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Lithuanian Social Democratic Party

Social Democratic Party of Lithuania
Lietuvos socialdemokratų partija
Leader Algirdas Butkevičius
Founded 1896
Headquarters 1 B. Radvilaitės g., Vilnius
Membership 22,000 (as of 24 April 2012)
Ideology Social democracy[1]
Political position Centre-left
International affiliation Socialist International
European affiliation Party of European Socialists
European Parliament group Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats
Colours Red, White
Seats in the Seimas Template:Infobox political party/seats
Seats in the European Parliament Template:Infobox political party/seats
Municipal councils Template:Infobox political party/seats
Politics of Lithuania
Political parties

The Social Democratic Party of Lithuania (Lithuanian: Lietuvos socialdemokratų partija, LSDP) is a social-democratic political party in Lithuania. It is the longest-existing party in Lithuania, having been founded as an underground Marxist organization in 1896. During the period of Soviet occupation the party was forced into exile, emerging once again in Lithuania in 1989.

The party's president since 2009 is Algirdas Butkevičius. The party led a minority government in the unicameral Seimas, Lithuania's Parliament from 2004 to 2008. The party is a member of both the Party of European Socialists and the Socialist International.



Initial discussions about forming a Marxist political party in Lithuania began early in 1895, with a number of informal gatherings bringing together social democrats of various stripes resulting in a preparatory conference in the summer of that year.[2] Differences in objectives became clear between ethnic Jewish and ethnic Lithuanians and Poles, with the former seeing themselves essentially as Russian Marxists while the latter two groups harbored both revolutionary and national aspirations.[3] Moreover, the ethnic Poles and Lithuanians saw themselves divided over the question of alliance with non-Marxist liberals. As a result, not one but three Marxist political organizations would emerge in Lithuanian between 1895 and 1897.[4]

The Social Democratic Party of Lithuania (LSDP) was founded on 1 May (19 April O.S.) 1896 at a secret congress held in an apartment in Vilnius.[5] Among the 13 delegates were Andrius Domaševičius and Alfonsas Moravskis — a pair of intellectuals regarded as the central organizers of the new political entity — and the future President of Lithuania, Kazys Grinius, as well as a number of worker activists.[6] Also in attendance as a representative of the radical youth movement was an 18-year old ethnic Pole named Felix Dzerzhinsky, later the head of the Soviet secret police.[5] As Lithuanian was then part of the Russian empire, the LSDP was inevitably an illegal organization, meeting in secret and seeking to bring about the revolutionary overthrow of the Tsarist regime.

The LSDP was a dual language organization, publishing its illegal newspapers both in Lithuanian and Polish.[7] Newspapers were published abroad, printed in East Prussia (or sometimes Switzerland or France) and smuggled across the border.[8] Technical assistance was occasionally provided by the Social Democratic Party of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania, headed by Julian Marchlewski.[9]

This smuggling of Lithuanian newspapers had historical antecedents. Following the Polish and Lithuanian Uprising of 1863, the Tsarist regime had banned publication of all newspapers which used the Latin alphabet, a measure which amounted to a de facto ban of the entire Lithuanian press.[10] This proscription extended for the rest of the 19th Century; in 1898 of 18 newspapers appearing in Lithuanian, 11 were published by Lithuanians in emigration in America and the other 7 were published in East Prussia.[10]

The LSDP was very nearly obliterated at birth by the Tsarist secret police, which over the course of 1897 to 1899 managed to arrest a number of the party's leading activists.[9] Approximately 280 socialist and trade union organizers were apprehended during this period, with subsequent trials leading to the Siberian exile of more than 40 people, including Domaševičius and Dzerzhinsky.[9] Other top leaders, including Moravskis, were forced to flee the country to avoid being swept up in the Okhrana's dragnet.[9] With the party leadership jailed or chased from the country, the LSDP very nearly ceased to exist as the 19th Century drew to a close.[9]


From 1900 to 1902 the Social Democratic Party of Lithuania began to tentatively rise from the ashes behind a new crop of young revolutionaries.[9] Chief among these were a pair of Lithuanian students in Vilnius, Vladas Sirutavičius and Steponas Kairys.[11]

It was the first Lithuanian political party and one of the major parties who initiated the assembly called Great Seimas of Vilnius in 1905. The party was one of the major political powers during the Lithuanian independence period between 1918 and 1940. Following the election of 1926, the party formed a left-wing coalition government with Lithuanian Peasant Popular Union. This government was dismissed after 1926 Lithuanian coup d'état. The authoritarian regime of Antanas Smetona banned all political parties in 1936.

