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THE VOICE OF INTERNATIONAL LITHUANIA

1 August 2014
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Chronicle of Lithuania – in a global perspective

Sat, 30th July, 2011 - Posted by

 

LITHUANIA - IN A GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE
A chronicle of historic and contemporary Lithuania and her relations to the world

See also: http://vilnews.com/?p=886

I have, over the years since I first came to Lithuania from my native Norway in 1990, often wondered why authorities or other institutions here haven’t published a chronicle describing the many ties and touching points this amazing country has to the rest of the world throughout historical and modern times.

Because Lithuania is a country that cannot be understood if you don’t know at least something about its exceptional past and its extraordinary ties with Italy, India, South Africa, Israel, Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Crimea/Turkey, Sweden, Germany, Russia, Australia and America.

This was why I some years ago put together my own electronic ‘Chronicle of Lithuania in a global perspective’. that I often have used for presentations to guests and others with some interest in this little country that once was a ‘superpower’ of world class and for hundreds of years a thriving cradle for co-existence between people from many nations, cultures and religions. Or, as the British historian Norman Davies puts it: “Lithuania was a haven of tolerance”. Davies was not the only one who took notice of this. Erasmus of Rotterdam (1466 – 1536) is quoted as stating; “I congratulate this nation [Lithuania] which now, in sciences, jurisprudence, morals, and religion, and in all that separates us from barbarism, is so flourishing that it can rival the first and most glorious of nations.”

I know that foreign embassies and international companies, as well as many individuals, for many years have been using my ‘chronicle’ when they try to describe Lithuania to people and institutions in other countries, and I also urge you, dear readers, to pass on a link to this 'chronicle' to all your friends and acquaintances. That’s how we together can make Lithuania better known and understood for people around the globe...

Please keep in mind, however, that this is my personal collection of articles and impressions, not in chronological order, hence it might very well be that a historian would have chosen other articles and put together the information in a completely different manner. Nevertheless; have a good read. I believe afterwards you will agree with me that Lithuania is a truly amazing and far too little known spot on the world map!

Aage Myhre, Editor-in-Chief
aage.myhre@VilNews.com

TOPIC 1:

Lithuania’s peaceful fight for new freedom 1988-91

The little stroke that fell the great bear and opened for the new era of a united Europe

Funeral of the victims of the 13 January 1991 Soviet attacks on Lithuania Professor Vytautas Landsbergis, January 1991

"Lithuanians, do not resist, your government has deceived you. Go home to your families and children."

This was the repeated announcement from the Soviet military sound trucks rolling through the streets of Vilnius in January 1991. But luckily for Lithuania and for the new united Europe we today take more or less for granted, there was a music professor and a complete little nation supporting him that wanted it all differently. Hadn‘t it been for this peaceful fight for regained freedom against an occupation and a ruling the people of the Baltic States never wanted or agreed to, the map of Europe would most likely have looked very different today...

If there were those in the West who hadn’t heard about Lithuania before, they almost certainly had by the end of the day, January 13, 1991. That was the day Soviet troops cracked down in Vilnius and the resulting bloodshed made headlines around the world. The action was apparently a bid to stop Lithuania’s independence drive in its tracks. By the time the firing stopped and the smoke cleared, more than a dozen people lay dead, and hundreds more were injured. The crackdown, and particularly the killings at the TV tower, not only brought fame and sympathy to Lithuania from around the world, it was also a defining moment for Lithuanians themselves. The bloodshed meant they had crossed a point of no return. If there was ever any notion of reconciling with Moscow, it was now unthinkable. For those watching from abroad, Vytautas Landsbergis was the central player in the drama unfolding in Vilnius. The colourful, quick-tempered music professor became Lithuania’s president (or chairman of the Lithuanian Supreme Council) in 1990 and, from that time on, his name became almost synonymous with the Lithuanian independence movement. His blunt talk about breaking free of the Soviet Union and about Lithuania’s moral right to be able to do so startled observers in the West almost as much as it infuriated the Kremlin.

See also: http://vilnews.com/?p=3642


TOPIC 2:

South Africa, home to 70,000 Lithuanian Jews

“This postcard was the last sign of life my father had from his father. It was sent from my grandfather’s home here in Kupiskes (North Lithuania) in March 1941 to my father’s new home in Pretoria (South Africa), but my grandfather was most probably already dead when the postcard reached Pretoria late summer 1941. He was killed by the Nazis”.

Attorney Ivor Feinberg, Lithuania’s consul in Pretoria, is obviously very touched when he visits his grandfather’s house in Kupiskes, telling us about the last memory of his grandfather – a memory not unlike many other stories related to the about 70,000 Jews of Lithuanian descent living in South Africa.

Lithuanians dominate the Jewish community in South Africa to an extent seen in no other country, even their former home. "We have around 80,000 to 90,000 Jews in South Africa, and about 80 percent of them are of Baltic descent, most of them from Lithuania," said David Saks, an historian and researcher at the Jewish Board of Deputies in Johannesburg. "We probably have the most 'Lithuanian' Jewish community in the world," said Saks, whose own grandparents came from Lithuania. This ratio even exceeds that of Lithuania itself as most of the Baltic state's small Jewish community, now numbering a mere 5,000, is comprised mostly of immigrants who arrived from different parts of the Soviet Union after World War Two.The war devastated Lithuanian Jewry, once a leading centre of Jewish thought and culture. Historians estimate that 94 percent of the country's pre-war Jewish population of 220,000 perished in the Holocaust. The capital Vilnius, once known as the Jerusalem of the North, was home to a thriving community of 60,000 Jews, with more than 90 synagogues and the biggest Yiddish library in the world. Aside from one functioning synagogue, few traces of its rich Jewish past remain. "South Africa is more Litvak than Lithuania itself...we see our culture and society have been preserved there," said playwright and novelist Mark Zingeris, one of the few Litvaks remaining in Lithuania.

See also: http://vilnews.com/?p=1703

 

TOPIC 3:

Italy’s extraordinary, little known role in Lithuania

Sigismund the Old Bona Sforza The Royal Palace – once again being rebuilt

When Lithuania’s Grand Duke, Sigismund the Old in 1518 married the Italian Princess Bona Sforza, this became an outstanding manifestation of the already strong relationship between Italy and Lithuania. The royal couple created together an Italian community within the court and Italian culture became the preoccupation of the Vilnius city elite. Macheroni, skryliai, and even the confection marcipanus became staples among the cogniscenti and life at court became a series of cultural events, with rich noblemen competing for extravagance. During the rule of Sigismund the Old the palace was greatly expanded, to meet the new needs of the Grand Duke and Duchess. Another wing was added, as well as a third floor and the gardens were also extended. The palace reconstruction plan was probably prepared by Italian architect Bartolomeo Berrecci da Pontassieve.

The Royal Palace – that now again is being rebuilt – was remodelled by Bona Sforza and Sigismund the Old in Renaissance style. The plans were prepared by Italian architects, including Giovanni Cini da Siena, Bernardino de Gianotis Zanobi, and others. Among the many visitors to the Palace was Ippolito Aldobrandini, who later became Pope Clement VIII, also this emphasizing the extraordinary connections between Italy and Lithuania that lasted for hundreds of years – also giving background for the saying that ‘Vilnius is the world’s most Italian city outside Italy’. Throughout the Renaissance, when Italy was the leading trading centre and a melting pot for the world’s greatest civilizations, Vilnius also became a leading Renaissance centre of world class.

