Sajudis and the Lithuanian Catholic Church

Miranda R. Zapor (Baylor University)

In the late 1980s, waves of popular nationalism swept across the Socialist Republics. In this context of nascent revolution, the Lithuanian Popular Front, Sajudis, was born.

The relationship between Sajudis and the Lithuanian Catholic Church (LCC) is worthy of particular scrutiny.  In contrast to Church-nationalist unities in other Socialist Republics, Sajudis had to actively incorporate the Lithuanian Catholic Church into its agenda, rather than simply assuming that an established foundation of religio-nationalist sentiment would result in a tacit alliance.  This task was made more complex by the well-established alternative sources of Lithuanian national identity that powerfully defined the national consciousness of Sajudis members; folk culture and religion, language, and history were all strong loci of national pride.  These sources proved sufficient to motivate the elite minority, but the majority of Lithuanians identified more readily with Catholic religious culture.  Moreover, the Lithuanian Catholic Church lacked a conscientiously nationalist agenda that would organically provide the nationalist movement with popular majority support.  Thus Sajudis had to work towards incorporating the Church into its political platform.  Sajudis, recognizing the potential for nationalist influence by the Church, encouraged clergy participation and espoused Catholic concerns in an effort to gain its support and constituency.

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