LITHUANIAN QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
Volume 37, No.1 - Spring 1991
Editor of this issue: Antanas Klimas, University of Rochester
Copyright © 1990 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.
Scholz, Friedrich. Die Literaturen des Baltikums: Ihre Entstehung und Entwicklung = Abhändlungen der rheinisch-Westfälischen Akademia der Wissenschaften, Vol. 80. 1990. Düsseldorf, West-deutscher Verlag. 356 pp. 3 maps, hard-bound, (price 86 marks).
The author writes in the foreword (p. 9) that his primary goal is to show how the Baltic literatures originated and developed. The Baltic literatures had their start in 16th century religious literature and finally in the course of the 19th century they developed their own belles-lettres.
In the introduction (p. 16) the author limits himself to Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian literature, using the term Baltic not in the linguistic sense (which would exclude Estonian), but in the geographic sense, although he does exclude Finland from his survey. He believes he has the right to study these three literatures together because the Baltic countries shared a common fate, viz., with the exception of a small portion of East Prussian Lithuania all these countries were a part of the Russian empire from the beginning of the 19th until the beginning of the 20th century. In addition Scholz points out that the influence of the Baltic literatures in Russia and then later in the Soviet Union has been disproportionately great considering the small numbers of the Baltic populations (p. 19).
In the beginning of chapter 2 the author notes that in Estonia, Livonia, Curonia and Prussian Lithuania the translators and the authors of the early religious texts were for the most part German pastors who frequently had not been born and grown up in the Baltic and therefore knew the local languages to different degrees (p. 23). Therefore many texts contain language mistakes and the means of expression are heavily influenced by German. Scholz quotes in footnote (27) the interesting case of the Latvian demonstrative pronoun tas "that' which was used to translate the German definite article der, thus tas Kungs = der Herr 'the Lord.' This usage which is foreign to contemporary Latvian has been retained up to today in the old texts and songs of the Latvian Lutheran Church and is felt as a stylistic usage characteristic of the ecclesiastical-religious language.
The first book in Estonian, Luther's Small Catechism appeared in 1535 in Wittenberg. The translators and publishers were a certain Simon Wanradt, who was born in the Rhineland and a certain Johann Koell, who was apparently of Estonian origin. Two years after its appearance this Catechism was withdrawn from circulation and except for twelve pages which were found accidentally in 1929 no copies are known today. In the course of the counter-reformation the Jesuits tried to win back the Baltic nations to the Roman Catholic church and in 1622 in Braunsberg published Agencta parva Jn commodiorem usum Sacerdotum Prouinciae Liuoniae conscripta, which contains liturgical texts in Latin, Latvian, South Estonian, Polish and German. The first grammar of North Estonian was written by H. Stahl (Anführung zu der Esthnischen Sprach, Reval, 1637) and the first grammar of South Estonian (Observationes Crammaticae circa linguam Esthonicam, Dorpat, 1648) was written by Johann Gutslaff (died 1657).
The most important Estonian publication from the first half of the 18th century is the Bible translation by Anton Thor Helle (1682-1748) which appeared in 1739. By the same author a grammar of Estonian entitled Kurtz gefaszte Anweisung zur Ehstnischen Sprache was published in 1732 in Halle (p. 31).
Modern scientific grammars of Estonian begin with Eduard Ahrens' (1803-1863) Grammatik der Ehstnischen Sprache Revalschen Dialektes the first part of which, the Formenlehre appeared in 1843. The second edition which included also a Satzlehre appeared in 1853. In 1875 Ferdinand Johann Wiedemann published his Grammatik der ehstnischen Sprache, zunächst wie sie im Mittelstand gesprochen wird, mit Berücksichtigung der anderen Dialekte. For Estonian lexicography Wiedemann's Ehstnisch-Deutsches Wörterbuch (1st edition 1869, Reval [Tallinn]), (2d edition edited by Jacob Hurt, St. Petersburg, 1893) is of major significance (p. 32).
The first book in Latvian is a translation of the Catholic Catechism of the German Jesuit Peter Cannisius (1521-1597) which was published in Vilnius in 1585. The translator was probably Erthmann Tolgsdorff, a native speaker of the Old Prussian language. This was followed one year later by a Latvian translation of Luther's Small Catechism by Johann Rives which appeared in Köngsberg. An important role in the further development of Latvian was played by George Mancelius (1593-1654) who authored, among other things, a German-Latvian dictionary entitled Lettus (1638) and a Phraseologia Lettica (1638). But without doubt, as Scholz says (p. 35) the most important event at the end of the 17th century was the Latvian translation of the Bible by Ernst Glück (1652-1705), the New Testament appearing in 1685 and the Old Testament in 1689 (p. 35).
