• July 27, 2014
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Vilnius. Non-Poles against Non-Lithuanians

Vilnius. Non-Poles against Non-Lithuanians
The biggest – and still ongoing – the dilemma of relations of Lithuania and the Poland of twentieth century is that they have started as a relationship Lithuanians and Poles. More specifically – as the relationship between Non-Poles and Non-Lithuanians.

Common state of the eighteenth century, after the partition, left common identity. The paradigmatic expression of this identity became Adam Mickiewicz. The man, who did not think it was strange to write in Polish “Lithuania, my fatherland.”

In view of the impossibility of recovering the state, identity itself had little chance of survival in the nineteenth century, which changed the concept of nationality. That is why, after the uprising in the years 1863-1864, the Lithuanians and Poles split up.

The division that took place in completely different terms than union GDL and the Polish Kingdom in the sixteenth century, so it should be mentioned here the kind of historical-political equivalent of the compound and its breakdown.

Lithuanians and Poles in the nineteenth century could be separated only by mutual negation, becoming Non-Lithuanians and Non-Poles. It caused quite high tension, which is not subjected to denial of the context of the shared past of added comic colors. The symbol of the struggle became the Adam Mickiewicz and Vilnius, constantly reminding about it.

Wandering the streets of Vilnius, we still encounter different colored details of the skirmish of Non-Poles with Non-Lithuanians.
Vilnius, which Vilnius residents liked to remember at the end of the twentieth century, is now better known as the Vilnius of Romain Gary. The one from the time of the Soviet occupation, is famous for his “historic” houses and high ceilings in them. The one, of which we can feel the breeze, walking down the street Čiurlionio.
All this Vilnius appears only at the turn of the centuries XIX – XX.

The development of the city in those decades, usually is explained by the delayed effect of the industrial revolution in the Russian Empire. Apparently Vilnius revived thanks to the development of production, trade and banking operations.
However, this version of events is too vague and transforms the very personal events in the form of a “process”.

The primary capitalists and bankers become aristocrats and nobles of the former GDL. It made sense, because they had capital that could, at that time, modernly invest. In Vilnius they founded self-sufficiently, modern center of economic, cultural and political activity – Vilnius Gentry Bank.

The most enterprising and influential founders of the bank were earls Nikolai Zubov and Adam Plater. The history of this bank quite extensively and interestingly Vladas Terleckas summarized in his report.

Gentry Bank granted loans secured on real estate and in such a way indirectly contributed to the development and expansion of urban mansions. However, it became also the reason why the landowners spent more and more time in Vilnius.

Elites specifically returned to the old capital, as evidenced by the new residences at the end of the nineteenth century, located along the existing avenue Giedimina, the streets Žygimantų, Tilto and Kosciuškos.

In 1884, a board member of the Bank Landowners became a nobleman, a lawyer and economist Jozef Montwiłł. Without much exaggeration, we can conclude that he built this modernist part of  Vilnius, which is described in detail by Nijolė Lukšionytė-Tolvaišienė.

Under the leadership of Montwiłł in years 1889-1891 was built a new residence of Gentry Bank on the current Giedimina alley, where now is situated a Lithuanian bank. Soon the residence completed a building, which housed the Artistic Society “Lute”.

In the adjacent building (now Gedimino 4) from 1893 worked another project of Montwiłł – Vilnius Craftsmen’s Fair.

On the main street settled himself Joseph Montwiłł. In his residence at Gedimino 17, now we will find the Ministry of Communications.

Montwiłł also took care of talented contemporary architects: Wacław Michniewicz, Wladyslaw Stypulkowski and August Klein. This whole campaign, in addition to private buildings, built vastness of the city. Asylums for children, market Under Hall, decoration architecture of Vilnius – the power plant, which is now a museum of Energy and etc.

However, the most, in terms of architecture, Joseph Montwiłł became famous of cooperatives and colony of residential houses.

The best-known colonies are: Rašu and Lukiškių. Although there are three more: at Śnipiszki (next to the existing streets Rinktinės, Šeimyniškių and Slucko); next to streets Aguonų, Šaltinių and Mindaugo; and in the streets of Basanaviciaus, Jovaro and Čiurlionio.
For these, and other services, Vilnius residents erected a monument to Joseph Montwiłłowi, which currently stands (actually, sitting) on the street Traku, in the square by the Franciscan monastery.

While all this was building of Non-Lithuanians in Vilnius. It is possible that a more correct term would be – Non- Lietuva. Recalling the statement of one of the lords of the time: “Lithuanians are: Jagiello, Chodkiewicz, Mickiewicz, Pilsudski and me. And these new, it Lietuva. ”
These new Lithuanians, Lietuva, in other words Non-Poles, against the background of Vilnius organised by Gentry Bank, looked like real nouveau riche.

The most appropriate would be to confront Joseph Montwiłł withPetrasVileišis. He was the last one who made ​​his fortune in Russia and in 1890 after returning to Vilnius of Non-Lithuanians, took absolutely to his lietuvasing.

First of all, he built an iron factory at the current street Panerių. For the construction of the factory and to manage the same factory Vileišis invited Niepolaków. The factory also hired mostly the same people. And for a Mass sped their employees only to the newly-Lithuanian church of St. Nicholas.

Later, he started cultural and political activity. After renting a room on the street Vilniaus, he founded a printing press and published a newspaper “Vilniaus žinios”. In that time the Town Hall (now Philharmonic) opened a bookstore.
In this wayVileišisPetras has become one of the most important keepers of the association of Non-Poles in Vilnius. It is also claimed that it just after his persuasion to Vilnius moved the patriarch of the nation Jonas Basanavičius.

Crowningof all this activity was the construction of the palace Vileišis. The team in neo-baroque style was built in the years 1904 – 1906, at the beginning of Antokol (now – Institute of Lithuanian Literature and Folklore).

Here PetrasVileišis not only lived, but also arranged the whole staff of Non-Poles. He moved printing and editing, organized all kinds of events newly-Lithuanian.

Already the first look at the palace Vileišis says that it was an attempt of catching up. New Litwin, employing non-lithuenian architect August Klein ordered residence more resembling palaces of esquires from the end of the nineteenth century than the then popular modest mansions.

Thus, of course, Petras Vileišis confirmed Non-Lithuenians’ opinion that he is a snob and nouveau riche. Just like everyone else Lietuva – nouveau riche serfs.

In this way, seeing Vilnius at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, it is not difficult to understand why the first round of the fight f Non-Lithuanians with Non-Poles ended with the defeat of the latter. At the beginning of 1919, the Lithuanian government was forced to withdraw to Kaunas.

Vilnius of Non-Lithuanians could not grant on 16 February and Lietuvos Taryba, about which later mockingly said Valerian Meysztowicz, the son of Alexander Meysztowicz, one of the directors of the Gentry Bank.
Clearly writing “Taryba” in quotation marks he judgedthe rebirth of independence of Lithuania as a German project. And ended: ” Smetona has become the president, a former official of the Gentry Bank.”

They did not understand the fact that in the palace of nouveau riche Vileišislies dormant much greater power than in all the colonies of Montwiłł together.
They also did not understand the nature and Vilnius, although they considered themselves as the most important residents of Vilnius.

Their pride was the pride of the dinosaurs, making their last steps. The thing often repeated in history.
Therefore the won battle of Non-Lithuanians in Vilnius was only the beginning of the lostwar and to this question weshould still return.
But now it is fitting to move together with Non-Poles to Kaunas, where ran a political and architectural drama -, more clearly showing the sense of Lithuania.

Translated by Patrycja Pawłowska within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.

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