Volume 33, No.4 - Winter 1987
Editor of this issue: Antanas V. Dundzila
ISSN 0024-5089
Copyright © 1987 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.




Lithuania, the largest of the three Baltic states, was forcibly annexed by the Soviet Union as a constituent republic of the U.S.S.R. in 1940 after having enjoyed independence between the two World Wars. The United States does not recognize this forced incorporation of Lithuania into the U.S.S.R.

Lithuania is subjected to the same centralized rule, the same Constitution and judicial system, the same restrictions on civil and political liberties, and the same police controls as the republics of the Soviet Union. The non-Lithuanian segment of the population, now estimated at about 20 percent, has been growing in recent years as a result of official settlement policy.

As in the other Baltic states, the standard of living in Lithuania is somewhat higher than the Soviet average. Agricultural and industrial production increased in 1986, but Soviet redistribution policies continued to force down Lithuanian living standards toward lower all-union levels.

Official disregard for human rights in Lithuania continued in 1986. Soviet authorities continued their campaign against human rights activists and against the Roman Catholic Church, which is preparing for the 1987 celebration of the 600th anniversary of Christianity in Lithuania.


Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

a. Political Killing

Although Lithuanian activists have on occasion died in Soviet custody, it is often impossible to prove official responsibility for the deaths of persons involved in human rights activities. On February 6, 1986, Father Juozas Zdebskis was killed in a mysterious car accident which reminded many of the 1980-81 deaths under similar circumstances of other priests involved in human rights activities. Zdebskis had been warned on several occasions by Soviet officials to cease his work for the Catholic Committee for the Defense of Believers' Rights.

b. Disappearance

There were no known instances of permanent or prolonged disappearance.

c. Torture and Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

Political dissidents are frequently mistreated during interrogation or confinement in labor camps, prisons, or psychiatric hospitals. Persons accused of publishing or distributing underground publications receive harsh sentences, including terms in prisons or labor camps, exile, or commitment to psychiatric hospitals. The typical charge is "anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda." For example, Lithuanian Helsinki Group member Victoras Petkus, imprisoned for human rights activities in 1977, has reportedly been in bad health since serving a term in a labor camp in 1983-84. There has been no direct news of Petkus since August 1983, but the 1986 release of Anatoliy (Natan) Shcharansky, who shared a cell with Petkus for 16 months in their sentences, provided added information as to Petkus' unhealthy condition at that time.

Lithuanian activists continue to focus on the August 22, 1985 attack on Father Vaclovas Stakenas, a member of the Catholic Committee for the Defense of Believers' Rights. The attack has been compared to that which resulted in the death of Father Popieluszko in Poland in 1984.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The provisions of Soviet law are so broadly worded that they have been used to prosecute persons exercising basic human rights.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

As in the Soviet Union, the Communist Party subverts constitutional guarantees of the objectivity and independence of the judicial process in political cases. The self-determined "compelling needs of the State" override the rights of a defendant.

f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

Informer networks, censorship of mail, electronic monitoring of telephones, and jamming of foreign radio broadcasts enable government authorities to interfere in nearly every aspect of personal life. Constitutional guarantees to the contrary, Soviet investigative agencies do not abstain from forced entry and illegal searches. Contacts between Lithuanians and foreign visitors are strongly discouraged, and those who maintain such contacts are subject to harassment by the authorities.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for most internationally accepted political liberties, provided that their exercise does not challenge or differ from the interests of the party and State. As is shown by the frequent imprisonment of religious leaders, human rights activists, and those involved in underground publications, Soviet officials have little respect for freedom of speech and press, The degree of their sensitivity to uncontrolled printing operations was revealed in a January 21 report in the newspaper Sovyetskaya Kultura regarding the discovery of a 7-year-old underground printing operation in Gargždai in northwest Lithuania. Five persons involved were arrested, tried, and sentenced for up to 3 years for having printed religious cards, calendars, and prayerbooks — all designated by the authorities as "contraband." Underground publications which appear regularly include the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania, Ausra (Dawn), Tautos Kelias (The Path of the Nation), Lietuvos Ateitis (Lithuania's Future), and Perspektyvos (Perspectives).

