Manifestations of National Awareness
Manifestations of loyalty to a nation are an important factor in determining the nationality of the population of a territory. Despite intensive Russification and Polonization of Ethnographic Lithuania, even the frontier inhabitants often demonstrated their Lithuanianism politically or culturally in the 20th century.
In 1905 the Lithuanians of Gardinas petitioned their bishop to permit Lithuanian services in church. While Rev. Ignas Рopara was pastor in Dysna (1905), his parishioners read and spoke Lithuanian. Similar examples may be drawn from each eastern and southern district of Ethnographic Lithuania.
During the First World War, as far east as Glubokai a chapter of the Lithuanian Society to Aid War Victims was active. The inhabitants of Ikaznл still spoke Lithuanian. Rev. Buivydas was active in Ikazne distributing Lithuanian books. In the summer of 1919 the inhabitants of Ikaznл petitioned that their town be included in the Lithuanian state. Byelorussians and Lithuanians of Ikaznл joined the Lithuanian Army as volunteers.
When the Republic of Lithuania was created, a number of southern and eastern locales declared their desire to be included in the Lithuanian state. Here are some salient examples: on July 6, 1919 the inhabitants of Seinai organized a Lithuanian administration. After getting rid of Polish troops in July, 1920 the inhabitants of Seinai asked the Lithuanian Army to occupy the town. In 1920 the citizens of Varanavas and Gardinas asked the Lithuanian Army to take over those towns. The Lithuanian Army did take over Stabinas on September 4, 1920 and Lipskas on August 20, 1920.
In his memoires Rapolas Skipitis writes that when the Lithuanian-Soviet borders were being established, 3 delegates from Рarkauриina approached him in Vidюmorл and declared: "The Lithuanian boundary in the north should not begin from Druja but from Drysa and should run south through Armanaviиiai and Glubokai… we (the citizens of Рarkauриina) are attracted more to the Lithuanians than to the Russians" (Rapolas Skipitis, Nepriklausomа Lietuvа Statant, Chicago, 1961, pp. 299-300).
During the Polish occupation, 1920-1939, despite the brutal Polonization policy of the Pilsudkites, 350 Lithuanian primary schools, 30 kindergartens, 2 gymnasia and a teachers seminary were organized and functioned in the Vilnius Region. The Society of St. Casimir (Рv. Kazimiero draugija) had 476 chapters (37 chapters were in Gardinas county). In 1928 there were 20 Lithuanian schools in Gardinas county, 11 schools in Aрmena county and two in Lyda county (Рapoka, Vilnius…, p. 135). Lithuanians in various townships asked for permission to establish schools but the Polish educational authorities turned down their requests and even closed existing schools.
During the Polish occupation of 1920-1939 some 500 Lithuanian civic, economic, cultural, educational and other societies were active in spite of restrictions. Most of these societies were not numerous and did not long survive censorship. Among the Vilnius Lithuanians were several political movements, but none of them claimed to be a political party. The greatest influence was exercised by supporters of the Christian Democrats. The second most influential movement was the liberals who were close to the peasant-populists of Lithuania. Representatives of the Lithuanian political currents joined to form the Provisional Lithuanian Committee of Vilnius (Laikinasis Vilniaus Lietuviш Komitetas, 1919-1937). Among the more active cultural and educational societies were the Lietuviш mokslo draugija (1907-40), the educational society Rytas (1912-1938), the St. Casimir Society (1925-1936), the Lithuanian Teachers Union (Lietuviш Mokytojш Sаjunga, 1925-1937), The Kultura Educational Society (Kultыros рvietimo draugija, 1927-40), the Vilniaus Lithuanian Student Association (Vilniaus Lietuviш Studentш Sаjunga, 1926-40).
In addition to these community organizations one must count the Lithuanian Society of Art and Literature (Lietuviш meno ir literatыros draugija, 1932-40), The Vilnius Lithuanian Sports Club (1935-1940), the Lithuanian intellectual societal "Romuva" Club (1935-1940) the Lithuanian Charitable Society (1914-1938) and the Lithuanian Sanitary Aid Society (1918-1940) which maintained the Vilnius Lithuanian hospital. The more prominent Vilnius Lithuanian economic organizations were: Lietuviu ыkio draugija (1928-1937) which had over 100 chapters, and the Lithuanian Credit Cooperative (1920-1940). The Polish occupation authorities closed down most of these organizations and confiscated their assets.
When the Germans occupied the whole of Lithuania, 1941-44, Lithuanian committees appeared in Gardinas, Lyda, Marcinkonys, Pariece, Pervalkas, Ratnycia, and Aрmena. Because of manifest Lithuanianism, the Germans reunited parts of Brлslauja. Aрmena, Gardinas and Lyda counties to Lithuania. In 1942-43 there were 26 Lithuanian schools in Gardinas county. Lithuanians of Lyda county made arrange-ments to set up 37 schools.
The return of the Soviets quashed nationalistic activities. Nonetheless, in the Soviet statistics for 1946 the fact was acknowledged that there were Lithuanian-speaking villages near Aрmena, Lyda and Naugardukas. Although today the Lithuanian language is disappearing in these eastern areas, many so-called tutejszy, who call themselves Catholics, acknowledge the fact that their parents and grandparents had been Lithuanians or had spoken Lithuanian, but that they themselves were "locals." Today intensive Russian colonization is taking place in these regions. Even the Byelorussians are faced with the threat of Russification. Yet some 40,000 persons still spoke Lithuanian in western Byelorussia. The fate of the other Lithuanian autochtons is not clear.
Commission to Study the Ethnographic Boundaries
of Eastern and Southern Lithuania
New York, May 23, 1967
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