Vladimir Putin keeps finding historical justifications for actual and supposed territorial claims. But that’s a double-edged sword. A parliamentarian from Lithuania turns the tables – and ends up on Russian TV.

The war in Ukraine obviously hasn’t robbed Matas Maldeikis of his sense of humor. Maybe it’s just a form of gallows humor. After all, who really knows what Vladimir Putin is up to and what “Russian soil” outside of Ukraine he still thinks he has to reclaim – with every right, derived from history. The fact that the Russian President recently compared himself to Tsar Peter the Great and remembered the Great Northern War (1700 – 1721) created an uneasy feeling, especially in Russia’s direct neighboring countries. Also in Lithuania, the homeland of Matas Maldeikis.

The 42-year-old is a member of the country’s parliament and – absurdly enough – claims to be the head of a parliamentary group that deals, among other things, with good relations with “democratic Russia”. He was all the more attentive to statements made by a hardliner in the Russian Duma, who dismissed Lithuania’s independence, which was contractually regulated after the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, as null and void. As is well known, Russia also denies that Ukraine is an independent state. And so, as a Lithuanian, you are allowed to prick up your ears in these times. But Maldeikis said to himself that what the Russians can do, we Lithuanians can do for a long time – and via his social media channels showed what a rake is in terms of historical revisionism.

Politicians from Lithuania: Macron, Scholz, let’s negotiate!

“If Russia revokes its 1991 recognition of Lithuania’s independence, Lithuania will revoke the 1634 Treaty of Polanów,” Maldeiskis tweeted last Thursday. That would indeed have far-reaching consequences. According to the Lithuanian parliamentarian, Putin would then have to “submit to the authority of Vladylslav IV” and return all occupied territories. Maldeiskis concludes with a slogan: “Smolensk is Lithuanian!” And also has a tip ready: “Hey, Emmanuel Macron, Olaf Scholz, call me! Let’s negotiate!”

As early as January 24 – i.e. before the attack on Ukraine – Maldeikis had openly made fun of Putin’s latest interpretation of historical events; primarily about statements by Putin that he feels threatened by NATO’s eastward expansion. “I demand the immediate withdrawal of Russian troops from the historical sphere of influence of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, including Belarus and Ukraine,” Maldeikis wrote at the time – and immediately made the territorial claims visible on a map. And further: “Russia’s westward expansion since the annexation of Novgorod in 1478 is an outrageous provocation.” The fact that Moscow cannot be laughed at was tragically revealed exactly one month after the Lithuanian’s post: On February 24, Russia began its invasion of Ukraine.

Maldeikis’ tweet made it onto Russian television

The jokes of the Lithuanian conservative gain weight through a look at history. The Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Ruthenia and Shemaitia actually existed and had its heyday from the 13th to the 15th centuries. At that time, Lithuania was an Eastern European great power, whose territory included the territories of today’s states of Lithuania and Belarus as well as parts of Ukraine, Russia and Poland. In 1386 it entered into a union with the Kingdom of Poland and then gradually merged into the joint state of Poland-Lithuania. Wladylslav IV, mentioned by Matas Maldeikis, a descendant of the Swedish Vasa dynasty, was the elected ruler of Poland-Lithuania from 1632 and as such, after two years of war with Russia (“Smolensk War”), also concluded what was also known as the “Eternal Peace of 1634 ” well-known peace treaty, which essentially laid down the pre-war territorial distribution. A number of territorial claims could easily be justified using Putin’s method…

By the way, Matas Maldeikis’ demands found a hearing in Russia. However, not in the Kremlin, but on television. Star moderator Vladimir Solovyov quoted Maldeikis’ tweet and then commented slightly sourly: “When a Lithuanian MP screams, nobody listens. When Putin whispers, even if it’s very softly, the whole world can tremble.” Maldeikis also found it funny: “Nobody listens to a Lithuanian MP says Solovyov – while he shows my tweet on prime time on national TV.”

Read more about one of Putin’s propaganda favorites here:

Sources: Twitter account Matas Maldeikis; Leibniz Institute for European History Mainz; academic