Historical personalities of the Bank of Lithuania. Adomas Prūsas

2 October 2022 marks the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Bank of Lithuania and the first money — the litas. The establishment of the Issuing Bank of Lithuania, the issuance of litas banknotes, and the creation of the national monetary system is an event of epochal significance, as it was done for the first time in the history of the state of Lithuania. It is a great opportunity to remember the first bankers of independent Lithuania, people whose activities, patriotic feelings, and decisive decisions allowed Lithuania to become a modern, economically independent state. In this article we present Adomas Prūsas, Deputy Governor of the First Bank of Lithuania, member of the first Board of the Bank of Lithuania.

Adomas Prūsas was born on 23 November 1878 in a family of poor farmers living in Rokiškis County, Grikiapeliai village. The Prūsas family were believed to be refugees from the lands of Prussia. In 1890, he began attending Svėdasai elementary school, after which he was employed in the office of the Alotai volost. His parents didn't have the money to let him go to high school. He was unable to feed himself sufficiently from the salary received, and in 1894 he decided to seek happiness in the Russian capital with only 50 kopecks in his pocket. He worked and trained there and began to study at the Babenko bookkeeping courses. Later he worked in Białystok (now Poland) district as Deputy Steward and Accountant at the manor of A. Gončarovas. 

He returned to St Petersburg in 1903, passed his 6-class exams in 1905, and completed bookkeeping courses in 1906. From 1904 to 1918, Prūsas worked as an employee of the St Petersburg volost Committee on State Loan, Savings, and Industrial Companies, and was responsible for the formation of cooperatives. In 1908–1918, he worked as an accountant at the Credit Office of the Russian Ministry of Finance, and later — as an accountant auditor. This work helped him gain a good, systematic knowledge of banking. He applied the knowledge he gained in drafting the Articles of Association of mutual credit societies in Lithuania and the Land Bank of Lithuania. At the end of WWI, in St Petersburg in 1918, Prūsas, together with other Lithuanian financiers, organised the Lithuanian Chamber of Economy, the mission of which was to encourage Lithuanians to return to Lithuania with their own wealth and to develop their homeland’s economy.

After returning to Lithuania in 1918, Prūsas initially opened a Lithuanian store in Vilnius and sold meat products with J. Strazdas. That same year, together with M. Yčas, S. Banaitis, and other financiers, he established the first independent bank in Lithuania — the semi-national Bank of Commerce and Industry and acted as its manager first in Vilnius and then in Kaunas. This bank played a major role in the life of the emerging state: it performed the function of treasury cashier, organised Lithuanian international settlements, and helped prepare national banking staff. In 1922, several employees of this bank moved over to the Bank of Lithuania and contributed significantly to its development. 

At the end of September 1922, by an act of the President of the Republic, Prūsas was appointed Deputy Governor of the Bank of Lithuania. However, he was reluctant to agree because he did not want to leave the Lithuanian Bank of Commerce and Industry but was eventually persuaded by the authorities. The government was even looking into options to make him join the army so they could then appoint him to the Bank of Lithuania by order. But finally, by appealing to his patriotism and sense of duty to Lithuania, he was persuaded to come into service at the central bank.
Prūsas’ knowledge was very useful in creating an issuing bank. It is no surprise that from 1923 to 1924 he worked at the Bank’s Central Discount Committee, which took decisions on granting loans and guarantees. In the Committee he was supposed to represent the bank and defend its interests. Following a public discussion on the monetary policy of the Bank of Lithuania, which was strictly restitutional, Prūsas spoke in favour of its liberalisation. From this, it can be concluded that his opinion sometimes differed from the views of the Board of the Bank of Lithuania. Prūsas served as Deputy Head of the Bank of Lithuania for one term. We could consider whether his career in the bank was undermined by the bankruptcy of the Lithuanian Bank of Commerce and Industry. Prūsas (and others) were prosecuted for the collapse of the bank. This case made waves and went on until 1936, although it ended with an acquittal judgement. Prūsas finished his professional career as Director of the Marijampolė branch of the Bank of Lithuania, where he was appointed in 1926. He considered this appointment as exile. 

In addition to working at the bank, Prūsas participated in the formation of various public limited liability companies (Lietuvos loidas, Nemunas) and was elected to their boards. Prūsas actively participated in the activities of the Marijampolė community: he was a member of Marijampolė City Municipal Council, and Chair of the Marijampolė District of the Lithuanian Nationalists Union. 
He died in Kaunas on 6 April 1939.