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Jonas Sliupas

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JONAS SLIUPAS, (1861-1944), physician, publicist, and nationalist liberal activist, born in Rakandzai, county of Siauliai, on February 23, 1861. He studied history, philology, and law at the University of Moscow (1880-1881). Transferring to St. Petersburg to study natural sciences (1882), he was incarcerated for 3 months for his part in an anti-government student demonstration, and lost his right to continue his studies at any Russian university. In 1883 he left for Switzerland and enrolled at the University of Geneva, but, failing to receive the expected financial support from patrons in Lithuania, he accepted an offer to edit Ausra (The Dawn), the monthly of the Lithuanian national movement published at Tilze, East Prussia (Lithuania Minor). However, the Prussian police began to harass him as an alleged Slavophile and eventually ordered him to leave the region. After secretly visiting Lithuania, he left for the United States in 1884. There he acquired a doctor of medicine degree from the University of Maryland Medical School (1891) and began practicing among Lithuanian immigrants in Pennsylvania (Wilkes-Barre, Plymouth, Shenandoah, Scranton, Phila-delphia).
Sliupas was one of the most noted and energetic Lithuanian-American activists of his time. During the 35 years he spent in the United States, he founded and edited one publication after another: Unija (Union, 1884-1885), Lietuviskasis Balsas (The Lithuanian Voice, 1885-1889), Apsvieta (Enlighten-ment, 1892-1893), Nauja Gadyne (The New Era, 1894-1896), and Laisvoji Mintis (The Free Thought, 1910-1915). The names of these publications reflected the concepts they propagated. With his first newspaper, Uniija, published by Mykolas Tvarauskas, Sliupas attempted to join together Lithuanians and Poles descended from Lithuania. The attempt proved a failure. As a result, in his next paper, Lietuviskasis Balsas, Sliupas urged Lithuanians to discontinue forming parishes and so- cieties jointly with the Poles and spoke out in favor of a distinctly Lithuanian orientation, attracting many contributors from Lithuania itself. At the same time, in this and later publications, he promoted a materialist and atheist liberalism, frequently attacking the clergy and faithful, in the harshest of terms, as exponents of a regressive and unenlightened mentality. Thus, on the one hand, Sliupas, a prolific writer and fiery speaker, exercised a tremendous influence on the raising of the patriotic consciousness of his fellow countrymen, while, on the other, his aggressive, immoderate style fiercely fanned the flames of political and ideological dissension. This divlsiveness also spilled over Into the organizations that Sliupas founded, alone or in collaboration with others: Friends of Lithuania (1885-1888), Alliance of All the Lithuanians in America (1886-1888), Lithuanian Learned Society (1889-1896), Lithuanian Freethinkers' Alliance (1900-1910), and Lithuanian Socialist Alliance (est. 1905). For example, he soon withdrew from the last-mentioned organization when he decided that it was becoming more interested in promoting global revolution than political freedom for Lithuania. His idea to form a liberal nationalist party took shape at the Lithuanian American congress of 1914 in New York, after the Socialist-led majority rejected his proposal to demand autonomy for Lithuania.
During World War I Sliupas was prominent in the action to reestablish independent Lithuania. He chaired the Lithuanian Autonomy Fund, which provided financial help for the reconstruction of Lithuania, and was a member of the American Lithuanian Council. In 1917 he took part in Lithuanian conferences in Russia and Sweden. Two years later he helped organize the Lithuanian mission in London and served on the Lithuanian delegation at the Paris Peace Conference. Returning to Lithuania in the summer of 1919, he was appointed his country's first minister to the states of Latvia and Estonia. Resigning from these duties in 1920, he briefly returned to the United States to solicit funds for industrial development projects in Lithuania.
From 1921 onwards Sliupas resided continuously in Lithuania, teaching at Birzai and Siauliai high schools (1921-1923), directing the Etines Kulturos Draugija (Society of Ethical Culture) which he had established in 1923-1924, and reviving his former periodical, Laisvoji Mintis (1933-1941). This society and magazine were forums for such causes as the separation of church and state, civil registry, non-denominational cemeteries, and the elimination of religion from the schools. From 1925 - 1930 he taught history of medicine at the University of Kaunas. He was awarded honorary doctoral degrees by the university's medical, humanities, and law faculties. In 1933 he was elected mayor of Palanga, a seaside resort, serving until 1940 and briefly during the Nazi occupation before being removed for protesting the destruction of Jewish and Lithuanian lives. He withdrew from Lithuania in anticipation of the second Soviet invasion (1944); he died in Berlin on Nov. 6,1944. His ashes have since been transferred to Chicago.
Throughout his long life Sliupas contributed articles to Lithuanian publications, both his own and others', as well as to Polish, German, and American periodicals. Only a small portion of them were connected with his profession of physician; the majority revolved around national, social, and ideological questions, often treated with a dose of vitriol. In addition, he published a multitude of pamphlets and books falling roughly into two groups. The first comprises writings on Lithuanian history and culture, including Lietuviskieji rastai ir rastinynkai (Lithuanian Literature and Its Authors, 1890), the first attempt at a historical survey of Lithuanian letters; Lietuviu tauta senoveje ir siandien (The Lithuanian Nation in the Past and Present, 2 vols., 1904-1905);
Gadyne Slektos viespatavimo Lietuvoje (The Age of Nobility in Lithuania, 1909); Mazoji arba Prusiskoji Lietuva 19-tam simtmetyje (Lithuania Minor or Prussian Lithuania in the 19th Century, 1910); Essays on the Past, Present and Future of Lithuania (1918); Lietuviu, latviu bei prusu arba baltu ir ju proseniu mitologija (The Mythology of the Lithuanians, Latvians and Prussians, or of the Baits and their Ancestors, 1932). The second, even larger, group of books and pamphlets consists of popularizations of materialist and atheist ideas current in the latter half of the 19th century. Partly compilations or borrowings from Western authors, partly original, they feature titles such as Dievas, dangus ir pragaras (God, Heaven, and Hell, 1893); Tikyba ar mokslas (Religion or Science, 1895); Gyvenimas Jesaus Kristaus (The Life of Jesus Christ, 1896); Tikri ir netikri sventieji (Real and Unreal Saints, 1907, 1930; the second edition was confiscated in Lithuania); Jesus Kristus ir Sv. Romos inkvizicija (Jesus Christ and the Holy Roman Inquisition, 1929); and Palyginamoji pasaulio religiju istorija (Comparative History of World Religions, 1936). His most important translation is that of Ludwig Buchner's Kraft wnd Staff (Force and Matter), published in Lithuanian as Speka ir Medega (1902). Of his works on medicine noteworthy are Higiena (Hygiene, 1928); and Senoves ir viduramziu medicinos istorija (History of Ancient and Medieval Medicine, 1934).