Polish-Lithuanian restitutive negotiations in the period of the Third Republic of Poland (1911–2018)
Since regaining independence in 1991, Lithuanian historical documents have been kept in two archives: 1) the Lithuanian State Historical Archives (Lietuvos Valstybes Istorijos Archyvas); 2) the Lithuanian Central State Archives (Lietuvos Centrinis Valstybinis Archiv). Making them available for Polish scholars was a subject of negotiations between Polish and Lithuanian archivists. In June 11, 1993 in Białystok there was signed an agreement of cooperation between the Head Office of State Archives (Jerzy Skowronek) and the Office of the Chief Archivist of Lithuania (Stanislovas Gediminas Ilgunas). It concerned mainly information sharing about Lithuanian documents in Poland and Polish documents in Lithuania.
1994 Treaty Between the Republic of Poland and the Republic of Lithuania on Friendly Relations and Neighbourly Cooperation signed on April 26, 1994 has regulated the issues of cultural heritage protection in its Articles XVIII and XXIII. Based on the treaty and consistently with the principle of pertinence (territorial affiliation), on October 26, 1994 there was signed Polish- Lithuanian Initiating Protocol on Exchanging Record Documents. Further talks between Director Jerzy Skowronek (1937–1996) and Stanislovas Gediminas Ilgunas (1936–2010) held in the Lithuanian Archives Department and the Lithuanian State Historical Archives resulted in agreeing on the working schedules of Polish and Lithuanian archivists.
Moreover, queries were concluded by the Military Archival Commission which made more than 100 thousand copies of acts of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania coming from 1918–1939, documents of Poles imprisoned between September 1939 and July 1940 (in Kalvarija and Birštonas), and acts of Lithuanian NKVD and KGB – kept in the Lithuanian Central State Archives and the Lithuanian Special Archives of the former KGB.
On January 6, 1995 – independently on the agreement between Polish and Lithuanian archives – the Ambassador of Lithuania to Poland, HE Antanas Valionis (born in 1950), conveyed the copies of documents concerning 52 Poles murdered in Vilnius in 1944–1947 by NKVD to the Chief Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation.
Polish-Lithuanian exchanging revindication that took place in 1995– –1998 led to the State Archive’s in Suwałki conveying to the Lithuanian State Historical Archives more than 70 thousand of microfilm frames with civil status books produced in 1808–1912 on the territory of middle and eastern part of the former Sejny County that was accessed to Lithuania after the I World War. Simultaneously, Lithuanians conveyed to the State Archive in Białystok also more than 70 thousand of microfilm frames made by XIX-th century record books of parish deaneries in Białystok, Knyszyn and Sokółka.
On December 16, 1999 the governments of the Republic of Poland and the Republic of Lithuania signed a bilateral agreement on the cooperation of government plenipotentiaries in terms of cultural heritage protection that has become the pillar of joint archive studies, library conservation, securing the monuments of sacral and residential architecture, and the joint discovering and studying the common past.
On November 28, 2006 in Warsaw there was held a summit of the Polish- Lithuanian Expert Group on the Preservation of Cultural Heritage during which both sides declared cooperation between the archives of Poland and Lithuania. Sides agreed to collect data concerning Polish documents in Lithuania and Lithuanian documents in Poland.
Despite Lithuania keeps Polish cultural heritage appropriated in 1939– 1940 and discriminates against Polish minority, it has become an important partner in Polish Eastern politics in recent ten years.
In Lithuania – independently on studies conducted in Poland, Belarus, Ukraine and Moscow – there are very advanced works on editing another volumes of Lithuanian Metrica which is a collection of copies of almost all documents leaving the grand-ducal office between 1440–1795. It has been published since the end of XIX-th century in the Romanov Empire in the series of the National Library of Russia. In 1993–2015 there were published 53 volumes of the Lithuanian Metrica and a series edited in Poland. Now there should be expected – despite financial problems – the edition of another 27 volumes, several of which are already ready to print. However, there are still 500 volumes of acts of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania that await publication. It would be a task equally magnificent to Polish Bibliography of Estreichers.
Still, the matter of returning archives concerning the current Polish state remains unresolved. The same applies to the prewar Wróblewski Library – nationalized in 1940 by the authorities of Soviet Lithuania and transformed into the Library of the Academy of Sciences of Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic (currently the Wroblewski Library of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences).