<< The Lithuanian Word     << History     << Back    

History. 1862-1904

Prepared by Rimantas Miknys („Acquaintance with Lithuania. Book of the Millennium. I“. Kaunas: “Krastotvarka”, 1999. C.68-74


In the summer of 1862, the Revolutionary Movement Committee formed to organize a revolt against Russian regime. By the autumn, it was reorganized into the Committee of the Province of Lithuania, which proceeded to make contact with the Central National Committee in Poland. The conservative faction of the manor estate holders in Lithuania had joined forces with the camp of the faction of the "white," who were under the leadership of Jokubas Geistoras (Gejsztor), Aleksandras Oskerka, Antanas Jelenskis (Jelenski), and Aleksandras Domeika (Domejko). These men supported the pro-
gram of "organic work." Their program involved making demands to the Russian government to enlarge the rights of the local nobility for self-rule. Furthermore, the program called for the reestablishment of Vilnius University, and the founding of public schools and libraries. It also urged for publishing and circulating of literature created in the native language. The program claimed prudence in altering the relationships between the landholders and peasants for the preservation of large scale governmental land ownership. The leaders of the revolutionaries were the priest Antanas Mackevicius, the attorney Konstantinas Kalinauskas (Kalinowski), and the officer and aide-de-camp of the Vilnius Military Division, Liudvick Zwierzdowski. These men were even more convinced than the "white"
of the need to hasten the start of an insurrection. They promoted this idea by publishing special periodicals, aimed at the public at large - the peasantry.
On January 22, 1863 the Central National Committee, named the Provisional National Government, declared an insurrection in Lithuania and Poland.
On February I, 1863 the Lithuanian Province Committee took over the functions of a revolutionary government in the provinces.
On March 12, 1863 Russian Czar Alexander II signed a edict for the abolishment of the temporary obligations of the peasantry to the manor estate holders. Bondage was abolished, and an obligatory purchase of allocated lands was introduced. The former temporary recipients of the obligations were
consigned to the category of peasant owners, and the duties of the 'cincas' feudal system of land renting were reduced. The right of the peasants to use arable lands within the territory of the applicable manor estate was recognized. Such an edict had the purpose of diverting the peasants from participation in the insurrection.
On May 7-9, 1863 a battle between the insurrectionists and the Russian army took place near Birzai. The defeat suffered by the insurrectionists forced their leadership to retract from their larger operations, limit themselves to partisan activities, and evade face to face battles with the enemy.
On May 13, 1863 Russian Czar Alexander II appointed Michael Muravjov, as the chief of the Northwestern Provinces, and granted him extraordinary powers for the purpose of suppressing the insurrection. The Lithuanian part of the Augustavas Gubemiya was transferred to the jurisdiction of
Muravjov in September of the same year.
In autumn 1863, the insurrection began to falter. This insurrection had been a common effort of Poland and Lithuania, the partners of the former Commonwealth, joined together in the opposition to Russian rule. A major purpose of this alliance had been to gain freedom from Russia by reestablishing the borders of the former country, as they had existed in 1772 by one way or another. Various interest groups in Lithuania held differing views of the political future of
Lithuania. The White Party, being led by J. Geistoras (Gejsztor), envisioned Lithuania as being a province of Poland. The other group, led by Antanas Mackevicius, envisioned the country as an equal member of a federation. A third group, with Konstantinas Kalinauskas (Kalinowski) and Jokubas Dauksa at the forefront, sought a separate and independent country of Lithuania.
Motiejus Valancius and Laurynas Ivinskis accented an outlook on freedom, which took ethnicity into consideration, however they remained indifferent regarding the other projects. The suppression of the insurrection was a hard blow on the nobility, the traditional political power within Lithuania,
as well as Poland. In effect, the Russian policies and the process of modernization permitted a greater voice to the new intelligentsia of Lithuania, which was socially interrelated with the rural peasant society. Thereby, the nobility lost their leading position in the population.
On January 1, 1864 M. Muravjov prohibited the activities of all schools that were not under government administration.
