Volume 39, No.4 - Winter 1993
Editor of this issue:
Violeta Kelertas, University of Illinois. at Chicago
ISSN 0024-5089
Copyright © 1993 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.


Vytautas Magnus University

There was foresight in the remark the Polish nobleman made to the German ambassador in 1918: "If Poland could be free, I'd give half my worldly goods. But with the other half, I'd emigrate." Johnson P. A History of the Modern World. From 1917 to the 1980s. London 1983 p. 39.

The end of the 19th c. and the beginning of the 20th c. witnessed the rapid growth of the Lithuanian national movement and of aggressive Polish nationalism which resulted in a national struggle in the former lands of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (subsequently referred to as GDL).

At the beginning of the 20th century, a political trend called "Countrymen" emerged among the ethnoculturally Polonized noblemen (bajorai) who sought to prevent the struggle. The countrymen had retained a sense of distinction from the Kingdom of Poland, the self-consciousness of a citizen of the GDL and preserved their Lithuanian identity in historical (political) terms. The core of their ideology was the political integrity of historical Lithuania as a so-called region (kraðtas). At the beginning of the 20th century, the latter was identified with the Russian guvernias (provinces) of Grodno, Vilnius, Kaunas, Minsk, Mogiliov and Vitebsk. Mykolas Römeris contributed to the formulation of the principal provisions of this theory.

Born in 1880 (according to this birth certificate—Michael Pius Paschalis von Römer) in a landowner's family in the Kaunas gubernia, Römeris studied law and political science in Petersburg, Paris, and, finally in Cracow. There, in 1908, he published an extensive study on the growth of the Lithuanian national movement. From 1909 on, he practised law in Vilnius and also participated in political and social activities. Thus, Römer defined the ideology of regionalism as purely democratic, not related to any nation residing in the region (Lithuanians, Byelorussians, Poles, Jews), i.e. an antinationalistic ideology based on the principle of common citizenship. He was against the superiority of interests of one nation over the general interests of the entire region and propagated equal rights for the nations of historical Lithuania to free economic and ethnic-cultural development. Römer realized the historical GDL as the homeland for several nations and saw no possibility for them to separate in a civilized way owing to unavoidable territorial conflicts. Within the framework of these provisions, he explained and designed political relations between Lithuania and Poland in an original way, i.e. as equal subjects of the old Commonwealth. The basis of his reasoning was: the noncongruence of historical Lithuania with Poland and support of Lithuania's statehood; the understanding that Poland was close to Lithuania in terms of culture and mentality; the establishment of close relations between Lithuania and Poland owing to their geopolitical situation; the propagation of their simultaneous liberation from Russia.

*1914-1920 was a crucial period for Römer's ethnic-political self-determination. He successfully integrated himself into the cultural and social life of independent Lithuania. He was a member of the State Council, a member of the Senior Tribunal, rector of Kaunas (Vytautas Magnus) University, a prominent judge in the International Tribunal at the Hague; he published works on issues of state and constitutional law; he died January 22,1945.

During World War I, Römer started propagating and implementing these provisions. He left Vilnius in May, 1915, and by August, he reached Piotrkov, the headquarters of Pilsudski's Legions. From August 12, 1915 to the beginning of 1916, he completed a confidential memo "Lithuania in the Face of War" and a letter to Jaworski, the Acting Chairman of the Supreme National Committee (NKN). The latter was composed of representatives from all Polish parties in Galicia and was established as a political institution for the supervision of Pilsudski's Legions. In his writings Römer supported and developed the provisions mentioned above and emphasized the idea of the modern union between free Lithuania (GDL) and free Poland.2

Roughly speaking, Römer's theory of the restoration of Lithuania's statehood rested on three fundamental concepts: the historical identity (historical rights), federalism (in the sense of confederation, union, commonwealth), civil society (civic freedom). We shall try to survey these interrelated concepts in retrospect of the second spring of nations. The nation states' political background dominated the period of the war of 1914. First of all, we shall seek to reveal the discord of the principal concepts and then, the harmony of the basic aspects.

It is often stated that the formation of the nation states after World War I was unexpected. Before 1914, such prospects seemed too idealistic. The projects of the national-political reforms of the Habsburg and Romanov empires were indeed such i.e. austrophilic and russophilic. They were not aimed at the total destruction of the states. This was a distinguishing feature from the projects of division and liberation of the Osman Empire (according to Roman Djuvara there were over 100 of them), which were popular during the first spring of nations. Turkey, however, demonstrated no desire to break free in spite of the pressure from England and France. At the beginning of the 20th century, Russia was undergoing the stage of development when the hope "to formalize" the will of the Russians became real, or, as Miliukov put it, "that was the moment when nationalities entered the path of their common Russian nation state (...) and if the revolution of 1905-06 would have succeeded in creating the Russian sort of freedom,"—Miliukov continued,—"the relations between the nations in a liberated Russia would have been based on the principles of national and territorial autonomy."3 Here some reservations were made for the Poles and the Finns. In Austria-Hungary the following concepts of the state began taking shape: a) a further reinforcement of dualism or the theory of the reinforcement of historical formations, b) a breach of duality, primarily providing concessions to the Slavic elements of St. Stephan's crown or the Great Austrian variant, c) gradual federalism or various Austrian-Slavic modifications. In general, a similar effect to the Russian one was expected from each of them, either the former or from that by R. Spingler and O. Bauer.

