LITHUANIANS (Lithuanian : lietuviai, singular lietuvis/lietuvė) are
a Baltic ethnic group , native to
Lithuania , where they number around
2,561,300 people. Another million or more make up the Lithuanian
diaspora , largely found in countries such as the United States,
Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Russia,
United Kingdom and
Ireland. Their native language is Lithuanian , one of only two
surviving members of the
Baltic language family. According to the
census conducted in 2001, 83.45% of the population of Lithuania
identified themselves as Lithuanians, 6.74% as
Poles , 6.31% as
Russians , 1.23% as
Belarusians , and 2.27% as members of other ethnic
Lithuanians belong to the Roman
Catholic Church , while
Lietuvininkai who lived in the northern part of
East Prussia prior
to World War II, were mostly
Evangelical Lutherans .
* 1 History
* 2 Ethnic composition of
* 2.1 Cultural subgroups
* 3 Genetics
* 4 Lithuanian diaspora
* 5 Culture and traditions
* 6 Lithuanian organizations in exile
* 7 See also
* 8 References
The territory of the Balts, including modern Lithuania, was once
inhabited by several Baltic tribal entities (
Aukštaitians , Sudovians
, Old Lithuanians,
Selonians , Samogitians
Old Prussians (
Nadruvians )), as attested by ancient
sources and dating from prehistoric times. Over the centuries, and
especially under the Grand Duchy of
Lithuania , some of these tribes
consolidated into the Lithuanian nation, mainly as a defence against
Teutonic Order and
Eastern Slavs . The last Pagan
peoples in Europe, they were eventually converted to Christianity in
The territory inhabited by the ethnic
Lithuanians has shrunk over
Lithuanians made up a majority of population not only
in what is now
Lithuania , but also in northwestern
Belarus , in large
areas of the territory of the modern
Kaliningrad Oblast of Russia, and
in some parts of modern
Latvia and Poland.
However, there is a current argument that the
Lithuanian language was
considered non-prestigious enough by some elements in Lithuanian
society, and a preference for the Polish language in certain
territories of the
Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth , as well as a
preference for the
German language in territories of the former East
Kaliningrad Oblast of Russia) caused the number of
Lithuanian speakers to decrease. The subsequent imperial Russian
occupation accelerated this process; it pursued a policy of
Russification , which included a ban on public speaking and writing in
Lithuanian (see, e.g.,
Knygnešiai , the actions against the Catholic
Church). It was believed by some at the time that the nation as such,
along with its language, would become extinct within a few
At the end of the 19th century a Lithuanian cultural and linguistic
revival occurred. Some of the Polish- and Belarusian-speaking persons
from the lands of the former Grand Duchy of
Lithuania expressed their
affiliation with the modern Lithuanian nation in the early 20th
Michał Pius Römer ,
Stanisław Narutowicz , Oscar
Tadas Ivanauskas .
Lithuania declared independence after
World War I, which helped its national consolidation. A standardised
Lithuanian language was approved. However, the eastern parts of
Lithuania, including the
Vilnius Region , were annexed by
Klaipėda Region was taken over by Nazi
Germany in 1939. In
Lithuania was invaded and occupied by the
Soviet Union , and
forced to join it as the
Lithuanian SSR . The
Germans and their allies
attacked the USSR in June 1941, and from 1941—1944,
occupied by Germany. The
Germans retreated in 1944, and
under Soviet rule once again. The long-standing communities of
Lithuanians in the
Kaliningrad Oblast (
Lithuania Minor ) were almost
destroyed as a result.
The Lithuanian nation as such remained primarily in Lithuania, few
villages in northeastern Poland, southern
Latvia and also in the
diaspora of emigrants. Some indigenous
Lithuanians still remain in
Belarus and the Kaliningrad Oblast, but their number is small compared
to what they used to be.
Lithuania regained its independence in 1990,
and was recognized by most countries in 1991. It became a member of
European Union on May 1, 2004.
ETHNIC COMPOSITION OF LITHUANIA
Main article: Demographics of
Baltic states ,
Lithuania has the most homogeneous
population. According to the census conducted in 2001, 83.45% of the
population identified themselves as ethnic Lithuanians, 6.74% as Poles
, 6.31% as
Russians , 1.23% as
Belarusians , and 2.27% as members of
other ethnic groups such as
Latvians , Romani ,
Crimean Karaites , Scandinavians etc.
