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.
2 Ethnic composition of Lithuania
2.1 Cultural subgroups
4 Lithuanian diaspora
5 Culture and traditions
5.1 Lithuanian cuisine
5.2 Lithuanian literature
5.3 Folk music
6 Lithuanian organizations in exile
7 See also
The territory of the Balts, including modern Lithuania, was once
inhabited by several Baltic tribal entities (Aukštaitians, Sudovians,
Old Lithuanians, Curonians, Semigallians, 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 the marauding
Teutonic Order and Eastern Slavs. The last Pagan peoples in Europe,
they were eventually converted to Christianity in 1387.
The territory inhabited by the ethnic
Lithuanians has shrunk over
Lithuanians made up a majority of the 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
century, including Michał Pius Römer, Stanisław Narutowicz, Oscar
Milosz and 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 Poland, while
Klaipėda Region was taken over by Nazi
Germany in 1939. In 1940,
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,
Lithuania was occupied by
Germans retreated in 1944, and
Lithuania fell under
Soviet rule once again. The long-standing communities of Lithuanians
Kaliningrad Oblast (
Lithuania Minor) were almost destroyed as a
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 Lithuania
Among the 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 Ukrainians, Jews, Germans, Tatars,
Latvians, Romani, Estonians, Crimean Karaites, Scandinavians etc.
Poles are mostly concentrated in the
Vilnius Region. Especially large
Polish communities are located in the
Vilnius District Municipality
and the Šalčininkai District Municipality. This concentration allows
Electoral Action of
Poles in 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
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
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
Jews were killed during the Holocaust in Nazi-occupied Lithuania,
some 75,000 alone between the years 1941 – 1942, while others
later immigrated to the
United States and Israel. Now there are about
Jews living in Lithuania.
Historical ethnographic regions
Main article: Regions of Lithuania
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
Vilnius or 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 (mtDNA
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 Balts, Russians,
Autosomal SNP analysis situates
proximal to 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.
Regions with largest Lithuanian populations
Lithuanian settlement extends into adjacent countries that are now
outside the modern Lithuanian 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 (Argentina, Brazil,
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
Lithuanians in Brazil).
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. London
Glasgow (especially the
Coatbridge areas of Greater
Glasgow) have long had large Catholic and Jewish Lithuanian
Republic of Ireland
Republic of Ireland probably has the highest
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 population.
Lithuanian communities in
Australia exist as well; due to its great
distance from Europe, however, emigration there was minuscule. There
are Lithuanian communities in Melbourne, Geelong, Sydney, Adelaide,
Hobart and Perth.
Culture and traditions
Main article: Culture of Lithuania
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
Easter and Christmas.
Main article: Lithuanian cuisine
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
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.
Main article: Lithuanian literature
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),
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 Mogilev, Belarus) and
Lycée Janson de Sailly
Lycée Janson de Sailly in Paris. His longing for his
fatherland was more metaphysical. Having to choose between two
conflicting countries —
Lithuania and Poland — he
Lithuania which for him was an idea even more than a
fatherland. In 1920 when
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 Lithuanian Nation.
Main article: Music of Lithuania
Lithuanian folklore band Kulgrinda performing in Vilnius
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 dandytės). 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
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 Lithuania. After Lithuania
regained its independence in 1990,
Ateitis returned to
Lithuania as an
official youth organization. Many of the branches outside
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 United Kingdom
Lithuanians in Brazil
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Seimas of Vilnius
Act of Independence
Wars of Independence
1919 Polish coup d'état attempt
First Soviet republic
1926 coup d'état
Occupation of the Baltic states
Soviet Union (1940)
by Nazi Germany
Soviet Union (1944)
Second Soviet republic
Baltic states under Soviet rule (1944–91)
Reform Movement (Sąjūdis)
Act of Re-Establishment
Special Operations Force
Litas (former currency)
coat of arms