“Project – HOMO SOVIETICUS”

Introduction

In Tuskulėnai Manor House an exposition entitled “Project – HOMO SOVIETICUS” is displayed. The aim of the exposition is to reveal the efforts and means of the Soviet totalitarian regime to create a new social, cultural, and political environment. It is an attempt to understand an individual, residing in the Soviet Lithuania, a member country within the Soviet Union, who is sometimes referred to as homo sovieticus, as well as it is an effort to reveal his/her characteristics and the living conditions, pertaining to that period of time.
Objects, texts, fragments of memoirs and other exhibits, reflecting that world, serve to reveal the spirit of that time and general peculiarities of the Soviet era. In an effort to emphasise the multifaceted nature and internal paradoxes of the Soviet era, the entire exhibition is presented at three levels: the upper part of the screens and exhibits is devoted to the things that were seen in public, officially announced and propagandised; the middle part reveals what the daily life of people looked like and what was considered as “normal”; the bottom part represents the deviations from the Soviet “normality”, ranging from crime to the fight and resistance against the system. Such division is, of course, conditional since everything is intertwined in life. The location of some exhibits is likely to raise doubts or trigger thoughts that it should be moved elsewhere.
The description of the exhibited objects aim at emphasising the paradoxical nature and internal contradictions of the Soviet reality. All this reveals a fundamental feature of the exposition which is as non-definitive as the assessment of the Soviet era or the effort to understand it.

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Culture

During the Soviet era a large-scale revolution was carried out with the aim to create the most unique, most progressive and humane Soviet culture under control of the party. As this was important to achieve, artists were made to comply with the strict requirement that creative work was to be understandable to people. Therefore, when Socialist Realism prevailed, searching for more modern forms was particularly criticised. Stalinist culture was characterised by the boundless glorification of the Communist Party, the progress of the Soviet Union and its leaders, particularly of Stalin, extolment of Russian culture, and the contempt of the past and bourgeois culture (including Lithuanian).
After Stalin’s death, ideological restrictions in the cultural policy eased and more chances appeared not only to show a part of the “bourgeois” Lithuanian cultural legacy, introducing it through the prism of Marxism-Leninism, but also to create new forms of expression. With the focus on the folklore traditions of the “Lithuanian people”, quite many possibilities appeared for artists, enabling them to justify their goals in search for modern forms.
When ideological pressure was alleviated during the later Soviet era, it became increasingly easier for modern trends of Western culture to reach the Soviet Union. That was exerting more and more influence on art and society. Popular American culture that encouraged informal youth movements in the Soviet Union (hippies, punks, hard metal fans etc.) gained mass admiration. Nevertheless, even such modernised Soviet culture did not become a credible alternative to Western culture in the minds of the people.

VEF RADIO. Latvian SSR, 1965. Riga State Electrical Engineering Factory.__“One late evening, I was waiting for a trolleybus at a stop near the Conservatoire, only a step away from the State Security building. Suddenly, I heard The Voice of America broadcast on the radio. A young man was listening to the latest news, keeping a small device in his hand. He paid no attention to a large group of people, including several men in uniforms, who were also waiting at the bus stop”. Skuodis V. Playing within the KGB’s Networks. Vilnius, 1996.

Changes of Morals and Values

After Lithuania’s occupation the efforts were focused on changing the values and moral consciousness of the local population. Bourgeois morals had to be replaced with a new Soviet morality. During the Stalin era, it was believed that there was no human morality but only class morality. This suggested rejection of compassion for the enemies of the working class, by linking all moral norms to class struggles, particularly the Proletarian struggle for the victory.
After Stalin’s death, such combatant morality began to decline gradually and was replaced by the principles of what could generally be referred to as human morality resembling the truths of Christianity, but different in name. A clear example of this was the Moral Code of the Builder of Communism, which laid down twelve moral principles that the New Soviet Man had to comply with. This code was expected to serve as a tool for social control in consolidating the rule of the Communist Party and educating proper citizens. Despite the mass ideological campaign, aimed at promoting the new values, the New Soviet Man did not adopt them, while the old Christian values declined considerably. This resulted in the development of the morality that directly contradicted to the principles, defined in the Moral Code of the Builder of Communism, by developing an indifferent attitude towards Communist ideas and the Soviet Union as the motherland, dishonesty at work, unstable family relations, tolerance to injustice, parasitism, etc. This was the clearest testimony to a failure of the Soviet project.

Book series “Your Moral Code”. Moscow, 1962.__“The principles of the Moral Code of the Builder of Communism are taking root in the lives of Soviet citizens. It is not a spontaneous process, but a result of a fierce struggle against the relics of the past, by removing all the dirt of the past, brought by individuals from the Bourgeois system, or the dirt that the imperialist world is trying to throw under our feet”. Balsys A. A Citizen‘s Position. Vilnius, 1966.

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Religion

Soon after Lithuania’s occupation the new Communist government announced separation of the Church from the state and separation of the school from the Church. It was a radical shift, given the fact that Catholics made up the majority of the Lithuanian population. The Soviet government aimed at destroying religion or at least creating a political and social climate that would gradually lead to such destruction. To this end, the regime banned religious organisations and almost suspended and imposed strict control over the publishing of religious literature. It also eliminated the subject of Religion in schools and took measures to hinder catechisation of children in churches and attendance at religious services. All churches were declared the property of the state, and most houses of worship in the major cities were closed and converted for public use. Direct persecutions also began during Stalin’s rule: priests were arrested; monks, who refused to renounce their calling, were subjected to punishments and deportations; repressions were carried out against practising believers. Although repressions against believers began to ease in the post-Stalinist period, the most active priests and believers were persecuted and punished for disseminating their faith.
Public display of faith was denounced throughout the Soviet period, yet some people continued their religious practices. Besides the atheisation policy, the influence of religion was further reduced by modernisation, which destroyed traditional rural communities and traditional way of life. Such circumstances did not, however, lead to the destruction of the Church as religious communities played a very important role in the liberation movement and in most cases it became the hotbed of dissident activities.

A medallion. 1940s–1950s. A chalice. Russian SFSR (Petrozavodsk), 1953. This chalice is a gift from the Karelia-Finland SSR athletes to the Lithuanian SSR speed skating team.__“Setting a civil ceremony against a church ceremony would destroy the most stable and firm element of religion, i.e. rituals of religious worship that mystify very important life events. The destruction of these vital religious links would result in the destruction of the religious education system itself and loss of its critical components. After all, every Catholic and every Christian in general is baptised, confirmed and married in church and is buried with a religious ceremony. In this way, the cult becomes a tool to kindle the feelings, associated with religion, and to strengthen religious ideology and mythological images”. Pečiūra P. Tradition Yesterday and Today. Vilnius, 1974.

Transformation of Identity

In order to consolidate the new Soviet regime, the state had to “rewrite” the history of the inter-war period, to erase the memory of Lithuania’s past, to destroy the evidence of its existence. By controlling publicly available information, the state could put all its weight on an individual in order to change an individual’s identity. Besides the state’s attempts to rewrite history textbooks, destroy books that were ideologically unacceptable, and conduct censorship of artworks, the living environment was also changed. Streets were renamed, urban planning changed radically and new public spaces emerged. They were dedicated to various Soviet rituals. New settlements of kolkhozes and their buildings were distinctly different from a traditional rural setting which was regarded as a symbol of backwardness. The enforcement of the Russian language and spread of Russian culture played a considerable role in transforming the Lithuanian identity.
The regime promoted mutual relations and cultural exchange among Soviet Union republics to make people give up their Lithuanian national identity in favour of the common identity of “brotherly Soviet republics”. The regime wanted to replace the concept of the nation with that of the people. This people’s identity enabled citizens to express their deeply-harboured national sentiment and at the same time it allowed the Soviets to suppress people’s aspirations for political independence, which posed a threat to the regime. However, these attempts had failed. As soon as the state pressures waned, the ethnographic character was transformed into the deliberate display of the nation’s uniqueness and came to symbolise the struggle for autonomy and independence.
Of course, the transformation of identity was not only the result of the state’s efforts: lifestyle changes along with economic and social transformation produced an even greater impact. This resulted in the development of a rather anti-Russian, conservative and defensive identity. It kept the memory of independent Lithuania alive and eventually manifested itself during the rallies of the Reform Movement

Traditional woven patterned band “25th Anniversary of Chernyakhovsky’s Collective-Owned Farm [kolkhoz]”. 1970s –1980s.__“The legacy of the past culture of Lithuania, just like that of any other Soviet nation, has become a shared part of socialist culture as it was used for addressing the vital task of cultural revolution: elevating the culture of all Soviet nations and ethnic groups”. Šepetys L. Culture and Us. Vilnius, 1985.

