Gediminas Ilgūnas Collection
Gediminas Ilgūnas was a well-known Lithuanian writer, journalist, ethnographer and traveller. In the 1950s, he was accused of anti-Soviet activity and imprisoned. On being released from prison, he and his close friends started to organise ethnographic expeditions, collecting material about important personalities in Lithuanian national history. The collection holds various manuscripts, including documents relating to his activities in the Sąjūdis movement and his political activities as a member of the Supreme Council, short memories about the Stalinist period, and material collected for a biography of Vincas Pietaris. The collection shows the actions of a Soviet-period cultural activist who tried to collect and preserve Lithuania's past culture.
10102 Vilnius O. Milašiaus gatvė 19 , Lithuania
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Name of collection
- Gediminas Ilgūnas Collection
Provenance and cultural activities
The Gediminas Ilgūnas collection holds documents relating to Ilgūnas' very different activities as a journalist, writer, ethnographer and traveller. (His name was Stanislovas Gediminas Ilgūnas, but he chose to be called by his middle name.) In 1953, he was arrested, charged and imprisoned for anti-Soviet activities, and for maintaining contact with partisans. Ilgūnas was released from prison in 1957. He soon started to organise ethnographic expeditions in Soviet Lithuania with close friends, and to collect material about important personalities in Lithuanian national history. Based on the material he collected, he wrote books about the geologist Jonas Čerskis and Vincas Pietaris (1850–1902), the author of the first historical novel in the Lithuanian language. Pietaris' novel Algimantas glorified Lithuania's past (it was published for the first time in 1904–1906), although the novel and its author were practically unknown in Soviet Lithuania. Ilgūnas started to work on the biography of Pietaris in about 1980. He travelled twice to Russia, where Pietaris had lived and died. His biography of Pietaris was published in 1987 during Gorbachev's perestroika.
Untill the end of the 1980s, Ilgūnas focused on cultural actvism. But in 1988, he initiated a Sąjūdis movement group in Jonava, his native town. He was very active as a member, and was elected to the Supreme Council, which proclaimed Lithuania's independence. He made a political career in the independent Republic of Lithuania, as a director of the Archive Department and chairman of the Board of Lithuanian Television and Radio, and as an advisor to President Algirdas Brazauskas. He wrote several books.
The Gediminas Ilgūnas collection was founded in 1988. Ilgūnas himself presented nine units of materials to the archive. Among them is the manuscript of his biography of Vincas Pietaris. Lithuania was still formally a Soviet republic, but society and some state institutions were changing dramatically. Sąjūdis groups were very active in most state institutions, especially those involved in cultural policy. Because of the changing situation, Ilgūnas decided to present his collection to the state archive. From 1992 to 2008, he presented various personal documents, manuscripts and letters to the archive several times. The collection grew substantially. It now has 266 files.
The collection illustrates very well the dramatic shifts in the life of a Lithuanian national activist: starting as a political dissident and supporter of the guerrilla war in the Stalinist period, to being a cultural activist, historical collector, and ethnographer during the post-Stalinist period, and lastly as a political activist during the period of liberalisation under perestroika.
Description of content
The Gediminas Ilgūnas collection (F475) has 266 accounting units. It holds the manuscript of his biography of Vincas Pietaris, and various material relating to Pietaris and copies of articles. It also holds manuscripts of other books written by Ilgūnas, about the history of Sąjūdis in the town of Jonava, and biographies of Kazys Grinius (a president in the interwar Republic of Lithuania) and Steponas Kairys (an active member of the Lithuanian Social Democratic Party and signatory to the Act of Independence). It contains drafts of reports which Ilgūnas presented at various conferences, personal documents of short memories about the Stalinist period, documents relating to his activities in the Sąjūdis movement and his political activities as a member of the Supreme Council and director of the Archive Department, correspondence with various people, such as relatives who emigrated from Lithuania in 1944, and photographs of Ilgūnas, his close friends, and ethnographic trips in Lithuania and Russia. (One photograph is of a trip with relatives to Ustiuznaya in Russia, where Pietaris is buried.)
The material in the collection shows not only Ilgūnas' creative personality and his political activism. It also shows the aims of a Soviet-period cultural activist who tried to collect and preserve items relating to Lithuania's past and culture. The materials relating to his biography of Pietaris are probably the most valuable documents. Ilgūnas started to collect them in 1980.
- manuscripts (ego-documents, diaries, notes, letters, drafts, etc.): 100-499
Stakeholder(s) of the collection
Date of founding
Place of founding
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Creator(s) of content
Important events in the history of the collection
- completely open to the public
Author(s) of this page
- Sirutavičius, Vladas
Ilgūnas, Gediminas. Vincas Pietaris. In Lithuanian. Vilnius: Mokslas, 1987. Book
Ilgūnas, Gediminas. Sąjūdis Jonavoje [Sąjūdis in Jonava] 1988 – 1990. In Lithuanian. Kaunas: Aušra, 2004. Book
Dimbelytė - Mchichou, Jolita , interview by Sirutavičius, Vladas , January 25, 2017. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection