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Historic dates sometimes coincide in a strange way… In 1547 the first Lithuanian book was published in Königsberg, and in the same year Motiejus Stryjkovskis (Maciej Stryjkowski), the future author of the first printed historical book on the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, was born in Poland. Kronika Polska, Litewska, Żmudzka i wszystkiey Rusi, written by this man of letters and poet, was published in 1582, also in Königsberg. Of course, this work can hardly be called scholarly, but it served as a useful reference source for many later authors, including Albertas Vijūkas-Kojelavičius (1609-1677), the author of the first history of Lithuania. This professor at Vilnius Academy wrote his two-volume Historia Litvaniae in Latin. The first volume came out in 1650, the second – in 1669. Even this work, however, was not a scholarly study, although it became one of the most important sources of information about Lithuania in the whole of Europe.
Scholarly research into the history of Lithuania began in the 19th century. Because of complicated historical circumstances, it was done by Russian and Polish researchers. The origins of Lithuanian historiography must be sought in the historical works of Simonas Daukantas and Motiejus Valančius. Daukantas’ Būdas senovės lietuvių kalnėnų ir žemaičių (1845; The Ways of the Ancient Lithuanian Highlanders and Samogitians) and Valančius’ Žemaičių vyskupystė (1848; The Bishopric of Samogitia) instilled pride in the past of one’s country and provided a wealth of historical knowledge. Daukantas’ books paint a vivid and romantic mythical picture of valiant Lithuanians in ancient times. The role of the Samogitian Bishop Valančius, with his sober assessment of history, in awakening Lithuanian national consciousness is not just a thing of the past; his legacy may be relevant even today. The synthesis of national spirit and Catholicism characteristic of Valančius embodies both an attachment to one’s native community, one’s nation, and fidelity to universal values.
Only after the Lithuanian state was re-established on February 16, 1918, could Lithuanian historiography develop normally. History was taught at the faculties of theology-philosophy, the humanities, and law of Vytautas the Great University in Kaunas. A new generation of professional Lithuanian historians was trained in this way, and at that time the need arose for historiographical reflection, for a better understanding of the work methods of historians, in a word, for what could be called a theory of historiography. The historiography of the interwar period and, to some extent, of Lithuanian émigrés is best represented by such names as Jonas Totoraitis, Ignas Jonynas, Juozas Jakštas, Zenonas Ivinskis, Adolfas Šapoka, Paulius Šležas, Simas Sužiedėlis, and others.
The occupation of Lithuania after World War II distorted the natural development of our historiography once again. Lithuanian historians found themselves on different sides of a barricade: on one side were those who lived abroad, sometimes against their own will, and on the other – those who had stayed in Lithuania and those who had been formed by the Soviet system. Although the writings of the latter can by no means be written off as worthless and nowadays nobody doubts the need for historiographical reflection, this sphere of our historiography, despite the efforts of individual enthusiasts, is still one of the most neglected. This situation further complicates our task of presenting a conceptual view of the present state of Lithuanian historiography. Therefore, we will confine ourselves here to a presentation of the main research institutions for Lithuanian history and the most important academic periodicals.
The Faculty of History at Vilnius University and the Lithuanian Institute of History, which until 1990 belonged to the Academy of Sciences, were, during the long years of Soviet occupation, the only Lithuanian institutions engaged in historical research. After the restoration of independence, new and no less active historical research institutions were set up. The science of history became decentralized.
The Faculty of History at Vilnius University remains the main centre for training historians (as well as archaeologists, ethnologists, museologists, and archivists). Scholarly papers, reviews, and articles on various topical issues contributed by instructors and students at the Faculty and by other Lithuanian and foreign researchers appear in Lietuvos istorijos studijos (Studies in Lithuanian History; .
The Lithuanian Institute of History should probably be considered the only institution in the world whose first and foremost priority is research into Lithuanian history. The Institute is also actively involved in the dissemination of knowledge about Lithuanian history in our country and abroad. Lietuvos istorijos metraštis (The Annals of Lithuanian History), perhaps the main periodical on this subject, with papers by Lithuanian and foreign researchers, information about current scholarly events, reviews, conference reports, etc., is also published by the Institute (
Among the institutions that expanded research into Lithuanian history after the restoration of independence, the Department of History at the Faculty of Humanities at Vytautas the Great University in Kaunas and its Center for Lithuanian Diaspora Studies are especially noteworthy. The University has two periodicals that publish papers on history: Kauno istorijos metraštis (Kaunas History Annals), Darbai ir dienos (Works and Days) (
Also, one should not overlook the historians of the Faculty of History at Vilnius Pedagogical University who have become more active in recent years. The VPU has its own periodical Istorija (History) (
The Center for Research into the History of Western Lithuania (established in 1992) and the Department of History (established in 1993) at the Faculty of Social Sciences of Klaipėda University have created an excellent niche for themselves by concentrating on research into Western Lithuania, Lithuania Minor, and the countries of the Baltic region. Their main periodical is Acta Historica Universitatis Klaipedensis (
The Department of History at the Faculty of Humanities at Šiauliai University and its Center for Research into the History of Northern Lithuania are seeking to become another serious center for historical research (
The Genocide and Resistance Research Center of Lithuania carries out important work in the area of research into complex postwar history, the restoration of historical justice, and the assessment of the Soviet period. The latest research findings are published in monographs and in the periodical Genocidas ir rezistencija (Genocide and Resistance) (
The Vilnius Academy of Fine Arts (VAFA) and the Institute of Lithuanian Literature and Folklore (ILLF) have made significant contributions to research into the history of Lithuanian culture. The periodicals Acta Academiae Artium Vilnensis, Dailė (Art), and Žemaičių praeitis (The Samogitian Past) are of the greatest interest to the historians at the VAFA ( The ILLF is successfully expanding research into the literature of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and has already published over a dozen excellent books dealing with this heritage.
In view of the radically changing role of museums in our society, one should not pass over in silence the Lithuanian Art Museum (LAM) and the National Museum of Lithuania (NML). In recent years the LAM has been especially active in encouraging our society to take a greater interest in its past and in its cultural heritage. This work is done not only through exhibitions but also through numerous publications ( The same is also true of the NML (
Finally, we would also like to mention two publishing houses, Aidai ( and Baltos Lankos (, which are interested not only in publishing original historical writings but also in exploring wider issues of modern culture and the humanities.
This bird’s eye view of some of the aspects of Lithuanian history attests to the vitality of research into Lithuanian culture and, more specifically, history. For its part, this existing diversity assures favourable conditions for the development of creative thought. If it were not for the ever-fiercer struggle for financial resources, which makes research institutions dependent on politicians, Lithuanian historians could probably tackle more efficiently the problem of institutional isolation that exists in some parts of the country and find new ways of cooperation that would enable them to better utilize their talents for the public good.


© Institute of Lithuanian Literature and Folklore, The Institute of the Lithuanian Language, Lithuanian Institute of History, Institute of Mathematics and Informatics, 2003 - 2006