Volume 43, No. 3 - Fall 1997
Editor of this issue: Violeta Kelertas
ISSN 0024-5089
Copyright © 1997 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.


Harvard University

Lithuanian historiography is neither as ample, nor refined as its Western counterparts. Notwithstanding its mastery of primary and secondary literature and its ability to describe and summarize, Lithuanian historiography, to speak baldly, lacks originality and self-consciousness. This, however, should not prevent us from attempting to grasp its essential patterns.

My essay will focus on Lithuanian historiography on medieval Lithuania (of the thirteenth and the fourteenth centuries), although I will occasionally touch upon other periods. "Lithuanian historiography" primarily designates historians who wrote in the Lithuanian language. Thus, I will exclude from my overview such historians of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania as Stryjkowski (1547-1586?) and Albertas Vijūkas Kojelavičius (Kojalowicz, 1609-1677), usually assigned to the Lithuanian historical tradition.

I will attempt to describe the dominant modes of history in Lithuanian historiography from the nineteenth century to this day emphasizing historical "philosophy". It does not mean, however, that the factual material is to be omitted from my survey, although the lines between historiographi-cal and historiosophical thought will at times be drawn evasively.

Another focus of my essay will be the problem of the "original identity" of Lithuanian historiography. Was Lithuanian historiography able to create that identity? And if so, by what patterns is it characterized in different periods? What goals, interests and motives supported and support Lithuanian historiography?

* * *

Lithuanian historical literature traditionally begins with Simonas Daukantas (1793-1864), the "John the Baptist of the new Lithuania."1 As a student of the law historian I. Danilowicz (1787-1843) and the historians J. Lelewel 91786-1861) and I. Onacewicz (1780-1825) at Vilnius University, Daukantas was influenced by the romantic consciousness of the period. Daukantas, at least as I see it, set the standard in Lithuanian historiography of a long tradition of pragmatism embodied in the objective of awakening the nation.

Simonas Daukantas's historical works,2 mingle facts with myths and legendary tales. Although he spent some time in the Königsberg archives, worked for a while in the Senate's chancellery in St. Petersburg and had access to the historical sources of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Daukantas's writings are neither extensive nor critical. They rather emanate national fancies. Daukantas's works were, however, able to solve the principal problem of his time: to visualize the new Lithuania in the image of the old one. The old, particularly medieval pagan Lithuania, assumes in Daukantas's histories the position of a transparent symbol of virtue. Lithuanians and Samogitians, being pagan, living in forests, brave in war, free at home, in Daukantas's view, had more virtue than their neighbors the Christians.3 The pagan Lithuanians loved their native land and never allowed themselves to be denationalized.4 Daukantas's idealization of the past and his interest in the old religion, pagan customs and mores reflect the romantic search for the primitive, the genuine and the ingenious.

The territory of the past most desirable for Daukantas is the Middle Ages during which "discernment and virtue" were prevalent. Admirer and extoller of the pagan virtues, of the power and excellence of medieval heroes, "John the Baptist" severely criticized the present. Owing to the Enlightenment perception of human progress, Daukantas regarded the contemporary world and its recent past as corrupt and degraded. It is the ruling class of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, transformed from the creative into a parasitic minority, that was most responsible for the collapse of glorious Lithuania.5 Union with Poland and the introduction of Christianity, in Daukantas's view, ruined Lithuanian mores. Critical of Polish influence, Daukantas preached a new nation based exclusively on the Lithuanian language.

In his nostalgic historiography, the contrast between the corrupt present and the sentimentally glorious past serves as a means to revive a "false past": history, in this perspective, becomes an imaginary being in the past that speaks with the accent of the contemporary age.6 Daukantas's writings are indeed versions of nineteenth-century patriotic histories that vaunt the glory and lament the decline of the author's people. Their purpose can be easily discerned: to induce an emotion leading to virtue or enthusiasm and to incite virtuous conduct in a contemporary Lithuanian.

My attention to Daukantas's romantic historiography is due not only to his importance as a pioneer of historical narrative in the Lithuanian language. Most of the later Lithuanian historical works, consciously or unconsciously, followed Daukantas's pragmatic episteme. The inability of ever freeing itself from the preconception of history as a means of edification and instruction can be deemed the dominant feature of Lithuanian historiography. Although there were more critical and "scientific" historical narratives in Daukantas's times; for instance, Bishop of Samogitia Motiejus Valančius's [Wolonczewski, 1801-1875] study Žemaičiiį Vyskupystė (The Bishopric of Samogitia, 1848, Vilnius), Daukantas remains the epitome of the Lithuanian historian. A historian who notwithstanding his poor health and difficult life devoted himself to writing of useful books in Lithuanian.7

Daukantas's example also attests to the eternal problem of any historiography, namely its socially, politically, culturally, etc. determined character. In other words, historiography, although preaching the norms of disembodied objectivity, inevitably discourses the civilization in which it lives.

The historiography of the Lithuanian national awakening (the second half of the nineteenth century) which blossomed in the first Lithuanian periodical Aušra (The Dawn, 1883) incarnated the physiognomy of romantic national philosophy. Fulfilling the obligation of instruction and inspiration, it flawlessly commingled the factual and the imaginary. Aušra's historiography relied on the pragmatic formula "historia est magistra vitae":

As everyone acquires the knowledge of what one was and is... by remembering one's life story, all our people should remember and know the past of this Lithuanian land and all the events, fortunate and unfortunate, which made our nation the way it is now...8

In order to better understand oneself, Aušra's first issue claimed, one has to study and to understand one's past. To grasp why the present is the way it is and how one set of events leads to another, we have to trace the course of history. The latter claims are surprisingly modern!