See also: http://vilnews.com/?p=2927 and http://vilnews.com/?p=1652

 

TOPIC 4:

The Lithuanian-Americans, a nation outside the nation

Ex-President Valdas Adamkus is today’s most famous US-Lithuanian Distribution of Lithuanian-Americans according to the 2000 census

Many Lithuanians immigrated to the New World before the American Revolution. The first may have been a Lithuanian physician, Dr. Aleksandras Kursius, who is believed to have lived in New York as early as 1660. Most of the other Lithuanians who ventured to the Americas during this period were members of the noble class or practitioners of particular trades. But the first really significant wave of Lithuanian immigration to the United States began in the late 1860s, after the American Civil War. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, an estimated 300,000 Lithuanians journeyed to America. A flow that was later halted by the combined effects of World War I, the restriction of immigration into the United States and the achievement in 1918 of Lithuanian independence.

The second wave of immigration had a greater impact on U.S. census figures. Following World War II, a flood of displaced refugees fled west to escape the Russian reoccupation of Lithuania. Eventually 30,000 Dipukai (war refugees or displaced persons) settled in the United States, primarily in cities in the East and the Midwest. These immigrants included many trained and educated leaders and professionals who hoped to return someday to Lithuania. The heightening of tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union—known as the Cold War—dampened these expectations, and many Lithuanians sought to create a semi permanent life in the United States. By 1990 the U.S. Bureau of the Census listed 811,865 Americans claiming "Lithuanian" as a first or second ancestry.

The main areas of Lithuanian settlement in the United States included industrial towns of the Northeast, the larger cities of the Northeast and the Midwest, and the coal fields of Pennsylvania and southern Illinois. According to the 1930 census report, only about 13 percent of Lithuanians lived in rural areas, and even fewer—about two percent—were involved in agriculture. Nearly 20 percent of all Lithuanian immigrants settled in Chicago alone. Throughout the twentieth century, Lithuanian Americans began to climb up the economic ladder and gain an important place in their local communities. This mobility allowed them to enter the American mainstream.

Two important developments in Lithuania led to the growth of a strong Lithuanian American ethnic identity: the late nineteenth-century rise of Lithuanian national consciousness and the achievement of Lithuanian independence in 1918. Lithuanian Americans were staunch supporters of their newly independent homeland during the 1920s and 1930s, and some even returned to assist in the restructuring of the country's economy and government.

The post World War II wave of Lithuanian immigrants—the Dipukai—also experienced a surge of Lithuanian consciousness. These later immigrants saw themselves as an exiled community and clung to their memory of two decades of freedom in Lithuania. They developed an extensive network of schools, churches, and cultural institutions for the maintenance of Lithuanian identity in the United States.

FAMOUS AMERICAN-LITHUANIANS (there are many more)

Alexander Bruce Bialskis

The very first FBI Director, 1912-1919

Al Jolson

(1886-1950)

Singer and Entertainer

Walter Matthau

(1920 – 2000)

Movie Star

Charles Bronson

(1921 – 2003)

Movie Star

Marija Gimbutienė

(1921-1994)

Archeologist

Birute Galdikus

(1946 - )

Anthropologist, world leading authority on orangutans

Dr. Juozas P. Kazickas

(1918 - )

Business entrepreneur

See also:
http://vilnews.com/?p=2071
http://vilnews.com/?p=3798
http://vilnews.com/?p=766
http://vilnews.com/?p=2027
http://vilnews.com/?p=762
http://vilnews.com/?p=6704

 

TOPIC 5:

Lithuania and India - same language root and more…

Pictures: Aage Myhre

It’s early morning in Delhi, India. I have been invited to the small, dark office of Professor Lokesh Chandra, one of India’s leading experts on Sanskrit and Buddhism. “The same year I was born, 1927, my father went to London to get a degree in Lithuanian language. He spoke the language fluently, but he never visited Lithuania”, tells the elderly professor, still with his Kashmir coat and cap on, despite the outside temperature of close to 300 Celsius. And I soon learn that the professor’s knowledge about the connections between Old Sanskrit and the Lithuanian language and ancient cultural ties between India and Lithuania is nothing but amazing.

