Lithuanian Media Respond to Changes at Genocide Center

Lithuanian Media Respond to Changes at Genocide Center

The Lithuanian media report several stories related to recent internal dissent and the resignation of Vidmantas Valiušaitis at the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania, usually called the Genocide Center, a state-financed arbiter of the official Lithuanian version of history. reported Lithuanian speaker of parliament Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen said it was too early to talk of replacing Genocide Center’s recently-appointed director Adas Jakubauskas, but called the problems there real, and said she thought a parliamentary commission should be formed to look into complaints which came to light last week when staff historians at the state institution published an open letter issued as an appeal to the speaker of parliament, complaining history was being politicized under the current director, see for the complete story in Lithuanian. Long-time observers note the Genocide Center has always been politicized and that is its main mission as defined in law, to present a politicized version of history. also carried an in-depth account of a discussion held last week on Lithuania’s Žinių Radijas talk radio station between Vytautas Bruveris, a writer and journalist who has won much public respect for his reporting and editorials over the years at Lithuania’s Lietuvos rytas newspaper, and Vidmantas Valiušaitis, a writer with an ultra-nationalist view of Lithuanian history who has worked as a newspaper writer and whose work has been featured in the official magazine of the Lithuanian military, Karys. Valiušaitis’s appointment to a post created especially for him by the new director of Genocide Center was one of the main complaints in the appeal staff and historians sent to the speaker of parliament. The text in Lithuanian can be found here:

In that synopsis, Bruveris is quoted saying [in rough translation] “the agitation is understandable because these matters are important, especially on this topic. These historical problems remain unsolved, unsorted on their shelves, and we as the public and the state are not in consensus regarding them. The main problem in this context is the Nazi occupation, the Holocaust, the scale and the nature of involvement of Lithuanian society and puppet or ‘parallel’ governments in the Holocaust, and the blemish left upon the reputation of the resistance because of this involvement. These problems have not been solved and these issues continue to stir up society, mainly because the vast majority of people reject [the existence of] these problems. So these passions and different emotions are constant and keep coming up occasionally, demonstrating both their spread and their periodicity, and sometimes even the dead-end situation we find ourselves in as a society and a country.” reported Valiušaitis characterized the current situation as propaganda and sabotage. Responding to media reports and statements, he called them propaganda. reports Valiušaitis said all attacks against the Genocide Center were ad hominen arguments. “There is not a single quote, not a single fact showing what Valiušaitis has done specifically to restrict the work of these scholars,” Valiušaitis said. “Neither have they quoted anything I said. I am also saying yes, this problem isn’t solved, there are many outstanding issues and they need to investigated academically, we need to put one fact next to another and sort it out, and explain these things in academic discussion,” reported he said.

Valiušaitis also attempted to get to the crux of the current conflict, apparently a power struggle inside the Genocide Center between the seasoned head of the Research Department there, Arūnas Bubnys, and the newly-appointed general director, Adas Jakubauskas: “I can say this situation is a specific kind of sabotage. The leadership of the Research Department [Arūnas Bubnys] started sabotaging the new director from the first day he took up the post. I observed in the meetings which took place to discuss our issues that they [Research Department staff] didn’t engage, they didn’t get involved in discussing the problem, they ignored [what was being discussed] and demonstrated this sort of body language the whole time showing they were dissatisfied, but they didn’t express what was dissatisfactory to them.”

Lithuanian Public Radio and Television’s web page late last week carried a long explanation of events at the Genocide Center by Mingailė Jurkutė, one of the dissident historians who signed on to the appeal/complaint addressed to the Lithuanian speaker of parliament. Mingailė Jurkutė is an historian who specializes in research on Lithuanian nationalist partisans. She was allegedly reprimanded for making earlier public statements by the new general director, and new rules were apparently adopted inside Genocide Center to restrict public statements by staff in order to present her that reprimand post factum. Her full text is available in Lithuanian here:

Jurkutė claims the Genocide Center’s new director and previously Valiušaitis as well were engaged in the politicization of absolutely all research there. She said an a priori plan was adopted with academic inquiry predetermined to follow that plan, and if inconsistent facts were revealed, then that particular research was often shelved. For some reason Jurkutė calls this a Russian research tradition, most likely meaning to say Soviet: “This is basically the Russian model under which, in that country, entire institutes are established, and the propaganda products, physically similar to monographs and formally meeting all the required attributes, show up on the stands of really important bookstores in the West.”

She also characterizes the result of putting Valiušaitis de facto in charge as a shitstorm [her word]: “We have seen a stubborn interference in all–I repeat, all–steps of historical research. Beginning with the problems which need to be raised (which narrative needs to be defending and which suppressed), through the selection of sources (how Soviet sources can’t be trusted …), to the review of sources (one recently-resigned advisor, famous for the abundance of sources he has brought to Lithuania and the book “Istorikai nenaudoja dalies šaltinių” [Historians Aren’t Using All Sources, by Vidmantas Valiušaitis] and who was hired ‘to consult’ on these issues according to his job description). The result, not worth much but giving rise to a powerful shitstorm, we witnessed at the end of 2019 when research was published after taking it out of the hands of the historians (historians would never have published such a finding of history).”