Lithuanian Themes


This compilation features books of the Central European University Press, published since its establishment in 1993, that have some relevance to Lithuania, its history and culture. After the latest release, titles in the backlist are arranged by content: contemporary topics are on top, older themes below. For more substantial information about the content and availability, please click on the covers of the book, or on the links inserted into the citations.

“The document issued on December 10, 1915, called for a common state of Lithuania and Belarus on the lands under German occupation. All other nations were invited to join, being assured of guarantees for minority rights.”—Belarusian Nation-Building in Times of War and Revolution.
“By early 1917, German Ostpolitik had already assumed a more pronounced anti-Polish and Lithuanian-oriented character, placing the Belarusian national movement on the margins.”
“The Germans had more confidence in the Lithuanian movement and expected that Polonized Lithuanians would return to their roots without any doubts.”
“More concessions followed as German policy evolved. The district administration was obliged to subscribe to the Lithuanian newspapers, since only a fraction of the population was able to understand Lithuanian and individual subscriptions were rare.”
“The German defeat also meant that the Lithuanians found themselves in a precarious situation by the end of WWI, having lost the only protection they had against both the Poles and the Bolsheviks.”

“The elites were non-national: Russian bureaucrats and Polish landowners. For these plebeian nations, the work of nationalism was simpler than in historic nations since no major class divides had to be bridged; the hated ‘masters’ were all national aliens.”—Globalization, Nationalism, and Imperialism.
“In 1938, Smetona was forced to transfer the Memel region to Germany and to open diplomatic relations with Poland. He was forced to seek political support from the opposition, reopening prospects of a return to liberal democracy. This chance was cut short by the Soviet invasion of 1940.”
“In Poland, Hungary, and Lithuania recycled ex-communists claiming to be ‘social-democrats’ won popular elections and were hegemonic forces in the 1990s and into the early 21st century, while leading their countries to democracy, capitalism, and Western institutions.”
“If Russia had any interest in violating the territory of NATO members such as Estonia, Latvia, or Lithuania, the alliance would promise to defend ‘every inch’ of its members’ territory.”

“The Ninth Fort Museum in Kaunas was both a site for the commemoration of the dead and for honoring the living Lithuanian communist elite in power in the 1960s and their former fights for communist ideals.”—Growing in the Shadow of Antifascism.
“Despite the ideologically conceptualized exhibitions, Lithuanian Jews, especially male partisans, managed to voice, at least partly, memories of their traumatic experiences on the grounds of the Ninth Fort.”
“In contrast to other Soviet republics, many leading communist figures were native Lithuanians. Some of these politicians had strong connections with Jews. The Soviet regime chose Vilna as the representative city for Jewish culture and heritage to demonstrate that Jewish culture was also blossoming in the Soviet Union.”
“After 1984, with the opening of the new memorial complex, the focus of the memorialization in the Ninth Fort shifted from the victims of World War II to the victims of the Stalinist regime.”

Books with a Lithuanian focus:

  • The autobiographical account of Juozas Lukša, written before his fatal return to join his fellows in arms, fighting against the Soviets in the forests of Lithuania.
  • “We are sitting in a room where a menorah stands on a table and a cross hangs on the wall. My bedroom also contains both a menorah and a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary.”—Life Should Be Transparent, Irena Veisaitė‘s memoir in conversations.
  • A CEU Press Classic: the novel Whitehorn’s Windmill by Kazys Boruta (1905-1965) bears a lyrical style that gives full rein to the oral folktale tradition that Lithuania is famous for;
  • How did Lithuanians and Jews try to define their position during the demise of the Russian empire: confront or collaborate? Essays based on material held in the archives of Lithuania, Israel, Russia, USA, and Ukraine;
  • In the sphere of national culture, the question of Lithuanian–Russian and Lithuanian–Polish relations was a hundred times more acute than that between Lithuanians and Jews. 19th century pogroms were less cruel than further down in the south;
  • What circumstances and considerations helped Grand Duke Vytautas become “the Great”?

