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Booksmugglers: Petras Kriauciunas



Petras KriauciunasPetras KRIAUClUNAS, (1850-1916), educator, active participant in the renaissance of Lithuanian nationalism, born in Papeckiai, county of Vilkaviskis, on Sept. 16, 1850. He studied at the Theological Seminary of Seinai and at the Theological Academy of St. Petersburg, Russia, graduating in 1880 with a candidate's degree in theology, but he did not enter the priesthood. In 1881 he gained a teaching diploma in classical languages from the University of Warsaw and was appointed a teacher at a high school (gymnasium} in Marijampole. He taught Latin, Greek, German, and Lithuanian. Although Lithuanian language classes were not mandatory, he attracted many students with his lectures on Lithuanian culture and by his patriotism. From among the 80 of his
more notable students, about 30 were eventually members of the parliament of independent Lithuania, ministers of government, and university professors.
Due to his patriotic activity, plus support and circulation of the banned Lithuanian press, in 1887 he was dismissed from his high school teaching position. During 1889-1899 he was a judge in Ploksciai, where he cared for the ailing writer Vincas Kudirka. Kriauciunas kept in close touch with other Lithuanian activists and with foreigners who were interested in the Lithuanian nation, its language and culture. In Ploksciai his residence was frequented by the Russian philologist Aleksander I. Aleksandrov, the Polish linguist Jan N. Baudouin de Courtenay, the Danish writer Aage Benedictsen, the Finnish ethnologist Aukusti Niemi, and the Finnish linguist Josepi Mikkola and his wife
Maila Talvio, a Finnish writer. In defense of the Lithuanian press prohibited from publication at that time in Latin letters, Kriauciunas read a lecture in 1895 to the philologists' society at the University of St. Petersburg, demonstrating that the Russian Cyrillic alphabet was not suited to the Lithuanian language. He argued that it did not contain enough characters to encompass the phonetics of Lithuanian. In addition, on the question of the ban of the Lithuanian press, he presented a lengthy paper to the Warsaw Board of Education which governed southern Lithuania. Because of further patriotic activity, Kriauciunas was forced to withdraw from his judgeship in 1899. During 1900-1905 he practiced law in Marijampole, while from 1906 he resumed his high school teaching in that same city. At the outbreak of World War I his school was evacuated in 1915 to Yaroslavl', Russia, where he died on January 20, 1916.
Kriauciunas was a man of great erudition. He could speak and write eight languages, was an expert on the Lithuanian language, and possessed an extensive philological library. Nevertheless, in the footsteps of his former teacher, philologist Kazimieras Jaunius, Kriauciunas had a disdain for writing. He collected Lithuanian folklore and contributed material to the dictionary of Antanas Juska. He intended to compile his own dictionary and grammar of the Lithuanian language, but the works were never realized. Thus his literary legacy if not extensive: a Latin grammar written in Russian, poetry and prose
translations from various languages, several papers on the Lithuanian language, and some articles of a patriotic content. Kriauciunas' major Contribution was his great influence on the Lithuanian youth of his time by way of his imposing personality and spoken word.