The Art of Identity and Memory: Toward a Cultural History of the Two World Wars in Lithuania

The Art of Identity and Memory: Toward a Cultural History of the Two World Wars in Lithuania


Edited by Giedrė Jankevičiūtė & Rasutė Žukienė
with a preface by Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius

Series: Lithuanian Studies without Borders
ISBN:  9781618115072 (hardcover)
Pages: 326 pp.; 125 illus.
Publication Date: August 2016

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This evocative and wide-ranging set of articles is a forceful demonstration of how much the experience of East-Central and Eastern Europe, largely neglected until now, needs to be integrated into evolving scholarship on the era of the world wars. The collection diagnoses the challenge of achieving an enlarged historical and artistic perspective, and then goes on to meet it. Themes that are universal (exile, loss, trauma, survival, memory) and the undying subjects of art and artistic efforts at representation, here find specific expression. The case of Lithuania and its diverse populations is revealed in its full significance for a modern European history of the impact of the age of the world wars.

Giedrė Jankevičiūtė is a senior researcher at the Art History and Visual Culture Department of the Lithuanian Culture Research Institute and teaches at the Vilnius Academy of Arts. Her current field of interest lies in artistic culture of occupied countries. Her monographs include Valstybė ir dailė: dailės gyvenimas Lietuvos Respublikoje 1918–1940 (Art and State: Art and Artistic Life in the Lithuanian Republic, 1918–1940, 2003) and The Graphic Arts in Lithuania 1918–1940 (2008). She has edited the catalogues Under the Red Star: Lithuanian Art in 1940–1941 (2011) and The Realities of Occupation: Posters in Lithuania during World War I and World War II (2014, with Laima Laučkaitė). She organized the international conference “Art and Artistic Life during Two World Wars” (Vilnius, 2011, with Laima Laučkaitė) and edited a collection of articles with the same title prepared on the basis of the presentations read at the conference (2012, with Laima Laučkaitė). Currently she is writing a monograph on Lithuanian art and artistic culture from 1939 to 1944 and compiling a book on the art historian Mikalojus Vorobjovas (Nikolai Worobiow, 1903–54), who was active in Lithuania in the mid-twentieth century.

Rasutė Žukienė has been teaching at the Department of Art History and Criticism of Vytautas Magnus University (Lithuania) since 1991. Her research interests include the works of the Lithuanian symbolist artist and composer Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis (1875–1911), twentieth-century modernist art of Lithuania, and the art by Lithuanian émigrés in Europe and North America. She has published several academic monographs, among them Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis tarp simbolizmo ir modernizmo (Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis between Symbolism and Modernism, 2004) and Akistatos: Dailininkas Vytautas Kazimieras Jonynas pasaulio meno keliuose (Encounters: Artist Vytautas Kazimieras Jonynas on the Roads of World Art, 2007). In her studies of the heritage of V. K. Jonynas over the last several years, Žukienė has been exploring the work of displaced persons—Lithuanian émigré artists—in postwar Germany (1945–50) and the transformations of their work after they moved to other continents.

Table of Contents

Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius

Giedrė Jankevičiūtė and Rasutė Žukienė

Chapter 1: The Art of Walking in Wartime Wilna
Laimonas Briedis

Chapter 2: Jewish Vilnius in the Works of German Artists
Laima Laučkaitė-Surgailienė

Chapter 3: The Diaries of Death
Agnė Narušytė

Chapter 4: Art as a Narrative of Everyday Life in Lithuania during World War II
Giedrė Jankevičiūtė

Chapter 5: Trying to Survive: The Activity of Exiled Baltic Artists in Germany in 1945–1950
Rasa Žukienė

Chapter 6: The Memory and Representation of World War I in Lithuania
Rasa Antanavičiūtė

Chapter 7: The Limits of the Blockade Archive
Natalija Arlauskaitė

Chapter 8: Constructing Blocks of Memory: Post-Holocaust Narratives of Jewish Vilna
Larisa Lempertienė

Chapter 9: World War II Memory and Narratives in the Music of the Lithuanian Diaspora and Soviet Lithuania
Rūta Stanevičiūtė

List of Illustrations


As the art historians Giedrė Jankevičiūtė and Rasutė Žukienė note in their foreword to this volume, Lithuania in the two world wars has been studied extensively by military, political, and social historians but has been given little attention by researchers of culture and art. With this selection of modern Lithuanian scholarship from an impressive array of disciplines, Jankevičiūtė and Žukienė have taken a welcome step toward correcting that omission. They have composed a collection of interest to a readership beyond that of students of modern Baltic history; the articles engage equally with film and music theory, memory studies, and narrative theory.
— Michelle R. Viise, Harvard University, Slavic Review Vol. 77, No. 3
We are glad that Lithuanian scholars, who have been reproached for lacking international reach time and again, have gained yet another solid platform for sharing their research with the world. We can only hope that the promising beginning to this series will turn it into a successful long-term project, which not only opens the door to the poorly known world of Lithuanian studies but also encourages researchers in Lithuania to advance their work. It seems that advancement will certainly be necessary for further publications, as the bar has been set quite high with this book.
— Arūnas Streikus (Vilnius University) in Knygų aidai, 2016 no. 4
The Art of Identity and Memory provides rich and rare material on how Europe’s twentieth century was shaped by war. If the political and military history of Europe’s eastern frontiers have been extensively chronicled and analyzed, it is only in recent years that local scholars with access to archives and equipped with the requisite linguistic and critical skills have begun to unlock the cultural history of those regions that witnessed the most intense devastation. The publication of this book testifies to the emergence of a new generation of world-class scholars from the region, who are busily filling in the blank spaces of national historiographies with genuinely transnational approaches to the past.
— Violeta Davoliute, Joseph P. Kazickas Associate Research Scholar, Yale University, Senior Researcher, Faculty of History, Vilnius University
After the devastations of World War II, the multicultural past of Vilnius and of Lithuania as a whole seemed to disappear behind the Iron Curtain. But this past is not dead; it is rediscovered and remembered, as the contributions to The Art of Identity and Memory impressively show. Through the prism of the visual arts and music, they unpack a tension between fascination with the region’s cultural history and grief for the losses incurred during the decades of extremes. With its focus on everyday life during wartime, Jewish culture and the Shoah, and Soviet war narratives, the book connects Lithuania to larger debates about the world wars and provides new insights into transnational entanglements.
— Joerg Hackmann, Alfred Döblin Professor of East European History. University of Szczecin
This collection of articles is an impressive contribution to the field and a first step toward a Lithuanian cultural history during the two world wars. A wide range of topics is covered: German soldiers strolling through Vilnius in 1916, documentary films of the occupation in WWII, arts and music during war and after, and Jewish remembrance. Even the cultural activities of the Baltic exile community are included. A variety of images help the reader understand the paintings, photographs, book covers, and maps discussed in the articles. These studies represent the first in-depth research into a much-neglected theme and add an illuminating Lithuanian perspective to other national experiences.
— Joachim Tauber, Professor of European History, University of Hamburg
The Art of Identity and Memory is an impressive collection. Set in the cross-disciplinary context of artistic analysis, history, and memory and regional studies, the nine contributors succeed in presenting a highly informative, rich, and reliable study. By examining major topics in the cultural histories of various facets of Lithuanian life during and between the two world wars, new and interesting questions have been asked and addressed. As a result, this pioneering richly documented volume successfully and respectfully refines and challenges previous scholarship. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to all those interested in Lithuanian history, cultural studies, and East European Jewish history.
— Mordechai Zalkin, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev