Rūta Baltušienė, Neringa Butnoriūtė, Justina Sidorevičiūtė , 2010 09 16In brief: The international scientific conference “Cultural Links of Lithuania and France in the 19th Century” organised by Vytautas Magnus University and University of Western Brittany started with the sounds of the polonaise “Farewell to Homeland” created by M.K.Oginski in the 19th century in Kaunas, the hall of S. and S. Lozoraičiai Museum on the 10th of September. The wish to analyse cultural links and to find out what Lithuania and Lithuanians meant to Frenchmen rallied researchers of literature, history and culture and made them sit down at one table.The chancellor of VMU Auksė Balčytienė stated in the introductory word that it was necessary to take interest in politics, culture and personalities in order to realise one’s identity; while the guest from the Embassy of France in Lithuania Pascalis Hanse emphasised the importance of social relations.Much attention was allocated to the discussion of problem of the Lithuanian identity in the 19th century in the conference. Prof. Egidijus Aleksandravičius (VMU) pointed out in his report that Poles and Lithuanians who emigrated to France at the beginning of the 19th century were known to Frenchmen as a joint Polish nation. Lithuanians spoke Polish at the time; still, they tried to separate from Polish communities by all means.Prof. Marie–France de Palacio (Université de Bretagne Occidentale) spoke about the relations of emigrants with Lithuania in about 1860. These relations were called “lost paradise” precisely.The theme of emigration was also analysed by Philippe Edel, editor of Cahiers Lituaniens published in France. He reminded of the case of one of the greatest nature researchers of the 19th century Louis Henri Bojanus’ immigration to Lithuania. He arrived in Lithuania due to endless conflicts of the French revolution and was valued as a scientist and teacher in our country.Dr. Linas Venclauskas (VMU) read a report about Kaunas at the time of the Napoleonic Wars. He revealed that Lithuania was not known to Napoelon: he imagined that India was somewhere near Lithuania.Habil. Dr. Corine Defrance (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique) presented commemorations dedicated to the 125th anniversary of Napoleon’s crossing of Lithuania in 1937 in the report “Raymond Schmittlein and Recollections about the March of Napoleon in Lithuania”.Doc. Genovaitė Dručkutė (VU) read an intriguing report about France, Frenchmen and their relations with Lithuanians in Jozef Frank’s “Memoirs”.Prof. Thierry Laurent (Université Paris IV) revealed how much France knew about Lithuania in the 19th century: Lithuania was proclaimed by lectures of A.Mickiewicz, research of Saussure, memories of Napoleon’s army about the exotic land in France in the 19th century. P.Merimée, who was interested in the Samogitian dialect and paganism, was also presented. The author of the short story “Bear” wrote about Lithuania, the country using the ancient language. He embellished his work by Lithuanian words, described rituals and nature, which was also pictured in the national epic of A.Mickiewicz “Pan Tadeusz”. It is strange that P. Merimée, who was a translator from Russian, considered Lithuanians Slavic people.The report of Doc.Rūstis Kamuntavičius (VMU) caused the hottest debate in the conference. He told how Samogitians were seen by a French traveller at the end of the 19th century. The reporter presented stereotypes about Lithuania as an unknown land and disclosed several interesting facts: Samogitians were pictured as semi-people and semi-animals living in the woods since the 18th century. In the opinion of the reporter, Samogitia was considered to be the most backward part of Lithuania.Prof. Irena Buckley discussed impressions of Lithuanian travellers. The main aim of Lithuanians’ trips abroad was to see Paris in the 19th century. They were attracted by the image of France as a cultured country. Paris was well known from travellers’ stories and literature to Lithuanian aristocrats; therefore, they pictured France in really positive colours. Such image made many of Lithuanian travellers frustrated when they saw the real view of dirty streets, flourishing prostitution, vagabonds and poverty.Thus, Napoleon, who crossed Vytautas Magnus Bridge, joined Lithuanian and French cultures symbolically. The warm international relations established in the 19th century were the same during the conference too: the participants of it agreed to meet again soon.

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