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

See DENIAL of some stements below

Let’s not make the history of Lithuania look older

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

       The history of the formation of the Lithuanian State was researched by a lot of historians. It seems that currently the opinion was settled among the historians, that the state formed itself during the 13th century and the consolidation of this structure was linked with Mindaugas. However against this, as it seems, unshakeable thesis young historian Tomas Baranauskas had raised his arguments. The main thesis of his new book – the Lithuanian State formed itself in the end of the 12th century – received not a little attention. The book is being bought, discussed in the lobby interviews of the historians.
       Tomas Baranauskas had raised by no means a unique thesis. Already earlier such possibilities were discussed in the works of the other historians, among which the work of Polish historian Henryk Paszkiewicz must be singled out. Therefore, naturally, it is interesting to take in hands recently published book and look, what new facts are discovered that the theory, put aside to the granaries of historiography, is revived again.
       The statement that the new study doesn’t differ from the works of the precursors is somewhat unfounded, of course. Making such statement is impeded at least by the size of the work. The precursors of Baranauskas could devote to this theme no more then one article, while now a work of more than 300 pages is in our hands, and one needs time to get acquainted with it. However, having no intention to intrigue the reader anymore, I can say at once, that this is the only difference from the works of the earlier historians, and theses, supposedly grounding the earlier formation of the Lithuanian State, remained the same. Baranauskas, as well as other supporters of such theory, treats the intensified Lithuanian raids on the neighbouring countries as the main indication of the formation of the Lithuanian State and bounds the beginning of the state with their intensification.
       The beginning of the book is much promising. The author discusses wide and narrow notions of the state and comes to essentially traditional definition that “the state in the narrow sense is a regional political organisation ruled by professional officers maintained by taxpayers.” Having presented such definition, Baranauskas notes that he will follow it, i. e. from the very beginning he is not inclined to concentrate himself merely on the external indications of the state, but seeks to discover the state structures inside the territorial unit.
       Unfortunately it went flop from the good intentions writing the book. It is not seen from the analysis presented in the book that in the end of the 12th century a professional stratum of the officers had existed, it is impossible to find proofs, that the taxes were collected in the territory of Lithuania in the 12th century. The author says he found the answers to these questions in the works of the archaeologists, which maintain that in the 11–12th centuries a “ruling class” emerged. However, even with the greatest respect to the colleagues archaeologists, it should be said that having found certain remains of material culture they are far from being able to tell about the qualitative content of this power, while only it can prove, that a concrete noble had obtained a sovereign power, and a territory, ruled by him – features of the state. This is a fine question, because the examples of the Baltic region of the beginning of the 13th century are still testifying that, for example, the Livian noble Kaupo, described as a King in the sources, has no his constant army and has to assault his own castles with the alien army of the German knights. For this reason my and Baranauskas’ opinions about the fortifications, discovered by the archaeologists, differ: for Baranauskas each greater fortification looks like a residence of a duke, while I don’t reject possibility that these fortifications could be controlled by a certain community. We have more than one such example from the 13th century in the same territory of Lithuania or Samogitia, when the Lithuanian State was already undoubtedly existing.
       Even stranger argumentation is presented concerning constant taxes. In the essence the author rests upon the data of the middle of the 13th century, i. e. the period, when the Lithuanian State had already existed according the representatives of the traditional point of view as well. The examples of paying tribute by the Yatvingians to the Duke Daniel of Halich-Volhynia, presented by him, change nothing. Daniel forced these tributes and duties, which were usual in his state, upon the Yatvingians; the Yatvingians had nothing to do by themselves, they had just to obey to the will of the foreign ruler, who had subjugated them.
