Laying the Groundwork for Lithuania’s Independence

Sąjūdžio žinios: lietuvos persitvarkymo Sąjūdžio leidinys [News of the Movement: journal of the Lithuanian Restructuring Movement], nos. 18–89 in 72 fascicles.

Vilnius: self-published, 1988–1989. Single folded sheets, some with an additional inserted leaf; 4–6 pp. per issue. Mimeographed, computer-printed, and xeroxed text and illustrations on paper of varying stock. Very good.

A consecutive run, lacking only the first seventeen issues, of the important Lithuanian anti-communist opposition bulletin, published illegally as a samizdat, and the first widely disseminated periodical not subjected to censorship after many years. It resulted from the first congress of the Sąjūdis-movement, fully known as the Lithuanian Restructuring Movement (or just “The Movement”), an independent citizen’s movement that sought to implement Glasnost and democracy in Lithuania, bring autonomy and sovereignty to the Lithuanian SSR, and to eliminate all traces of Stalinism. The group specifally used the term "occupation" regarding the Soviet presence in Lithuania and the journal contained the first parts in print of the "Secret Protocol" of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which further invalidated the Lithuanian Communist Party in the eyes of the public. Hastily compiled and crudely printed on paper of varying stock, the bulletin’s impact on the peaceful liberation of Lithuania from the Kremlin’s influence cannot be overestimated.

The first issue appeared on June 13, 1988 and the last “true” (illegal) issue was printed on September 16, 1989. Beginning with no. 90, which is here also included, the journal became official and legal, and its print runs rose. An additional 26 issues were published, although it did not have its former unique position in the public sphere anymore, as it now competed with other free newspapers. Aside from articles about current events and efforts that would culminate in Lithuania’s independence in 1991, the present issues contain caricatures, letters by readers, and poems. The double issue 86 is devoted to the Baltic Way, or Baltic Chain, a mass demonstration in August 1989.

According to our source, original copies of the first twenty or so issues are of utmost rarity: they were published in 150–200 copies each and read to pieces or pasted in public settings; outside of Vilnius, they were often re-copied in order to facilitate wider distribution, often with other titles thus creating dozens of separate periodicals in the provinces. Many issues were printed by an underground printer at the Physics Institute in Vilnius. It has also been asserted, that the distribution of Sąjūdis was enabled by bribes to certain KGB officers, who turned a blind eye.

Issues are held at four Lithuanian libraries, but only the collection of the National Library is comparable to the present group in terms of completeness. As of January 2022, KVK, OCLC show three holdings in North America.

Book ID: 51780