Imperial Past of Ancient Lithuania in the Historical Memory of the Modern Independent Lithuania
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The paper is an inquiry into the origins and impact on the historical culture of modern Lithuania of the view of GDL as an empire. The inventor or discoverer of the GDL as empire was a Lithuanian geographer and geopolitician Kazys Pakštas (1893–1960), who provided seminal imperiological analysis of the ancient Lithuanian polity in his book Political Geography of Baltic Republics (1929). This work was probably the main source of inspiration for the Antanas Smetona (1874–1944), who was Lithuanian President in the years 1926–1940. He repeatedly designated GDL as an empire in his speeches, starting with the celebration of the 500th death anniversary of Vytautas Magnus in 1930. An important exponent of this idea was Vytautas Alantas (1902–1990), who served as editor-in-chief of a semi-official newspaper “Lietuvos Aidas” in 1934–1939 and contributed to the discourse on GDL as an empire in the Lithuanian diaspora. Because of ideological reasons, the subject of ancient Lithuanian imperialism was avoided by Lithuanian historians in the Soviet era. In the post-communist times, Gintaras Beresnevičius (1961–2006) resurrected and popularized the idea of GDL as an empire to legitimize the Eastern strategy of the foreign policy of the contemporary Lithuanian state and to mythologize the challenges of the Lithuanian membership in the European Union. Because of the mainstream historiography’s commitment to hermeneutic methodology (historism), Lithuanian academic historiography in the interwar period remained cautious about the very idea of GDL as an empire.
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