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The right to associate freely is provided for in the Constitution, but the authorities strictly control all associations and organizations.

Soviet labor laws and practices are enforced in Lithuania. Although the Constitution guarantees all Soviet citizens the right to form trade unions, any efforts by workers to exercise this right independently of state-sponsored and controlled unions have been brutally repressed. Given Soviet concern that the ideas of the Polish Solidarity trade union movement might spread, this has been especially true in Lithuania, which has close historical ties to Poland and the Catholic Church.

c. Freedom of Religion

Despite constitutional guarantees, religious activists are subject to systematic harassment. Soviet authorities have apparently mounted a large-scale assault on all religious activists not controlled and sponsored by the State, with special emphasis on the Lithuanian Catholic Church. Soviet officials reportedly have taken control of church committees and excluded priests from some of these bodies. Because of officially imposed limits on admissions to Lithuania's only theological seminary, over 100 parishes are said to be without a permanently assigned pastor. Children are routinely harassed to deter them from attending church services. In school the children of believers are sometimes forced to join atheist organizations on threat of punishment. Catholics attending religious festivities have been interrogated and physically abused, and historic shrines and artifacts have been desecrated.

Because of the difficult conditions created by government reprisals and threats, the group calling itself the Lithuanian Catholic Committee for the Defense of Believers' Rights has been forced to go underground. In the last 3 years, three members of the group have been convicted of anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda or disrupting public order. Fathers Jonas Matulionas, Alfonsas Svarinskas, and Sigitas Tamkevicius are still in prison. A young Catholic student, Roman Žemaitis, was tried and convicted with Matulionas and is serving 2 years in a labor camp.

Despite these convictions and continuous attempts to suppress its activities, the Catholic Church remains active and vigorous. The 70th issue of the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania (dated April 23,1986) carried a 1985 protest from 127 Lithuanian priests to General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Gorbachev which charged the Soviet regime with failure to comply with Lithuanian law, the Soviet Constitution, Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and Section VII of the Helsinki Final Act. They specifically criticized Soviet actions which "morally terrorized" children of religious parents for attending church, suppressed church rites and religious education, controlled the appointment of priests and bishops, and prosecuted activist priests and believers.

Another attack on Soviet policies surfaced in a November 11, 1985, declaration from the bishops and administrators of several Lithuanian dioceses who decried the lack of catechisms, Bibles, and other religious materials resulting from official restrictions.

The Lithuanian church (comprising both coopted officials and unofficial activists) is busy with preparations for the 1987 celebrations marking the 600th anniversary of Christianity in Lithuania. There is hope that Pope John Paul II might attend. Several large gatherings are planned, although there is fear that Soviet authorities might restrict or totally forbid them, as has happened in the past for smaller religious festivities.

The officially controlled press in 1986 criticized Eastern cults, such as Zen Buddhism, for their evil influence on Lithuanian society. One reason for this publicity was the 1985 murder of an Uzbek movie actor, director, and karate champion in Vilnius by a teacher of mysticism and his associates who were traveling in Lithuania among their devotees. The press has also cited Islam and the Hare Krishna sect as posing a danger.

Several small, unregistered Protestant sects have also been the object of severe Soviet harassment including threats that young children will be taken away from religious parents.

d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

Emigration from Lithuania has virtually stopped during the last 3 years. Although many Lithuanians have close relatives abroad, Soviet authorities use various vague phrases, such as "against the interests of the State," in order to refuse emigration requests. The authorities try to deter people from even applying to emigrate by threats of dismissal from employment, psychological harassment, and alteration of the procedures for exit visa applications. One Lithuanian, whose claim to American citizenship is recognized by the United States Government, is Vytautas Skuodis, a member of the Lithuanian Helsinki Watch Group. Skuodis has been serving a sentence of 7 years in labor camp and 5 years in internal exile since 1980 in connection with his human rights activities.

Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

The Communist Party attempts to direct and control all political, economic, cultural, and social developments in the Soviet Union. It is defined in law as the "leading and guiding force of Soviet society" and is the only political party that is tolerated.

Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

Rejecting foreign criticism of its human rights record, the Soviet Government argues that it fully protects all internationally recognized human rights. It will not permit any investigation of the human rights situation in Lithuania. Authorities have arrested Lithuanians who have attempted such investigations and have routinely harassed foreign visitors (and their local interlocutors) who show an interest in investigating human rights abuses.

Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Language, or Social Status

The relative homogeneity of Lithuania's population, its strong sense of national identity, and the binding force of the Lithuanian Catholic Church have helped to preserve many of the country's social and cultural traditions. Nevertheless, the disruptive effects of an antireligious ideology, forced collectivization, and a policy of industrialization have been severe. Rigid controls on cultural and religious expression have forced many Lithuanians into underground activity. A reduction in the amount of Lithuanian language instruction at the primary level in 1982, with a corresponding increase in the teaching of the Russian language and Russian history, has aroused fear that the groundwork is being laid for cultural and eventual linguistic Russification of Lithuania.

Non-Lithuanians total about 20 percent of the population, and their proportion has been growing in recent years, especially as Slavic migrants are drawn to the relative prosperity of Lithuania compared to their ethnic home areas within the Soviet Union.

Women nominally enjoy the same legal rights as men. An extensive system of day-care service and maternity benefits enable them to obtain and retain employment outside the home. However, women generally hold less remunerative positions in the professions than men.


The statutory minimum wage for the employment of children in 1986 was 16, and the standard workweek was 40 hours. The minimum wage was set as $112 per month at the official rate of exchange. According to the latest official data, the average wage was about $272 per month. Soviet law requires, in general terms, healthy and safe working conditions, but these conditions usually fall short of Western standards.


In 1972, the "Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania", clandestinely published in that country, began to reach the free world at irregular intervals. Primarily intended to keep Catholics in Lithuania informed of the situation of the Church there, these Lithuanian "samizdat" also serve as a constant appeal to the free world not to forget the plight of a people struggling against overwhelming odds to defend their religious beliefs and to regain their basic human rights.


At the end of October, 1985, the repeatedly postponed traditional seminarians' meeting at the beginning of the academic year with the Commissioner for Religious Affairs Petras Anilionis took place. In his talk, Anilionis set forth the important manifestations of "religious extremism" in the activities of the Catholic Church in Lithuania.

In the beginning, he touched purely on the internal affairs of the Church: last year's elections of the priests' councils. Anilionis, contrary to Canon Law, affirmed that the Bishops' Conference has the right to impose a standard set of rules on the priests' councils of all dioceses. Msgr. Kazimieras Dulksnys, Administrator of the Diocese of Panavėžys, and Father Donatas Valiukonis, Consultor of the Archdiocese of Vilnius, were publicly assailed for their objection to the uncanonical interference of the civil government in the makeup of priests' councils and colleges of consultors.

Msgr. Dulksnys was criticized for not restraining priests when they show some energy in the war against atheism, while immediately reacting when suspicion falls on priests in the moral sphere. This allegedly is the influence of the extremists, and such behavior on the part of the administrator, according to Anilionis, is an embarrassment for the Catholic Church.

Father Rokas Puzonas was assailed, because during the Feast of Pentecost, in Vepriai, while making the Way of the Cross, according to the Commissioner, he gave eight sermons. Here Anilionis cited the Liturgical Prayerbook where it says that during the Pentecost procession, one is supposed to join in spirit with Mary, the Mother of Jesus and the Apostles, praying in the Upper Room of the Last Supper. "But with whom did Father Puzonas invite people to unite in his Way of the Cross sermons? With the 'bandits suffering for anti-Soviet activity'," according to the lecturer, "and with the priest who introduced himself as having been born in Siberia!" Anilionis raved.