Aušra 's sentimental return to the past originated from the motive of national independence. "[Lithuanian] history encourages us to live, it awakens the powers of the nation, it inspires our belief in the future and strengthens the ideals of independence from foreign dominance and authority," wrote one contributor to the periodical, Jonas Šliūpas.9

The editors and writers of Aušra were eager to show the magnitude of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania which covered the wide plains of Eastern Europe stretching from "sea to sea." Lithuania was depicted as a poetic theme, often in the form of historical romance or hallucination (for instance, a writer in 1885 argued that even Herodotus had mentioned Kaunas [Kowno]). The notion of history, as an inspiration for national pride and a carrier of national consciousness, prevails in the works of Jonas Basanavičius (1851-1927), the principal editor of the periodical. His articles treat Lithuanian prehistory and the castle-hills of old Lithuania built to defend the country against the Teutonic Knights. But it was only his original, albeit fantastic, theory of Lithuanian descent from the Trakians and the Frygians, the old inhabitants of the Balkan peninsula, that made Basanavičius famous. This theory subsumed in his book The Nationality of the Trakians and Frygians and their Wandering to Lithuania attempted to present the past of the nation in the most splendid manner as well as to popularize knowledge drawn from linguistics, folklore, mythology and archaeology.10

Another periodical of the Lithuanian national awakening Varpas (The Bell) overthrew the sentimental craving for the lost ages and boasted of a much more positive and "objective" character of historical writing. Unfortunately, both historiography's link to fiction and myth and its pragmatic-didactic undertakings were difficult to overcome. One can hardly find any traces of positivist impartiality and objectivity in Varpas's historical studies which were used to formulate the Lithuanian identity as separate from that of the Polish and Russian identity. For instance, in an article against Polonized Lithuanians who resented the Lithuanian language as "vulgar", one writer argued that "it was spoken by our great Gediminas, Algirdas, Kęstutis, Biruta [Kęstutis's wife] and Vytautas the Great during their time." In 1894, in quite a few issues of Varpas the "Lithuanianness" of the Rus' lands is claimed by absurd philological arguments: Vitebsk allegedly stems from the Lithuanian word vyti (to chase or to wind), Pinsk from pinti (to plait), Drutsk from drūtas (stout), Smolensk from smala (tar), etc. Thus, nineteenth-century Lithuanian historiography discoursed the prevalence of the imagination (in a negative sense) and credulity, and underdeveloped critical capacity.

In the period between the end of the prohibition to print Lithuanian books in the Latin alphabet (1904) and the regaining of Lithuanian independence (1918), the Lithuanian Scholarly Society (Lietuvių Mokslo Draugija) was founded in Vilnius (1907). It began to publish historical studies; the periodicals The Lithuanian People (Lietuvių Tauta) and Friendship (Draugija) appeared which interalia deal with history. The Lithuanian Scholarly Society issued a number of historical textbooks, translations and adaptations of Polish and Russian works on Lithuania.11 But only with the creation of the Republic of Lithuania as an independent state, did Lithuanian historical research make rapid progress.

Lithuanian historiography of 1918-1940 participated in the production of socially useful myths, albeit to a lesser degree than in previous times. In order to legitimize national independence, historical research became of vital importance. It is not surprising that medieval Lithuania, especially until the Krewo Union in 1385-1386 when the Grand Duchy of Lithuania entertained strong independence received the most attention.

Historians attempted to overcome the parochial isolation of Lithuanian historiography by participating in the exchange of European ideas. The process of internationalization, communication and exchange was enhanced by historians who received their doctorates in German-speaking universities (J. Jakštas, M. Krasauskaitė, K. Avižonis, Z. Ivinskis, etc.12). Deriving its positivist strength from the pragmatic goals to lay the foundations of independence and of self-reliant historical science, Lithuanian historiography, however, remained conceptually and theoretically feeble. One of the most important historians of that time Z. Ivinskis (1908-1971) admitted the lack of philosophy of history in Lithuanian historiography. Formulating their own independent views (different from those of Polish, Russian and German historians) and "looking for Lithuanians in Lithuanian history," the Lithuanian researchers, in Ivinskis's words, neglected the conceptualization of their scholarly programs and a self-conscious definition of the meaning of Lithuanian history.13

Let us now survey the historiography dealing with the medieval Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The most extensive and careful contribution to the period of the thirteenth through the fifteenth century belongs to above-mentioned Zenonas Ivinskis.

Ivinskis defended his doctoral dissertation entitled Geschichte des Bauernstandes in Litauen von den altesten Zeiten bis zum Anfang des IS.fahrhunderts^4 at the University of Berlin in 1932. His dissertation concludes that farming was not of primary importance to the Lithuanian economic system and that rather stock-breeding was dominant. To minimize the importance of farming, Ivinskis points out 1) the unfavorable climactic conditions of Lithuania; 2) the low level of agricultural technique; 3) the destructive raids of the Teutonic Knights which hindered land-cultivation; and 4) the large quantities of grain imported from Prussia at the beginning of the fifteenth century. The author proves the prevalence of livestock breeding by the favorable physical characteristics of the country, the data from the chroniclers concerning horses, oxen and other animals. Another argument on this account adheres to the reports of scouts sent by the Teutonic Order to Lithuania to find suitable routes. They speak much more often of meadows, fields and open forests overgrown with grass than of ploughed land. Ivinskis also argues that the raids of the Knights were much less injurious to stock-breeders than to corn-growers. His controversial thesis was criticized by some Polish historians who supported the assertion that the Lithuanians in the Middle Ages were predominantly agricultural people.15

Z. Ivinskis wrote a number of articles on the relations of the pagan Grand Duchy of Lithuania with Christian Europe and the history of the conversion of Lithuania. He contributed to the collective work entitled Vytautas Didysis 1350-1430 (1930) and to the classical Lietuvos istorija (History of Lithuania, 1936). In the latter work, written by several historians, Ivinskis covered the period from the acceptance of Christianity (1387) to the end of the Gediminas dynasty (1572). Ivinskis devoted much of his attention to the political and military history of Lithuania from the thirteenth to the sixteenth century. He published important studies on Mindaugas and Jogaila and the major battles between the Lithuanians and the Teutonic Knights at Saulė-Šiauliai (1236), Durbe (1260) and Žalgiris (Tannenberg, 1410). He considered research of Lithuanian ethnographic boundaries from the thirteenth to the fifteenth centuries and the localization of castles and historical sites the most insistent problems of Lithuanian medieval historiography.16 After World War II Ivinskis worked a the University of Bonn as an associate professor (ausserordinarius) of Eastern European history. In the Vatican archives he discovered many documents unknown to Lithuanian historians. Ivinskis started a multi-volume history of Lithuania, but only the first volume, Lietuvos istorija iki Vytauto mirties (The History of Lithuania until Vytautas's Death), was published before his own death in 1971.