It is a common belief that there is a close similarity between the Lithuanian and Sanskrit languages; Lithuanian being the European language grammatically closest to Sanskrit. It is not difficult to imagine the surprise of the scholarly world when they learned that even in their time somewhere on the Nemunas River lived a people who spoke a language as archaic in many of its forms as Sanskrit itself. Although it was not exactly true that a professor of Sanskrit could talk to Lithuanian farmers in their language, coincidences between these two languages were truly amazing, for example:

 

Sanskrit sunus - Lithuanian sunus; son Sanskrit viras - Lithuanian vyras; man

Sanskrit avis - Lithuanian avis; sheep Sanskrit dhumas - Lithuanian dumas; smoke

Sanskrit padas - Lithuanian padas; sole

We can assert that these Lihuanian words have not changed their forms for the last five thousand years!

Read also: http://vilnews.com/?p=4425 and http://vilnews.com/?p=4434

 

TOPIC 6:

Lithuania 1000 years in 2009!

In 2009, Lithuania celebrated its Millennium – as the name Lithuania was mentioned for the first time in 1009 in the Annales Quedlinburgenses books. Lithuania's name Lietuva is considered to have developed from the name of the 11-km long rivulet Lietauka. The area between the middle Nemunas and the Neris where Kernavė, Nemenčinė and Maišiagala now are is believed to have been the land called Lietuva. Duke Mindaugas was the ruler there, and the River Lietauka ran through that area and fell into the Neris upstream of the Šventoji. The Land of Lietuva (Lithuania) is supposed to have been named after the river, and the name was later extended to the State of Lithuania. Other sources indicate that the Land of Lietuva, was on the right bank of the Šventoji in the area between Anykščiai and Viešintai and prove their conclusion by the existence of the administrative unit, Vaitystė of Leitava, there.

"In 1009 St Bruno, who is called Boniface (Bonifatius), Archbishop and monk, in the second year of his conversion, on the border between Russia and Lithuania (Lituae), having been hit on the head by the pagans, and his 18 men went to heaven on the 23rd of February. "There are several sources that mention the event - the killing of the missionary but they refer to Prussia rather than Lithuania, which proves that both Germans and Poles did not know about the existence of Lithuanians then. They thought that Prussians were the only Balts (or the majority of Balts). Quedlinburg Annals mentioned Lithuania because they were keen on precision and the information was received from St Bruno's entourage. The story about St Bruno describes the political organisation of Lithuanians, which was peculiar and not characteristic of other Baltic tribes before the 13th century.

 

TOPIC 7:

Modern Lithuania in a new Europe

Lithuania has shown an impressive economic performance since its liberation from the USSR. “The Ballistic Baltic” and “The Baltic Tiger” are only two of the labels attached by foreign market observers to signify the speed and expected sustainability of this economic growth.

However, main restructuring based growth resources are coming to the end, which implies the need for search of new growth resources or decline of the growth cycle of the economy has as its vital economic interest to incentives and promote higher-quality high-tech industries, through R&D support, high-tech industry incubators, and appropriate educational focus.

The general strengths of Lithuanian national innovation system lies in the well developed and continuing its academic tradition higher education sector with strong science and technology research tradition and engineering orientation.

This results in a relatively high share of the population with tertiary education, high numbers of S&T graduates among them, and cultural orientation of the younger generation towards higher education. However, restricted resources for R&D and the higher education sector combined with the growing numbers of students at all higher education levels doubts the quality of education, especially in areas where technological based education is significantly important. Also low or non existing investments of businesses in vocational training lead to obsolete qualifications not suitable for high tech high skill work. The weak links between business and higher education and R&D communities result not only in obsolescing qualifications of the highly educated labour force, but also in low value added innovations, developed without input from the R&D sector.

