Lithuania celebrates THE DAY OF THE BOOK SMUGGLERS for the first time in London

  • Event will celebrate publishing ties old and new as Lithuania prepares for spotlight at The  London Book Fair Market Focus 2018

On Friday 16th March, the Lithuanian Culture Institute will celebrate the annual Day of the Book Smugglers for the first time in London by sending a troupe of modern-day smugglers with Lithuanian literature to key cultural institutions across the city.

The event comes ahead of the The London Book Fair (10-12 April) where The Baltics will be spotlighted as this year’s Market Focus, highlighting a new wave of literature from the region set to hit British bookshelves in 2018.

A UNESCO-recognised phenomenon distinctive to Lithuania, book smuggling is remembered annually on the birth date of Jurgis Bielinis, known as the “King of the Book Smugglers”, who led a secret network bringing banned Lithuanian-language books across the border from countries including the UK.

A press ban on Lithuanian language books was enforced by the occupying Tsarist Russian Empire between 1864 to 1904 in an attempt to Russify the country. Risking their lives and their freedom, almost three thousand smugglers were punished by the Russian authorities but, during the ban, they brought around five million books into the country. The book smugglers helped preserve the memories and culture of Lithuania and became the symbol of the  national resistance movement. A pattern of dissidence set to be repeated under the later USSR occupation from 1940-1990.

The book smugglers will set out from the Free Word Centre following a special breakfast event with Dr Kristina Sabaliauskaitė, author of the award-winning and critically acclaimed historical fiction series, Silva Rerum. Based on the chronicles kept by Lithuanian noble families between the 16th-18th centuries, the series is considered one of the most important literary events of the past decade in Lithuania. Silva Rerum has attracted unprecedented attention from readers and  exceptional praise  from  critics around the world, who have drawn comparisons between Sabaliauskaitė and writers such as Umberto Eco. London-based Sabaliauskaitė, whose work is yet to be published in the  UK, will be showcased at the 2018 London Book Fair as one of the Authors of the Day.

The event will provide new and valuable insights into Lithuania’s literature, culture and history and will bring together many areas of the literary world, from publishers and agents to booksellers and the media. It comes at an important time for Lithuania as it marks 100 years since Restoration of  the State  Day in 2018, a significant moment in the country’s journey to become a free and independent state.

There will be a photo opportunity with book smugglers dressed in the 2017 S/S haute couture collection by Lithuanian designer Juozas Statkevicius, inspired by the book smuggling tradition and reflecting the ongoing cultural legacy of the phenomenon. All attendees will be armed with their own book smuggler bags to take away including a book to read, information about rights available and titles publishing in  the UK.

Throughout the day, follow and join the smugglers online:


For all media enquires please contact Ashton Bainbridge and Stephanie Speight at FMcM Associates on +44 207 405 7422 or email

Notes to Editors


DATE: Friday 16th March 2018 TIME: 8:45am - 10:30am
LOCATION: Free Word Centre

60 Farringdon Road, Clerkenwell, London, EC1R 3GA

With special guests:

Author of the Day, The London Book Fair, Kristina Sabaliauskaitė
Cultural Attaché, Lithuanian Embassy in the UK, Justė Kostikovaitė
Director, Lithuania Culture Institute, Aušrinė Žilinskienė
The London Book Fair, Sheerin Aswat
Chair: Rosie Goldsmith


4th Estate
Aitken Alexander Associates
Amazon Publishing
The Big Green Bookshop
The Book Hive, Norwich
DHH Literary Agency
Dulwich Books
Jarrold, Norwich
Janklow and Nesbit
Penguin Random House
The Poetry Society
Southbank Centre
The Sunday Times
Waterstones Piccadilly
The Writers’ Centre Norwich


Magnetic North: Conversations with Tomas Venclova by Ellen Hinsey and Tomas Venclova (Boydell & Brewer, January 2018)
Darkness and Company by Sigitas Parulskis (Peter Owen Publishers, April 2018)
White Shroud by Antanas Škėma (Vagabond Voices, February 2018)
Memoirs of a Life Cut Short by Ričardas Gavelis (Vagabond Voices, March 2018)
Shadows on the Tundra by Dalia Grinkevičiūtė (Peirene Press, June 2018)
In the Shadow of Wolves by Alvydas Šlepikas (Oneworld, March 2019)
New Baltic Poetry ed. Jayde Will (Parthian Books, March 2018)
The Moon is a Pill by Aušra Kaziliūnaitė, poetry collection (Parthian Books, March 2018)
Now I Understand by Marius Burokas, poetry collection (Parthian Books, March 2018)
Then What by Gintaras Grajauskas, poetry collection (Bloodaxe Books, April 2018)
The Fox on the Swing by Evelina Daciūtė, illustrated by Aušra Kiudulaitė (Thames & Hudson, March 2018)
The Music Teacher by Renata Šerelytė (Noir Press, January 2018)
The Easiest by Rasa Aškinytė (Noir Press, January 2018)
The Last Day by Jaroslavas Melnikas (Noir Press, June 2018)
Shtetl Love Song by Grigory Kanovich (Noir Press, October 2017)


Dr Kristina Sabaliauskaitė was born in Vilnius and moved to  London in  2002, where she currently lives.  She worked for a number of years as a foreign correspondent and columnist for Lithuania’s biggest daily newspaper and has a PhD in Art History and Baroque Studies from the Vilnius Academy of Arts.

She  is  the  author of  the  award-winning and  critically acclaimed historical fiction series, Silva Rerum   set in 17th-18th century Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, some of the action takes place in England, France, the Netherlands, and Germany. A bestseller in multiple territories, the third book in the trilogy spent 26 consecutive weeks at the top of the Lithuanian bestseller charts in 2014.


The London Book Fair (LBF) is the global marketplace for  rights negotiation and the sale and distribution  of content across print, audio, TV, film and digital channels. Taking place every spring in the world’s premier publishing and cultural capital, it is a  unique opportunity to  explore, understand and  capitalise on the innovations shaping the publishing world of the future. LBF brings you direct access to customers, content and emerging markets. LBF 2018, will take place from Tuesday 10th – Thursday 12th April, at Olympia London. LBF’s London Book and Screen Week will run for the fourth year,  with the book fair as   the pivotal three day event within a five day programme.


Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia all celebrating the centennial of their independent republics in 2018, introduce the exciting chance to discover epic past  and vibrant, inventive present through the strong voice of modern literature. Three countries share the beauty of the Baltic sea’s coastline, brave  history and inspiring contemporary culture. Cherishing all that they have in common, the three Baltic Countries Market Focus countries are joining intellectual and creative forces to express unique  experiences  through unique stories.


The Lithuanian Culture Institute presents Lithuania to the world through culture. In  pursuit  of  its mission, LCI collaborates with Lithuanian cultural attaches, Lithuanian diplomatic missions and other institutions. In the literary field, LCI sponsors a translation grant programme, consults  and  informs foreign publishers and translators on issues related to Lithuanian literature, organises seminars for translators and literary events abroad.

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