Ivinskis was one of the few Lithuanian historians who understood and spoke out about the unsatisfactory methodology of Lithuanian historiography. He possessed a conception of what history ought to be. In his theoretical program. Ivinskis stressed the creative role of the historian and his/her independent thought not confined to the versions of Lithuanian history written by other nations. According to Ivinskis, history is "the expression of lively national consciousness."17 At the same time, he scorned the derivative period of Lithuanian history writing overcrowded by amateurs, chronologists, dogmatists, pedants and accountants in which he allegedly lived.18

Ivinskis called for a "scientific" history freed from pragmatism and romantic ornament of emotional affections.19 Unfortunately, his life context, particularly during 1918-1940, did not allow Ivinskis to escape these fatal traps of Lithuanian history writing. One can find, in Ivinskis's work, a number of anachronisms which prompt one to question whether the modern concepts of nation and patriotism are relevant to the fourteenth century. Ivinskis's dubious conclusions about the conversion of Lithuania, for instance, suggest nineteenth-century notions of ethnic nationalism:

...But baptism according to the rites of the eastern Church would not have saved the Lithuanians from further agitation and oppressive political claims on the part of the Crutched [sic!] Knights, while further it would have assured the Ruthenian element a dominating position in the State in the future. In this case not only would Lithuania have broken off relations with western civilization, with which baptism would be, and indeed was, the most important link, but it would gradually have become completely Ruthenian. This can be stated with confidence when one looks back on the second half of the nineteenth century, for in the time of Muraviev it was principally the Roman Catholic faith which saved it from becoming Russian in spite of all the pressure exerted upon it.20

Ivinskis's historical writings, apart from his judicious compilations of sources, extensive documentation, wide erudition and precise exposition of facts, assert that the historical world, first of all, is a world of events composed in the positivist-empiricist method.

The other important historian of independent Lithuania was Adolfas Šapoka, who, after graduating from Kaunas University in 1929, studied in Prague and Stockholm. At the center of Šapoka's historical interest lay the complicated problem of Lithuania's political and cultural relationship with Poland after the Union of Lublin. Šapoka distinguished between the legal-political and socio-cultural aspects of Lithuanian-Polish relationships and argued that Lithuania remained an independent state legally and politically while gradually losing its cultural identity after 1569.

A. Šapoka is best known as the editor of Lietuvos istorija (History of Lithuania, 1936). To this book he contributed articles on the period of 1572-1795 and wrote a lengthy introduction.

The introduction begins with a theoretical discussion of the goals of history. Once again we read that history can offer us a sober understanding of human and national life; pragmatism based on the notion of history as human and national instruction decorates the book. The author then reviews the source-materials and the extensive literature on the history of Lithuania. The Polish, Russian and German historians are charged, not without basis, with partiality: according to the preface, the Russians attempted to demonstrate that Lithuania was a Russian state, the Poles strove to prove that it was constantly influenced by Poland. With regard to this bias, the goal of Lithuanian historians was to present the "Lithuanian past in such form as it actually appeared."21 Although the desire objectively to reconstitute Lithuanian history seems illusory, due has to be given to the author's call to properly elaborate Lithuania's role in the Eastern Europe of the time.

The History of Lithuania, like most historical works of the 1918-1940 period, strove to maintain an independent stance towards the interpretation of the Lithuanian past. Lithuania's past was correctly treated as having a unique development, in contrast to the claims of Polish and Russian historians of the end of the nineteenth century. The authors of the History of Lithuania argued that the Grand Duchy was the leading power in the "Russian plains" during the fourteenth, fifteenth and partly the sixteenth centuries; it successfully obstructed "German expansion" toward the east, while forming the great empire which united the manifold Slavonic peoples. Consequently, Lithuania had to be regarded as the first and very effective creator of Central Europe.

The articles on medieval Lithuania in the History provide charming pseudo poetical nationalist statements. For instance, "Kęstutis was an embodiment of genuine Lithuanianness. (p. 94); "...Lithuanians appeared in the historical arena as a nation of warriors and nature..." (p. 152), etc.

The importance of the above book cannot be denied. It still survives in the imagination of most people as the official history of Lithuania. This History is not only an informative popular survey of Lithuania's place in Europe, but also an expression of the consciousness of Lithuanian historical identity. The authors of the book endeavored to define Lithuanian "regional identity" which was at times denied to Lithuania by historians of other nationalities.

One of the contributors to the History of Lithuania was Juozas Jakštas. Although after 1945 he lived abroad, Jakštas's historical ideology was formed in the years of independent Lithuania.

Jakštas specialized in the history of the Middle Ages. Having studied with the Austrian historian Alfons Dopsch, who stressed the uninterrupted continuation of the Roman Empire into the Middle Ages, Jakštas was especially interested in the beginning of that period (his dissertation explored Western Christianity's views about the Roman Empire until the fifth century).22

In the field of Lithuanian history, one must point out his articles "Vokiečių Ordinas ir Lietuva Vytenio ir Gedimino laikais" (The Teutonic Order and Lithuania in the Time of Vytenis and Gediminas, published in the journal Senovė, vol. I-II, 1935-1936), "Naujausi Gedimino dinastijos kilmės tyrinėjimai" (The Latest Findings about the Origins of the Gediminas Dynasty, published in Lietuvos praeitis, vol. I, 1940), "(Algirdas ir Lietuvos Didžiosios Kunigaikštijos pirmas susidūrimas su Maskva" (Algirdas and the First Confrontation of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania with Moscow)23, "Pavėluotas Lietuvos krikštas" (The Delayed Conversion of Lithuania)24, and "Russian Historiography on the Origin of the Lithuanian State,"25 among his other works. From his writings, one can infer Jakštas's calls for the "Lithuanianness" of Lithuanian history and for the formation of regional identity.

