Encyclopedia of Romantic Nationalism in Europe

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Basanavičius, Jonas

  • LithuanianHistory-writingPopular culture (Manners and customs)
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  • Social category:
    Scholars, scientists, intellectualsPhysiciansMonarchs, statesmen, politicians
  • Title:
    Basanavičius, Jonas
  • Title2:
    Basanavičius, Jonas
  • Text:

    Jonas Basanavičius (Ožkabaliai 1851 – Vilnius 1927), the outstanding personality of the Lithuanian national movement, was born into a farming family in the Russian-annexed part of the Polish lands, and schooled at the Marijampolė Gymnasium (1866-73). His studies at the University of Moscow took him from history and philology to medicine, in which he graduated in 1879. Invited by the Bulgarian authorities, Basanavičius headed the medical services at Lom-Palanka from 1879 on, with an interim sojourn in Prague (1883), where he was deeply inspired by the Czech cultural revival and prepared the launch of the first Lithuanian newspaper, <em>Auszra</em> (“The Dawn”) in Ragnit, East Prussia. Back in Bulgaria he became a Bulgarian citizen (1891) and was appointed physician to Prince Ferdinand and head of the Varna hospital in 1893. More public functions followed until his retirement in 1905, when he illegally returned to Lithuania. In that same year, he sent a memorandum to the tsar demanding complete cultural and political autonomy for Lithuania, and initiated the Grand Vilnius Assembly. In 1907 he chaired the inaugural session of the <em>Lietuvių Mokslo Draugija</em> (“Lithuanian Science Society”), in the activities of which he took an active part.

    As chairman of the Vilnius Great Council (a provisional government), Basanavičius was the first to sign its declaration of Lithuanian independence in February 1918; he spent his final year mostly in Vilnius (then occupied by Poland), but was fêted widely on his visits to independent Lithuania. He died in Vilnius in 1927, revered as the “patriarch of the nation”.

    Basanavičius was a member of many learned organizations and maintained a wide and intense correspondence. His interests expressed themselves in many fields and numerous publications covering (besides medicine) history, ethnology, mythology and linguistics; especially prominent were his collections of Lithuanian folklore and folktales. These studies were often vitiated by his underlying hypothesis that the Lithuanians originated from Balkan-based “Thraco-Phrygians” (thus relating Lithuanians to Bulgarians). Basanavičius’s ideas concerning Lithuanians’ cultural identity were firmly ethnolinguistic, in the tradition of Jacob Grimm, whom he quoted in the opening editorial of <em>Auszra</em> to the effect that the Lithuanian language and its continued existence formed the essence of the nation’s history and identity, and the <em>sine qua non</em> of its future.

    Among Basanavičius’s major works, many of which were published in the United States, are: <em>Ožkabalių dainos</em> (2 vols, 1899), <em>Lietuviszkos pasakos</em> (2 vols, 1898-1902); <em>Lietuviškos pasakos įvairios</em> (4 vols, 1903-05); <em>Iš gyvenimo lietuviškų vėlių ir velnių</em> (1905). An edition of his collected works has appeared in 15 volumes (ed. K. Aleksynas, 1993-2004).

    Word Count: 466

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  • Girdzijauskas, Juozapas (ed.); Lietuvių literatūros istorija. XIX amžius (Vilnius: Lietuvių literatūros ir tautosakos institutas, 2001).

    Mangačev, Petko; Daktaro Jono Basanavičiaus gyvenimas ir darbas Bulgarijoje 1880-1905 metais (Vilnius: Europos kalbų ir kultūrų dialogo tyrėjų asociacija, 2010).

    Nezabitauskas, Alfredas; Basanavičius: monografija (Vilnius: Labdaros ir paramos fondas “Victus”, 2001).

    Senn, Alfred Erich; Jonas Basanavičius: The patriarch of the Lithuanian national renaissaince (Newtonville, MA: Oriental research partners, 1980).

    Visockis, Albinas; Bulgarija, Basanavičius, Lietuva (Vilnius: Mokslas, 1992).

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    All articles in the Encyclopedia of Romantic Nationalism in Europe edited by Joep Leerssen are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://www.spinnet.eu.

    © the author and SPIN. Cite as follows (or as adapted to your stylesheet of choice): Sniečkutė, Marija, 2022. "Basanavičius, Jonas", 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 20-04-2022, consulted 02-12-2023.