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              The Formation of the Lithuanian State: Summary of the book |  Opinions |  Writing the book


Review

Tomas Baranauskas. Lietuvos valstybės ištakos. Vilnius: Vaga, 2000, 317 p.

       While the celebrations of the millennium (1009) of Lithuania’s name are approaching, more and more works, related to the beginning of the formation of the Lithuanian State, as well as such important events as “Constitution of the 3rd of May, 1791”, “The First Statute of Lithuania (1529)” and other important publications, elucidating separate stages of the Lithuanian State, appear.
       My attention was attracted by book “The formation of the Lithuanian State” by T. Baranauskas, the title of which is closely related with recently published my book “Lithuania at the dawn of statehood” [Regina Volkaitė-Kulikauskienė. Lietuva valstybės priešaušriu. Vilnius: Vaga, 2001, 471 p.], though its content is very different. T. Baranauskas is searching exhaustively for the answers to the question, raised by him, basing himself mainly on the written sources and abundant literature, which is concerning sometimes on much later times. Practically this is research on the development of the political organisation before the emergence of the state.
       Author points out the goals of his research in the introduction, raising the question of the Lithuanian statehood, which has a particularly great importance for the subsequent political development of the Lithuanian State. Therefore he tries to clarify content of the concept of the state in the very beginning, referring to wide literature.
       We can find especially exhaustive and critically enough presented historiography of the research on the origin of the Lithuanian State in the work of T. Baranauskas. The main theories and researchers are reflected in it, presented in the chronological order, beginning with M. Stryjkowski (16th century), and ending with the Belarusian researcher V. Nasevich. It is undoubtedly an important part of the work, which will help the future researchers of this question. This part is enlivened also by the portraits of some researchers.
       Perhaps the most important chapter is devoted to the development of political organisation in the Lithuanian territory before the establishment of the state. The author is basing himself on the archaeological data, to say more precisely – on the works of the archaeologists, in which different localisations of the Samogitians and Aukshtaitians are presented. For these localisations lively discussions sometimes occur. In the most cases they are concerning localisation and genesis of the Samogitians and the Aukshtaitians. Therefore the author, trying to describe the Aukshtaitian lands, refers to the written sources, very correctly singling out the lands of Neris – that coincides with large archaeological objects, researched by the archaeologists, what is discussed in the mentioned work of mine as well. The opinion of the author, that the lands of Nalšia and Lithuania acquired a state structure, probably may be accepted.
       In a separate chapter the author examines the formation of the Lithuanian State and the preconditions of this process. After examination of the written sources, T. Baranauskas refers to the archaeological sources. In the centre of his attention are numerous hillforts of Lithuania. The author relates the hillforts of the 11th–12th centuries with the castles – residences of separate chefs. In the 13th–14th centuries, according to the author, residences of the Grand Duke were arranged on such hillforts, in which the Grand Duke used to stay when travelling through his state. They could serve as centres for the collection of tribute as well. Residences of the separate chiefs of the communities show that they were already living separately from the community. Naturally, the status of the chiefs was not equal. The chronologically latter castles, according to the author’s statement, were already military sites. They were directly connected with the defence of the country, which became more actual and complex in that time. It is a clear step towards a professional government.
       The author is trying to discuss the development of the Lithuanian State in the 13th century. On this occasion it is worth to mention that in the appendices as many as 48 names of the dukes are given, and in all, according to his opinion, 74 Lithuanian (Aukshtaitian and Samogitian) dukes are known. Their names are frequently reconstructed from the patronymics, recorded in the Russian sources, and, in my opinion, require greater accuracy in the future. This is just a beginning of a big work.
       The attempts to identify the hillforts of Lithuania with the names of the dukes are made. In fact these attempts are very attractive, alluring, but this is a vision of future. It is welcomed that it is raised, but it needs long and consecutive investigations. In the same time it should be said that young scholars – both historians and archaeologists – are already taking this work. Among the latter the investigations of the archaeologist Gintautas Zabiela on the Šeimyniškėliai hillfort are to mention, which already allow him to localise the famous Voruta.
       Much place is devoted to the military raids of the Lithuanians, executed to various directions. The evidence of these raids are undoubtedly the “horse graves” –the legacy of military retinues, which was and is investigated by archaeologists. The Lithuanian military raids intensified significantly in the first half of the 13th century and in the 14th century. The best reflection of this is seen on the map, given by the author (p. 172; Fig. 30). “Thus sudden growth of the Lithuanian military power and unchangeable intensity of the raids must be treated as the main indication of establishment and functioning of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania”, – the author states.
       The main attention the author draws to the formation of the Duchy of Lithuania, examines preconditions of its formation and briefly mentions them. It must be stressed that the author, referring to the written sources, wide historiography and also archaeological data, investigates very important questions of the Lithuanian statehood in a new way.
       In the last chapter the author investigates the development of the Lithuanian State in the 13th century. This is the main, conclusive, chapter, where the rulers of Lithuania before Mindaugas and features of their authority are described and explained. Attempts to clarify the specific features of the sovereign’s manors are made. On the map, drawn by the author (Fig. 33), the geography of sovereign’s manors and districts is given for certain centuries.
       The author grants much attention to the formation of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. First of all, having discussed the preconditions of this phenomenon – the beginning of the Russian expansion, the events of this time in Lithuania, he speaks more extensively about the raid of 1183 and its favourable consequences for the Lithuanians. Such successful raids were organised in the 12th and 13th centuries against the other lands (they are shown on the mentioned map, Fig. 30, p. 172). In general, according to the author’s opinion, the formation of the GDL began in the 11th century, and by the end of the 12th century Lithuania may be already conditionally called the GDL.
       The author devotes not a little attention to the reign of Mindaugas. He investigates the local policy of Mindaugas and his means of political activities. He stresses clearly that Mindaugas was not ruling Lithuania alone, he was consulting the other dukes, though was distinguished by masterful behaviour. That could be the reason of his tragic death. The author of the book is discussing with Prof. E. Gudavičius very important phenomena, which, we can say, already became an axiom. He is trying to prove that Mindaugas was not the first Grand Duke of Lithuania, crowned as the King of Lithuania on July 6, 1253. The author especially stresses that the father of Mindaugas ruled Lithuania before him. To say in the words of the author, the father of Mindaugas was not one of the most powerful dukes, but enjoyed full rights of the Grand Duke, ruling Aukštaitija and Samogitia (p. 182). Besides that, the author rejects the date of crowning of Mindaugas, which was specified by Prof. E. Gudavičius (the 6th of July). According to the author of the book T. Baranauskas, Mindaugas was crowned on June 29, which was more suitable for the festivities of the crowning. It was Sunday, feast of SS Peter and Paul, very important ecclesiastical feast.
       Here, briefly describing the book “The formation of the Lithuanian State” by T. Baranauskas, just the main, by no means all statements of the author are touched. This book undoubtedly will excite the curiosity of the reader, and especially of the historians, already because of the chosen theme. It may be treated differently by the latter; some conclusions may be discussed. But this study is significant exactly for this reason that the events of so significant period of the Lithuanian history are showed and interpreted in a new light.

       R. Kulikauskienė

       Lituanistica. - Vilnius, 2001. - Nr. 3 (47). - P. 101-103.

       Translated from Lithuanian by Tomas Baranauskas

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