The Battle of Saule took place on 22 September 1236 in the Šiauliai area in Lithuania, at which the Lithuanians crushed the army of the Livonian Order that had launched a crusade to their lands from Riga. The Brothers of the Sword who tried to return to Riga via Semigallia (Zemgale) were harried and killed by the Semigallians, a Baltic tribe that became part of the Latvian and Lithuanian nations which formed later on. The date of the Battle of Saule has been marked in Lithuania and Latvia since 22 September 2000, by decrees of the parliaments of the two countries, as the Day of Baltic Unity, with the aim of reminding Lithuanians and Latvians of their ethnic similarities, and to encourage the closeness of the two kindred nations and the Lithuanian and Latvian states. The first time Lithuania and Latvia intended to commemorate the Battle of Saule together was in 1936, the 700th anniversary of the battle. However, the attempt to organise a shared celebration of the anniversary of the battle failed. This article seeks to answer the following questions: what prompted Latvia and Lithuania to organise the commemoration of the Battle of Saule in 1936; what were the meanings that accompanied the imagery of the Battle of Saule at the time; and why did the joint anniversary celebration not take place?
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The article discusses the activities during the period of late Stalinism of Justas Paleckis, the chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Council of Soviet Lithuania. The paper puts forward the premise that from 1944 to 1953, Paleckis balanced between indigenous (local) communism and attitudes characteristic of some Central European national communists. To be more precise, he tried to emphasise the specifics of the historical development of Lithuania, and its differences from other Soviet republics, in which the formation of the Soviet regime started earlier. According to him, its tradition of statehood made Lithuania a unique republic, and this circumstance should be taken into account when making Lithuania Soviet. Paleckis was convinced that in order to make Soviet rule more attractive to the Lithuanians, it was necessary to cooperate with the nation’s cultural elite, that is, with the interwar Lithuanian intelligentsia. In his writings and speeches, he tried to merge organically the liberation of the Lithuanian nation from the ‘yoke’ of the exploiters, with the no less important liberation from the ‘national yoke’ or national revival of the Lithuanians. Social and national ‘liberation’, according to him, was crowned with the establishment of the socialist order in Lithuania. This ‘organic’ understanding of history was characteristic of other national communists in Central Europe. Finally, Paleckis tried to incorporate national elements into the system of symbols in Soviet Lithuania. The Lithuanianisation of symbols of Soviet rule was meant to strengthen the legitimacy of the authorities. However, this analysis shows that the Lithuanian Party leadership did not support Paleckis’ ideas and efforts. He was often strongly criticised in communist forums. It can be argued that in the period of late Stalinism, the ‘window of opportunity’ for national communism in Lithuania was finally closed. Tendencies towards unification and Russification became increasingly prevalent in politics. Thus, in this political-cultural context, Paleckis represented the type of communist that could be called an indigenous Lithuanian communist.
The significance of Iš kelionės po Europą ir Aziją (1914), the guidebook by Julija Pranaitytė, a Lithuanian intellectual from the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, depended not just on the fact that the author was the first Lithuanian female traveller to comprehensively document the experiences of a modern tourist in the early 20th century, but that the book itself was the first guidebook to the Russian Empire to be published in Lithuanian.
The guidebook is an attempt by member of the intelligentsia with strong Catholic views to provide practical information about a modernizing and increasingly mobile world. Thus, the intended target of Pranaitytė book is twofold. Firstly, it is more mobile yet still poorly educated working-class reader who is being constantly warned about possible threads of being fooled or cheated. The reader could find advice in guidebook about things worth having while travelling, how to communicate, and what to expect. The guidebook also provides historical information about places visited, cultural insights, similarities and differences to Western society in such a way the book could be interesting and useful for middle-calls traveler as well.
There is also a more general problem relating to the author’s approach to the guidebook: what representations of different cultures and nations did early 20th-century Lithuanians share, and what did these representations mean in the religious, imperial and international contexts of the time? As is often the case in travel literature, history is presented here selectively, taking into account the dominant cultural monologue. It has a clear purpose in Pranaitytė’s guidebook: to spread a vision of the moral and religious superiority of Western and Christian culture. However, having in mind that growing number of workers and middle class were engage in Lithuanian national movement at the beginning of 20th century, this prejudges becomes paradoxical because Empire’s religious and cultural values are shown as cultural foundation for discovering new parts of late Russian Empire.