 

TOPIC 8:

Karaims and Tatars - Turkish nationalities in Lithuania


Typical Karaim house in Trakai, 30 km from Vilnius city A senior Tatar Muslim cleric (akhund)

Since the 14th Century two Turkish nationalities – Tatars and Karaims – have been living in Lithuania. From linguistic and ethno genetic points of view they belong to the oldest Turkish tribes - Kipchaks. This ethnonym (Kipchak) for the first time was mentioned in historical chronicles of Central Asia in the 1st millennium BC. Anthropologically ancient Kipchaks were very close to Siberia inhabitants Dinlins, who lived on both sides of the Sajan Mountains in Tuva and the northern part of Gob. In 5th century BC Kipchaks lived in the West of Mongolia, in 3rd century BC they were conquered by Huns. Since the 6 - 8 centuries, when the first nomadic Turkish empires were founded, the Kipchak’s fate is closely connected with the history and migration of the Middle Asia tribes. In Turkish literature they are known as Kipchaks. The history of Karaims is connected with Lithuania since 1397-1398. According to the tradition, The Great Duke of Lithuania Vytautas, after one of the marches to the Golden Horde steppes, had to bring from the Crimea several hundred Karaims and settle them in the Great Duchy of Lithuania. Transference of several hundred Karaim families and several thousand Tatars was not done once. It was in connection with the state policy of The Great Duchy to inhabit the empty areas, build towns and castles and to develop trade and economic life. Initially, Karaims were settled in Trakai between the two castles of The Great Duke, present Karaim Street. Later they were found living in Biržai, Naujamiestis, Pasvalys and Panevėžys. However, Trakai has always been the community's administrative and spiritual centre for Karaims in Lithuania, nowadays more and more also for Karaims throughout the world.

See also: http://vilnews.com/?p=2942 

 

TOPIC 9:

Lithuania 500 years ago was Europe’s largest country

Vytautas the Great (1350-1430) The Grand Duchy of Lithuania, 13-16 centuries (marked green)

 

“Lithuania was a superpower much longer than USA has been“. This is how I often tease my American friends arriving in Vilnius. But the teasing is in fact not so far away from reality, as the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (GDL) for 300 years was one of the leading and largest nations of the World, stretching from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea.

It all started with King Mindaugas (1203-1263), Lithuania‘s first and only king, who in 1236 defeated the Livonian Brothers of the Sword and united the different Lithuanian tribes under his reign. But the real expansion began when Grand Duke Gediminas (1275 – 1341) came to power in 1316, and started a new dynasty of leaders. Gediminas employed several forms of statesmanship to expand and strengthen the GDL. He invited members of religious orders to come to the Grand Duchy, announced his loyalty to the Pope and to his neighbouring Catholic countries and made political allies with dukes in Russia as well as with the Poles through marriage to women in his family. Gediminas’ political skills are revealed in a series of letters written to Rome and nearby cities. He makes mention of the Franciscan and Dominican monks who had come to the GDL by invitation and were given the rights to preach, baptise and perform other religious services. He also included an open invitation to artisans and farmers to come and live in the GDL, promising support and reduced taxes to those who would come. Under Vytautas the Great (1350-1430), Lithuania‘s military and economy grew even stronger, and he was the one expanding the Grand Duchy‘s frontiers south to the Black Sea. The Grand Duchy was at its largest by the middle of the 15th Century. It existed in the very centre of Europe and comprised the entire territories of contemporary Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, a part of Poland and stretched from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea. Both Belarus and Ukraine point back to the days when they were part of the thriving GDL as proof of their cultural and political distinction from Russia. Successfully ruled by a dynastic line of dukes, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (GDL) developed a highly advanced system of state administration and stove off invading Crusaders longer than any other Central European power. Its statesmen conducted effective foreign policy and military campaigns and created a multi-ethnic state. Though officially ended in 1795, the history of the GDL continues to influence modern-day nationalist thinking in the region.  Not only Lithuania but also Belarus and Ukraine remember the days when they were part of the thriving GDL as proof of their cultural and political strength clearly distinguishing them from Russia.

