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Booksmugglers: Martynas Jankus



Martynas Jankus, (?) , Jonas Sliupas. Photo from the archives of the Martynas Jankus Museum (Bitenai)MARTYNAS JANKUS, (1858-1946), journalist, "Patriarch of Lithuania Minor," born in Bitenai, county of Pagegiai (formerly Ragaine), on August 7, 1858. His youth coincided with an intensive Germanization campaign in Lithuania Minor, the Lithuanian-inhabited territories of East Prussia. Self-taught, he was particularly well versed in Lithuanian history and he formed an early determination to resist German encroachments and to fight for the right of his people. His Lithuanianism was strengthened by his acquaintance with J. Sauervein-Girenas in 1878. He contributed to the periodical Ausra (Dawn), herald of the Lithuanian national revival, and was its managing editor in 1884-1885.
Influenced by the Ausra movement and his visit to Lithuania, Jankus became an ardent advocate of the reunification of Lithuania Minor with the mainland. To propagate his ideas he acquired a little printing press in 1889 and published several periodicals, including Garsas (Sound), 1886-1887 and Sauletaka (Sunrise), 1900-1902, in which his verse and articles appeared. He also wrote and published many pamphlets, booklets, and calendars. They were of little literary value but useful in spreading the habit of reading in Lithuanian. He was one of the founders of the nationalist association Birute in 1885 and headed it in 1889-1892. Since 1890 he led the fight for the election of Lithuanian representatives to German parliaments. By 1914 he had been arrested nine times by the German authorities. During World War I he was deported to Russia with his family. In the Petrograd Lithuanian Convention in 1917 he expressed the will of the inhabitants of Lithuania Minor to merge with a restored State of Lithuania.
After the war Jankus devoted his efforts primarily to the recovery of the Klaipeda (Memel) area for Lithuania, a goal achieved in 1923. Retiring on a government pension in 1925, he settled in Bitenai, where he was honorary guardian of the historic mountain Rambynas. After Hitler's annexation of the Klaipeda area in 1939, he was compelled to move to Kaunas. During the German occupation of Lithuania (1941-1944) he was forbidden to make public speeches. In 1944 he was evacuated to Husum, Germany. He
died in Flensburg, Schleswig-Holstein, on May 23, 1946.