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Lithuanian Book-carriers and Daractors of 1864–1904. Summary

Benjaminas Kaluškevičius, Kazys Misius.
Lietuvos knygnešiai ir daraktoriai 1864–1904. -  Vilnius, 2004. P. 7–11. 667, 668


After the 1863 insurrection was quashed, the government of the tsar Russia imposed stringent measures to make quickly Lithuania an all-Russian region of Orthodox faith, not differing from other Russian provinces. In spring of 1963 the Tsar confirmed the Temporary Rules for official elementary schools of the Northwest region. The Rules provided for teaching in such schools only in Russian language. It was proscribed to teach the native tongue in non-official schools as well.
Though the tradition of printing Lithuanian books in Gothic and Latin characters was more than 300 years old, nevertheless in 1864 the officials of the tsar government and especially Mikhail Muravyov, the Vilnius Governor-General, tried to adapt the Russian (Cyrillic) alphabet to Lithuanian ABC-books.
In May 22, 1864 the first Lithuanian ABC-book was printed in Russian characters. After a short space M. Muravyov gave instructions to the Censors’ Committee to permit printing Lithuanian ABC-books only in Russian characters. This ban was in force in the Kingdom of Poland as well.
Konstantin Kaufman, the successor of M. Mu­ravyov, issued a circular note as of September 6 (18), 1865 to his subject governors forbidding all typographers to print Lithuanian books in “Latin-Polish characters”. It was also proscribed there to import such editions from abroad and to disseminate them. In September 23 (October 5), 1865 a similar circular note of Minister of Home Affairs Piotr Valuyev came into being. At the beginning of 1866 hold was got of Tsar’s verbal decree on ban of the Lithuanian press. In 1872 any Lithuanian editions in Gothic characters were banned as well.
The circular notes on the Lithuanian press ban were not proclaimed officially, consequently they had no legal value. But this fact did not preclude from persecution of the Lithuanian press in non-Russian characters. The Lithuanian press-carriers, disseminators and holders (readers) most often were imposed administrative punishments.
During 40 years of the press ban, 55 editions were printed in Russian characters. Inspired by the clergy, the people boycotted such books and neither bought nor read them.
As the state of war still continued due to the 1863 insurrection, Motiejus Valančius, the Bishop of Samogitia, who at that time lived in Kaunas (actually under home arrest), started the illegal activities since 1867. He organized printing of Lithuanian books abroad, smuggling of them into Lithuania, which at that time still was governed by Russia, and their dissemination there. Namely in this period the Bishop wrote his best works of fiction and political pamphlets.
Not without help of the Prussian government, in 1870 the M. Valančius book-carriers’ organization was tracked down. 17 persons were accused of dissemination of the Lithuanian press. By administrative order, among other people as many as 6 priests had been exiled to the far provinces of Russia. Nonetheless, neither printing of Lithuanian editions meant for Lithuania Major stop in Lithuania Minor, nor book-carriers’ paths overgrew with grass.
It goes without saying that none but few editions would have been ever printed abroad if they failed to reach their readers. The book-carrier was a person who smuggled secretly the press across the border to Lithuania and disseminated it there. Over time the book-carriers symbolized warriors against the national and cultural oppression.
The book-carriers were of various kinds. The transit book-carriers personally made secret trips to Lithuania Minor and smuggled the press from there to the farthest corners of Lithuania. Many local book-carriers disseminated the press in one or more parishes. Small traders (the paupariai) also should be regarded as book-carriers, as in feast days or fairs they sold not only religious commodities, but also the Lithuanian press.
Since the official schools did not teach in native language, the Lithuanians themselves taught their children at home or in secret schools established by them in villages and townships. Teachers of such schools were called the daraktoriai. Bishop M. Valančius also invited to teach children illegally. Therefore, not a few priests were organizers of secret teaching.
Since the courts imposed rather soft punishments for illegal teaching and punished only the daraktoriai and holders of secret schools, in April 3 (15), 1892 there were confirmed The Temporary Rules on punishments to be inflicted for secret teaching in the Northwest region. These rules provided for punishments not only for the daraktoriai and holders of secret schools, but also for parents of learners. For the most part, namely the daraktoriai were disseminators of banned press and book-carriers in one person.
The resistance against theo ban of the Lithuanian press was almost overall. Attempts had been made to break the ban by various means, including legal petitions. Since 1882 the Russian government started a stricter persecution of the Lithuanian press and absolutely ignored any appeals, individuals or collective, on printing books with traditional alphabet. Merely from 1889 to 1904 about 234 thousand copies of Lithuanian editions fell into hands of tsar officials. By data of Academician Vytautas Merkys, in the years from 1865 to 1904, 3047 persons were caught with Lithuanian books, some of them even several times. Other book-carriers were shot at the border or got injuries. Who can count tangible losses suffered by book-carriers such as horses, carts, high costing books, even health. More than 860 persons were incarcerated in guardhouses of police or country district lockups. Regrettably, the officials of the Prussian government aided to Russia in persecution of the Lithuanian press. The fate of one-third of persons caught with the Lithuanian press was unknown. Finally the struggle of the Lithuanians against the press ban acquired a full scale.
Due to self-sacrifice of book-carriers, the tsar officials did not succeed in stopping circulation of the Lithuanian press. The phenomenon carried a mass character. In the Lithuanian-minded Kaunas province and the Transnemunas district almost each family had at least one Lithuanian prayer book (or more), Lithuanian calendars of all kinds were sought after. The antigovernment press including the social-democratic editions, famous for their ill-disposition towards the Russians, spread as well.
In the Vilnius diocese where the high Catholic clergy was mainly of Polish nationality, the ban of the Lithuanian press quickened the decay of the Lithuanian language. During a rather short period after 1863, in this diocese many hundreds of people underwent denationalization. Instead crept in the Byelorussian and Polish languages into communication among the Lithuanians.
In 1904 the Russian government was forced to annul the ban of the Lithuanian press in non-Russian characters. It should be noted that namely the conditions of press ban contributed to development of the literary Lithuanian language and maturation of the nation for the Independence.
There are 6 131 surnames listed in this edition. In the years from 1864 to 1904 these persons acted as organizers, book-carriers, daraktoriai, workers, publishers of the banned Lithuanian press, as well as its supporters and members of illegal cells for dissemination of Lithuanian books. Among them were people of different estate: noblemen, citizens, countryfolk, from wide-known cultural and social personae to poor beggars. We did not succeed in collecting exhaustive data about all those people. In search of data on persons who suffered from the tsar administration, various documents of the former tsar institutions have been looked through. The information about persons who managed to remain safe and sound in the events mentioned above have been taken from their memoirs, books, periodicals.
This edition is meant for the centenary of annulment of the Lithuanian press ban. We think that no one should forget people whose activities, often not deeply realized, disrupted the designs of the Russian government to russify our land.