Antanas Merkys ( pronunciation (help·info); 1 February 1887
– 5 March 1955) was the last Prime Minister of independent
Lithuania, serving from November 1939 to June 1940. When the Soviet
Union presented an ultimatum to Lithuania demanding that it accept a
Soviet garrison, President
Antanas Smetona fled the country leaving
Merkys as acting president. Merkys ostensibly cooperated with the
Soviets, and illegally took over the presidency in his own right.
After three days, Merkys handed power to Justas Paleckis, who formed
the People's Government of Lithuania. When Merkys attempted to flee
the country, he was captured and deported to the interior of Russia,
where he died in 1955.
2 Soviet ultimatum and occupation
3 See also
A. Merkys in 1921
Merkys was born at Bajorai, near Skapiškis. Educated in law, he
served in the Russian Army during
World War I
World War I (1914–18). In 1919, he
served as the newly independent Lithuania's Minister of Defence before
serving with the Lithuanian Army until his decommissioning in 1922. He
then practised as a lawyer.
Klaipėda Revolt of 1923, Merkys became secretary to the
Klaipėda Region Commissioner, Antanas Smetona. Following the 1926
Lithuanian coup d'état, he became Minister of Defence again until
1927, when he was made Governor of Klaipėda Region. In 1932, German
demands prompted his removal as Governor and Merkys returned to
practising law. He became Mayor of
Kaunas in 1933 and served in
this position until 1939. In 1936 was elected to the Fourth Seimas
of Lithuania. On 17 November 1939 he became Prime Minister.
Soviet ultimatum and occupation
When, on 14 June 1940, the
Soviet Union presented an ultimatum to
Lithuania, Smetona proposed armed resistance. Merkys suggested
accepting the ultimatum and offered to resign as Prime Minister, but
he temporarily remained in office. Merkys agreed to Soviet demands
that Smetona be arrested, but was unsuccessful in doing so. Rather
than accept the demands, Smetona fled to Germany and then to
Switzerland. Before leaving the country, he symbolically turned over
his presidential duties to Merkys. Under the Constitution of 1938, the
prime minister served as acting president whenever the president was
unable to carry out his duties.
The day after Smetona's departure, Merkys announced on national radio
that he had removed Smetona and was now president in his own right.
This violated the Lithuanian constitution, since Smetona never
formally resigned. As such, Merkys is not recognized as a legitimate
president in Lithuanian government records.
On 17 June 1940 Merkys acceded to more Soviet demands--a) dispatch
police to arrest Skučas and Povilaitis near the Lithuanian border 
and b) appointing
Justas Paleckis as the new Prime Minister. Merkys
resigned later that day, making Paleckis acting president as well. The
Soviets then used Paleckis as a puppet to provide the ostensibly legal
sanction for its annexation of Lithuania a month later. When Lithuania
declared independence from the
Soviet Union in 1990, it took the line
that since Merkys' seizure of the presidency was illegal, all actions
leading up to Lithuania's annexation by the
Soviet Union later that
year were ipso facto void. Therefore, Lithuania contended that it did
not need to follow the secession process outlined in the Soviet
Constitution, since it was reasserting an independence that still
existed under international law.
A month later Merkys attempted to escape to Sweden, but was arrested
in Riga. He and his family were deported to
Saratov in Russia. In 1941
Merkys was imprisoned. In 1954, during the period of de-Stalinization,
Merkys was released from prison, but not allowed to return to
Lithuania. He lived in Vladimir until his death the following year, on
5 March 1955. Subsequently, his grave could not be located, but a
symbolic cenotaph dedicated to Merkys' memory is in the Petrašiūnai
Cemetery in Kaunas.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Antanas Merkys.
Prime Minister of Lithuania
List of rulers of Lithuania
^ "Antanas Merkys" (in Lithuanian). Seimas. 3 November 2003.
^ a b "Antanas Merkys". Žymūs Kauno žmonės: atminimo įamžinimas
(in Lithuanian). Kauno apskrities viešoji biblioteka. 2004.
^ "Presidents of the Republic of Lithuania". Office of the President
of the Republic of Lithuania.
^ Wiki Kazys Skucas
Prime Minister of Lithuania
21 November 1939 – 17 June 1940
Prime Ministers of Lithuania
Italics indicate acting Prime Ministers
Leaders of Lithuania since 1919
LKP First Secretaries2
Presidents (since 1990)
1 Not recognized as a legitimate president
2 De facto heads of state; de jure heads of state were Chairmen of the
Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Lithuanian SSR
3 Was head of state, but not recognized as president
4 Posthumously recognized in March 2009
Italics denote ac