Soviet economic blockade of Lithuania

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.[1][2][3]

Soviet Blockade of Lithuania

Demonstration in Šiauliai against the economic blockade
Date18 April 1990 – 29 June 1990 (75 days)

Blockade lifted

Supported by:
 Soviet Union
Commanders and leaders

Vytautas Landsbergis
Kazimira Prunskienė
Algirdas Brazauskas

Romualdas Ozolas
Mikhail Gorbachev


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.[4]

On 11 March 1990, Lithuania became the first republic to restore its independence from the Soviet Union. 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.[5] According to Philip Zelikow and Condoleezza Rice, Moscow decided to try the economic blockade expecting to instigate a popular revolt against the Lithuanian leadership.[6]


On 13 April 1990, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and Chairman of the Council of Ministers Nikolai Ryzhkov issued an ultimatum to Lithuania demanding to revoke the 11 March Act of the Lithuanian independence declaration and to restore the supremacy of the Soviet laws within 2 days.[7]

On 18 April, at 21:25, Soviet Union imposed an economic embargo on Lithuania: fully cut off oil supply, reduced gas supply by 80%, restricted the sales of fuel and suspended transportation of goods. Initially, supply of 40-60 types of raw materials and other products were cut off.[7][8] Later, gas and coal supply was cut off completely as well as pharmaceutical supplies, including most needed medicaments for hospitals and vaccines.[9] Economic pressure was soon complemented by the military pressure, including the violence and assaults by the Soviet troops.[2][vague]

On 20 April, President of France François Mitterrand and Chancellor of Germany Helmut Kohl suggested for Lithuania to temporarily suspend the independence restoration and negotiate with the Soviet Union.[10][11] Meanwhile, during the month of April, the then Prime Minister of Lithuania Kazimira Prunskienė visited Oslo, Copenhagen, Stockholm and Ottawa, seeking economic and political support.[12] On May 4, she met George H. W. Bush and, on May 9, Margaret Thatcher. The American and British leaders expressed only limited support and urged to look for a compromise with the Soviets.[10][11] However, internally, the Bush administration decided to postpone trade normalization with the Soviet Union until Gorbachev lifted the blockade of Lithuania.[6] On 17 May, Kazimira Prunskienė met with Gorbachev. Nevertheless, the Soviet leader still demanded immediate revocation or suspension of the Lithuanian independence restoration.[13]

On 29 June, the Supreme Council of Lithuania declared 100-day moratorium of the "legal actions arising from" (Lithuanian: iš jo kylančius teisinius veiksmus)[14] the 11 March Act restoring the Lithuanian independence, which will take effect once the negotiations with the Soviet Union will start. The declaration did not constitute the moratorium of the independence itself.[15] Following such declaration, however, Kremlin decided to suspend the economic blockade and enter into negotiations with Lithuania.[7]


Lithuania suffered significant economic damage, with hundreds of factories being forced to close.[16] Mažeikiai oil refinery had to be suspended. Petrol was rationed to 20 litres per person and queues to petrol stations were observed to reach multiple kilometres. Also, as a result of that, oil suply was cut for the Kaliningrad Oblast (an exclave between Lithuania and Poland).[9]

However, it also helped Lithuania to speed up its rebuilding of trade links, re-orient its economy to the West and accelerate the market liberalization.[17] For example, the then Health Minister of Lithuania Juozas Olekas noted that the country had great shortage of medical supplies, but managed to establish good contacts with Denmark which resulted in a quite rapid transition to the Danish supplied vaccines.[9]


Since the economic blockade failed to produce the desired result, the Soviet Union attempted to regain the control of Lithuania military, which lead to the January Events in 1991. Soviet aggression against Lithuania continued in the period after the blockade until the 1991 Soviet coup d'état attempt and the subsequent recognition of Lithuanian independence by the Russian SFSR and the Soviet Union itself.[18]


  1. Eidintas, Alfonsas; Bumblauskas, Alfredas; Kulakauskas, Antanas; Tamošaitis, Mindaugas (2015). The History of Lithuania (PDF) (2nd ed.). Eugrimas. p. 292. ISBN 978-609-437-163-9. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 January 2013.
  2. "Lithuanians Say Blockade Widened". The Washington Post. 21 April 1990.
  3. "Gorbachev Warns Lithuania: Back Down or Face Blockade". Los Angeles Times. 14 April 1990.
  4. Miniotaite, Grazina (2002). "Nonviolent Resistance In Lithuania: A Story of Peaceful Liberation" (PDF). Boston, MA: Albert Einstein Institution. pp. 28–31.
  5. "Lithuania Rejects Moscow's Demand". New York Times. 18 March 1990.
  6. Hamilton, Daniel; Spohr, Kristina, eds. (2019). Exiting the Cold War, Entering a New World (PDF). Brookings Institution Press. p. 47. ISBN 978-1-7337339-5-3. 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
  7. "Restoration of Independence, 1990–1991". Office of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania.
  8. Landsbergis, Vytautas (1997). Lūžis prie Baltijos (in Lithuanian). Vaga. pp. 180–181. ISBN 978-5415005338.
  9. "Pirmieji atkurtos Lietuvos žingsniai ir ekonominė blokada: kelių kilometrų eilės degalinėse ir kiaušinienė ant amžinosios ugnies" (in Lithuanian). LRT. 11 March 2021.
  10. "Lithuanian Asks Bush for Recognition". The Washington Post. 4 May 1990.
  11. "Evolution in Europe; Thatcher Urges Lithuanian To Compromise With Soviets". The New York Times. 10 May 1990.
  12. "Lietuvos Respublikos Ministrų Tarybos Pirmininkė — Kazimiera Prunskienė" (PDF). Lithuanian Days (in Lithuanian). Vol. XL no. 407. Los Angeles, California. September 1990. p. 5. ISSN 0024-2950. Retrieved 21 June 2021.
  13. Michael Dobbs (18 May 1990). "Gorbachev meets with Lithuanian". The Washington Post. Retrieved 21 June 2021.
  14. "Declaration by the Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania, 29 June 1990". Office of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania. Retrieved 21 March 2021.
  15. Dainius Žalimas (11 March 2010). "Apie Kovo 11-osios principus: saugotini "rubežiai"" (in Lithuanian). DELFI LT.
  16. "Soviets Say Blockade of Lithuania Is Lifted". The New York Times. 3 July 1990.
  17. Samonis, Val (1 May 1995). "Transforming The Lithuanian Economy: from Moscow to Vilnius and from Plan to Market" (PDF). CASE Network Studies and Analyses: 12–14. ISBN 83-86296-38-0.
  18. Human Rights Watch (1991). Human Rights Watch World Report. Human Rights Watch. pp. 529–530. ISBN 978-1-56432-053-7.