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Everyday life

In Soviet Lithuania the life revolved not only around officially promoted government plans and Soviet modernisation projects, but also around people’s everyday experience, influenced by those plans, and actual possibilities to implement them. The society was becoming increasingly distrustful of what was said in the official press or claimed by the official Soviet statistics as the citizens understood perfectly well that the public information did not give an accurate account of what was actually happening: it was false and distorted the actual realities. In the Soviet state independent activities outside the state control were viewed with some suspicion and were often subjected to persecution. This led to an indifferent attitude to work and it diminished pro-activeness and independence in people. This situation, along with the deficiencies of the systematically planned economy, contributed to the constant shortages of staple goods. On the other hand, such complex conditions encouraged artfulness and creative skills in people as they tried to get hold of much needed household items or produced these items themselves. People often purchased goods not because they needed them, but because these goods were available for sale. Constant shortages of goods and strong networks of contacts created the conditions for corruption to thrive. People often relied on their contacts to get a better job, a car, a flat, to enrol in prestigious study programmes at higher education institutions, etc.
Society’s isolation from the West also made an impact on the Soviet daily realities. This created a sense of cultural otherness and contributed to the fact that the artefacts of the Western culture were highly valued and idealized due to their inaccessibility. While the state controlled all areas of life, the attempts to avoid these restrictions or take advantage of them in everyday life were made.

“Sietka” (A string bag). 1970s.__“[…] the content of this string bag was on full display as you could see everything that was inside. Soviet citizens did not seem to have any problem with that as they did not carry any items in their shopping bags that their neighbours, relatives or co-workers could not afford. Everyone was equal: every citizen was seen carrying a watermelon, carton of milk, pack of vermicelli, sausage and loaf of bread”. Бацман А. С надеждой на АВОСЬку // Собеседник, 2008.

Interactive Space

An interactive space is where a visitor gets individually acquainted with the efforts and measures that the Soviet totalitarian regime used to create for a new social, cultural and political environment. Interactive space is located in the centre of every hall, and is activated after walking into the curtain-covered area above the glass floors. Here visitors can view different activities: videos about unmasking the lies of Soviet propaganda; a photo gallery; a quiz; and a glossary, pertaining to the Soviet period.
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Alley of Memories

The Alley of Memories is a space dedicated to the memories of certain people and ideologised characters. Through the pulled back curtains you can see the portraits and short presentations of the people that used to live during the Soviet era. Walking through the alley, memories are heard – some in a quieter manner and some in a louder way. In order to listen to a story, you can walk towards a specific character and use your smart guide. The Alley of Memories is interesting not only for learning the stories of people of different ages, social statuses, and worldviews, but also because it shows that individual people exist beyond the monochrome crowds. Without listening to their individual opinions, only some polyphonic whispers can be heard.

Interactive Film “One Man, Two Destinies”

The Alley of Memories ends with an “authentic zone”, hidden behind the curtain, where visitors are invited to express their opinion and to see how much of homo sovieticus lies within themselves.
The visitor is photographed when standing in a specified area. Then, two possible destinies of the visitor’s chosen character are shown on the screens. The left screen shows what would happen to a person that conformed to the rules of the totalitarian system by transposing the visitor’s image onto a vision of the Soviet household normality. The right screen shows what would happen if a person did not adapt to the system or attempted to oppose the totalitarian rule: the image of the visitor would be transformed into a subject for surveillance and repressions.

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Visitor information

Admission to exposition “Project – Homo sovieticus”
(Tuskulėnai Manor house, Žirmūnų str. 1F):

Monday  –
Tuesday  –
Wednesday  10:00–18:00
Thursday  10:00–18:00
Friday  10:00–18:00
Saturday  10:00–18:00
Sunday  10:00–17:00

Adult ticket – €6*
Schoolchildren, students and retired persons – ticket – €3*

* The ticket is valid for a visit to museum exposition “The Secrets of Tuskulėnai Manor” (Žirmūnų str. 1N) on the same day.

