Volume 23, No.1 - Spring 1977
Editor of this issue: Thomas Remeikis
ISSN 0024-5089
Copyright © 1977 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.


Following the example of the Moscow-based Public Group to Promote the Implementation of the Helsinki Agreements in the USSR, founded in May of 1976, and a similar group founded in the Ukraine on November 9, 1976, the Lithuanian Public Group to Promote the Implementation of the Helsinki Agreements was announced on November 25, 1976, in the apartment of the leader of the Moscow group Yuri Orlov. The Lithuanian group of five represents a coalition of the principal dissent movements — liberal, religious, nationalist, minority — currently active in Lithuania. It includes a scholar-poet (Tomas Venclova), a poetess and participant of the postwar national resistance (Lukauskaitė-Poškienė), a priest (Rev. Garuckas), civil rights activist (Petkus), and a Jew (Finkelshtein),

The initial papers released by the Lithuanian group during a press conference in Moscow are presented below. Also included is the statement of Tomas Venclova, who, subsequent to the announcement of the group, was permitted to leave Lithuania. (For additional documentation of dissent and violations of human rights in Lithuania, consult the following publication: The Violations of Human Rights in Soviet Occupied Lithuania: A Report For 1976, available from the Lithuanian American Community, 708 Custis Road, Glenside, PA 19038 USA.


Announcement of Formation and a Statement

We, Tomas Venclova, Father Karolis Garuckas, Ona Lukauskaitė-Poškienė, Viktoras Petkus, Eitan Finkelshtein, announce the formation of a Lithuanian Group to Promote Implementation of the Helsinki Agreements in the USSR. The aim of the Group is to promote the observation and fulfillment of the humanitarian articles of the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. The Group intends to concentrate on those articles which relate to human rights and basic freedoms, including freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief, and also contacts between people (the reunification of families, meetings with relatives, residence in other countries, etc.).

We are prepared to accept statements from individuals, groups, and organizations on matters relating to violations of the (humanitarian) articles of the Final Act on the territory of Lithuania, relating to Lithuania or specifically to Lithuanian problems.

We hope, that the participant states of the Helsinki Conference will consider that the contemporary status of Lithuania was established as a result of the entrance of Soviet troops onto her territory on June 15,1940, and will pay special attention to the observance of humanitarian rights in Lithuania.

November 25, 1976

* * * *

October 19,1976 in the city of Vilnius, were arrested two of its residents — Jonas Matulionis (born in 1933) and Vladas Lapienis (born in 1906) — on charges of the dissemination and printing of religious and so called libelous literature.

On the same day, Jonas Matulionis' apartment was searched. During the search, several copies of the type-written journal The Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania was confiscated.

The Lithuanian Public Group to Promote Implementation of the Helsinki Agreements announces that the arrests of J. Matulionis and Vladas Lapienis are a violation of Principle VII of the first part of the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Tomas Venclova,
38-60 Požėlos, Vilnius 

Father Karolis Garuckas, 
Priest of the village of Ceikiniai, Ignalina rayon.

Ona Lukauskaitė-Poškienė,
32-37 Kleinerio, Šiauliai. 

Viktoras Petkus,
16-4 Garelio, Vilnius. 

Eitan Finkelshtein,
21 Liepos, 10-10, Vilnius.

Document No. 1: On the Situation of Two Lithuanian Catholic Bishops

Two Catholic bishops in Lithuania — Julijonas Steponavičius and Vincentas Sladkevičius — for a long time have been removed from pastoral duties and are in exile.

Both were ordained as bishops in complete accordance with Catholic rites for which Vatican approval was obtained.

The appointment of J. Steponavičius was approved by the Council on Religious Affairs under the Council of Ministers of the USSR, and for six years he fulfilled his pastoral duties both as administrator and as bishop of Vilnius. In 1961, Rugienis, who was in charge of religious matters for the Council of Ministers of the Lithuanian SSR, announced to Bishop Steponavičius orally that the Soviet authorities no longer wished him to serve as bishop and that he was instructed to leave Vilnius for Žagarė — a small settlement in another diocese. Bishop Steponavičius refused to obey this illegal order, but they forced him to move to Žagarė by taking away his passport and refusing to give him a residence permit for Vilnius.

Since then fifteen years have passed, but Bishop Steponavičius continues to live in Žagarė and to work as a pastoral assistant — (he is a pensioner who is helped by the local dean and he does not receive a pension.) The duties of the Vilnius Archdiocese are fulfilled by a priest who has been "temporarily" named by the Soviet authorities, Česlovas Krivaitis, who has not been ordained as bishop.