In a similar tone, the Commissioner spoke about the collecting of signatures at Christmas, 1984, in front of the church at Šakiai, on behalf of the release of Father Jonas-Kąstytis Matulionis. According to him, for women living as religious — the gatherers of these signatures — Christmas, the Feast of the Nativity of Christ is of no concern. They are more concerned about the convict Jonas-Kąstytis Matulionis. The collecting of signatures on behalf of a priest-convict, in the opinion of the Commissioner, has nothing in common with Christ or with religion. Such allegations by Anilionis constitute a call to change the Gospel of Christ into a gospel censored by the atheists which the future priests of Soviet Lithuania would zealously proclaim.

No less displeasure did Father Antanas Jokubauskas, pastor of Pociūnėliai, attract to himself for his sermons preached during the solemnities of Saint Casimir in SS. Peter and Paul Church and of the Feast of Our Lady of the Gates of Dawn in Vilnius. Allegedly, he urged the faithful not to honor Saint Casimir when there are new priest-convicts, Alfonsas Svarinskas and Sigitas Tamkevičius.

The lecturer falsely claimed that Canon Bronius Antanaitis brought Father Jokubauskas to the Festival of the Gates of Dawn. It was naive of the Commissioner to suggest that during Father Jokubauskas' sermon at the Lithuanian services, the greater number of listeners were Poles who were scandalized by the singing of Maironis' Lietuva brangi at the end.

Was Anilionis not presumptuous in claiming that the faithful of Vilnius had been scandalized by Jokubauskas' sermons? What right does an atheist have to speak in the name of believers?

In an effort to convince everyone that the atheistic government had not tried to interfere with renovation work on the Church of SS. Peter and Paul for the celebration of the Jubilee of Saint Casimir, the Commissioner stated that this could be proven by the correspondence of priests at the church with government agencies, and by the recorded telephone conversations of the priests (So what is the good of guaranteeing confidentiality of telephone conversations!)

The worse thing is that extremism has shown up even at the Kaunas seminary, Commissioner Anilionis explained. Such an extremist assault was the attempt to bring literature into the seminary which the Supreme Court of the Lithuanian SSR has acknowledged as anti-Soviet (i.e., J. Girnius' Žmogus be Dievo — Man Without God). The method of operation of the extremist priests is the same as that of extremist priests in Poland, for example; in Lithuania as well as in Poland, lay people are allowed to speak in churches under the administration of extremist pastors: In Viduklė, Nijolė Sadūnaite; in Josvainiai, Petras Paulaitis. This is allegedly a proof that all the activities of the extremists proceed according to secret instructions from centers of disruption in the US and Western countries. However, this "instruction" about which Anilionis was so annoyed, is not secret at all. Such a possibility is provided for in the Code of Canon Law (759-766).

In closing, Anilionis tried to show that the refusal of the Church to accommodate to the civil government has not and will not do religion any good.

It is sad that some seminary instructors see nothing in Anilionis' speech contrary to doctrine, as though Anilionis were not trying to make the seminarians atheists. But has anyone from the seminary administration explained that these "instructions" of the Commissioner are incompatible with the Gospel of Christ or Christian morals or Canon Law? By these talks, are not the souls of young candidates to the priesthood, still lacking foundations of firm faith, being crippled?


Lithuania's Praying

Pivašiūnai (Alytus Rayon)

On August 11, 1985, the militia kept stopping people traveling to the religious festival of the Assumption celebrated in Pivašiūnai. That day, they allowed no one to drive into town, rerouting automobiles out into the fields. On the streets and in the churchyard, KGB agents icily scrutinized everyone going to church. The church and churchyard were full of worshippers. His Excellency, Bishop Vincentas Sladkevičius also came to the devotions. The bishop concelebrated Holy Mass together with visiting priests, and preached the sermon, during which he emphasized the significance of Mary in our lives and her maternal protection, urging unreserved trust in her under all circumstances. "It is good for us to be here with our mother," said the bishop. In his sermon, he touched upon the fame of the Miraculous image of Mary in Pivašiūnai, known throughout the world. Even the Holy Father, speaking of Lithuania, mentioned it. (Trans. note — an allegedly miraculous painting of the Virgin Mary has twice survived the destruction of the Church of the Assumption, dating from 1648. The provenance of the painting is uncertain.)

