After logging in, you'll be able to save your favorite works of art in this section. Read more about “My Collection” in the “Project” section.
Push slider to the right
Registration successful.
Username already exists!
Passwords do not match!
Slider error
You are almost done. To activate your account, please click the link in the activation email which has been sent to your email address ( )
A new password has been sent.
1989–1992: The Unity of the Singing Revolution
Rimantas Kmita
The late 1980s was a particularly emotional time in Lithuania. Gorbachev's proclaimed policy of perestroika stirred the Sąjūdis reform movement and ambitions to restore independence. Such an intense period of time can only be a brief one – the high emotional temperature focused everyone to speak with one voice and act in unison, to create a unified Baltic path.
Writers and artists joined Sąjūdis demonstrations and were among the most important speakers at the gatherings, while some were even elected to the first democratic parliament – the Supreme Council. At the time, it was most important to reiterate what had been forbidden to be spoken aloud, and that reiteration had a strong emotional charge.
Philosopher Arūnas Sverdiolas remembers:
It was important to hear everything said publicly – even the most banal, widely known things. When [philosopher and Olympic swimmer] Arvydas Juozaitis first spoke about 'the trampling occupier's boot' in a packed hall, these were words of unimaginable intensity, even though everyone knew about it. But everyone, or almost everyone, had been silent about it. Exposing even the most basic things at that time took precedence over all other intellectual endeavors. „Intelektualų vaidmuo atkuriant Lietuvos valstybę“. Egidijaus Aleksandravičiaus, Kęstučio Griniaus, Kęstučio Nastopkos, Arūno Sverdiolo, Kornelijaus Platelio pokalbis, Literatūra ir menas, 2012-03-09.
Writers were a trusted authority in society, speaking and writing with great influence, and therefore, for a short while, they were among the most prominent political figures. Later, when times called for more pragmatic politics, they felt deceived and used. In 1991, at the height of political passions, the poet Tomas Venclova accused Justinas Marcinkevičius of writing his short story The Pine That Laughed based on material received from the KGB. From then on, Justinas Marcinkevičius, who was such a great public authority figure, withdrew from active public life.
Perestroika's persistent call for openness fundamentally impacted literature. The opportunity to engage in open and public speech gradually stripped away the relevance of Aesopic language and the creation of fictitious worlds. For a time, suppressed and painful stories and the taboos of the present day became all important.
Journalist and prose writer Liudvikas Gadeikis wrote:
Exile is our living wound. We were being taught to live as if it did not exist, as if it no longer brought pain. The illusion was being consistently created that this was a thing of the past. Buried for decades, it seemed to be withdrawing from our own memories, from the stories we told. New generations had an ever murkier understanding of the horrors of the past.  Liudvikas Gadeikis, „Tremties archyvas“, Pergalė, 1989, Nr. 1, p. 185.
Writer and literary scholar Vytautas Martinkus asked:
Is it not paradoxical that, having supported a revolution "in the name of openness", we continue to have doubts: should we publish environmental monitoring data or not? Do we need to publish the lists of Stalinist victims or not?  It is also strange to me that, as a delegate, I have been given at this very conference a statistical catalog with a very old-fashioned seal on it... Vytautas Martinkus, „Klausimai po atsakymų. Mintys po XIX sąjunginės partinės konferencijos“, Pergalė, 1988, Nr. 10, p. 6.
This period saw the restoration of many Lithuanian cultural and literary publications from the inter-war period: Naujasis Židinys-Aidai (1991), Naujoji Romuva (1994), as well as the creation of new publications: Sietynas (1988– 1991), Šiaurės Atėnai (1990), 7 meno dienos (1992), while the Autumn of Poetry in Druskininkai developed beyond just a group of like-minded writers to become an international poetry festival.
