Viktoras Petkus Collection
The collection consists of material about violations of the rights of national minorities and deportees, and people persecuted for anti-Soviet activities, as well as documents about samizdat publications and the persecution of believers.
Lithuania, Vilnius, LT-01114, Pamėnkalnio g. 34
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Name of collection
Collection of Vytautas Petkus
Provenance and cultural activities
Viktoras Petkus was an expert in religious art. He published several books. He collaborated with the underground Catholic opposition and the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania. He was arrested several times, and spent about 25 years in prison. He was arrested for the first time in 1947, and was deported to Siberia. Petkus was persecuted continually by the Soviet regime, and had problems finding a permanent job.
The Viktoras Petkus (1928–2012) collection shows various documents relating to the activities of the Lithuanian Helsinki Group, and the protection of human rights during the late Soviet period. The collection was started in 1976. The dissident Viktoras Petkus kept Helsinki Group documents secretly. In 2010, he decided to give the collection to the museum, because of his good personal relations with Birutė Vagrienė, the director of the museum. Vagrienė organised several conferences and meetings on the subject of the dissident movement in Lithuania and the former Soviet Union.
The Lithuanian Helsinki Group (full name: The Public Group to Promote the Implementation of the Helsinki Accords in Lithuania) was a dissident organisation that was active in Soviet Lithuania from 1976 to 1981. The group was founded by five dissidents: the Jesuit priest Karolis Garuckas, the Jewish ‘refusenik’ Eitanas Finkelšteinas, the poet and deportee Ona Lukauskaitė-Poškienė, the Catholic dissident Viktoras Petkus, and the poet Tomas Venclova, the son of Antanas Venclova, a prominent Soviet Lithuanian writer. The formation of the Lithuanian Helsinki Group was formally announced to foreign journalists in a press conference in Moscow in 1976. The group did not have a formal structure or a defined leader, although Viktoras Petkus was its unofficial leader and its driving force.
The group was established in order to monitor the implementation of the Helsinki Accords. It was the first human rights organisation in Lithuania. The group published over 30 documents, which exposed religious repression, limitations on freedom of movement, the political abuse of psychiatry, discrimination against minorities, the persecution of human rights activists, and other violations of human rights in Soviet Lithuania and the Soviet Union. Most of the documents reached the West. Members of the group were persecuted by the Soviet authorities. Its activities diminished after it lost members due to death, emigration or imprisonment, although it was never formally disbanded. Some of the group's functions were taken over by the Catholic Committee for the Defense of the Rights of Believers.
Description of content
The collection contains documents from Petkus’ correspondence with other activists in human rights movements in the Soviet Union (Ukraine, Georgia), and the declaration of the Lithuanian Helsinki Group. Other documents cover the activities of the Helsinki Group, personal material, manuscripts and letters.
The collection contains the following types of documents: manuscripts, letters, photographs, drafts by members of the Helsinki Group, and its correspondence with other Helsinki groups in the Soviet Union (Ukraine, Georgia). Most of the documents which cover the activities of the Lithuanian Helsinki group are copies. By 1981, the group had published about 30 documents, which exposed religious repression, limitations on freedom of movement, the political abuse of psychiatry, discrimination against minorities, the persecution of human rights activists, and other violations of human rights in Lithuania and the Soviet Union. About 20 of them reached Western countries, and were noticed by human rights organisations.
- manuscripts (ego-documents, diaries, notes, letters, drafts, etc.): 10-99
- photos: unknown quantity
Stakeholder(s) of the collection
Geographical scope of recent operation
Date of founding
Place of founding
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Creator(s) of content
Important events in the history of the collection
- parts are closed to the public
- Petkus, Viktoras, Živilė Račkauskaitė, and Mindaugas Uoka. Lietuvos Helsinkio Grupė: Dokumentai, atsiminimai, laiškai [Lithuanian Helsinki Group. Documents, memoirs, letters], in Lithuanian, Vilnius: Lietuvos gyvetojų genocido ir rezistencijos tyrimo centras, 1999. Book
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Author(s) of this page
- Sirutavičius, Vladas
Juozėnaitė, Justina, interview by Ivanauskas, Vilius, Sirutavičius, Vladas , Grybkauskas, Saulius, May 13, 2016. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection