Brazauskas, Algirdas

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BRAZAUSKAS, ALGIRDAS

(b. 1932), Lithuanian political leader.

Algirdas Mykolas Brazauskas emerged as a major public figure in the Soviet Union in 1988. A member of the Central Committee of the Lithuanian Communist Party (LCP) since 1976, a member of the party's biuro (equivalent of Politburo) since

1977, and by training an engineer, he had been a specialist in construction and economic planning. In 1988 he won note as a party leader who dared to appear on a public platform with the leaders of the reformist Movement for Perestroika (Sajudis) in Lithuania. He became a popular figure, and in October, with the approval of both Moscow and Sajudis leaders, he replaced Ringaudas Songaila as the party's First Secretary.

In his work as First Secretary of the LCP from 1988 to 1990, Brazauskas became a model for reformers in other republics throughout the Soviet Union. He pursued a moderate program for decentralizing the Soviet system, attempting to loosen Moscow's control of Lithuania step by step. In this he had to strike a balance between party leaders in Moscow who demanded tighter controls in Lithuania and rival Lithuanians who demanded a sharp break with Moscow. He experienced sharp criticism from both sides for being too lenient toward the other, yet he remained a popular figure within Lithuania.

Brazauskas presided over the dismantling of the Soviet system in Lithuania. In 1988 and 1989, as First Secretary of the LCP, he held the highest reins of political power in the republic, although he held no post in the republic's government. In December 1989, the Lithuanian parliament ended the Communist Party's supraconstitutional authority in the republic. Then the LCP separated itself from the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. In January 1990 Brazauskas took the post of president of the Lithuanian Supreme Council, Lithuania's parliament. After new elections in February and March 1990 returned a noncommunist majority, Vytautas Landsbergis became the president of the parliament, and Brazauskas lost the reins of power, although he still led the LCP and became deputy prime minister. The Lithuanian government had replaced the party as the seat of power in the republic.

During the Soviet blockade of Lithuania in 1990, Brazauskas headed a special commission that planned the most efficient use of Lithuania's limited energy resources. In January 1991 he resigned as deputy prime minister and remained in the opposition until the Lithuanian Democratic Labor Party (LDLP), the successor to the LCP in independent Lithuania, won the parliamentary elections in the fall of 1992. After serving briefly as president of the parliament, in February 1993, he was elected president of the Republic. As president he could have no party affiliation, and he accordingly withdrew from the LDLP. At the conclusion of his five-year presidential term in 1998, he retired from politics, but in 2000, still a popular figure, he returned, organizing a coalition of leftist parties that won a plurality of seats in parliamentary elections. In 2001 he assumed the post of Lithuanian prime minister.

See also: lithuania and lithuanians; nationalities policies, soviet

bibliography

Senn, Alfred Erich. (1995). Gorbachev's Failure in Lithuania. New York: St. Martin's.

Vardys, V. Stanley, and Sedaitis, Judith B. (1997). Lithuania: The Rebel Nation. Boulder, CO: Westview.

Alfred Erich Senn

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Brazauskas, Algirdas

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