A survey by the Levada Center, an analytical centre based in Moscow, has shown that 34% of Russians still believe that Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia joined the Soviet Union willingly in 1940.

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© Leidykla „Briedis“

Less – 30% of Russians – say that the Baltic states became a part of the Soviet Union due to pressure from the Soviet Union.

A tenth of Russian residents described the countries' incorporation as the object of an agreement between Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin, the leaders of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. 26% of respondents had no opinion on why the Baltic states had become part of the Soviet Union.

However, political scientist Nerijus Maliukevičius said that the survey questions lacked the option to name the process an occupation. “That's the most important part of the survey to me,” he said. “I think that, both in the media and in sociologists' vocabularies, we can find conscious or unconscious self-censorship, of a sort.”

As for the fact that more than a third of Russians believe that the Baltic states joined the Soviet Union of their own free will, Maliukevičius said “I see no reason to be happy nor to worry about something, because this interpretation has been the prevailing narrative in modern Russia.”

The Soviet Union occupied Lithuania in 1940. After its ultimatum was not met, the Red Army deployed more than 150,000 soldiers in Lithuania. At the beginning of the occupation, 275,000 people were deported or imprisoned, 25,000 died in World War II, and about 20,000 freedom fighters and their helpers died resisting the occupation.

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