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Introduction to Lithuanian Bibliography



Introduction to Lithuanian Bibliography

While the publications of Lithuania and in the Lithuanian language have been well-documented in the course of the last century, formal national bibliography does not have a long history in that particular region.  Lithuania is a country whose political upheaval is reflected in its publishing history to a large extent. That political upheaval with extensive periods of foreign control meant that Lithuania was not free to evolve its own national bibliography. Both the Germans and Russians imposed their own rules and regulations to Lithuanian publishing and to the burgeoning national library systems. Lithuania’s publications were, in large part, recorded in the bibliographies of other countries or, during some periods, suppressed altogether.  Thus, to successfully track the publications of any discipline it is important to have at least a basic idea of the history of the region.

Until 1573, Lithuania was an independent state but from that year until 1795 it was under the influence of Poland as part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.  After the third partition of Poland in 1795, Lithuania was largely under the domination of the Russian empire, although Austria and Prussia held control of smaller portions of Lithuanian territory.

The Russification policy pursued by the Russian government included the banning of the publication of Lithuanian books in Latin characters in the late 19th century.  Lithuanian language publications still appeared out of Vilnius, which was controlled by Poland during some of this period. After the Bolshevik revolution, Lithuania declared its independence which it maintained until the Germans invaded in 1940.  In 1944, the Germans were beaten back only to be replaced with the Soviets, who dominated in Lithuania until 1991.

Although, the first publication in Lithuanian was issued in 1547 in Konigsberg, the bibliographic record of Lithuanian publishing did not really arise until the 20th century.  As one might imagine, this was the result of the constantly shifting political and ethnic control that existed in the region throughout its history.  It is this changing control and the censorship and restrictions that accompanied it, that one must consider when examining the question of the national bibliographic coverage of Lithuania’s intellectual heritage. Given the Russian dominance of the region throughout the 19th century it is not surprising that there was no separate Lithuanian national bibliography published at that time.  In the early part of the century, Lithuanian language books were included in the Russian national bibliography for those Lithuanian publications issued on Lithuanian territories controlled by the empire.  Vilnius fell under Polish dominance and the publications issued there in Lithuanian were included in the Polish bibliographies.

The scarcity of 19th century publications made it difficult to track the intellectual history of Lithuania in the period for some time.  This has been corrected, to a large extent, by the compilation of retrospective bibliographies issued in the 20th century, which effectively tracked Lithuanian publishing from its inception to the present day.

Between 1940 and 1941 a large body of literature was censored.  This was during the Soviet occupation of the region in the early years of the war.  A list of some 11,089 titles banned during this period can be viewed at http://www.beaconforfreedom.org/liste.html?tid=415&art_id=554 .  This site is sponsored by the National Library of Norway.  It provides valuable information on the history of censorship in the region throughout Lithuanian publishing history.

In 1945 after Lithuania was absorbed into the Soviet Union, the Lithuanian Book Chamber was established. With Soviet rule came Soviet structure, including the Book Chamber, which was in institution usually independent of the state library. The chamber was responsible for the depository law, and so needed to obtain copies of all materials printed within the republic and registering them in a national bibliography. The establishment of the book chamber in Lithuanian led to the creation of a national bibliographic publication “Pechat Litovskoi SSR,” modeled on the existing Soviet national bibliography, “Knizhnaia Letopis.’”  The bibliography was initiated with the publication of three retrospective volumes covering the years 1940-1965 and entitled “Lietuvos TSR Spauda. Valstybine Suvestine Bibliografija/Pechat’ Litovskoi SSR. Gosudarstvennaia Svodnaia Bibliografiia.” After Lithuania became independent, the book chamber was reorganized into the Bibliography and Book Science Center of the NLL and the library became the actual core of Lithuanian national bibliography.

Today, most of the retrospective material has been incorporated into the online resources available at the Lithuanian National Library. In the absence of an “official” national bibliographic publication, this resource effectively serves this function.  As with all digital resources, this one has its idiosyncrasies which will be described in detail.  Suffice it to say that there are situations when the scholar will find the print source more convenient than the digital.