VACLOVAS BIRZISKA

Vaclovas Birziska (1884-1956), jurist and Vaclovas Birziškabibliographer, born in Vieksniai in the province of Samogitia on Dec. 2, 1884, son of Antanas Birziska. In 1903 he began studying science and mathematics at the University of St. Petersburg, later chaining to law, history, and ethnography. He graduated from the faculty of law at St. Petersburg in 1909 and until World War I practised law in Vilnius and Siauliai. From 1914-1917 he served as an officer in the Russian army. After the Russian revolution, he worked in Moscow (1918) in the archives of the commissariat for Lithuanian affairs. During the Bolshevik occupation of Vilnius, from January to April, 1919 he was initially commissar for education and later deputy commissar for education in the Soviet government of V. Mickevicius-Kapsukas. While serving in these posts he defend Lithuanian and Polish activists from Bolshevik arrest, secretly maintaining contact with patriotic Lithuanian organisations. From the spring of 1920, while 1920, while the Lithuanians, Poles, and Bolsheviks were fighting for Vilnius, he taught in Lithuanian schools. After the polish seizure of Vilnius on Oct. 9, 1920, he withdrew to Kaunas where he lived until the Russian occupation in 1944.

He began his academic career in Vilnius in 1919 as a lecturer in law at the Advanced School of art and Sciences. From 1920-1922 he was lecturer at the School of arts and Sciences in Kaunas. When this school became a university on Nov. 22, 1922, he was appointed assistant professor in the faculty of law; on June 1, 1924 he became an associate professor, and on Nov. 1, 1931, professor. He lectured on administrative law in the faculty of law at the same time lecturing on Lithuanian bibliography in the faculty of humanities. He also held administrative posts at the university: from 1922-1933 as secretary of the faculty of law, from 1933-1935 as dean of the faculty, of law, from 1923-1944 as librarian of the University of Kaunas, from 1940-1941 as dean of the faculty of law at the University of Vilnius as well as its librarian. During the German occupation from 1941-1943 he lectured on bibliography at the University of Kaunas (faculty of philosophy), where he organised a separate department of library science. From 1946-1949 he was a professor at the Baltic University in Hamburg and Pinnenberg. In the United States during 1951-1953 he was consultant to the Library of Congress in Washington. He died in Waterbury, Connecticut on Jan. 3, 1956.

Birziska devoted most of his attention and efforts to Lithuanian bibliography. He wrote much concerning bibliography and cultural history in periodical literature, in the Lithuanian Encyclopedia, of which he was editor in Kaunas from 1932-1944 and in Boston from 1951-1953, as well as in his own works dealing mainly with early Lithuanian literature.

The writings of Birziska consist of about 13000 articles in periodicals and in the encyclopaedia and over 50 separate publications. His more comprehensive articles on cultural history were published posthumously under the title Praeities pabiros (Scatterings from the past), Brooklyn, 1960. His largest bibliographical work, Aleksandrynas (3 vols., Chicago, 1960-1965), was also published only after his death. It contains the bibliographies and lists the work of over 370 early (up to 1865) Lithuanian writers.


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Samogitian Cultural Association Editorial Board, 1998.
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