Jakštas criticizes the old positivistic approach towards history with its roots in eighteenth-century rationalism which considered the Middle Ages a time of spiritual erring. Calling for an empathic attitude towards the medieval world, in his review of Pashuto's book Obrazovaniie Litovskogo gosu-darstva (Moskva, 1959), Jakštas stresses the need to comprehend the spiritual motives in the missionary policies of the Church and the crusades.26 According to him, the Crusades cannot be considered the undertaking of different European states, since "national states in the modern sense did not exist at that time."27

Although defending the "Lithuanianness" of the Grand Duchy, Jakštas names Pashuto's Russian chauvinism as one of his work's most irritating traits. Jakštas states ironically:

Thus Pashuto's mention of the "fraternal" Belorussian and Ukrainian nations is a purely political statement derived from present-day circumstances and appallingly disregardful of historical truth. Another statement, equally unhistorical and even more colored by Russian chauvinism, goes as follows: "The Russian nation, led by the government of Moscow, put an end to the expansion of the Lithuanian and Polish feudal lords to the east" (p. 207). In other words, the eastern expansion was the work of the Lithuanian and Polish feudal lords, who were opposed not by the feudal lords of Moscow but by the Russian nation. Is Pashuto claiming that in Moscow there was only one nation without feudal lords and in Lithuania and Poland there were only feudal lords without nations?28

Jakštas was categorically against the "old etatistic view of Russian historiography" which considered the Muscovite state the central historical factor in the history of Eastern Europe and denied the Grand Duchy of Lithuania its proper place in it.29 According to him, Russian historians generally overrated the role of Russian lands in the formation and development of the Lithuanian state. Jakštas opposed any effort to "russianize" the past of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania both denouncing Pashuto's chauvinism and praising his effort to restore the Lithuanian character of the Grand Duchy. Grasping the irrelevance of modern notions of nation and patriotism in the studies of the Grand Duchy, Jakštas still attempted to reject any influence of Rus' on it. Furthermore, he, as most Lithuanian historians, confused the political and national legacies of the Kievan and Muscovite states.30 Jakštas also repeated the commonly accepted myth of the "Tatar yoke."31

Jakštas's views reflect the positivist belief in empirical history. With the lack of epistemological skepticism atypical of the twentieth-century scholar, he sticks to a model of explanation composed of "objective historical facts." Alas, there are still no doubts about the feasibility of "objectivity" in Lithuanian historiography!

Among major and minor studies of medieval Lithuania published during 1918-1940 ((give or take a year or two), it is necessary to mention J. Stakauskas's study Lietuva ir Vakarų Europa XIII-me amžįuje [Lithuania and Western Europe in the Thirteenth Century, Kaunas, 1934], K. Avižonis's dissertation Die Entstehung und Entwicklung des Htauischen Adels im 13 und 14 jahrhundert bis zur litauisch-polnischen Union 1385 (Berlin, 1932), J. Matusas's , Švitrigaila Lietuvos didysis kunigaikštis [Švitrigaila, Grand Duke of Lithuania, Kaunas, 1938], Vanda Daugirdaitė-Sruogienė's Lietuvos istorijos vaizdai ir raštai [Historical Scenes and Writings of Lithuanian History, Kaunas, 1939] and the collective work Jogaila (Kaunas, 1935) edited by A. Šapoka and including articles by Z. Ivinskis, J. Jakštas and others.

As one can see from this sparse review of the historiography of independent Lithuania, although much was done, even more was left to be done. Unfortunately, historians of the time were mostly concerned with the contemporary educational system (historical textbooks written in a hurry to meet demand) and with the commemoration of various anniversaries (for instance, the 500th anniversary of Vytautas's death and his cult). Much attention was paid to political and religious history and much less to social and economic problems. Lithuanian historiography still was imprisoned in posi-tivist-empirical confines: afraid of being more open to different ways of thinking, it did not risk questioning the accountability of its own discourse. Historiography's dominant tendency has been catastrophically pedagogical. This may be explained by the long tradition of pragmatism (to serve one's country) as well as intellectual timidity in confronting the more developed and refined Polish, Russian, and German historical science. Regardless, the elegant and powerful narratives in which the Lithuanian historians of the time discoursed their interpretations should not be overlooked.

Before turning our attention to Soviet Lithuanian historiography, it must be stressed that only a part of the "bourgeois" historians remained in Lithuania after 1945. Some more or less successfully worked under the surveillance of the Soviet regime. Among these were the historians Ignas Jonynas, Konstantinas Jablonskis32 and Bronius Dundulis33 of which only Jonynas pondered the medieval Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

Ignas Jonynas graduated from Moscow University in 1911 (he attended the seminars of M. Liubavskii, A. Savin, R. Vipper and P. Vinogradov) and studied in Grenoble and Berlin. His favorite field was the political history of Lithuania from the thirteenth through the sixteenth century. In independent Lithuania he published an essay Vytauto šeimyna [The Family of Vytautas the Great, in Praeitis, 1933] and important studies on the first Lithuanian Statute. After his death, Jonynas's outline of Lithuanian historiography was published in Ocherki istorii istoricheskoi nauki v SSSR (Moskva, 1955). His scholarly method is best described as positivism, extreme "objectivism" and a superabundance of facts. His works of the Soviet period manage to avoid awkward Communistic phraseology.34

Jonynas was an exception. Historical writing, especially during Jonynas's lifetime in the Lithuanian SSR (he died in 1954) was permeated by the dehumanized rhetoric of Pokrovski.35 Deliberate and politically oriented falsifications of history blossomed. Under the laws of "vulgar" Marxism, the historical process was reduced to a perennial class struggle. The first volume of the History of the Lithuanian SSR [Lietuvos TSR istorija, t. l (Nuo seniausių laikų iki 1861 metų), Vilnius, 1957] is a good example of such history. In this work the preconceived schemes are so unrefined that they threaten to suffocate the narrative. The interpretation of all phenomena and events, even medieval, illustrate the class struggle, the oppression and exploitation of the lower class by the upper class. The state is reduced to the economic and class functions allegedly underlying it.

