Status: Polish-dominated Transitional State
Population: about 600,000. (1921 est.)
Area: 14,000 sq, miles
Currency: 100 Fennigi = 1 Markka
Exchange Rate: 445 Markka = US$1 (1921)
The state of Central Lithuania existed from 1920 until 1922, the product of First Marshal Józef Pilsudski’s romantic dream of recreating the great Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth of the 16th century. Vilnius was the historic capital of Lithuania and the center of this great commonwealth until 1795, when the third and final partition of Poland brought Vilnius, along with the rest of Lithuania, into Czarist Russia.
Early in World War I, German forces occupied all of Lithuania. In the final year of the war, Germany recognized Lithuanian independence, although it remained under German occupation. The Germans forced Bolshevik Russia to accept it as well in the March 1918 Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. Immediately after Germany’s surrender in November 1918, Russia renounced the Brest-Litovsk Treaty.
Left: Scott 5, Right: Scott 23
In early January 1919, it established a Bolshevik-controlled Lithuanian government in Vilnius. The Lithuanian nationalists relocated their capital to Kaunas. When they were unable to overcome Lithuanian resistance, Russia agreed to peace and on July 12, 1920 recognized Lithuanian independence. Although the Soviet Union recognized Lithuania as an independent state, it continued to occupy eastern Lithuania, including Vilnius, as part of its ongoing war with Poland, in which Lithuania was officially neutral.
Polish troops under the command of General Lucjan Żeligowski pursued the retreating Soviet army to Lithuania in early October. Politically, Poland could not take Vilnius, since the major powers recognized it as Lithuanian, and more importantly, it would jeopardize the peace talks with Russia, which were taking place in Riga. Nevertheless, Pilsudski saw possession of Vilnius as the key to his new Polish commonwealth. This notion was unacceptable to the Lithuanians.
Encouraged by Pilsudski, General Żeligowski resigned his commission in the Polish Army on October 8, 1920, and the following day marched on Vilnius with a Polish Army division and cavalry brigade, which he entered after a brief skirmish. On October 10, he proclaimed the establishment of the new Republic of Middle Lithuania – popularly known as “Central Lithuania.”
Attempts by the League of Nations to broker an agreement between Poland and Lithuania on the future of the territory failed. On February 20, 1922, the Central Lithuanian parliament voted overwhelmingly to join Poland. The incorporation was ratified by the Polish Parliament on March 24 and on April 16, 1922, the Republic of Central Lithuania ceased to exist.
From Left to Right: Scott 36, Scott 55, and Scott B6
The first post office was opened on October 16, 1920. Crude, locally produced stamps were placed on sale October 20. The stamps were denominated in Polish currency. A number of Central Lithuanian stamps have been counterfeited, including some relatively common varieties which were produced in the 1960s for low-cost packets.
After its conquest of Poland in 1939, the Soviet Union transferred Vilnius to Lithuania as a prelude to its annexation of all the Baltic States. It became the capital of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic. Today, it is the capital of independent Lithuania.