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AUSRA         Ausra


AUSRA (orig. Auszra, The Dawn), monthly of the Lithuanian national movement, published in Ragaine and Tilze (Tilsit), Lithuania Minor (East Prussia) between 1883-1886; it circulated in Russian-occupied Lithuania Major. As early as 1880-1881 Lithuanian students in Moscow were producing a hand-written and mimeographed paper by that name. When the Russian government denied them permission to publish a Lithuanian journal in Vilnius, Jonas Sliupas, a student at the University of Moscow, devised another plan. He wrote to Jurgis Miksas, a young Lithuanian patriot living in Lithuania Minor, then part of the German state, and suggested that they organize a special committee to publish Ausra. When Miksas raised various objections, the task of organizing the project was undertaken by Jonas Basanavicius, a physician who had been contributing articles to the Lithuanian press in Lithuania Minor from Bulgaria since 1880. Living in Prague in 1882, he began to correspond with Jonas Andrius Vistelis in Poznan (Posen). The Polish writer J. I. Kraszewski had already suggested to the latter that a Lithuanian periodical was absolutely necessary "if the Lithuanian nation does not want to die." Vistelis and Miksas decided that Basanavicius would be the most competent editor, and that the technical aspects of the publication would be handled by Miksas. Basanavicius agreed to the arrangement on the condition that any material contributed to the publication be subject to his approval. Martynas Sernius contributed 150 marks; Vistelis, 100 marks; and Basanavicius, 100 francs; and the first issue was published. It was dated March, 1883 but it only appeared in early April. From Ragaine it was sent in sealed envelopes to addresses collected by M. Davainis Silvestravicius, or smuggled across the German-Russian border into Lithuania Major.
The enthusiastic reaction of the readers to Ausra made Basanavicius so optimistic that he wrote to the Russian Minister of the Interior Tolstoi, requesting that the prohibition against the Lithuanian press be repealed and that permission be granted to publish the paper in Kaunas or Vilnius. Hoping for a favorable decision, Basanavicius refrained from criticizing the Russians for their oppressive anti-Lithuanian measures. His restraint caused some discontent among his readers. Matters were further complicated when Miksas resigned for personal reasons. Jonas Sliupas, now an emigre living in Geneva, was invited to join the editorial staff in 1883. He arrived in Tilze and promised not to print any article without Basanavicius' approval, but the promise was not kept. The polemical and political nature of his articles and his commentary on other contributors' articles proved to be offensive to those taking a strictly legalistic view of the Tsarist regime, to persons of a pro-Polish orientation, and to the Catholic clergy. Having joined the national movement in Lithuania Minor, he was soon wanted by the German police and was forced to leave East Prussia and Ausra in 1884. After this Miksas and Martynas Jankus rejoined the Ausra staff in Tilze. Of limited literiary capabilities, they refrained from polemical writing, and thereby calmed those whose anger had been aroused. In the fall of 1885, when Miksas acquired a printing shop, he became sole editor of Ausra. As the printing establishment expanded, however, he had less time to devote to Ausra and invited the teacher Jonas Andziulaitis from Lithuania Major to join the editorial staff. But Andziulaitis was no able to put any new life into the paper, moreover, Miksas ran into debt. Basanavicius' health was failing, and thus Ausra was discontinued. 29 numbers of the periodical were published, totaling 40 issues (some of the issues were published two or three at a time). The journal's circulation was 1000, and it numbered a total of 74 contributors, most of whom wrote under assumed names.
Because of the frequent changes in the editorial staff, Ausra was not able to maintain a consistent editorial line. But its general tendencies are reflected in Basanavicius' introductory remarks in the first issue. He lists the following points as Ausra's raison d'etre: the elevation of national ideals; the development of a national pride based on Lithuania's history; the instillment of love for the Lithuanian language and cultivation of its use; the attainment of national unity and peace with Lithuania's neighbors; and the presentation of pertinent cultural matters. A number of these goals were later adopted by other Lithuanian publications, who also added new elements to the list and sometimes stressed one aspect more than the others. For this reason the period beginning with Ausra's publication and ending with the repeal of the prohibition of the Lithuanian press in 1904 is called Ausros gadyne (The Dawn Period). All the enlightened Lithuanians of the time, particularly the major and minor writers, are called ausrininkai ("The Dawnists").
The ausrininkai included the editors and close collaborators of Ausra as well as all the paper's contributors. These were: Jonas Basanavicius, Jonas Andrius Vistelis, Jurgis Miksas, Martynas Jankus, Jonas Sliupas, Jonas Andziulaitis, Mecislovas Davainis Silvestravicius, Juozas Miliauskas, Silvestras Gimzauskas, Stanislovas Dagilis, Petras Arminas, Ksaveras Sakalauskas, Aleksandras Fromas-Guzutis, Antanas Krisciukaitis, Adomas Jakstas - Dambrauskas, Tomas Zickus, Jonas Maciulis-Maironis, Vincas Kudirka, Petras Vileisis, and a number of less significant persons, some of whom never wrote for Ausra but simply supported its goals. Ausra was very influential in the further development of the Lithuanian national movement. It strengthened Lithuanian national aspirations for cultural freedom and political independence.