Distribution of the Banned Lithuanian Press in Suwalki Province
Suwalki province is a region where the distribution of the banned Lithuanian press began quite early, almost immediately after the 1863 uprising. Book smugglers quickly found a route suitable for transporting such publications from Lithuania Minor: they crossed the border in the districts of Vilkaviškis and Naumiestis, transported the press by boats across Vištytis Lake, carried it on their shoulders across the Liepuona stream, took it across the bridge over this river, often from Prussia at
... kūnai (now Chernyshevsky) or through the Kybartai customs, and then by train from Kybartai railway station. Thousands of books and newspapers were carried across the bridge over the Širvinta. The bundles of the Lithuanian press were even floated along the river or pulled by ropes along its bottom. The state border would also be crossed near Sudargas on the Prussian side, and books would be transported by steamboats along the Nemunas River. Then, through Marijampolė district, they would be transported all over Lithuania. In the second half of the nineteenth century, Marijampolė Gymnasium and Veiveriai Teachers' Seminary became very important secret centres for the awakening of Lithuanian national self-consciousness in Suwalki province. It did not take long for the first signs of Lithuanian national activity to mature at Marijampolė Gymnasium, where the tsarist administration allowed optional Lithuanian language classes. Such patriotic personalities as teachers Petras Arminas and Petras Kriaučiūnas in Marijampolė, who instilled love and respect for the Lithuanian language in their students, introduced them to examples of Lithuanian literature, and ignited a sense of national self-esteem, played an immensely important role. Teachers Tomas Ferdinandas Žilinskas and Juozas Kairiūkštis awakened Lithuanian self-awareness in their students at Veiveriai Teachers' Seminary, where extremely strict censorship conditions were observed. The influence of these educators led to the spread of the banned Lithuanian press among students, to the formation of first groups of its creation, distribution and reading, the growing interest in the cultural traditions and the past of the Lithuanian nation, and the introduction of secret Lithuanian education in primary schools (J. Andziulaitis). "Sietynas" and "Artojai", the secret societies of press distribution established in Sūduva, which rallied supporters from Sūduva region and many local residents, added a powerful impetus to the whole process of book smuggling in Lithuania. Thanks to these organizations, the banned Lithuanian press reached even the remotest villages in the region and was distributed in towns and cities. Members of these societies built extensive book smuggling networks that aimed at distributing the press not only in Sūduva, but throughout the whole territory of Lithuania. Thus, the Lithuanian written word from Sūduva reached many Lithuanians and raised their national self-esteem.