Although the KGB did not interfere directly with worshippers, nevertheless, there was an air of tension in the churchyard. It was impossible to purchase any religious articles.

Butrimonys (Šalčininkai Rayon)

The District Chairman of Butrimonys warned Father Vytautas Pūkas through the chairman of the church committee not to organize any procession to the cemetery on All Souls' Day. Father Pūkas did not heed the warning. The atheists closely observed the procession, but did not interfere in the services directly.


At the end of December, 1985, the priests of the Rayon of Šalčininkai were summoned for a talk with local authorities. The traditional report about rayon economic achievements was followed by the Rayon Prosecutor's talk regarding "infractions of the law" and the possible penalties attached thereto. The Prosecutor threatened Father Jonas Vaitonis with penalties for trips to Byelorussia without government permission to minister to the faithful, and the pastor of Butrimonys, Father Vytautas Pūkas, for an All Souls' procession in the cemetery. The Prosecutor emphasized that in the future for teaching catechism to children, allowing children to participate in processions, to sing in choir and other "crimes", suitable penalties would be meted out to priests.


Since the very first days of the Soviet occupation, books in Lithuanian and other languages whose contents and . . . ideas hamper the occupying power and its local collaborators in the realization of their pernicious plans — to break down Lithuanians morally and then to denationalize them completely — are torn and sliced to shreds, burned, and otherwise destroyed.

The persecution and physical annihilation of the Lithuanian word continues today. The printed word is not always a 'transgressor' against the occupying power. It may pass the filters of threefold censorship (the author's, the editor's and the censor's). And yet it may be destroyed even after that process — by special order, if the author trespasses against the government in some way at a later date, or if he is generally disliked. This is what happened to the writer and poet Tomas Venclova, the courageous defender of human rights in Lithuania, who was forced by KGB persecution to emigrate to the U.S.

We present below the shameful documents, mailed to chief librarians and bookstore managers, that reveal the absence of logic, the 'culture' and morality of those who initiate similar orders and regulations. (The mailing date and number of the enclosed documents, the number of the order copy, and the address of the receiver are omitted.)

For office use, Copy No. . . .

The Board for Protection of State Secrets in the Press, Ministers' Council of Lithuanian SSR (LSSR Glavlit)

(Receiver of the letter and order)

Re: Removal of the books by Tomas Venclova from the network of libraries and book trade

We are sending you herewith order No. . . ., dated May 10,1978, of the Chief Board for Protection of State Secrets in the Press, Minister's Council of Lithuanian SSR, about the removal of the books of Tomas Venclova from the network of libraries and book trade. Please give appropriate instructions to libraries under your disposal so that they remove from their stocks without delay and write off in the prescribed order the books listed in the order.

B. Gurvičius
Deputy Chief of the Board

Order No. ...

May 10,1978

The following books of Tomas Venclova must be removed from the network of libraries and book trade:

Golemas, arba dirbtinis žmogus (Golem or the Artificial Man). Vilnius, Vaga, 1965. 272 PP., 8000 copies.

Kalbos ženklas (The Sign of Language). Poems. Vilnius, Vaga, 1972, 66 pp. 8000 copies.

Raketos, planetos ir mes (Rockets, Planets and We). Vilnius, State Publishing House for Belles Lettres, 1962. 167 pp. 10,000 copies.

