Bank of Lithuania
Collector coin

Dedicated to the role of the Lithuanian Catholic Church in unarmed resistance

Kolekcinė moneta


In the gloomy Soviet era, when the tanks of the Soviet Bloc countries were crushing Czech and Slovak illusions of creating “communism with a human face” and burying their hopes of liberation from the suffocating grip of the Soviet empire, several dozen Lithuanian priests launched a seemingly doomed-to-fail peaceful protest for an individual’s right to freely profess their religion or beliefs and to live according to them. It is difficult to say now which was the more important source of inspiration for them: the events in Prague; the assassination of the African-American rights activist Martin Luther King; or the Dignitatis Humanae declaration, adopted a few years earlier at the Second Vatican Council, which proclaimed that freedom of religion is central to the fundamental human rights arising out of the Christian concept of human dignity. Despite the efforts of the Soviet regime to suppress this campaign of petitions in Lithuania, which brought to the fore the rights of the faithful, it turned into quite a broad movement, uniting not only the majority of the clergy, but also the women’s monasteries that were active in the underground, as well as a small number of more active laypeople.

It was quickly realised that only the demonstration of broader backing and more publicity could disturb the calm of the cynical Soviet officials. The transition from often-invisible individual efforts to a more vocal and visible movement for the rights of the faithful was marked by two documents produced almost simultaneously in 1972: a memorandum from the Roman Catholics of Lithuania to the Secretary General of the Soviet Union, signed by more than 17,000 people; and the first issue of the samizdat periodical, The Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania. It was this publication that eventually became not only the main weapon of the unarmed Catholic resistance in Lithuania, but also a kind of symbol of it. No other samizdat periodical in the Soviet Union was published so regularly and for such a long time. From the very beginning of its publication, it was clearly understood that every new issue of the Chronicle should break through the closely guarded border of “actually existing socialism” in the country as soon as possible and end up in the West. This was not only so that the foreign media would have an alternative source of information about the situation in the Soviet Union, but also so that the news of the Chronicle could reach a larger audience in Lithuania through the Lithuanian radio. Therefore, it can be argued that it was only because of the Chronicle that the monopoly of public space held by the Soviet regime in Lithuania was broken, which contributed significantly to the undermining of the foundations of the system.

Kolekcinė moneta

The Catholic Church in Lithuania was the main pillar of unarmed resistance in the late Soviet period, as other social actors who could have challenged the regime were passive, unlike in other Central Eastern European countries. The intelligentsia did not dare to go beyond aesopic talk, the student body was quite effectively controlled, and the workforce was small and ethnically heterogeneous. The Catholic clergy and practising Catholics, although not very numerous, had the least to lose in Soviet society. On the other hand, they could count on their voices being heard, since they were part of the universal Roman Catholic Church. The invisible backbone of the Catholic resistance in Lithuania consisted of the men’s and women’s underground monasteries. The role of the latter was particularly important: the sisters, working in secret, collected signatures on the petitions of the faithful, gathered material on violations of the rights of the faithful, assisted in the editing, reproduction and distribution of the Chronicle and other periodical samizdat publications, organised the marches of the faithful to Šiluva, which were not sanctioned by the authorities, and mobilised and supported youth groups for religious and nationalist education. All of this was an important contribution to the creation of a network of social relations beyond the control of the regime, which laid the foundation for the success story of the Reform Movement of Lithuania, Sąjūdis.

Prof. Dr. Arūnas Streikus

  • The Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania
    The Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania
    The Lithuanian Special Archives
  • Prague residents face a tank during confrontation between the Soviet troops and protesters. August 21, 1968
    Prague residents face a tank during confrontation between the Soviet troops and protesters. August 21, 1968
    Libor Hajsky
    Photo credits: Alamy Stock Photo

Coin dedicated to the role of the Lithuanian Catholic Church in unarmed resistance

silver Ag 925
28.70 mm
12.44 g
Designed by
Rūta Ona Čigriejūtė
On the edge of the coin
LIETUVOS KATALIKŲ BAŽNYČIOS VAIDMUO NEGINKLUOTAME PASIPRIEŠINIME (The role of the Lithuanian Catholic Church in unarmed resistance)
Kolekcinė moneta
Release date
20 September 2023
2,750 pcs
Coin price
EUR 62.00 (inclusive of VAT)
Minted at
the Lithuanian Mint

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