By the way, Grand Duke Gediminas (1275 – 1341) is my personal favourite among all the Lithuanian nobles, and in my opinion, he was one of the greatest rulers of medieval Europe. He was a man of extraordinary knowledge and wisdom, understanding the importance and advantage of having a multicultural society as the foundation for his new city, more cleverly than most world rulers during the centuries after him. In October 1323, for example,  representatives of the archbishop of Riga, the bishop of Dorpat, the king of Denmark, the Dominican and Franciscan orders, and the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order assembled in Vilnius when Gediminas confirmed his promises and undertook to be baptized as soon as the papal legates arrived. A compact was then signed in Vilnius, in the name of the whole Christian World, between Gediminas and the delegates, confirming the promised privileges. Fifteen months later, on the 25th of January 1325, Gediminas issued circular letters to the principal Hansa towns in Europe offering a free access into his domains to men of every order and profession from nobles and knights to tillers of the soil. The immigrants were to choose their own settlements and be governed by their own laws. After Gediminas, Vilnius emerged over hundreds of years, expanding, changing, and embodying the creative imagination and experience of many generations of architects and builders from Lithuania and abroad. Under the care of generous and perceptive benefactors, it became a city rich in architectural treasures and urban harmony.

See alsohttp://vilnews.com/?p=326

 

TOPIC 10:

Lithuania’s new international role – a bridge at the crossroads of east-west-south-north

Today Lithuania is in a unique position to continue and expand its role as a significant transportation hub and meeting point for many neighbouring regions. Lithuania serves as a natural bridge for East - West (Europe-Asia) traffic with transport connections to the Trans-Siberian rail route and direct links with Russia and other countries of the former Soviet Union, as well as rapidly growing Baltic countries and even East Asia, including China. Nearly half or 45% of Russia’s total foreign trade passes through the Baltic Sea ports. A major advantage of Lithuania lies in its strategic location at the crossroads between Eastern and Western Europe as well as the Baltic Sea region. Lithuania has for centuries been on an important trade route, linking the Baltic Sea Region to the Black Sea. Klaipeda, the country’s sea coast city, has moved from having been an important port city in the Hanseatic League of trading cities around the Baltic and North Sea since the 13th century, to becoming a modern logistic hub for trade and transport between Western and Eastern Europe. Its unfrozen port is the best transportation centre between the east and west. Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, is together with the country‘s second largest city, Kaunas, developing into a huge metropolis, showing all the potential of becoming a significant commercial, financial and transportation centre for the Baltic Sea region and Northern Europe. Traditions and experience gained during many centuries and historically strong presence of people from many nations and backgrounds are important for conducting economic relations nowadays. In addition, Lithuania is located in one of the most dynamic and competitive areas of the world representing 10 metropolitan areas with over 90 million inhabitants and being the home to well-established companies and product brands and the leading IT and telecom producing area of Europe with the highest cellular telephone penetration in the world.

 

TOPIC 11:

For hundreds of years Lithuania was the home-country to amazingly thriving Jewish communities

Left: The Great Gaon of Vilnius - Elijahu ben Solomon Zalman (1720-1797) was the greatest luminary not only among the many Talmudical scholars of the 17th and 18th centuries, but also for many later generations

Right: A typical ‘Jewish’ Vilnius street, early 20th century

Napoleon Bonaparte was the one who started calling Vilnius ‘Jerusalem of the North’, when he arrived here in June 1812. It was the first and only "Jewish city" Napoleon would ever see. It is said that he became very surprised on what met him in Vilnius, a city so far away from the European mainstreams and still with a lively Mediterranean mood and life. And true enough, the history of the Litvaks, as the Lithuanian Jews are called, is unusual and surprising. It was a history of mostly peaceful coexistence with other peoples and cultures that lasted for more than six centuries. It was a history that spawned an incredible number of eminent Jews. The "Golden Age of Jewry" in Lithuania started with Grand Duke Gediminas (1275-1341), the empire builder who took a liking to foreigners and Jews whose skills and education were badly needed in medieval Lithuania. In the early 1300's he attracted them to his realm with numerous perks, including guarantees of religious freedom and tax exemptions. The Jews of Europe responded in droves, and Vilnius became the heralded centre of Jewish culture and learning. There would be synagogues, schools, theatres, publishing houses and the Yiddish Institute of Higher Learning. At a time when others in Europe were effectively illiterate, all the Jews in Vilnius could read and write. This was so unusual that it provoked the invention of a brand-new word, "Vilner," meaning "an educated man with knowledge." For almost 700 years, the Litvaks became an inseparable part of Lithuanian society, having enriched the country’s economy, culture, science, and education. During the Second World War, about 200,000 (95%), Lithuanian Jews were murdered. This was the greatest loss in all of Eastern and Central Europe. The Nazi Holocaust led to an almost complete extermination of Lithuania’s Jews, and also the destruction of their history and cultural monuments - a most tragic page of Lithuanian history.

