Nation celebrates as landmark 1918 document is tracked down in a German archive months before centenary year, writes The Guardian.
A copy of Lithuania’s lost declaration of independence, drawn up in 1918, has been discovered languishing in a German archive, and hailed by authorities as the discovery of the nation’s “birth certificate”.
Liudas Mazylis, political science professor at Lithuania’s Vytautas Magnus University, told Reuters that his find on Wednesday was the culmination of an eight-month search.
“I was driven by an excitement of the possibility of finding such an important document, which was lost for so long,” Mazylis told Reuters.
Celebrations were triggered in the Baltic state with the discovery of the document – which comes less than a year short of the centenary marking the country’s independence act of February 1918 that declared the founding of the republic.
Lithuania was already planning to mark its 100th anniversary, keen to assert its independence in the face of what it sees as renewed aggression from Russia. Memories are still fresh of Lithuania’s emergence from Soviet occupation in the 1990s.
Lithuania’s president, Dalia Grybauskaitė, said she had asked Germany to send the document back, and was confident Berlin would comply. “We now have the best gift, the best monument to our centenary,” Grybauskaitė said.
Germany’s foreign ministry said it had confirmed the identity of the document uncovered in its own archives by the Lithuanian professor.
“What a great find! This is perfect news for our Lithuanian friends. We celebrate together with them,” it said in a statement that did not mention a return of the item.
Lithuania had lost track of all copies of the independence declaration, signed on 16 February 1918, in the turmoil that engulfed the region after the end of the first world war. The Lithuanian state was announced with the approval of Germany, whose army controlled the territory at the time, following a successful offensive against the Russian empire in 1915.