Volume 37, No.2 - Summer 1991
Editor of this issue: Violeta Kelertas, Univ. of Illinois at Chicago
ISSN 0024-5089
Copyright © 1990 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.



Academy of Science, Vilnius

The purpose of this article is not a scientific one: Hebrew studies as a pure science remains beyond our research work. At the same time this is not an attempt to display the life of the Vilnius Jewish community of the time in an orderly and coherent fashion. Neither the size of the article, nor the competence of the author would permit this. Separate research would have to be conducted. Our aim is to clarify the attitudes of the Lithuanian intelligentsia, centered around Vilnius University and around it, towards the cultural aspects of Jewish life in Lithuania and to show how closely related these were to the formation of the modern Lithuanian nation. It is also important to emphasize the fact, that this minimalist, as it were, understanding of the research task influences the modest means of my proof: for the most part my conclusions are hypothetical, stimulating further research and not aspiring to final clarity.

My question has not been specially analyzed. The only book in Lithuanian historiography, shedding light on the history of Lithuanian Jews, was published before World War Two by Augustinas Janulaitis. The author concentrated more on the juridical aspects of Jewish community development, paying little attention to its sociocultural aspects. Especially important for us is the diploma paper of Janulaitis's student at Kaunas University, Adam Giršovičius's "The Development of Jewish Schools and their Legal Status from 1772 to the reform in Lithuania 4.04.1859" (1938).2 Giršovičius's research work is till relevant. Unfortunately, however, it has not been published yet, and the privately owned manuscript is not widely known. On the other hand, the works on the history of Lithuanian Jews appearing abroad, as a rule, view the object of research in a rather isolated manner; i.e. there is no tracing of emancipatory ideas of the Jews in Lithuania, no connection with the Lithuanian intelligentsia's searching for ways to end the antagonistic socio-ethnic fighting between isolated classes and communities, no ways to create democratic, civil and political principles for the Lithuanian community in the first half of the nineteenth century.

The article is based on periodicals of the time, the manuscript heritage of K. Kontrimas, J.K. Gintila and A. Muchlinski, which are stored in the archives and libraries of Lithuania.

The beginning of the nineteenth century, its first three decades, was a complicated period for the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, annexed to the Russian Empire. During this period ethnopolitical traditions dissolved. The absolutism of the Romanovs quickly destroyed the beginnings of community democratic processes and annihilated the achievements of the four year old Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth's (Rzeczpospolita) seym. Feudal social relations, which conditioned both the modernization of the Lithuanian nation and the situation of the Jews as well as that of the other ethnic and religious minorities, were preserved for another half a century. As the majority of the Lithuanian nation — the peasants, so the abundant societies of the Israelites were distanced and themselves were removed from political life and pushed into the periphery of limited possibilities of spreading their culture.

In this archaic, conservative, ethnocultural structure of Lithuania an especially important part was played by the imperial Vilnius University (1803-1831), which attracted almost all the intellectual potential of the country, drew in prominent European scholars to its activity and at the same time introduced local society to the cultural achievements of the West. All the newest methods of changing the social and even the political structures of society were born in the University surroundings. Using the relative autonomy of this institution, professors and students matured their ideas, exceeding the limits of the legal political thinking and absolutism in the Russian Empire.

