Juozas Tumas, also known by the pen name Vaižgantas (September 20, 1869 - April 29, 1933), was a prominent Lithuanian writer, Roman Catholic priest, social activist, literary historian, and one of the founders of the Party of National Progress. He wrote novels, short fictional pieces, and non-fiction. His most notable works include the novel Pragiedruliai (Rays of Hope) and the narrative Dėdės ir dėdiėnes (Uncles and Aunts). Tumas is considered one of the most important Lithuanian writers of his era.
Juozas Tumas was born in the village of Malaišiai near Svėdasai into a farming family. He completed his elementary school studies within two years, and studied at the gymnasium in Daugavpils, Latvia from 1881 to 1888. During this time he developed an interest in Russian classic literature. Soon after graduation he enrolled in the Kaunas Priest Seminary; he was ordained in 1893, and began his career as a writer.
A ban on publication in the Lithuanian language was imposed by the Russian Empire from 1866 to 1904; Vaižgantas was accused of book smuggling and interrogated, but was released for lack of evidence. His brother, however, was sentenced to exile in Siberia for this crime. Vaižgantas was advised to flee to the United States, but chose to stay in Lithuania.
Juozas Tumas-Vaižgantas contributed to various Lithuanian newspapers, including Žinyčia and Tėvynės Sargas. As a result of these activities he was accused of being a "Lithuanian maniac". He was cleared of this charge, but was put on parole and forbidden to print anything without receiving direct permission from a bishop.
During the Great Seimas of Vilnius Juozas Tumas-Vaižgantas was a representative of the Lithuanian Christian Democratic Party; he was among those participants who voiced support for Lithuanian autonomy within the Russian Empire. In 1906 Vaižgantas settled in Vilnius and worked for the newspapers Vilniaus žinios, Viltis, and Ryto garsas. He was also active in various cultural organizations, particularly in the Lithuanian Science Society, the Lithuanian Society of Arts, and in the Rūta Society. His strong anti-tsarist stance and activities made him unpopular with the local clergy, and he was transferred among parishes several times.
During the years from 1911 to 1918 Tumas spent much of his time abroad. In 1911 he travelled to the United States, and collected donations to build the Saulė Educational Society headquarters. In 1914 he worked as an editor for the Latvian-based newspaper Rygos Garsas. In 1915 he worked in Saint Petersburg, organising the Lithuanian Central Relief Committee, which sought to mitigate the effects of World War I, and laid the foundations for the new Party of National Progress. He also attended the Lithuanian Conference in Stockholm.
He returned to Lithuania in 1918; after Poland annexed Vilnius in 1920, he was forced to relocate to the interwar capital of Lithuania, Kaunas. While in Kaunas Juozas Tumas-Vaižgantas lectured at the University of Lithuania, and in 1929 he received a doctorate honoris causa from the university. From 1920 to 1932 he served as rector of Vytautas' the Great Church in Kaunas; he was buried in the church in 1933.
Vaižgantas was known for encouraging younger authors, and is sometimes known in Lithuania as "the diamond hunter." He downplayed his native Aukštaitijan dialect, freely coined neologisms, and used dialects and borrowings from other languages when he felt they suited his literary purposes.
In 1997, a museum dedicated to Juozas Tumas-Vaižgantas was established in the Kaunas apartment where he lived and worked from 1920 until 1933. Another museum displaying his work is located in Panevėžys.
- Vaizdeliai. - Tilsit, 1902.
- Scėniškieji vaizdeljai. - St. Peterburg, 1906.
- Šis tas: trys Vaižganto apysakėlės. - Shenandoah, 1906.
- Vaizdeliai. - Tilsit, 1908.
- Ten gera, kur mūsų nėra, arba neapleiskime Tėvynės!: (pasakojimai, kaip mūsų išeiviams sekasi Amerikoje). - Kaunas, 1912.
- Scenos vaizdai: monologai ir dialogai. - Riga, 1913.
- Karo vaizdai; Rimai ir nerimai. - Riga, 1915.
- Alegorijų vaizdai. - St. Peterburg, 1916.
- Lietuvos "žodis": šių dienų apsakymėlis. - St. Peterburg, 1916.
- Vanduo ir oras. - St. Peterburg, 1917.
- Pragiedruliai. - Vilnius, 1918-1920.
- Aplink Baltiją: kas jau yra pajūryje ir kas dar norėtų ten būti. - Vilnius, 1919.
- Tiesiant kelią Lietuvos nepriklausomybei, 1916-1917 m. - Vilnius, 1919.
- Jaunam veikėjui: 20 feljetonų. - Kaunas, 1925.
- Kanauninkas Petras Legeckas ir jo gyvenimo nuotykiai. - Marijampolė, 1930.
- Sin at Easter, and Other Stories, Translated by Danguolé Sealey [and others] Biographical outline by Antanas Vaičiulaitis. Edited by Nola M. Zobarskas. Introd. by Charles Angoff. New York, Manyland Books [c1971], 131 p.