Baltic state annuls 'red' degrees

January 17, 1997

Lithuania's parliament has declared invalid degrees awarded by Communist party colleges during the Soviet period.

The decision, described by the speaker of the parliament or Seimas, Vytautas Landsbergis, as a "matter of special urgency", was taken just before the parliament rose for its Christmas recess.

"Adopting this resolution will be like tidying up before Christmas," Mr Landsbergis said.

The decision reverses one taken in 1995 by the then ruling, leftwing Lithuanian Democratic Labour Party, which had decided that the degrees from the Communist colleges would remain valid. The LDLP decision was strongly criticised at the time not only by right-of-centre opposition politicians, but also by the rectors and academic councils of Lithuania's universities and higher education institutions.

During Soviet times a degree from a party college was the key to a leading post in the administration. But in the opinion of Lithuanian academics the courses were ideologically skewed and devalued degrees awarded by the country's "real" universities.

Two months ago in elections to the Seimas there was a massive swing to the right and political power returned to the right-of-centre activists who had led Lithuania's campaign for independence in the late 1980s.

The decision to annul the "Communist" degrees was accordingly passed by an overwhelming majority of votes.

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