Titles from the backlist, contemporary topics on top, older themes below:

“The foundation of the first state-sponsored memory institute was approved by the Lithuanian Senate in 1993. Its institutional predecessors were founded in 1992 and consist of a state research center and a state museum that were fused into a single institution, creating the Genocide and Resistance Research Centre of Lithuania.”
Pioneering initiatives taken by Lithuania at addressing the painful and complicated legacy of massive trauma and monstrous crimes of the twentieth century.
“The Genocide and Resistance Research Centre of Lithuania cites as one of its main objectives ‘to establish historical truth and justice’ and ‘to investigate the physical and spiritual genocide of Lithuanians.’” The Centre has also produced some scholarly work that addresses the extensive role Lithuanians played in assisting Nazi forces in the extermination of the local Jewish population.

“The government spent more than 100 million Euros to build the Palace of Sovereigns in Vilnius. Neither public nor private money, however, were directed to build a flagship monument to the victims of Soviet terrorGenoci.”
“The Museum of Genocide Victims in Vilnius is a ‘hot museum,’ one that melds interpretation with a conscious attempt at eliciting an emotional response from the visitor, not by ‘showing things as they were,’ but by encouraging and anticipating emotional reactions.”

The volume on the identity struggle in Belarus relates amply to Lithuania, both to the shared past, and to recent developments.

"The Soviet regime seems to have transformed Lithuania into a kind of low-trust nation where disbelief in authorities and institutions threatens the fragile foundations of civil society, yet where people—oddly enough—place an enormous amount of trust in the media and TV, in particular. This sort of explosive and destructive potential was revealed and successfully exploited by Lithuanian populists during the presidential election in 2002 and afterward.”
“Lithuania has the highest suicide rate in the world. Moreover, growing emigration has deprived the country of many young and highly qualified people. The fragmentation and segmentation of Lithuanian society has reached dangerous limits and can become a threat to democracy, not to mention social cohesion and civic solidarity. The main characteristics of the culture of poverty—isolation, disbelief in a possibility of social link, fatalism, distrust of everything—are stronger in Lithuania than ever. Most probably it is the high price Lithuania has to pay for an incredibly fast and drastic sociocultural change.”

The distinguished Finnish philosopher, Jaakko Hintikka shortly before his death recommended the radical reappraisal of positivism as a major movement in philosophy, science and culture by a Lithuanian scholar with the following statement:
"Positivism – whatever precisely is meant by the term – is not fashionable to-day. At worst, the very term has become something of a Schimpfwort. Evaldas Nekrašas has done a timely service to us all in bringing our attention the role of the positivistic tradition, not only as a philosophical movement, but also in its wider significance. Many relatively recent writers in the analytical tradition have been speaking as if philosophy is only now finally getting rid of the restrictive views of logical positivism. Nekrašas gives a judicious evaluation of their ideas compared with archetypical positivist, and by so doing reaches more balanced perspective on the history of philosophy and history of ideas."

“For a small state living in fear of a larger neighbor, the most effective strategy may not be to seal its borders, but to diversify economic links and forge new alliances. Such reasoning led the Lithuanian government to sell the controlling stake in the Baltic’s largest oil refinery, Mažeikių Nafta, to an American company without prior announcement, in order to preempt a bid by Russia’s Lukoil.”—from a collection of essays on the nationalism-economy nexus.
“Lithuania’s constitution, which was approved by a referendum in October 1992, imposed a sweeping prohibition of noncitizens to own land in the country that otherwise allowed for a free land market. This restriction, however, was incompatible with the liberal trade postulates of the European Union. The negotiations with the EU, and internal debates within Lithuania, led in 1996 to an amendment of the constitution, allowing citizens of the EU, NATO, and OECD member and associate member states to own nonagricultural land in Lithuania. Russians and citizens of other CIS countries were excluded from the amendment.”

This comparative monograph examines the state-building processes in Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, and Russia.

How was restitution of confiscated property handled after the fall of the communist regime? The analysis of the topic examines the Lithuanian case, too.

