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It is not an easy task to identify clearly defined periods of cultural change. New Year's Eve fireworks bring little change in cultural life, which does not easily adhere to strict time constraints. Nevertheless, it is possible to discern certain trends.
Two contradictory events took place in the 1960s. The Soviet system became firmly and finally established, and hopes for any radical changes in political or cultural life disappeared. Writers increasingly grasped how to develop legal tactics of compromise in their works, and they improved their Aesopic linguistic skills.
At the same time, however, great change took place in literary and cultural policy. The government sought to create the image of a free, modern and liberal country. Art was also required to appear free. Yet, the creation of the image of freedom unavoidably also began brining change to the actual situation.
The dividing line of 1965. The first "Poetry Spring" festival was held in 1965, later releasing an almanac of works under the same name. Even though the event was dedicated to the "25th Anniversary of Soviet Lithuania", the festival featured forgotten and rarely seen authors, as well as readings of translations of modern Western poetry.
Censorship under the Soviets was designed not only to protect state secrets, but also to control the ideological content of works of art. The legitimacy of the Soviet regime, the “correct” interpretation of history, the greatness of the Russian people, and the “decay” of the West were but a few of the more important "guidelines" that one had to follow when speaking of the world at large. Adherence to these rules was closely monitored by censors.
As they sought to navigate their way around forbidden subjects, writers and artists developed a complex language of metaphors and allusions to avoid prohibitions imposed by censors. This delicate game with censorship involved three participants: the writer, the reader, and the censor. Because any good work of art is never completely unambiguous, neither the reader nor the censor could ever entirely be certain of the writer’s true intent. This vagueness of meaning helped to create a space for various interpretations. Aesopian language was thus the common creation of writer, reader and censor. In Romualdas Granauskas’ Jaučio aukojimas (The Sacrifice of the Bull, 1975), for example, the reader could interpret the dramatic fate of the Prussian nation as a reference to the Lithuanian people’s struggle for their own survival, while literary critics could redirect the focus to another perspective, explaining the work as a depiction of the fight against that eternal foe, the "German invader".
In this way, both reader and censor scoured texts for possible anti-Soviet references, both performing an interpretive function, the results of which depended on the interpreter’s skills. It should be noted that censors were not obtuse or unlettered readers. Quite the contrary: Glavlit, the official censorship office, employed many educated and sophisticated reviewers. The Aesopian language game, thus, was largely based on human sensibility and good, or ill, will. Because it was impossible to unequivocally prove the meaning of a given subtext, attention could be drawn to a specific reference or it could be ignored. Subtext could be interpreted one way or another.
Writers acknowledged that readers and censors often discovered things in their works if they wanted to find them. "The problem was that many tried to decipher our work using a political codebook, perceiving hidden meanings and references where there were none. This was the way that all, or at least most, of our work was read. The fact that this was an absurd way to read poetry, one that could lead to who knows where, is now fairly evident to everyone."
Sigitas Geda appealed to the Communist Party Central Committee and Minister of Culture Lionginas Šepetys over what he considered to be the tendentious nature of official literary interpretation. In 1986, a series of his poems entitled Mairionio mirtis (The Death of Maironis, a reference to one of Lithuania’s most famous romantic poets), was removed from the final draft of an issue of the literary journal Literatūra ir menas just as it was going to print. According to Geda, the alarm was sounded by an employee working at the "Tiesa" publishing house, who claimed the piece was a “covert call to revolution.” In his letter to Minister Šepetys, Geda rhetorically asked whether everything must be read from a political perspective, constantly on the look out for political subtext? In the end, The Death of Maironis was published several months later.
Though there was no real specific set of Aesopian "codes", some of the cunning devices resorted to in this era have been recorded in an article by Tomas Venclova entitled "The Game of the Soviet Censor" Tomas Venclova, „Žaidimas su cenzoriumi“, in: Tekstai apie tekstus, Chicago: Algimanto Mackaus knygų leidimo fondas, 1985, p. 121–129. and in studies authored by Violeta Kelertienė. Violeta Kelertienė, „Cenzūros apėjimo sovietiniais metais formos kaip nacionalizmo išraiška“, in: Kita vertus… Straipsniai apie lietuvių literatūrą, Vilnius: Baltos lankos, 2006, p. 288–302.
