By Gloria Kivytaitė O’Brien
Many people know about Perloja, the little town in Dzūkija whose residents declared an independent republic during the WW I era, and whose story was told by Joe Lukaitis in the July/August 1997 issue of Lithuanian Heritage Magazine. But there was another, earlier republic, known as “Pavlovo Respublika”, which existed through the will and effort of one man, about one hundred and fifty years before that.
Bžostovskis (Bžostauskas), in 1745 at the age of six years, inherited
property in Vilnius upon the death of his father, Juozapas Bžostovskis, who
had been a scribe for the Lithuanian Grand Duchy. His mother managed the
property during his minority, and he eventually went to
He started work in the field of literature, contributing to several religious printers and translating religious tracts and scholarly works from various foreign languages to Polish, which was in wide use among the intelligentsia of the time. He also had an interest in genealogy, and published information asserting the nobility of his family tree in several languages.
In 1767, he purchased an old run-down estate known as Merkinės dvarelis, near Turgeliai and the river Merkys, and began to implement a series of reforms.The estate consisted of about 34 peasants’ farms, and with an adjoining parcel of land in Turgeliai, he had altogether about 1,640 hectares. He found he had acquired some neglected farmland and a group of impoverished drunkards, enduring the heavy weight of serfdom.
Possibly implementing some
liberal notions he had acquired in
Povilas Ksaveras Bžostovskis took it upon himself to enlighten his farmers, doing his utmost to draw them away from drink. He instituted a peasant self-government, naming it after himself - Pavlovo Respublika. (Those were the days of Polish and Slavic influence, and many names of people and places took on a Slavic cast, thus, Pavlovo instead of the Lithuanian Povilo or even Paulavo). The land was parceled out to the farmers, and a charter and body of laws were written for the government. As president of the republic, Bžostovskis chose the four most responsible farmers as council members, and set up a two-chamber parliament. The peasant farmers made up the lower chamber, and they chose representatives from among the estate‘s clerical management employees to sit in the upper chamber, along with the president, Bžostovskis.
Pavlovo Respublika had its
own constitution, which was confirmed by the Seimas in
Bžostovskis recruited a uniformed militia, enlisting some 130 men of appropriate age and aptitude in several groups, with a governor at its head. They trained daily, executing military maneuvers, and when necessary, defended their republic. They built strong ramparts all around the estate, fortified with cannon at several locations.
The republic soon became a
model of efficiency, and by the year 1784, its income had doubled more than
twice. Every four years, Bžostovskis called a general meeting of all
residents, and solemn devotions were held in the Turgelių church. A formal
honor guard displayed an embroidered banner proclaiming “
In the meantime, while this
little republic was enjoying its success, the “Republic of Two Nations” was suffering the attentions of three of
Povilas Bžostovskis was
forced to sell the property and emigrate, to a small
one of the more radically liberal social experiments of the eighteenth century,
which for thirty years had captured the attention of all of
© Gloria O’Brien 2006
Vilniaus Gatvių Istorija - Antanas Rimvydas Čaplinskas
The History of Lithuania Before 1795 - J. & Z. Kiaupai & A. Kuncevičius
This article was printed in Lithuanian Heritage Jan/Feb 2007