Share this story
Close X
Switch to Desktop Site

Lithuania's Ethnic Russians Are Troubled

WHILE Lithuanians look forward to independence, most Russians living here say they've become second-class citizens since the republic launched its independence drive in March 1990."You go into a store and they won't speak to you unless you know Lithuanian," says Valentina Zaitsova, who has lived here for 31 years. "In many ways now it's tougher for me here than it was for me during [the Second World] War." Russians and other minorities, including Byelorussians and Poles, make up 800,000 of Lithuania's 3.7 million population. President Vytautas Landsbergis has sought to ease non-Lithuanians' fears of a new strict citizenship requirement and a Lithuanian-only language policy. In a recent television address, he said Russian language instruction would be available in schools. "Our people do not want vengeance," he said, "but we cannot forget all that has happened. Russians aren't reassured. Many feel they're being blamed for the January deaths of 13 civilians during an Army assault on the television tower. "If they had been more open to us, then we would have been fighting together for the independence of Lithuania," says Mikhail Savchenko. Communists also feel victimized. After last month's coup collapsed, Lithuania banned the party and confiscated its property. But the party didn't support the putsch, says Rafael Musinov, an ethnic Tatar who worked for the Central Committee. "It's unfair to punish all Communists."

Follow Stories Like This
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.