After Bishop Steponavičius turned to the Soviet authorities in 1972, rejecting his illegal and wholly unjustified exile, he was called in by Tumėnas, the man ir charge of religious affairs for the Council of Ministers of the Lithuanian SSR, who told him that his situation has not changed in the slightest because he had "not reformed." In 1975, 65 priests (out of 100) in the diocese signed a collective letter to the Soviet authorities calling them to turn their attention to the unbearable situation of Bishop Steponavičius which is in blatant contradiction with the spirit and letter of the Helsinki Agreements, and asking them to return him to the conduct of his duties. They never received an answer to their letter, and Bishop Steponavičius remains, as before, at Žagarė.

Bishop V. Sladkevičius, who received the bishop's stole from Bishop Teofilis Matulionis in 1958, for all practical purposes was not allowed to assume his pastoral duties in the Diocese of Kaišiadorys which had been given to him by the Vatican, since in 1959 he was sent, in a manner similar to Bishop Steponavičius, to the little village of Nemunėlio Radviliškis which is located in another diocese. Until now only his place of exile has changed — now he lives in the little village of Pabiržė, where he also works as a parish assistant. His appeals to the Soviet authorities also remain unanswered since he has several times refused suggestions for "sincere cooperation" with the organs of the KGB.

The Diocese of Kaišiadorys, as well as the Archdiocese of Vilnius, for the last 17 years have been "temporarily "ruled by priests, appointed by the Soviet authorities, who do not have the bishop's stole. Tumėnas, the man ir charge of religious affairs under the Council of Ministers of the Lithuanian SSR, explained to Bishop Sladkevičius that his situation cannot change until he adopts a common language with the Soviet authorities, but they can't find a reason to put him on trial.

The forced detention of the Bishops Steponavičius and Sladkevičius in exile without legal basis of any kind, and their prolonged separation from their pastoral duties are a contradiction of points I, III, VIII of the Declaration, the principles of which must direct (the actions) of the participant states of the Helsinki Conference.

Document No. 2: Soviet Decree on the Status of Religious Organizations

On July 28, 1976, after the Helsinki Conference, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Lithuanian SSR approved (the decree) "The Status of Religious Organizations."

Since the majority of the articles of this Decree are aimed at diminishing the freedom to practice religion and at repression of a normal religious life, which is in obvious contradiction to the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, we consider it essential to bring this to the attention of the governments of the participating states of the Conference and to the notice of world opinion.*


Washington, D.C., February 24, 1977

The announcement of the formation of the Lithuanian Group to Promote Implementation of the Helsinki Agreements was made on November 25, 1976 and shortly thereafter was announced at a press-conference held in Yuri Orlov's apartment in Moscow. At the present time, the Group consists of 5 people who have all signed the Announcement. We are people of various ages and backgrounds, with differing opinions and, finally, different ethnic backgrounds — four Lithuanians and one Jew.

We are united in one respect: a desire to achieve in a legal and open manner observation of the humanitarian articles of the Helsinki Agreement which in Lithuania are violated not less, and sometimes even more often, than in other republics included in the USSR. Respect for the signed Agreement and for human rights, in our view is an absolutely essential condition for the health of the international situation and of the internal atmosphere in the country. Although we are only a voluntary association of people who think in a similar fashion, we have grounds to believe that our opinion is shared by many other people in Lithuania who for one reason or another cannot express it openly.

Now, I — one of the five members of the group — have the opportunity to be in the West. I engaged in the struggle for the right to leave the USSR long before the formation of the Group. After its formation, all of a sudden this right became a reality. My departure is temporary in nature. I was given a Soviet passport which is valid for five years, and in Lithuania I have left my family behind. It is understood that I continue to be a member of the Group, and I intend to represent its interests in the West. In this I see my human and civic duty. Everything which I am prepared to say in the West I would have said — and have already said — in Lithuania.

According to information which I now have, one of the members of the Lithuanian Group, the seventy-year-old Ona Lukauskaitė-Poškienė, on January 11, 1977, was warned in the procurator's office of the city of Šiauliai about her activities.

Attempts to frighten her continued for about 3 hrs. Since the members of the Moscow and Ukrainian groups have undergone repression, it is very probable that this will be done in Lithuania also. I ask that international public opinion pay close attention to the fates of these four members of our Group: Ona Lukauskaitė-Poškienė, Father Karolis Garuckas, Viktoras Petkus and Eitan Finkelshtein. I also would like to express my protest about the arrests of our friends in Moscow and in the Ukraine.

At first, the Helsinki Agreement evoked a certain pessimism in Lithuania since it seemed that it would only confirm the European status quo, and that the humanitarian articles would be, even under the best circumstances, no more than good intentions. In connection with this, we decided to document those cases in which the humanitarian articles of the Agreement are violated and to bring them to the attention of world opinion. Now we feel that such documentation and information may often help specific people and may also serve the cause of human rights and broader freedoms in Eastern Europe, including Lithuania. Therefore, the Helsinki Agreement now evokes in us considerably more optimism, especially if Western governments will show interest and a strictly principled approach to the defense of human rights. In this sense we expect much from the conference at Belgrade.

Our Group has published two documents and one announcement about an arrest in Lithuania of two people who were accused of so called anti-Soviet activities. As a supplement to these documents, I would like to tell about some other instances known to our Group and about some trends in our work.

First of all, I must say that many people in Lithuania are brought to trial for expression of their views and at present are imprisoned, usually outside Lithuania. This is a very serious violation of human rights. I am now unable to name all of them. I will mention only Nijolė Sadūnaitė who is now in camp and Sergei Kovalev whose trial is known to all the world and which took place already after the signing of the Helsinki Agreements.

The poet and architect. Mindaugas Tomonis, openlv expressed his disagreement with officially accepted views in the USSR: he refused to restore a monument to the Soviet army and then turned to the Central Committee of the Lithuanian Communist Party, demanding greater freedom and observance of human rights. After this he was subjected to treatment in a psychiatric hospital. On November 5,1975, upon leaving the hospital, he died under the wheels of a train in mysterious circumstances.

Other people have been subjected to forcible treatment in psychiatric hospitals. For example, a resident of the city of Panevėžys, Pukhlyakov, turned to our Group and said he had been forcibly treated only because he had written complaints about abuses by the local authorities.

In many cases, people who do not agree with the official way of thinking are subjected to other types of persecution. One of these is known to us as "the case of the boys." In 1976, Vytautas Bogušis and four of his friends were expelled from the last class of high school for being interested in religion, Lithuanian history, and Russian dissidents. They were expelled by order of the school director who took his orders from the KGB. They were expelled in a flash without a vote of the faculty and in their absence. Now these boys are in a difficult situation and are being pressured by the organs of the KGB.

Many other instances are known of pressuring priests who fulfill their pastoral obligations. The priest of the village of Paberžė, Stanislovas Dobrovolskis, known for the independence of his sermons, at the end of 1976 was called in by the KGB in Vilnius, where he was threatened with being transferred to a distant parish. The priest of the village of Viduklė, Alfonsas Svarinskas, in 1976 was sentenced and fined because he organized religious processions which supposedly blocked street traffic, although Viduklė is a small village with hardly any street traffic.

Not only the rights of Catholics are infringed upon, but also those of other religious communities. The authorities directly explain to people what they can and cannot do in the synagogue; for example, it is forbidden to commemorate those who died in the Arab/Israeli War. Members of religious sects are subjected to particular persecution. A resident of Vilnius, Vasilev, a Christian pentecostal, came to our group saying that administrative persecutions had driven him to decide to emigrate from the Soviet Union.

Emigration from Lithuania in the context of reunification of families or human contacts is also extremely difficult. I will mention an instance with Kęstutis Jokubynas. This linguist, who is a polyglot, spent seventeen years in camps; he has already for a long time unsuccessfully struggled for the right to emigrate to Canada where his brother lives. Many instances are known of members of religious sects, whether they be Lithuanians, Jews or other inhabitants of Lithuania, receiving refusals — without any motives — to their appeals for visits to relatives abroad. Sometimes this refusal is accompanied by expressions of ridicule.

At least several thousand Lithuanians who, after the Second World War participated in the partisan resistance against Soviet authority and served sentences in camps, cannot settle even in their own country, since the militia refuses to give them residence permits for Lithuania. Many of them are forced to live in Latvia close to the borders of Lithuania. Even if one assumes the point of view of the authorities and considers that these people at one time violated the law, they are being punished twice for the same crime. Such limitation of the freedom of movement is a serious violation of the Declaration of the Rights of Man, and the spirit and letter of Helsinki. The rights of Lithuanians who are living beyond the borders of Lithuania -- in Latvia, Byelorussia, the Kaliningrad districts of the RFSFR, Siberia, and also, for example, in Moscow — are being infringed in that they do not have Lithuanian schools there or any possibility for cultural activities. In many of these places Lithu-live in compact groups, and organizations or at least schools would be possible for them and extremely desirable. Lithuanian schools existed before the War on the territory of present day Byelorussia, Latvia, etc.

All this I can already say today, although our group was formed quite recently. I hope that I can, in the future, be informative about possible violations of the Helsinki Agreement in Lithuania or in connection with Lithuania or specifically Lithuanian problems.


*  Appended here is the Russian-language text of the decree. It is omitted here because the text is essentially the same as of the RSFSR decree, English translation of which is available from Radio Liberty Research, 155/76, March 31, 1976.