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Education : Lithuanian

  • EducationLithuanian
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    Sniečkutė, Marija
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    Education in 19th-century Lithuania followed different lines of development under the different legal regimes in force in, respectively, the East-Prussian part (Lithuania Minor) and in Lithuania Major, the portion of the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth now under Russian rule. The two “Lithuanias” also had two separate university centres: Königsberg in East Prussia, founded in 1525, Protestant and Baltic-German in orientation, and Vilnius in Russian Lithuania, refounded in 1803 as an imperial university and closed down in 1832 as part of a backlash following the 1830-31 uprising.

    In East Prussia, the trend of educational policies was towards Germanization, especially after the unification of East and West Prussia (1824). Primary education was entrusted to rural parish schools (Protestant or Catholic), village <em>Winkelschulen </em>(mostly in the Königsberg district), and more independent municipal schools. While in the 18th century the instruction language in 1300 (out of 1700) parish schools had been Polish and/or Lithuanian, Lithuanian had ceased to be used as such by 1872. Most Lithuanian textbooks were translations from German. In secondary education, the gymnasium in Tilsit had an important region-wide function; following curricular reorganizations in 1816 and 1837, the programme was broadened to include mathematics and foreign languages. There were teachers’ training colleges in Karalene and Königsberg. The Lithuanian seminar at the University of Königsberg (founded in 1718 and defended against closure in 1809 by Ludwig Rhesa, with the support of Wilhelm von Humboldt) provided an important intellectual focus, flourishing under Rhesa’s directorship between 1810 and 1840. From the mid-century onwards, Jews and Catholics were allowed into the university; by that time, the majority of Prussian Lithuanians were literate.

    In the Lithuanian lands under Russian rule, there were approximately 200 primary parish and 32 secondary schools at the beginning of the 19th century. Major reforms in 1803 placed these under the apex of the Imperial University of Vilnius. Subjects encompassed the humanities and natural sciences; the language of instruction was mostly Polish, but also Samogitian-Lithuanian in the western district of Samogitia. Primary education took place largely in unlicensed <em>bakalorijos</em>, which taught reading, religion, and Lithuanian. Parish schools also taught Lithuanian, Polish, or both (until 1831 and its aftermath). Jewish education functioned separately alongside this system.

    After 1831, the Vilnius educational district was merged into the educational district of Belorussia and Russian was imposed as the official language of instruction, while unlicensed schools were liable to fines. The Samogitian bishop M. Valančius obtained permission in 1841 (until 1864) to teach Lithuanian in Catholic parish schools, provided Russian was taught there too; Polish was also often taught. Due to the exertions of Valančius (who also instigated an adult education system), school networks continuing the old <em>bakalorijos</em> thrived. Among the textbooks were a late-18th-century <em>Mokslas skaitymo</em> (55 editions between 1802 and 1863); later primers were produced from the 1820s on, some 12 in total, by Simonas Daukantas (1824) among others.

    Following the 1863 uprising, a ban on Lithuanian print in Latin letters was imposed (1864). Schools were governed by special boards, with a focus on religious education. State-issued textbooks were in Russian, with some Lithuanian (printed in Cyrillic). However, numerous unlicensed schools continued to teach Polish and Lithuanian as well as other subjects, and became hotbeds of seditious activity; an 1892 imperial decree ordered their suppression. By the end of the century, 107 illegal schools (with 848 pupils) were closed down in Vilnius province, 223 (1152 pupils) in Kaunas province. Among the teachers (<em>daraktoriai</em>) of such schools there were many intellectuals of the Lithuanian national movement (Jonas Biliūnas, Gabrielė Petkevičaitė-Bitė). Textbooks in the (forbidden) Latin letters were illegally printed or smuggled in from Lithuania Minor. In 1897, despite low figures for official school attendance, 52% of men and 55% of women were literate; this high literacy rate among women was a unique case in the whole Russian Empire.

