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Lithuanian Youth Fraternity

Lithuanian Youth Fraternity (Zwiazek Bratni Mlodziezy Litewskiej) Polish conspiratorial organization in Lithuania and White Russia founded in mid-1848 in Vilnius by brothers Franciszek and Aleksande Dalewski, and by Antoni Jankowski. The organization grouped secondary school students and young representatives of intelligentsia. It aimed at strengthening the Polish national spirit, through education and moral revival, with the attempts at insurrection being postponed to a more convenient time. The 1848 event radicalized the conspiracy, however, with its members counting on an outbreak of the Russo-Prussia war. An arrival of the troops of General Józef Bem from Hungary to the Russian empire's territories began preparation for an uprising. The resurrection had its objective - the establisment of an independent Polish republic within the pre-partition boundaries. All the citizens were to be equal, which was to be achieved by abolishing serfdom.

In the beginning of 1849, the Fraternity grew quickly in strength. In Vilnius, its influence encompassed some artisan circles, the Fraternity engulfing a small conspiracy founded by Michal Mikutowicz. Fusion with clandestine organization established in 1848 in White Russia by Michal Boki was important for expanding the Fraternity's influence in the hinterland. Most probably, the Polish students' organization in Petersburg was also influenced by the Fraternity. Its growth as an organization was accompanied by argument among the leaders as to the character of the planned uprising. Meanwhile, the Fraternity's members, fearing denunciation, prompted the leaders to start fighting. Thus, on 2 March 1849 a decision was made to begin the rising of April on Easter Monday. The rising was to break out simultaneously in Vilnius and in the provinces. The conspirators in Minsk counted on the support of some of the Russian garrison there. To attract peasants, canvassing activities invoking abolition of serfdom and protection of the Catholic and Unitarian churches were carried out. However, arrests among the Fraternity members following denunciation ended the resurrection plans. About two hundred people were tried, most of them eighteen or nineteen year olds. Of the others, seventeen percent were artisans, while secondary school students made up twenty-five percent. The remaining defendants were young members of the intelligentsia, which was rooted in the impoverished petty nobility. The trials were held in February and April 1850. The leaders suffered the most severe punishment of five hundred cudgel strokes and several years in an penal colony.
Przemyslaw Matusik

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