Poles are mostly concentrated in the
Vilnius Region . Especially
large Polish communities are located in the
Municipality and the
Šalčininkai District Municipality . This
concentration allows Electoral Action of
Lithuania , an
ethnic minority-based political party, to exert political influence.
Due to the excessive pro-Pole political agenda, the party is known to
cause friction between
Lithuanians and Poles. However, it has only
held 1 or 2 seats in the parliament of
Lithuania for the past decade.
Thus, it is more active in local politics by having a majority in a
few minor municipality councils.
Russians, even though they are almost as numerous as Poles, are much
more evenly scattered and do not have a strong political party. The
most prominent community lives in the
Visaginas Municipality (52%).
Most of them are workers who moved from
Russia to work at the Ignalina
Nuclear Power Plant . A number of ethnic
the declaration of independence in 1990.
In the past, the ethnic composition of
Lithuania has varied
dramatically. The most prominent change was the extermination of the
Jewish population during the Holocaust . Before World War II, about
7.5% of the population was Jewish; they were concentrated in cities
and towns and had a significant influence on crafts and business. They
were called Litvaks and had a strong culture. The population of
Vilnius, which was sometimes nicknamed the northern
Jerusalem , was
about 30% Jewish. Almost all its
Jews were killed during the Holocaust
Lithuania , some 75,000 alone between the years 1941
– 1942, while others later immigrated to the
United States and
Israel. Now there are about 3,200
Jews living in Lithuania.
Historical ethnographic regions
Main article: Regions of
Apart from the various religious and ethnic groups currently residing
Lithuanians themselves retain and differentiate between
their regional identities; there are 5 historic regional groups:
Žemaičiai , Suvalkiečiai , Aukštaičiai , Dzūkai and Prūsai ,
the last of which is virtually extinct. City dwellers are usually
considered just Lithuanians, especially ones from large cities such as
Kaunas . The four groups are delineated according to
certain region-specific traditions, dialects, and historical
divisions. There are some stereotypes used in jokes about these
subgroups, for example,
Sudovians are supposedly frugal while
Samogitians are stubborn.
Genetic distance of Balto-Slavs by A (atDNA), B (Y-DNA) and C
Neolithic period the native inhabitants of the Lithuanian
territory have not been replaced by migrations from outside, so there
is a high probability that the inhabitants of present-day Lithuania
have preserved the genetic composition of their forebears relatively
undisturbed by the major demographic movements, although without
being actually isolated from them. The Lithuanian population appears
to be relatively homogeneous, without apparent genetic differences
among ethnic subgroups.
A 2004 analysis of mtDNA in a Lithuanian population revealed that
Lithuanians are close to both Indo-European and Uralic -speaking
populations of Northern Europe.
Y-chromosome SNP haplogroup analysis
Lithuanians to be closest to
Autosomal SNP analysis situates
Latvians , followed by the
East Slavs , furthermore, all
Slavic peoples and
Germans are situated more proximal to Lithuanians
than Finns and northern Russians.
Jews also have interesting genetics, since they
display a number of unique genetic characteristics; the utility of
these variations has been the subject of debate. One variation, which
is implicated in familial hypercholesterolemia , has been dated to the
14th century, corresponding to the establishment of Ashkenazi
settlements in response to the invitation extended by
Great in 1388.
Lithuanians, like most other Baltic/Scandinavian cultures, have been
known for being people of above average height. At the end of the 19th
century, the average height of males was 163.5 cm (5 ft 4 in) and the
average height of females was 153.3 cm (5 ft 0 in). By the end of the
20th century, heights averaged 181.3 cm (5 ft 11 in) for males and
167.5 cm (5 ft 6 in) for females.
Lithuanian settlement extends into adjacent countries that are now
outside of the modern Lithaunian state. A small Lithuanian community
exists in the vicinity of
Sejny in the
Suwałki area of
Poland, an area associated with the Lithuanian writer and cleric
Antanas Baranauskas . Although most of the Lithuanian inhabitants in
the region of
Lithuania Minor that formed part of
East Prussia were
expelled when the area was annexed by the
Soviet Union as the
Kaliningrad Oblast , small groups of
Lithuanians subsequently settled
that area as it was repopulated with new Soviet citizens.
Apart from the traditional communities in
Lithuania and its
Lithuanians have emigrated to other continents
during the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.
* Communities in the
United States make up the largest part of this
diaspora ; as many as one million Americans can claim Lithuanian
descent. Emigration to America began in the 19th century, with an
interruption during the Soviet occupation, when travel and emigration
were severely restricted. The largest concentrations of Lithuanian
Americans are in the
Great Lakes area and the Northeast. Nearly 20,000
Lithuanians have immigrated to the
United States since the fall of the
Soviet Union in 1991.