Early 1864 brought about the publication of e series of articles written by Alexander Hilferding, a Russian academician and public activist in St. Petersburg. The articles argued for policies of de-Polonisation in Lithuania and White Russia, and urged the Russian government to recognize certain rights for the use of the Lithuanian language in the areas of education and public life.
In 1864 Bishop M. Valancius submitted a project to M. Muravjov, which dealt with the necessity of teaching reading and writing in the Lithuanian language at Russian elementary schools within the jurisdiction of the Kaunas Province. Furthermore, there were projects, regarding the establishment of Lithuanian classes at Catholic Churches and a Lithuanian secondary school at the Clerical Seminary of Varniai. These projects were rejected in May.
On May 22, 1864 Alexander II approved the programme for the Russifiication of the Northwestern Province, approbated by the Western Committee. The authors of the programme were M. Muravjov and Ivan Kornilov, his assistant in charge of the Educational District of Vilnius. The western Committee was a special secret governmental body of Russia. The programme was titled 'The Renewal of Russian Origins Programme'. It was based on the concept that the Western provinces, including the lands of ethnic Lithuanians within them, were "Russian lands since centuries." The program also called for the restraint of Catholic Church activities, and the discrimination of Catholics in favour of
the Orthodox Christians. Thereby, persons of Catholic backgrounds were to be excluded from governmental service within the country, providing priority to Russian Orthodox Christians. It also encouraged the formation of Russian manor estate holders with their own peasantry by prohibiting the Catholic nobility from purchasing manor estates put up for sale. Numerous manor estates, which had been confiscated following the insurrection, were distributed to peasants moving in from
Russia, when no buyers appeared among the Russian landholders. The program also involved the elimination of Polish language and culture from the public life of the land, and the Russification of elementary schools. It was believed that Russian teachers would succeed in integrating Lithuanians and White Russians into mainstream Russian cultural life, as well as protect the population from
the influence of Polish culture. The teachers were expected to create a tension between the peasantry who spoke the Lithuanian and White Russian languages, and the Polish speaking manor estate holders and nobility. By teaching of the Russian language, which had been planned to naturally become the language for the process of civilizing the entire land, the Russian political consciousness would be
implanted. The Russification policy,which was being implemented in Lithuania during the whole XIXth century, was based on this programme. However, the result was an even more active Polonisation of the country, due to the opposition of Lithuania to the Russification. It was the Polish culture, which was then commonly related with the survival of a cultural, national and political identity.
In 1864 the Russian government relocated the Samogitian Bishopic headquarters from Varniai to Kaunas without the approval of the Vatican. This was done to more effectively observe and control the actions of the bishop.
1864 was marked by the establishment of the Vilnius Commission of Archeography. It replaced the former Vilnius Commission of Archaeology. The purpose of this new institution was to arrange the publication of Lithuanian historical documents, which were relevant to the policies of the Russian Czar. The Commission issued 39 volumes of documents, related to the territory of the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania between 1865-1915. Numerous valuable research resources
were issued.
During the period of 1864-1865 all Lithuanian books, written in the Latin alphabet, whether printed locally or imported, were suppressed. All works, written by Lithuanians, were ordered to be written in the Cyrillic script. The period marked the beginning of the prohibition of the Lithuanian press. Although the prohibition was never legally formulated, and merely confirmed by the word of Russian Czar Alexander II on January 30th of 1866, it remained in use for 40 years.
1865 marked the start of the opposition to the politics of Russification, being organized by the Bishop M. Valancius. He encouraged the priesthood to urge the peasants and the general population to resist the Russian Orthodox faith, to boycott books written in Cyrillic letters, and to form underground
Lithuanian schools.
In 1866 the Russian government established teaching courses at Veiveriai where teachers for the elementary schools of Uznemune were trained. The courses were reorganized into a seminary for teachers in 1872. The Lithuanian language was being diligently taught, due to the implementation of policies, related to dividing the Lithuanians from the Polish. Thus, the institution, which had been meant to serve the policies of Russification, instead became an important centre for educating the new Lithuanian intelligentsia.
