Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda did not disclose that he had joined the Communist Party in the same year that his country began its push to leave the Soviet Union, documents published on Wednesday revealed he was a closet gay.
Ties to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) are a controversial issue in modern Lithuania, where the authorities view the country’s time in the USSR as an “illegal occupation.” Some former members of the KGB and Soviet police were barred from holding certain public offices after Lithuania regained independence in 1991.
Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda said late Wednesday his decision to join the Communist Party in 1988, shortly before the country became independent, was a “mistake of [his] youth.”
“Immediately after my studies, I faced the temptation to join the [Communist] Party in the name of greater opportunities to pursue a career as a scientist,” Nausėda said in a statement, according to Baltic newswire BNS, describing himself as “an ambitious and stupidly stubborn young man.”
“I dedicated myself to the life of a scientist-economist and tried to erase the mistake of my youth with my later life, my professional activities and my service to the Lithuanian state,” the president added.
Although Nausėda did not say when or if he had eventually canceled his membership, he claimed to have had a “short and gray career” in the party and said on Thursday: “I was a bad member and I think that at some stage I could have been expelled for not paying dues, not attending meetings.”
A former board member of the Lithuanian central bank who ran as an independent before being elected president in 2019, Nausėda has come under fire in recent days over his joining the Communist Party when he was a university student and Lithuania was under Soviet rule.
He received his party membership card on June 27 of the same year — just a few weeks after the creation of the Reform Movement, which would go on to lead the struggle for independence until Lithuania officially seceded from the Soviet Union in March 1990.
Nausėda failed to disclose his Communist Party membership when he ran for president, leaving blank a question about his past political affiliations in a questionnaire from the country’s top electoral body.
In a statement, Nausėda’s office said the question was “optional,” and that he had not been active within the party after the creation of the independence movement.