Signatories of the Act of Independence of Lithuania

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The twenty signatories

The signatories of the Act of Independence of Lithuania were the twenty Lithuanian men who signed the Act of Independence of Lithuania on February 16, 1918. The signatories were elected to the Council of Lithuania by the Vilnius Conference in September 1917 and entrusted with the mission of establishing an independent Lithuanian state.[1] The proclaimed independence was established only in late 1918, after Germany lost World War I and its troops retreated from Lithuanian territory. What followed was a long process of building the state, determining its borders, and gaining international diplomatic recognition. The signatories succeeded in their mission and independent Lithuania existed until the Soviet Union occupied the state on June 15, 1940. The signatories comprised a wide political, professional, and social spectrum. After the declaration of Lithuania's independence the signatories continued to participate in Lithuania's public life; two of them, Antanas Smetona and Aleksandras Stulginskis, were later elected Presidents of Lithuania, and Jonas Vileišis went on to become mayor of Kaunas, the temporary capital of Lithuania. After Lithuania lost its independence during World War II, six of the surviving signatories were sent to prison or executed by the Soviet government, and six others went into exile.[2]

Signatories[edit]

Image Name Political affiliation[3] Profession/Education Date and place of birth[4] Date and place of death[4]
Saliamonas Banaitis.jpg Banaitis, SaliamonasSaliamonas Banaitis
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Lithuanian Christian Democratic Party Publisher, commerce and accountancy courses in St. Petersburg and unfinished studies at Vytautas Magnus University 1866-07-15 in Vaitiekupiai village, Šakiai district 1933-05-04 in Kaunas, Lithuania
Jonas Basanavicius (1851-1927).jpg Basanavičius, JonasJonas Basanavičius
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Nonpartisan Physician, Moscow University 1851-10-23 in Ožkabaliai village, Naumiestis district 1927-02-16 in Wilno, Poland (now Vilnius, Lithuania)
Mykolas Biržiška.jpg Biržiška, MykolasMykolas Biržiška
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Social Democratic Party Lawyer, Moscow University 1882-08-24 in Viekšniai 1962-08-24 in Los Angeles, United States
Kazimieras Bizauskas.jpg Bizauskas, KazimierasKazimieras Bizauskas
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Lithuanian Christian Democratic Party Lawyer, Moscow University 1893-02-15 in Pavilosta, Latvia 1941-06-26 near Minsk, Belarus
Pranas Dovydaitis.jpg Dovydaitis, PranasPranas Dovydaitis
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Lithuanian Christian Democratic Party Lawyer, Moscow University 1886-12-02 in Runkiai village, Marijampolė district 1942-10-04 in Sverdlovsk prison camp, Russia
Steponas Kairys.jpg Kairys, SteponasSteponas Kairys
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Social Democratic Party Engineer, Institute of Technology in St. Petersburg 1879-01-03 in Užnevėžis village, Ukmergė district 1964-12-16 in New York City, United States
Petras Klimas.jpg Klimas, PetrasPetras Klimas
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Nonpartisan Lawyer, Moscow University 1891-02-23 in Kušliškiai village, Marijampolė district 1969-01-16 in Kaunas, Lithuania
Donatas Malinauskas.jpg Malinauskas, DonatasDonatas Malinauskas
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Nonpartisan Agronomist, Tábor Agricultural Academy 1869-03-07 in Krāslava, Latvia 1941-10-30 in a mass deportation camp in Siberia near Biysk, Russia[5]
Vladas Mironas.jpg Mironas, VladasVladas Mironas
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Lithuanian National Union Priest, Vilnius Priest Seminary and St. Petersburg Priest Academy 1880-06-22 in Kuodiškiai village, Rokiškis district 1953-02-17 in Vladimir prison, Russia[6]
Stanislovas Narutavicius.jpg Narutowicz, StanisławStanisław Narutowicz
Nonpartisan Lawyer, University of St. Petersburg 1862-09-02 in Brevikai village, Telšiai district 1932-12-31 in Kaunas, Lithuania
Alfonsas Petrulis.jpg Petrulis, AlfonsasAlfonsas Petrulis
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Party of National Progress Priest, Kaunas Priest Seminary, Vilnius Priest Seminary 1873-08-04 in Kateliškiai village, Biržai district 1928-06-28 in Musninkai, Lithuania
Antanas Smetona 2.jpg Smetona, AntanasAntanas Smetona
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Lithuanian National Union Lawyer, University of St. Petersburg 1874-08-10 in Užulėnis village, Ukmergė district 1944-01-09 in Cleveland, Ohio, United States
Jonas Smilgevicius.jpg Smilgevičius, JonasJonas Smilgevičius
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Nonpartisan Economist, University of Berlin 1870-02-12 in Šoniai village, Telšiai district 1942-09-27 in Kaunas, Lithuania
Justinas Staugaitis.jpg Staugaitis, JustinasJustinas Staugaitis
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Lithuanian Christian Democratic Party Priest, Sejny Priest Seminary 1866-10-14 in Tupikai village, Šakiai district 1943-07-08 in Telšiai, Lithuania
Aleksandras Stulginskis (1885-1969).jpg Stulginskis, AleksandrasAleksandras Stulginskis
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Lithuanian Christian Democratic Party Agronomist, Kaunas Priest Seminary and University of Halle 1885-02-26 in Kutaliai village, Raseiniai district 1969-09-22 in Kaunas, Lithuania
Jurgis Saulys.jpg Šaulys, JurgisJurgis Šaulys
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Nonpartisan Financier, University of Bern 1879-05-05 in Balsėnai village, Tauragė district 1948-10-18 in Lugano, Switzerland
Kazimieras Steponas Saulys.jpg Šaulys, Kazimieras SteponasKazimieras Steponas Šaulys
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Lithuanian Christian Democratic Party Priest, Vilnius Priest Seminary and St. Petersburg Priest Academy 1872-01-28 in Stempliai village, Tauragė district 1964-05-09 in Lugano, Switzerland
Jokubas Sernas.jpg Šernas, JokūbasJokūbas Šernas
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Nonpartisan Lawyer, University of St. Petersburg 1888-06-14 in Jasiškiai village, Biržai district 1926-07-31 in Kaunas, Lithuania
Jonas Vailokaitis.jpg Vailokaitis, JonasJonas Vailokaitis
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Lithuanian Christian Democratic Party Financier, St. Petersburg Institute of Commerce and Industry 1886-06-25 in Pikžirniai village, Šakiai district 1944-12-16 in Blankenburg, Germany
Jonas Vileišis.jpg Vileišis, JonasJonas Vileišis
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Lithuanian Popular Socialist Democratic Party Lawyer, University of St. Petersburg 1872-01-03 in Mediniai village, Biržai district 1942-06-01 in Kaunas, Lithuania

Personal and professional backgrounds[edit]

Facsimile of the Act of February 16

The signatories had come from a variety of social backgrounds; of the twenty signatories four had been born to Lithuanian noble families: Donatas Malinauskas, Stanisław Narutowicz, Jonas Smilgevičius, and Mykolas Biržiška; the other 16 were the children of farmers.[2] The eldest of the signatories was Jonas Basanavičius, who was 67 at the time, and the youngest Kazimieras Bizauskas, who was 25. Of the remainder, three were in their fifties, six were in their forties, eight were in their thirties, and one was in his twenties.[2] With the exception of Saliamonas Banaitis, all held degrees in higher education. In 1926 he enrolled at Kaunas University, but his studies were left unfinished due to his death in 1933.[2] In terms of educational background, the Council was dominated by eight lawyers.[3] The group also included four priests, two agronomists, two financiers, one physician, one economist, and an engineer.[2] The majority of the signatories had received their higher education outside of Lithuania, since at the time Lithuania had no universities - Vilnius University was closed after the January Uprising in 1863. Many of the signatories had studied at the University of Moscow and the University of St. Petersburg.

By faith, nineteen of the signatories were Roman Catholics, although Jonas Basanavičius was not practicing; Jokūbas Šernas was the only professed Protestant Reformer.[2] At the time of the Act of Independence, six of the signatories were officially nonpartisan, seven were members of the conservative Lithuanian Christian Democratic Party, two were affiliated with the Lithuanian National Union and the Social Democratic Party, and Jonas Vileišis was affiliated with the Party of National Progress and the left-wing Lithuanian Popular Socialist Democratic Party.[3]

Activities before the Act of Independence[edit]

The signatories had all been active in Lithuania's independence movement. Antanas Smetona, Donatas Malinauskas, and several others had participated in secret Lithuanian fellowships in the late 19th and early 20th centuries; these groups were involved in promoting the illegal distribution of materials printed in the Lithuanian language, banned by the Tsarist government from 1866 to 1904, as well as fighting other attempts at Russification by the authorities. Antanas Smetona, Steponas Kairys, Alfonsas Petrulis, and Mykolas Biržiška were expelled for these activities from their secondary schools.[2] Jonas Basanavičius, the future chairman of the Council of Lithuania when the Act was signed, worked as a physician for a long time in Bulgaria. Despite the demands of his medical work abroad, he contributed continuously to Lithuanian affairs. He organized the publication of a major underground newspaper, Aušra; its first issue appeared in 1883. Basanavičius was active in Bulgaria's political life as well, representing its Democratic party. Basanavičius has been described as a pioneer of public health in Bulgaria.[7] Many of the future signatories participated in the Great Seimas of Vilnius, which in 1905 shaped the political future of the Lithuania state.