This period was not, however, very favorable for literature, particularly for modern and autonomous literary works. New works of literature possessing an aesthetic, rather than historical, value were not produced in any great number during this time. The few works that were made available to readers went almost unnoticed, drowned out by the events of the day, unable to participate in cultural life in ways that had been possible under different circumstances.  Professor Viktorija Daujotytė described the situation in these terms:
An image from the day: standing in front of full bookshelves (buying poetry books during the years of dependence meant engaging with and supporting culture), and seeing immediately that the larger portion of books there had lost its meaning, that their significance was simply gone, the books could be discarded, taken away, refused. There was no hope that some of the books could be revived as poetry. Perhaps only as markers of the times. Viktorija Daujotytė, „Vyresniųjų poezija: tarp praeities ir dabarties“, in: Naujausioji lietuvių literatūra (1988–2002), sudarytojas Giedrius Viliūnas, Vilnius: Alma Littera, 2003, p. 68.
Indeed, very few poets included works written during this time in their later collections. Poems were apparently written exclusively for that time. Works that were infused with the search and desire for truth were the predominant survivors from this period (by Jonas Juškaitis, Marcelijus Martinaitis, among others).
The literature of the day was steeped in politics and the passion of speaking historical truths, and it could now choose many different forms of expression, including journalistic and reportage styles. Documentary literature became critical and political. Literature for its own sake was of little interest to anyone because life itself was much more interesting – literature was only engaging as far is it could testify about the past and the present. In the words of Kornelijus Platelis:
Today, our passion for the poetic form has ... subsided, and the press is full of unrefined poetry, full of tragic experiences, by former Gulag prisoners, exiles, partisans, where alongside undisputed masterpieces (by Bronius Krivickas and Antanas Miškinis) we see weaker works lacking in any considerable artistic influence. These works have enriched our poetry and filled the gaps artificially created by censorship. At any rate, there are more and more self-published books appearing as classical examples of hypergraphia. Kornelijus Platelis, „Apie moderniąją lietuvių poeziją“, in: Poezijos pavasaris, Vilnius: Vaga, 1991, p. 262.
Valdemaras Kukulas noted that "culture is no longer moving toward modernity, but toward authenticity." „Knygos tarp knygų“. Pokalbis, Literatūra ir menas, 1998-12-12, p. 13.
In times of great political and social change, modernist and postmodernist literature seems to lose its meaning, intellectual games give way to authenticity, which shocks with its incomprehensible nature. Perhaps the most well-known and artistically influential work of the time was Dalia Grinkevičiūtė's Lietuviai prie Laptevų jūros (Lithuanians by the Laptev Sea), published in 1988 in the journal Pergalė. In truth, an abridged version in Russian had already been published in 1979 in the Moscow dissident journal Память (Memory), after which it reached the West and was reprinted in French.
Daujotytė remarked:
While liberating itself from the grip of mandatory ideology, Lithuanian literature was already moving toward unconstrained postmodernist freedoms when it was unexpectedly forced to turn its attention toward the plight of man in unfavorable historical circumstances, to grim spiritual choices, and to ruthless documentary testimony. In the most general sense, it focused on existentialism: living in extreme situations, the testing of human limits by coercion, suffering and even the absurd, on opportunities for choice, approaches to sacrifice, and the imperative of survival. Viktorija Daujotytė, „Kelyje į literatūros lobyną“, in: Dalia Grinkevičiūtė, Lietuviai prie Laptevų jūros, Vilnius: Lietuvos rašytojų sąjungos leidykla, 2005, p. 5–6.
The considerable attention devoted to deportee memoirs and literature by partisan fighters coincided with the restoration of independence. But book print runs decreased from 80,000 to 50,000 to 25,000 from 1989 to 1990, and down to 1,500 in 2001. Interest in this genre of literature also decreased as readers apparently grew accustomed to the horrors it described.
According to Saulė Matulevičienė:
At the time, it seemed vitally important to remember, to reconnect the interrupted threads of history, to engage in speaking the truth and to understand ourselves in the context of history. In the summer of 1988, the first independent cultural monthly for young audiences, Sietynas, published its core belief: "to understand history and ourselves, to understand our generation as being responsible for that history, is not only the duty of an intellectually liberated person, but it is also a moral and ethical obligation.
