- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.