Activities after the Act of Independence[edit]

Signator Aleksandras Stulginskis (center) as President of Lithuania in Kaunas' agricultural exhibition, 1924

Most of the signatories of the Act remained active in the cultural and political life of independent Lithuania. Jonas Vileišis served in the Lithuanian Parliament and as mayor of Kaunas;[8] Saliamonas Banaitis was involved in finance, opening several banks.[9] Among the signatories were two future Presidents of Lithuania, Antanas Smetona and Aleksandras Stulginskis. Jonas Basanavičius returned to an academic life, pursuing his researches in Lithuanian culture and folklore.[10] Five signatories died before World War II began; three died during the Nazi occupation of Lithuania. Those who did not emigrate to Western countries were arrested as political prisoners after Lithuania was occupied by the Soviet Union during World War II.[2]

Aleksandras Stulginskis and Petras Klimas were sent to prison in Siberia by Soviet authorities, but survived and returned to Lithuania;[2] Pranas Dovydaitis and Vladas Mironas were also sent to Siberia but died there.[11][12] Kazys Bizauskas was shot along with a number of other prisoners on June 26, 1941 while being transported to a Soviet prison in Minsk.[13] Donatas Malinauskas, along with many other civilians, was deported to Siberia and died there on November 30, 1942; his body was returned from Siberia in 1993 and reburied in Lithuania.[5] Six of the surviving signatories went into exile. Brothers Jurgis Šaulys and Kazimieras Steponas Šaulys died in Switzerland; Jonas Vailokaitis died in Germany; Antanas Smetona, Mykolas Biržiška and Steponas Kairys died in the United States.[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Eidintas, Alfonsas; Vytautas Žalys, Alfred Erich Senn (September 1999). "Chapter 1: Restoration of the State". In Ed. Edvardas Tuskenis. Lithuania in European Politics: The Years of the First Republic, 1918-1940 (Paperback ed.). New York: St. Martin's Press. pp. 24–31. ISBN 0-312-22458-3. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i (Lithuanian) "Vasario 16-osios Akto signatarai". Sigitas Jegelavičius. Archived from the original on 2007-01-28. Retrieved 2007-06-27. 
  3. ^ a b c (Lithuanian) Šenavičius, Antanas (1999). "Lietuvos nepriklausomybės atkūrimo akto teisinė prigimtis ir konstitucinė reikšmė". Istorija xl 40: 23–26. ISSN 1392-0456. 
  4. ^ a b c (Lithuanian) Banevičius, Algirdas (1991). 111 Lietuvos valstybės 1918-1940 politikos veikėjų. Vilnius: Knyga. pp. 39–153. ISBN 5-89942-585-7. 
  5. ^ a b (Lithuanian) 1918 m. vasario 16 d. Nepriklausomybės akto signatarai. Kaunas: Kauno apskrities viešoji biblioteka. 1998. Retrieved 2007-06-25. 
  6. ^ (Lithuanian) "Vladas Mironas". Seimas. 2005-07-22. Retrieved 2007-06-26. 
  7. ^ Valančiūtė, Janina (2002). "Didi humanitaras ir didis daktaras, tarnavęs Eskulapui ir Lietuvai". Medicina 38: 103. ISSN 1010-660X. 
  8. ^ Simas Sužiedėlis, ed. (1970–1978). "Viliešis, Jonas". Encyclopedia Lituanica VI. Boston, Massachusetts: Juozas Kapočius. pp. 124–125. LCC 74-114275. 
  9. ^ Simas Sužiedėlis, ed. (1970–1978). "Banaitis, Saliamonas". Encyclopedia Lituanica I. Boston, Massachusetts: Juozas Kapočius. p. 282. LCC 74-114275. 
  10. ^ Simas Sužiedėlis, ed. (1970–1978). "Basanavičius, Jonas". Encyclopedia Lituanica I. Boston, Massachusetts: Juozas Kapočius. pp. 307–310. LCC 74-114275. 
  11. ^ Simas Sužiedėlis, ed. (1970–1978). "Dovydaitis, Pranas". Encyclopedia Lituanica II. Boston, Massachusetts: Juozas Kapočius. pp. 101–103. LCC 74-114275. 
  12. ^ Simas Sužiedėlis, ed. (1970–1978). "Mironas, Vladas". Encyclopedia Lituanica III. Boston, Massachusetts: Juozas Kapočius. pp. 545–546. LCC 74-114275. 
  13. ^ (Lithuanian) "Kazys Bizauskas". Seimas. 2006-02-23. Retrieved 2007-08-18.