Cultural Activities of the Plungė Garrison, 1934–1940
Keywords: Plungė, Lithuanian army, culture, brass band, holidays, 4th Artillery Regiment, 6th Infantry Regiment of Duke Margis of Pilėnai
AbstractThe 4th Artillery Regiment and the 6th Infantry Regiment of Duke Margis of Pilėnai were relocated to Plungė as part of the efforts to strengthen the defensive capacities of Lithuania’s western territory. At first, soldiers were quartered in the buildings situated in Plungė park and later moved to the newly-built barracks. Therefore, the major aim of the article is to reveal the input of the garrison soldiers into the cultural life of Plungė as well as to contribute to the research on the topic which so far has been little studied. The article shows how the park was reorganised to adjust the new space to life and military functions, and how it was set up for the purposes of culture and free time of the army and the townspeople. It provided an opportunity to actively engage in exercise in a partly-closed space for the town dwellers and to take part in various events for the military. The park also hosted various celebrations of public holidays, summer outdoor parties for young people known as gegužinė, orchestra performances, and even served as a stage for soldiers performing songs. The garrison’s military brass band was popular and well-known in Plungė and the neighbouring towns and villages. The band would play on the occasion of seeing off and meeting soldiers; it would also perform during city festivals and gegužinė outdoor parties, thus becoming an inseparable part of the town’s cultural life. Soldiers would hold the celebrations of the Lithuanian Armed Forces, show jumping events and Military and Public Days during which they would organise parades, horse shows to the public as well as demonstrate their military preparedness. The garrison soldiers staged plays, delivered lectures to local residents and even had their own reading-room. Wearing a full-dress uniform, the regiment soldiers would attend religious and town festivals. The article shows that through involvement of the public in cultural activities, celebration of public holidays, and promotion of patriotic and civic spirit in society, the garrison became an important factor in the provincial life of independent Lithuania, which did not only have a significant influence on the town of Plungė but also earned respect among its residents.