A new generation
The rough dividing line of 1965 is related, first and foremost, to the fact that a new generation had grown up after the end of World War II and the huge wave of emigration and deportations that immediately followed. Those in their twenties and those slightly older were the source of a renewing energy that also attracted more senior members of society.  Vytautas P. Bložė and Albinas Žukauskas also took advantage of this youthful energy to revitalize their work, and Vincas Mykolaitis-Putinas, who had long deferred to government regulators, returned to philosophical lyricism.
Poetry seemed to have found revival from the same sources embraced by earlier generations: from folk art and Lithuanian traditions (Čiurlionis), but it took on a completely different, surprising, perhaps even unrecognizable appearance. This period saw the debut of, or greater self-discovery in works by, Judita Vaičiūnaitė, Sigitas Geda, Vladas Šimkus, Vytautė Žilinskaitė, Leonardas Gutauskas, Jonas Juškaitis, Marcelijus Martinaitis, Algimantas Mikuta, Juozas Aputis, Jonas Strielkūnas, Saulius Šaltenis, Bitė Vilimaitė, and Juozas Glinskis. The new generation raised literature to a new level, and its best poetry could now be compared to works being written by Lithuanian émigré poets.
Around this time, several collections of poems were published that had considerable influence upon Lithuanian poetry as a whole: Strazdas by Sigitas Geda (1967), V. P. Bložė's Iš tylinčios žemės (From the Quiet Earth) (1966), V. Šimkus' Geležis ir sidabras (Iron and Silver) (1968) and Bitės pabėgėlės (Refugee Bees) (1973), Ir aušros, ir žaros (Dawns and Glows) by J. Juškaitis (1962), J. Vaičiūnaitė's Vėtrungės (Weather Vanes) (1966) and Po šiaurės herbais (Under Northern Crests) (1968).
Connections start forming between different types of art. One of the instances are the collaborations between the poet Sigitas Geda, artist Petras Repšys and composer Bronius Kutavičius.
This generation's time fits symbolically between the publication of two books: Judita Vaičiūnaitė's first book, Pavasario akvarelės (Spring Watercolors) in 1960, and Tomas Venclova's collection of poetry, Kalbos ženklas (The Sign of the Language), which appeared in 1972 and which, like the author himself several years later, brought this crucial literary period to a close.
According to cultural sociologist Vytautas Kavolis:
Very expansive and ambitious cultural programs appear around 1965. One of these I have named 'a synthesis of nature, mythology and history.' This program sought to find an objective surviving framework for our experience. This framework was found in nature, interpreted through Baltic mythological imagery. ... Mythological constructs merge with natural processes, and all of this was given an essential and spontaneous reinterpretation and redevelopment in 'Strazdas' by Sigitas Geda.
A shared mood of rising and victory was felt, and there were attempts to describe, or at least declare the existence of, a yearning for a more intimate, authentic, and true discourse. "There comes a time to abandon the art of pretense," wrote Alfonsas Maldonis in his collection Pėdsakai (Footprints), in 1971.
Modernism becomes a topic of discussion
Western culture reached Lithuania, and it influenced both the official and unofficial cultures. Of particular significance for the modernization of poetry was the anthology XX a. Vakarų poetai (Twentieth Century Western Poets), published in 1969, which influenced several generations of writers. Substituting for several professors at Vilnius University from 1966 to 1973, Tomas Venclova gave lectures on 20th century Western literature, during which he allowed himself to speak about authors who had not been included in the official syllabus (Proust, Borges, Kafka, and others).
Ramunė Reimerienė, sister of the poet and playwright Arvydas Ambrasas, says that:
I think the turning point for society started in 1966. We got news of the hippie movement, and we could listen to rock music recordings and records and see contemporary art works in magazines, have long hair and wear jeans. Few avantgarde items were being created in Lithuania at that time, and if they were attempted, it happened only underground.