See also: http://vilnews.com/?page_id=152 

 

TOPIC 12:

Poland and Lithuania – an intertwined relationship

 

Poland and Lithuania have an exceptionally intertwined history since the Middle Ages and, unfortunately - so much has divided and remained problematic between these two close neighbours. But maybe the time now has come to focus on what unites? Maybe it’s time to study the example of the famous writer Czeslaw Milosz?

Nobel Price Winner Czesław Miłosz was born June 30, 1911 in Szetejnie, Lithuania. He spent his youth in Vilnius. During his law studies at Stefan Batory University in Vilnius he created a poets' group called Żagary. He published his first volume of poetry, A Poem in Frozen Time, in 1933. During the German occupation, Miłosz participated in Warsaw's underground                                                                                                        cultural life, even publishing a volume of poetry called Invincible Song.

In 1960 Miłosz moved to the United States, where he became a professor at Berkeley University's department of Slavic literature. Throughout this period, Miłosz mainly published his works in Paris and the United States. Initially he specialized in writing essays but he gradually became a well-known poet. His fame was confirmed by the Neustadt International Prize for Literature and being crowned with the Nobel Prize. In Poland his works were largely absent from the official press, only published occasionally in collective anthologies. Only following his Nobel Prize were Miłosz's poems officially published and only then was he allowed to return to Poland. Miłosz died in 2004, at his home in Kraków, aged 93. His first wife, Janina, had died in 1986; and his second wife, Carol, a U.S.-born historian, in 2002.

 

TOPIC 13:

600,000 persons from the Baltic States were deported to Siberia during the period 1940-53

Lithuanians in Molotkov, Siberia (unknown year) Former President of Lithuania, Aleksandras Stulginskis, was one of the many deportees

The saddest period in the history of Lithuania began in August 1939, when Hitler and Stalin concluded their agreement that divided up Central Europe. After the outbreak of the Second World War, Lithuania was occupied three times: first by the USSR in 1940, then by Nazi Germany in 1941, and finally by the USSR again in 1944. During the Nazi and Soviet occupations, including 200,000 Holocaust victims, the losses of the population of Lithuania amounted to 33 percent of the total number of the country's population in 1940. Lithuania lost 1 million people to deportations, executions, incarceration, murder of political opposition and forced emigration. Altogether, some 600,000 prisoners were taken from the Soviet occupied Baltic States - Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. There were some 10 million inhabitants in all three Baltic States on the eve of the Soviet occupation. Proportionately, the number of Baltic prisoners would be equal to a loss of 20 million in the United States or 5 million in Great Britain. During 1940-1953, some 132,000 Lithuanians were deported to remote areas of the USSR: Siberia, the Arctic Circle zone and Central Asia. They were not allowed to leave remote villages. More than 70 percent of the deportees were women and children. Some 50,000 of the deportees were not able to return to Lithuania. During the same period, another 200,000 people were thrown into prisons. Some 150,000 of them were sent to the Gulags, the USSR‘s concentration camps, situated mostly in Siberia.

