The Sources of Lithuanian Reputational Elite Studies

Valdas Selenis


Reputational elite in this article is considered to be not only the most famous, authoritative, “the most meritorious men of the state and nation”, the most influential “famous people” (Men of Fame) in the society, awarded in prizes, medals and other evaluational attributes, but every person who has entered the encyclopaedias and “who is who” type of publications. In Western Europe, from the beginning of the twentieth century biographical reference books became a “canonization” form of the most prominent national and state actors in emerging “small” nations, as well as a sign of modern nationalism in the era.
The main source of research of Lithuanian state reputational elite in the 1930s is Lietuviškoji enciklopedija, which is the best and only Lithuanian encyclopaedia from inter-war period. The idea for it was first introduced in 1907, but it was realized only in 1931. This encyclopaedia contains fragmentary and some vast and informative biographical articles. Unfortunately, because of the Soviet and Nazi occupations, this encyclopaedia was not finished (10th volume had only reached letter L). Both sources from this period, Lithuanian Encyclopaedia and unpublished Dictionary of Celebrities, intended to include “all distinguished people, without any distinction of nationality, religion, political views”, but in fact, Lithuanian ethnical and Catholic confessional criterions of selection dominated.
Selection of “prominent people” in Soviet encyclopaedias depended not only on ideological background, but also on profession. Technocrats had much more advantageous positions than “cultural workers”.
After re-establishment of the independence of the Lithuanian Republic in 1990, the very first “who is who” biographical dictionaries were released. These publications are a source of modern Lithuanian reputational elite research, which possibly would begin in future.


reputational elite; encyclopaedias; biographical dictionaries

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"Societal studies" ISSN online 2029-2244 / ISSN print 2029-2236