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2017

HISTORY OF THE LITHUANIAN NATIONAL ANTHEM THAT CONSOLIDATES AND UNITES THE NATION


2017 02 14


On the 16th of February – the Day of Restoration of Lithuania‘s Independence in the streets of cities, towns and villages three-coloured flags flutter and the National Anthem sounds. Lyrics of the anthem – “Lithuania, our Motherland“ are often repeated but do we know the history of one of the three symbols of the state?

Vincas Kudrika (1858–1899) who was a physician, public man, poet, musician and wakened Lithuanian national self-awareness wrote the „National Anthem“ when the sunset of his life was close. Making efforts to fill the 1998 november-december edition of literature, politics and science monthly „Varpas“ (“The Bell“) he published the „National Anthem“ including the note: “melody and lyrics composed by V. K.“

The “National Anthem“ is the only choral piece composed by V. Kudirka. Composer Juozas Žilevičius says: “This piece is one of the most important and interesting from all Vincas Kudirka’s compositions and at the same time it is the most significant. If even he wouldn’t have written anything else, just only this piece, nevertheless his name would be alive in the nation’s lips as it is today. This composition crowns all his activity in the field of music”.

However V. Kudirka‘s contribution into the development of the Lithuanian music is much more extensive. From his young age having had a close contact with the songful Lithuanian folklore he started collecting it, cared to harmonize folk music. During his studies in Warsaw under the impact of Polish salon culture that fostered fine musical traditions V. Kudirka wrote several compositions for piano.

V. Kudirka himself has told predictively about his “National Anthem“: “I‘ve written the anthem for the Lithuanians“. However the history of our state‘s anthem is not so brief and simple as It might look at first glance.

At first verses of the poem “Sir Thaddeus“ written in Polish by Adam Mickiewicz: “O Lithuania, my Country, thou art like good health“ served as Lithuania‘s National Anthem. Author of the historical novel “Algimantas“ suggested to declare the King David‘s psalm “The Lord Almighty is with us“ as the National Anthem, meanwhile the nation was very fond of the religious anthem „Mary, Mary“ (the music to Maironis’ lyrics composed by Česlovas Sasnauskas). As well other verses by Maironis raising the nation‘s spirit and pride of its glorious past – “Where Šešupė is flowing“ (music by Č. Sasnauskas and A. Kačanauskas), “We will burst into a new song, brothers“ and “Dear Lithuania“ as well pretended to become the National Anthem. “Dear Lithuania“ served as unofficial anthem of Lithuania during the Soviet period when V. Kudirka‘s “National Anthem“ was banished.

However predictive words of V. Kudirka came true: for the first time “The National Anthem“ has been sung when its’ author was still alive – on November 13, 1899 in Petersburg, during the concert that was organised to support Lithuanian students. A year later the future President of Lithuania, the congenial and comrade of V. Kudirka – Kazys Grinius named this anthem the national anthem in the press. In 1905 the anthem was performed in the concert organised on the eve of the Great Seimas of Vilnius. In 1906 a special edition called „The Anthem of Lithuania“ was published in Riga.

Perhaps, we rarely do think about the fact that the National Anthem is an inseparable part of our everyday life. The first sounds that every morning can be heard on Lithuanian National Radio and Television and wake us for the new day is the “National Anthem“ performed by Kaunas State Choir. The record of the “National Anthem“ that has been made by Kaunas State Choir at once after the restoration of Independence in 1990 has become an indispensable attribute without which any solemn session of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania, other significant state and national events are inconceivable.

Though do we properly emote into the deepness and significance of lyrics every time when we sing the National Anthem? Foreigners often admire its’ beauty. On January 22, 1934 a famous journalist Marian Benerman in the Polish newspaper published in Vilnius writing about the Lithuanian anthem insisted that “its’ thought is so deep that it would be difficult to find something similar anywhere else...“

Celebrating the Restoration of Statehood Day let us listen more carefully to the encouragements of the „National Anthem“ to love our Motherland not only by words but as well by deeds... And let us sing it with pride!
 
Rimantas Klevečka