2014: International Book Science Conference

Book culture of the life-time of Kristijonas Donelaitis in the multiculturall society of prussia

24–27 September 2014, Vilnius

The Lithuanian Traditions and Heritage Commission is a creator of a complex programme for the commemoration of 300th anniversary of Kristijonas Donelaits. It has suggested an idea to organise an international research conference “Book culture of the Kristijonas Donelaitis historical period in the multicultural Prussian society”. This idea was implemented by the researchers of Vilnius University and the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences. Lithuanian Government has allocated finances and thus created possibilities for this event. The state programme for the commemoration of K. Donelaitis anniversary stimulates research and publications of the works by K. Donelaitis, their translations to foreign languages that are not yet done, organisation of several conferences, commemoration by new monuments and art works. UNESCO General Conference of November, 2013, has included the K. Donelaitis anniversary into the calendar of the most important cultural events in the world. This enables spreading of humanistic values on the international level, bringing nations together, popularising Lithuanian literature, science, art and culture, finding and re-appropriating the author of the “Seasons of the Year” by different generations of readers.

Kristijonas Donelaitis (January 1, 1714 – February 18, 1780) belonged to the Lithuanian ethnic group that used to live in the Northen part of Prussia. He was born in Lazdynėliai (Lasdinehlen; village not far from Gumbinė [Gumbinnen; Gusev at present], that was destroyed after the war), studied Evangelical-Lutheran teology at the University of Königsberg (Karaliaučius; Kaliningrad at present), worked as a teacher in Stalupėnai (Stallupönen; Nesterov at present) and as a priest in the Tolminkiemis (Tollmingkehmen; Čistyje Prudy at present) church. He is buried in Tolminkiemis and there is a K. Donelaitis museum established in the Tolminkiemis church. All these territories belong to the Kaliningrad region of the Russian Federation since the end of the World War II.

K. Donelaitis is a classical writer of Lithuanian literature. His epic poem “Seasons of the Year” is the most prominent work. It was published for the first time in 1818 together with a parallel translation to German. Up till now the poem or separate parts of it is translated into 23 languages. The personality and creative works of the poet is researched since the end of the 19th century. Professors from the University of Königsberg Martin Ludwig Rhesa (1776–1840) and Georg Heinrich Ferdinand Nesselmann (1811–1881), a member of the Russian Imperial Academy of Science and the professor of the universities of Prague and Jena August Schleicher (1821–1868) have worked much for the international recognition of K. Donelaitis. The first modest commemoration of K. Donelaitis was organised in 1896 by a German folklore researcher Franz Oskar Tetzner (1863–1919) in his native village Lazdynėliai. The World War I has disrupted the commemoration of the 200th anniversary. Only the commemorations of 250th (1964) and 275th (1989) have been held not only in Lithuania, but also in Berlin and Moscow. The Tolminkiemis church that was ruined during the war has been rebuilt and a museum was established.

At present the bibliography about K. Donelaitis and of his works includes several thousand entries in different languages of the world. Many monographs and doctoral dissertations are registered in it. K. Donelaitis is a focus of research mainly by literature and language scholars. The researchers from other areas have not made a big contribution so far. This conference related to book research is the first inter-disciplinary event. Book research concept is used in its widest sense here. K. Donelaitis himself has not prepared and published his books, there are no data about his personal library and reading. Therefore the main direction of the conference is related to the Prussian book culture and its creators of the lifetime of the poet. The authors of the presentations will explore the spiritual and creative values expressed in poet‘s works, their sources, old Prussian publications and later translations into different languages, new achievements of scholarship and book publishing, the role of the Evangelical-Lutheran church in book production and dissemination, will investigate the issues of reading society, institutional and personal libraries. The organisers of the conference are also eager to present the context that could help to understand the originality and significance of K. Donelaitis. Therefore, the conference includes comparative research about creative persons of other nations of the 18th century. We hope that participants will present new insights of the relations between the Lithuanian poet and the historical period of his time, as well as new data reflecting his personality and works.