Emine Kocabas Kilinc / World Bulletin
There are times that history confronts us in such places and unexpected ways that we realize that the past is not in fact the past, but rather it makes us feel that it is standing in front of us in the present.
Sometimes we find ourselves on the spot that was once a place of war, exile and hopeless imprisonment. In recent days found myself in one of Lithuania's oldest cities, Kėdainiai, where stood the remains of a minaret without a mosque.
Located 150 kilometers from Vilnius, Kėdainiai is a small, peaceful place 51 kilometers north of is Lithuania's second largest city Kaunas.
In its history since the 14th century, the city has been invaded by the Swedish, pre-Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany. The 25 meter high Ottoman-style minaret, found between the Dotnuvėlė river and the train station, was according to Lithuanian sources built in 1880 in a forest park.
Two marble slabs with Ottoman Turkish and Arabic writing engraved on them are found on the minaret. Both written Lithuanian sources and the locals deem the minaret to have been made in someone's memory.
It is believed that Russian general Eduard Ivanovich Totleben had the minaret made, and regarding the reason why, there are two narrations. According to one, the general, who was either of Turkish or of Caucasian origin, had the minaret built in memory of a woman he loved (most likely his wife). Another narrations states that the minaret was made to remember the victory in the Balkans War and that the marble slabs were brought over as war booty.
However, as these two reasons did not come across as logical to me, I did my own research.
Analysing two photographs of the minaret, I came to the conclusion that the minaret may have been erected as a mosque. However, I was not able to find any firm evidence regarding this.
For a while, the minaret was joined to a house and was used as a place of residence. Today, it stands alone, after being damaged and repaired a number of times.
Rusian General E. Todleben joined the army in 1836 and participated in the campaign against Shaykh Shamil in the Caucasus from 1848 to 1850 as a captain. We later see him defending Sevastopol during the Ottoman-Russian wars.
He became known as the Defender of Sevastopol due to his bravery in battle, despite the Russians losing the war, which lasted from September 1854 to January 1855.
Around the same time his brother was in the same military engineering class as his exiled Russian novelist F.Dostoyevski in Siberia. On 24 March 1856, Dostoyevski wrote a letter appealing to close friend Totleben for the end of his exile.
Totleben used his initiative by promoting Dostoyevski to sergeant and easing his cause to end his exile. Later Totleben again emerges in what is known as 'the war of 93' during the Balkans campaign.
During this war, the repels three attacks from Osman Pasha's soldiers at Plevne. In doing so, he was promoted to the head of the Russian army. Regarding the defence of Plevne, Totleben said: 'After beıng defended from the Turks, Plevne, with the strongest fortification ever made by the hands of man, can never be taken in an attack.'
Instead of using direct attack tactics, Totleben surrounded Plevne and block all ways to enter the city, forcing Osman Pasha and his men into a long waiting game which resulted in them surrendering. The Ottoman soldiers who were able to survive the battle were taken as prisoners to Russia.
Totleben was then assigned to the position of governor of Vilnius. The minaret of Kėdainiai could have been built as a mosque by these Ottoman war prisoners, however, there is no certain information.
Last Mod: 14 Temmuz 2014, 13:28