Volume 32, No. 4 - Winter 1986
Editor of this issue: Antanas Dundzila
ISSN 0024-5089
Copyright © 1986 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.



The fallout from Chernobyl drifted over Lithuania on its way to Sweden and other areas. While in neighboring Poland measures were taken to protect the people, Lithuanians were left behind the curtain of silence. No protective measures were implemented.

At the height of the disaster, it was very difficult to place a telephone call to Lithuania. However, some contact was made. Speakers from Lithuania revealed that they found out what happened in Chernobyl from Polish radio or television, or from the Western radio stations. Others mentioned hearing about it from Estonians who can watch Finnish TV. The reactions of Lithuanian speakers were conflicting: Some were considerably upset, others dismissed the problem as unimportant. Many calls were obviously monitored and were cut off in progress.


Special to the LITUANUS Data Bank

For the last 14 years, people in Lithuania have been publishing underground literature. A dozen years ago, the appearance in the West of each new samizdat issue caused a mild sensation among diaspora Lithuanians. Today the arrival of samizdat is a matter-of-fact occurrence. Diaspora Lithuanians seem to take it for granted and the reaction of most Western media has been one of consistent indifference.

Still, the sacrifices and risks of the underground authors have not been in vain. The most important audience for Lithuanian samizdat is behind the Iron Curtain, specifically — though not exclusively — in Lithuania. Samizdat authors know that once their publications reach the West, the contents will be beamed back to Lithuania over Vatican Radio, Radio Free Europe, and Voice of America. These authors achieve much wider circulation of their ideas among the Lithuanian people than they could ever hope for through hand-to-hand dissemination of carbon copies of their material, and at less personal risk. An added benefit of using Western airwaves is that Lithuanian dissidents can expect to have summaries of some articles translated into Estonian, Latvian, Ukrainian, Russian, and the like, and transmitted to their Soviet neighbors, so that the seed of anti-Soviet dissent falls not just into the Lithuanian furrow.

There are many Lithuanian voices of dissent and resistance. A common theme that runs through various Lithuanian samizdat publications is the rejection of Soviet oppression and the defense of the Lithuanian national identity. This theme is central to a samizdat periodical, Juventus Academica, which made its way to the West recently. Its contents provide hints on current trends in Lithuanian dissident thinking; they are doubly interesting because the publication represents itself as the voice of youth.

From the contents, one can infer that the Juventus Academica now in the West is the second issue, and that it was written between mid-February and late July of 1985. Twenty-six typewritten pages (not including the title page and page 1, which are missing) contain an opening report by the board of the Lithuanian Youth Association (LYA); a letter of congratulations from the LYA to President Reagan on the occasion of his re-election; two short articles by the young Catholic poet Vytautas Mačernis, killed during World War II; an essay criticizing a Soviet film that depicts anti-Soviet Lithuanian partisans as criminals; a commentary on the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and a pair of poems by Catholic poetess Salomėja Neris written before she became an apologist for Stalinism.

The most interesting, and revealing, item in Juventus Academics is the report by the LYA board. The report is noteworthy in three respects. First, the LYA reveals a surprisingly detailed knowledge of events in the Lithuanian diaspora, especially those affecting Lithuanian youth. Second, the LYA makes a conscious effort, probably unprecedented since the appearance of post-Stalinist Lithuanian samizdat, to link itself officially with a Lithuanian diaspora organization. The LYA board declares that the Lithuanian Youth Association belongs to the Lithuanian World Youth Association (LWYA), a body created by emigre offspring at a 1972 Ohio convention. The LYA states that its interests are represented at LWYA meetings by an LYA chosen proxy. In a greeting to President Reagan, the LYA describes its link to the LWYA as "inseparable."

The LYA's apparent willingness to subordinate itself to a diaspora organization is unusual because the LWYA has never put forth such a request and current diaspora thinking defines the diaspora-homeland relationship in the exactly opposite way, with the diaspora subordinating itself to the Lithuanian resistance movement. The LYA's alignment with a diaspora organization seems to indicate that LYA members not only gaze intensely at the Western world — they actually consider themselves a part of it. The corollary to this is a complete rejection of the Soviet system.

The third aspect of the LYA report that draws the reader's attention is its statement of principles and plan of action. The LYA board declares for an ideology of human rights. According to the LYA, this ideology promotes individualism, tolerance, and pluralism. For non-Russian nationalities, the human rights ideology offers as one of its central precepts the right of national independence.
The relationship of the LYA to Juventus Academica is not defined. The placement of the LYA report at the beginning of the publication suggests, however, that Juventus Academica is at the least a semi-official voice of the association. This point is important for understanding the LYA's ideology, for though the LYA report stresses human rights and democracy, other articles in Juventus Academica promote a Christian outlook. On balance, the evidence suggests that the LYA includes among its principles an unassuming religious faith, exemplified by the following remark of one Juventus Academica contributor: "Even if we are indifferent, we must come to accept that religion is an inseparable part of every nation's spiritual culture, a part of our civilization."

The LYA's plan of action is quite modest, and is tailored to the realities of life under the Soviet regime. "Striving to create a free homeland, together with a new political-social structure, we must change our inner selves, become citizens, form irreproachable moral qualities." Thus the first step along the road to Lithuania's independence is the transformation of the individual. For the LYA, this means that the organization must first and foremost be a "spiritual association, an association of the heart — in pectoral." LYA board members' names are kept secret, overt symbols of membership forbidden, acts of bravado — unforgivable.

These self-imposed strictures on the LYA's activities reaffirm to Western observers the atomization of Soviet society under totalitarian rule. Given the Soviets' success in fragmenting society into millions of islands, all dependent on the mainland-state for their survival, the LYA's current strategy of fostering the internal growth of each island instead of trying to join the islands together is reasonable. However, it portends a protracted struggle.

It is impossible to say, even to guess, at the extent to which the ideas expressed in Juventus Academica represent the thinking of Lithuania's youth, Juventus Academica could be the work and the thinking of one or two people; it could be the work of three or four and the thinking of thousands. Despite this uncertainty, it is comforting to know that within Lithuania exist elements championing democracy and ethical behavior. And, though it is distressing to learn how constrained these youthful elements are in taking concrete actions, their patient, long range view of historical developments is an object lesson for Western observers.


Five men have been sentenced to terms ranging from one to three years for running an underground printing press, according to the January 21 issue of Moscow's Sovietskaya Kultūra. The press allegedly operated for seven years in the town of Gargždai, in the region of Klaipėda, northwestern Lithuania.

>Stanislovas Murauskas was sentenced to three years by the Supreme Court of the Lithuanian SSR. His partner, Donatas Jonutis received a two-year sentence. Zigmantas Murauskas and Alfonsas Vaičekauskas received two-year suspended sentences, while Stasys Mitkus was given a one-year suspended sentence.

An investigation by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Lithuanian SSR, Sovietskaya Kultūra writes, revealed that the largest consumers of the "contraband goods" — religious cards, calendars, and prayerbooks — were "church personnel." The author of the article, Maidanskaya, concludes, that Lithuanian priests contributed to the delinquency of the "culprits" by supporting their "criminal habits." She also mentions that a Russian member of the communist party and propagandist, Vyacheslav Nesterov, was also involved in producing religious cards.


Critical comments by American authors, following the U.S.-Soviet writers' meeting in Vilnius last November, have visibly upset the communist party establishment in Lithuania. Lionginas Šepetys, secretary of the Lithuanian communist party's central committee, made some angry references to these comments at the Eighth Congress of the Lithuanian Writers (Tiesa, Vilnius, March 14,1986):

The VIII meeting of the USSR-US writers in Vilnius, which was held for the first time in one of the Baltic republics, became a contribution to a better mutual knowledge. Together with other Soviet writers, members of the USSR Writers' Association were trying to tie the constantly breaking thread of dialogue with the American artists; they were looking for themes that would bring our nations closer together, while at the same time conducting debate on matters of principle. While in Vilnius, the U.S. writers did not spare good words about the spirit of the meeting and about the literature, theatre, and architecture of Soviet Lithuania.


Gintautas Iešmantas, the imprisoned Lithuanian poet, was named honorary member of the American Center of International PEN. President Norman Mailer sent notices to 11 imprisoned writers in nine countries informing them of their adoption. The American Center's Freedom-to-Write Committee ratified the 11, who thus join 10,000 poets, playwrights, editors, essayists, novelists, and translators in PEN's 86 centers in 55 countries.

The American PEN release describes Iešmantas, born 1930, as "Lithuanian poet and journalist due to begin a five-year sentence of internal exile (if his prison sentence is not extended) after completing a six-year sentence at hard labor that began in 1980. Iešmantas was convicted of 'anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda' for his role in samizdat journal Perspectives."


The resolution to intensify Russian language teaching, passed by Estonia's Communist Party Central Committee Bureau December 19, 1984, is being applied continuously. In a speech at the ECP Central Committee's XX plenum August 23,1985, ECP Central Committee Secretary Karl Vaino stated the following:

"In the republic, all work strengthening ties with the masses and their political education must be done with the population's multinational composition in mind. For this we need, in all respects, to secure the comprehensive participation of workers from all nationalities in the direction of societal and state affairs, which in practice assist in the deepening of the socialist democracy. It is necessary, in every way, to strengthen the Soviet peoples' unity and friendship, to elevate the culture of international communication, to develop the process of the mutual enrichment of cultures and to unite multinational collectives.

Yet parallel with this, it is especially important among the basic population to reach the understanding, that the Estonian people's historical fate is inseparably bound with the Soviet state — the USSR — and with the strengthening and development of the great Russian nation, that the republic's stake in our country's united economic complex must be enlarged, that the question of economic specialization and cooperation be understood correctly and that more attention be focused on Russian as a means for learning international communication."