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Censorship of Foreign Publications in Lithuania of the Interwar Period

Arida Riaubienė
Published: 28 December 2020
Knygotyra , Volume 75, pp 218-258; doi:10.15388/knygotyra.2020.75.67

Abstract: In the years 1918 through 1940, the public opinion of the society was formed not only by the local press, but also by the publications in foreign languages, which reached Lithuania. Therefore, in order to ensure the se­curity of the state and society, the publications – not only local, but also those published abroad, and also imported in Lithuania – were censored in Lithuania in the interwar period. During the discussed period, the censorship of foreign publications was aimed to protect the country from publications that propagated anti-state ideas and instigated national discord. Institutions for the supervision and control of the press watched that content disagreeing with the moral values of the time and various publications by religious sects would not get into Lithuania. Already in the year 1919, the Law on Press established that the Minister of the Interior had the right to prohibit the import and distribution of publications in Lithuania, contrary to the establishment of the inde­pendent state of Lithuania. The censorship of foreign publications was performed by the Units of the Citizen Protection Department of the Ministry of the Interior, the names of which changed. After the year 1923, the censorship of foreign publications was related to the stages of development of the security service in the Ministry of the Interior. The books published and printed abroad were inspected at the customs posts near the state border of Lithuania. The customs officers inspected the publications in the presence of the railway police. When performing the censorship of foreign publications, an important position was taken by the border police, especially that which protected the wall with Germany, through which many smuggled goods were carried. The censorship of foreign publications intensified in the year 1933, after the establishment of the State Security Department. The activities of this institution are illustrated by the records about the detention of books in post offices, made by the officers of the Press Unit of this Department, the private persons’ requests to issue the permits for taking the publications from the post office, the permits to subscribe to the books or to import them by applying preventive censorship, and the other documents in the Office of the Chief Archivist of Lithuania. Lists of prohibited books also illustrate the foreign censorship activities. One of the earliest lists is a list of pu­blications prohibited for import and distribution in Lithuania, compiled since 1926. Sixteen lists of still nowhere announced foreign publications and books prohibited by censorship to be distributed are provided in the Appendix to the Article.
Keywords: Lithuania / Press / lists / Interior / censorship of foreign publications / prohibit the import / import and distribution

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