By the way, one could come across the assertion about the possible alternatives for the said developments in the prewar period. Thomas Masaryk, for instance, asserted that he foresaw the inevitable secession of the Czechs from Austria-Hungary in about 1913.4

In January of 1914 Pilsudski would speak in Paris of independence for Poland, describing the logic of the upcoming war: Russia shall be defeated by the Central states and the latter—by England, France and the U.S.A.5 Juozas Gabrys, a Lithuanian, would give lectures on the problems of his native country in the context of the Great War in Europe. The audience, as a rule, would doubt the lecturer's ideas. Once, an attorney while making a donation of one dollar, would mock: "I didn't believe you, but I've enjoyed your speech." He would answer in reply: "Thanks for the compliment but I bet ten dollars that, first, the war breaks out and, second, Lithuania will get independence."6

The alternatives and prospects which marked the second Spring of Nations could be summarized as follows: "Were the new nation state formations an eventuality in this particular Eastern Central region of Europe? Could the existing heterogeneous state formations be transformed into politically homogeneous ones?" It is more or less known how the dilemma was resolved and what problems the mode of solution caused, the so-called national principle. What do Römer's historical rights, federalism and civil society look like in this context?

There is a characteristic tendency in historiography, however, to fill the programs of the historical rights with the political contents or the image of life-giving national feelings, even though it is absolutely clear that without its constitutional and legal context, the view remains partial. In this case the legal context of historical rights is even more important for Römer perceived it as the only acceptable, legal and constitutional mode to restore Lithuania's statehood. "There is only one way," Römer wrote in his letter to Jaworski in May of 1916, the Chairman of the Polish Senior National Committee, "To recognize and publicly declare the Grand Duchy of Lithuania a historical state formation."7 In other words, to apply the principle of restitutio in integrum, i.e. unconditional, full identification and integrity of the legal subject. The unification of Italy and Germany in the second half of the 19th century had confirmed the significance of these processes. Very often the political effect of the latter shrouds the legal situation which could not change cardinally as in the case of Italy, when the rest of the formations were incorporated into Sardinia not violating the legal principles of integrity and identity.8

The importance of the legal mode would be even better illustrated by the confrontation between the historical and ethnic programs which increased during World War I. One should not search for the reasons of popularity of the ethnic programs only in the self-formation of separate nations or in the evolution of dichotomic notions of nation vs. state.

The emphasis on the development of the objective, ethnic qualification, propagation of the ethnographic values and the disregard of the freedom of the individual self determination—these were the elements characteristic to state political thought as well as the domestic and foreign policy of Russia and Austria (Koshut's warning about the danger of Austrian panslavism propagated from the beginning of the 19th c. is worthy of consideration).

It should be accepted, however, that the policy which was aimed at the neutralization of the national idea from the standpoint of the state idea, was effective. The national movements which gave priority to the ethnic qualifications in their programs, i.e. to natural law, jus naturalis, could be convinced of this. Natural law lacked the state constituting elements and was sufficient only to defend the rights of self-government or self-development. The latter could be guaranteed by autonomy as well. From the standpoint of international law, the national principle or the right of self-determination was not jus cogens. For example, Great Britain was the country that did not consider the national principle as a legal standard till the 7th decade of this century. But during World War I, Churchill would say: "The map of Europe should be changed applying the national principle and taking into account the bids of the conflicting regions."9 The actual meaning thereof could be revealed in Sazanov's war goals program, supported by Great Britain and France: "Russia receives the Lower Nemunas and the duchies of Galicia and Poznan, France—Alsace and Lotaringia, Denmark—Schleswig-Holstein, The Kingdom of Hanover is restored, Austria-Hungary become trialistic, i.e. Czechs and Slovaks, Hungarians and the Habsburgs' provinces, Serbia receives Bosnia, Hercegovina, Dalmatia and Northern Albania, Bulgaria receives Macedonia, Greece-Southern Albania..."10 Certainly, the conformation of the Western states to the Russian interpretation of the ethnic-national principle could be explained by geopolitical circumstances. No doubt, the West retained a stereotypical approach to the national principle; the features of the territorial, state determination as well as individual self-determination constituted the criterion of national identity. However, there is the Anglo-Saxon specification of this issue. Dealing with the latter, one should take into account the features of the formation of the foreign policy of Great Britain and the USA of that period. As a rule, the major role was played by the Jewish personalities (for instance, Lewis Namier from historical Lithuania, one of the most influential advisors of F.O. and Lloyd George or Isaok Bowman, the Head of the commission "The Inquiry" under the President of the USA).