Kazimieras Kontrimas (1772-1836), for many years the university secretary, a librarian and chronicler, was the catalyst for progressive ideas; his name was associated with the majority of important projects and cultural activities. He was the initiator and editor of several newspapers, an active organizer and reformer of the Vilnius Masonic lodge (the famous reform of "The proud Lithuanian" lodge, 1818), It was only with his knowledge that the illegal societies of the Filomats, Filarets, Šubravcy, etc. were formed. On the other hand, not many personalities appeared in the Lithuania of that time, which were and even now are being portrayed in such various colors. In the eyes of some people, K. Kontrimas was the "Benjamin Franklin of Vilnius", others, like J. Senkovskis, saw in him a renegade. If the life behind the scenes could have been revealed at the time, K. Kontrimas might have been called the "Speranski of Vilnius". !n a word, this was a figure of initiative, mystery and contradiction and, no doubt, importance in the intellectual life of the country. The shrewd critic of social and political movements, K. Kontrimas can best be portrayed by the maxim taken from his notebook: "Equality is an enchanted rod, on which people are caught, especially during the time of revolution. People are similar one to another, but they are not equal and if equality could be introduced, it would not unify the people, but would only bring out their competitiveness." And another view which is especially important in interpreting the projects of K. Kontrimas and his attitude to the situation of Lithuanian Jews: "The Motherland is all of the country, all of the nation, which speaks the same language and follows the same laws of government which protects all equally, where all inhabitants live connected by ties of brother-hood..."3

The situation of Lithuanian society, which was divided into isolated classes and religious and ethnic communities, was very far from K. Kontrimas' ideals. This is especially true when speaking about the situation of the Jews, which was special against the background of local, ethnopolitical and cultural structures, and in the context of their (the Ashkenazi's) situation in Eastern Europe in general. The Litvaks (Lithuanian Jews began to be called by this name at the time) were distinguished from the fellow-Jews in Germany and the Polish Commonwealth by the extremely large concentration of their communities in the cities and towns. In Vilnius it was much bigger than anywhere else (it was much more difficult for the Jews to settle in Warsaw during the 18th and 19th century). The formula "a state within a state" or "a nation within a nation" was especially clearly expressed here. On the other hand, the Jews of ethnographic Lithuania, i.e. Vilnius and Kaunas provinces, differed from other Litvaks living in the orthodox lands of the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Hassidic ideas spread in the southeast territory of the 18th c., whereas up to 1815 Vilnius and all the western communities of Lithuanian Jews were veritable fortresses of orthodox Judaism, withstanding in the main the attacks of Haskalla ideas from Berlin and Hassidic fanaticism.4 This was conditioned partly by the situation and the standard of living of the nations and the religious communities where the Jews lived. On the other hand, from the middle of the 18th C. the cultural traditions arose from the religious and philosophical teaching of Vilnius. Here Gaon played an important role. In addition, there are grounds to claim that the differentiation according to wealth among the Vilnius and Kaunas Jews was smaller than that between the Jews living in Warszaw and Polish communities, which was conditioned by the faster development of industry. It was also different among the Ukrainian Jews, who constantly remembered Cossack outbursts of anti-Semitism. Finally, we can observe the same situation among Lithuanian, Byelorussian and Ukrainian Jews: both the economic and cultural state of the people was much better in West Lithuania, so the people were more tolerant and peaceful with respect to the Jews in their sociopsychological attitudes.

The views of K. Kontrimas towards the Jews was similar to that of the Four Year seym reformers' views. He clearly saw that the situation and the anti-Semitism of the separate layer& of society was primarily harming the State and the nation where the Jews lived, while conditions for maximal fanaticism were created within the Jewish community itself. Like many other supporters of capitalism in Lithuania, he thought that the cause of the isolation of the Jews and their alienation from the people they lived with was not in the Hebrew community itself, but was conditioned by the intolerance of the ruling classes towards the Jews, and especially by insufficient attention to the education of the Jews. This did not occur by chance. While development of industry had already dictated convictions naturally towards democratization and integration of the society in Poland, Lithuania saw no such material self-interest. There remained only cultural and educational means — which were rather Utopian — for the attainment of greater community integration through enlightenment. Hence, K. Kontrimas' aspirations to orient the intelligentsia towards such activity through Hebrew Studies at the University. It is not by chance that the initiative to educate the Jews and find ways of better communication between the local inhabitants and the Jewish communities did not originate as in Poland with the Jews themselves, but with the local educated people.5 That which in Germany was accomplished by the followers of Moses from Dessau (Moses Mendelssohn), who tried to translate Jewish literature and even the Talmud into German and to introduce the Jews to European rationalism as well as to natural science, was projected in Lithuania by the people in the surroundings of K. Kontrimas at the University and the Masonic lodges.