    Secondary education was more effectively government-regimented. In 1803 there were 50 secondary schools in the Vilnius educational district, 16 in Vilnius province. The language of instruction was Polish until 1831, then Russian. Textbooks (under imperial censorship after 1824) were increasingly written by faculty members of the University of Vilnius, e.g. Kalikstas Kasakauskis, <em>Kalbrėda liežuvio žemaitiško</em> (1832), and Simonas Daukantas, <em>Prasma lotynų kalbos</em> (1837). After 1827, children from the unfree classes were legally barred from secondary education. Political agitation at schools started in 1820-24 with the Filarets. In 1830-31, some students from Kaunas and Merkinė joined the insurgents. After 1831, the history of Poland-Lithuania and Polish language and literature were also removed from the curriculum; many schools and all teacher-training institutions were closed down.

    Educational facilities at all levels were scarce and overcrowded in the second half of the century. Many students pursued their education in Latvia (Jelgava, Riga), especially after the 1863 uprising; teachers tended to be appointed from Russia; a new (Orthodox) teacher-training college was established in 1872.

    In the beginning of the 19th century, the number of students at the Imperial University of Vilnius increased: 1804 – 338; 1810 – 441; 1820 – 686; 1830 – 1321. Until its closure in 1832, Vilnius University had offered both humanities and natural sciences; among its faculty members was the historian Joachim Lelewel; one of the students was Adam Mickiewicz; Samogitian-Lithuanians at Vilnius University included Simonas Stanevičius and Simonas Daukantas. Under the influence of Lelewel, student radicalism flourished, manifesting itself in the Filomath and Filaret societies (both suppressed in 1823); the Lithuanian-Samogitian student movement was led by Stanevičius (who wrote the patriotic ode <em>Šlovė Žemaičių</em> in 1829) and Daukantas. Many students joined the insurrection of 1830-31, which contributed to the university’s closure in 1832. Traditionally Polish-oriented, the university had in 1822 prepared a project on the use of Lithuanian in public places and decided to establish Lithuanian classes (1828, not implemented). After the Vilnius closure, some higher education institutions were moved to St Petersburg, which became the centre of Catholic national-minded intellectuals, while more secular national activists gathered in Moscow; students also enrolled at universities such as Tartu (mostly medicine), Kharkov (which also catered for many Ukrainians who hitherto would have gone to Vilnius) and Kazan. This included many emerging intellectuals of the Lithuanian national movement: Basanavičius (Moscow), Maironis (Kiev, St Petersburg), J. Šliūpas (St Petersburg), Jonas Biliūnas (Tartu). At these universities, various Lithuanian student clubs were active, e.g. the <em>Szegól</em> at Tartu.

    The Lithuanian national movement was significantly shaped by the education policies and practices in the Užnemunė district, which was transferred from Prussian to Russian rule in 1815, and where primary education was subject to different, local regulations. The Lithuanian language, ignored by the authorities, was taught only in the <em>pakampiai</em> (secret) schools, while officially licensed primary schools were poorly attended. After the 1863 rising, the language of instruction was Russian, but differently from the Vilnius educational district, Lithuanian was taught as a subject at the secondary schools and Lithuanian teachers were allowed to work here. They received their training at the Veiveriai Teachers’ Seminary, where Lithuanian was also taught, and which in the 1870s and 1880s became a hotbed of Lithuanian nationalism. The Marijampolė gymnasium was an important training ground for young nationally-minded intellectuals (Basanavičius, Jonas Jablonskis, Vincas Kudirka), providing them with access to the key intellectual networks in Russia; it also undertook illegal (Latin-letter Lithuanian) printing activities.

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    Rabačiauskaitė, Aurelija; Korsakaitė, Ingrida (eds.); Lietuviški elementoriai (Kaunas: Šviesa, 2000).

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    © the author and SPIN. Cite as follows (or as adapted to your stylesheet of choice): Sniečkutė, Marija, 2022. "Education : Lithuanian", Encyclopedia of Romantic Nationalism in Europe, ed. Joep Leerssen (electronic version; Amsterdam: Study Platform on Interlocking Nationalisms, https://ernie.uva.nl/), article version, last changed 03-04-2022, consulted 07-12-2023.