Professor Edvardas Gudavičius, the founder of modern Lithuanian historiography, has passed away on Monday at the age of 90.
Gudavičius managed to give Lithuania’s history a European and global context, and also “promoted self-consciousness and citizenship in people’s hearts,” Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda said in a statement.
Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis says the late historian helped to understand the state’s roots.
“Gudavičius wrote Lithuania’s history only in the European context and based on historiography. The Grand Duchy of Lithuania was the focus of the professor’s research for many years, and thanks to him we can celebrate the July 6th as the State Day when we mark the coronation of Lithuania’s first and only King Mindaugas,” the prime minister said in his message of condolences. Read more: Lithuania celebrates Statehood Day and coronation of its only king – photos
Speaker of the Seimas Viktoras Pranckietis says Gudavičius’ work “will continue protecting the history of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania from lies”.
Culture Minister Mindaugas Kvietkauskas says the country has lost “a man who dedicated the major part of his life to Lithuania’s history, the founder of Lithuania’s modern historiography who will go down in cultural history due to his academic achievements and discoveries important for the whole state”.
“The professor’s historic research has become a separate cultural phenomenon which has had major impact on the development of our state, historic consciousness, citizenship and patriotism,” the minister said.
Gudavičius put Lithuania’s history into the European context, his student, colleague and friend Alfredas Bumblauskas says.
In his words, Gudavičius was not interested in curiosities but was “very much focused on his civic mission”, and history for him was “the educator of the state and national consciousness and identity”.
“He was the first who put Lithuania in the global, European context and probably did that in the bravest way, drew that typology, produced from very specific analytical works to texts that require a very synthetic way of thinking. The spectrum of his work is very wide and we can even say it needs separate research,” Professor Bumblauskas, who has been in contact with Gudavičius for more than 40 years, told BNS.
According to Bumblauskas, Gudavičius focused on the analysis of fateful moments in the history of Lithuania and developed the plot of Lithuania’s first historic mentioning in 1009.
“He was a person of great caliber. There’s no historian equal to him, at least under our sky, and there won’t be for a long time. A whole epoch is gone, and it has defined our whole history and even the whole world of humanities for the past 30 year. He’s a symbol of independent Lithuania, the Lithuanian science, and, symbolically, he was the one who discovered the July 6th,” Bumblauskas said.
Gudavičius identified the likely date of the coronation of King Mindaugas on July 6, 1253, and the date was later declared a public holiday.
Bumblauskas also described Gudavičius as a very well-wishing and righteous person. “When you think of it, he was even too correct and good-natured when some ill-minded people might take advantage of it. And it seems to meet it would happen sometimes,” the historian said.
Their acquaintance started at Vilnius University when Bumblauskas started studying history in 1987, and they never parted ever since. Bumblauskas said their connection partly determined his decision to continue with his studies.
Later on, the two colleagues hosted a series of TV programmes on the national television for over a decade, and received the National Prize for Culture and Arts in 1998. Gudavičius wanted Lithuania to better understand itself, and his knowledge and ideas were very valuable during the restoration of Lithuania’s independence, former Lithuanian leader Vytautas Landsbergis said on Monday.
Landsbergis said he and Gudavičius worked more closely during the restoration and consolidation of Lithuania’s independence.
“There was a period when we used to meet more often, it was the dawn of revival and the beginning of the state when we had certain initiatives and historians were actively proposing certain things to the rebirthing state,” Landsbergis said.
“To publish the Statute of Lithuania for international awareness and use, the Constitution of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and the first printed Lithuanian-language book which was written by Pranciskus Skorina. The latter task has not been completed yet.”