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Booksmugglers: Jurgis Bielinis



Jurgis BIELINIS, (1846-1918), a booksmuggler during the years of the Tsarist ban on Lithuanian publications, born in Purviskiai, county of Birzai on March 16, 1846. He completed a German elementary school in Riga, Latvia. In 1873 he became an active participant in the struggle against the Tsarist regime and the landowning class; especially important were his efforts in behalf of the clandestine Lithuanian press. When the Russians issued a ban on the Lithuanian press in 1864, some Lithuanians began
to publish books and periodicals in Lithuania Minor (East Prussia) and smuggle them across the German-Russian frontier in Lithuania. Bielinis was one of the principal organizers and distributors of the contraband; he was know as the king of the booksmugglers. At first he collaborated with Motiejus Valancius, Bishop of samogitia. who was the first to publish Lithuanian books in Tilze (Tisit), East Prussia; later he worked independently. From 1885 until the ban was repealed in 1904 Bielinis operated a secret distribution center in the hamlet of Garsviai, near Vadakteliai in the County of Panevezys. He once said: “I will nor die until the Muscovites leave Lithuania.” The remark proved to be prophetic: he died on his way to Vilnius on January 18, 1918, just a month prior to Lithuania’s formal declaration of independence. He also wrote agitational political pamphlets.