Last tickets are sold 30 minutes before the museum’s closing time.

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Museum “Project – HOMO SOVIETICUS”

Author of the historical part of the exposition
The Genocide and Resistance Research Centre of Lithuania

Author of the design, technical and work projects of the exposition
Darius Baliukevičius

Exposition work project prepared by
UAB FORTEco

Exposition installed by
UAB Amvesta, UAB MultimediaMark, UAB Salgesta, UAB Vilniaus kompiuterių servisas

The authors of the concept
Rasa Čepaitienė, Arūnas Streikus, Zita Pikelytė, Margarita Matulytė, Valdemaras Klumbys and Virginija Rudienė

The exhibits were provided by (thank you):

Lithuanian Archives of Literature and Art
Lithuanian Central State Archives
Lithuanian Special Archives
Lithuanian State Modern Archives
Jesuit Monastery Library
Kaunas County Public Library
Klaipėda County Public leva Simonaitytė Library
Library of the General Jonas Žemaitis Military Academy of Lithuania and Technology Library
Lithuanian Library for the Blind
Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania
Palanga Public Library
Panevėžys County Gabrielė Petkevičaitė-Bitė Public Library
Šiauliai County Povilas Višinskis Public Library
The Vilnius County Adomas Mickevičius Public Library
The Wroblewski Library of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences
A. Baranauskas and A. Vienuolis-Žukauskas Memorial Museum
Alytus Regional Museum
Birštonas Museum
Cardinal Vincentas Sladkevičius Memorial House-Museum
Customs Museum
Kaunas City Museum
Kėdainiai Regional Museum
Kretinga Museum
Lithuanian Aviation Museum

Lithuanian Education History Museum
Lithuanian National Museum of Art
Lithuanian Railway Museum
Lithuanian Sea Museum
Lithuanian Sports Museum
Lithuanian Theatre, Music and Cinema Museum
Maironis Lithuanian Literature Museum
National Museum of Lithuania
Panevėžys Local Lore Museum
Regional cultural Centre of Suvalkija (Sūduva)
Rokiškis Regional Museum
Samogitian Museum “Alka”
Šiauliai “Dawn” Museum
The History Museum of Lithuania Minor
The Open-Air Museum of Lithuania
Trakai History Museum
Ukmergė Local Lore Museum
Utena Local Lore Museum
Vilna Gaon Museum of Jewish History
Vilnius Memorial Museums Directorate
Vytautas the Great War Museum
Zarasai Regional Museum
A. Sutkus photography archive
Creative Group of Photographers “TRIVA”
Curia of Kaunas Archdiocese

Kaunas Benedictine Archive
Kaunas University of Technology Institute of Architecture and Construction
Lithuanian Academy of Sciences
Lithuanian Bodybuilding Federation
Lithuanian Film centre
Lithuanian Radio and Television
Lithuanian Union of Political Prisoners and Deportees
Music Information Centre Lithuania
Pakruojis branch of the Lithuanian Union of Political Prisoners and Deportees
Police Department under the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Lithuania
Special Social Care Home “House of Deportees”
Vilnius Children’s Foster Home
Vilnius University Planetarium
Visaginas “Gerosios Vilties” Progymnasium
Visaginas Education Centre
Vytautas Kernagis Foundation

Albinas Šimanauskas
Aleksandras Macijauskas
Aleksandras Rasiulis
Alfredas Rukšėnas
Algimantas ir Mindaugas Černiauskai
Algimantas Kuras
Algimantas Kvedaravičius
Algirdas Markūnas
Aloyzas Stasiulevičius
Ana Miškinienė
Andrius Bendoravičius
Arkadijus Vinokuras
Arnoldas Stasiulis
Arūnas Bubnys
Arvydas Makauskas
Asta Žižienė
Audrius Dabrovolskis
Audronė Juodzevičienė
Aušra Dilinskytė
Aušra Vasiliauskienė
Aušrinė Jurgelionytė
Beata Stanevičienė
Birutė Anaitienė
Birutė Kanevičienė
Birutė Panumienė
Birutė Vidauskaitė-Andziulienė
Česlovas Znamerovskis (Gintaras Znamerovskis)
Daiva Judeikytė
Dalia Urbonienė
Deimantė Kazokaitė
Dmitrij Matvejev
Dmitrijus Bulybenko
Dovilė Lauraitienė
Dovilė Maneikytė
Domicelė Tarabildienė (Rimtas Tarabilda)
Edita Vainorienė
Edmundas Jankūnas
Eduardas Juchnevičius (Martynas Juchnevičius)
Elena Matulionienė
Eugenijus Peikštenis
Gabrielė Šlimaitė-Kadžiulienė
Genutė Šakalienė

