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In historiography, significant attention to the memory culture of the Napoleonic Wars in Europe focuses on issues relating to the memory culture of the Franco-Russian War of 1812; however, the case of Lithuania is not commonly analysed separately, thus this article discusses how assessments of the 1812 war were maintained in the historical memory in Lithuania.

The Russian government offered the population in the lands of the former GDL its official version of the historical memory of the 1812 war (of a heroic battle against an invader), which contradicted the version this population considered as ‘its own’, experienced as their support for Napoleon and the new political and social prospects they believed he would bring. The Russian government’s censorship of written literature suppressed the spread of the people’s ‘own’ local historical memory, yet it did not prove to be so effective due to the population’s very limited opportunities to use the printed word. Communicative memory dominated in the land in the first half of the 19th century, becoming the main source testifying to and passing on to subsequent generations the actual multifaceted experiences of the 1812 war, including the chance of liberation from the yoke of the Russian Empire.

In the second half of the 19th century, representatives of local Russian imperial government structures and the local Russian intelligentsia, responding to the 1812 war as a Polish struggle for freedom and a symbol of political independence, explained in academic, educational and popular literature that the hopes of the Poles related to Napoleon were actually unfounded: the French emperor had no intentions of restoring the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth within its historical boundaries, but simply wanted to fill his army units with Polish forces. It was highlighted that this expression of Polish support for Napoleon stopped the Russian imperial government’s potential plans to restore the Poles’ former statehood. This so-called regional narrative which appeared in history textbooks and was used by exacting emotional and visual impact in order to influence the political and cultural provisions of the younger generation had a dual purpose. First, to justify the discriminatory policies against individuals of ‘Polish origins’. Second, to ‘block’ the path for using the 1812 war as a historical argument testifying not just to the common historical past and struggle of Poles and Lithuanians but also their possible political future, which was openly expressed in the Polish national discourse of the early 20th century.

Over the course of a hundred years, despite the government’s actions, Poles managed to uphold ‘their own’ historical memory about the 1812 war; its meanings were spread in various forms of media such as fictional literature, museum exhibitions and history textbooks, and were used to shape the political and cultural position of the younger generation. In the Lithuanian national discourse on the other hand, the 1812 war, along with the 1830–1831 and 1863–1864 uprisings, was viewed as a matter concerning the Poles and the Polonised nobility, and it was thus a foreign place of historical memory. The 1812 war and assessments of its potential importance to Lithuanians in the Lithuanian national discourse of the early 20th century were one-off cases and fragmented, while their spread among broader layers of society was limited.

Open Access
In: Lithuanian Historical Studies

Even though the subject of military service of Jews in the Lithuanian army in the years 1918 to 1940 is not completely new in historiography, many aspects hitherto covered in academic literature remain relevant to this day. The statistics for Jewish soldiers in the interwar Lithuanian army are without doubt one of those aspects. That is why in this article the aim is not just to identify the scale of participation by the Lithuanian army’s Jewish soldiers in the Lithuanian War of Liberation, but also to analyse statistical data relating to Jewish soldiers serving in the interwar Lithuanian army in peacetime.

Open Access
In: Lithuanian Historical Studies

This article reveals the life of the Holy Trinity Bernardine nuns in Kaunas (Kowno) in the years 1842 to 1864, the worsening situation at the convent due to the Russian occupying government’s policy, the actual closure of the convent, and the fate of the nuns after the closure of their home. The study aims to show how daily life at the convent affected the Russian administration’s decisions regarding its material provision and particular nuns living there, how they were affected by the closure of St George’s Bernardine Friary in Kaunas which used to be the main supporter of the Bernardine nuns, and relations between the Bernardine nuns and the bishop. The author analyses difficulties in community life and problems adhering to the constitution, and reveals the general mood of the nuns. The research is based on correspondence between the Bernardine nuns, the bishop and the convent visitator, memoirs, and material from visitations. This case study of the Kaunas Bernardine nuns helps us gain a better understanding of the situation of the Catholic Church in the Russian Empire.

Open Access
In: Lithuanian Historical Studies