From ancient times Universitas et Academia Vilnensis taught classical languages, prepared text books of Latin and Greek language, but not much is known about the situation of Hebrew Studies in the main educational institution of Lithuania. The teaching of Hebrew language at the University is mentioned in historiography, since it is difficult to imagine the higher learning of Catholic priests without knowledge of it. However it remains unknown how this was accomplished and for how long. It seems that up to 1807 Hebrew studies were neglected.6 K. Kontrimas and others in the Filomat organization at Vilnius University took care of this subject. The organization of Hebrew Studies was not the main goal of K. Kontrimas; it was merely part of a bigger project. Further, obviously, the formation of a Department of Hebrew Studies and an Institute of Oriental studies at Vilnius University were intended. S. Žukovski started to prepare specialists of Hebrew language. It is presently difficult to evaluate the lectures of this teacher. The material remaining in the Lithuanian archives, concerning the textbook of the Hebrew language by Požarski7, published by the Ministry of Education of Russia, permits us to speak about S. Žukovski's qualifications only in part. Perhaps we can only judge him by his great popularity at the University. Two of his more outstanding students are mentioned in literature: M. Borovski and the future administrator of the Samogitian diocese — J.K. Gintila 8, who will be discussed separately later.

About 1820 K. Kontrimas started a wider campaign dealing with teaching Hebrew and other languages. He had presented a memorandum to Duke A. Czartoryski, a trustee of Vilnius University, where he pointed out the reasons for his activity: "Since the Hebrew language has already been introduced in the University, it would be useful to have a Department of Arabic languages. which could possibly be the beginning of (in the near future) an institute, which would serve all of Europe and could be the center of Oriental Studies and Eastern languages. In some years the Turkish, Persian, Tatar, Armenian and Manchurian (languages) could be introduced in this institute".9

In the memorandum, K. Kontrimas argues the necessity of his project in social and political motives. According to him, these things are necessary for the Russian Empire so that it could govern its believers of other faiths, i.e. Jews and Muslims and, secondly, this is required by the far-reaching Russian diplomatic plans in the East. In addition, we can add that not all his motives were mentioned in this official paper. One thing is clear: he was concerned primarily not with Hebrew and Oriental studies, but the practical possibilities of applying them. One more fact, often mentioned in Lithuanian historiography, is that at the same time Kontrimas presented the university with a 15 paragraph memorandum on the establishment of a lecture center on the Lithuanian language. He brought up the point that this had already been done at Königsberg University (by the way, a chair of Hebrew Studies was functioning there as well) and stressed the importance for historical scholarship. But again, just as in matters of Oriental studies, it was not the scientific-research aspect that was dominant in the memorandum. The social and cultural aspect was emphasized first of all: "all the students of the Senior Theological Seminary from the Samogitian diocese, as well as some candidates from the teachers' seminary should practice Lithuanian language and style. Those intending to get jobs in districts where the Lithuanian language is used widely would benefit by these studies as well as those investigating the northern countries, the history of their medieval period, which has not been studied by scholars and which is waiting for us, the children of these barbarians, who once flooded the south and west regions of Europe to reveal it".10 K. Kontrimas' suggested project of the establishment of a lecture center of the Lithuanian language and the plan of a Hebrew Department is a highly eloquent example of coincidence. The rise of these two languages which had been left beyond the limits of civil life — to the status of university subjects of study demonstrated the beginnings of democratic processes. One has to remember the linguistic situation in Lithuania in the first half of the 19th C. After all, in the entire former state Territory — the Grand Duchy of Lithuania — the Polish language as means of communication between noblemen dominated in the upper layers of society. Gradually its function in political life changed: after the uprising in 1831 against Russian domination an intensive Russification of administrative life began. The people, mostly peasants, spoke in different dialects of Lithuanian language in the Vilnius and Kaunas provinces, in the eastern region they spoke Slavic languages and dialects formed by the influence of Polish and Byelorrusian. A specific Litvak Yiddish language predominated in the cities and towns. The urban Lutherans used the German language. In Trakai the Karaite language was also spoken. The Lithuanian Tatars expressed themselves in their own way. The backward conservative and natural economy enabled the separate ethnocultural communities to live in such a way that only a small part of them was bilingual or trilingual. It was only the intellectual and merchant class from the Jewish community who learned some Polish or Russian. The Jews, settled in towns or village inns, communicated with their clients in the limited sphere of material relationship which narrowed the possibilities to learn languages and to integrate. Therefore, K. Kontrimas' projects at Vilnius University reveal a certain understanding of Lithuanian ethnopolitical tendencies and the wish to influence these tendencies. The years demonstrated how slim the chances for such an activity were.

