Nationalists famous, but gain little sympathy

  • 2000-02-17
  • By Rokas M. Tracevskis
VILNIUS - Lithuanian State Security Department ordered bookshops to stop the sale of the "Calendar of Lithuanian 2000" until the decision of court about this controversial publication. The calendar contains some controversial descriptions of various nations. It was issued by private small publishing house Metskaitliai established by Danute Balsyte.

The calendar contains a map with the current borders of Lithuania. Outside of the current western, southern and eastern borders of Lithuania is written, "temporarily occupied ethnic Lithuania territories." No linguist or historian would question those last three words - ethnic Lithuanians were living there for many ages and still live there. However, the words "temporarily occupied" provoked the protest of Polish, Russian and Belorussian diplomats.

Protests were fair because the current Lithuanian borders are described within treaties with all of Lithuania's neighbors. The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry stated that the calendar is issued on private initiative and has nothing to do with official institutions.

Balsyte, also known in the past as Riazanova, Konstantinova and Lideikiene, said to Lithuanian newspapers that she writes the texts for the calendar herself. Some 3,000 copies of this controversial calendar were issued. Its texts describes Jews, Poles, Russians, Germans and Americans in negative terms. Current Germany, for example, is called the "kingdom of crusaders". The only neighbors receiving Balsyte's sympathies were Latvians.

The most hated politician by Balsyte is Vytautas Landsbergis, parliamentary chairman and Conservative Party leader. A big part of calendar's texts comment on his activity. Balsyte's animosity towards Landsbergis is so deep that she even avoids mentioning his name.

She calls Landsbergis just "V.L.", "hunchbacked musician", and "new Jewish king." Balsyte describes President Valdas Adamkus as an "American president." Both are accused by the calendar for organizing "Jewish congresses" in Lithuania and neglecting Lithuanians. In the calendar, all Jews are accused of the genocide of the Lithuanian nation.

Balsyte criticized Landsbergis for allowing all Russians and Poles who settled in Lithuania before re-establishment of Lithuanian independence in 1990 citizenship and in this way not following the citizenship policy of the other two Baltic states.

The only political party receiving the calendar author's blessing is the National Social Unity Union also known recently by name of National Work Union. The party's leader is Mindaugas Murza, a salesman in his middle twenties who works in one of shops in the town of Siauliai.

"I agree with his ideas and I think the National Social Unity Party will become the major political force," Balsyte said to the daily Respublika in an interview published on Feb. 7.

Murza is a ridiculous attraction for Lithuanian media from time to time. There are some 20 or 30 members in his illegal organization. Almost all of them are in their early twenties and live in Siauliai. Murza's ideology is rather vague. He uses the rhetoric of radical nationalism. His main slogan is Lithuania for Lithuanians, Russia for Russians, Poland for Poles, Israel for Jews. Murza says that there were some good ideas in Hitler's, Mussolini's and Stalin's ideologies. He is against Lithuania's membership in Western economic and political structures.

Murza rejects violence and proclaims obedience to current laws. However, the Justice Ministry has no faith in him and rejected eight times Murzisits' appeals to register their party because of its radical nationalism. Murza even says that he is ready to appeal to the Human Rights Court in Strasbourg because similar political parties in other European countries are legal.

The tiny Independence Party, having no MPs, included several Murzists in their election list for coming municipality elections of March 19 in Siauliai. Murzists are an illegal organization and cannot participate in the elections on their own. The Independence Party lost its authority among the electorate in early 1990s after one of its founders was accused by mass media of being a KGB collaborator.

Ten MPs representing the Conservative Party, the Christian Democratic Party, the Social Democratic Party, Party Social Democracy 2000 and the Democratic Labor Party signed a joint appeal to the Independence Party not to include Murza's nationalists into their Siauliai election list. The Independence Party ignored the appeal.

On many occasions Landsbergis, speaking on TV and during meetings with fellow Conservatives, made suggestions that both Balsyte's calendar and Murzists are inspired by eastern secret services (read Russia). Landsbergis said that both nationalist personalities, Balsyte and Murza, are activists "for export", to present Lithuania to the West as a xenophobic country.

By order of Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius, the Lithuanian prosecutor general's office initiated an inquiry into the possible insult of various ethnic groups in Balsyte's calendar.

Only one MP stood in defense of the civil rights of Balsyte and Murza. Rimantas Smetona, the only MP of the tiny National Democratic Party, admitted that although the tone of Balsyte's calendar was abusive, the banning of book sales should rest only with the courts.

"I'm not a judge and I have no right to judge whether the publication conforms to the constitution. However, I know that neither the State Security Department can do this job," Smetona said.

He also expressed anger towards the attempt of MPs of big ruling and opposition parties to tell the Independence Party whom it should put on the election list.

What do non-ethnic Lithuanians think about the controversial calendar and Murzists? Nikolaj Medvedev, MP of the most left parliamentary party Social Democrats, also presented his opinion about Balsyte and Murza in his interview. Medvedev is the only MP of Russian descent.

"I'm not ethnic Lithuanian. I'm of Russian and Greek descent though I don't describe people as 'Russian' or 'Greek'. I enjoyed common political work with [Soviet time dissident] academic Andrey Sakharov in Moscow in the late 1980s and my views are similar to his. I'm cosmopolitan. At the same time I love my homeland Lithuania," said Medvedev who was one of leaders of wide movement for Lithuanian independence in the late 1980s.

He said that Balsyte and Murzists are "marginals" of Lithuanian society and were not worth special attention. "They are not serious people. They represent views of a very narrow segment of our society. Lithuanians overcame their nationalist disease in 1941-1945. It isn't even worth speaking about this calendar," Medvedev said.

He disagreed with Landsbergis' statements about Balsyte and Murza being Moscow agents. "We often see a cat and say it is a tiger and vice versa. We look for foreign secret services where there are none of them. And often we don't see foreign secret services where they really are," Medvedev said.

He added that Murzists have no public support and political perspectives. "They can become more popular only in case the country's economic situation becomes tragic," Medvedev said.