- December 14, 2012
Bumblauskas: Bilingual Vilnius is our wealth
These days thenationalism is still in Polish-Lithuanian heads although a few years ago it seemed that the situation has changed, said Lithuanian historian Alfredas Bumblauskas in the interview for “Tygodnik Powszechny” (Polish magazine). Piotr Kępiński was the author of that interview.
The history of bad Polish-Lithuanian relation lies in the stereotypes and myths which arose in the early twentieth century. “ Let me start by saying that the nationalists always wanted to have their own Atlantis, and for them it was the Lithuanian civilization and pagan culture. That was their continent which began to sink from the baptism, it means from the time when Polish people started to appear in Lithuania” – said Bumblauskas.
Lithuanian nationalists were actually pro-Russian. “They thought in a very simple way: Lithuanian empire (not even Lithuania) but it is the empire that was destroyed by Poland and Polish people. Lithuania was saved only thanks to partitions and Catherine the Great. This anti-Polish policy was continued by Murawiew “Wieszatiel”, and then by Lenin and Stalin. So I say: if so, the identity of the Lithuanian is anti-Polish, pro-Russian and pro-Soviets” – claim Bumblauskas.
That thinking is misleading, says the historian, because in 1697 Lithuanian government rejected Russian language, not Lithuanian. These times, Russian was the official language of The Grand Duchy of Lithuania. TheLithuanian still cannot understand that in 19th century, Vilnius was the capital of Polish culture. But we should remember that it was different from Polishness in Poland.
“But we have to remember one thing, that the work of Adam Mickiewicz was the spirit of not only Poland, but also of the tradition of the Grand Duchy. Fryderyk Chopin was the symbol of Poland, and Mickiewicz of GDL. And it made a whole as “natives” regards – adds the historian.
Warsaw is nearer than Stockholm
The Lithuanians very often declare their relationship with the Baltic and Scandinavia countries but in reality they do not know much about them. “Lithuania is committed to relations with Latvia and Estonia, it’s obvious. It was influenced by the history of the last decades. On the other hand – we know so little about Latvia. Riga is much further from Vilnius than Warsaw. Lithuanians can say that they do not like the Poles, however they know more about Polish culture than Latvian. The Lithuanian travel to Warsaw, Gdańsk and Toruń to take part in different festivals, they read books, they know the artists “- said Bumblauskas. The historian believes that relation with Northern Europe is largely a myth.
The history still spoils the relations
In most cases anti-Polish stereotypes came into being during the interwar period. These myths are hard to overcome because people prefer false slogans rather than historical truth. “In 1919 there was not such thing. Our army could use Polish language, it was not a problem. Also, there was not any great antagonism. What is more, we did not have any common war. However, in 1939 there was a change. When Lithuanian soldiers entered Vilnius, they passed the village in Vilnius and were surprised that no one was able to speak Lithuanian. They were shocked. We did not analyze the situation – Vilnius missed the air, spacious and so we did not care who lived there”- explains Bumblauskas.
The historian does not agree with the term “Polish occupation of Vilnius: “Paul Hymans demanded the Polish army to leave the Vilnius region in 1921. There had to stay just the local soldiers. So what about the occupation? Vilnius could not be occupied by residents of Vilnius. It’s an absurd. On the other hand, thanks to that, Vilnius became the provincial Polish town. And the idea of Central Lithuania was a betrayal of Lithuania. “
The impact on today’s relationships have also the events that happened at the beginning of 90-ties. “One of the Polish activist from Lithuania told me that the Poles were not against the independence of Lithuania, it was all about autonomy. However, the Lithuanians could not accept it. Me too. But there is also another side. Well, the Lithuanians do not want to understand autochthonousness of Poles till these days, to which they have the right “- adds the historian.
According to Bumblauskasa “Polish” Vilnius is something very positive: “But bilingual Vilnius is our wealth. How many interesting things we can learn – what were the names of Lithuanian cities in Polish and where it comes from”.
Coffins of Pilsudski and Smetona
Alfredas Bumblauskas shares the thought of Jerzy Giedroyc that the Polish history is ruled by “two coffins, Pilsudski and Dmowski”. A similar situation is in Lithuania. “However, I must emphasize – Lithuanian National Democratic Party is very similar. The counterpart of Dmowski’s coffin is Antanas Smetona’s coffin, pre-war president “- summed up the historian.
Tłumaczenie Diana Omiljaniuk w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Diana Omiljaniuk the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.