Kristijonas Donelaitis

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Donelaitis, Kristijonas


Born Jan. 1, 1714, in Lazdinehlen, in what is now Radviliskis Raion; died Feb. 18, 1780, in Tolmingkehmen, now Chistye Prudy, Kaliningrad Oblast. Lithuanian poet; pioneer of Lithuanian literature; representative of the realistic trend in European literature of the 18th century.

Donelaitis was the son of a peasant. He studied in a school for the poor in Konigsberg and graduated from the University of Konigsberg in 1740. He became pastor of a Lutheran parish in Tolmingkehmen in 1743 and remained there to the end of his life. He also studied optics and music.

During his lifetime, Donelaitis’ works were disseminated in manuscript form; he read them to his parishioners. Six fables (published in 1824) and the poem The Seasons of the Year (published in 1818) have survived. Both the fables and the poem are written in hexameter, reflecting a certain classical influence. In his fables, Donelaitis exposed the injustices and the lawlessness of the powerful and the wealthy and the exploitation of the working people. In the poem The Seasons of the Year, which consists of four thematically independent parts, the life of the serf village of so-called Lithuania Minor in the mid-18th century is realistically depicted, acute social contradictions are exposed, and the discontent of the peasantry with the arbitrariness of the German landlords and the policy of Germanization is reflected. The poem vividly depicts the labor and life of the enserfed peasants, local customs, and the beauty of rural nature. The poem also contains many didactic motifs and instructive, moral, and religious precepts. The power of the artistic images and the rich, lush language place his poem among the classic works of world literature. The poem was highly esteemed by J. W. Goethe and A. Mickiewicz. It has been often translated into foreign languages (German, Polish, Latvian, English, Georgian, and Byelorussian, among others). A complete translation into Russian was made by D. Brodskii in 1946.

Donelaitis’ works achieved their greatest popularity after the establishment of Soviet power in Lithuania. By the resolution of the World Peace Council, the 250th anniversary of Donelaitis’ birth was widely commemorated. Monuments to the poet were placed on his grave and in Vilnius. Archaeological research helped restore his portrait. Numerous research works on his literary legacy have appeared.


Raštai. Vilnius, 1950.
Kristijono Donelaičio rankraščiai. Vilnius, 1955.
In Russian translation:
Izbrannoe. Moscow, 1951.
Vremena goda. Basni. Leningrad, 1960.
Vremena goda. Moscow, 1964.


Gineitis, L. Kristionas Donelaitis i ego poema “Vremena goda.” Vilnius, 1956.
Doveika, K. Kristionas Donelaitis. Vilnius, 1956.
Rhesa, L. Das Jahr in vier Gesangen: Ein landliches Epos. Königsberg, 1818.
Schleicher, A. Christian Donelaitis: Littauische Dichtungen. St. Petersburg, 1865.
Gineitis, L. Kristijonas Donelaitis ir jo epocha. Vilnius, 1964.
Lietuviu literatūros istorija, vol. 1. Vilnius, 1957.
Korsakas, K. “Kristoijonas Donelaitis kitomis kalbomis.” In Jau saulelé vél. Vilnius, 1963.
Kristijono Donelaičio jubiliejiniai metai. Vilnius, 1965.
Kristijonas Donelaitis-Pranešimai. Straipsniai. Archyvine medžiaga. Vilnius, 1965.
Lebediené, E. Kristijono Donelaicio bibliografija. Vilnius, 1964.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Such a pitiless historical fate befell the land in which the first Lithuanian book, Martynas Mazvydas' Catechism (1547), was published, where Daniel Klein's first Lithuanian grammar (1653) appeared, where Jonas Bretkunas for the first time translated the Bible, where the chef-d'oeuvre of world fame, Metai "The seasons" was written by Kristijonas Donelaitis, where the first Lithuanian newspaper (1822) appeared, and where the first herald of the renaissance of the Lithuanian nation, the newspaper Ausra "Dawn" (1883-1886) was published.
Also sure to be epic is The Seasons, adapted by director Eimuntas Nekrosius and his Meno Fortas company from the poem by Lithuanian writer Kristijonas Donelaitis, chronicling the mythological cycle of a man's life within the extinct Prussian nation.
A conversation in verse with Kristijonas Donelaitis (1714-80), author of the major early Lithuanian epic The Seasons portraying village life in East Prussia of his day, leads Bradunas to declare his own spiritual kinship on the basis of ethnic identity and devotion to rural culture.