Events in Lithuania (26.11)

<<No 26 : 5 July 1972>>

The self-immolation of Romas Kalanta and others

On 14 May, in one of the squares of Kaunas, Romas Kalanta (b. 1953), who had finished secondary education and was the son of a college lecturer, died by self-immolation, under the banner ‘’Freedom for Lithuania”. Three of his friends surrounded the burning youth and would not allow anyone to approach him. They were arrested and charged with “premeditated murder with aggravating circumstances” (equivalent of Article 102 in the Russian Criminal Code), Their names are so far unknown to the Chronicle.

R. Kalanta died in hospital a few hours later. His funeral was scheduled for 18 May. A few hours before the appointed time his body was secretly taken from the morgue and buried. People who had arrived for the funeral went to the place of his self-immolation. A very large crowd gathered. The police set about dispersing it. The assembly offered resistance. Rumour has it that one policeman died. After this troops were called in, and they dispersed the crowd. The “disorders” continued on 19 May also. Many people were arrested. Some were given ten to fifteen days’ imprisonment for “petty hooliganism’ . Criminal proceedings were instituted against several people,

A Kaunas newspaper printed a photocopy of a letter from the parents of Kalanta :

“A great misfortune has befallen our family – the suicide of our son. Everyone will understand the grief of his parents. But some irresponsible elements, taking advantage of our misfortune, are talking of the persecution of relatives, and trying to disturb law and order in the town. Others, simply out of curiosity, are following their example, thereby causing us even greater pain. No-one has the human right to behave thus. The greatest comfort to our family would be to be left in peace.”

This letter was reprinted in newspapers in Vilnius in the Lithuanian and Russian languages.


The Chairman of Kaunas City Soviet Executive Committee [J. M. Seris] appeared on Kaunas television with “interpretations”. In particular, he said [note 1]:

“The investigatory organs have enquired into and elucidated the circumstances of this suicide. A forensic-medical commission was created. The doctors who participated in its work were: J. Andriuskevicene, Reader in the Faculty of Medicine at Vilnius University; V. Berneris, Head Doctor of Kaunas Psycho-neurological Hospital; J, Gutmanas, [note 2] Chief Psychiatrist of the Lithuanian Ministry of Health; I. Surkus, Professor at Kaunas Medical Institute; and other specialists in the field [among them A. Dauksene].

“Having carried out a forensic-psychiatric examination and studied the documents, letters and sketches of the deceased at its disposal, and also taking into account the evidence of parents, teachers and friends, the commission came to the conclusion that Romas Kalanta was mentally ill and had committed suicide while in a morbid frame of mind. Certain irresponsible persons, a group of juveniles, not understanding, and incorrectly appraising, the above-mentioned fact, and devoid of any sense of responsibility, tried to disturb law and order in the town … We appeal to school directors, teachers, parents and young people and call upon them to assist in safeguarding the peace in tins own.”

In one issue of the paper Kauno Tiesa letters were published “condemning the acts of hooliganism”.

On 22 May the same paper printed an article ‘’Who are they, these Disturbers of the Peace?” The article says:

“On 18 and 19 May a small band of hooligans caused a disturbance of law and order. In order to inform our readers who these hooligans are, the editors addressed themselves to the town Procuracy. There we discovered that the majority are persons with previous records of conviction on more than one occasion for hooliganism and other criminal offences. They are long-haired, degenerate perverted hooligans, of unsightly appearance. Here are the character-references we have received on some of them.”

The article continues with a description of live of those arrested in the square. One of them, Genrikas Poeiunas, a school-leaver, has had criminal proceedings instituted against him for “breach of the peace, insubordination and use of violence against members of the police force”.


On 28 May, during a fair on the market-square of the town of Varena, Stonis (a sanitary technician born in 1949) and three of his friends hoisted the [Lithuanian] national flag. Stonis’s friends were seized immediately by the police, but he himself managed to get away. Next day in the same square he set fire to himself. He died on 10 June in a military hospital. The funeral took place under police and KGB supervision; for the duration of the funeral roadblocks were set up on all roads into Varena.


On 3 June, on a Kaunas street (the square in which Kalama died by self-immolation is under guard) a worker, Andriuskevicius (b. 1912), set himself alight for the same reasons. He died the next day in a military hospital. He was buried secretly by the police in an unknown locality.


On 10 June in a Kapstskas street a worker, Zulickauskas (b. 1910), tried to burn himself to death, but was seized. He is now in a military hospital. [note 3]


The International Handball Championships for the Baltic Cup were held in the Vilnius Palace of Sport from 11-18 June, Lithuanian students and schoolchildren responded noisily to each encounter: whenever a foreign team came near the Soviet goal they shouted “Hurrah”; but when luck was on the Soviet side they whistled. Amongst the spectators there were many policemen and KGB men in disguise, they seized the shouting spectators and drove them away. Those who did not stand up when the Soviet anthem was played were treated likewise.

The total number of detainees was about 150. Many of them were released after fifteen days’ detention; a few dozen are under investigation. Most of the students detained were not allowed to sit their state examinations, while the schoolchildren were not given their school-leaving certificates. During the final days of the championship there were many empty seats in the Palace of Sport, because tickets were not being sold but distributed free in factories to people on lists approved by Party committees, and then mainly in those factories with a majority of Russian workers.



[1] This speech was also reported by Vilnius Radio in English on 27 May. Similar accounts of the commission’s findings appeared in Kauno Tiesa (20 May) and Sovetskaya Litva (21 May) and another such was given by I. Udaltsov at an official press-conference in Moscow on 25 May.

[2] See Gutmanas’s role in the S. Kudirka case, see CCE 20.6.

[4] On the last three cases and the Handball Championship see also UPI dispatches dated 5 and 6 July 1972.