Volume 28, No. 4 - Winter 1982
Editor of this issue: Jonas Zdanys, Yale University
ISSN 0024-5089
Copyright © 1982 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.



The World's Fair in 1900 was held in Paris. It was there that Lithuanians presented Lithuania to the world for the first time. Those Lithuanians, by participating in that Fair, sought to achieve the following:

(1) To demonstrate to the world Russia's prohibition against the use of Latin written characters in publications, in force since 1864 — after the unsuccessful uprising of 1861-1863 — and, through that demonstration, to encourage the world's surprise and outrage and thereby the abolishment of the prohibition; and

(2) To demonstrate that the Lithuanian nation was still alive, even though the Poles, the Russians, and the Germans already viewed the Lithuanian nation as already dead or in the process of dying.

The first reason, of course, also had political implications: the reestablishment of an independent Lithuanian state.

The Lithuanian decision to participate in the Fair demonstrates that the Lithuanian intelligentsia, though a hundred years had passed since the country had been absorbed (all of ethnographic Lithuania was seized by Russia after the third partition in 1795), was still alive as a nation and sought national freedom. The Lithuanian intelligentsia, at that time, was spread across three continents: Europe, Asia, and North America. In Europe, it existed, depending on location, under one of three prevailing conditions:

(a) in its enslaved country — Lithuania, or scattered throughout the enslaver's land — in Russia or its conquered territories;

(b) in Lithuania Minor, which had been and still was being Germanized; and

(c) in other European countries, especially Switzerland — if only temporarily — and in France.

In Asia, the intelligentsia also lived under Russian rule. It, therefore, strived to maintain among its outposts as strong a series of bonds as was then possible.

There exist publications about the Lithuanian participation in the Paris Fair, several of which are housed in the archives of ALKA — the American-Lithuanian Cultural Archives in Putnam, Connecticut. The Putnam collection includes, among others, the following:

(1) Albumas Lietuviškos Paryžiaus Parodos — An album of the Lithuanian exhibit in Paris — edited by Rev. J. Žilinskas and published in 1902;

(2) Periodicals, among which are the weekly Vienybė Lietuvininkų, published in the United States, for 1899, 1900, and 1901; and the monthly publications Ūkininkas, 1899, and Varpas, 1899, both published in East Prussia; and

(3) The Lithuanian Encyclopedia, vol. XXII.

By examining and comparing discussions of the Lithuanian exhibit in the Albumas, in the Encyclopedia, and in periodical articles of the day, one finds several differences and variances. Vienybė Lietuvininkų and the Encyclopedia offer the best descriptions of exhibit preparations, while the Albumas presents the best discussion of the exhibit and of the Fair.

Using the source material mentioned above, the preparations for the exhibit become clear, we learn about its preparers, about the Lithuanian intelligentsia of the day, and about the general mood of Lithuanians. We learn, too, about the scope of the exhibit and its effects and results because of encountered difficulties. Some of this information follows below.

As early as 1893, when the 1900 World's Fair in Paris was announced, Lithuanian priests in the United States — among them A. Kaupas, J. Žilius-Žilinskas, A. Burba, and others — established the Lauryno Ivinskio Lietuvių Europos ir Amerikos Draugystė, the Laurynas Ivinskis European and American Lithuanian Friendship Society. The Society took on the task of presenting at the Fair Lithuania's past and present, by that working to familiarize the people of other nations — especially those active in academic and cultural circles — with Lithuania, in the name of knowledge and enlightenment working to secure political goals. Those goals included, above all, as a first step the abolishing of the prohibition in Lithuania against the use of Latin written characters and the reviving of the Lithuanian press.

Many organizers, though, believed that so many years — seven — were not needed to prepare and exhibit for the Fair and the matter was postponed. The issue of Lithuanian participation at the Fair was raised a second time in 1899, in Zurich, by the Draugija Lietuviškos Jaunuomenės (the Society of Lithuanian Youth), whose leaders were A. Moravskis, Pr. Žitkevičius, and M. Kontautaitė. Žitkevičius wrote the following proclamation about the Fair:

"Lithuanian literature [publications] and newspapers are published under exceptional circumstances. Nowhere else in the world is there a nation like Lithuania, where each book, each writing published in the native language is a forbidden thing, where everyone reading a book written in Lithuanian, even of the most innocent content, is persecuted by representatives of the Czar, is shut up in prisons, or exiled to Siberia.

"For this reason, Lithuanian publications and especially newspapers are worthy of widespread public interest and can be one of the things attracting most attention at the Paris Fair in 1900. For us Lithuanians, the display of our publications in Paris, to which will come people from all over the world, will have such an importance that it will clearly demonstrate how barbaric are our oppressors, how the Czar's representatives cannot ignore our existence as a sovereign nation, cannot annihilate our language, our faith, our literature, and so on.