122 top level archival documents help understand the rapid demise of the Soviet Bloc. (Jaruzelski: As for Lithuania, I mean to say that it is a matter of the Soviet Union's internal affairs. I think we should not tolerate the adventurism of Sajudis.)

Bush: “We are sympathetic, strongly sympathetic, to the Lithuanians and their desire for self-determination. We don’t have a desire to interfere in your affairs, but the force or perceived crushing of Lithuania would be a problem. April 6, 1990
No other nation is mentioned on the 1000 pages of face to face conversations of superpower leaders as often as Lithuania.
Baker: Over the last year and a half we succeeded in shifting American public opinion in the direction of supporting your policies. Still, when the events started in Lithuania, some people started saying, “Look, Bush and Baker are naïve, while the bear remains a bear.”
Recently some comrades visited rural regions of Lithuania and saw that people there do not support the separatists. They are happy with the current situation; they receive concentrates from the center, the existing network. I think this is why the Lithuanian leadership is afraid of a referendum. May 18, 1990
: The positions of the existing authorities are in danger. People tell them: it was better under the communists—and you are scroungers, self-seekers, you are good for nothing, just grabbing cars, dachas and other things. Meanwhile, even worse extremists, people who collaborated with Hitler in their time, and their children are lurking behind the backs of the present authorities. All in all, we have a lot of information that the situation there is close to an explosion. November 19, 1990
: Byelorussia raised the question about returning its territories, which were given to Lithuania when it entered the Soviet Union. This includes the Vilnius region. Klaipeda belonged to Russia for 500 years. After the war, Stalin gave it to Lithuania at Sniečkus’ request. There is a dispute about this territory as well. But then what will be left of Lithuania after it separates? July 31, 1991

"It is unclear whether the number of unmarried mothers was truly growing in Lithuania or whether Lithuanian citizens were gradually adjusting to the Soviet welfare system by changing their marriage status deliberately in order to qualify for the allowances. Another explanation may be that the increase in single mothers was directly related to the Lithuanian resistance movement. Thousands of young males left at this time for the forest."
The study on the Office of State Benefits for Mothers of Large Families and Single Mothers (1944-1956) is in the volume on family life and childhood in Soviet times and in post-Soviet Russia and the Baltic States. Essays on subjects like motherhood, childbearing, single mothers, divorce etc: how these used to be, or have recently been, perceived and handled in this corner of the world.
"The Kupiškis County branch had started requiring mothers to submit documents, signed by an officer of the local militia, certifying that they were neither alcoholics nor promiscuous."

“The odious figure of Pelše set Latvia apart from those Soviet republics where the first secretaries of the local Communist Parties, like Antanas Sniečkus in Lithuania or Petro Shelest in Ukraine, more often succeeded in playing their own game vis-a-vis the Soviet central government.”—Defining Latvia.
“Capital investment in industry in Latvia from 1946 to 1953 was among the lowest in the whole Soviet Union—ahead of only Lithuania and Moldavia.”
“Estonia and Lithuania supported proposals to extend schooling by a year and hoped to retain teaching of three languages. Realistic proposals to reach a consensus ultimately had an impact upon Moscow and demonstrated that the republics were able to influence the center.”
“In 1963, there was a large publication in Sovetskoe foto with authors including Antanas Sutkus and Liudas Ruikas from Lithuania. The author of the article was perplexed by the photo sketches of children by Sutkus. By 1964, however, Sutkus’s photographs had already received awards at exhibitions.”

The huge book distribution program of the CIA that spanned 35 cold-war years and reached hundreds of thousand East-Europeans included books in Lithuanian: works by exile authors in the free world like Jonas Aistis, Kazys Barénas, and Janis Rainis, just to name a few. Censorship seems to have been the strictest in Lithuania, allowing the fewest number of acknowledgments and book requests from the entire eastern bloc.