Literature by deportees and partisans came from a different time period and appeared in a different context than that which had prevailed previously, disrupting the literary processes then underway. Books written by professional writers of the Soviet era also appeared from a different time context:  Jonas Mikelinskas' Juodųjų eglių šalis (Land of the Black Firs) (written in 1962 to 1967, published in 1987), and Skruzdėlynas Prūsijoje (An Anthill in Prussia) (written in 1971 – or 1967, according to other data – and published in 1989).  The authorship dates of these works only confirm the magnitude of hopes for renewal and greater freedom that existed in the second half of the 1960s.
Brazdžionis' arrival in Lithuania was a fitting expression of the emotions and sense of unity of the times. The poet was carried aloft by cheering crowds and his speaking events resembled national demonstrations. Photographs from the day record expressions and gestures that speak to a condition one feels when a long-held dream finally comes true. Uncomplicated patriotic poems fulfilled the people's need to hear the words "Lithuania" and "Homeland" spoken aloud, and their need to speak about historical grievances.
This was a time when everything merged into one movement. Everything and everyone seemed to march in unison: the national consciousness that smoldered in the Soviet era and that was blazing anew, the religious movement reemerging from the underground, the followers of Eastern religions, environmentalists, youth subculture groups, even rock music enthusiasts.
In the words of literary critic Audinga Peluritytė, around 1988 "all the possible lines from all contexts intersect. It is the time of the official and unofficial recognition and the dominance in literature of the works of writers born in the 1930s and those a decade younger: Justinas Marcinkevičius, Janina Degutytė, Alfonsas Maldonis, Bronius Radzevičius, Romualdas Granauskas and Juozas Aputis."
The works of Bernardas Brazdžionis also reappeared from a more distant time, with the publication of 125,000 copies of his full poetry anthology Poezijos pilnatis. No other work of fiction had been published in such great numbers in Lithuania before.
The need for unity and the concurrent diverse and hybrid cultural face of the Sąjūdis era is perfectly illustrated by a photograph showing the writer Jurga Ivanauskaitė and musician Nėrius Pečiūra-Atsuktuvas at the Rock March in Šiauliai in 1987. Pečiūra-Atsuktuvas' jacket is studded with safety pins, while Ivanauskaitė's head is painted with symbols, dominated by the historical Columns of Gediminas, sign of the medieval ruling dynasty, and the eye of Providence. And much like on the stage of the Rock March and at Sąjūdis demonstrations, this image unites the most important groups that had perhaps earlier been at odds with each other or had shown indifference to one another, and that had sought to create alternative ways of life and existence under the Soviet regime: the religious underground, the national consciousness movement, youth subculture groups. Ivanauskaitė, dressed in black clothing matching her black hair, wears a triangular Sąjūdis pin in the lapel of her jacket. Black was one of the dominant colors worn by the alternative youth groups in the Soviet days, demonstrating their common roots with the black romanticists, goths, and others. Photographs of Rimas Burokas are also worth remembering here, showing him often dressed in black.  Dalia Ibelhauptaitė remembers:
In her youth, Jurga used to wear a black men's hat, and dressed in black. As soon as I met her I also started wearing black! We were both as black as crows, which shocked many people in those days.  Nowadays, everyone dresses as they wish, nothing surprises anyone. The rumor went around that Jurga was wearing black to mourn John Lennon's murder. We would walk around, the two of us, in black clothes and black hats, going to cafes, smoking cigarettes... Jurga: atsiminimai, pokalbiai, laiškai, sudarė Dovilė Zelčiūtė, Vilnius: Tyto alba, 2008, p. 119.
This feeling of unity and rallying to a common cause gave birth to the last underground cultural magazine Sietynas. The editorial group – Darius Kuolys, Liudvikas Jakimavičius, Virginijus Gasiliūnas, Valdas Papievis, Gediminas Mikelaitis, Vytautas V. Landsbergis – refused to take the magazine for publication to Glavlit, the official Soviet publishing house, or compromise their work in any way. The magazine's popularity and relevance is evidenced by the number of illegal copies produced by other persons that were not connected with the organizers.