* Lithuanian communities in
Canada are among the largest in the
world along with the
United States (See
Lithuanian Canadian ).
* Lithuanian communities in
Mexico and South America (
Colombia , and Uruguay) developed before World War II,
beginning in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Currently, there
is no longer a flow of emigrants to these destinations, since economic
conditions in those countries are not better than those in Lithuania
* Lithuanian communities were formed in South Africa during the late
19th and 20th century, the majority being Jewish.
* Lithuanian communities in other regions of the former Soviet Union
were formed during the Soviet occupation; the numbers of Lithuanians
Siberia and Central Asia increased dramatically when a large
Lithuanians were involuntarily deported into these areas.
After de-Stalinization , however, most of them returned. Later, some
Lithuanians were relocated to work in other areas of the Soviet Union;
some of them did not return to Lithuania, after it became independent.
* The Lithuanian communities in Western Europe (UK , Ireland ,
Spain, Sweden, and Norway) are very new and began to appear after the
restoration of independence to
Lithuania in 1990; this emigration
Lithuania became part of the
European Union . It
should be noted that London and
Glasgow (especially the
Coatbridge areas of Greater
Glasgow ) have long had large Catholic and
Jewish Lithuanian populations. The
Republic of Ireland
Republic of Ireland probably has
the highest concentration of
Lithuanians relative to its total
population size in Western Europe; its estimated 45,000 Lithuanians
(about half of whom are registered) form over 1% of Ireland’s total
* Lithuanian communities in
Australia exist as well; due to its
great distance from Europe, however, emigration there was minuscule.
There are Lithuanian communities in
Geelong , Sydney,
CULTURE AND TRADITIONS
Main article: Culture of
The Lithuanian national sport is usually considered to be basketball
(krepšinis), which is popular among
Lithuania as well
as in the diasporic communities.
Basketball came to
the Lithuanian-American community in the 1930s. Lithuanian basketball
teams were bronze medal winners in the 1992 , 1996 , and 2000 Summer
Joninės (also known as Rasos ) is a traditional national holiday,
celebrated on the summer solstice. It has pagan origins. Užgavėnės
Shrove Tuesday ) takes place on the day before
Ash Wednesday , and is
meant to urge the retreat of winter. There are also national
traditions for Christian holidays such as
Lithuanian cuisine has much in common with other European cuisines
and features the products suited to its cool and moist northern
climate: barley, potatoes, rye, beets, greens, and mushrooms are
locally grown, and dairy products are one of its specialties.
Nevertheless, it has its own distinguishing features, which were
formed by a variety of influences during the country’s rich history.
Since shared similarities in history and heritage, Lithuanians, Jews
Poles have developed many similar dishes and beverages: dumplings
( koldūnai), doughnuts (spurgos), and crepes (lietiniai blynai).
German traditions also influenced Lithuanian cuisine, introducing pork
and potato dishes, such as potato pudding (kugelis ) and potato
sausages (vėdarai ), as well as the baroque tree cake known as
šakotis . Traditional dishes of Lithuanian
Tatars and Lithuanian
Kibinai and čeburekai , that are similar to pasty , are
popular in Lithuania.
Lithuanian Americans both traditional Lithuanian dishes of
virtinukai (cabbage and noodles) and balandėliai (rolled cabbage) are
growing increasingly more popular.
There are also regional cuisine dishes, e.g. traditional kastinys in
Žemaitija , Western Lithuania,
Skilandis in Western and Central
Kindziukas in Eastern and Southern
Cepelinai , a stuffed potato creation, is the most popular national
dish. It is popular among
Lithuanians all over the world. Other
national foods include dark rye bread , cold beet soup
(šaltibarščiai), and kugelis (a baked potato pudding). Some of
these foods are also common in neighboring countries. Lithuanian
cuisine is generally unknown outside Lithuanian communities. Most
Lithuanian restaurants outside
Lithuania are located in cities with a
heavy Lithuanian presence.
Lithuanians in the early 20th century were among the thinnest people
in the developed countries of the world. In
Lithuanian cuisine there
is some emphasis on attractive presentation of freshly prepared foods.
Balts were using Midus a type of Lithuanian Mead
for thousands of years.
