Transit of National Symbols in Interwar-Period Lithuania: From the Country to the City and from the City to the Country (Summary)

Margarita Matulytė (PDF)

The paper offers an in-depth look at practices used to create the national image of the Lithuanian society and represent it publicly as well as at strategically generated stereotypes of identity during the period from 1918 to 1940. It focuses on the processes involving the transit of national symbols where the ideological centres accumulated the elements of “pure” rural culture, transformed them to synthetic attributes and spread them in the urban setting, at the same time trying to root the state symbols in the rural areas through various cultural administration, education and social activities. The paper tries to hypothetically predict the prevalence of national symbols in the society by using the research of primary sources and by formally applying the multi-layered ethnic-political matrix of a nation, i. e. by differentiating between three closely inter-related formations (ethnos, or the Lithuanians as an ethnicity, people, or the people of Lithuania, and nation as a group of citizens).

The bottom layer of the amalgamated Lithuanian identity matrix consisting of the language, traditions, myths, and other archaic cultural elements of the ethnos was overlaid (using the measures of culture, education, politics, and economics) with the layers of cultural nationalism and modernisation of the nation which, together with the implicated national symbols of ethnic heritage and state symbols taken from the insignia of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, constituted a unique country identification code intended to be used for the geopolitical communication of the nation. The transit of national symbols between the country and the city represented an attempt by the dominant ideolog y of the Nationalist movement to reinforce their symbolic power in addition to their political dominance. The value systems of the political doctrines that integrated the ethnic heritage into their ideological programmes significantly influenced the formation of the cultural memory of the modern society. However, the prevalence of national symbols expressing one`s patriotism was unequally distributed in the society (being the highest in the capital city and regional centres) and, thus, the Nationalists were unable to fully ideologise the society and to engage it in the political nationalism.

Keywords: ethnos, people, nation, national symbols, transit