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 the Lithuanian newspapers Aušra and Varpas. Bielinis used the pseudonyms Bieliakas, and Jakulis, and is informally referred to as the King of Knygnešiai. It is estimated that during the thirty-one years when he was active, Bielinis and his organizations illegally brought about half of all Lithuanian books from East Prussia (Lithuania Minor) into the Lithuanian mainland during the entire press ban (1864–1904).
Bielinis graduated from a primary school in Riga in 1872. From 1873 Bielinis was involved in book-smuggling activities and cooperated with Motiejus Valančius. From 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. 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 the Garšviai knygnešiai society, the largest book smuggling organization at the time. Bielinis developed a newspaper subscription system and delivered newspapers and magazines to the subscribers. His organization also delivered forbidden Latvian books to Latvia. For his active participation in underground book smuggling, Bielinis was nicknamed as knygnešių karalius (The King of the Book Carriers).
Bielinis also published his own newspaper Baltasis erelis (for this purpose he bought a printing press from Martynas Jankus) and wrote several brochures on the history of Lithuania. He was among the first who spoke openly about Independent Lithuania. Bielinis died walking by foot to attend the Vilnius Conference. Bielinis's birthday is celebrated in Lithuania as the Day of Knygnešys. He is buried in Suostas' churchyard.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Jurgis Bielinis.|
- (in Lithuanian) Bielinis biography at Lithuanian writers encyclopedia