Smetona, Antanas

Smetona, Antanas

(äntä`näs smĕ`tōnä), 1874–1944, Lithuanian dictator. A lawyer, he became a leader of the Lithuanian autonomists under the czarist regime. He was provisional president (1919–20) of Lithuania when it gained independence. After the military coup (Nov., 1926) against the Socialist government, Smetona was elected president with Augustin Voldemaras as premier. Parliamentary government was suspended, and in 1929 Smetona forced Voldemaras to resign and assumed full dictatorial power. He was reelected in 1931 and 1938. After Lithuania was incorporated (1940) into the USSR, Smetona fled to Germany and then (1941) to the United States, where he died.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Smetona, Antanas

 

Born July 10, 1874, in the village of Užulenai, in what is now Ukmėrgė Raion; died Jan. 9, 1944, in Cleveland, Ohio. Lithuanian political figure. Fascist dictator of Lithuania in the period 1926–40. Publicist.

Smetona graduated from the faculty of law of St. Petersburg University in 1902. He became a member of the liberal bourgeois Lithuanian Democratic Party in 1903. He left the party in 1907 and founded and edited a number of bourgeois periodicals. In 1915, after the occupation of Lithuania by German troops, Smetona became head of the Lithuanian nationalists, who collaborated with the occupation forces. In September 1917, Smetona was elected to the bourgeois Lithuanian Council, later becoming chairman; he pursued a policy of restoring Lithuanian bourgeois state sovereignty under the aegis of Germany. In December 1918 he left Lithuania, which was engulfed by the workers’ struggle for Soviet power.

In 1919 and 1920, Smetona served as president of the bourgeois Lithuanian republic. From 1924 to 1940 he was leader of the Nationalist Party, which represented the interests of the big urban and rural bourgeoisie. Supported by reactionary officers, Smetona carried out a fascist coup in Lithuania in 1926. The dictatorial regime used terror to suppress the Communist Party, left-wing trade unions, and other workers’ organizations. Smetona strove to adapt the concepts of Italian fascism to Lithuanian conditions; he advocated the idea of national unity, class cooperation, and the “people’s leader,” which was to be based on a national elite. During the late years of his dictatorship, he attempted to turn Lithuania into a protectorate of Nazi Germany. In 1940, under conditions of a growing popular movement, Smetona fled to Germany; he later lived in the United States.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.