As has been mentioned above, one of the most outstanding students of J.F. Žukovski was the priest Jonas Chrizostomus Gintila (1788-1857), a man, who is portrayed and characterized differently both by his contemporaries, and by later researchers. J.K. Gintila may well be called the father of Lithuanian Hebrew Studies. It so happened that as a Hebraist J.K. Gintila surpassed his teacher, G. Žukovski, but remained unknown to the world of scholarship, and, on the other hand, making a career in the priesthood earlier than his other contemporaries he was awarded czarist orders and titles and, therefore, became the butt of his colleagues' restrained mockery. At times he was even hated. At the end of century he became the administrator of the Samogitian diocese and facing great opposition in Lithuania and the Vatican he was not consecrated bishop. The reason for this is usually thought to be the obedience of J.K. Gintila to the czarist government, although the degree of his renegadism has not been borne out by any serious research up to this time. Therefore, while reading the newspapers of the 19th C. as well as the reminiscences of his contemporaries, we come to suspect that J.K. Gintila was not popular among Lithuanians and especially the priests not only because he cooperated with the Russian government but also because of his Hebrew studies. His fanatical interest in the Talmud and religious arguments with Jewish intellectuals appeared rather suspicious to the superstitious and poorly educated public.

Thus, J.K. Gintila's personality today remains mysterious and controversial: his historic portrait is far from being reconstructed and is often evaluated with bias.

