The Role of Catholicism in the Development of Lithuanian National Identity

in Church History and Religious Culture
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Over the course of nine centuries in Lithuania, the Catholic Church transitioned from military threat, to foreign occupier, to key component of national identity. This article will take an historical look at the Catholic Church in Lithuania and the process by which Catholic faith became culturally and politically embedded in Lithuanian national identity. An examination of the interplay between the Catholic Church and the Lithuanian nation demonstrates that the Church was instrumental in the formation and growth of national identity, which reached its climax in the close identification of Catholicism with nationalism in the anti-Soviet dissent movements of the 1980s and 1990s.

The Role of Catholicism in the Development of Lithuanian National Identity

in Church History and Religious Culture




Ernest Renan‘Qu’est-ce qu’une nation?’ in Nationalismed. John Hutchinson and Anthony D. Smith (New York 1994) pp. 17–18.


Renata Salecl‘National Identity and Socialism Moral Majority,’ in Becoming Nationaled. Geoff Eley and Ronald Grigor Suny (New York 1996) pp. 418–419.


Dennis J. Dunn‘Nationalism and Religion in Eastern Europe,’ in Religion and Nationalism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Unioned. Dennis J. Dunn (Boulder 1995) p. 11.


Ibid. p. 144.


Ibid. pp. 70–71.


Ibid. p. 76.


Ibid. p. 88.


Ibid. p. 119.


Ibid. p. 129.


Edward C. Thaden‘Reform and Russification in the Western Borderlands, 1796–1855,’ in Russification in the Baltic Provinces and Finland 1855–1914ed. Edward C. Thaden (Princeton 1981) p. 22.


Richard R. Krickus‘Democratization in Lithuania,’ in The Consolidation of Democracy in East-Central Europeed. Karen Dawisha and Bruce Parrott (London 1997) p. 291.


Paul Valliere‘Introduction to the Modern Orthodox Tradition,’ in The Teachings of Modern Orthodox Christianity on Law Politics and Human Natureed. John Witte Jr. and Frank S. Alexander (New York 2007) p. 11.


Ibid. pp. 97–98.


Ibid. pp. 21–22.


Ibid. p. 22.


Ibid. p. 35.


Ibid. p. 34.


Ibid. pp. 28–29. Latvia and Estonia did the same.


Catherine Wanner and Mark D. Steinberg‘Introduction: Reclaiming the Sacred after Communism,’ in Religion Morality and Community in Post-Soviet Societiesed. Mark D. Steinberg and Catherine Wanner (Bloomington in 2008) p. 2.


Alfred Erich Senn‘The Sovietization of the Baltic States,’ Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 317 The Satellites in Eastern Europe (1985) 123–129 there 125. Of the twelve bishops serving in Lithuania during the period of inter-war independence three died during the War four emigrated overseas and four were arrested by the Soviet regime.


Robert Goeckel‘The Baltic Churches and the Democratization Process,’ in The Politics of Religion in Russia and the New States of Eurasiaed. Michael Bourdeaux (New York 1995) p. 203.


Hank Johnston‘Religio-Nationalist Subcultures under the Communists: Comparisons from the Baltics, Transcaucasia and Ukraine,’ Sociology of Religion 54 no. 3 International Studies in the Sociology of Religion (1993) 237–255 there 241.


Philip Walters‘A Survey of Soviet Religious Policy,’ in Religious Policy in the Soviet Unioned. Sabrina Petra Ramet (New York 1993) pp. 20–22. A report by the Central Committee in July 1954 indicated rising church attendance.


Quoted in Kestutis Girnius‘Soviet Authors Deny that Lithuanian Nationalist and Catholic Interests Are Identical,’ Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty Research 345/82 (16 August 1982) p. 1.


Ibid. p. 541.


V. Stanley Vardys‘Lithuanian National Politics,’ Problems of Communism (July/August 1989) 53–76 there 53–76 and 54.


Frans Hoppenbrouwers‘Romancing Freedom: Church and Society in the Baltic States since the End of Communism,’ Religion State & Society 27 no. 2 (1999) 161–175there 162.


Kestutis Girnius‘Nationalism and the Catholic Church in Lithuania,’ in Religion and Nationalism in Soviet and East European Politicsed. Sabrina Petra Ramet (Durham 1984) p. 97.


Aleksandras Shtromas‘The Baltic States as Soviet Republics: Tensions and Contradictions,’ in The Baltic States: The National Self-Determination of Estonia Latvia and Lithuaniaed. Graham Smith (New York 1996) p. 105.


Ibid. p. 67.


Oxana Antic‘Religious Policy Under Gorbachev,’ in Soviet/East European Survey 1987–1988: Selected Research and Analysis from Radio Free Europe/Radio Libertyed. Vojtech Mastny (Boulder 1989) p. 177.


Michael Bourdeaux‘Michael Bourdeaux’s Diary,’ Frontier (May/June 1989) 7–8.

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