|de facto acting President of Lithuania|
June 15, 1940 – June 17, 1940
|Preceded by||Antanas Smetona|
|Succeeded by||Justas Paleckis|
|14th Prime Minister of Lithuania|
November 21, 1939 – June 17, 1940
|Preceded by||Jonas Černius|
|Succeeded by||Justas Paleckis|
January 20, 1887|
Bajorai, near Skapiškis, Lithuania (then part of the Russian Empire)
|Died||March 5, 1955
Vladimir Oblast, Soviet Union
|Political party||Lithuanian Nationalist Union|
|Relations||Father: Karolis Merkys
Mother: Ona Plukaitė-Merkienė
|Alma mater||Saint Vladimir University|
Antanas Merkys ( pronunciation (help·info); born on 1 February 1887 in Bajorai, near Skapiškis, Vilna Governorate of the Russian Empire; died on 5 March 1955 in Vladimir Oblast, Soviet Union) was the last Prime Minister of independent Lithuania, serving from November 1939 to June 1940. When the Soviet Union presented an ultimatum to Lithuania, President Antanas Smetona fled the country leaving Merkys as the acting president. Merkys ostensibly cooperated with the Soviets and handed over the power to Justas Paleckis, who formed the so-called People's Government of Lithuania. When Merkys attempted to flee the country, he was captured and deported to the interior of Russia, where he died in 1955.
Educated in law, Merkys served in the Russian Army during World War I (1914–18). In 1919, he served as the newly independent Lithuania's Minister of Defence before serving with the Lithuanian Army until his decommissioning in 1922. He then practised as a lawyer.
After the Klaipėda Revolt of 1923, Merkys became secretary to the Klaipėda Region Commissioner, Antanas Smetona. Following the 1926 Lithuanian coup d'état, he became Minister of Defence again until 1927, when he was made Governor of Klaipėda Region. In 1932, German demands prompted his removal as Governor and Merkys returned to practising law.1 He became Mayor of Kaunas in 1933 and served in this position until 1939.2 In 1936 was elected to the Fourth Seimas of Lithuania. On 17 November 1939 he became Prime Minister.
When, on 14 June 1940, the Soviet Union presented an ultimatum to Lithuania, Smetona proposed armed resistance. Merkys suggested accepting the ultimatum and offered to resign as Prime Minister, but he temporarily remained at the head of the cabinet. Merkys agreed to Soviet demands that Smetona be arrested, but was unsuccessful in doing so. In accordance with the constitution, Smetona symbolically turned over his presidential duties to Merkys before escaping to Germany and then to Switzerland.
The day after Smetona's departure, Merkys announced on national radio that he had removed Smetona as President and had assumed the post himself. This violated the Lithuanian constitution, since Smetona never formally resigned. As such, he is not recognized as a legitimate president by Lithuanian diplomats.3
On 17 June 1940 Merkys acceded to more Soviet demands, a)Skučas and Povilaitis were arrested, by police sent by Antanas Merkys, near the Lithuanian border 4 and b) appointing Justas Paleckis as the new Prime Minister. Merkys resigned later that day, making Paleckis acting president as well. A month later he attempted to escape to Sweden, but was arrested in Riga. He and his family were deported to Saratov in Russia. In 1941 Merkys was imprisoned. In 1954, during the period of de-Stalinization, Merkys was released from prison but not allowed to return to Lithuania. He lived in Vladimir until his death the following year, on 5 March 1955. Subsequently his grave could not be located but a symbolic cenotaph dedicated to Merkys' memory is in the Petrašiūnai Cemetery in Kaunas.2
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|Prime Minister of Lithuania
21 November 1939 – 17 June 1940