The first Latvian grammar Manductio ad Linguam Lettonicam facilis certa, monstrata (Riga, 1644) stems from Johann Georg Rehehusen. As Scholz remarks (P. 39, fn. 64) a facsimile edition with an English translation and complete commentary has been made by Trevor Fennell and published in Melbourne in 1982. In 1685 there appeared in Mitau the Erster Versuch/ Einer kurtzverfasseten Anleitung/ Zur Lettischen Sprache/ überreichet von Henrico Adolphi and in the same year in Riga the Gantz kurtze Anleitung Zur Lettischen Sprache / ans Tages Licht gegeben Von Georgio Dressell, the latter book also available in facsimile with an English translation and complete commentary by Trevor Fennell (Melbourne, 1984). George Elger's posthumously appearing Dictionarium Polono-Latino-Lottauicum (Vilnius, 1683) was very important for the development of Latvian lexicography. In the 18th century there appeared several Latvian grammars in Vilnius, but the most significant grammatical work of that century is the Neue vollständigere Lettische Grammatik by G.F. Stender senior (1st ed. Braunschweig, 1761, 2nd ed. 1783). The latter also published in 1789 his Lettisches Lexikon in Mitau (p. 41).
The first Lithuanian book, Martin Mažvydas' translation of Luther's Small Catechism and eleven hymns, was published in 1547 in Königsberg. Scholz writes (p. 44) that it is fortunate for the development of Lithuanian writing that Mažvydas was a native speaker of Lithuanian, a person whose language was Low Lithuanian (Samogitian, Žemaitish) modified by High Lithuanian influence. There are, of course, seveval opinions as to which subdialect of Low Lithuanian he spoke. Zigmas Zinkevičiws of the University of Vilnius, 1977-1979 and my former teacher, Antanas Salys, 1973, thought that Mažvydas was a dūnininkas? Christian Stang, 1929, thought that Mažvydas was a dounkninkas. In addition I should like to point out that there also exists an English edition of the catechism prepared by Gordon Ford and published in 1971. Ford also published a study of Vilentas' Catechism in 1969.
Between 1579 and '1590 Jonas Bretkūnas (in German Johann Bretke) translated the entire Bible into Lithuanian. Scholz (p. 46, fn. 80) writes that Bretkūnas was ein ausgezeichneter Kenner des Litauischen someone with a distinguished knowledge of Lithuanian. On vhe other hand, although Bretkūnas may have known Lithuanian very well, Victor Falkenhahn, 1941, 210, wrote that the blunders in the elementary grammatical rules of Lithuanian in Bretkūnas' writings show that Lithuanian was not his native language, i.e., a language spoken"at home with hiw parents and siblings. Falkenhahn, 1941, 216, suggests that Bretkūnas spoke German at home and Old Prussian with relatives on his mother's side. Sabaliauskas, 1986, 71, points out that Bretkūnas was the only representative of Baltic literature who knew all three extant (at his time) Baltic languages, Old Prussian, Lithuanian and Latvian. In any case we know that Scholz is preparing an edition of Bretkūnas' Bible and can probably be considered the leading German expert on this subject today. Perhaps he will come to a completely different conclusion from that of Falkenhahn.
The first grammar of Lithuanian is Daniel Klein's Grammatica Litvanica published in Latin in Königsberg, 1653, and in a shorter German version, Compendium Litvanico-Germanicum, in 1654. The firsu modern scientific grammar of Lithuanian, Handbuch der litauischen Sprache, Litauische Grammatik, was published in Prague, 1856, by the famous Balticist and Indo-Europeanist, August Schleicher. Scholz notes (p. 51) that although Friedrich Kurschat had published in 1849 a study in which he noted the difference in the Lithuanian intonations, Schleicher ignored this completely"in his grammar. In my opinion this is an excellent example of the degree to which we must distrust the ear of the early German pastors and even scholars when it comes to the recording of the Baltic languages.