M. Sliževičius
Chief of the Board

(The comment and the order were published in the unofficial journal, The Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania, March, 1979)


In 1986, 88 priests of the Kaunas archdiocese sent a statement, protesting Soviet anti-Catholic policies, to General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev. The statement was published in the December 8th issue of the underground Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania (No. 72). Full text follows:

In 1987, the Catholics of Lithuania will commemorate the 600th anniversary since the introduction of Christianity in Lithuania. During these 600 years, the Christian teachings have taken a deep root in our Lithuania. The USSR Constitution guarantees the freedoms of conscience and religion, but atheistic activists have nullified all that.

1. The children of religious parents are persecuted in schools for going to church publicly; they are forcibly enrolled into atheistic organizations against the will of their religious parents. Those who refuse to join, are threatened with being barred from advanced education. Those who do join, are forbidden to fulfill their religious duties, must hide, and are thus compelled to practice hypocrisy from their early youth. Our society is thus committing a painful error.

2. Various employees and teachers are not able to fulfill their duties in accordance with their convictions and conscience. Therefore, they are compelled to travel far and wide, where nobody knows them, in order to meet their religious obligations, to marry, or to baptize their children, at night so as to avoid being seen. Religious parents must speak against their conscience — atheistically, while article 50 of LSSR Constitution guarantees freedom of conscience. When a person with a responsible position leaves his wife and children and forms a new family, it is considered a personal matter and he is not punished for that, but when a state employee is seen publicly performing his religious duties, he is downgraded.

3. The USSR Constitution guarantees equal rights for all citizens. But what is the case in real life? The atheists have everything: press, radio, television, but religious believers are forbidden access to the media. Since World War II, only a portion of Catholic families were able to obtain prayerbooks and catechisms. All schools, from kindergartens on to universities, serve the atheists; meanwhile, teaching catechism to children of religious parents is forbidden even inside the church and priests are punished for such instruction. Religious believers are not allowed to organize excursions, to use cars or even taxis in order to get to religious festivals (e.g., to Šiluva, Žemaičių Kalvarija). Religious believers are not always permitted to invite a priest for the last rites in hospitals, or in nursing homes. It is not allowed to read the customary Catholic prayers for a deceased religious believer in the state mortuaries. We have mentioned only several facts.

4. According to article 50 of the LSSR Constitution, the Church is separated from the State, but the real situation is different. When bishops or administrators of dioceses appoint or transfer priests from parishes, the Commissioner, a representative of an atheistic government undermines the well-being of the Church by making the final decisions about appointments or transfers, the selection of candidates for bishops or administrators of dioceses, the appointment of instructors and the acceptance of candidates to the Theological Seminary. Since the authorities allow only a limited enrollment at the Seminary, there is a serious shortage of priests. The Commissioner of the Council for Religious Affairs also interferes in the Church's internal affairs by meddling with the composition of the clergy councils and colleges of consultants. Officials of the civilian government even interfere in religious services — why did this, and not that priest officiate at the Mass; why were prayers said for the suffering priests — martyrs . . . They even interfere in family life and meddle with the formation of church committees.

5. It was in Vilnius that Christianity was first introduced into Lithuania, and therefore the Cathedral of Vilnius is the cradle of Christianity in Lithuania. This church has been taken away from the religious believers. Saint Casimir is the Guardian of Lithuania, but the church bearing his name in Vilnius has been transformed into a museum of atheism. This is a mockery of the faithful.

6. The USSR has pledged to respect the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, article 18 of which states: "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes . . . freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance."

The USSR has also pledged to observe the Agreements of the Helsinki Conference, article VII of which says: "The participating states will conscientiously perform their obligations . . . contained in the treaties and other agreements of which they are part." That is why the above listed discrimination of religious believers is a crime against international obligations.

7. When priests and the faithful make public the wrongs and slander to which they are exposed, they are accused of slandering the Soviet Union and are put on trial. The priests Alfonsas Svarinskas, Sigitas Tamkevičius, Jonas Kastytis Matulionis, and some lay believers were sentenced for defending the rights of the faithful. We ask for their release.

We ask you, as the head of state, to remove the above-mentioned and other anti-constitutional ills and to correct the discrimination to which the faithful are exposed.