As we have already noticed, some historians of independent Lithuania showed evidence of anachronistic thinking. In the History of the Lithuanian SSR, anachronistic thinking reaches its acme. The modern political and socio-economic categories ("class," "class struggle", "exploiter," etc.) are crudely imposed on the past. The medieval society is categorized within the framework of modern political structures. The Grand Duchy of Lithuania in this history figures as the embodiment of modern state formation, as a national unit more or less similar to that of the nineteenth century. For instance, in the description of the 1557-1586 war with Livonia, it is stated that "Latvian and Estonian peasants met the Russian Army as their savior." (p. 74). One can only wonder if those peasants even knew the name "Russian Army"! It is possible to sense some nationalist and "older brotherly" (i.e. Soviet Russian) bias in the treatment of the seventeenth century. The chapter on the war between Lithuania and Muscovy in the beginning of the seventeenth century is entitled 'The Aggression of Lithuania's Feudal Lords Toward the Russian State." But the section on the uprising of the Cossacks and their surrender to Muscovy is called "The War of Liberation of the Ukraine, 1648-1654." As one reviewer of the history correctly noticed, if Muscovy "occupies new territories, these territories are liberated, but if someone else is attempting to penetrate into [Muscovy's] lands, he is committing aggression"!36

In discussing the historical events of the ninth to the twelfth centuries and of the later period of Grand Duke Gediminas and his descendants, the terms "feudal system" and "feudals" are used very often. The authors emphasize the inhumanity of the feudal system and the cruelty of the feudal lords. One can only doubt whether the notion of a feudal system, as understood by Western historians, can be applied to the Lithuania of the time.

The authors have trouble with "symbolic universe": sets of cultural assumptions, beliefs and so on. Christianity is blamed; the feudal system is considered a purely Christian social structure. According to the authors of the book, even ancient mythology proves that no class structure existed in pagan society and that only Christianity introduced class structure and the feudal system; it was Christian ideology that formulated the rights of Lithuanian feudals.

Decorated with quotations from Marx, Engels and Lenin, the History of Lithuanian SSR, however, fails to mention any work by Lithuanian historians of the independence period.37 The authors do not even bother to analyze and reject "bourgeois nationalist concepts and views." The verbiage of ideological propaganda seems incompatible with the use of secondary literature, erudition and source-analysis.

One should not be surprised indeed. The past was employed to legitimize the present and to promote the notion of "progress." This term, in Soviet Lithuanian historiography/ succeeded in supplying a criterion for the judgment of facts and for the construction of history. According to the progres-sivist ideology, anything good in the past was oppressed, but in the Soviet present, the final "stage in a mankind's progress,"38 it flourishes. The Soviet progressivists resemble, to a degree, the historians of the Enlightenment to whom the "primitive" and "barbaric" past preserved only the negative value of evil.39

It is difficult not to quote the excerpt from B. Dundulis's book Lietuvos kova dėl valstybinio savarankiškumo 15 amžiuje [The Struggle for Political Autonomy in the fifteenth Century, Vilnius, 1968] in which he defines the objectives of Marxist methodology:

The nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the eras of capitalism and socialism, had to be studied first. However, the feudal era was not forgotten. Soviet historiography had to pay a great deal of attention to social and economic relations, to the class struggle, and the condition and role of the masses. It had to elucidate the struggle of the Lithuanian nation against the Order of Crossbearers and the Western European feudalists who supported it and to portray truly the relations between the Lithuanian nation and the Russian and other Eastern European nations. Placing itself in opposition to the idealization of princes and holding that the people are the basic creators of history, Soviet historical science also recognizes a certain role for individual actors in history, for those who through their acts, in essence coinciding with the interests of the people, objectively played a progressive role in Lithuanian history...40

The need to legitimize Soviet reality prompted historians to pay more attention to modern times than to the Middle Ages. As was noted in some statistical data, serious disproportions in the historical research appeared by the mid-1970's: over three-fifths of scholarly publications on Lithuanian history have been devoted to historical topics of the twentieth century and only about two-fifths were done on the preceding periods of the thirteenth to the nineteenth centuries.41 Furthermore, historians directed their research towards economic and social factors in the historical process. Medievalists were rarely interested in analyzing medieval society from the point of view of subjective perceptions, ideologies or culture. The focus of their scholarly activity became the economic relationship of exploitation, surplus appropriation and distribution, i.e. those agents which, according to Marxist economic theory, determine the establishment of the dominant mode of production and its connection to the structure of political power. The social relations of production were inscribed into the Middle Ages as a guide to the elucidation of the social and political practices, roles and institutions. But did they elucidate these roles, practices, and institutions?

The determinist "Marxism" reduced all the important features in the society and state formation to basic economic relationships.42 Good examples of such scholarship are Juozas Jurginis's books Baudžiavos įsigalėjimas Lietuvoje [The Establishment of Serfdom in Lithuania, Vilnius, 1962] and Lietuvos valstiečių istorija [History of the Lithuanian Peasantry, Vilnius, 1978], Lietuvių karas su kryžiuočiais [The

War of the Lithuanians with the Teutonic Knights, Vilnius, 1964] and B. Dundulis's Lietuvos kova dėl valstybinio savarankiškumo 15 amžiuje [Lithuania's Struggle for Political Autonomy in the Fifteenth Century]. The overemphasis of economic and class issues goes along with the annoying rhetoric embellished with Marxist-Leninist jargon:

The Soviet people are confident that the wise policy of the Soviet Communist Party and the Soviet government and the determined and consistent struggle of our country for a sound and permanent peace in the world will destroy all the revan-shist ravings of the heirs of the Swordbearers and of their treacherous supporters.43

On the same account one should mention that historical periodization suffered in Soviet work. Even the chronological divisions, merely a practical aid to narratives, were "tortured." The most famous academic bureaucrat Juozas Žiugžda (1893-1979), for instance, divided Lithuanian history according to the degree of integration of Lithuania's past into the history of Russia.44

It is important to ask to what extent historians had to adopt Soviet rhetoric in order to be able to write about the past, and how the adoption of this rhetoric impeded the historian's scholarly identity.