The third chapter (pp. 55-85) is a study of the Baltic lands and people as the object of scientific literature and belles-lettres. Scholz notes that reporus about the Baltic lands and peoples are found in ancient authors, Pliny the Elder, Tacitus and Ptolemy and that in the middle ages and in early modern times we have information in Latin, German, Russian and Polish chronicles and histories. In the second half of the 18th century enlightened pastors and authors turned attention to the catastrophic social conditions in the Baltic countries, in which, as in the rest of the czarist empire serfdom was still in existence. In the early part of the 19th century the border lands of the Russian empire were considered romantic and Pushkin wrote about the Caucasus, Gogol about the Ukraine, etc. The Decembrist Bestužev-Marlinskij wrote a"work entitled Poedzka v Revel' 'A Trip to Reval' (1821) in which he described in detail the history of Livonia, the city Reval and the miserable living conditions of the Estonians who bore the burden of taxes, statute-labor and war (p. 59). The most important of the enlightened authors to inveigh against serfdom in the Baltic countries was Garlieb Helwig Merkel, whose chief work was Die Letten, vorzüglich in Liefland, am Ende des philosophischen Jahrhunderts. Ein Beitrag zur Völker- und Menschengeschichte (Leipzig, 1796). In this work he reports on the inhuman treavment of the serfs at the hands of the Baltic-German nobility. At the end of his work Merkel considers methods of giving the Latvians education and freedom.
Differently from the Russians and the Germans, Poles considered Lithuanian history as a part of their own national history with which they could identify themselves (p. 83). The most important Pole to occupy himself with Lithuanian material was Adam Mickiewicz (1798-1855), who authored many works with Lithuanian themes, e.g., Žywila, A story from Lithuanian history (Vilnius, 1819), Conrad Waller (St. Petersburg, 1828), etc. (p. 76).
In chapter 4, entitled 'German and Polish as languages of literature' Scholz writes that the Baltic countries had a share in various European literatures, Estonia and Latvia in German, and after the massive Russification policy following the accession of Alexander the 3rd to the throne (1881) also in Russian. Lithuania had a share in Polish literature and after the second half of the 19th century also Russian (p. 86).
Beginning with the middle of the 16th century each country had formed for itself its own national literary language on the basis of religious literature derived from other languages. Whereas Estonia, Latvia and Prussian Lithuania belonged to the periphery of the German-speaking cultural area, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was in the center of the cultural and literary life of Poland. Such remained the case until the 19th century when the developing national literatures gradually began to compete with the native literatures in foreign languages. The competition was eased, because the native German literature in Estonia and Latvia was mostly of epigonal character. In Prussian Lithuania the local population was too small to enter into competition with the native German literature. In Russian Lithuania, on the other hand, the Polonization of the educated Lithuanians held back the development of Lithuanian literature somewhat (pp. 107-108).
Chapter 5 discusses the role of learned and literary societies, journals and newspapers in Estonia, Latvia and Prussian Lithuania. The first such Estonian society, founded in 1817, was the Arensburgische Ehstnische Gesellschaft, the goal of which was the support of the Estonian language (p. 109). The first periodical publications in Estonian were the folk calendars, the first one still extant dating from 1731 (although probably they appeared in the 1720s [p. 118]). Founded in 1815 in Mitau, the first learned society in the Baltic as a whole was the Kurländische Gesellschaft für Litteraten und Kunst (p. 121). In 1879 the Litauische Litterarische Gesellschaft was founded in Tilžė (Tilsit).
In chapter 6 we encounter the history of many famous collections of folklore texts and folk songs. Although Herder had already published a few Estonian folk songs in his Volkslieder (1778/1779) and later in his Stimmen der Völker in Liedern (1807), it was quite a long time until the acceptance of the folk song was common among educated people (p. 144). A large number of Estonian folk songs in the original appeared only between 1813 and 1832 in Johann Heinrich Rosenplänter's Beiträge zur genauern Kenntniss der ehstnischen Sprache in Pärnu. In the latter part of the 18th century Jakob Hurt and Michael Veske distinguished themselves as collectors of Estonian folk songs (pp. 148-149). Today, however, there are around 250,000 texts and variations in the Literary Museum of the Estonian Academy of Sciences (p. 150).