“This book details an unusual Cold War operation whose purpose was to assess the role and impact of Western information beamed to the USSR in the form of shortwave radio broadcasts.”—Under the Radar.
“We sometimes worked with Insearch Inc., which was focused on Lithuanians. It had been founded in 1984 by Juozas Kazlas and Rasa Lisauskas, Americans of Lithuanian extraction, who had good contacts with Lithuanians visiting New York and Chicago. In addition to interviewing travelers, Insearch talked to Westerners who had been to the USSR, especially Lithuania.”
“In 1989, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty findings had shown that about 29% of the Baltic adult population listened once a week or more to Western radio. Findings showed Latvia at 28%, Estonia at 30% and Lithuania at 34%.”

“Our train doors were opened to give us food. The people started questioning the guards who we were and where we were from. The guards told them that we were fascists from the Baltics. The crowd attacked us with stones and demanded the guards hand us over to be tried, to allow us to be killed.”
A book on Soviet deportation memoirs from the Baltic States.
“Between 1945 and 1952 Lithuania was hit by at least nineteen different waves of deportations. Relatively little was known of these displacements until Gorbachev’s policy of glasnost allowed for free discussions of the past.”
“Child deportees spent their formative years in exile. Thus their memoirs, even when written as adults, provide a clear look into how the experience of displacement affects the formation of personality and subjectivity.”
“An unknown number of Lithuanian deportees who had lost their relatives in exile chose to remain in their places of displacement in the Soviet interior and never came back to Lithuania.”

Interwar Kaunas served as a seedbed for modernist experimentation. The Officers Club and the Čiurlionis National Museums of Art and War (and memorial) complex presented a novel form of modern architecture appropriate for a new and insecure state. Moreover, Kaunas’s singular capital architecture complemented those inventive modernist monuments being constructed in neighboring nations. Consequently, Kaunas must be recognized as contributing ingeniously to the variegated modernist expressions constructed along the Baltic’s eastern littoral. The case is analyzed alongside the metropolitan aspirations of Athens, Helsinki, Kiev, Moscow, Riga, Sofia, St. Petersburg, Tallinn, Warsaw, and Zagreb. Also of Vilnius, or rather Wilno at that time. “The past is crucial for the modern would be nation state. It is this kind of modernizing that one observes in interwar Wilno: not new industry and infrastructure but the development of educational institutions and a rhetoric linking the present-day city with the glories of the Polish national past”.

“Following the Republican tradition of centralization, Paris did not oppose the Warsaw campaign for the violent Polonization of the Lithuanian population in the Vilnius region.”—Wars and Betweenness.
“The Piłsudski option of reviving the former Polish-Lithuanian union inside a two-headed new state or within a Baltic confederacy, or enlarged Poland, left very little room for the Lithuanian entity.”
“A widespread idea in France was that Lithuanian nationalism was only an artificial making of the German general staff and that the destiny of the Lithuanians had to be shared with the Poles, especially in the name of their common insurrections of 1830 and 1863.”
“In late 1942, the Soviet intelligence pointed anxiously to the plan of Polish-Czechoslovak federation, including Lithuania and, possibly, Hungary.”

German anthropologists calculated with Lithuanian racial traits variably in their search for authentic Aryan blood.

“It was no great secret to imperial officials that Lithuanians had devised a way of printing Lithuanian books and, later on, newspapers in the Latin script in, and then smuggled them into the Russian Empire.”—The Tsar, the Empire, and the Nation.
“Clergy from the Vil’na diocese often complained to the bishop about Orthodox clergy who disseminated literature that demeaned Catholicism, both in 1905 and later on.”
“After 1905, the Russian education system continued to implement the historical narrative conceived back in the 1830s, which declared the Grand Duchy of Lithuania to be a Russian state, and thus construed the Northwest region as being composed of historically Russian lands.”
"The priest Konstantinas Olšauskas believed that the Lithuanian nation was historically closely associated with Russia and had to maintain a permanent connection with Russia for a peaceful future and for its own benefit.”

