Students of Vytautas Magnus University (VDU) have poured through archives in Russia and unearthed student files of prominent 20 century Lithuanian figures, including Antanas Smetona, Jonas Vileišis, Steponas Kairys and other signatories of Lithuania's 1918 declaration of independence.
Two doctoral students at VDU, Viktoras Bilotas and Gediminas Kasparavičius, brought copies of historical documents of signatories, Lithuanian diplomats and clergymen to the Office of the Chief Archivist of Lithuania.
The signatories' documents were discovered in an archive in St. Petersburg. The researchers say previous efforts to find Smetona's file failed because of the misspelling of his name.
“In the documents, his name was spelt 'Anton Smetano', not Antanas Smetona. The file contained his mother’s request to enroll her son in a gymnasium and his graduation certificate, and a well-preserved photograph of Smetona and other documents,” VDU said in a press release on Thursday.
Other documents were discovered in an archive in the Tomsk region, including files of Jonas Yčas, Martynas Yčas, Jonas Aukštuolis, Vilnius Bishop Jurgis Matulaitis, Archbishop Teofilius Matulionis, and Antanas Baranauskas, a Lithuanian poet and the bishop of Sejny, and other prominent figures.
The researchers say that the personal files of the Yčas brothers and Aukštuolis are particularly important.
“Martynas, the would-be minister of finance, communications and commerce and industry in interwar Lithuania, was invited to study at Tomsk University by his elder brother Jonas, who worked as a gymnasium teacher in the city,” Bilotas said.
“Jonas later became a state and public figure in the independent state of Lithuania, a professor and a pioneer of national historiography. Jonas Aukštuolis, a cousin of the Yčas brothers, served as Lithuania's first ambassador to Sweden in the interwar period,” he said.
Lithuanian historians were given access to many archives in Russia for the first time. More than 3,000 documents linked to Lithuanians in Russia were brought to Lithuania between 2016 and 2018, according to the press release.