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Researching Traditional Culture

Ancient Baltic and Lithuanian customs and folklore were already mentioned in the chronicles of the past millennium. A great deal of reliable ethnographic information collected by foreign researchers (M. Stryjkowski, A.Gvagnini, J.Lasicki and others) appeared during the 16th to 17th centuries. However, a Lithuanian folk melody was only first published in 1634. In the mid 18th century, Europe underwent an intellectual rebellion against classicism which stressed national values. During this period, German romanticists took an interest in Lithuanian songs.

Nevertheless, purposeful activity began only in the 19th century. It took the form of collection and publication of folklore, and in particular, of songs. This work was undertaken by German, Polish, Russian and Lithuanian researchers. The first collection of Lithuanian folk songs, compiled by L.Rhesa of Koenigsburg University in 1825 contained 85 items. On the other side of the Nemunas river, S.Stanevicius, S.Daukantas and other graduates of Vilnius University published song and story collections. During the period of suppression of the Lithuanian press, the most important works, the song books of J.Juska, were printed outside of Lithuania from 1880-1900. They were based on 5624 songs and descriptions drawn from material collected by the author's brother, Vicar A. Juska, in the Veliuona region.

Various research societies began organizing activities at the turn of the century. J. Basanavicius, head of the Lithuanian Science Society founded in Vilnius in 1907, published works containing songs, many tales and mythological legends. Other collectors and publishers of songs included Finnish folklorist A.R.Niemi, priests A.Sabaliauskas, T.Brazys and others. At the turn of the century, phonographic cylinders came into use recording material. Ethnographic periodicals as well as single works dealing with folk song melodies (J.Ciurlionyte, T.Brazys) appeared during the period of the independent Lithuanian state. The Folklore Commission, founded in Kaunas in 1930, and later the Lithuanian Folklore Archive, became the center of folkloristic studies. As a result of these institutions' efforts, a wide cross section of the public was drawn into the collection of folklore.

This activity continued in the postwar years. After 1962, with the introduction of composite expeditions and publication of collected material by the Ethnographic Society, work proceeded at a rapid rate. Scientific research and the printing of song collections and other ethnographic material today is concentrated in Vilnius University, the Academy of Music, the Institute of Lithuanian History and the Institute of Lithuanian Literature and Folklore. Distinguished researchers of ancient Lithuanian folklore and mythology from the postwar period to the present include N.Velius, B.Dunduliene, A.Vysniauskaite, J.Ciurlionyte, Z.Slaviunas and others. Lithuanian scholars living abroad, including M.Gimbutiene, A.J.Greimas and J.Balys have also contributed to this work.



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Next: INSTITUTIONS AND ORGANIZATIONS Previous: The Rebirth of Folklore in New Forms

"LITHUANIAN ROOTS", Edited by Rytis Ambrazevicius


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Copyright ©, 1996 Lithuanian Folk Culture Centre.