Lithuanian theatre criticism in Soviet period: freedom and captivity of discourses

  • Rasa Vasinauskaitė
Keywords: discourse, aesthetics, ideology, review, romanticism, social realism, Soviet period, theatre criticism


The article analyses the attitude of Lithuanian theatre criticism in the Soviet period. The discourse theory (Foucault) and critical discourse analysis method (Van Dijk) are used to find out how the official ideological and political discourse affected the language and aesthetical doctrine of theatre criticism. It is shown that the history of the Lithuanian theatre after 1945 was written according to the Soviet theatre history. Critics in their articles used party directives and tried to emphasize the social realistic aesthetics of the theatrical performances. Comparing the volumes (published in 1979 and 1987) of academic Lithuanian theatre history shows that the similarity of their language is paradoxical, even thoughthese texts are written in different periods. One of the most interesting example is “Herkus Mantas” (1957) by playwright Juozas Grušas and director Henrikas Vancevičius, the first performance of Khrushchev Thaw period on the Lithuanian stage, which was analyzed using double significance: as a heroic, epic, monumental, romantic and poetic national tragedy and as a social, atheistic, people tragedy based on Marxist position. “Herkus Mantas” was the first historical tragedy after the forced social realism and Stalinist Non-conflict Theory in 1945–1956, but critics even in the 8th and 9th decades still compared the performance with the Soviet heroic revolutionary plays. Criticism saw the peculiarity and importance of “Herkus Mantas” but it was judged by the rhetoric of ideologically legitimate discourse, emphasizing the aesthetics of the performance with the official doctrine. This example shows that the discourse of criticism was dependent on ideology, but it was free to manipulate the language and form of ideological discourse. This manipulation, or mimicry of the Lithuanian theatre critics in early and late Soviet times makes criticism an unreliable source of historical research, but it also shows an empty form of the official discourse itself in which new (and random) content could have appeared. This new content could have been given by choosing the “reading code”.