Probably the best known collection of Latvian folk songs of the last century and the early part of this century is that compiled by Krišjanis Barons, the first volume of which appeared in Mitau in 1894 financed by the St. Petersburg merchant H. Wissendorff (p. 164). Later volumes (until 1915) were published by the Russian Imperial Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg, in all about 36,000 basic songs with 182,000 variants (pp. 164-165). The most complete collection of Lithuanian folk songs, made by the brothers Antanas and Jonas Juška was published in Kazan' in 1881/1882 (p. 142). Scholz writes that the form and structure of the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian folk songs are different, although the functions of these songs which accompanied the simple folk from the cradle to the grave, show many parallels (p. 188).
In the conclusion to chapter 7 on translations and imitations of texts from European literature in the languages of the Baltic Scholz writes that in Estonia and Latvia work on translations began at approximately the same time, viz., from the sixties and the eighties of the 18th century. The first translations were primarily of songs and that poetry which was similar to songs. The common feature of these songs and poetry was that they corresponded to the sphere of life and the interests of the common people. Gradually the scope of the translations was widened and the quality was improved and in the last two decades of the 19th century satisfactory translations of long prose texts became available. In Lithuania with a few exceptions work on translations began only later, since the intelligentsia was highly Polonized and the level of the education of the general population was lower than in Estonia and Latvia at the turn of the century (p. 215).
Chapter 8 is devoted to the origin of native poetry in the Baltic lands. Already at the beginning of the 19th century Kristjan Jaak Peterson (Christian Jacob Petersohn, 1801-1822) appeared as an important Estonian poet. The majority of his poems are odes in which religious and philosophical questions are considered as well as the position of the poet in the world (pp. 221-222). In the second half of the 19th century Lydia Koidula (1843-1886) distinguished herself with prose texts, poetry and theater pieces. In her own poetry Koidula evinced a preference for the parochial (bieder-meierlich) mood, nature and love lyrics (p. 227).
According to Scholz belles-lettres in Lithuania from its beginnings around the middle of the 18th century until the second half of the 19th century was a literature without a reading public, remaining mostly unpublished and circulating among the circle of authors who were personal friends (p. 245). The outstanding Lithuanian poet of the 18th century was Christian Donelaitis (1714-1718) in whose literary estate were found poems in German, Latin, Greek and Hebrew, in addition, of course, to six fables and his famous Seasons. Whether Donelatis knew of James Thomson's (1700-1748) Seasons or of jean Francois Marquis de Saint-Lambert's (1716-1803) Les saisons we do not know. Scholz closes the section on the origin of Lithuanian poetry with a sonnet by Pranas Vaičaitis (1876-1901) in which the latter has as his subject a very common theme of Lithuanian folk songs, i.e., the bird as the bearer of tidings to a beloved individual.
Chapters 9 and 10 deal with origin of epic poetry and the origin of prose and theater respectively.
Chapter 11, entitled 'A Look at the Further Development of the Literatures of the Baltic' deals with the acceptance of the norms of European literature and the shift of attention from the traditional content of folk poetry to the contemporary nation and the glorified national past. Already at the turn of the 20th century all three Baltic literatures had reached the level of the contemporary European literature of their time. Around the year 1905 a group of young poets who gave themselves the name 'Young Estonia' appeared. Their slogan was: 'More Culture! More European culture! Let us remain Estonians, but let us also become Europeans' (p. 309). Modern Latvian literature began around the turn of the century with Janis Rainis (pseudonym for J. Pliekšans, 1865-1929), one of the most important poets for Latvian literature in general, although no organized groups of symbolist, expressionist or modernist writers existed in Latvia. Lithuania had no such groups either, although the poets Faustas Kirša (1891-1964) and Balys Sruoga (1896-1947) were typical representatives of symbolism (p. 312). The rapid development of cultural, spiritual and economic life which the Baltic countries had during their years of independence was brought to a close by World War II after which many of the best writers emigrated (p. 316).
Thus, for example, possibly the greatest Lithuanian author of this century, Vincas Krėvė-Mickevičius (1882-1954) ended up as a professor of Russian and Lithuanian literature at the University of Pennsylvania (in Philadelphia), where in 1950 he was my first professor of Russian literature. Although he found us American students hopelessly stupid and uninformed (possibly partly because of our poor command of Russian and his poor [non-existent?] command of English), as I remember he bore us with patience and good humor, and had many interesting stories for us. According to one story, he had actually had an interview with Stalin after the first occupation of Lithuania by the Red Army. Krėvė said that he had tried to establish a common bond with Stalin by saying that he, Krėvė, was a member of a small nationality like Stalin himself. Stalin, however, had denied his membership in the Georgian nation saying 'Net, ya russkiy, zhivu zdes dvadtsat pat let (No, I am a Russian. I have been living here 25 years); which Krėvė tried to pronounce without the palatalization of any of those consonants which should be palatalized in Russian, thereby apparently hoping to imitate a Georgian accent. I have come to believe in later years that this story of Krėvė's was apocryphal, but at the time at least, I believed it.