Locally brewed beer (alus), vodka (degtinė), and kvass (gira) are
popular drinks in Lithuania. Lithuanian traditional beer of Northern
Pasvalys regions is well appreciated in Lithuania
Starka is a part of the Lithuanian heritage, still
produced in Lithuania.
When the ban against printing the
Lithuanian language was lifted in
1904, various European literary movements such as Symbolism ,
impressionism , and expressionism each in turn influenced the work of
Lithuanian writers. The first period of Lithuanian independence
(1918–40) gave them the opportunity to examine themselves and their
characters more deeply, as their primary concerns were no longer
political. An outstanding figure of the early 20th century was Vincas
Krėvė-Mickevičius , a novelist and dramatist. His many works
include Dainavos šalies senų žmonių padavimai (Old Folks Tales of
Dainava, 1912) and the historical dramas Šarūnas (1911), Skirgaila
(1925), and Mindaugo mirtis (The Death of
Mindaugas , 1935). Petras
Vaičiūnas was another popular playwright, producing one play each
year during the 1920s and 1930s.
Vincas Mykolaitis-Putinas wrote lyric
poetry, plays, and novels, including the novel Altorių šešėly (In
the Shadows of the Altars, 3 vol., 1933), a remarkably powerful
Keturi vėjai movement started with publication of The Prophet of the
Four Winds by talented poet
Kazys Binkis (1893—1942). It was
rebellion against traditional poetry. The theoretical basis of Keturi
vėjai initially was futurism which arrived through
Russia from the
West and later cubism , dadaism , surrealism , unanimism , and German
expressionism . The most influensive futurist for Lithuanian writers
was Russian poet
Vladimir Mayakovsky .
Oskaras Milašius (1877–1939) is a paradoxical and interesting
phenomenon in Lithuanian culture. He never lived in
Lithuania but was
born and spent his childhood in Cereja (near
Belarus ) and
Lycée Janson de Sailly in Paris. His longing for his
fatherland was more metaphysical. Having to choose between two
conflicting countries —
Poland — he preferred
Lithuania which for him was an idea even more than a fatherland. In
France recognized the independence of Lithuania, he was
appointed officially as Chargé d'Affaires for Lithuania. He
published: 1928, a collection of 26 Lithuanian songs; 1930, Lithuanian
Tales and Stories; 1933, Lithuanian Tales; 1937, The origin of the
Main article: Music of
Lithuania Lithuanian folklore band
Kulgrinda performing in
Lithuanian folk music is based around songs (dainos ), which include
romantic and wedding songs, as well as work songs and archaic war
songs. These songs used to be performed either in groups or alone, and
in parallel chords or unison .
Duophonic songs are common in the
renowned sutartinės tradition of
Aukštaitija . Another style of
Lithuanian folk music is called rateliai , a kind of round dance .
Instrumentation includes kanklės , a kind of zither that accompanies
sutartinės, rateliai, waltzes , quadrilles and polkas , and fiddles ,
(including a bass fiddle called the basetle) and a kind of whistle
called the lumzdelis; recent importations, beginning in the late 19th
century, including the concertina , accordion and bandoneon .
Sutartinė can be accompanied by skudučiai, a form of panpipes played
by a group of people, as well as wooden trumpets (ragai and
Kanklės is an extremely important folk instrument, which
differs in the number of strings and performance techniques across the
country. Other traditional instruments include švilpas whistle, drums
and tabalas (a percussion instrument like a gong ), sekminių ragelis
(bagpipe ) and the pūslinė, a musical bow made from a pig’s
bladder filled with dried peas.
LITHUANIAN ORGANIZATIONS IN EXILE
* ATEITIS – a Catholic youth organization whose members are called
ateitininkai, started in
Lithuania in 1910: During the occupation of
Lithuania by the
Soviet Union between 1945 and 1990 no Catholic
organizations were allowed in Lithuania. The organization, however,
continued to function in exile outside of Lithuania. After Lithuania
regained its independence in 1990,
Ateitis returned to
Lithuania as an
official youth organization. Many of the branches outside of
Lithuania continue to function serving Lithuanian emigrees and
Wikimedia Commons has media related to PEOPLE OF LITHUANIA .
List of Lithuanians
List of Lithuanian philosophers
Lithuanians in the
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* Western Galindian
* New Curonian
* Old Curonian
* Eastern Galindian
* Grand Duchy
* Press ban
* National Revival
* Act of Independence
* Wars of Independence
* 1919 Polish coup d\'état attempt
* First Soviet republic
* 1926 coup d\'état
* Occupation of the
* by the