In 1972, Catholic dissidents in Lithuania began publishing The Chronicle of the Catholic Church of Lithuania.   The Chronicle reported on human rights violations, particularly related to Catholic believers, in Soviet Lithuania.  It was modeled on The Chronicle of Current Events, a human rights report published by dissidents in Moscow.  They were both examples of samizdat — underground and dissident publications (the Russian word means “self-published”).  The Catholic Chronicle was passed from person to person within Lithuania and smuggled out to the West.

Last Friday afternoon, the archivist in the reading room suggested that I look at some files that had been requested by a Lithuanian student earlier in the day before they were returned to storage.  There were three sets of files on three people who had been charged with anti-Soviet activities in the early 1970s and sent to psychiatric hospitals.  Even though these files weren’t specifically related to my research topic, I looked through them to get a better sense of the context of the times and how Soviet authorities dealt with activities labeled as anti-Soviet.

As I was looking through the files, I came across a small hard-back book titled History of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic textbook for 7th and 8th graders.  When I opened the book, I discovered that the pages had been cut out and replaced with a typed copy of an issue of The Chronicle of the Catholic Church of Lithuania!  I was so excited to actually see a real example of how the Chronicle was distributed during the Soviet period.  I have to think that someone with a sense of humor put a Catholic dissident publication into a Soviet history textbook.  This was one of those moments that make it worth spending so much time slogging away in the archives.

The book cover -- History of the Lithuanian SSR

The book cover -- History of the Lithuanian SSR

The Catholic Chroncile inside

The Catholic Chronicle inside

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