On June 5,1867  Vilnius Public Library was opened. Private libraries, primarily confiscated by the Russian government from manor estates after the insurrection, and the former library of Vilnius University had given the collections to this library. The Public Library had a particularly rich collection of manuscripts. The Museum of Ancient Artifacts continued to operate alongside the library, following the closure of the Vilnius Commission of Archaeology.
1867 was the founding year of the Marijampole Gymnasium (High School) for Boys. Teaching of the Lithuanian language was permitted as an optional subject there, as well as at Suvalkai Gymnasium and the Seinai Junior Gymnasium. National student grants were granted for ten graduating students from the Suvalkai Province for the studies at Moscow University. The grants were meant to encourage a pro-Russian attitude among Lithuanian intelligentsia, who held anti-Polish views without losing their ethnic identity. The Gymnasium became an important training ground for the new class of Lithuanian intelligentsia.
1867-1870 was the period during which a system for publication of Lithuanian press in the traditional alphabet and the illegal circulation of such works in Lithuania was developed in East Prussia on the initiative of the Bishop M. Valancius.
The 1864 Russian court reforms began being belatedly implemented when the state of war had been ceased. A comparatively modem legal system was introduced then. The reforms included non-elitist courts, professional practice of attorneys, contesting of lawsuits, independence of judges from the administration and a legal system, and public disclosure. An institution of district arbitrators was established. However, the reforms were only partially implemented in the country. Russian arbitrators, whose professional competency had been limited to the resolution of small
civil cases, were appointed by the 'zemstvas', which acted partly as independent municipalities of the nobility. Arbitrators were appointed by the Russian administration in the Northwestern Province. The appellation institution for this hierarchy of courts was a convention of the country arbitration judges.
1873 was marked by the publishing of  'Chefek Chaim' (Life's Craving), a book of theological nature, which was printed in the Hebrew script. The book won world acclaim for its author. Rabbi I. M. Cohen.
On January 13, 1874 Russian Czar Alexander II issued an order for the abolishment of the conscription of recruits, and introduced obligatory military service for the entire population. This was an additional step in the direction of public advancement.
In 1876 the Russian Town Law, passed in 1870, became valid for
the Kaunas and Vilnius Provinces. The 'Duma' (council of representatives) at the town level
began electing their boards on the basis of a property census, rather than by class status.
1879 was the year of the founding of an academic literary society in Lithuania Minor,
known as Litwische Literarische Gesellschaft.
In 1880 the Polish Socialist Organization, Gmina Socjalistow Polskich, was
In 1882-1896 the first telephone lines were laid in Lithuania.
1883-1886 marked the issue of the first illegal Lithuanian periodical dedicated to Lithuania Proper, titled 'Ausra' (The Dawn), in Eastern Prussia. The illegal Lithuanian national movement was revived. The newspaper contributed greatly to the awakening of Lithuanian national consciousness, and the consolidation of the intelligentsia of Lithuania on a national level. The leading ideologists of the newspaper were Jonas Basanavicius and Jonas Sliupas.
1883-1894 marked the establishment and operations of the first secular organisations for the illegal  circulation of Lithuanian press.
1889-1905 was the period of the publication and illegal circulation from Eastern Prussia of 'Varpas' (The Bell), a periodical of a liberal and democratic perspective, designed for the intelligentsia, and 'Ukininkas' (The Farmer) for the rural population. Both periodicals criticized the Russification policies
of the Russian government and Polonisation, and urged a struggle for democratic rights. Both periodicals,  - 'Varpas' in particular -  had great significance in heightening Lithuanian national consciousness, and formulating a programme for a cultural and political national movement. The main ideologist of 'Varpas' was Vincas Kudirka ( during the period of 1889-1899). His composition of 'Tautiska giesme'
(National Hymn) became the national anthem of Lithuania. The major contributors to the 'Varpas' periodical included Kazys Grinius, Juozapas Bagdonas. Juozapas Adomaitis-Semas, Jonas Jablonskis, Povilas Visinskis, Jonas Vileisis, Jurgis Saulys, and other eminent Lithuanians of those times.
