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Algirdas Brazauskas

August 14, 2011

Take care what you ask Amelia. After fun with bad Beryl Bainbridge, I asked for more, so she gave me an old commie bird, dead six days before — she must have been struggling to shift him. Lymphatic cancer pushed him off the perch and now I’ve got to write about him.

December 20th 1989 was Algirdas Brazauskas’ big day. As leader of the Lithuanian Communists he broke away from Moscow, and four months later the whole country declared independence. Gorbachev imposed an economic blockade, huffed and puffed for a year, and finally attempted a military coup. But plucky Lithuania struggled on until August 1991, when Gorbachev faced his own coup, Yeltsin clambered onto his tank, and the USSR broke up.

It all seems inevitable now but was hardly guaranteed — ask the students in Tiananmen Square. Sure, the Berlin Wall had fallen the previous month, and it was widely assumed that Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia might gain independence, but Lithuania and the Baltic States were much deeper within the Soviet sphere. Brazauskas could well have ended up in a Moscow dock. But he didn’t, and after many twists and turns ended his last term as the democratically elected prime minister of independent Lithuania in 2006.

What else can I tell you? He’d led communist Lithuania since 1977, when Brezhnev was president. His enemies called him unprincipled, his friends said he was flexible and sensitive to changing moods. Whatever, he was a wily old career politician — “When Brazauskas goes to a village, he not only remembers the names of the farmers but also the names of his cows.” He had two wives and, by some accounts, plenty of girlfriends, and in 2003 he joined the order of Vytautas the Great with the Golden Chain, Lithuania’s highest honour. Don’t ask.

— Jim Thornton

Reprinted from AO Deadpool 2010

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