Vol. 16 (2023): XVI International Symposium Contemporary Issues of Literary Criticism Socialist Realism in Literature and Art
Socialist Realism: Term, Process, Movement

The Epoch that Did Not Happen. The Poem of the Perished and Its Relationship to History

Jūratė Landsbergytė-Becher
Lithuanian Culture Research Institute

Published 2023-12-11


  • poetry,
  • Putinas,
  • a call to the nation,
  • Vivos plango,
  • Mortuos voco,
  • occupation era,
  • realism
  • ...More


It is difficult to exclude the expression of socialist realism in Lithuanian literature because of a deep coup d’état of intellectual values caused after the Soviets occupied Lithuania in 1940, in a System collapsing and masking political facts. Then, a year later, when the German occupation started, all the horrors of the Soviet occupation revealed their reality, the grip of censorship fell, and a call to the nation began... At that time, Vincas Mykolaitis-Putinas (1893-1967) created a poem which would become a great historical exception from the poetry of the Soviet era, which, after the return of the Red Army in 1944 “folded its wings” against propaganda and censorship legitimising the occupation, and against the introduction of the dogma of socialist realism in literature. The fate of Putinas’ poem became exceptional, breaking destinies by circulating in the underground and remaining anonymous, as the author could not name himself for the sake of survival in literature, spreading from the partisans’ movement to the American Lithuanian press. It is worth taking note of three factors: a) the relevance of the courage of the poem’s insights, which are constantly reborn at the non-end of the story; b) the controversy of the relationship between the poem and the author in the era of “socialist realism” and the uncertainty of that era, which penetrated even the life of a famous writer, fearing the openness of historical truth, c) significance of the creation date of the poem “Vivos plango. Mortuos voco” (1943), its spontaneous spread, concealment of authorship and the circumstances of its returned relevance in the present, which speak of its phenomenon, overshadowing the ineffectiveness of the “socialist realism” introduced by the Soviets in the context of Lithuanian literature.