Those Baltic authors who remained in the Baltic either wrote for their desk drawers or else tried to follow in a rather undignified way the dictates of the enemy regime.
The final chapter (12) of this book presents us with an interesting comparative study of the similarities and differences in the directions of development of the various Baltic literatures. As mentioned above, in the areas formerly under the control of the German military orders, i.e., Estonia, Latvia and Prussian Lithuania it was primarily German pastors from various German-speaking areas, who began to translate or to compose texts in the local languages. The use of words, the concepts and the syntax of these texts was heavily influenced by German and this influence has left traces on the contemporary Baltic languages, although during the late 19th century during the time of the national movements many efforts were made to rid the native languages of these traces of German influence (p. 319.)
Nevertheless common European culture is such that it is relatively easy to translate from one European language to another, whereas translation from Asian or African languages which belong to another cultural sphere is far more difficult (p. 320). The influence of Polish was felt in Lithuanian, but since Polish belongs also to the European cultural sphere the general European cultural traits are found in Lithuanian also. However, as a result of the fact that the first Old Lithuanian texts were composed by Lithuanians, the linguistic quality of these texts is as a rule better than that of Old Estonian or Old Latvian texts (p. 322).
The discovery of the Baltic states and peoples, their history and contemporary condition as a subject of scientific literature and belles-lettres was an important step towards the creation of independent literatures for each of them (p. 323). Germans occupied themselves with the sociological problems of Estonia and Latvia and pointed out that these peoples had the same right as other Europeans to a development of their own culture and incorporation into the sphere of European culture. As a result serfdom was abolished earlier in the Baltic provinces (1817/1819) than in the other parts of the Russian empire (1861).
The Poles who wrote about Lithuania (A. Mickiewicz and J. Slowacki) were world class authors, whereas the Russian A.A. Bestužev-Marlinskij who wrote about Estonia was of second rank and the work of G. Merkel who wrote in German belongs to the class of trivial literature (p. 324). In the 19th century in Estonia and Latvia newspapers and magazines played an important role in the origin and development of the native literatures, and in them one encounters contributions to questions of grammar, lexicology and practical advice for the translation or composition of texts in the local languages. In Lithuania, however, newspapers played no role in the 19th century (p. 326). In the first half of the century this was because all of the cultured Lithuanians were bilingual and could make use of the Polish newspapers; in the second half of the century the czarist prohibition against Lithuanian publication in the Latin alphabet kept newspapers from being published there. The Prussian Lithuanian newspapers of this period had a purely provincial character and could not further Lithuanian culture (p. 327). The newspapers published in foreign countries such as Aušra and others could only partially fill this need, since their importation was illegal.
I noted only several misprints. It seems unlikely that A. Culvensis met Duke Albrecht in the year 1836 as stated on p. 43, since both of them lived in the 16th century. On p. 50, fn. 89 Faksimile should be, of course, replaced by Faksimile. Paragraph 7.4 on p. 215 is nearly identical with paragraph 12.7 on pp. 328-329. I wonder if the ease of moving around texts on the computer led to this near repetition of material.
This generalizing book on Baltic literatures is a welcome, refreshing and interesting contribution to the subject and we greet it with pleasure and admiration. Scholz obviously knows the Baltic literatures very well and he presents them in an interesting fashion. I regret only that to my knowledge there exists no such book in English for the average reader who might wish to become more closely acquainted with the literary history of the Baltic nations. Undoubtedly the current trend of events in Europe will lead to more interest in the Baltic on the part of the Germans and the rest of Europe as a whole. Therefore Scholz' book is not only extremely useful, but timely as well. He is to be congratulated on his achievement.
William R. Schmalstieg
The Pennsylvania State University
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Ford. Gordon. 1969. The Old Lithuanian Catechism of Baltramiejus Vilentas (1579): A phonological, morphological and syntactical investigation. The Hague, Paris, Mouton. -1971. The Old Lithuanian Catechism of Martynas Mažvydas (1547). Assen, Van Gorcum and Compa. N.V.
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