Having been born into a poor gentry family in Western Lithuania (Samogitia) like many young people of the time who sought education, J.K. Gintila reached Vilnius in 1807. His scholarly development is more or less clear. From 1808 to 1812 he studied at the Senior Seminary in the Theological Faculty at Vilnius University. Not satisfied with his studies, he went to lectures at the faculty of Physics and Mathematics. In 1813-1815 we find his name in the lists of the Liberal Arts and Literatures students. His consecration to the priesthood was no obstacle for him. He was especially influenced by the lectures of professor E. Grodak, an expert in Classical literature and Greek language, but mainly he was interested in Hebrew studies and exegetic problems. His teacher of Hebrew was S. Žukovski; he learned the fundamentals of exegetics from professor L. Borovski, who up till 1820 expressed himself intensely in Hebrew also. Later he took up Slavic philology and Polish literature. Having become an adjunct at the University, from 1817 to 1822 J.K. Gintila worked as a senior teacher of exegetics and as professor L. Borovski's deputy at the Theological Faculty. At the same time (1821) he defended a thesis on "Christian Morality".11 There is a predominant opinion in Lithuanian historiography that J.K. Gintila was a very poor teacher who could perform his duties only owing to intrigues. This opinion was formed by his student, the later rival fur the infula of the Samogitian bishop, the famous educator of the people, Motiejus Valančius.12 This opinion is difficult to check now. In the primary sources of the archives of Vilnius University nothing can be found that would substantiate it. According to M. Valančius, J.K. Gintila was also a poor scholar of Hebrew. However, he could hardly judge the works of J.K. Gintila, which were not published, as he took no special interest in Hebrew. The memoirs of A. Muchlinski, a student at Vilnius University and professor of Oriental Studies at Petersburg University, are much more valuable. According to him, J.K. Gintila was an industrious and erudite man. From the end of the third decade of the 19th C., while living in Peterburg and working as the assessor of the Roman Catholic college, he dedicated himself to Hebrew studies, and if he had lived in Germany or England he would have been famous as a prominent scholar of the highest level. "J.K. Gintila used to spend all his days with book and pen in his room, and left the room only to find new riches", — remembers the Professor. His flat looked like a museum: the shelves and tables were bent from the weight of books, the walls were covered with maps, pictures and portraits. He would work without resting. Even in his old age, just before his death, he would sit down at the writing table at 5 o'clock in the morning and rise from it late at night. All his income was invested in enlarging his library. With this aim he would travel to Germany and Austria. He would buy the rarest and most expensive books in Leipzig, Vienna, Berlin and Petersburg. In this fashion he purchased at least half of the Graff second-hand book-shop, famous at the time in St. Petersburg. There were some 30,000 books in his library. Besides classical authors and Church scriptures many publications and manuscripts were dedicated to Hebraistics."13 This is how A. Muchlinski portrayed ).K. Gintila. We could best qualify J.K. Gintila as a Hebrew scholar by his works, his manuscript heritage, which is rarely mentioned and has not been seriously examined. (At present, his texts are partly or should be found in the library of Kaunas Seminary). How is J.K. Gintila's heritage characterized by A. Muchlinski? According to him, J.K. Gintila left many texts, notes and studies. J.K. Gintila's correspondents and like-minded friends abroad used his material and investigations. However, it is unusually sad that his writings were not published. Among the most meaningful works A. Muchlinski mentions two volumes of excerpts from the Talmud and some notes about the coming of the Messiah and the Christian religion, written in Hebrew, a treatise on the real conning of the Messiah, a big Hebrew-Polish dictionary, and other works. Before World War Two the librarian of Kaunas Seminary K.Sendzikas looked through and registered the remaining books from J.K. Gintila's library and manuscripts and published the results of his work.14 In addition to the manuscripts already mentioned, some dictionaries prepared by J.K. Gintila are important. It appears that he prepared several dictionaries for publication: Hebrew-Yiddish-Polish; Hebrew-Chaldean-Babylonian-German-Polish, a small Polish-Hebrew dictionary, etc. For our study two works of J.K. Gintila are important: "Nauka po polsku dla mlodziezy wyznania starozakonnego" ("A manual for young Jewish people to study the Old Testament in Polish") published in Vilnius in 1817, and 37 years later in Alsėdžiai the manuscript prepared for publication in the Hebrew alphabet, "Sepher hatinuch oder christliche Lehr reimische Katolische Kirch... von Bellarmin ibersetzt mit Anhang in litauische Sprache von Priester Johann Christostom Gintilla. Alsad 1854, 135 p." ("A Christian Manual written in Lithuanian and Jewish").15

