A disappointing response to the tragic story of Lithuanian partisans that angered the Kremlin

Dainava district partisans. Winter 1945-1946
Genocido aukų muziejus

Just three years ago the Kremlin was greatly angered by a video about post-war freedom fighters in the Baltics shared on the NATO Twitter profile. In response to the video, Moscow once more took to its propaganda tricks, attempting to rewrite our history. A Lithuanian response to this was Andrius Tapinas‘ public event “Kremlin, you will not rewrite our history.” However at a state level fighting propaganda remains a difficult mission.

Vladas Terleckas‘ newly published book about the post-war freedom fighters’ struggle and the brutality of the istrebitels (the Soviet Union’s destruction battalions) could be an excellent response to those whose thinking about this period is still formed by Soviet clichés. However the book’s print is small, it is too expensive to be easily affordable. When asked whether the state could contribute to the distribution of such a publication, high officials of the state spoke to LRT Savaitė of regulation, legislation, considerations, function, institutions and etc. A total lack of direction, ideas and hopelessness – such words appear in one’s mind first after such talks. There is no need to even talk of any system or direction.

The head of the Ministry of Culture which is expected to contribute to fighting with propaganda had nothing at all to say about it. Meanwhile the Seimas Speaker believes that the book is too heavy for youths and needs to be more accessible in its writing. In other words the brutality of the time, history itself, needs to be hidden from young people.

In May three Seimas committees, those curating culture, education and national security mandated the Ministry of Education and Science as well as the Ministry of Culture to present concrete plans by the end of June, how to counteract propaganda.

At the time the Ministry of Education and Science assured that educators are having courses in information literacy organised, there are plans to establish defence and national security lessons for older students. Meanwhile the Ministry of Culture declared that a coordination centre is to be established, there is already ongoing work regarding propaganda. However now it has come to light that the preparation of a tangible plan has been delayed to autumn and most likely this work will be handed over to the Crisis Management Centre which is being established under the cabinet.

Minister of Culture Liana Ruokytė-Jonsson responded through her representative that she does not have time to comment on what has been done. As for the vice minister responsible for information literacy policy, he is currently just looking into what hostile propaganda is.

“This is a new topic for the state. In essence we are now analysing, coordinating functions between institutions so that there are no overlaps, we are considering what final functions will be established and the budget is being calculated,” Vice Minister of Culture Audronis Imbrasas said.

While politicians and bureaucrats coordinate what actions and when are to be taken, how much it will cost, Act of Independence Signatory, banking specialist Vladas Terleckas published a book on post-war resistance to Soviet occupation. He spent eight years gathering material in archives and witness testimonies, compiling it into a roughly 500 page publication. V. Terleckas says he could not bear to continue watching how the freedom fighters defending Lithuania by force of arms are slandered nowadays and not only from abroad.

“This is specifically a campaign against the freedom fighters, one that has been dismissed by historians, the partisans being blamed, without basis, of murders, even being described as bandits, not freedom fighters. This sort of thing is from Soviet lexicon,” the author stated.

According to the head of the Centre for Genocide and Resistance Research Birutė Burauskaitė the recent book by V. Terleckas also includes certain previously undisclosed information. It is particularly valuable in nurturing patriotism in the young generation.

“I believe that the Ministry of Education and Science should be interested in this book reaching students. […] The book is absolutely necessary and particularly when such slanderous attacks are happening from our neighbours, I believe that such information needs to be easily accessible,” B. Burauskaitė said.

Ministry of Education and Science officials explain that centralised procurements have long been halted and schools decide individually, what literature is to be purchased.

“Schools are handed funding. Perhaps the schools themselves can decide whether to have that book, make use of it and for what classes,” mused Vice Minister of Education and Science Gražvydas Kazakevičius.

The management of the Ministry of Culture also states it has no intentions of interfering with the publishing and distribution of individual books.

“The ministry itself does not finance individual projects. This is done through funds. There is also the Cultural Support Fund which finances publishing, including patriotic and historic,” Vice Minister of Culture A. Imbrasas said.

Meanwhile V. Terleckas says he requested support for his first book about post-war freedom fighters, but officials were not receptive, thus this time he did not seek support in Lithuania.

“No, I didn’t appeal to them because I have had experience which suggests I will find no support. They do not provide it, it isn’t an appealing topic, it has been looked into,” the Act of Independence Signatory said.

The book was published through the funds of the author and the Lithuanian Foundation in America. Unfortunately this sufficed only for a print of 500 publications, thus it will only reach a very narrow circle of readers.

V. Terleckas’ first book on partisans has been translated into French and English. The author often gifts them to foreigners. According to Terleckas, it is important that Lithuania’s tragic history, the Lithuanians’ heroism should be heard about by as many people around the world as possible.

The author built a cross for the partisans of his birthplace, Krivasalis village, through his own funding. Among them there are not only neighbours, but also two of his parents’ cousins. The signatory says that these men who gave their youth and lives for Lithuanian freedom are worthy of respect and state protection from those who would besmirch their memory. Unfortunately state policy on this question is inconsistent.

“If there are particular attacks from an Eastern country, then there is a reaction, but this should be systematic work. Not just schools. Primarily parents should talk of it. I have read several textbooks. They were disappointing. Not to speak of factual mistakes or interpretation, but even the presentation, the language. There’s the chronicle. It isn’t interesting. The facts are presented, but there is no feeling to it. There’s no warmth,” V. Terleckas spoke.

Seimas Speaker Viktoras Pranckietis believes that such books as V. Terleckas’ are important, but they are textbooks for matured people, while youth need lighter content.

“It is too heavy for the youth. Perhaps a joint project with the author should be considered, how to create such a conceptual solution, but more accessible, a lighter textbook. I would like for youth to have access to an easier read publication, one they would want to read,” Seimas Speaker V. Pranckietis said.

It is hard to believe, but the Seimas Speaker is exactly proposing to rewrite history, to stay silent on what is most painful, hide from the youth what is the darkest period of Lithuanian history.

Historian Bernardas Gailius, who has also written a book about post-war partisans, says that the story of Lithuanian partisans must be known by every Lithuanian citizen. The example of the freedom fighters shows that citizens are responsible for their country and how far one can go in the name of this responsibility.

“This means a great deal that it was possible to practically halt Soviet occupation for a decade, to halt a massive machine that was certainly well prepared to integrate new countries into the Soviet Union. Based on this example we can say much about the modern state. And this is why the topic is even more important for youth than just for historic memory or general knowledge of history. Only that we, the adults, have not fully discovered it ourselves and are still unable to explain it, that it is relevant and not just the past,” dr. B. Gailius said.

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1 Comment

  1. Please just publish on web in large letters and post so parents, teachers and friends can share with children everywhere. Lithuania’s freedom fight, all of it, is an immense contribution to world history. It is an important chapter of incalculable value. I am proud of my heritage and I hope to inform and to resist disinformation. Sign me: Son of Lithuanian ancestors. Forest Brothers and Sisters were freedom fighters who deserve our gratitude, and constant vigilence.

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