The magazine, whose name stems from the meaning—among others—to unite, to join or to rally, published in its first issue a detailed program for unity, common efforts and community:
The extreme situation when the life of a nation hangs by a thread demands that we gather our forces and find that which unites us and helps us to survive with honor. Nothing is independent of us – that is the first step toward betrayal. ... The current situation forces us to decide: silence and passivity nowadays protects and strengthens the foundations of a social system built on totalitarianism, it justifies and legitimizes spiritual human slavery.
The magazine's creators understood politics to be a means to reach common solutions for common problems and thus paradoxically positioned itself as one of the first magazines to blend culture and politics in a country where everything, it seemed, was politicized.
Thus this period was permeated with a short-lived sense of unity, when all generations were bound by a shared thread of memory and united for the creation of a common strategy for cultural action. Later, this feeling would be remembered like a long-forgotten dream.
Alongside literature and publications by the former Siberian deportees, the quiet voice of the prose writer Antanas Ramonas was also heard; some of the last slogans of the hippies and rebellious youth came from the lines of Rolandas Rastauskas' poetry Lenktynių aitvaras; Talmantas Žuvėdra (The Racing Kite; Talmantas Žuvėdra); texts written by Ričardas Gavelis in the absurdist style (e.g. Durys, arba Taurus kasdienybės prasmingumas. Marazmatinė poema iš korektorių gyvenimo (Doors, or The Meaningfulness of the Noble Routine. A Marasmic Poem from the Life of a Proofreader) were published alongside neoclassical poems by Vaidotas Daunys.
Another unequivocally significant event in prose was Vilniaus pokeris (Vilnius Poker) published in 1989 by Ričardas Gavelis, one of the best examples of Lithuanian postmodernism that dethroned not only Soviet, but also the as yet unchallenged national ideological myths of the day, for which the work received particularly mixed reviews, much like Jurga Ivanauskaitė's novel Ragana ir lietus (The Witch and the Rain), of 1993. A more uniformly positive welcome was given to the first novel by Jurgis Kunčinas, entitled Tūla (1993), which tells the story of the life of a vagrant artist at the end of the Soviet era. The Svetimi (Strangers) group also attempted to shock and rebel with poetry, becoming, in all likelihood, the last avant-garde rebel group of the 20th century.


Write a comment
No comments.

Sources and links

„Intelektualų vaidmuo atkuriant Lietuvos valstybę“. Egidijaus Aleksandravičiaus, Kęstučio Griniaus, Kęstučio Nastopkos, Arūno Sverdiolo, Kornelijaus Platelio pokalbis
Literatūra ir menas, 2012 03 09
Jurga: atsiminimai, pokalbiai, laiškai
Sudarė Dovilė Zelčiūtė, Vilnius: Tyto alba, 2008
„Knygos tarp knygų“. Pokalbis
Literatūra ir menas, 1998 12 12
Viktorija Daujotytė
„Kelyje į literatūros lobyną“
Dalia Grinkevičiūtė, Lietuviai prie Laptevų jūros, Vilnius: Lietuvos rašytojų sąjungos leidykla, 2005
Viktorija Daujotytė
„Vyresniųjų poezija: tarp praeities ir dabarties“
Naujausioji lietuvių literatūra (1988–2002), sudarytojas Giedrius Viliūnas, Vilnius: Alma Littera, 2003
Liudvikas Gadeikis
„Tremties archyvas“
Pergalė, 1989, Nr. 1
Vytautas Martinkus
„Klausimai po atsakymų. Mintys po XIX sąjunginės partinės konferencijos“
Pergalė, 1988, Nr. 10
Kornelijus Platelis
„Apie moderniąją lietuvių poeziją“
Poezijos pavasaris, Vilnius: Vaga, 1991, p. 257–262
[[item.description]] [[item.details]]
You have subscribed successfully.
Patikrinkite savo pašto dėžutę ir paspauskite nat gautos nuorods norėdami patvirtinti užsakymą.