LITHUANIAN QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
Volume 26, No.1 - Spring 1980
Editor of this issue: Thomas Remeikis
Copyright © 1980 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.
V. Stanley Vardys, The Catholic Church, Dissent and Nationality in Soviet Lithuania. (East European Quarterly, Boulder, Distributed by Columbia University Press, New York, 1978). East European Monographs. No. XLIII.
V. Stanley Vardys is Professor of Political Science at the University of Oklahoma. He is the author of numerous studies on Soviet nationality problems, particularly on Soviet-dominated Lithuania. As a matter of fact, Vardys has contributed many articles to schalarly journals, such as Foreign Affairs, Problems of Communism, and Lituanus. For years, the book Lithuania Under the Soviets (1965), which Vardys edited, was a major source of information on Soviet Lithuania in English.
In the book reviewed here, Vardys presents a multi-faceted portrait of the well-organized Catholic underground In the vast empire dominated by Moscow. By multi-faceted we mean that we can see the past experience of the Lithuanian Catholic Church, as well as at least three "sides" of the recent situation up to about 1977. First, there is the "official" side, i.e., the letter of the Soviet laws; secondly, there is the "practical" side, i.e., how the central and the local Soviet organs administer these laws; and thirdly, the Lithuanian side, i.e., how the Lithuanian Catholics oppose, criticize, and try to force the Soviet administration to show at least some honesty in carrying out their own laws.
Reading this book one does get the impression that everything in the Lithuanian Catholic dissident movement is not just simply anti-Soviet, anti-Russian, anti-materialistic. The situation is, indeed, very complex and intertwined with all kinds of problems. E.g., some sponsors of the famous Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania are in a very deep underground because since 1972 the Soviet (and the local) KGB has not been able to discover a single one of them. On the other hand, some Lithuanian dissidents refer to the Chronicle as well as to other underground Sam/DAT publications in public and some of their letters are reprinted in these publications with their signatures, with their names and even addresses.
There is, by now, much material available on the dissident movements in various areas under the Soviets. There are many publications in the West, which periodically publish this kind of documentation in many languages. There are many original underground (i.e., Sam/DAT) publications in Lithuanian, Russian, and other languages. There are translations of these publications into many Western languages. All this great wealth of material in many languages had to be "reduced" to a book size and organized for an objective scholarly analysis. It was an immense, time-consuming task.
The author of this book handled all these problems very well: out of this bewildering forest of information there emerges a clear and interesting presentation. The study briefly describes the beginning of Christianization of Lithuania and outlines the course of events of several centuries. The focus, however, is on developments since the occupation of Lithuania in June, 1940. This reveals, indeed, a tragic fate of Lithuania: we see it occupied, suppressed, forced to adapt itself to alien ways and to alien culture and ideology.
And then, after years of persecution, in Lithuania there slowly appear numerous protests, petitions, even letters to the Secretary General of the United Nations (over 17,000 signatures, collected secretly, under threats and dangers of political and criminal prosecution). By 1977 the dissident movement in Lithuania expands and is documented by seven underground journals! Although not all of these underground journals are as important and far-reaching as the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania, which has been appearing regularly since 1972, nevertheless they show the breath and depth of Lithuanian anti-Russian, anti-communist resistance, the struggle for religious and national rights, although no longer with arms, as it was up to about 1952.
All of the facts, figures, are supported by meticulous documentation from many original sources. All of this is presented in a very readable, but at the same time academic, style.
Prof. Vardys' work is part of the East European Monographs series, an enterprise of fast European Quarterly. A very valuable part of the book is the appendix (pp. 229-280) containing the most important documents pertaining to this problem. It includes: A. The Main Constitutional and Legal Statements on Religion in the Soviet Union and in the Lithuanian SSR; and B. Selected Documents of Lithuanian Catholic Dissent. There is a very good bibliography (pp. 320-332), and a handy Index (pp. 333-336). The last two unnumbered pages of the book contain the list of the fast European Monographs. The book is attractively made, in hard covers.
The University of Rochester