LITHUANIAN QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
Volume 49, No.1 - Spring 2003
Editor of this issue: Violeta Kelertas
Copyright © 2003 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.
Krapauskas, Virgil. Nationalism and Historiography: The Case of Nineteenth-Century Lithuanian Historicism. Boulder: East European Monographs, 2000. 234 pp. Bibliography, index.
The role of linguistics, folklorists, and historians during the period of "National Awakenings" (or "Reawakenings") has long been acknowledged, though seldom subjected to serious research and analysis. The present book takes the Lithuanian example in the nineteenth century and examines the role played by historians and "historicism" in that period. The result is an interesting and useful account of the early stages (essentially, to the 1890s) of the Lithuanian national movement. By taking the "angle" of historicism and the search for a "usable Lithuanian past," Dr. Krapauskas provides us with a fresh look at this extremely important stage in the development of a Lithuanian national identity. Neither all-accepting nor cynically critical of the often (from our standards) highly unprofessional histories produced by the figures he researched, Krapauskas manages to maintain an appropriate degree of historical objectivity, while exhibiting an equally reasonable amount of historical Einfiihlung.
The book begins with two chapters discussing "identity problems" involved in defining what was "Lithuanian" in this era and considering the "sources and influences" that would form the background for the efforts of the first Lithuanian historians. The chapter on identity correctly notes the multilevel meaning of "Lithuanian" and the possibility of being a "Lithuanian of Polish culture" in this period. This is a fascinating topic which one hopes Krapauskas will explore further, perhaps comparing Lithuania with similar regions, e.g., the "Bohmen"/ Czech lands. The chapter on sources and influences is particularly useful for placing in context the Lithuanian historians who will be examined in later chapters.
The book's core consists of several mainly biographical sketches of practitioners of history in nineteenth-century Lithuania. One hesitates to deem these men full-fledged "historians," partly for their lack of professional training and methodology and partly because of their more-or-less overtly nationalist-patriotic agendas. This is, of course, Krapauskas's point in discussing them. We may roll our eyes at the historical writings of Dionizas Poška, Liudvikas Jucevičius and even Simonas Daukantas, but their works form excellent sources to gauge the rhetorical world of early Lithuanianness. Further chapters look at two "scientific historians" (relatively speaking, as Krapauskas notes), Simonas Stanevicius and Motiejus Valancius, the journal Auszra and the men connected with it ("the Aušrininkai," e.g., Jonas Basanavičius and Jonas Šliūpas), and Catholics vs. "Liberals" in the late nineteenth-century Lithuanian movement.
Throughout, Krapauskas argues that by fashioning a patriotic Lithuanian historical narrative, connecting the present Lithuanian nation with past historical glories, these men were instrumental in the creation of modern Lithuanian culture. While historians in Lithuania (and elsewhere) certainly did not alone create a "nation," they helped foster a feeling of pride in Lithuanian culture and thereby helped create a cultural bulwark against both Polonization and Russification. Krapauskas's study of early Lithuanian historiography somewhat parallels other important recent works, such as Rainer Lindner's Historiker und Herrschaft: Nationsbilder und Ge-schichtspolitik in Weissrussland im 19. und 20. ]ahrhundert and, a bit further afield, Yael Zerubavel's Recovered Roots: Collective Memory and the Making of the Israeli National Tradition. The process by which a national identity is forged and then spread throughout a population is still very little understood. Virgil Krapauskas's book helps us to better understand this process in the Lithuanian context and should be read by anyone interested in the creation of the modern Lithuanian nation.
Theodore R. Weeks
Southern Illinois University