On May 5-7, 2019
the First World Lithuanian Writers Forum took place in Vilnius. It was attended
by more than 30 writers, translators and literary critics from fifteen
countries. The program of the forum offered a variety of activities—from literary
readings to the presentation of the anthology of world Lithuanian authors, Exodica, to a book exhibition of the
Lithuanian émigré writers organized by the National Library of Lithuania.
of the Forum aimed at achieving several goals. The first one was to get to know
each other and share different experiences and perceptions of the world. The
event also commemorated the Lithuanian Press Restoration, Language and Book Day.
On May 6, the
participants of the Forum visited the National Library of Lithuania. Jolanta
Budriūnienė, the director of the Documentary Heritage Research Department of
the National Library of Lithuania, presented the writers to a wide range of library’s
activities. She noted that the Library has become a place where more than thousand
various cultural events take place every year and the space for the cultural
diplomacy. “We cooperate with the embassies of the Republic of Lithuania abroad,
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Culture. We have broadened
the scope of joint works and projects in the East and West. The library is a unique
place, because it traces the signs of cultural diplomacy. It’s a place where we
systematically collect and house the books of Lithuanian authors published
abroad. Today these publications are an important part of the Lithuanian
documentary heritage,” Budriūnienė said.
The writers who gathered
at the National Library of Lithuania presented the director of the Documentary
Heritage Research Department with their books and publications published abroad
and in Lithuania. Afterwards, the participants of the Forum were given an
extensive tour of the Library.
The two-volume monograph Nylon Curtain. Lithuanian Music in the Context of International History of Cold War, by the musicologists, Prof. Rūta Stanevičiūtė, Prof. Danutė Petrauskaitė, and Prof. Vita Gruodytė, was presented at the National Library of Lithuania. The book, published in 2018 by the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theater, consists of two volumes: a collective monograph, entitled Nylon Curtain. Cold War, International Exchanges and Lithuanian Music and a collection of correspondence, Foreign Correspondence of the Lithuanian Musicians, 1945-1990.
collective monograph, the authors using extensive archival documents gathered
from the state and private archives, as well as published sources, analyze the
channels of the exchange of musical information among the individuals and
institutions in Lithuania and foreign countries that took place during the
Soviet period. They also looked into the reasons that encouraged promoting personal
and transnational relations between the two musical environments divided by the
ideological confrontation of the Cold War, and posed questions, such as: which
ideological, economic, and cultural constraints and differences limited such
exchange and what impact international exchanges had on the national music
This year, two capital books about Lithuanian-American contribution to Lithuania’s statehood and independence were published in Lithuania.
The first book, Long Live Lithuania! Lithuanian American Contribution to Lithuania’s Statehood is a compilation of documents, discussions, articles, correspondence and comments of various US governmental institutions and Lithuanian-American Community, Inc. related to the long-standing efforts by Lithuanian-Americans to fight for Lithuania’s freedom. The compiler of the book, Regina Narusis, JD, the chairman of the Royal Palace Restoration Committee for the USA and along-time chairman of Lithuanian-American Community, Inc. and World Lithuanian Community, hopes that the new book will contribute to a better understanding of Lithuanian-American input into the restoration and consolidation of Lithuania’s statehood from the late 19th century to the present day.
The second book, Lithuanian American Support for Lithuania 1918-2018 by prof. Juozas Skirius, based on archival documents, periodicals, memoirs and other sources, sheds light on the activities of Lithuanian-Americans from 1918 to 2018. The author distinguishes three main periods, during which Lithuanian immigrants in the US have provided financial, political, informational and cultural support to their compatriots in the homeland and Lithuanian state. They defended Lithuania’s independence and made efforts to liberate Lithuanian nation from multiple occupations.The book also discusses the activities of Lithuanian-American charity organizations and their attempts to provide financial support to Lithuania and its people.
At the start of 2018, a Swiss Arminio Sciolli decided to donate part of his Russian diaspora literature collection to the National Library of Lithuania. The collection consists of rare books, not yet seen in Lithuania. The geography of the collection covers a wide range of places – from South Africa to China – where Russian diaspora communities lived at the beginning of the twentieth century.
On September 21, 2018, the Library invited to the exhibition “Russian Diaspora Literature” opening and discussion about Russian diaspora publications and publishers. Dr. Pavel Lavrinec, Vilnius University professor, provided a broader context and a general overview of the exhibition. Prof. Tomas Venclova, Yale University emeritus and professor of Slavic literature, talked about the history of Russian diaspora in Harbin, China, its cultural life and his impressions from recent trip there.
The debate about emigration, the Lithuanian identity crisis and global Lithuania is still ongoing in Lithuania. On August 14, 2018, the National Library of Lithuania hosted a discussion about how to preserve Lithuanian identity in the world organized by the Center of Lithuanian Language and Culture.
Every summer in August, the Center organizes a month-long Lithuanian language and culture course. Almost 100 students – from China to Argentina – participate in this summer’s course. Some students are of Lithuanian descent, while others, and there are many of them, want to study Lithuanian language because of their deep interest in Lithuanian culture. Vilma Leonavičienė, the director of the Center, noted that every participant has an exciting story about his relation to Lithuania to tell. For some students the summer language course is the first chance to get acquainted with Lithuania and its people, since they have only heard about this country from their grandparents or great-grandparents. However, there is a substantial group of students who have been returning to the summer language course in Vilnius.
A round table discussion about Lithuanian heritage outside Lithuania organized by the Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania on January 26, 2018, was a good opportunity to assess not only the situation of the Lithuanian heritage abroad and to identify the challenges and problems, but also to talk about the achievements and the future work.
Augustinas Žemaitis, the leader of the project “Destination – America,” started the event. He told about a 16-day trip to the United States that he took last fall visiting Lithuanian places, recording material heritage and listening to the stories of local people of Lithuanian descent. Žemaitis, who has been interested in Lithuanian heritage outside Lithuania for five years, is convinced that his project is important not only to Lithuanians in the US, but also Lithuania. In his opinion, it is necessary to find new ways of preserving the Lithuanian heritage abroad. He suggested volunteering or tourism as good tools to do it.
Ramojus Kraujelis, the Chief Archivist of Lithuania, noted that today, unfortunately, there are no resources to describe Lithuanian heritage abroad. He commended the private initiative “Destination – America” and proposed to continue this project covering not only US but other countries which also have many objects of Lithuanian material culture. Continue reading “Lithuanian Heritage Abroad: Challenges and Achievements”