Volume 22, No.4 - Winter 1976
Editors of this issue: J.A. Račkauskas
Copyright © 1976 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.

Juozas Vaišnora, The Forty Years of Darkness. Translated by Joseph Boley. Published by Rev. Msgr. Joseph A. Karalius. Franciscan Press, Brooklyn, 1975.

This 60-page book describes one of the most unusual cases of cultural suppression of all times, namely the period from 1864 until 1904 when the Russian Tsarist government, then ruling occupied Lithuania, forbade the printing of Lithuanian books, newspapers and periodicals in Latin script. Since the Lithuanians, individually and en masse refused to produce, print and read Lithuanian books printed in the Russian, or Cyrillic, alphabet, there ensued the 40 years of educational and cultural darkness in Russian occupied Lithuania.

The book describes in realistic terms how this inhuman order came about, how it was carried out, how the printing of Lithuanian books was organized abroad, how the books were brought into Lithuania by clandestine means, and how they were distributed in secret. Most of the books were printed in neighboring Prussia; later many books were published in the United States. Not only ordinary books, but also prayer books, newspapers and journals were printed abroad and brought into Lithuania in the darkness of night by the resolute group of men known as book-carriers. Neither imprisonment, deportation to Siberia, nor financial fines prevented this indomitable band of book-carriers to give in. On the contrary, there were more and more of them, more and more books and periodicals were brought in and distributed.

In all this, there stands the giant figure of Bishop Motiejus Valančius (1801 -1875) who inspired, supported and organized this unusual distribution of tens of thousands of books throughout the whole country. He also wrote many of the books himself. The Bishop's word, spread around secretly, forbade all the Lithuanian faithful to read the "Lithuanian" books printed in Russian characters by the Russian administration. Even when given these books as gifts, people burned them right away, without even looking into them. After these 40 years of official darkness, the Russian occupiers had to give in; in 1904 the order was rescinded.

At the end of the book the reader will find a brief bibliography (pp. 57-58) and a list of the most important dates in Lithuanian history (p. 60).

The University of Rochester