Anti-Soviet resistance in Salakas area in 1944–1951

Dainius Noreika

The article deals with development and specificity of anti-Soviet resistance in Salakas Valsčius of Zarasai County in 1944–1951. Applying the narrative analytical and induction methods, it was revealed that the anti-Soviet resistance that started during the summer of 1944 in Salakas area, as in other parts of Lithuania, was incited by Lithuanian patriotism, as well as by painful imagery of Soviet repressions during the first Soviet occupation (1939–1941) etched in the memory of local people and mobilisation of the 18–35-year old men to the WWII fronts from August 1, 1944. Lead by the 1941 rebellion actors and policemen, many village people tried to hide jointly. LLA (Lithuanian Freedom League) members were in the vanguard of the partisans from the very beginning of the armed resistance. To suppress the resistance the occupants used infiltration of their agents into the partisan forces, thus causing the first casualties among the Salakas fighters. Cruel baptism of fire forced them to search for more efficient self-defence means, unite into larger squads and coordinate their actions. At the start of 1945, the key base of Salakas fighters was the Ažvinčiai Forest, where Kazimieras Kaladinskas-Erškėtis took the lead. In order to strengthen the conspiracy and improve possibilities for getting provision, in May of 1945 the company had split into several separately acting platoons. Formed mainly of local village men, they held closer to their villages. So, the fragmented company lead by Erškėtis expanded its action area north and west of the Ažvinčiai Forest and reached the areas of Daugailiai and Tauragnai counties, as well as southwards to the Sabališkė and Kazitiškis forests in the Ignalina Valsčius. From May to October of 1945, the armed anti-Soviet resistance in Salakas area reached the peak in combat activities and number of partisans.

Liaisons and supporters of freedom fighters ignoring their personal security liaised with the underground headquarters, assisted the partisans to avoid the operations of enemy forces, provided food and shelter. In 1944–1945, the assistance to partisans was rendered by their family members and kinfolk; and early in the year of 1946 the partisan reserve (organisational sector) began to be formed. Continual arrests thinned the ranks of “forest brothers”, but new fighters came to replace the casualties. The partisans in Salakas Valsčius were supported mainly by local patriotic idealists, including Soviet administration officials and even people formally recruited by Soviet KGB but working for the occupants in order to cover their activities for Lithuania’s freedom battles.

The underground press distributed in Salakas area consisted mainly of proclamation leaflets for the public. They were used to keep up resistant spirits of the nation and to hinder the sovietisation of Lithuania. The content of leaflets highlighted the illegal character of occupational administration, denounced not only the energetic activities of agents but also episodical or sometimes unintentional provision of information to the enemy by public discussion on resistance topics. The leaflets threatened capital punishment for those who rendered assistance to occupational regime. It should be stressed that the fighters of Lokys brigade understood that many recruited people were forced to vow to be informers, therefore the formal pledge to work for KGB was not condemned and not threatened to be punished.

Salakas area partisans were subordinated to the structures, which created the centralised underground command. The Erškėtis company became subordinate to the Tigras brigade of the LLA, and later to the Šarūnas brigade in the Geležinis Vilkas district. At the start of 1946, the Salakas area partisans became a nucleus of Lokys brigade formed for the Zarasai County and held this position almost by the end of the freedom fight in Lithuania.