A specialist and expert in the History of the Lithuanian Jews will see the missionary direction of his work at once, his efforts to convert the Jews to the Catholic faith. It is clear that at that time this was equivalent to the maximum assimilation of the Jews. However, was the case of J.K. Gintila so simple? After all, the occupants of Lithuania — the government of the Russian empire — had the same aims. From the point of view of the Jews, both the Russian Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church tried to assimilate the Jews and therefore were totally unacceptable to the Jewish community. However, in speaking of Lithuanian ethnopolitical tendencies these circumstances are very important. Lithuania at that time suffered greatly from oppression: the Catholic Church itself was persecuted and discriminated against. Therefore, it is not clear at whom J.K. Gintila was directing his missionary activities. Fighting against Catholicism at that time meant fighting against the Russian government; it meant stressing the difference between Lithuania as a Catholic country and the Orthodox Russian Empire. Secondly, how to explain the fact that in 1817 the Catholic Primer for Jews was written in Polish, while in 1854 the same missionary work was produced in Lithuanian (in the Samogitian dialect)? It was mentioned already, that the ruling classes of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania — the gentry and in part the Catholic priests adopted the Polish language. Polish was an official language of the Lithuanian State, until 1793 which was with Poland. But in the middle of the 19th C. even the Polish language was removed from the throne of the state language: Russian was introduced into official and political life. Hence, the language situation became quite complicated in Lithuania; at the very least it was a three storey structure of three languages. Russian and then Polish were at the top of the hierarchy. The Samogitian dialect of Lithuanian, used mostly by the common people, Byelorussian, different dialects in the Eastern periphery of Vilnius province and Jewish, spoken by at least a tenth of the country were at the very bottom of the structure. It should be mentioned that Lithuanian Muslims (mostly Tatars) and Karaites spoke their own languages. In the larger cities, German was used in official life. It was understood by the educated people and Russian bureaucrats, among whom there were many Germans from the Baltic provinces. This was the tradition inherited from the old Lithuanian state, which gradually disappeared in the first half of the 19th C. The new bourgeois democratic tendencies were forming, inevitably leading towards ethnic and class integration, without which a modern nation cannot possibly develop. Therefore, the integration* of social groups in Lithuania, under conditions of Russian occupation, was clearly connected to the prospects of the future Lithuanian State. If the Lithuanian Jews are integrated on the basis of the Russian language and Orthodox religion, it means that a new ethnopolitical structure is being formed — "gente Judaicus, natione Ruthenus"; it means, that the tradition of the Lithuanian State and the concept of citizen are totally eroded. We can say that in large part this did occur.

However, the situation in Lithuania was even more complicated: if we were to say that the Jews were being integrated on the basis of the Polish language, which was indicated by J.K. Gintila's book for Jewish young people written in Polish, then the circumstances for another ethnopolitical structure to appear were created. This could be expressed by the formula "gente Judaicus, natione Polonus". This tendency was also expressed in the Lithuania of the time, though the Russian government strove to suppress its manifestations. This tendency was obviously among the common Lithuanian people. During the first period of Russian occupation (what a paradox!) it was not Russification, but Polonization that achieved the greatest effect on the integration of Lithuanian society. The Lithuanians were especially threatened with losing their separate ethno-political, i.e. state identity and with becoming "gente Lituanus, natione Polonus", i.e. with preserving only their regional and ethnographic differences from Poland. i.e. "gente Judaicus, natione Lituanus". However, J.K.. Gintila's Lithuanian texts in the Hebrew alphabet reached neither the Jewish community in Lithuanian cities, nor the J. Zavadski printers in Vilnius, who were being negotiated with for publication. The social effect of this work was zero. But the idea of publication itself is very important to the development of Lithuanian culture. Even so, the absolute majority or the Jews learned neither Lithuanian, nor Russian nor Polish up to the First World War.

If we were to stop at this point, several questions would remain unanswered. If we are to believe the encyclopedia's assertions,16 why did Gintila, the high Church dignitary, who was so concerned about the conversion of the Jews to the Catholic faith, and dedicated all his years to the studies in Hebraistics for missionary aims become the most controversial historiographic figure? Why were the priests, bishop M. Valančius and others, so sceptical about J.K. Gintila's works? Finally, was it necessary to study the Bible and Hebrew philology so deeply, if he wanted to write the Catechism for the Jews in Lithuanian and Hebrew letters? He could certainly have managed to do this with the knowledge received at Theological seminary.

One answer to these related questions might lie in the fact that because of the enormous estrangement between the Jews and other groups of society, even the adoption of the new faith by a member of the Jewish community or even his baptism did not guarantee that the neophyte would be left in peace.

However, there were other reasons for the negative attitude of the Catholic priests towards J.K. Gintila. They are to be found in London, and in the activity of the Bible Society, founded in Russia in 1812. The missionary work of this society bypassed the plans of the Vatican, and in Russia it was banished soon after its recognition. The censure of the Bible Society, enforced by Pope Leo XII in 1824, Pope Gregory XVI in 1834 and Pope Pius IX was sufficient reason for Catholic society to condemn J.K.. Gintila.