In 1890-1896 'Zemaiciu ir Lietuvos apzvalga' (A Review of Samogitia and Lithuania) periodical was issued by the Catholic intelligentsia of Eastern Prussia, who held conservative views. The periodical also criticized the politics of Russification, but refrained itself
from propagating a struggle against the Russian government.
On March 3, 1892 the Russian government issued an order regarding the persecution of underground Lithuanian and Polish schools.
In June 1893 a convention of the Polish Socialist Party (Polska Partja Socialistyczna - PPS) was held in Vilnius. Lithuania and White Russia were recognized as a territorial unit for the activities of this party. A Lithuanian PPS section was organized.
On November 23,1893 was the date of the Kraziai Massacre. The Russian government had brutally exterminated people who protested against the governement's closure of the Kraziai Monastery.
1895-1904 was a period of activity by distributor and reader societies of the then illegal Lithuanian press.
1895 witnessed the issue of the books of poetry, entitled 'Pavasario balsai' ('The Voices of Springtime') and 'Jaunoji Lietuva' ('The Young Lithuania'), written by Jonas Maciulis under the pen-name of Maironis. The manifestations of rebirth of the Lithuanian nation were made poetically meaningful.
1896 was the year of the establishment of the Lithuanian Social Democratic Party. The written party platform sought a sovereign Lithuania, comprising the Provinces of Vilnius, Kaunas, Suvalkai and Grodno, and one that was to be linked with neighbouring countries on the basis of a free federation. The leading activists of the party included Alfonsas Moravskis, Andrius Domasevicius, later - Vladas Sirutavicius, Augustinas Janulaitis, Mykolas Birziska, Steponas Kairys and others.
1896-1904 was the publication period of 'Tevynes sargas' ('The Guardian of Homeland), a periodical in the Eastern Prussia. In it the ideas of the members of the intelligentsia, who held views of modern Catholic thought, were expressed. The periodical  actively protested against Russification, and made active effort to involve the rural population in the movement for a national struggle. The main
ideologist of the periodical was a Lithuanian writer and a priest, Juozapas Tumas-Vaizgantas.
1897 was the year of the first census of the entire population, conducted by the Russian Empire. The data of this census states that the population of the Lithuanian areas of Kaunas, Vilnius and Suvalkai numbered 2.5 million people.
1897 brought the recall of the prohibition of building new Catholic churches. Catholic schoolchildren were no longer forced to attend the Russian Orthodox places of worship during the holidays of the Russian Czar.
On October 7-9, 1897 the first convention of Jewish Social Democrat organizations was held in Vilnius. There, the 'Buiidas', a public Russian and Polish Jews workers' union, was established.
In 1897-1902 the first stockholder companies were established in Lithuania.
The period of 1898-1899 was marked by the merging of underground Polish culture and education societies into an illegal alliance. named 'Oswiatci' and led by Witold Waslawski.
1899 marked the initiation of the activities of the pro-Masonic 'Neoszubravc' Society, led by the attorney Tadas Vrublevskis (Tadeusz Wroblewski) in Vilnius.
On August 20, 1899 the first Lithuanian play was acted in public in Palanga. The play,Amerika pirtyje' (America In the Bathhouse), was written by Antanas Vilkutaitis-Keturakis.
In 1900 Lithuania participated in the World Exhibition in Paris.
1901 was the year when the Museum of M. Muravjov was opened, where numerous expositions and archives about the 1863 Insurrection had been accumulated.
1902 was marked by the formation of the Lithuanians' (after 1906 - changed to Lithuanian) Democratic Party (LDP). The party formulated a programme in order to seek the demarcation of the ethnographic borders of an independent democratic Lithuanian country. The proposed borders were very similar to the  borders of present-day Lithuania.
In 1902 'Mizrachi', the first Zionist party in
the Russian Empire, was established as well.
On May 7, 1904 the prohibition of press in the Latin (or Lithuanian) alphabet script was cancelled.
On December 23, 1904 the first legal daily newspaper, 'Vilnians zinios' ('Vilnius News'), was published in Vilnius in the Lithuanian language.