Historical personalities of the Bank of Lithuania. Julius Kaupas

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 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, assistant to the Bank’s Governor Vladas Jurgutis — Julius Kaupas.

Julius Kaupas was born on 7 January 1890 in Gudelis (Panevėžys district, Ramygala municipality). His parents were farmers, raised eleven children, and instilled in them a deep faith, a sense of Lithuanian identity, and sociability. Kaupas’ father collaborated with book carriers and hid Lithuanian literature, which led to suspicion from the gendarmes of the Tsar and searches were conducted at his home. The Kaupas house was the beacon of Gudeliai: neighbours had the press read to them, and they were introduced to the resolutions of the Great Seimas of Vilnius. The fact that this family raised a priest, Antanas, and four nuns tells a lot about the spirit that dominated the Kaupas house and its impact on children. Sister Kazimiera established the St. Casimir Congregation in the US and Pažaislis. She headed the latter monastery for 27 years.

Kaupas studied at Ramygala Primary School, later continued his education at Liepāja Gymnasium, but in 1906 he was expelled for his revolutionary ties. In 1909, he graduated from the three-year “Saulė” courses in Kaunas and passed his 4-class exams in St Petersburg. From 1909 to 1911, he worked as a student at the Tula pharmacy. In 1911, perhaps inspired by his brother Antanas, Kaupas went to the US to seek happiness. Until 1914, he studied chemistry and natural sciences at the Valparaiso University. This university was attractive to Lithuanians, because there was no limitation on the age of the students, and it had a preparatory department for those who did not speak English and did not have a secondary education. However, due to a lack of money, Kaupas was forced to stop his studies and start working. From 1916, he continued his studies at Fordham University in New York and studied sociology. At the same time, he edited Lithuanian publications like Garsas, Pažanga, Draugas, worked as a presenter in the Lithuanian office, and was a member of the Lithuanian Society for the Relief of War Sufferers. 

In the autumn of 1919, Kaupas returned to Lithuania. From 15 May 1920 to 13 November 1922, he was a representative of the Constituent Seimas, elected in the II constituency (Kaunas). He was a member of the Lithuanian Farmers’ Union, which entered the block of the Lithuanian Christian Democratic Party. On 19 January 1922, he was elected to the Board of the International Bank. 

In 1922, Kaupas was invited to form the Bank of Lithuania and was elected as a Member of the Board. He took that office until 1929, when he was terminated because he was a member of the Geležinis vilkas organisation. After his dismissal, he headed the Kaunas branch of the Bank of Lithuania, represented the Bank on the Kaunas Exchange, and belonged to the Society for Economic Studies. During the first Soviet occupation, Kaupas was dismissed from the position of Director and appointed Head of the Foreign Operations Division. On 28 June 1941, Kaupas was reinstated as Director of the Kaunas Department.

Kaupas was given the honour of accompanying from the United States to Kaunas the Freedom Bell, donated to Lithuania by American Lithuanians. He was also elected Chair of the Lithuanian American Society. In 1938, Kaupas was awarded the 3rd degree Medal of the Order of the Grand Duke of Lithuania Gediminas for his long-term service at the Bank of Lithuania. He spoke English, Polish, and Russian. He raised three children, one of whom retired to the West and distinguished himself as a writer, critic, publicist, and doctor neurologist. On 27 May 1945, the banker Kaupas died in a car accident in Kaunas. As he was walking on the sidewalk, a truck drove into him and crushed him to death against a wall. It is assumed that this was done intentionally, he was on a list of people to be exiled.