The subject of modernism and the relationship between socialist realism and Western art and literary trends spurred many discussions in the official press and at various events. A new generation brought a new energy to cultural life, offering a new concept of poetry. The cultural press devoted a considerable amount of ink to discussions about internal monologue novels, literary criticism and academia, various genres, modernism and the obscurity of new poetry.
Art critic Stasys Budrys maintains that:
Surrealism, as well as other modern art movements, as shown by the experience with Soviet art, cannot be nihilistically rejected. Although we can see signs of bourgeois degeneracy in modernism, its various movements also brought something progressive and new to art history. In their works, the surrealists (Chagall, Dali, Tangi) began to portray dreams, aspirations, memories and such, combining several images in one painting or presenting several different aspects of the same phenomenon. The main surrealist principle is the joining of elements from reality with dreams.
Quite recently, in 1963, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev had stated that art belonged to the realm of ideology, and that no scenarios for a "peaceful coexistence" between socialist realism and Western art trends were possible. Several years later, however, such "coexistence" had, for all intents and purposes, become a reality. Modernism was discovered and invented locally, while critics tried to somehow legitimize new artistic choices and interpret them as a part of socialist realism.
The publicly voiced opinions of many readers complained of the incomprehensible nature of the new poetry, seeing it as a turning away from the reader, and relating it with decadence, avantgardism, rejecting it as completely unacceptable. Unpublished surveys showed, however, that readers of different education levels and ages were actually anxiously awaiting the works of Western authors. Loreta Jakonytė, „Pradiniai štrichai ankstyvojo sovietmečio skaitytojo portretui“, Colloquia, 2011, Nr. 27, p. 79-96
Discussions about modern art also meant that it was no longer possible to quietly control a troublesome author. Opponents now had to be confronted, at least partially, in the open.
A turning point in the literature of the day was the publication of, and subsequent reaction to, the poetry of Sigitas Geda. Geda's poetry provoked with its youthfulness, adolescent informality, its creative relationship with language and its unrestrained play of the imagination. From its first publication, the student press issued reviews that were angered by such poetry, but there were also voices that defended it.  Among these defenders was Geda's close friend, the art critic Alfonsas Andriuškevičius, as well as poet Vladas Šimkus and writer Birutė Baltrušaitytė, and later editions of the poet's books were accompanied by a review by Kęstutis Nastopka.
The polemics evident on the pages of the student press and in university corridors quickly moved to the offices and meetings of the highest governing officials, where the names of Geda and Juozas Aputis became synonyms for the threatening and uncontrollable creative work of young rebels (in the words of party critic Jonas Bielinis: "When the Aputis' of the world speak, let us also speak up. We need not put up with this.") Posėdžio stenograma, LVOA, f. 4628, apyr. 5, b. 11, l. 45. It was clear that Geda had made a great impression. Antanas Drilinga, when speaking about the poetry of the younger generation and its weaknesses, spoke first and foremost about Geda's poetry: "because the trends that are felt in this poet's works, I think, are evident in the first publications or individual poems of certain other young writers." Antanas Drilinga, „Atsakymai į Literatūros ir meno anketą“, Literatūra ir menas, 1965 10 09, p. 2.
The reaction to Sigitas Geda's works, and to modern literature as a whole, reached its greatest intensity in 1972, when bureaucratic measures were employed to suppress modernist literature for a time. 
At this time, cultural relations with the diaspora also began to be "legalized." Algimantas Mackus' publication appears at the 1967 "Poetry Spring" festival; short stores by Jurgis Savickis are published (1967), as are works by Marius Katiliškis – Miškais ateina ruduo (Autumn Comes Through the Forests) (1969), Ignas Šeinius – Vasaros vaišės  (A Summer Banquet) and Kuprelis (1970).  Poezija (Poetry), by Jonas Mekas, appears in 1971, and poems by Jurgis Baltrušaitis are published in Russian in 1969 (Дерево в огне, Tree on Fire ) and in Lithuanian in 1973.  According to Viktorija Daujotytė, writers publishing their works in the émigré literary journal "Žemė", as well as Henrikas Radauskas, were the widest secretly read authors for three decades.
What was happening in prose?
