Rimantas Vėbra (1931-1999) was a Lithuanian historian and specialist in 19th century history. His research includes the Lithuanian national movement in the second half of the 19th century. He was very active as a historian and researcher. He spent a lot of time in archives in Lithuania and in other archives (such as the History Archives of St Petersburg/Leningrad). He discovered many issues of Lithuanian history in the second half of 19th century. In 1973, in a letter to Henrikas Zabulis, the minister of higher and special secondary education, he argued that he found the file ‘Lietuviškos spaudos draudimo panaikinimo byla’ (File on the lifting of the ban on Lithuanian publications), but publishers refused to publish his article about it.
Vėbra started his career very loyal to the Soviet regime. After secondary school in Utena, he attended a military school in Petrozavodsk and became an army officer. But in 1955, he changed from the army to the Komsomol communist youth organisation. We can assume that Khrushchev’s policy of abolishing national units in the Soviet army and reducing the USSR’s military forces had a big impact on his life. At the peak of his Komsomol career, he reached quite a high position as deputy head of a Central Committee department. At the same time, he started part-time studies in history at Vilnius University. In 1960, he became a full-time student of history, working at the same time in the University as an assistant. He defended his doctoral thesis in 1966, and his first book Lietuvos katalikų dvasininkija ir visuomeninis judėjimas (XIX a. antroji pusė) (The Lithuanian Catholic Clergy and Social Movement in the Second Half of the 19th Century) was published in 1968.
The situation later became more complicated, when Vėbra made efforts to recover the idea of the United Stream (Vieningoji srovė). During the Stalin era, the United Stream was attacked by Soviet ideologists for its efforts to show the origins of the revolutionary movement not only in socialist (communist) activity but also in the Lithuanian national movement in the 19th century.
In 1983, Vėbra was not allowed to give a presentation at a conference devoted to the first Lithuanian newspaper Aušra (Dawn, established in 1883). He only made a comment (although quite long, at ten minutes), in which he strongly advocated the legalisation of the United Stream.
While he was not an active participant in the anti-Soviet dissident movement, his professional activity was restricted because of his writings, research works that were perceived by the authorities as unconventional, and his deviation from the ideological norm.
Vilnius , Lithuania
- Utena, Lithuania