On the Pathway to Independence: The Congress of the Representatives of the Lithuanian Military Officers of the Romanian Front (1917)
When the World War I began Lithuania was on the vanguards of the military operations. Around 60,000 Lithuanians were recruited in the Russian Army and employed on the operational fronts of the war. However, they were not blind performers of Tsarist ambitions, but, as The Amber Declaration showed, nurtured political ambitions of their own. The document issued on 4/17 August 1914 was signed, inter alia, by the patriarch of national credo, Jonas Basanavičius , and clearly affirmed the Lithuanian ideals, i.e. the aim of unifying Lithuania with Lithuania Minor then in German hands and the awarding of an autonomous status to a united Lithuania within the Russian Empire. This article tackles an enticing moment in the process of national rebirth, the Congress of the Representatives of the Lithuanian Military Officers of the Romanian Front held in Bender (Tighina), in southern Bessarabia, on 1-3 November 1917, calling for the creation of a Lithuanian national state. How this congress and the proclamation it issued fitted into the general frame of self-determination movements and Lithuanian national revival of 1917-1918, which led to the rebirth of the Lithuanian state? Who were the conveners and the participants to this congress? What arguments did they put forward in their national-building claims? What role did it play on the pathway to Lithuanian independence? Overlooked in most of the Lithuanian historical treatises, the Congress of the Representatives of the Lithuanian Military Officers of the Romanian Front in Bender City had in fact of greater significance than it allows to be understood when counting solely the relatively lower visibility of its leaders or the direct institutional lineage to the proclamation of independence.