Jurgis Bielinis

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King of knygnešiai

Jurgis Bielinis (March 16, 1846 in Purviškiai, near Biržai – January 18, 1918 in Katinai, near Panevėžys) was one of the main organizers of illegal book-smuggling (knygnešiai) at the time of the Lithuanian press ban. He was also a publicist and contributor to Lithuanian newspapers Aušra and Varpas. Bielinis used pseudonyms Bieliakas, Jakulis, and is informally referred to as King of Knygnešiai. It is estimated, that during 31 years when he was active, Bielinis and his organizations illegally brought about half of all Lithuanian books from the East Prussia (Lithuania Minor) into the Lithuanian mainland during the entire press ban (1864–1904).[1]

Biography[edit]

"Baltasis erelis" (lit. White eagle), newspaper published by Bielinis

Bielinis graduated from a primary school in Riga in 1872.[1] Since 1873 Bielinis was involved in the book-smuggling activities and cooperated with Motiejus Valančius. Since 1890 he was actively sought by the authorities of the Russian Empire. Bielinis could not come home and had to hide. He escaped at least five times after being captured by gendarmes, despite a large monetary reward promised for his capture.[1] This encouraged him to organize the book distribution even better. Bielinis became an ultimate professional book smuggler and the main organizer of the Lithuanian book distribution in northern Lithuania. He founded Garšviai knygnešiai society, the largest book smuggling organization at the time. Bielinis developed a newspaper subscription system and was delivering newspapers and magazines to the subscribers.[1] His organization also delivered forbidden Latvian books to Latvia. For his active participation in underground books smuggling, Bielinis was nicknamed as "knygnešių karalius" (The King of the Book Carriers).[2]

Bielinis also published his own newspaper Baltasis erelis (for this purpose brought a printing press form Martynas Jankus) and wrote several brochures on the history of Lithuania.[1] He was among the first who spoke openly about Independent Lithuania. Bielinis died walking by foot to attend the Vilnius Conference.[1] Jurgis Bielinis birthday is celebrated in Lithuania as the Day of Knygnešys. He is buried in Suostas' churchyard.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Kaluškevičius, Benjaminas; Ona Žemaitytė - Narkevičienė (1998). "Jurgis Bielinis". Šimtas Knygnešių. Lietuvos knygnešio draugija. Retrieved 2008-07-17. 
  2. ^ STRAŽAS, A. "Lithuania 1863-1893". Retrieved 2008-07-17.