Intentions of Cultural Liberalism in Interwar Kaunas: Cohesion of Science and Society

  • Romualdas Juzefovičius
Keywords: Lithuanian scholars, cultural liberalism, public education, history of Kaunas


The aim of the article is to study the impact of the ideas of modern liberalism put forward by the scholars and lecturers of the University of Lithuania, which was established in Kaunas in 1922, in developing the educational voice of the intelligentsia in the society. The study looks into archival and other published sources on the democratic sociocultural environment set up at the University of Lithuania, analyses the impact of the ideas of cultural liberalism expressed by scholars in organising the training and cultural education of the population. The article uses the documents related to the pedagogical and cultural performance of the university operating in Kaunas, personal collections, minutes of meetings of organisations established by intellectuals, official letters and other correspondence, and periodicals. The sources employed in this work tell about the significant organisational and scientific contribution of researchers not only to organising the studies in Kaunas but also to mobilising a qualified, socially active, and democratic academic community. The contribution of the university professors from different fields of science and their value-based approach were of great importance in the development of the sociocultural life of the university. Vaclovas Biržiška, Petras Leonas, Albinas Rimka, and other intellectuals based their theoretical ideas and public actions on democracy, social solidarity, tolerance, other principles of social progress, and the recognition of the value and rights of every person. The ideas of democracy, the development of an educated personality and a modern society were the spiritual basis of many intellectuals’ educational activities in society right from the founding of the University of Lithuania, even though only some of them consistently favoured the doctrines of modern liberalism. Professors from Kaunas University sought to apply scientific knowledge and disseminate their experience by organizing direct training for adults at different levels of education and from different social strata. They established public adult education institutions. The scholars of Kaunas did not limit themselves to the education of the residents of their city, promotion of their educational interests, and development of their cultural horizons. Together with other intellectuals, authors of literary and artistic works, publicists and educators who promoted democratic position, they took part in the work of the Lithuanian Cultural Union, which had been functioning since 1924. This union brought together several dozens of public organisations and companies and cooperated with publishers of liberal cultural magazines.