Events in Lithuania, to May 1973 (29.9)

<<No 29 : 31 July 1973>>

In March and April 1973, the Vilnius KGB began to investigate the activities of voluntary ethnographic and regional studies groups which were studying the history of national culture.

The KGB was interested in the organization and functioning of summer amateur expeditions, people’s art groups, and in the organization of evening programs and discussions. In particular, it was interested in the Folk Song Club at the Vilnius Trade Unions Palace of Culture, the Romuva Students Club at the Vilnius State University (the club was closed in 1971), the Rasa festival in Kernave, and the archaeological expedition along the Šventoji river.

The following were summoned by the KGB (dates given in parentheses):

  • Birute Andrasiunaite, engineer (28 March).
  • Maryte Bozyte, VGU [Vilnius State University), fourth-year student (28 March).
  • Birute Burauskaite, engineer (2 April).
  • Kazimieras Eigminas, graduate of the VGU department of Lithuanian language (6 April).
  • Elena Eimaityte, graduate of the department of German language (27 March). Reda Jakučionyte, engineer (28 March).
  • Zenonas Jakuciunas, conservatory graduate
  • Veronika Januleviciute, members of a young people’s theatre group (28 March). Virginia Jasiukaityte-Asmontiene, VGU, student.
  • Alfonsas Juška, biophysicist (27-28 March).
  • Donate Kaneviciute, mathematician (3 April).
  • Danas Kaukenas, correspondent of the newspaper Vakarines naujienos [Evening News] (4 April).
  • Kestusis Labanauskas, employee of the Institute for the Restoration of Monuments (28 March).
  • Rimas Matulis, graduate of the department of English language (28 March).
  • Kazimieras Misius, engineer (27 March).
  • Egidijus Norvaišas, graduate student in physics (27 March).
  • Algimantas Petrauskas, engineer (28 March).
  • Terese Povilaityte, graduate of the department of Lithuanian language (28 March).           .
  • Alfonsas Ramonas, mathematician (27 March).
  • Albinas Simokaitis, lecturer.
  • Edma Stankevičius, student.
  • Jonas Trinkūnas, graduate student (28 March),
  • Zita Vanagaite, architect (3 April).

The KGB agents asked questions about meetings with Lithuanians exiled in Siberia and the Urals, about contacts with Lithuanians in Belorussia, and about supplying the latter with Lithuanian books and newspapers. They also asked about studies of monuments of Lithuanian antiquity in East Prussia (the Kaliningrad Region).

They were interested in the methods by which young people were attracted to participate in the regional studies activities.

Some persons were accused of attempts to set up contacts with nationalist circles of Armenians, Georgians and Latvians.

The KGB investigators declared that this heightened interest in the past, and its idealization, facilitated the spread of nationalist attitudes. “Why sing only Lithuanian songs?” The charges of nationalism sometimes took on a sharper character. “Why sing partisan songs?” “Why gather materials on partisan battles?” (They had in mind the Lithuanian partisans of the late 1940s, the “Forest Brethren”.)

R. Matulis was persuaded to sign an undertaking that he would not take part in organizing gatherings and evening activities which had not been cleared with official organs.

*

The following were arrested in Kaunas in late March 1973: Vidmantas Povilonis, engineer; Antanas Sakalauskas, lecturer in the Construction Department [of the Polytechnic Institute]; Šarūnas Žukauskas, sixth-year student at the Medical Institute; and [Isidorius] Rudaitis, a physician.

Juozas Rugys was arrested in mid-April. Some printers’ type was found.

Viktoras Krūminis, a fourth-year student at the Polytechnical Institute, was expelled from the institute.

Povilonis’ mother sent a request to the secretary of the Central Committee of the Lithuanian Communist Party, asking that her son be released. In reply the Procurator’s Office of the Lithuanian Republic stated that criminal proceedings had been instituted against Povilonis for an especially dangerous crime — participation in an anti-Soviet group and the distribution of anti-Soviet leaflets in February 1972 in Kaunas.

***

The Chronicle of the Lithuanian Catholic Church [Lietuvos Kataliku Baznycius Kronika], on which the Chronicle has reported (see CCE 27.3), continues to be published.

Issue No. 3 (August 1972) includes the following:

— Material on the activity of the KGB at the theological seminary in Kaunas;

— The case of the teacher O. Briliene (see CCE 25);

— A letter from Lithuanian believers to the Central Committee of the Party, dated 16 July 1972 (1,100 signatures);

— Reports on the persecution of Bishop Sladkevičius and the priests V. Šauklys, G. Gudanavicius, J. Zubrus, and S. Tamkevicius.

*

This is a summary of of Issue No. 4 (November 1972).

It reports that priests are being compelled to make statements distorting the real position of Catholics in Lithuania.

Facts are cited testifying to intervention in the internal affairs of the Church. Local authorities are examining Church records, for example, in order to discover who is receiving the services of the Church. There is an account of a case where the priest V. Stakauskas was not allowed to visit a believer dying in a hospital.