       Baranauskas, following the wide spread fashion, is looking for analogies all over the world and always finds them. Unfortunately such his point of view sinks the specific features of the Central Europe, to which Lithuania belongs as well. Besides, he has no idea of these specific features. Most evidently ignorance of the regional specific features, and in the same time ignorance of the most important literature on the analysed theme, is testified, for example, by really dumb disputes with E. Gudavičius and I. Leonavičiūtė concerning the role of warrior retinues in the formation of the Lithuanian State. Contrary to the mentioned authors, Baranauskas denies the role of military retinues, but doesn’t finds functions of social utility characteristic to the retinues, overlooking, that their “harmful activity”, plunder and going on visits, was an embryo of constant tributes, which allowed to emerge the rulers of separate lands, who later became dukes. Why so persistent attempts to deny the role of military retinue are made, is obvious. Having accepted the military retinue theory of Gudavičius, one must recognise his conclusions on the formation of the Lithuanian State as well. Anyhow, this, what Baranauskas names as the date of the state, is just the beginning of the long process of the state. Here, instead of getting involved into dumb disputes, author could read at least L. Lecejewicz, or even slightly out-of-date works of K. Zernack, from which he would understand, that this, what he is trying to deny, is nothing else, but the specific features of Central Europe.
       There are a lot of inaccuracies, various misrepresentations of the thoughts of various authors (including my own ones) in the book, however there is no need to trouble the reader with this. In the centre of our attention should remain the history of the formation of the Lithuanian State.
       However there is no sense to continue writing about it, because there are no arguments, which would be worth discussion and approval. The most of the chapters of the book are unnecessary and a normal man should not tire himself by reading them. First of all this should be said about the chapter of historiography, where the main attention is granted to the amateurish publicist writing of the emigration, which has nothing in common with the scholarship of history. Analysing these compositions would mean the same, as considering the Lithuanian mentality, basing oneself on the newspaper “Voruta”, what, by the way, was attempted by one Polish author in Paris almost 10 years before. However these chapters not by accident appeared in the book, they reveal Baranauskas’ understanding of history. According to the author, the formation of the state was a continuos process, which began, when the hunter bands came to Lithuania (11 800 BC), the formation of the state was predetermined by internal and external reasons... Somewhere heard are these theses... Yes, these are nothing else, but the cornerstones of Marxist theory, which were attempted to dig into the solution of the problem of the Lithuanian State.
       Marxism by itself is not a science, which shouldn’t be studied, if its theories are used critically. But Baranauskas himself forced me to direct attention to the methodology of the book, because the word “Marxism” is a swear-word for him, something like label, which may be stuck on those, who are thinking other way.
       Writing critical reviews is still unusual in Lithuania. Often plots are seen behind each of them. In spite of these suspicions, which I may draw upon myself, I was stimulated to share my thoughts publicly by the threat of the newest mythologisation of the Lithuanian history, artificial making it look older. Often the authors, undertaking such steps, doesn’t realise, that it is not the oldness of one or other historical phenomenon, which contributes to the creation of uniqueness of history, but that a lot of historical phenomena in themselves – without regard to their oldness in centuries or decades – are interesting and must be researched. However every historical phenomenon must be evaluated in connection with its geographical and historical space. The work of Tomas Baranauskas should not be discussed, because it doesn't mach these essential criteria of research of a historical phenomenon.