In addition: new ideas about the integration of all faiths based on the Bible were cautiously being raised among some of the university professors. This stimulated Hebraistic studies and discussions with the rabbis, which J.K. Gintila enjoyed very much. However, in the absence of deeper studies, it is now difficult to guess, how K. Kontrimas and his supporters imagined this integration. It is impossible to discern on what confession or ritual Vilnius citizens' ecumenical convictions were based. They did not necessarily have to be based on the authority of the Roman Catholic Church. And even if they were, it cannot be unequivocally claimed that J.K. Gintila's mission towards the Jewish community was maximally assimilationist. At this point we have to stress once more that these speculations and suppositions are highly hypothetical. We do not pretend to answer such complicated questions in a simple fashion.


Professor A. Muchlinski's (1803-1877) work needs to be mentioned separately. First of all, it is worthwhile to remember his qualifications, since the presentation of J.K. Gintila as Hebraist requires a critical characterization of the author of the memoirs. A. Muchlinski was born in Vilnius, most likely in a family of Tatars. At the beginning he studied at Vilnius University and his interest in Oriental studies was connected with K. Kontrimas' plans. It is known that K. Kontrimas concerned himself with the preparation of specialists of the Eastern languages. Thanks to him and the Masonic Lodge's efforts, ("The Proud Lithuanian") J. Senkovskis, later a well-known orientalist, was sent to Egypt. However, A. Muchlinski received no support from the Vilnius intelligentsia for himself for the simple reason that after the 1831 rebellion against Russian domination and the subsequent closing of Vilnius University, he was forced to look for educational opportunities at Petersburg University. From there A. Muchlinski was sent to Turkey and Egypt in 1932. He brought back some especially valuable manuscripts for the University of Petersburg, among them the writings of the Arab geographer Achmed al-Katib. Later A. Muchlinski worked as a professor in the Department of Turkish languages at Petersburg University. From 1846 till he retired A. Muchlinski worked at the central library in Warsaw.17

Among the major works of A. Muchlinski there are no special works of Hebraistics which would allow us to evaluate him as a specialist of this field. Here we have to seek the help of indirect sources of information. From 1847 up to 1859 the professor of the reform of Jewish state schools A. Muchlinski was appointed by the Minister of Education in Russia as a visitator of the Jewish schools in the Western province, i.e. the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania.18 The fact that A. Muchlinski was recommended by Peters-burg University would mean that he was selected from others because of his knowledge of Hebrew philology and history of Jewish society. This is verified also by A. Muchlinski's report to the Ministry.19

An official secular course of education for the Jews in Russia obviously had the intention to russify them. This agressive striving for assimilation was not expressed with respect to the Jews only, but it oppressed all the inhabitants of Lithuania (especially after the suppresion of the 1863 rebellion). Therefore, the attempt to form a network of public Jewish schools in Lithuania was condemned to failure, and aroused the opposition of the Jewish community. A. Giršovičius, who analysed the circumstances of this reform of Jewish education, has mentioned that secretly the Russian government had forseen the decreasing of the program of the Jewish religion to a minimum and tried to take the Talmud, the basis of the spiritual life of the Jewish people, out of the teaching program.20 "The aim of education of the Jews is to bring them closer to Christians and to destroy the harmful prejudices which are supported by the Talmud", it said in the first point of the Tsar's edict on 13 February 1844. This meant that the government was striving to assimilate the Jews totally. This was the reason no doubt why reform did not succeed and from 1859 the Russian administration stopped intruding into the matters of Jewish confessional training.21

