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Diaspora 2:1 1992 "God made me a Lithuanian": Nationalist Ideology and the Constructions of a North American Diaspora Marian J. Rubchak Valparaiso University Lithuanian Diaspora: from Königsberg to Chicago. Antanas J. Van Reenan. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1990. Americans first, but Lithuanians always. Editorial, The Marian The above epigram insists on the existence of two halves of a single identity—a timeless, unalterable Lithuanian selfand its complementary American half; it appeared in an editorial written in 1951 by a Lithuanian born in America. When a reader criticized this self-definition as "un-American," the author of the editorial replied: "You found it difficult to understand how I, who was born and raised in this glorious land ofours, can call myself a Lithuanian. There are many reasons. . . . First and foremost is the simple reason that God made me a Lithuanian."1 Almost 40 years later, Antanas J. Van Reenan refers to Lithuanian "universal first principles," the concept according to which Lithuania, like every other nation, is culturally distinctive and in harmony with the proposition that "God created nations as part of his divine plan" (12). This idea, inspired by German national ideologists like Herder, is the essence ofan ideology of Lithuanianness that was fully consolidated in Lithuania during the first decade of the twentieth century and provided the conceptual underpinnings for what was to become by the middle of the century —as Van Reenan puts it—a Lithuanian "diaspora mentality" (xv). The term refers to the mind-frame of a people with a powerful sense of the Lithuanianness of their own and future generations, who set out to resist assimilation into mainstream America. According to Van Reenan, the cradle of the national revival that culminated in the ideology of Lithuanianness was Königsberg. Founded by German colonists on the boundaries of Polish and Lithuanian territory, and renamed Kaliningrad by the Russians who seized it during the Second World War, Königsberg was the site ofthe university in which Kant taught, and where, in the eighteenth 117 Diaspora 2:1 1992 century, the first seminar devoted to the study of the Lithuanian language was held. Then and especially in the nineteenth century, international research in comparative linguistics advanced the claim that Lithuanian was the closest living relative of proto-IndoEuropean , the ancestral tongue from which all later Indo-European languages evolved. This rise of philological and linguistic interest was accompanied first by a growing fascination with Lithuanian folk culture and then by greater academic interest in all things Lithuanian , in both Europe and imperial Russia. This scholarly concern, coupled with Lithuanian reaction to Russification and Polonization ,2 prefigured the evolution ofa modern Lithuanian identity.3 An ideology of Lithuanianness, developed, as Van Reenan describes it, linked to yet distinct from the growth of a Lithuanian national consciousness . The ideology was predicated upon the preromantic and German romantic notion that each nation possesses a manifest destiny . The idea came to Lithuania indirectly; it first penetrated Russian thought, where thinkers like Petr Chadaaev and Vladimir Odoevsky used it to posit the concept of a Russian mission in world history. They argued that the only purpose for the existence of a country like Russia, which "ha[d] neither a history nor a memory," was its mission to save European civilization (Van Reenan 130). Building upon this idea, the Lithuanian cultural philosopher Stasys Salkauskis created a similar rationale for the Lithuanian people. Lithuanians, he alleged, had never created anything that the cultured world could value and must thereforejustify their existence as a people by pursuing their sacred mission of saving the western culture created by others. Salkauskis's student Antanas Maceina refined the theory by adding the observation that neither "East" nor "West" is complete in itself, and so the two are drawn to each other for fulfillment. Because Lithuania is geographically located in the middle, its people are naturally receptive to the value of both German (or western) and Slavic (or eastern) cultures, and are uniquely positioned to mediate between them; serving thereby the interests of the entire body ofwestern culture.4 This makes Lithuania "the area of spiritual exchange between East and West," raises its historical mission to the level...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1911-1568
Print ISSN
1044-2057
Pages
pp. 117-129
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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