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Antanas Smetona
Antanas Smetona

Born on 10 August 1874 in the village of Užulėnis, Taujėnai rural district of Ukmergė county, Antanas Smetona was sent to Taujėnai Primary School, had private tuition in Ukmergė and Liepaja (Latvia). Graduating from Palanga Pro-Gymnasium in 1893, he passed entrance examinations to the Samogitian Diocesan Seminary in Kaunas but soon thereafter changed his mind and enrolled at Jelgava Gymnasium in Latvia. He was expelled from the latter for nationalist statements.

After graduating from the Saint Petersburg Gymnasium in 1897, A.Smetona entered the Faculty of Law of the University of Saint Petersburg. On two occasions he faced the threat of being expelled from the University, experienced an arrest and short imprisonment. After graduation from the University in 1902, he worked at the Agricultural Bank of Vilnius.

On 4-5 December 1905, Antanas Smetona participated in the Lithuanian Congress in Vilnius.

During the First World War, he was the 1st Vice-Chairman, and later Chairman of the Central Committee of the Lithuanian Relief Society for helping victims of the war.

On 18-22 September 1917, he participated in the Lithuanian Conference in Vilnius, was elected Chairman (1917-1919) of the Council of Lithuania (later Council of the State). On 16 February 1918, Antanas Smetona signed the Declaration of Independence of Lithuania.

From 4 April 1919 to 19 June 1920 Antanas Smetona served as the first President of the State of Lithuania.

From 1921 throughout 1924 he edited several periodicals. In November 1923, authorities imprisoned A.Smetona for several days for publishing an article by Augustinas Voldemaras in "Vairas" (Steering Wheel), which he then edited.

From 1923 to 1927 A.Smetona was teaching ethics, ancient philosophy and Lithuanian stylistics at the University of Lithuania, where he became a senior lecturer in 1926.

Antanas Smetona was one of the leaders of the coup d'état on 17 December 1926.

Antanas Smetona was elected President of the Republic of Lithuania on 17 December 1926, re-elected in 1931 and 1938 and remained in office until 15 June 1940.

In June 1940 he fled to Germany, later to Switzerland and then to the United States of America.

Antanas Smetona was a member of the Lithuanian Democratic Party in 1902-1907; a leader of the Lithuanian Party of National Progress from 1920 to 1924, and an active participant in the activities of the Lithuanian Home Guard Union in 1924.The same year saw him among the founders of the Lithuanian Nationalist Union; soon thereafter, he became Chairman of the Union (1925-1926).

In 1932 Smetona was awarded the Honorary Doctor of Philosophy degree at Vytautas Magnus University.

From 1924 through to1940 he was the Vice-Chairman of the Board of the International Bank, founder and one of the leaders of a number of societies and companies.

Antanas Smetona contributed to "Vilniaus žinios" (Vilnius News), edited "Lietuvos ūkininkas" (The Lithuanian Farmer), published "Viltis" (The Hope), published and edited "Vairas"; he was publisher and executive editor of "Lithuanian aidas" (Lithuanian Echo). He publicized original and translated works on philosophy and other research papers.

Antanas Smetona died in a fire in Cleveland (U.S.) on 9 January 1944.

Algirdas Banevičius. 111 Lietuvos valstybės 1918-1940 politikos veikėjų. 1991 Liudas Truska, Algimantas Lileikis, Gediminas Ilgūnas, Rimgaudas Geleževičius. Lietuvos prezidentai. Vilnius 1995

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