It should be emphasized, that due to the legal insufficiency and the civic narrowness of the ethnic programs, the national movements sought a stable legal background in historical rights, even if the attempts seemed, to put it mildly, not serious (f.i., Charles the Vth served as basis for the Slovenes, the Slovakian state proclaimed in the 13-14 cent. by L. Shturo and M. Csaka was a basis for the Slovaks; the Estonian A. Keskula tried to prove that the Estonian Vikings dominated the entire Baltics and in the 9-10th century established the Russian Empire together with the Swedes. The latter were a part of the Estonian race. According to Keskula, that was one of the most powerful empires in Southern Europe. This was an expression of the genius for creating civilizations.11

Owing to the same reason Masaryk (a Czech of Slovak origin, born in Moravia) was forced to revert to the law of the historical St. Vaclav's crown, instead of developing the concept of the political Czech nation earlier formed by F. Palacki. The latter was a noticeable obstacle in the realization of the idea of Czechoslovakism, having in mind that Slovakia belonged to the Hungarian crown of St. Stephan. Here are T. Masaryk's arguments for statehood (the Memorandum of August 31,1918, to the Entente): "Our bids for absolute independence we base on the historical law—Slovakia, the Southern part of the nation, was occupied by the Hungarians and separated from Moravia and Bohemia so long ago, but from time to time the Slovaks were independent..."12

The postwar treaties should be remembered because Austria, Czechoslovakia and Serbia-Slovenia-Croatia (the future Yugoslavia) were regarded as the states which had preserved their legal identity and were not considered the successors of Austria-Hungary. Poland had to endure the non-application of the legal succession principle.13

We could assert that from the legal point of view with regard to the restoration of Lithuanian statehood there was a close relationship between historical identity, historical rights and federalism or, to be more exact, confederalism, which was propagated by Römer in 1915-1916. On the other hand, there was undoubtfully influence by geopolitical circumstances, i.e. a constant threat from Russia and Germany. Parenthetically, Römer raised the establishment of the neutral, buffer zone of the confederation in the region to the level of a guarantee of European security. The Polish-Lithuanian-Byelorussian, and with God's help, the Lavian Commonwealth, in Römer's words, is the union of free nations cooperating in the field of arts, culture, freedom, and security. The indispensable condition for such a configuration was the good will of Poland, i.e. announcement of the total territorial disinterest in the East and the recognition of the Lithuanian and Byelorussian nations, in this way gaining the sympathy of the latter and, according to Römer, strengthening the existing feeling of solidarity with Poland. The issue of Ukraine was considered to be solved separately for it was evaluated as too difficult for "Poland's shoulders." In its own turn, the political union of the lands of historical Lithuania into one state, a successor of the GDL, had to provide favorable conditions for the homogeneous society of the region to become the political nation or Lithuania.14 In this way, the principle of joint cooperation between equal and free nations would have become the propeller of everyone's state-building work and the contribution of its future.

