Romas Kalanta

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Romas Kalanta

Romas Kalanta (February 22, 1953 – May 15, 1972) was a Lithuanian high school student known for his public self-immolation protesting Soviet regime in Lithuania. Kalanta's death provoked the largest post-war riots in Lithuania[1] and inspired similar self-immolations. In 1972 alone, 13 more people committed suicide by self-immolation.[2]

Kalanta became a symbol of the Lithuanian resistance throughout the 1970s and 1980s.[3] In 2000, he was posthumously awarded the Order of the Cross of Vytis.

Life and death[edit]

Kalanta was religious; in a school essay he indicated that he would like to become a Catholic priest, which caused him some troubles with the authorities.[4] He attended an evening school while working at a factory.[4] Kalanta played guitar and made a few drawings; he had long hair and sympathized with the hippies.[5] These sympathies were later exploited by the Soviets to discredit Kalanta among the older population. He had one older brother named Antanas.

At noon on May 14, 1972, Kalanta poured 3 liters of gasoline on himself and set himself on fire in the square adjoining the Laisvės Alėja in front of the Kaunas Musical Theatre, where in 1940 the People's Seimas declared establishment of the Lithuanian SSR and petitioned the Soviet Union to admit Lithuania as one of the soviet socialist republics.[6] He died about 14 hours later in a hospital. Before the suicide, Kalanta left his notebook with a brief note on a bench. Its content became known only after the declaration of independence in 1990 and opening up of secret KGB archives. The note read "blame only the regime for my death" (Lithuanian: Dėl mano mirties kaltinkite tik santvarką).[4] No other notes were found to explain in more detail what provoked the suicide.[4]

After his death rumors spread that a few of his classmates formed a patriot group, and that they held a lottery to determine which of them would have to carry out the mission.[6] The official Soviet propaganda claimed that Kalanta was mentally ill.

Riots and aftermath[edit]

The Soviet government tried to cover up the event, but its witnesses spread the news by word of mouth. On May 18, the Soviet authorities hastened Kalanta's burial by several hours to prevent publicity.[2] The gathered people, mostly high school students and young workers, broke into a politically charged riot, which was forcibly dispersed by KGB, militsiya, and Internal Troops. The next day, about 3,000 people marched along the Laisvės Alėja of which 402 were arrested. The New York Times reported of numerous injuries and one death among Soviet troops.[7]

The public agitation was felt throughout 1972 and 1973 as the KGB registered 3–4 times more various anti-Soviet incidents.[2] Lithuania recorded 13 other suicides by fire in 1972, including 24-year-old V. Stonys in Varėna on May 29, 60-year-old A. Andriuškevičius in Kaunas on June 3, 62-year-old Zališauskas on June 10, 40-year-old Juozapas Baracevičius in Šiauliai on June 22.[2][8]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Misiunas, Romuald; Rein Taagepera (1993). The Baltic States: Years of Dependence 1940–1990 (revised ed.). University of California Press. pp. 252–253. ISBN 0-520-08228-1. 
  2. ^ a b c d Anušauskas, Arvydas (2003). "KGB reakcija į 1972 m. įvykius". Genocidas ir rezistencija 1 (13).  (Lithuanian)
  3. ^ Coleman, Loren L (2004). The Copycat Effect: How the Media and Popular Culture Trigger the Mayhem in Tomorrow's Headlines. Simon and Schuster. pp. 57–58. ISBN 978-1-4165-0554-9. 
  4. ^ a b c d Kamiński, Łukasz (2010-01-20). "Gyvieji fakelai". Bernardinai.lt.  (Lithuanian)
  5. ^ Vardys, Vytas Stanley; Judith B. Sedaitis (1997). Lithuania: The Rebel Nation. Westview Series on the Post-Soviet Republics. WestviewPress. p. 89. ISBN 0-8133-1839-4. 
  6. ^ a b Petersen, Roger Dale (2001). Resistance and rebellion: lessons from Eastern Europe. Cambridge University Press. p. 291. ISBN 978-0-521-77000-2. 
  7. ^ Smith, Hedrick (May 28, 1972). "Some Cracks in the Kremlin Wall". The New York Times: E2. 
  8. ^ Vidzgiris, Julius (September–October 1980). "Lietuvos laisvės kovos 1940–1980". Aidai 5: 250–260. ISSN 0002-208X. 

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