Period of Soviet occupation

During the Soviet occupation era, no democratically constituted political parties existed within Lithuania. Therefore, between 1945 and the 1989 restoration of independence, the party was assembled and worked covertly in exile.

Post-Soviet period

In 1989, the Social Democratic Party of Lithuania was restored. Kazimieras Antanavičius was elected to be party's leader. In the 1990–1992 parliament, the party had 9 seats. The party was unsuccessful in securing any sizeable representation in the Seimas during other elections in the first decade of restored Lithuanian Independence. Between 1992-1996 the party had 8 seats and in the election of 1996 it won 7 seats and also 5 seats in single-seat constituencies.

In 1999, the party's congress elected a new leader, Vytenis Andriukaitis. Negotiations between the reform communist Democratic Labour Party of Lithuania began and members opposing the merger founded a new party called "Social democracy 2000" (now called "Social Democratic Union of Lithuania"). A united social democratic coalition between two parties won 51 seat in Lithuanian Parliament in the election in 2000. It remained in the opposition until 2001, at which time the government of ex-President Algirdas Mykolas Brazauskas was established.

In 2001, the Social Democratic Party of Lithuania and the Democratic Labour Party of Lithuania (the former Communist Party of Lithuania until 1990) merged. After this reunification, Algirdas Mykolas Brazauskas, the ex-President of Lithuania and a former Lithuanian Communist leader, was elected leader of the Social Democratic Party.

At the 2004 legislative elections, the Social Democratic Party of Lithuania held 20 out of the 141 seats in the Seimas. From 4 July 2006, until the parliamentary elections of 2008 the party led a centre-left minority coalition of itself, the Labour Party and New Union (Social Liberals) with 59 members of parliament in total.

Algirdas Brazauskas resigned from his position as party chairman on 19 May 2007, when Gediminas Kirkilas was elected.

At the 2008 legislative elections the party gained 25 seats in the Seimas, five more than in the previous election of 2004, and along with it, a 11.73% of the national vote. However, as its coalition partners, Labour Party and New Union (Social Liberals) lost many seats, the coalition collapsed and a new centre-right coalition was formed, led by Andrius Kubilius, who became prime minister for a second time.

On 7 March 2009 party's congress elected a new leader, Algirdas Butkevičius. He was the Social Democratic Party of Lithuania's (SDPL) candidate at the Lithuanian presidential election, 2009, coming in the second place with 11.83% of the votes.


Further reading

  • Diana Janušauskienė, "Youth Political Organizations in Lithuania," Polish Sociological Review, no. 139 (2002), pp. 337–356. In JSTOR
  • Vladas Krivickas, "The Programs of the Lithuanian Social Democratic Party, 1896-1931," Journal of Baltic Studies, no. 2 (1980), pp. 99–111.
  • Vladimir Levin, "Lithuanians in Jewish Politics of the Late Imperial Period," in Vladas Sirutavičius and Darius Staliūnas (eds.), A Pragmatic Alliance: Jewish-Lithuanian Political Cooperation at the Beginning of the 20th Century. Budapest: Central European University Press, 2011; pp. 77–118.
  • Ezra Mendelsohn, Class Struggle in the Pale: The Formative Years of the Jewish Workers' Movement in Tsarist Russia. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1970.
  • Toivo U. Raun, "The Revolution of 1905 in the Baltic Provinces and Finland," Slavic Review, no. 3 (1984), pp. 453-467.
  • Leonas Sabaliūnas, Lithuanian Social Democracy in Perspective. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1990.
  • Leonas Sabaliūnas, "Social Democracy in Tsarist Lithuania, 1893-1904," Slavic Review, vol. 31, no. 2 (June 1972), pp. 323-342. In JSTOR
  • James D. White, "National Communism and World Revolution: The Political Consequences of German Military Withdrawal from the Baltic Area in 1918-19," Europe-Asia Studies, vol. 46, no. 8 (1994), pp. 1349- 1369. In JSTOR
  • James D. White, "The Revolution in Lithuania 1918-19," Soviet Studies, vol. 23, no. 2 (Oct. 1971), pp. 186–200. In JSTOR

External links

  • Social Democratic Party of Lithuania official website,
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