       Šiaurės Atėnai. 2000 m. spalio 28 d. Nr. 40 (530). P. 9.


Returning to “The Formation of the Lithuanian State”

       On October 28, 2000, the newspaper “Šiaurės Atėnai” (No. 40, p. 9) published review “Let’s not make the history of Lithuania look older” by Alvydas Nikžentaitis, in which the following information about the book “The Formation of the Lithuanian State” by Tomas Baranauskas is not true:
       1. “Contrary to the mentioned authors, Baranauskas denies the role of military retinues, but doesn’t finds functions of social utility characteristic to the retinues...” In fact the role of military retinues in the formation of the Lithuanian State is not denied anywhere in the book, though it is not analysed extensively. The functions of military retinues (as a part of state apparatus) are considered to have a social utility. Their defensive function for the society is stressed: “The European states belong to the group of secondary states. The role of external impulse was particularly important in their formation. Namely this impulse was forcing creation of effective regional government, which would be able to resist the pressure of already existing states. (...) Society, in the neighbourhood of which state organisation had appeared, was forced to strengthen its government in order to survive. The consolidation of political organisation in the Baltic lands was stimulated by the need to organise defence against Poland and Ruthenia – great Slavonic states that came into being in the 9th–10th centuries” (p. 120–121). “It should be noted that in the Middle Ages the sovereigns were never ruling alone, they always consulted their warrior retinues and vassals, constituting their councils” (p. 205). “Being able to receive more grain Mindaugas could maintain bigger warrior retinue and garrisons of castles” (p. 212).
       2. “There are a lot of inaccuracies, various misrepresentations of the thoughts of various authors (including my own ones) in the book...” In fact the book contains just 4 references to Nikžentaitis (among them only one direct reference to his opinion exists). There is no one case of misinterpretation of his thoughts, what may be proved by the comparison of the statements, grounded on Nikžentaitis’ works in the book, with the corresponding quotations from his works (the comparison is not translated).
       a) “On the base of the data of Peter Dusburg about Sembia Alvydas Nikžentaitis is judging that the number of riders was correlating with the number of foot soldiers in the Baltic lands as 1:10.” (p. 140). Compare: Nikžentaitis A. Nuo Daumanto iki Gedimino. Klaipėda, 1996, p. 37: “For example according to the testimony of the chronicle of Peter Dusburg the army of the Sembia land was made up by 4000 riders and 40000 foot soldiers. It is risky to rely on numbers, given in this source. (...) However it doesn’t prevent from thinking that Peter Dusburg could point out exact correlation between riders and foot soldiers 1:10. This, though correlative result, is very important for us in terms of structure of the Baltic army.”
       b) “The use of the name of Lithuania to define a wider area (approximately corresponding to the territory of Lithuania today) had to be related to the appearance of a sufficiently strong political organisation ruled by Lithuania in the narrow sense” (p. 178). Compare: Nikžentaitis A. Gentis virsta tauta // Naujasis židinys, 1994, Nr. 4, p. 23–24: “Without repeating the arguments, presented in the mentioned research works, we’ll point out, that until the 13th century Lithuania was a name of one land and gained a new sense only in the 13th century, when the Lithuanian State was forming itself.”
       c) “In this time [1291] the castle of Kolainiai was still a possession of the Grand Duke” (p. 198). Compare: Nikžentaitis A. Nuo Daumanto iki Gedimino, p. 68: “Kolainiai, as it follows from the same sources, was a possession of the Grand Duke. Its chief Surminas is mentioned in the sources as a captain of the castle (capitaneus). His dependence on the Grand Duke is unquestionable.”
       d) “33. Mažeikis (Maseke) – “King” of the Lithuanians, who attacked Curonia in 1290. His possessions were mentioned in Samogitia in 1332” (p. 238). Compare: Nikžentaitis A. Nuo Daumanto iki Gedimino, p. 25: “C. 1290 the Livonian Rhymed Chronicle mentions the “King Mažeika” (LRCh. S. 253), while in the first half of the 14th century the district of Mažeikiai-Vindeikiai is mentioned in the chronicle of Herman Wartberge (SRP. Bd. 1. S. 66). It is localised approximately in the zone of “King’s Mažeika’s” activities. Basing on this it is possible to make an assumption that Mažeikiai received name from the duke Mažeika, mentioned in the sources in the end of the 13th century, i. e. that already in that time Mažeikiai belonged to the Samogitians”. 61: “It is not clear on what principles the lands of the “King” Mažeika, mentioned in the 13th century, were annexed to the Medininkai district, in the 14th century they were characterised as the manor of Mažeikiai-Vindeikiai.”
       3. “First of all this should be said about the chapter of historiography, where the main attention is granted to the amateurish publicistic writing of the emigration...” In fact amateurish publicistic writing of the emigration is discussed in 3 pages of the historiography chapter, constituting 6-7% of this chapter. In these pages no greater importance is granted to this publicistic writing, it is evaluated critically, as reasoning of non-professionals.
       4. “But Baranauskas himself forced me to direct attention to the methodology of the book, because the word “Marxism” is a swear-word for him, something like label, which may be stuck on those, who are thinking other way.” In fact nobody is labelled as “Marxist” in the book. Among the Lithuanian historians only Edvardas Gudavičius is said to be a Marxist, because he declared this publicly more than one time, and, the author believes, this results in concrete conclusions on the formation of the Lithuanian State.


       Šiaurės Atėnai. 2001 m. spalio 13 d. Nr. 38 (576). P. 10.

       Translated from Lithuanian by Tomas Baranauskas

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