thinking and faith of the Lithuanian opposition (and later the Lithuanian society) in the independent creation of national future (cf. the emergence and activities of the Reform Movement of Lithuania "Sąjūdis" .) After the introduction of martial law in Poland in December 1981, many opposition publications (including the "Spotkania" (Meetings), "Obóz" (Camp), "Międzymorze", "Nowa Koalicja" (New Coalition)) undertook the issue of relations with Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine. Underground organizations initiated the dialogue with the Lithuanian and Ukrainian opposition and emigration as well as started to discuss the issue of the mutual recognition of borders.
In 1981, the publication "Lithuania" was issued in Cracow. It reminded about the Polish neighbours in the North-East. In 1985, together with the representatives of Lithuanian scientific-cultural environment, 600th anniversary of the Union of Krewo was celebrated and in 1987 - the anniversary of the Christanization of Lithuania. At the turn of 1989-1990, the texts important for the Polish-Lithuanian dialogue were published in the Polish press, i.a. the Open Letter to Poles, the Open Letter to Lithuanians ("Gazeta Wyborcza", 1989), reprints of "Dialogue about Wilno" by Miłosz and Venclova, publication of "Znak" about Lithuania after 11th March 1991 and the above mentioned "Lithuania". In 1989, the need for good relations with eastern neighbors constituted the well-thought view of most of the opposition members. In spite of "Culture" Programme, underground publications and "Solidarity", the consensus was reached in Poland to support independence of its eastern neighbours. In the 80's, this new idea became the the political norm.
During 1990-1991, the Polish-Lithuanian relations saw constructing of foundations for future Good Neighbour Policy and striving for a new geopolitical reality. The big challenges were caused by changes brought by the independence movement, the abolition of censorship (which finally enabled to overcome taboo subjects in the Polish-Lithuanian relations) and negative memories of the past.
Lithuania was not considered a country de jure incorporated by the Soviet Union.
On 11th March 1990, the Supreme Council of the Lithuanian SSR formally adopted the Act on the Re-Establishment of the State of Lithuania. Taking into account the provisions of the international law, Poland likewise other countries (including the U.S.) could not formally recognize the Lithuanian state. Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs K.Skubiszewski argued that demands of Lithuania must comply with the international law and consistently declared that Poland would not put forward any territorial claims against either Lithuania or other eastern neighbours. Despite the lack of formal recognition of Lithuanian independence, the Polish Parliament issued the statement in which it confirmed the pre-war integrity and independence of the state of Lithuania. The further revival of contacts at various levels was observed. On 27th March 1990, Chairman of the Citizens' Parliamentary Club (OKP) delegation B.Geremek and Chairman of the "Sajūdis" Fraction of the Lithuanian Parliament V.Čepaitis signed the aforementioned joint Communique on the inviolability of the Polish-Lithuanian border. One of the major problems in bilateral relations was the case of national minorities.
On 26th November 1990, at the request of the Lithuanian side, the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs provided to the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs the comprehensive "Aide memoire - the needs of national minorities in the Republic of Lithuania". In this paper, the Polish side insisted on ensuring the rights of the Polish minority, in particular, the right to preserve their national identity, cultural and linguistic diversity, the right to education in their native language. At the same time, the Polish side declared in the document its support for the concept of the unitary state of Lithuania and stated that it would not support efforts to create a Polish political autonomy in the Vilnius Region. In autumn of 1990, Poland hosted the Lithuanian delegation led by Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Pietras Liubertas. The agenda included items concering the position of the Polish minority in Lithuania. In June 1990, even before the resumption of diplomatic relations, Poland saw the visit of the first Prime Minister of independent Lithuania Kazimiera Prunskienė.
Even when the Lithuanian Parliament building was being prepared to defend against Soviet tanks, inside there was the delegation of the Citizens' Parliamentary Club (OKP) members. It was in Vilnius, when Editor-in-Chief of "Gazeta Wyborcza" Adam Michnik shouted "Long live free Lithuania!" and Jacek Kuroń stated that he would remain in the Lithuanian parliament as long as necessary. Private contacts were used in informal diplomatic contacts. Marek Karp, Director of the Centre for Eastern Studies in Warsaw, deserved special merits. He was personally acquainted and kept friendly relations with many Lithuanian politicians. After the events of 13th January 1991 at the TV tower in Vilnius, when Soviet Special Forces purposefully killed 13 people, the Polish government condemned the use of force and supported Lithuanian independence. At the USSR Embassy in Warsaw, demonstrations expressing support and sympathy for Lithuanian people struggling for independence lasted continuously for several days. Money and aid were collected and sent to Lithuania. The Polish Sejm and Senate adopted the joint declaration, in which Poland and Lithuania were aligned in the historical prospective. The Polish Government has recalled its Ambassador from Moscow and demanded the convening of the Conference in the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe to raise the issue of the Soviet attack as well as invited the Lithuanian delegation to participate in the meeting as the part of the Polish delegation. According to the survey carried out in February 1991, 90% of Polish citizens supported the independence of Lithuania. In the the whole country, Poles were gathering medical supplies and food, which were transported by trucks to Vilnius.
When in January 1991, the independence of Lithuania was particularly endangered; representatives of the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Minister Algirdas Saudargas) came to Poland with the authority to create the Lithuanian Government in exile, in case the Lithuanian Government were unable to normally function in Vilnius.
At that time, Minister of Foreign Affairs Algirdas Saudargas officiated at the Hotel "Zajazd Napoleoński" ("Napoleon Inn") near Warsaw. This was the way to execute the Law of the Lithuanian Parliament "On the Lithuanian Goverment in exile". In February 1991, Head of the Division of Central and Eastern Europe of the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Edvardas Borisovas came to Warsaw and established the Information Bureau of the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Warsaw at Ujazdowskie Ave. 13. On 5th September 1991, the Bureau was transformed into the Embassy, which temporary Head, who later was appointed Ambassador, was Dainius Junevičius.
On 26th August 1991 (after the collapse of the Yanayev's putsch in Moscow), Prime Minister Jan Krzysztof Bielecki informed by letter Prime Minister of Lithuania Gediminas Vagnorius that the Presidium of the Council of Ministers of the Republic od Poland is ready to establish normal interstate relations with the Republic of Lithuania. The official cooperation between Poland and Lithuania was re-launched during the visit of Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs Krzysztof Skubiszewski to Vilnius on 12-14 January 1992. During the visit, the Treatise "On Bilateral Relations and Good Neighbourly Cooperation" and the Consular Convention were signed. These opened the possibility to start negotiations on the Treaty between the two countries. Until the signing of the Treaty (on 26th April 1994), i.e. for more than two years, the Treatise was the only bilateral document governing Polish-Lithuanian political relations.
Despite political support from Poland, even after restoring the independence, some high Lithuanian authorities, were continuously mentioning Polish nationalism and even the possibility of Polish invasion to Lithuania. Lithuanian politicians not only were demanding from Poland acts of good will, but also correction of the mistakes in the past, i.a. in 1992 and 1993 Lithuania demanded apologies for the "occupation" of Vilnius in 1920. Still, Polish demands for political rights for national minorities in Lithuania were treated as the interference into internal affairs of Lithuania.
26th April 1994 saw the signing of the Treaty on Friendly Relations and Good Neighbourly Cooperation between Poland and Lithuania by contemporary Presidents Lech Wałęsa and Algirdas Brazauskas. The Treaty also determined and safeguarded the rights of the Polish minority in Lithuania. Since spring 1994, military cooperation became more active, too. After the signing and ratification of the Treaty, Polish-Lithuanian relations entered into a definitely new phase.SEE MORE