While mentioning the prewar "forecasts" by T. Masaryk, J. Pilsudski, J. Gabrys, we could not do without bluffing. In any case, J. Gabrys was the Secretary of the "Union des Nationalites", i.e. the organization whose preference was the enforcement of universal final peace and the establishment of the European and the Universal Federation. In the eyes of the Quai d'Orsy of Paris, J. Gabrys was an eternal federalist, and the draft of the Lithuanian-Ukrainian federation which he handed to the French Embassy in Switzerland served as a confirmation of this attitude. There is nothing to say about Pilsudski. In January of 1914, in Paris he continued the scheme of the European evolution and spoke metaphorically, saying that when Germany and Austria-Hungary were defeated by the West, Eastern Europe would be united by Central Europe, and the West would unite Eastern Europe. Pilsudski's bids and further actions revealed the real meaning of the metaphors: he hinted at the Great Eastern Empire, encompassing the lands of Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania and Byelorussia, i.e. the empire stretching from the Baltic to the Black seas, separating Germans from Russians, and based on the historical background. This, Römer wrote, would be "The Empire of Dominias," or the empire of the Polish Dominias, composed of at least three members, i.e., Poland, Ukraine, and Lithuania. Poland would have the leading role. The block, even if it did not encompass the relative states of Latvia and Estonia, would at least act and coordinate them. It could include Finland in the North, and Romania in the South. Such a theory was based on the imperialistic, mechanic, aristocratic principle of the restoration of the historical Lithuanian-Polish state, on the principle, in Römer's words, of distrust to young nations because they were morally and mentally incapable of maintaining their independence and needed leadership and order themselves.15 The restoration of this Two Nation Republic of the federalistic-dominian sort could be evaluated as majestic and fantastic and for this reason, unrealistic. But there was a lot of no less utopic and, at first glance, federalistic projects. For instance. Sergei Sharapov, a panslavist, in the 6th decade described Europe in his novel "In Half a Century" ("Tcherez polveka"). In 1951, a citizen of Moscow meets a man from the past and answers his questions: "Is Constantinople ours? — Yes, this is our fourth capital. — Pardon, where are the first three? — The Government is in Kiev, the second capital is Moscow, the third is Petersburg. —What are the borders of Russia? — Persia is our province, the same as Chiva, Buchara and Afghanistan. In the West it borders Danzig, the entire Eastern Prussia, further—Poland with Warsaw, Black Russia with Lvov, Austria, Czechia and Vienna Hungary with Budapest, Bulgaria with Sofia and Andrianople, Greece with Athens."16 Certainly, the implementation thereof took time and might. "True, the principle of strength dominated the German federalistic theory of "Central Europe" which had an extra element of the numerous German population in the region. Maybe Masaryk's Democratic Union of Central Europe (he believed the nations of Eastern Europe needed a powerful Russia to maintain balance with the Austrians and the Germans), according to its principles and geopolitical orientation was similar to that of Römer: every nation should be provided the right to form its own government on the principles they regarded as consistent with their security needs and well-being; the government should come from the approval of the citizens. The Declaration of the Central European Democratic Union (Petersburg, October 23-26, 1918) was signed only by the representatives of the Czechs, the Slovaks, the Albanians, the Ukrainians, the Poles, the Croats, and even the Armenians residing in the USA. One of the leaders of the Polish political movement I. Paderewski addressed the participants of the ceremony: "My dear Northern brothers, Lithuanians", but in a couple of days he complained to W. Wilson of the great states encouraging separatism among the Polish nationalities...17

The efforts and the ideals while crafting the civil society are rather frankly and metaphorically described in Römer's lectures on Lithuanian constitutional law. He stated that the logics of the very formation of the postwar states was the only possible one in the existing situation, for the reason that it was based on the element of sociocratic nationalism and not on that of the nation populi (i.e. of all citizens). Also he added that from the democratic point of view, the Lithuanian emigrant Democrats in the Petersburg Seimas of Lithuanians** were more consistent, but, in fact, naive.18

**In the Petersburg Seimas of the Lithuanians of Russia (May 27-June 2, 1917) the Democrats demanded the right of determination and a Founding Seimas for Lithuania. But the Resolution on the declaration of Lithuanian independence drafted by the Nationalists got the majority vote.


2 Sukiennicki W. East Central Europe during World War I. New York, 1984. Vol. I, p. 127, 134-136.
3 Miliukov p. Nacionalnyj vopros. Proischozhdenie nacionalnosti i nacionalnyje voprosy v Rosii. — Praha, 1925. S. 173.
4 Masaryk T. G. Die Weltrevolution. Erinnerung und Betrachtungen 1914-1918.— Berlin, 1925. S. 2.
5 Sukiennicki W. Ibidem. Vol. I. p. 78-79.
6 Colliander B. En Konspirators Minnen, 1911-1916//Acts Acadamiae Aboensis, Ber. A.—Abo, 1965. Vol. 31. No. l.p.13-14.
7 Sukiennicki W. Ibidem. vol. I. p. 135.
8 Brounli J. Ibidem. v. 2. p. 197.
9 Colliander B. Ibidem. p. 35.
10 Rosen-Zawadski K. "Karta buduszej Jewropy" / /Studia z dziejow ZSSR i Europy Srodkowej. 1972. v.8 p. 142-143.
11 Sukiennicki W. Ibidem. Vol. I. p. 235-236.
12 Sukiennicki W. Ibidem. v.2. p. 892.
13 Brounli J. Ibidem. v.2. p.401.
14 Sukiennicki W. Ibidem. Vol. 1. p. 134-136; Vol. 2 p. 1007.
15 Romeris M. Juozas Pilsudskis (Lietuviø Tautinio Atgimimo Istorijos studijos. Vilnius, 1991. v.3. p. 460-461.
16 Janov A. Ruskaja ideja i 2000-yj god.—New York, 1988, p. 68-69.
17 Sukiennicki W. Ibidem. Vol. 2. p. 1183.
18 Remeris M. Lietuvos Konstitucinës teisës paskaitos. — Vilnius, 1990. p. 45.