Volume 20, No.3 - Fall 1976
Editors of this issue: Antanas Klimas
Copyright © 1976 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.


KGB murder of Lithuanian poet-scientist charged

Charges that the Soviet KGB engineered the death of Mindaugas Tamonis, a 35 year old Lithuanian poet and scientist, and that the Soviet authorities were also conducting a "cunning, perfidious and consistent destruction of creative Lithuanians," were contained in an appeal to Western and Soviet intellectuals, published in the 20th issue of the samizdat publication Chronicle of the Lithuanian Catholic Church. The Chronicle published in Lithuania since 1972 has been known for its veracity and reliability.

The appeal, signed by "Lithuanians," was addressed to the following writers and intellectuals: Heinrich Böll, Günter Grass, Leszek Kolakowski, Eugene Ionescu, Andrei Siniavsky, Aleksander Solzhenitsyn, and Andrei Sacharov. They were asked to help in the "struggle for Lithuania's freedom" and for the "elementary human rights" as well as to protest against the "repression" and "destruction" of the Lithuanian intelligentsia.

Mindaugas Tamonis was forced into a psychiatric hospital in Vilnius last year for having addressed a letter to the Communist authorities, protesting against the "violation of human rights in Lithuania." Upon his release four months later, during which he was forcibly injected with insulin, he sent another letter to the Central Committee of the Lithuanian Communist Party, on June 25, 1975, in which he warned about the "threat of neo-Stalinism" and the "suppression of the Lithuanian culture." He was again forced into a psychiatric hospital on June 27th and released one month later. Ordered once more to a psychiatric hospital, he refused to comply. On November 5, 1975, he was found dead under a train, "destroyed by the mysterious hand of the KGB." He is survived by his wife and two small children.

The appeal mentions two more Lithuanians who perished under similar circumstances: Arûnas Tarabilda, 35, a graphic artist, in the fall on November 5, 1969, and dr. J. Kazlauskas, a famous linguist, in the fall of 1970.

The editors of the Chronicle warn that a similar fate may be in store for Tomas Venclova, 38, noted Lithuanian poet and translator of Joyce, Eliot and Frost. Mr. Venclova asked for permission to emigrate this spring, charging "discrimination" and "black-listing." His father, the late Antanas Venclova, was one of the leading figures of the communist literary establishment in Lithuania.

Addends: Full text of the Appeal to Western and Soviet Intellectuals; Letter of Tomas Venclova, asking for permission to emigrate.



A painful disaster struck the Lithuanian nation again: the talented poet and scientist Mindaugas Tamonis perished under a train on November 5 of this year. Once more the mysterious hand of the KGB has destroyed a creative man and a noble spirit who was only 35 years old.

Last year, Mindaugas Tamonis, head of the chemical laboratory of the Institute for the Conservation of Monuments and a doctoral candidate in technology, released an open statement in which he expressed a fervent protest against the oppression of the Lithuanian nation and demanded that it be granted elementary rights. For this bold protest M. Tamonis was imprisoned in the Vilnius Psychiatric hospital, Vasara street No. 5, and kept there for four months.

On June 25 of this year, M. Tamonis addressed a letter to the Central Committee of the Lithuanian Communist Party, voicing a warning about the threat of neo-Stalinism and protesting against the suppression of Lithuanian culture. On June 17th he was again forced into a psychiatric hospital. Unable to bear this misfortune of her son, his mother succumbed to a heart attack on June 19th.

A month later M. Tamonis was released from the hospital, but recently, i.e., prior to November 5th, he received another summons to report at the hospital, but he did not go there.

Throughout the entire period of his second return from the psychiatric hospital, M. Tamonis was ostracized and persecuted in various ways.

His family, a wife and two children, were left without a breadwinner; the nation had lost an idealistic patriot, a talented poet and scientist. Several dozen lines of courageous words of truth have cost M. Tamonis his life.

There are also other Lithuanians who have met a similar fate.

On 5 November 1969, exhausted by the constant struggle for the right to be a conscientious artist and a Lithuanian, the talented graphic artist Arûnas Tarabilda died from a trauma. This artist, who was also 35 years old, was interrogated at one time and then drafted into a tank unit, where, it is believed, he was subjected to radiation. Such was the end of his meaningful art which he had dedicated to Lithuania.

