Seminar on religion in Soviet Lithuania at Uppsala

During the Soviet years, Lithuania witnessed an immense increase of premodern phenomenon – testimonies about Marian apparitions. Lithuania has majority of Catholic population and strong cult of Virgin Mary. Ethnographers count up to 40 vernacular narratives of Marian apparitions on Lithuanian territory, mostly from 15 to 19 century. In modern times, the tradition has nearly faded away, but was revived again during the Soviet occupation with 20 popular vernacular narratives of Marian apparitions. Yet, not a single apparition was recorded during Lithuanian independence period 1918-1940 and post 1990.

One could see the testimonies of Marian apparitions during the Soviet years as “low profile resistance,” when use of “supernatural” is employed to inflict fear among opposing classes, to “sabotage” official Soviet ideology etc. The testimonies of apparitions gave impulse to develop anti-Soviet vernacular knowledge and worldviews, based on narratives about “miraculous healing” of local religious peasantry or “premature unexpected deaths” of Soviet authorities, who violated either the seer or the place of apparition.

The seminar will cover following issues: Why some testimonies were believed and some others were not? What was the socio – economic status of the seers? How did the Soviet authorities respond to the testimonies of apparition? What was the further fate of the seer? How local community developed anti Soviet vernacular knowledge based on the “supernatural encounters”? How local communities struggled to define the place of apparition by erecting crosses etc.? What was the fate of the apparition places after 1990?

Rasa Baločkaitė is Associate Professor of Sociology at the Department of Social and Political Theory, Vytautas Magnus University, Lithuania. Her scholarly interests include colonialism and post colonialism, Soviet and post-Soviet studies, societies in transition. She has published in social, cultural and political issues in Central and Eastern Europe in journals as Problems of Post Communism (2009), Journal of Baltic Studies (2011), Slovo (2012), Language Policy (2014), European History Quarterly (2015), among others. Rasa Baločkaitė was visiting Fulbright scholar at UC Berkeley in 2011 and visiting fellow at Potsdam Centre for Contemporary History in 2012 and 2013.