It seems that the degree of embeddedness of Soviet Lithuanian history writing in the ideological and social network hindered its access to dangerous nationalist questions (Vytautas's rule, for instance, was considered nationalist). It did not permit historians to question the extent to which the human being constitutes social relations while being constituted by them. The descriptive exercises of Soviet Lithuanian historians missed the dialectic between economic and other structures of social relations determined by cultural contexts. With regard to this, it should be noted that Soviet Lithuanian archaeology was less charged with Marxist-Leninist overtones.45

Even if we accept the prevalence of economism in history, as Lithuanian Marxist historians did, we should be able to admit the complexities of social power relations in society and not neglect the discourses of belief and legitimation institutionalized in various sets of economic and ideological motives. One can argue that institutional roles and behavior adopted by people do not necessarily reflect obvious economic structures and that the exaggerated socio-economic factor is not the only key to the cognition of the truth.

Most historians of Soviet Lithuania who more or less consistently worked on the medieval Grand Duchy can be regarded as adherents of the authoritative work Obrazovanie Litovskogo Gosudarstva by Vladimir Pashuto. Pashuto's influence, at least as I see it, can be traced in the works of Mečislovas Jučas46 and Romas Batūra47. One can convincingly argue that Soviet Lithuanians did not create or did not strive to create an independent school, or at least an independent stance towards the historical problems of the Middle Ages.48 Moreover, Soviet historians lost the elegance of historical narrative which their predecessors, the scholars of independent Lithuania, had developed. At the same time Soviet Lithuanian historiography was subjected to parochial isolation and failed to appreciate the insights of Western medievalists.

I should mention the most recent Lithuanian historiography on the Middle Ages. E. Gudavičius is considered the established authority on the period. His studies deal mostly with the foundation of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, its wars with the Teutonic Order and the emergence of towns in Lithuania.49 The historian of a younger generation A. Nikžentaitis published the first biography of the Grand Duke of Lithuania Gediminas in which he dwells too much on Christian "feudalism" and too little on Gediminas's pragmatic skill.50 Both Gudavičius and Nikžentaitis adhere to the determinist and positivist mode of historical writing. Both have been reprehended recently for the uncritical use of documents and careless factual conflation.51 Among Lithuanian emigre historians who write both in Lithuanian and English on the medieval Grand Duchy most prominent are Romuald J. Misiūnas52 and Rasa Mažeika53. They are less bound by nationalist bias and more willing to admit, for instance, the formative influence of Kievan Rus' on the shaping of Lithuanian state administration.54 At the same time Misiūnas, for instance, argues that the cultural impact of the East Slavs on the Grand Duchy in the mid-fourteenth century was minimal. Since the creed of the Grand Duke Algirdas is a crucial factor in the evaluation of the impact and extent of the East Slavic culture on the Lithuanian state, Algirdas's change of his religious profession several times during his life and his chameleonic figure did not allow to make any definite conclusion about such influence.55 Rasa Mažeika states, in accord with Misiūnas, that maintaining a balance between Eastern and Western Christianity, but professing neither, this Grand Prince epitomizes the unique position of pagan Lithuania in the late Middle Ages.56

* * *

As S. C. Rowell, the author of Lithuania Ascending,57 has stressed, the history of medieval Lithuania has not as yet received its due, "given the Grand Duchy's power, size and influence astride the frontier between Eastern and Western Christendom, between the Baltic and the Black Sea."58 Besides the problems of sources and the complex linguistic and textological demands, Lithuanian historiography itself is most responsible (one should note the Soviet Lithuanian historians' poor linguistic ability and their inadequate aptitude in analyzing texts).

According to S.C. Rowell, unpublished sources on medieval Lithuania are very rare, and any discoveries of sources in the future are likely to be made by accident.59 Hence, more important, at the present moment, is to proceed and examine certain aspects of the Grand Duchy: international relations, religious diplomacy, military campaigns and infrastructure, commerce, dynastic marriage, the growth of a pagan state outside a Catholic model and the role of pagan ideology.60 Moreover, Lithuanian historiography not only should appropriate the above topics but also attempt to shift from description to analysis. In other words, it needs to change the paradigms and models of historical explanation.

In a perennial struggle for power as a handmaid to national (from the nineteenth century to 1940) and communist politics (1940-1991), Lithuanian historiography did not construct its own "technique" capable of encompassing the historical self-consciousness and new methodologies. The lack of individual analytical / interpretative practice (as opposed to the repressive forms of communal historical consciousness) is justified either by the insubstantiality of theoretical creativity of the Lithuanian historians, or by their moral timidity. The Lithuanian historians credulously relied on the totalizing logic of universal mythologies, national or Marxist-Leninist.

Lithuanian historiography doubtless created the awareness of Lithuanian historical identity. But oscillating between three basic epistemes of romantic idealization, "scientific" objectivism and Marxist determinism, it was stuck, to put it roughly, in the positivist-empiricist method without even questioning its feasibility. From this fact, Lithuanian historiography, paradoxically, derives its strength: virtues of nationalist and Marxist conceptualization undermined the beginnings of epistemological skepticism. Service to the nation and party or simply preoccupation with essential existential necessities made such skepticism and intellectual despair irrelevant. The question of professional identity, the problem of language which a historian appropriates, the role of imagination, etc. — all this remained almost untouched. Do Lithuanian historians still speak in words with fixed meanings? What provides the basic vocabulary for them (nineteenth-century positivist ideas or Marxist "scientific concepts")? And how does this vocabulary shape the creative power of the historian's imagination? Isn't the vaunted impartiality and objectivity of Lithuanian historians' (particularly, Marxist) illusory?

Not subject to criticism of the meaning of their own language (mode of discourse or poetics of historical writing), the historians indulged in useful exercises of transcribing events. Theoretically simplistic and intellectually provincial, Lithuanian historiography did not narrate the world in its complexity, unpredictability and transience. At times offering sober pragmatism but more often nostalgic sentiment, the historians were not bold enough to perceive the possibility of a non-traditional and non-empirical reconstruction of the past.

Even if one takes the wise formula "historia est magistra vitae" seriously, one should admit that the exposition and interpretation of the manifold ways culture and society affect each other is sometimes more enjoyable than the writing of historical sermons and propagandistic treatises in commonly understood language. This is my genuine wish for Lithuanian historiography.


1 Vincent Trumpa, "Simonas Daukantas, Historian and Pioneer of the Lithuanian National Revival," Lituanus, vol. 2 11, 1 (1965): 9. About Daukantas, also see Juozas Jakštas, "Simonas Daukantas — pirmas tautinis Lietuvos istorikas," Tautos praeitis, vol. 2, 2 [6] (1965): 3-18.
2 Only one of Daukantas's works, Būdas senovės lietuvių, kalnėnų ir žemaičių [The Character of Ancient Lithuanians and Samogitians, St. Petersburg, 18451 was published during his lifetime. Other works of Daukantas include Darbai senųjų lietuvių ir žemaičių (The Deeds of Ancient Lithuanians and Samogitians) and Istorija žemaitiška (Samogitian History).
3 Quoted from Vincent Trumpa, op. cit,, 11.
4 Simonas Daukantas, Lietuvos istorija nuo seniausių gadynių iki Gediminui (Plymouth, PA, 1893), 53.
5 V. Trumpa, op. cit., 14.
6 Bcnedetto Croce, History, Its Theory and Practice (New York, 1960), 276.
7 Besides historical writings, Daukantas wrote dictionaries, grammars, prayer books and practical brochures on the cultivation of hops and tobacco.
8 The motto of the first issue of Aušra quoted from Zenonas Ivinskis, "Lietuvos istorija romantizmo metu ir dabar," in Lietuvos Katalikų Mokslo Akademijos suvažiavimo darbai, vol. Ill (1940), 332.
9 Quoted from ibid., 333.
10 About Aušra 's historiography, see also Juozas Jakštas, "Lietuvos aušrinė istoriografija," in Lietuvių Katalikų Mokslo Akademijos darbai, vol. VIII (1974): 221-238.
11 Stanislaw Zajaczkowski, "The Historical Sciences in Lithuania," in Baltic and Slavic Countries, vol. IV, 8[9] (1938): 240.
12 See Virgil Krapauskas, "Marxism and Nationalism in Soviet Lithuanian Historiography," in Journal of Baltic Studies, vol. XXVIII, 3 (1992): 240.
13 Zenonas Ivinskis, op. cit., 336-337. It must be emphasized that there were attempts on the part of Lithuanian philosophers to conceptualize the theory of history which somehow remained unnoticed. In 1929 L. Karsavin, author of works on the history of European culture published the book Istorijos teorija (The Theory of History) dealing with the theory and method of history. Karsavin rejected any controlling element in the historical process and denied the theory of progress. He also disregarded socio-economic factors in history.
14 It was published in Historische Studien, (Berlin, 1933) 236.
15 See the review of Ivinskis's dissertation by H. Lowmianski in Baltic Countries, vol. 1, 2 (1935): 241-244.
16 Z. Ivinskis, "Lietuvos istorija romantizmo metu ir dabar," 340.
17 lbid.,322.
18 Ibid., 336.
19 Ibid., 337-341.
20 Z. Ivinskis, "A contribution to the History of the Conversion of Lithuania," Baltic and Scandinavian Countries, vol. V, 1 (1939): 21.
21 Lietuvos istoriįa, ed. by A. Šapoka (Kaunas, 1936), 8.
22 Encyclopedia Lituanica, ed. Simas Sužiedėlis, vol. II (Boston, 1972), 495-496.
23 Tautos Praeitis, vol. IV, 2 [14] (1978): 7-24.
24 Lietuviu, Katalikų Mokslo Akademijos suvažiavimo darbai, vol. VI (1969): 173-187.
25 Lituanus, vol. 2 11, 4 (1965): 25-46.
26 Ibid., 34-35.
27 Ibid., 35.
28 Ibid., 46.
29 See Jakštas's review of The Encyclopedia of World History in Lituanus, vol. 7, 4 (1964): 120-123.
30 On Russian mythical beliefs about the legacy of the Kievan state, see Edward L. Keenan, "On Certain Mythical Beliefs and Russian Behaviors," in The Legacy of History in Russia and the New States of Eurasia, ed. by S. Frederick Starr (New York, 1994), 19-40.
31 See J. Jakštas, "Algirdas ir Lietuvos Didžiosios Kunigaikštijos pirmas susidūrimas su Maskva" in Tautos Praeitis, vol. IV, 2 [14] (1978): 7-25.
32 Jablonskis prepared and edited Istorijos Archyvas (Archives of History I, Kaunas, 1934, it includes the inventories of sixteenth-century manors), Lietuvos inventoriai XVII amžiuje (Inventories of Lithuania in the 17th Century, Vilnius, 1962) and Lietuvos istorijos šaltiniai (Sources of Lithuanian History, vol. 1, 1959, vol. 3, 1958). In another important work Lietuviški žodžiai senosios Lietuvos raštinių kalboje {Lithuanian Words in the Chancellery Language of Old Lithuania, vol. I, 1941) Jablonskis revealed the great number of Lithuanian terms which penetrated old church Slavic. Encyclopedia Lituanica, vol. II, 491-492.