What attitudes of A. Muchlinski are revealed in his reports? First of all it must be said that he saw the hopelessness of the means used by the tsar's government. Secondly, A. Muchlinski, like all citizens of Vilnius, thought about the possibilities for the ethnopolitical integration of Lithuanian society, i.e. he saw the problem of the Jews through the eyes of citizenship. Integration for him meant the manifestation of civil consciousness in the society as a whole and among the Jews separately. The national separation of the Jews and their special religious development for him, just as for J.K. Gintila were not to be questioned. Therefore, even in his official reports to the Ministry of Education, A. Muchlinski tried to demonstrate that secular education of the Jews could not be accomplished at the expense of their religious training. He suggested that the teaching of the Talmud be expanded, but like the Haskallah ideologists in the 18th century he stressed the importance of the teachings of Maimonides and his rationalism. In addition it was pointed out indirectly that the perspectives for Jewish education depended on the legal situation of the Jews within the State, and on the possibilities for educated Jews to attain careers in politics and administration in the society as a whole.22 All these principles, revealed in the reports, can be connected with the democratic traditions of Vilnius University and with the tasks, which were raised by the successors of K. Kontrimas' Oriental program.

Ending the analysis of Lithuanian ethnopolitical tendencies, it is worthwhile to emphasize the situation at the turn of the century, when the Democratic wing of Lithuanian society, the members of the national movement who had fought for the plan of Lithuanian autonomy in 1905 and during the elections to the Russian Dūma, found common interest with the Jews and successfully co-ordinated their electory programs that were directed against the conservative wing of the gentry. The possibilities for such political understanding were already present in the thinking, of Lithuanian intellectuals in the first part of the 19th century.


1 Janulaitis, Augustinas. Žydai Lietuvoje. Kaunas, 1923.
2 Giršovičius, A. "Žydų mokyklų vystimasis ir jų teisinė padėtis nuo 1772 metų iki 1859. V.4 reformos Lietuvoje", 1938.
3 Skwarczynski Z. Kazimierz Kontrym. Towarzystwo Szubrawcòw. Lodz, 1961, p. 72.
4 Lastyk, S. " Z dziejów Oswiecenia žydowskiego" in Ludzie i fakty. Warszawa, 1961, p. 68.
5 Ibid, p. 82.
6 Vilniaus Universiteto istorija 1803-1940. Vilnius, 1977, p. 93.
7 "Byla dėl hebrajų kalbos gramatikos", Lietuvos Centrinis Valstybinis istorijos archyvas (LCVIA), F. 567, folder 2, files 1357 and 1363.
8 Vilniaus Universiteto istorija, p. 93.
9 Quoted from Skwarczyński, op. cit., p. 36.
10 Mūsų kalba, 1978, No. 3, p. 38. Also see Lukšienė, Meilė, "Kazimieras Kontrimas ir jo memorandumas dėl lietuvių kalbos" in Kalba ir mintis. Vilnius, 1980, p. 168.
11 Biržiška, Vaclovas. Aleksandrynas, v. 2 Chicago, 1963, p. 411.
12 "A.A. administratoriaus Gintilos biografija" in Motiejus Valančius, Raštai, v. 1. Vilnius, 1972, p. 486-491.
13 Muchliński A. "Wspomnienie o s. p. Gintylle" in Pamiętnik religyjno-moralny, 1958, no. 1, p. 30-35.
14 Sendzikas K. "Hebraiški rankrašciai Kauno seminarijos bibliotekoje" in Bibliografijos žinios, 1938, no. 5, p. 196-197. "Kun. J.K. Gintilos asmeninė biblioteka" in Bibliografijos žinios, 1939, no. 4, p. 123-125.
15 Biržiška, Vaclovas. Aleksandrynas, v. 2, p. 414.
* Note the difference between the concepts of "integration" and "assimilation": "integration" is concerned mostly with ethnopolitical aspects, whereas "assimilation" has to do with ethnographical or ethnocultural aspects.
16 Encyklopedia powszechna. Warszawa, 1869, v. 9, p. 909-911.
17 Lastyk, op. cit., p. 86.
18 Skwarczyński, op. cit., p. 36.
19 S. Orgelbranda. Encyklopedia Powszechna. Warszawa, 1901, v. 10, p. 339.
20 Giršovičius, op. cit., p. 80.
21 Ibid., p. 71.
22 A. Muchlińskio ataskaita. LCVIA. F. 597, folder 2, file 144 and 129.