Gertrūda Dačiulienė
Gintaras Damanskas
Gintaras Lauraitis
Gintaras Mačeika
Gintarė Marija Vapšienė
Goda Damaševičiūtė
Halina Untanienė
Ieva Bartasevičiūtė
Inga Raubaitė
Irena Giedraitienė
Janina Dunovskaja
Jelena Parasonienė
Joana Jakučionienė
Jolita Šilingienė
Jonas Jagėla
Jonas Kareniauskas
Jonas Kuzminskis (Mykolas Kuzminskis)
Jonas Lenkutis
Jonas Nemanis
Jonas Paršeliūnas
Julijus Balčikonis
Juozas Galkus
Jurga Mačionytė
Karolis Šlivinskas
Kęstutis Grigaliūnas
Kęstutis Litvinienko
Klaudijus Driskius
pr. Dovydas Grigaliūnas
pr. Medardas Čeponis
pr. Robertas Grigas
Laima Dačiulytė
Laima Malinauskaitė-Šimanauskienė
Laima Petrauskienė
Laima Šinkūnaitė
Laimonas Kemėras
Laimutė Jurkienienė
Leonora Žukienė
Lika Kuodienė
Lina Šlapelytė
Lolita Auksė Raudienė
Lukas Sazinas

Manfridas Rodžius
Margarita Starkevičiūtė
Martynas Ervinas Peteraitis
Martynas Tininis
Mindaugas Strockis
Miroslav Grabovki
Nadežda Zajančkovskaja
Napaleonas Petrulis (Ieva Matulionytė)
Nijolė Koženevskaja
Petras Gvazdauskas
Povilas Jakučionis
Ramūnas Skvireckas
Ramusis Lapinskas
Rasa Čepaitienė
Algimantas Žižiūnas (Regina Žižiūnienė)
Renata Stonytė
Rima Misėkienė
Rima Petronėlė Gudelytė
Rimantas Dichavičius
Rimantas Dūda
Rimantas Jankauskas
Rimantas Matulis
Rimantas Petrikas
Rimantas Rimkevičius
Rimtas Tarabilda
Rita Juškevičienė
Rytas Narvydas
Robertas Antinis
Romualdas Kęstutis Augūnas
Romualdas Obelevičius
Romualdas Požerskis
Romualdas Rakauskas
Rūta Trimonienė
Saulius Domarkas
Saulius Kruopis
Saulius Pilinkus
Sergėjus Jovaiša
sister Gerarda Elena Šiuliauskaitė
Severija Inčirauskaitė-Kriaunevičienė
Sigita Kasparaitė
Sigita Žilionytė

Sigitas Baltramaitis
Silvestras Džiaugštas
Silvija Kurienė
Simona Mekionytė
Stanislovas Stasiulis
Tautvydas Kontrimavičius
Teresė Birutė Burauskaitė
Tomas Petrauskas
Vaidas Rindzevičius
Vaidenė Grybauskaitė
Valentinas Antanavičius
Valerij Koreškov
Vilius Puronas
Vilma Dubonienė
Vilma Juozevičiūtė
Vincas Dilka (Teodora Dilkienė)
Vincas Kisarauskas (Aistė Kisarauskaitė)
Violeta Baranovskienė
Violeta Jasinskienė
Virgilijus Šonta
Vytautas Daraškevičius
Vytautas Jurkūnas (Vytautas Jurkūnas)
Vytautas Stanionis
Vytautas Starikovičius
Vladas Jankauskas
Vladas Vildžiūnas (Liudvika Pociūnienė)
Vladimiras Tarasov
Zenonas Bulgakovas
Zenonas Tarakevičius
Zigmas Tamakauskas
Zita Buržaitė-Vėžienė
Žana Bugaj
ir kiti, kurie prisidėjo prie šio muziejaus atsiradimo ar įrengimo.