“Unfortunately, today the romantic ‘Khazar’ and ‘Kypchak’ theories are considered the main official academic theory of the history of the Karaites in Lithuania. This case shows that, unfortunately, romantic mythologization often takes precedence over scientifically verified academic theories”. The history of ethnography in imperial Russia lists factors that explain the phenomenon: “First, it was in Lithuania that the Karaites were especially active in promoting their cause before and after WWII. Second, Lithuania housed the largest Karaite communities in the interwar Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. And finally, it is in independent Lithuania today that the Karaites have a strong ‘Khazar-oriented’ Karaite political lobby that influences public opinion and academia—and often silences those who think otherwise.” 

A biographical handbook contains entries on the following Lithuanians: G. Petkevičaitė, F. Bortkevičienė, O. Mašiotienė, and M. Galdikienė.

Books on nationalism in the Romanov empire, on forced migrations in the USSR, as well as revisiting Stalinism would not be complete without references to Lithuanians.

“In the Western borderland of the Romanov Empire the authorities supported Lithuanian nationalism in the hope of undermining challenges from Polish nationalism, who claimed the territory of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania”.
The nation-building processes within the Romanov Empire are examined in parallel with related trajectories in other empires in Europe.
Starting with 1859, the authorities used language politics as an instrument of shaping identity and loyalty of the imperial subjects, regulating the usage of various languages and alphabets. In some cases (forbidding the use of the Latin alphabet for Lithuanian in areas with a Polish gentry presence) the primary goal was to promote de-Polonization. After 1863, the Polish movement began a gradual transition from the concept of the ‘eastern kresy ’ as a Polish region to the search for local allies represented by the Ukrainian movement, from the concept of the ‘Commonwealth of two nations’ (Poland and Lithuania) to the concept of the Commonwealth of three nations (Poland, Lithuania and Rus-Ukraine). However, in the course of this struggle, both the Polish movement and the empire awakened local nationalisms —Ukrainian, Lithuanian, Belarusian—and supplied them with resources.

"Small bird without milk, the stone without blossom, the water without wing: let you pain thus disappear! Let you perish forever! Amen". (Paukštelis be pieno, akmuo be žiedo, unduo be sparno: teip tu skaudulys prapulk, pražuk unt umžiu amžinuju, amen.)
A great number of such charms and healing rhymes find their parallels not only across the Baltic region but in Slavic folklore as well, exemplifying the common tradition. The international comparative research of verbal magic covered the entire continent from the Atlantic to the Black Sea.

“Mohammedanism has its nest in Lithuania, having been introduced there by Prince Witold, who brought several dozen Tatar families from the Crimean Peninsula, granting them hereditary rights to certain lands.” —as broadcast from the 18th century.
“In the average noble homes the drinks in fashion were: in Ruthenia: vodka, mead, cherry brandy, raspberry brandy; in Lithuania: vodka and mead, both ordinary and linden-flower.”
“The fourth drunkard, and when drunk truly mad, was Prince Karol Radziwiłł, voivode of Wilno. It was nothing for him to shoot a person in the head like a dog, but such incidents can be considered ordinary in the house and family of the Radziwiłłs. However, because he was as generous with his gifts as he was abundant in his mischief, no one ever complained about it. His greatest and cruelest joke was played on Pac, the Great Lithuanian Scribe, his favorite and boon companion in all his dissipations.”

“No Gypsy or any other person whose honor or conduct are of doubt should be enlisted”… in the army, declared the Second Lithuanian Statute in 1564. “Many documents unambiguously show that Gypsies eagerly stayed in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, where they found opportunities for living and refuge.”
The story of the Gypsies in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth is based in greatest part on municipal archives, including the courts.
“At the office of the court of His Royal Majesty in Žagarė, appearing in person, the Gypsy woman, Magdalena, a widow, with Hrehory, a Vlach Gypsy, made a settlement”.
The names of Šiauliai, Žagarė, Ukmerge, Šeduva and other cities in Žemaitija, as well as Trakai, Janiszki, Zarasai, Panevežys are often cited in the monograph as sites of the sources or of the wandering of Roma/Gypsies in the 15 th-18th centuries.

The probably first modern introduction to the enigma of the Baltic origins and the self-identification of the Baltic people.