Taking Books to the People, Part 6: Book Smugglers

East Prussia and LIthuania.jpegAtlas Obscura on July 21, shared the fascinating story of 19th Century Lithuanian book smugglers.  Tsarist Russia tried to stamp out the native Lithuanian language and religion, hoping to force the Lithuanians to become loyal to the Russian cause.  With a  huge population difference, a military revolt was not a good proposition.  Instead, Lithuanians printed Lithuanian books in East Prussia and smuggled them back to Lithuania. Called the knygnešiai, the smugglers faced imprisonment, exile to Siberia and possibly death if caught.

How far would you be willing to go to be able to read what you wanted, in the language of your choice?  Join in the conversation and share you opinion on your right to read.


2 thoughts on “Taking Books to the People, Part 6: Book Smugglers”

  1. Authoritarian regimes have tried for centuries (perhaps millennia) to suppress language or religion by banning books. Everyone points to Hitler’s book burning rallies, where Judaica and other “offensive” works were destroyed in the name of Aryan purity, but the pattern can be found in many other countries. There’s always been an underground resistance too. Russia has had its samizdats. China and North Korea fight a never-ending battle against people who smuggle Christian or falun gong literature into their countries. My sister owns a small Protestant tract published quietly in France a couple of centuries back and bound with a cover that suggests that it is really a Moliere play. Books are incredibly resilient.


  2. I love the historical perspective that this post brings. I knew about the Christian and Falun Gong literature bans but were unfamiliar with the Russian and French examples. How neat for your sister to have that small tract.


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