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Ban on Language

All print in Lithuanian (in Latin characters) was banned from 1864 to 1904, except for prayer books and primers in Cyrillic, and all non-state schools were closed.

 

The ban on print was introduced after the revolt of 1863-1864 (the then Lithuania was part of the Czarist Russian Empire) that attempted to revive the Great Duchy of Lithuania as well as the union with Poland, and to resist economic oppression.

 

People defied the ban, and so illegal rural schools were set up to teach Lithuanian. Books were published abroad, mostly in Lithuania Minor (the present-day Region of Kaliningrad), Prussia, and America. They were distributed by the so-called book smugglers, and secret fellowships of book smuggling were founded. Book smuggling is considered to be part of the national revival movement for Lithuanians, and it laid the foundations for the restoration of Lithuania‘s independence in 1918. 16 March is marked as the Book Smuggler’s Day. Book smugglers were persecuted, tortured, exiled to the Siberia, or sent to jail.

 

The ban on print was lifted on 7 May 1904.

Senas auksa altorius

A Lithuanian prayer book in Cyrillic. The first and second lines in Russian print from the top read ‘Senas auksa altorius’.

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