LITHUANIAN QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
Volume 19, No.4 - Winter 1973
Editors of this issue: Antanas Klimas, Thomas Remeikis, Bronius Vaskelis
Copyright © 1973 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.
B. Dundulis, Lietuvos užsienio politika XVI a. (Vilnius: Mintis, 1971), 308 p.
B. Dundulis is a professor of history and head of the department of general history at the University of Vilnius. His area of specialization is the XI - XVI centuries. He has published numerous articles and three major studies dealing with this period. The most recent of these is the book reviewed here dealing with the foreign policy of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania during the XVI century.
Lietuvos užsienio politika XVI amž. analizės various Lithuanian relationships, particularly wars, with the nearby countries: The Grand Duchy of Moscow, the Tartars of the Crimea, the German Teutonic Order, Livonia and Poland. Before the main topic is presented, there is a short introductory chapter having a title and contents very characteristic of Soviet historical writings. The title of this chapter is: "The Feudal Lithuanian Nation During the XVI Century." In this chapter the national organization of the Lithuanian government is described, according to Soviet historical analysis.
The main section of the book deals with the relationship of Lithuania to its neighbors. Dundulis presents his material using numerous sources and most of the major literature relating to this period. Dundulis does not merely relate his sources, but investigates them thoroughly, weighs them against each other, and draws his conclusions from them. He demonstrates an outstanding command of historical research methodology, and is able to make clear and sound conclusions.
His study shows that the decline of the Lithuanian empire began in the XVI century. The backward steps of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania coincided with the aggression of Moscow. It is interesting to note that when the author deals with Moscow he exercises a great deal of restraint. Dundulis even places the blame for the wars with Moscow on the Lithuanian feudal lords, who "attempted to maintain in their power the eastern Slavic lands." This is quite an opportunistic gesture in view of Soviet historical censorship. However, these statements, as in most Soviet controlled historical writings, can be discounted and do not minimize the extreme value of the historical work being reviewed.
The wars with Moscow are presented from the start of the XVI century up to the Battle of Livonia (1583). The following discussion recounts the demise of the Lithuanian empire. In discussing the relationship with Prussia, Dundulis touches on the Thirteen Year War. In this section, the Lithuanian leaders are blamed for a lack of historical reasoning in that they did not take the opportunity to consolidate the territories around the mouth of the Nemunas River with the Baltic Sea.
The most important part of the book is the final chapter which deals with the Union of Liublin. This chapter is perhaps the most comprehensive and complete discussion of the Union found in any work to date. Many primary source documents are used, among them, both of the journals from the Liublin Sejm: the Kojalovitch and Dzialynski. Having presented and evaluated the negative effects of the Union on the Lithuanian nation, the author comes to a conclusion that the Union of Liublin was thrust onto the Lithuanians by forcefully taking advantage of the difficult conditions prevailing in the Grand Duchy during the period.
This study is a very meaningful contribution to Lithuanian historiography. It sheds new light on the changing conditions of Lithuania during the XVI century.
Dr. Juozas Jakštas
Editor, Lithuanian Historical Review