See also:
http://vilnews.com/?p=335
http://vilnews.com/?p=2168
http://vilnews.com/?p=6539

 

TOPIC 14:

The Lithuanian partisan war 1944-53 was the longest and bloodiest guerrilla war of modern Europe

The Lithuanian resistance to Soviet occupation from 1944-1953 was one of the longest partisan guerrilla wars of 20th century Europe and spanned the first decade of almost 50 years of Soviet aggression in Lithuania

Despite the heroics of the Lithuanian partisans, or Forest Brothers as they became known, they were doomed to failure because it was a fight that was ignored by the West. Their war became known as the ‘unknown’ or ‘hidden’ war. Altogether 22,000 Lithuanian partisans and their supporters lost their lives in the struggle against the Soviet and NKVD (later to become the KGB) forces. The war continued until 1953, though the last resistance fighter refused to surrender and shot himself in 1965 and another partisan finally came out of hiding in 1986. “The Lithuanians had to choose from three options: to emigrate, stay in Lithuania and suffer the oppression and humiliation, or go into a forest to defend their Fatherland,” said Albinas Kentra, chairman of the Lithuanian Forest Brothers Union. The basic goal of the guerrilla warfare was aimed at the re-establishment of Lithuanian Sovereignty. Thousands of men gathered in the forests in the hope that they would not have to hold out for long – only until the Peace Conference decided to implement the principle of national self-determination.

See also:
http://vilnews.com/?p=5391
http://vilnews.com/?page_id=131&paged=2

 

 

TOPIC 15:

Lithuania – a land of unspoilt nature, an example for countries around the world

Nature is everywhere in Lithuania. Even the approaches to Vilnius are surrounded by forests, and every spring, a woodland grouse, the capercaillie one of the rarest birds, carries out its mating rituals just 20 kilometres from the town centre in an old pine forest which has been preserved for it.

It would be difficult today to identify the beginning of the environmental tradition in Lithuania. Perhaps we could look for it in the statutes of the 16th century, the key state legal documents. Perhaps it started even earlier, in the sacred oak groves that could be damaged only by the winds and storms, but never by man. The first nature reserve, at Žuvintas, was founded 70 years ago. There, everything is left to nature. No man’s foot can step in it. Birds and animals there may feel that their nests and offspring are safe. Today the network of protected areas covers 12 per cent of the country, including five national parks, four sanctuaries, 30 regional parks and multiple reserves.
Every ancient tree, or rock in an interesting shape and form of relief, is protected.

 

TOPIC 16:

Lithuania on Mars


Lithuania was once known as the Soviet Silicon Valley, and also today the country has a very strong research and development sector. Lithuanian world-class specialists cooperate with NASA, NATO, Volvo, Saab, Philips, and many others in the fields of biotechnology, biochemistry, laser optics, chemistry, physics, etc.

According to Paris‘ “Le Monde”, Lithuania is the biggest exporter of femtosecond lasers in the world. Among the clients is NASA, i.e. using Lithuanian laser technology for analyses of minerals on Mars! A country of 3.5 million people, Lithuania, has about 15 laser producers, employing about 300 laser specialists, half of which are engineers and doctors of sciences. Lithuania’s laser sector grows about 15-20 % annualy, which is twice faster than the whole economy of the country. Lithuanian laser production is demanded by the best scientific laboratories in Europe and the US.

Lithuania has six science and technology parks which develop favourable infrastructure for the establishment of new innovative businesses in Lithuania and encourage the growth of existing ones engaged in the development of innovative technologies. Lithuania’s science and technology parks seek to provide a comfortable environment for commercializing R&D activities and integrating business, science, and research by supporting knowledge transfers leading to the exploitation of research results and to the development of marketable products and services. According to the 7 Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) in 2006, Lithuania demonstrated an advanced e-business environment. Lithuania was acknowledged as one of the emerging markets where mobile phone penetration is several times that of fixed lines. This, plus a rapid increase in the number of WiFi hotspots in its capital and other cities, has helped improve overall connectivity for its consumers and businesses. In Lithuania, e-banking, e-government services and mobile internet are being used in everyday business and life and are becoming increasingly popular.

“Lithuanian scientists are likely to become leaders in certain spheres of world science.” (Achilleas Mitsos, Director General of the European Commission’s Directorate General for Research).

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