Putting the lithuanian Nation on the Right Path of Development: a Note by Prince Pyotr Svyatopolk-Mirsky on the Latin Alphabet in Lithuania

Keywords: Russian Empire; P. D. Svyatopolk-Mirsky; Vilna governor-general; northwestern region; Latin-Lithuanian font; russification


This article publishes a note by Prince P. D. Svyatopolk-Mirsky, governorgeneral of Vilna, Kovno, and Grodno between 1902 and 1904. The note focuses on a key issue of the management of the northwestern outskirts of the Russian Empire, the ban on book publication in Lithuanian printed in the Latin alphabet, which had been in use in the region since 1865. The ban was part of the policy of de-Polonisation and Russification of the northwestern region: implemented after the suppression of the Polish uprising of 1863–1864, it was aimed at protecting the local Lithuanian population from Polish influence. However, by the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it became obvious that the measure had not justified itself, provoking mass discontent of the Lithuanian population, which had previously been completely loyal to the imperial authorities. In Russian political circles, a controversy was unfolding about the future of the Latin alphabet for publications in Lithuanian, some of which is reflected in the document published in the article. Svyatopolk-Mirsky, who had the reputation of a liberal bureaucrat, was an ardent supporter of lifting the ban, seeking to justify his position to Emperor Nicholas II and the top leaders of the empire, i. e. members of the Committee of Ministers and the State Council, on whom the decision was ultimately dependent. Published for the first time, the note is currently stored in the State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF), fund 1729 (Svyatopolk-Mirsky). The content of the note is much wider than its original task, since it concerns not only the lifting of the ban, but also the need to revise the policies of the imperial authorities in the western periphery as a whole and abolish the a priori repressive and violent methods of its implementation. Also, the note examines the need for cooperation with the local community loyal to the authorities. The study of the source is of considerable interest in the context of analysis of the transformation of the imperial authorities’ policy on the periphery of the empire as they faced the need to establish a dialogue with the local public and find new methods to implement their Russification policy, which was considered impossible to reject at the time. Another significant information layer in the source is the political views and features of modern management practices advocated by Svyatopolk-Mirsky, which he realised in the northwestern region and subsequently tried to transfer to the all-Russian level when serving as minister of internal affairs.

Author Biography

Maxim Krot

PhD (History), Research Fellow, Southern Scientific Centre of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Associate Professor, Southern Federal University.

41, Chekhov Ave., 344006, Rostov-on-Don, Russia.

105/42, Bolshaya Sadovaya Str., 344006, Rostov-on-Don, Russia.

ORCID 0000-0001-5855-8160



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How to Cite
Krot, M. (2020). Putting the lithuanian Nation on the Right Path of Development: a Note by Prince Pyotr Svyatopolk-Mirsky on the Latin Alphabet in Lithuania. Quaestio Rossica, 8(1), 205–221. https://doi.org/10.15826/qr.2020.1.457