Welcome to my blog about living in Lithuania in 2009.  I am a Ph.D. student in the Department of History at the University of Washington.  I am studying Russian and East European history, with a specialization in Lithuanian history.  When I am not in Lithuania, I live in Seattle.

This blog is an opportunity to keep friends and family informed about my adventures in Lithuania as well as my progress completing my dissertation research.  Hopefully the adventures won’t impede the research!

About My Dissertation Topic

[Warning: an academic description of a dissertation about a tragic event]

A Death Transformed: The Political and Social Consequences of Romas Kalanta’s Self-Immolation in Soviet Lithuania, May 1972

On May 14, 1972, a nineteen-year old Lithuanian named Romas Kalanta set himself on fire in a public square in front of the Kaunas Opera house after reportedly shouting “freedom for Lithuania.”  His funeral, held privately by order of the KGB, was followed by two days of mass demonstrations, primarily by young people, in the center of town.  In 2002, on the 30th anniversary of his death, a monument to Kalanta was unveiled in Kaunas and the Lithuanian parliament declated May 14 a national memorial day called Civil Resistance Day.

What can the suicide of a young man over 35 years ago tell us about the implementation of, as well as acceptance of and resistance to, the Soviet project after World War II, about national identity formation in the late 20th century, and about youth protest movements in the late 1960s and early 1970s?  Using Kalanta’s self-immolation and the demonstrations that followed it as a starting point, my dissertation will analyze the ways in which popular protest, especially by youth, was manifested and conceptualized by Soviet authorities, Lithuanian and Russian dissidents, and Lithuanian emigres, among others.

Romas Kalanta (bottom left corner) and 1972 demonstrators

“]Lietuvos Žinios [Lithuanian News]

Lietuvos Žinios [Lithuanian News]