The provisory government of Lithuania which started its activities in the November 1918 just at the time of Compiegne armistice between Germany and Entente Powers which ended the World War I, among other agencies, set up the Ministry of Agriculture and State Assets for the administration of agricultural sector. The first minister of Agriculture was appointed agronomist Juozas Tubelis. It is he who had to start the creation of the ministry from zero, find necessary staff, and establish its structure and subdivisions.
Already in 1921 the then minister of Agriculture Jonas Aleksa put forward the proposal, that Lithuania should follow the example of other Western countries and establish a body representing farmers, styled as Agricultural Chamber or Agricultural council. It has been done only on December 19, 1926, when the Act on Agricultural Chamber was adopted. Yet for the time being the Agricultural Chamber remained in fact inactive and did not conduct any significant activity. The congress of farmers which took place in the spring of 1928 could be considered as the second birth of the Agricultural Chamber. The members of the Chamber unanimously elected J. Aleksa chairman of the board. It was the only time when a minister of agriculture simultaneously was also at the helm of the Agricultural Chamber, albeit for a short time.
Agricultural Chamber and the Ministry had a clear distribution of functions. Ministry formulated main issues of strategy and policy, while the Chamber elaborated them in details and put in practice.
J. Aleksa’s term of office of 12 years as the Minister of Agriculture was longest in the prewar period. J.Tubelis, who worked first as the Minister of finance and later as the Prime Minister has also contributed greatly to the enhancement of Lithuanian agricultural sector. We should also not forget the only farmer in the charge of the Minister of Agriculture, the agronomist Stasys Putvinskis-Putvis who held this position in 1935-1938. He particularly focused on strong links between the Ministry and farmers and their organizations. Still another noteworthy minister of Agriculture was Mykolas Krupavicius, who was main architect of the radical land reform announced in 1922.
On June 15, 1940 the Red Army of the Soviet Union invaded and occupied Lithuania. Two days later the occupying power appointed so-called “People’s Government”. The minister of agricultural in this “government” was the agronomist Matas Mickis who was one the 20 members of the Lithuanian delegation who participated in the meeting of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR which has sealed the annexation of Lithuania to the Soviet Union. The Soviet propaganda told that the delegation brought “the sun of Stalin” from Moscow to Lithuania. The occupation of 1940 destroyed the market-oriented structure of the Lithuanian agriculture, radically changed the structure of land ownership and use and started introducing soviet agricultural structures.
So-called “People’s Seimas(Parliament)” elected in rigged elections under the direct supervision of the authorities of the occupying power soon adopted an illegal declaration which declared land to be “the property of the entire people”(i.e. the state property). On August 26, 1940 the Ministry of Agriculture was renamed “the People’s Commissariat of Agriculture” started implementing the Soviet land reform which in the first stage foresaw the distribution of land taken from larger farms (without any compensation to former owners) among smaller and poorer farmers and agricultural workers. The main aim of the reform was to sow discord among the farmer and rural population of Lithuania and to expand the support basis for Soviet policies. The land reform, the implementation of which lasted until November 1940, redistributed the land area comprising 15% of the Lithuanian territory. In the fall of 1940 it became more and more apparent that long term Soviet policy in Lithuania aim at forcible collectivization which was especially abhorred by Lithuanian farmers who since times immemorial lived and worked on individual farms. The main administrative tool used to promote forced collectivization was tax policies, whereby the Soviet state established so heavy tax obligations for farmers that it was no way to fulfill, however farmers having tax arrears were severely punished by Bolsheviks. Even farmers who got land from the Soviet state turned desperate from Soviet tax policies and fear of impending collectivization, some of them even started to give land plots “donated” to them by the Soviet authorities during the Soviet land reform. In June 1940 Soviet conducted the first large scale deportation of Lithuanian to Siberia, which included many farmers, mostly larger ones. About 3500 of the most skilled and enterprising farmers were deported.