33 It may benoted that Dundulis wrote his dissertation Napoleon et la Lithuanie et 1812 under Georges Lefebvre's supervision and advice at the Sorbonne. v. Krapauskas, op. cit., 244.
34 Virgil Krapauskas, op. cit., 243.
35 About Pokrovskianism, see Klaus Menhert, Stalin Versus Marx (London, 1952), 11-18.
36 See Vincas Trumpa, "The Work of Lithuanian Historians," in Lituanus, vol. 2 (1960): 75-79.
37 See also John C. Rugis, "A Soviet Interpretation of Lithuanian History," Lituanus, 3 (1962): 94-96. Istoriia Litovskoi SSR [s drevnikh vremen do nashikh dnei] (Vilnius, 1978) by Lithuanian authors is written in the same mode of history as political oratory. On page 70 we read: "On behalf of their class interests, [Lithuanian feudals of the 15th century] sacrificed national ones."
38 Buržuazinių emigrantų koncepcijų Lietuvos TSR istorijos klausimais kritika, ed. by J. Aničas (Vilnius; Mokslas, 1986), 233. 
Benedetto Croce, op. cit., 259.
40 As quoted in Lituanus, vol. 17, 4(1971): 29-
41 B. M Mačiuika, "Istoriniai leidiniai okupuotoje Lietuvoje," in Lietuvių Katalikų Mokslo Akademijos suvažiavimo darbai, vol. IX (1982): 135-146.
42 About Marxist reductionism see John Haldon, The State and the Tributary Mode of Production (London: Verso, 1993), 9-12.
43 Lietuvių karas su kryžiuočiais, ed. by J. Jurginis (Vilnius, 1964), 326.
44 Virgil Krapauskas, op. cit., 247.
45 For undistorted archaeology, see Lietuvių materialinė kultūra IX-XIII amžiuje (Liethuanian Material Culture in the 9-13th Centuries, Vilnius, 1978), ed. by R. Volkaitė-Kulikauskienė; and R. Volkaitė-Kulikauskienė, Lietuviai IX-XII amžiais (Lithuanians in the 9-12th Centuries, Vilnius, 1970).
46 M. Jucas's dissertation Litovskoe Velikoe kniazhestvo vo vtoroi polovine XlV-rtachala XV vv. i bor'ba iitovskogo naroda za nezavisimost' (The Grand Duchy of Lithuania from the Second Half of the Fourteenth to the Beginning of the Fifteenth Century, and the Struggle of the Lithuanian People for Independence) was supervised by V. Pashuto. Virgil Krapauskas, op. dt., 251. Jučas also wrote Nuo Krėvos sutarties iki Liublino Unijos (From the Act of Krewo to the Union of Liublin, Kaunas, 1970) and Lietuvos metraščiai (The Lithuanian Chronicles, Vilnius, 1968).
47 R. Batūra, Lietuva tautų kovoje prieš Aukso Ordą. Nuo Batu antplūdžio iki mūšio prie Mėlynųjų vandenų (Vilnius, 1975).
48 More about Soviet Lithuanian historiography for readers of Polish, see Marceli Kosman, "Przegląd badari nad dziejami Woelkiego Ksiqstwa Litcwskiego na Litwie radzieckiej w Latach 1954-1979," Zapiski Historyczne, XLVI (1981): 91-121; and Henryk Wisner, "W kre_gu litewskich czasopism historycznych," Zapiski Historyczne, vol. LVI, 4 (1991): 137-141.
49 E. Gudavičius, Miestų atsiradimas Lietuvoje (The Emergence of Towns in Lithuania, Vilnius, 1991), Kryžiaus karai Pabaltijyje ir Lietuva XIII amžiuje {The Teutonic Wars in the Baltic Region and Lithuania in the 13th Century, Vilnius, 1989).
50 A. Nikžentaitis, Gediminas (Vilnius, 1989). Among his other works, one should mention Nikžentaitis's article "Lietuvos ir Lenkijos santykiai 1340-1345 m. (Pietvakarių Rusios žemių prijungimo prie Lietuvos Didžiosios Kunigaikštystės laiko problema)" {Lithuanian-Polish Relations in 1340-1345) in Iš Lietuvos istorijos tyrinėjimų, ed. by Rimantas Miknys (Vilnius, 1991), 31-36. On the critique of Nikžentaitis's monograph, see S. C. Rowell, "Lithuania and the West, 1337-41 — A Question of Sources," in Journal of Baltic Studies, vol. XX, 4 (1989): 303-326.
51 Ibid.
52 Romuald J. Misiūnas, "The Orthodox Church in the Lithuanian State (1315-1377)," in Lituanus, vol. 14, 3 (1968): 5-28; and "Algirdo tikėjimas" (The Creed of the Grand Duke Algirdas), in Lietuvių Katalikų Mokslo Akademijos suvažiavimo darbai, vol. VIII (1974): 241-252.
53 Rasa Mažeika, "L. D. K. Algirdo laikysena krikščionybės atžvilgiu" (The Attitude of Grand Duke Algirdas Towards Christianity), in Lietuvių Katalikų Mokslo Akademijos suvažiavimo darbai, vol. XIII (1990): 205-219.
54 R. Misiūnas, 'The Orthodox Church in the Lithuanian State," 7.
55 R. J. Misiūnas, „Algirdo tikėjimas", 241-252.
56 Rasa Mažeika, op. cit., 218.
57 S. C. Rowell, Lithuania Ascending: A Pagan Empire Within East-Central Europe, 1295-1345 (Cambridge; Cambridge University Press, 1994).
58 S. C. Rowell, "Of Men and Monsters: Sources for the History of Lithuania in the Time of Gediminas (ca. 1315-1342)," in Journal of Baltic Studies, vol. XXIV, 1 (1993): 73.
59 Ibid., 95.
60 Ibid., 96.