Project “16 Days of Gratitude”: day 15

Day 15. Lithuanian steps at Kyiv University

Let us stay here a little bit longer – it turns out that Maironis was not the only Lithuanian who studied at the University of St. Vladimir in Kyiv. And today we will remember two more. Vincas Krėvė-Mickevičius (1882–1954), a future novelist, dramatist, classic of Lithuanian literature, professor, and politician, was the first to come to Kyiv to study. Being 22 years old, he understood that priesthood was not his profession and chose the history and philology faculty of the University in Kyiv, which he entered in 1904. It was in Kyiv that he wrote his first short story “Miglos”. However, next year he was forced to continue his studies in Lviv, because in 1905, the Kyiv University was closed due to the revolutionary events. In Lviv, he received a diploma of philologist, but returned to Kyiv in 1908, where he defended the work “Indo-European Ancestry” with a gold medal. The university offered him to stay to prepare for the professorship, but he refused. He returned to the university for the third time in 1913, to defend his master’s thesis in linguistics on the origin of the names Buddha and Pratjekabudda. This was the last time he visited Kyiv, because soon the First World War began and new challenges called him to other activities.

Under the conditions of the First World War, in 1918, Antanas Merkys (1887–1955), a military and statesman, a Minister of Defense of Lithuania, an acting head of the Government of Lithuania, as well as the mayor of Kaunas (1933–1939) had to finish his studies at the Faculty of Law of Kyiv University as an external student in 1918. During the First World War, he served in the Russian tsarist army on the Romanian front, where he got acquainted with the Ukrainian national movement, and witnessed the Ukrainization of military units of the Russian army. It is quite possible that, being already familiar with Ukrainians, he actively supported the policy of the President Antanas Smetona to cooperate with the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), whose leader – Yevgeny Konovalets – was issued a passport of a citizen of Lithuania. This passport was kept in the Museum of the Ukrainian Revolution of 1917–1921, which we will visit tomorrow (today, it is hidden because of the war). Unfortunately, Antanas Merkys, like the leaders of the Ukrainian national movement, had a difficult fate under the conditions of the Soviet occupation. In 1940, he was arrested and taken to Russia, where he spent many years in prison and died.

In modern times, Kyiv University’s connection with Lithuania is quite extensive. In 1994, the President of Lithuania, Algirdas Brazauskas, was awarded the honorary doctorate degree. Also, many outstanding Lithuanian scientists have been and, we hope, will be frequent guests of conferences and round tables, will give lectures, present books, and walk around Kyiv.

Dr. Ruslana Martseniuk

Photos by dr. Ruslana Martseniuk and prof. dr. Jonas Vaičenonis

Project “16 Days of Gratitude”: day 14