Events in Lithuania – 2 (48.15)

“The Chronicle of the Lithuanian Catholic Church” on the Position of Believers

From materials in issues 30 (1 November 1977) and 31 (31 January 1978).

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In August 1977, the chairman of the Ignalina district social welfare office, Kaijenas, warned S. Kazimieriene that she would be deprived of her pension (21 roubles 50 kopeks) if she did not give up her work as a bellringer in church. Kazimieriene was forced to give up these essential extra earnings. J. Becelis (born 1902), who is in a similar situation, receiving a pension of 25 roubles 80 kopeks and earning 15 roubles as a sexton, was also even threatened that the pension received by him ‘illegally’ over several years would be recovered from him.

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Stasys Maskoliunas, who works as a linotypist in the printing-works of the Central Committee of the Lithuanian communist party publishing house, used to travel on days off to Paluse, where his family lives, and there played the organ during church services. In May 1977, the administration announced to him that because of this he would not receive the flat that had been promised him. Maskoliunas had to give up his job and leave Vilnius.

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On 21 August 1977 the Third Eucharistic March, in which about 1,000 people took part (in 1975 there were 600 and in 1976 700), took place in Siluva. A speech was made before the march began: “We shall pray for Lithuania, beseeching Mary to save us from the flood of alcohol, from dissipation and godlessness…” The march took place under the attentive observation (including filming) of policemen and plain clothes agents. When, having put up a cross in a suburban wood, the faithful were already dispersing, the police tried to detain one of them, but were successfully resisted.

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The community of Zaljoi parish continues the struggle for its church, in which, in summer 1977, the authorities built a mill (CCE 47), After a series of appeals to commissioner [for religious affairs] Tumenas and the local authorities pointing out that this church, opened in 1948, was closed in 1963 on an arbitrary decision of the Vilkaviskis district soviet executive committee and that all these years the community bore the cost of insurance and taxes on the church building, the believers on 30 September wrote a statement to first secretary of the Lithuanian party central committee Griskevicius. The statement ends with the following words:

Open the church and parish in Zaljoi or let it be written in the new Constitution of the Lithuanian SSR that citizens of Lithuania are not permitted to perform religious rites.

It turned out to be difficult to find a miller for the new mill. Party member Raguckas refused the post, saying that he felt ashamed before his people to mill grain in a church. The mill is working four hours a week.

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Priest Julijonas Miskinis, vicar of the church in Kvedarana (Silale district), is subjected to constant attacks by the authorities: for funeral processions and for the participation of children in religious services. In reply to Miskinis’s attempts to defend his actions by referring to Soviet laws and church regulations deputy chairman of the district soviet executive committee P. Baguska shouted at him: ‘We’ll knock you into shape.’ In one of the intimidatory ‘chats’ a K G B official took part, who justified Baguska’s crudeness by saying that he was still a ‘young official’. Miskinis’s interlocutors incidentally touched for some reason during this conversation on Pope Paul Vi’s age. The vicar did not fail to remark that the Soviet leaders were also well on in years.

The district newspaper on 1 October 1977 published an article about Miskinis. In reply he wrote a statement to Tumenas documenting the libellous nature of the article.

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In Kirdeikiai (Utena district) the harassment of priest P. Krazauskas (CCE 47) is continuing. The local authorities hinder him by all available means from preparing children for their first communion. Particularly zealous are chairman of the Utena district soviet executive committee Talmantas, state farm director Macinskas and deputy chairman of the soviet executive committee Labanauskas. They attempt to persuade the priest to think of his poor health, which prison might completely undermine. On 3 August 1977 Krazauskas was summoned for a talk by diocese administrator Andrikonis, who accused the priest of being unable to get on with the Soviet authorities and threatened to dismiss him. On 5 August Krazauskas was fined 50 roubles. Despite all this, Krazauskas stated that he would continue in future to perform his duty.

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By Order of the Lithuanian SSR Minister of Enlightenment A. Rimkus, No. 239 of 2 August1977 (below are extracts in translation, the full original text is in issue 30 of the Chronicle of the Lithuanian Catholic Church):

On 19 October 1976 fifth-form pupil of the eight-year school in Sumskas, Vilnius district, son of a teacher in the school, pioneer M. Mikulskis, died…

Teacher A. Mikulskaya, who buried her son according to religious rites, violated the ethics of a Soviet teacher…

Due to the lack of principle on the part of the school management and teachers…quite a number of pupils and even several teachers took part in this ceremony.

The department of education did not make the proper assessment of such behaviour and did not remove the possibility of a repetition of such occurrences.

The Minister orders that A. Mikulskaya’s lack of principle and the teachers’ irresponsibility be carefully noted, that the school’s director be given a severe reprimand, and that — ‘for not taking measures to punish the guilty ones’ — the head of the district education department be given a reprimand. All schools in the republic are ordered to step up the atheist education of pupils.

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In Leinalingis (Laziniai district) on 20 October 1977 fifth-form pupils were told to fill in a questionnaire with 17 questions on their attitude to religious belief and to sign it.

In Dubiciai (Varena district) after the end of the first half of the school year the following pupils lost conduct marks for attending church: Alfredas Avizinys (second form), Virginija Adamaviciute (seventh form), Marite Skaramakaite (seventh class), Rite Kirkliauskaite (seventh class), Marite Avizinyte (eighth class) and Danute Skaramakaite (eighth class).

The Disturbances in Vilnius

(Additions to CCE 47’s account and more precise details.)

On 12 October 1977, a notice was published in the Vilnius newspaper Evening News, which comes out in Lithuanian and Russian, saying that after the ‘recent’ football match had ended several tipsy fans ran wild in the stadium and surrounding streets. The notice says that a people’s court sentenced worker Kiznis; employee of a radio components factory Sofronov, and third-year student at the Vilnius construction engineering institute Augustinavicius to 10 days’ arrest. Polytechnic student Karcinskas was fined 30 roubles.

It is known from various sources that after the events of 10 October 44 people were detained for more than a day. Among them were quite a number of Russians.

On 10 October windows were broken in the building of the Lithuanian Communist Party central committee, not that of the KGB, as CCE 47 tentatively stated. Plain clothes agents were photographing the crowd the whole time; besides this there is a suspicion that the demonstrators were filmed with hidden cine-cameras.

On 8 November, as already reported, the Vilnius authorities prepared very much better for the football match between the local team Zalgiris and the Nalchik team ‘Spartacus’: even trained dogs were provided to help the police.