In the fall of 1970, the talented scholar Dr. J. Kazlauskas, professor of the Lithuanian language at the University of Vilnius, perished under enigmatic circumstances. This progressive and active scholar had also incurred the displeasure of the government for his daring theories in Baltic studies.

We could present additional facts of a similar nature.

The lips of the most talented and creative individuals, who have not severed links with the nation, are sealed in Lithuania today. Silence is the price one pays in order to exist. And those who dare to speak out and to seek a brighter future for their nation face major troubles; their life thread is rather unexpectedly torn.

The raising and maturing of creative and assertive individuals endowed with noble aspirations is extremely difficult under the conditions of oppression and conformity. Therefore their loss amounts to the nation's disappearance. Physical genocide is no more possible under the present conditions. It has been replaced by a cunning, perfidious and consistent destruction of the creative personalities of the Lithuanian nation. This is attested by the events of the recent years; it is also confirmed by the destiny of M. Tamonis. The Lithuanian nation, which for centuries had its own independent state, has created an original culture and amassed a considerable spiritual treasure, cannot be left at the mercy of the willful processes of history. Lithuania wants to take part in the global progress, it yearns to enjoy those rights and freedoms that other nations possess.

Dear friends of Lithuania! Your works imbued with talent and humanism are well known in Lithuania, too. Your ideas have met with the fervent approval in the hearts of many Lithuanians. Your names are pronounced here with respect and with love.

We ask you: help us in our sacred struggle for the freedom of Lithuania, for its brighter future, for the elementary human rights.

We ask you to protest against the wrongs that are being heaped upon us, against the suppression and cunning destruction of our intelligentsia, agains the tragic destiny of M. Tamonis and of other intellectuals.





This letter should not surprise you very much. I am a writer, a translator, a researcher in literature. I have labored extensively in all those areas. I think that I have served my fatherland and my nation rather well and that I have done enough work to earn the bread I have eaten during my lifetime. Nevertheless, I have accomplished much less than I was capable of, but the fault is not mine.

My father, Antanas Venclova, was a convinced communist. I have respected him and I continue respecting him as a human being. It was from him, among others, that I have learned to be loyal to my principles. But as I observed life and took part in it, I formed in my youthful days already an ideological system that was different from that of my father. My later experience merely served to confirm it. This was not a secret to my father or to anybody else.

The Communist ideology is alien to me and, in my view, is largely false. Its absolute reign has brought much misfortune to our land. The informational barriers and repressions imposed on those who think differently are pushing (our) society into stagnation and the entire country into regression. This imperils not culture alone. In the long run, this may also become dangerous to the state whose strengthening by such methods is intended. There is nothing I can change here. I could not do it even if I had as much power as you do. What I can and must do is to convey to you my opinion on those matters. And that is already something.

I have formed these views a long time ago and independently. For many years I have not written or uttered a single word contradicting these views. I take a serious view of the Communist ideology and therefore I refuse to repeat its formulas in a mechanical or hypocritical manner. By refusing to echo them I can only invite discrimination, which I have experienced in large amounts during my life.

I am barred from any more extensive and public literary, scholarly and cultural activity. In the Soviet Union everyone who is engaged in humanities, and not only in humanities, must keep constantly proving his loyalty to the reigning ideology in order to be able to work. This is easy for time-servers and careerists. It is not difficult for people who are sincerely convinced about the rightness of Marxism (although some of them might regard it as an irksome and humiliating procedure). I find it impossible.

Unfortunately, I do not know how to write for the 'desk drawer.' I seek contacts with the audiences and I will seek them under any circumstances. I would not be able and would not like to do any other work than in the fields of literature and culture. Yet the opportunities for cultural activity are becoming narrower for me with every passing year, and my very existence in this land is becoming meaningless and fraught with doubts.

All I have written here applies to my wife as well. She is also active in cultural work as a theatre director.

Please allow me, on the basis of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and of the current laws, to go abroad with my family. The example of my friend Jonas Jurağas and of my other friends indicates that this is not impossible. Since my wife is Jewish, we could also go to Israel. This decision is final. I also ask you not to resort to any discrimination against those members of my family whose views differ from mine and who remain in Lithuania.

Tomas Venclova

11 May 1975