"This sort of demonstration of our vitality under Czarist rule to the whole world can be the quickest way for us to regain freedom of the press, if we only strive to use that opportunity, undertaking great efforts to use the most influential European newspapers. In addition, the collecting of Lithuanian publications for the Paris Fair would also have other beneficial uses, among them, after the Paris Fair, the using of that collection to create a Lithuanian national library. The 'Ivinskio Draugystė' has done nothing or has not managed to do anything, and there are only 1 1/2 years left before the Fair, so a committee has been created which has decided to resurrect and revive this matter and to use all its ability to make it live. If the 'Ivinskio Draugystė' has dissolved, or if some other committee created earlier for this purpose has also dissolved, then we have accepted the task of becoming initiators, to take everything into our own hands or to act as the conduit to ensure that this proposal will come to be. We understand that the efforts of a single individual or those of a few groups cannot suffice to complete such a large task, which will require at least several thousand French francs. But it can be accomplished if we work together and cooperatively solicit contributions.

"Therefore, countrymen, living in Lithuania, America, and other lands, to whom the concerns of our beloved Lithuania are dear, who understand the importance of this proposal, we invite you to this work; those who can offer contributions of money and all sorts of Lithuanian publications, send them. We, on our part, will not begrudge our burning youthful energy. Lithuanians, let us be men and together complete at least one wonderful thing!

The Committee"


The "Rūpintojėlis," the "Worrier;' as exhibited at the Paris Fair. Photo by J. Kriaučiūnas

At the end of this proclamation are listed addresses of where to send money, letters, and examples of Lithuanian publications.

This proclamation appeared in many Lithuanian newspapers, wherever they were published, and attracted the attention of all Lithuanians, especially that of the intelligentsia. Only those Germanized Lithuanians living in Tilsit, having heard, were against preparations for the Fair. Their pretext: Tilsit might be ignored or slandered and, if the Czar eliminated the prohibition against the Lithuanian press, those living in Tilsit would lose a source of income and profit because Lithuanian publications would be printed again in Lithuania. Several newspapers published in the United States and some Lithuanian groups in this country were also opposed, but the majority of Lithuanians supported the effort.

In the United States, through newspaper editorial staffs, who informed Lithuanian organizations and called meetings, was elected an influential committee to prepare for the Fair. The Chairman and Bibliographer was Father J. Žilius-Žilinskas; the Treasurer was J. J. Paukštis; the Secretary was P. Mikolainis; and members, who were to undertake various preparatory tasks, were Dr. J. Šliupas and Father A. Milukas. The election process continued from May to August 1899. There were, of course, a number of disagreements between Father Žilinskas and Father Milukas, on one side, and other committee members, on the other. The disagreements were personal and ideological, but the public did not mind that and contributed a significant sum of money to support preparations for the Fair.

The Committee of Zurich did not survive long, even though it received significant financial support, because some members aligned themselves with the Poles. When Žitkevičius moved to Paris, he again joined a committee preparing for the Fair. The committee included him, engineer K. Dobkevičius and J. Pautienius from Tilsit. Unfortunately, they were greatly occupied with their own affairs and had little time to spare for committee work.

In Prussian Lithuania a committee to prepare for the Fair was also established. It included J. Strėkys, M. Jankus, and J. Vanagaitis. The Paris Committee, with the agreement of the other committees, invited Dr. Jonas Basanavičius, who was living then in Bulgaria, to assist with Fair preparations, but he declined for reasons of health.

J. Bagdonas, editor of Ūkininkas and Varpas, traveled from Tilsit to Paris and contacted Paris Committee members and other Lithuanians. Discovering that little was being done about the Fair, he asked Dr. Daumantas, living then in London, to come to Paris and organize Lithuanian participation in the Fair. The organization "Želmuo" was active then in Paris, but its members were inclined toward Polish affairs and affiliations and wanted simply to add the Lithuanian publication exhibit to the Polish exhibit. Some members of that organization did not sever ties with the Lithuanians and eventually did provide some measure of assistance.

The Paris Committee worked closely with Dr. Daumantas. The chairman of the committee in the United States, Father Žilinskas, was at first quite unhappy with the appointment of Dr. Daumantas, still wanting to assign the preparations for the Fair to the "Želmuo" organization, but, seeing the support given Daumantas by other committee members and the successful beginnings Daumantas was having, Father Žilinskas relented and eventually also supported Daumantas.

According to the regulations of the time, an exhibit of publications had to be sponsored by a sovereign nation or at least by a publications agency. The Lithuanian exhibit could not be supported under the first because Russia would not sponsor it and the governments of Germany and France considered the Lithuanian issue political and would not offer sponsorship. The second was not practical because, presented in that way, under the sponsorship of an agency, the publications would not be held as important or representative, and for that reason no one might pay attention to the fact that the free press was prohibited in Lithuania. For these reasons, a place for Lithuanian publications had to be found elsewhere.

A place was found in the French Ministry of Culture's Ethnographic Museum in Trocadero Palace. That palace, built for the 1883 Fair (later remodeled and now the Cahillot Palace), stands several hundred meters from the Eiffel Tower, across a wide bridge that spans the Seine. The director of the Ethnographic Museum was Dr. Hamy, and he was in part convinced to allow a place for the Lithuanian exhibit by Polish writer M. Szeliga and by the Frenchmen Guidin Faucher, Professor of Egyptology Maspereau, Dr. Verneau, and by M. Landrin. A few of these people later assisted with the actual exhibit preparations.

It is necessary here to mention that new conditions had to be met: it was necessary to prepare a general Lithuanian ethnographic exhibit and include it in the publications section. The French Ministry of Culture also required that the exhibit not be used for any political ends.

The committees preparing for the Fair were not ready to construct an ethnographic exhibit and began to make hurried preparations. In Lithuania Minor, D. Žiaunius and Morta Žiauniūtė were asked to undertake preparations and to serve as Dr. Daumantas's assistants — Žiaunius as Treasurer and Žiauniūtė as Bibliographer. Together with the Lithuania Minor committee, they began to gather materials for the exhibit, both from Lithuania Minor and from Lithuania itself. They were joined in their efforts by a number of intellectuals living in Lithuania, among them K. Grinius, K. Kaunas, M. Viltrakis, Pr. Mašiotas, J. Vileišis, P. Višinskis, J. Antanavičius, P. Rimša, and others.

Many fine examples of ethnic materials were gathered, some of which had to be purchased. Those pieces were brought across the frontier from Lithuania to Tilsit by J. Lozoraitis, and Žiaunius and Žiauniūtė sent them to Paris, including with them pieces they had gathered in Lithuania Minor. Examples of Lithuanian publications were collected with similar zeal. Father Žilinskas concerned himself with collecting Lithuanian publications in the United States, benefitting from the assistance of the U.S. Lithuanian press. In Europe, the collection was administered by the Lithuania Minor Committee: Žiauniūtė collected Lithuanian publications printed in Latin letters, and Skėrys collected those printed in Gothic letters.

A catalogue of books collected for the Fair, and based on Father Žilinskas's lists, was published in French: Catalogue des Livres Lithuaniens. A small, limited-issue brochure about the prohibitions against the press and book publication in Lithuania was also published. Prepared by a Lithuanian student studying French by the name of Bernys, it was quickly distributed to sympathetic and trusted people. For political reasons, the French did not allow it to be distributed publicly.

The Committee selected a place from among three offered to mount the exhibit within the Trocadero Palace. It was in the center of the Palace, in a niche, near the right side of the stairs to the Palace's second floor. The exhibit's location was in a good spot, one easy to see and one which did not require large expenditures to prepare. Its only shortcoming was that it was not spacious: it was 10 meters long and five meters wide, on a platform raised one step above the floor.

On that platform was prepared a Lithuanian cottage 12 feet long, 9 feet wide, and 7 feet high, with three walls — the fourth being the entrance. In front, above the cottage, on a woven banner which decorated the front of the niche, was clearly written "Lithuanie," and on the columns along the sides of the niche, decorated with woven banners, were fastened many pictures and large photographs depicting Lithuania's rulers and leaders. The walls and ceiling of the cottage were lined with decorative beams. The cottage is described as follows in the Albumas:

"In the cottage itself, as decorations, were wall and ceiling beams and, between them, moss . . . On the back wall were painted two windows, decorated with painted flowers, one with six panes and the other, smaller one, with four panes. Above the windows, just below the ceiling, hung at least six portraits of saints, in frames or without them. On the wall between the windows was hung a beautifully carved towel rack, and on it hung a clean, long towel with tassel ends. On the left near the back was a clothes rack on which hung a farmer's clothes. On the right in the wall was a third window, and near the window was a cupboard with bowls, dishes, spoons, and alongside a churn. Near the left wall, in the corner, an old-fashioned many-colored basket; closer in, on a spring, hung a reed cradle covered with small pillows. Near the wall could be seen the side of a large farmer's stove, a bread oven with a chimney, other stove parts and utensils, and a hearth.

"In the corner, near the far and right walls, stood a table covered with a tablecloth. On the table stood a pitcher and a bowl. Around the table stood mannequins depicting Lithuanian types. In all there were six figures, four men and two women. Two middle-aged men sat on a bench behind the table."

