Catholic Press in the Soviet Lithuania
Catholic newspapers published underground were a well-organised and conceptually grounded form of samizdat. The collection consists of two underground publications: Lietuvos Katalikų Bažnyčios Kronika (The Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania) and Rūpintojėlis (The Sorrowing Christ). The Chronicle was the longest-surviving samizdat publication in Soviet Lithuania, providing alternative news to that coming from Soviet institutions. It was initiated by a group of Catholic priests; while Rūpintojėlis was a publication from the Catholic community that became known for being intellectual and cultivated.
The collection is made up of several sources: the Lithuanian Special Archives, which holds issues of the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania and Rūpintojėlis confiscated during KGB searches; and the internet page http://www.lkbkronika.lt/ containing digitalised issues of the Chronicle, with comments and introductions.
Vilnius Gedimino prospektas 40, Lithuania 01400
There is no official name for the collection. It is made up of several sources: the Lithuanian Special Archives, which holds issues of the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania and Rūpintojėlis confiscated during KGB searches; and the internet page http://www.lkbkronika.lt/ containing digitalised issues of the Chronicle with comments and introductions. The latter project was initiated by Bishop Sigitas Tamkevičius.
Izcelsme un kultūras darbība
Catholic newspapers published underground were a well-organised and conceptually grounded form of samizdat (an illegal publication that the Soviet government tried to suppress). The historian Arūnas Streikus, a well-known researcher into Catholic opposition in Lithuania, even thinks that this underground movement went beyond cultural opposition, because it did not oppose the government, rather than the Soviet system in general.
The collection consists mainly of two publications: Lietuvos Katalikų bažnyčios kronika (The Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania) and Rūpintojėlis (The Sorrowing Christ). The Chronicle was the longest-surviving publication in samizdat form in Soviet Lithuania, providing alternative news to that coming from Soviet information institutions. In the 1970s, the Soviet Lithuanian KGB even established a separate subdivision in the 5th Directorate of the KGB in order to follow and repress those who produced the Chronicle. The KGB developed a web of informers that targeted the Chronicle and Rūpintojėlis. Nevertheless, the persecution by Soviet security services was quite ineffective, due to the inventive approach of the publishers, especially of the Chronicle. The phenomenon of having many centres of publication made it difficult for the KGB to identify who the leader of the publications was. According to Professor Ainė Ramonaitė, not only were the authors and collaborators, Catholic priests and believers, devoted to the idea of the anti-Soviet Catholic resistance, but also the very way the informal network of contributors of the group was designed made it hard for the KGB to identify the real leaders and participants in the Chronicle. The network of publishers and contributors to the Chronicle was based on horizontal ties and limited information about contributors kept secretly by other members of the organisation (Ramonaitė A. [ed.], Nematoma sovietmečio visuomenė, 2015, Vilnius: Naujasis Židinys, p. 192). This made it possible to publish and distribute secretly 81 volumes of the Chronicle that came out between 1972 and 1989.
Based on the example of the ‘Russian Chronicle of Current Events’, the Lithuanian Chronicle was published from 19 March 1972 to 19 March 1989 by Catholic priests and nuns. In total, 81 issues appeared. It focused on repressions against Catholics in Lithuania, but also included reports of other violations of human rights in the Soviet Union. Selections from its reports appeared regularly in the Moscow-based ‘Chronicle of Current Events’; in turn, items from Russia and Ukraine were translated into Lithuanian. The Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania was started in 1972, and edited until 1983 by Fr Sigitas Tamkevičius. In 1978, Tamkevičius established a committee to defend the rights of believers. He was arrested and investigated by the KGB in 1983.
If the Chronicle was initiated by a group of Catholic priests, Rūpintojėlis, which came out from 1977 to 1990, was a publication from the Catholic community that was known for being cultivated and intellectual. It was not as influential as the Chronicle. Articles in Rūpintojėlis presented a slightly different angle to the same underground readers, giving more information about cultural life beyond the Iron Curtain.
Today all issues of both the Chronicle and Rūpintojėlis are completely restored and published: the Chronicle is on a specially designed internet site, www.lkbkronika.lt, and all volumes of Rūpintojėlis are published in one book. Some original paper copies are held privately and in state archives, as well as in museum collections. The biggest and perhaps most complete collection of printed original copies of the Chronicle is stored in the Museum of Occupations, under the Genocide and Resistance Research Centre of Lithuania. According to Nijolė Čekavičiūtė, a department head at the museum, it has 62 volumes of the Chronicle, some of which are represented by two or more copies (the museum has 153 original items). The museum also holds some photographic negatives of the Chronicle (20 items), which were used by dissidents to send copies to the West but were found and confiscated by the KGB. All the volumes of the Chronicle and photographic negatives were obtained after the KGB left the building following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Museum of Occupations was established in one part of the building, and the Lithuanian Special Archives in another. The above-mentioned items were found in the offices of KGB workers, left on shelves and desks. The KGB had acquired these volumes during its operational work against the Catholic opposition. Čekavičiūtė says that the collection does not attract much attention from society, because its content is already digitalised and well presented on internet sites and reading rooms. The collection is used mainly for exhibitions. For example, an exhibition to mark the Chronicle's 40th anniversary was put on in the Seimas, the Lithuanian parliament, in 2012.
The collection is made up from several sources: the Museum of Genocide Victims under the Genocide and Resistance Research Centre of Lithuania, which holds issues of the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania and Rūpintojėlis confiscated during KGB searches; and the internet page http://www.lkbkronika.lt/ containing digitalised issues of the Chronicle with comments and introduction. The latter project was initiated by Bishop Sigitas Tamkevičius. In 1972-1983, he started and edited the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania.
The Chronicle reveals the political situation in Soviet Lithuania at that time. A total of 81 volumes were issued between 1972 and 1985. The Chronicle gave alternative information to the official Soviet news, collecting news, notes and information from various regions of Lithuania, as well as other places in the USSR (Moscow, Tallinn, etc). Information about religious events and the persecution of the Church and believers by the regime, and political trials, prevailed in the Chronicle. Rūpintojėlis is better known for its intellectual and analytical surveys, covering the situation in philosophy, literature, theology and history. Some articles in Rūpintojėlis are reprints of articles by Lithuanian emigré authors. Because of the Iron Curtain, Lithuanian readers had little access to literature from the West. While Rūpintojėlis and other underground publications were not able to present fully intellectual trends in the West, it gave at least an idea about them.
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Streikus, Arūnas, interview by Grybkauskas, Saulius, July 05, 2017. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection
Čekavičiūtė, Nijolė, interview by Grybkauskas, Saulius, October 05, 2017. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection