• January 29, 2022
  • 103

The End of the Lithuanian SSR

The Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic ceased to exist on March 11, 1990, when the Supreme Council passed the declaration on the restoration of independence. Formally, it probably existed until the dissolution of the USSR, although this is hardly of any concern to anyone. However, some of its undercurrents are still visible now.

An irreformable judiciary, an oligarchy created in synergy with the services, industry clans, and a bureaucratic state within the state – these are some of the many problems plaguing all post-Soviet countries, both formal members of the empire and its satellites occupied within the Warsaw Pact. In Lithuania, one of the most persistent anchors of Soviet disorder was the spelling of surnames. The so-called phonetic notation of surnames, i.e., the one according to which Anna became Ana, Pszczółkowski – Pščulkovski or Pščulkovskij, was introduced at the end of July 1940 – already under the Russian military occupation, after the NKVD falsified elections, and a few days before the formal “admission” of Lithuania to the USSR. The sole purpose of this “reform” was precisely to prepare for annexation so that all documents would be compatible with the imperial, Cyrillic-based “order.” And although the Soviet empire ceased to exist, its relics remained – often defended by all sorts of graduates of Moscow universities, some even with degrees in linguistics, who maintain that this, and no other spelling, is Lithuanian national heritage.

However, it is not and never has been, even if it looked that way on the surface. In addition, many people are saying that the amendment to the act does not solve the problems of Poles. And that is right. Ana will finally be Anna, but Pščulkovski can only become Pszczolkowski. For us, this is only a step towards a satisfactory solution, although it is undoubtedly a step in the right direction. By signing the amendment to the law on names, President Gitanas Naudėda ended the Russian occupation of Lithuanian passports. He got our documents out of the Soviet Union. And although, as Poles, we cannot yet enjoy a fully resolved spelling problem – I am convinced that without this nasty Soviet relic of “phonetic spelling”, it will be much easier for us to fix it. The most important thing is not to be discouraged and not to waste time complaining – but to do our own thing consistently, and remember that our belief that the problem cannot be resolved, in Polish “niedasizm,” is also a Soviet residue.

Comment published in the Kurier Wileński magazine No. 4(12) 29/01-04/02/2022

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

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