Works of prose were also changing. The first so-called internal monologue novels appeared (Mykolas Sluckis' Adomo Obuolys (Adam's Apple), Alfonsas Bieliauskas' Kauno romanas (A Kaunas Novel)), and the complicated inner human spirit was explored with great wonder (in the works of Aputis and Mikelinskas). Until then, people in Soviet prose had clear reference points: the instructions of the party – but now they appeared somewhat disoriented.
Jonas Mikelinskas wrote:
Before, the idea never even crossed our minds that one could get enmeshed in one's internal contradictions, getting lost in their maze. Where did mistrust in people, petty suspicion, or Jesuit-like compromises with one's own conscience come from? What about kaleidoscopic changes in mood? The helpless dependency on impulses that came from God knows where, from questionable mental oscillations, and from some mystical connection with objects, people and the environment as a whole. Jonas Mikelinskas, Lakštingala – pilkas paukštis, Vilnius: Vaga, 1968, p. 174.
In the prose of the day, according to Jūratė Sprindytė
The boom of socialist transformation subsided, struggles and great achievements retreated into the background, and heroes and over-achievers grew tiresome. ... Efforts were made to gradually dismantle the monumental epic that dominated prose by enriching traditional narratives with internal monologues (Raimondas Kašauskas), or by fundamentally demolishing it (Lankauskas, Jonas Mikelinskas, Šaltenis, Petras Dirgėla). The anti-epic insurgency is a defining characteristic of the times, as the overproduction of epic canvases was obvious, and talented young authors, debuting after the collapse of the hopes of the Prague Spring, sought new means of expression. Jūratė Sprindytė, Lietuvių apysaka, Vilnius: Lietuvių literatūros ir tautosakos institutas, 1996, p. 254.
People began speaking about a prose that had discovered the little person, set in opposition to the all-powerful communist with his claims to rule the entire world and forswearing any personal life in the name of the common good. Logically, the narrative become more fragmented, situations became less universal, appearing, at first glance, to be banal, routine and domestic (the laconic prose of Bitė Vilimaitė).
Writers of lyrical prose withdrew into nature to find spiritual harmony, escaping from the responsibilities of political and social decisions (as in the prose of Aputis, Mikelinskas and Meras).
Existentialism became one of the most fashionable topics in intellectual circles (also promoted by the appearance of translations of works by Albert Camus, and a visit to Lithuania by Jean-Paul Sartre), and absurdist theatre was recognized as extremely topical and began to find authentic manifestations in Lithuania (in the plays of Arvydas Ambrasas and Regimantas Midvikis, for example).
However, despite the many signs of growing freedom, one must not forget that censorship continued to be as strict as before, and writers were constantly monitored and controlled by various means. This fact was confirmed by the suppression of the modernist movement in 1972.
Of course, all of these changes were received differently and not without controversy, as was the case with most everything in the Soviet Union. Only with the greater perspective that time affords us can we definitively now say that all of these changes and the regime's flirt with modern art finally resulted in the regime's capitulation.


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Sources and links

Posėdžio stenograma
LVOA F. 4628, apyr. 5, b. 11, l. 210
Antanas Drilinga
„Atsakymai į Literatūros ir meno anketą“
Literatūra ir menas, 1965 10 09
Loreta Jakonytė
„Pradiniai štrichai ankstyvojo sovietmečio skaitytojo portretui“
Colloquia, 2011, Nr. 27, p. 79–96
Violeta Kelertienė
„Cenzūros apėjimo sovietiniais metais formos kaip nacionalizmo išraiška“
Kita vertus…Straipsniai apie lietuvių literatūrą, Vilnius: Baltos lankos, 2006, p. 288–302
Jonas Mikelinskas
Lakštingala – pilkas paukštis
Vilnius: Vaga, 1968
Jūratė Sprindytė
Lietuvių apysaka
Vilnius: Lietuvių literatūros ir tautosakos institutas, 1996
Tomas Venclova
„Žaidimas su cenzoriumi“
Tekstai apie tekstus, Chicago: Algimanto Mackaus knygų leidimo fondas, 1985, p. 121–129
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