Historical personalities of the Bank of Lithuania. Ignas Musteikis

2 October 2022 marked 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 determined decisions allowed Lithuania to become a modern, economically self-sufficient state. In this article, we present a Member of the Board of the Bank of Lithuania, the military officer Ignas Musteikis. 

Ignas Musteikis was born in 1880, in Vyžuonai, Utena d. He graduated from Vyžuonos Primary School and later studied at the St Petersburg Gymnasium. After graduating, he worked at a bank in Warsaw, the Chamber of Commerce, and later chose a military profession. In 1915, he graduated from the St Petersburg Military School and spent WWI on the front. He received several significant military awards. 

In 1918, Musteikis returned to Lithuania with the rank of Poruchik (lieutenant). He joined the volunteers and started organising the first Lithuanian Infantry Regiment. He was appointed first as a company, then as battalion commander. His units fought in the struggles for independence, helped to expel the Red Army from Lithuania, fought against the Poles, and defended Kaunas from L. Želigovsky’s attack. For fighting against the enemies of Lithuania, he was awarded 1st Grade Order of the Cross of Vytis with swords. 

When the struggles ended, Musteikis was discharged from the military and in 1923–1926 served as the commander of the Klaipėda Region Border Police. He actively participated in the 1926 coup, after which he was appointed Minister of the Interior and held the position of Special Affairs Officer under the President of the Republic of Lithuania. He was famous for being a strict official, always advocating only for the admission of reliable people to the civil service. Loyal to President Antanas Smetona, he also contributed to the limitation of municipal rights, aiming for direct management. As Minister of the Interior, Musteikis also carried out a number of police reforms (e.g. introducing a new police uniform, which remained until 1940) and generally took great care of police authority. 

When Musteikis served as Minister of the Interior, in 1929, in Pajaujis and Tauragė, a coup was organised by the leftist politician Jeronimas Plečkaitis in order to overthrow Smetona’s power. Musteikis suppressed these coups. He also fought with the Communist underground. The brutality of the officials of the Ministry of the Interior was criticised by both the left and right opposition. There was even a situation when Seimas spokesman Zigmas Toliušis accused Musteikis of undemocratic methods. For this, he challenged Toliušis to a duel. Of course, it never took place. 

In 1929, Musteikis was dismissed as Minister of the Interior and awarded the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. In 1929, he was given the chair of Director of the Bank of Lithuania. In this way, Smetona rewarded him for his loyalty and suppressive work. He worked here until 1936 and was later appointed to the State Council. He was awarded the Volunteer and Independence medal, as well as the Order of the Crown of Italy. 

After the occupation of Lithuania, Musteikis was arrested in 1940 and charged with “direct participation in the suppression of the revolutionary movement of the Lithuanian working people” (four Communists had been shot under his leadership). Of course, he should have been shot, but he was released from prison during the 1941 Uprising. He moved to Germany in 1944 and then to the US in 1949. He died there in 1960.