The mannequins were arranged to depict a scene of matchmaking and are easily distinguishable: the bride, the bride's parents, the groom, the matchmaker, and a bit further on a male servant. The mannequins were dressed in that time's farmer's Sunday clothes, and the women, in national folk costumes. The servant wore work clothes, and on his feet were bast-shoes.


The Lithuania cottage exhibit at the Paris Fair from "Albumas Lietuviškos Parodos Paryžiuje"

On both sides near the entrance to the cottage, in glass cases, were Lithuanian publications — books and newspapers — and beneath them captions in French. Lithuanian newspapers published in 1900 were hung on wires. Books published in Prussia and printed in Gothic letters were in a bookcase suspended on a wall on the opposite side of the hall. A case with handicrafts and decorations stood near the entrance to the cottage. The products of cottage industries, models of farms and houses, and associated tools and accessories were in other cases, farther from the cottage, in the Museum's passageways. There were also displays of farm products: grains, yarns, spinners, and similar things. The walls along the entrance to the cottage were covered with various woven pieces and sashes, as were the walls near the other cases, on them and among them many photographs which depicted farm and cottage work: plowing, sowing, grain harvesting, weaving, and other activitites.

Several maps of Lithuania were displayed — historical, ethnographic, and economic. There were also maps of those countries in which Lithuanian books and newspapers were printed in Latin letters. Colored ribbons indicated the routes those publications had to follow to get into Lithuania: for example, from East Prussia, from the United States, from Switzerland.

The cottage's decorations and the arrangement of the entire Lithuanian exhibit were prepared by artist Žitkevičius. He even painted a Vytis, which for some reason was painted on a blue background. The Vytis was hung alongside the "Lithuanie" inscription. The mannequins, each of which cost 200 francs, were readied according to supplied photographs by Museum sculptor Herbert.

The Fair lasted from April 15 until November 1900. Preparations of the Lithuanian exhibit were completed a few weeks late, but there were countries whose preparations were many months late. There was not always a Lithuanian representative present at the exhibit, because there were too few available people.


A model of a Lithuanian farm, as exhibited at the Paris Fair. Photo by ], Kriaučiūnas

About $3000 were spent for the Fair. America's Lithuanians contributed $2163.64, and the Varpas editorial staff collected 1273.35 marks. The $400 difference was more than made up for by exhibit preparers and through contributions from Lithuanians in other countries.

When the Fair ended, part of the collection of books and newspapers was given to the French National Library, some books and a few of the handicrafts were donated to the Ethnographic Museum as a sign of appreciation for the assistance the Museum had provided during exhibit preparations, and the rest of the books were given to the Lithuanian Educational Society, which received them only in 1908.

Pieces sent for inclusion in the ethnographic part of the exhibit were returned to Tilsit, where some difficulties were encountered about paying customs duties even though the collection was accompanied by an explanatory letter from the Fair's governing board. It was even more difficult to return them to Lithuania, though they were carried across the border secretly in small numbers.

During the Fair, several lectures about Lithuania were held in Paris. The general public did not attend those lectures, which attracted only a small number of academics from several countries. The French press wrote about the Lithuanian exhibit, condemning the prohibition of the Lithuanian press and favorably reviewing the Lithuanian appearance. One of those was Le Realiste, a biweekly, which expressed surprise and dismay at the prohibition of the printing of Latin letters.The Polish Glos Wolny, published in Paris, wrote about the interest the Lithuanian lectures had generated among academics and intellectuals. The exhibit was also mentioned in the daily Tilsiter Zeitung, published in Tilsit.

The Exhibit's Accomplishments

The Lithuanian exhibit in Paris did not arouse the peoples of Western Europe to the awaited public condemnation of Russia because of its prohibition against the printing of Lithuanian books and newspapers in Latin characters. This was so because that matter was considered by most to be a political issue, and most did not wish to interfere. The prohibition was criticized only by scattered individuals. However, among academics and intellectuals who were interested in Lithuania, there was an expression of dismay at the prohibition and a call for its end. The exhibit was disliked intensely by the Czarist government and it reinvigorated its various persecutions in Lithuania, even during the time of the Fair.

The exhibit made Lithuania more visible and better known, demonstrated that the Lithuanian nation was not dead but alive — especially to the Russians, but also to the Germans and the Poles. To Lithuanians, and especially to its intelligentsia, the exhibit demonstrated that they could undertake joint efforts without regard to religious and ideological beliefs, without regard to where they happened to live: in Lithuania, in Russia, in Western Europe, or in the United States. The exhibit demonstrated that with shared effort even the greatest tasks could be done.