Monday, June 1, 2009

The National Anthem of Lithuania

This former Soviet state was the first republic to break away from the Soviet Union, in early 1990. Upon its independence, it readopted the anthem, "Tautiska Giesme", it first used in 1918 which first appeared in print in 1896.

Vincas Kudirka, a Lithuanian poet and physician, and the author of both the music and lyrics of the Lithuanian National Anthem, Tautiška giesmė, was born on 31 December 1858. He is regarded in Lithuania as a National Hero. Kudirka used pen names - V. Kapsas, Paežerių Vincas, Vincas Kapsas, P.Vincas,Varpas, Q.D, K., V.K, Perkūnas.

He began studying history and philosophy in Warsaw in 1881, but changed his major and began studying medicine the following year. During his studies, he was arrested as a subversive for having a copy of Das Kapital in his possession, and was expelled from the University of Warsaw, but later re-admitted. He graduated in 1889, and worked as a country doctor in Šakiai and Naumiestis.

Kudirka began writing poetry in 1888. Simultaneously he became more active in the Lithuanian national rebirth movement. Together with other Lithuanian students in Warsaw, he founded the secret society Lietuva ("Lithuania"). The following year the society began publishing the clandestine newspaper Varpas ("The Bell"), which Kudirka edited and contributed to for the next ten years. In issue number 6 of Varpas, in September 1898, he published the text of Tautiška Giesmė, which would officially become in 1918, the Lithuanian National Anthem, set to music written by Kudirka himself for a violin.

Kudirka gave much to Lithuanian culture, and also published a collection of Lithuanian popular songs. He was also a noted writer of satire.

He died of tuberculosis on November 16, 1899, at age 40. The second verse of Tautiška Giesmė was engraved on his gravestone.