Cases of the defilement of churches and church cemeteries are described.

On 27 August [1972], in Šeduva only two priests were allowed to officiate at the confirmation of 3,000 children. During the confirmation one priest died.

Father Juozas Zdebskis, 1929-1986

When the priest J. Zdebskis (see CCEs 21-24, 27) returned from prison, Rugienis, the Commissioner For Religious Affairs, did not allow him to perform his priestly functions in the Vilkaviskis diocese.

In March 1973, 16,498 Lithuanian Catholics sent a statement to K. Tumėnas, Commissioner for Religious Affairs at the Lithuanian SSR’s Council of Ministers. They protested against the lack of the Catholic literature they required in the republic. The statement said that whereas the authorities are providing religious literature to Lithuanians abroad, believers in Lithuania itself are deprived of it.

*

In March 1973 a statement from Lithuanian schoolchildren and their relatives was sent to the Lithuanian SSR’s Ministry of Education. Anti-religious pressures on children in schools was the main subject of the statement. It also called attention to the scant treatment of Lithuanian history in Lithuanian schools.

The authors asked the authorities not to obstruct the exercise of freedom of conscience on the part of schoolchildren.

The statement was signed by 14,284 persons, about one-fourth of whom were school children.

***

The following information has to do with a trial in Lithuania in 1971 which was not previously reported in the Chronicle. [a short account did appear in CCE 23.7 (item 2) but there the name was mis-spelled Lauce.]

The Trial of Jonas Laucius

Jonas Laucius, principal of High School No.2 in Biržai, was born in 1917.

In 1969, he wrote a novel with the title In the Blast Furnace [Zaizdria]. The novel describes the experience of the Lithuanian people since 1940. It was submitted to the editorial board of the Vaga publishing house. The publishers’ readers found it to be “anti-Soviet”, “amoral” and “anti-artistic”. Needless to say, it was not published. Then Laucius began to mail instalments of it to his brother in the USA.

On 16 July 1971, Laucius was arrested.

His case was tried by the Lithuanian Supreme Court in Vilnius on 16-17 December 1971. The judge was Misiūnas; the procurator [prosecutor], Bakucionis; and the defence lawyer, Gavronskis [note 1]. At first the accused was indicted under Article 63 of the Lithuanian criminal code (corresponding to Article 70 of the RSFSR code).

Seven letters sent by Laucius to the USA figured in the pre-trial investigation. At the trial, however, there was mention of only one, allegedly opened by chance because of the dirty envelope and the lack of a return address. Its authorship was established by using the clue of the addressee. The reason why this was necessary was the “anti-Soviet contents” of the letter.

The witnesses at the trial included a female teacher from Vilnius who on a visit to relatives in the USA in 1969-1970 chanced to meet J. Laucius’ brother. According to her, he told her that his brother was a teacher who had written an anti-Soviet novel. Other witnesses were Kazis Ambrasas, a literary critic from the Vaga publishing house, and Laucius’s wife and uncle, who had read the novel. Some of Laucius’s pupils were questioned during the pre-trial investigation. But they gave good reports about their principal and were not called at the trial.

At the trial Laucius stated that he had nurtured the subject of his novel for 20 years. He had written it in the hope that a new era would arrive in the USSR which would promise freedom to others besides official writers. “Now,” he said, “I realize that I was mistaken: there is no free literature in the USSR; writers in the USSR are government employees.” In his defence he pointed out that his novel had not been published, unlike works by Solzhenitsyn, Daniel and Sinyavsky. “So is my guilt — expressed only in intentions — really so great?” He requested that his family not be persecuted.

*

The procurator asked for a sentence of 5 years’ deprivation of freedom. At the request of the defence Laucius’ acts were reclassified under Article 199 of the Lithuanian criminal code (corresponding to Article 190-1 of the RSFSR code), and the court sentenced him to 2 years in camps.

Free access to the court was not allowed; people were let in when they showed special passes. After testifying, the witnesses were obliged to leave the courtroom.

It was emphatically insisted to Laucius’ wife, a teacher with 20 years’ experience, that she resign from the school. She was promised a new job if she did. And in fact, she was given a job in a library at a salary of 60 roubles a month. Laučiene [note 2] has three school-age children.

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NOTES

Background material about Lithuania can be found in most issues of the Chronicle from No. 17 (December 1970) onwards.

[1] These three men — Judge Misiunas, Procurator Bakucionis and defence attorney Gavronskis — participated in other political trials in Lithuania, those of Simas Kudirka (CCE 20.6) and Albinas Telkenis (CCE 17.11, item 6).

[2] The Lithuanian form “-iene” is adjoined to the husband’s surname and indicates the wife’s married status. For comparison, most of the young women summoned by the KGB in March / April 1973 were unmarried, as is shown by the suffix “-aite”, “-ciute”, etc.