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Vilnius
Vilnius
Region (Lithuanian: Vilniaus kraštas, Polish: Wileńszczyzna, Belarusian: Віленшчына, also formerly known in English: as Wilno Region or Vilna Region) is the territory in the present-day Lithuania
Lithuania
and Belarus
Belarus
that was originally inhabited by ethnic Baltic tribes and was a part of Lithuania
Lithuania
proper, but came under East Slavic and Polish cultural influences over time. The territory included Vilnius, the historical capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Lithuania, after declaring independence from the Russian Empire, claimed the Vilnius
Vilnius
Region based on this historical legacy. Poland
Poland
argued for the right of self-determination of the local Poles. As a result, throughout the interwar period the control over the area was disputed between Poland
Poland
and Lithuania. The Soviet Union recognized it as part of Lithuania
Lithuania
in the Soviet-Lithuanian Treaty of 1920, but in 1920 it was seized by Poland
Poland
and became part of short lived puppet state of Central Lithuania, and was subsequently incorporated into the Second Polish Republic. Direct military conflicts ( Polish-Lithuanian War
Polish-Lithuanian War
and Żeligowski's Mutiny) were followed up by fruitless negotiations in the League of Nations. After the Soviet invasion of Poland
Poland
in 1939, as part of the Soviet fulfillment of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, the entire region came under Soviet control. About one fifth of the region, including Vilnius, was ceded to Lithuania
Lithuania
by the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
on October 10, 1939 in exchange for Soviet military bases within the territory of Lithuania. The conflict over Vilnius
Vilnius
Region was settled after World War II when both Poland
Poland
and Lithuania
Lithuania
came under Soviet and Communist domination and some Poles were repatriated to Poland. Since then, the region became part of the Lithuanian SSR, and since 1990 of modern-day independent Lithuania.

Contents

1 Territory and terminology 2 Vilnius
Vilnius
dispute 3 Ethnography 4 See also 5 References 6 External links

Territory and terminology[edit]

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Eastern (brown) and Western (orange) Vilnius
Vilnius
Regions in relation to the current territory of Lithuania

Initially the Vilnius
Vilnius
Region did not possess exact borders per se, but encompassed the surrounding areas near Vilnius
Vilnius
and included the city as well. This territory was disputed between Lithuania
Lithuania
and Poland
Poland
in 1918, after both countries had successfully reestablished their independence. Later, the western limit of the region became a de facto administration line between Poland
Poland
and Lithuania
Lithuania
following Polish military action in the latter part of 1920. Lithuania
Lithuania
refused to recognize this action or the border. The eastern limit was defined by the Soviet-Lithuanian Treaty of 1920. The eastern line was never turned into an actual border between states and remained only a political vision. The total territory covered about 32,250 km². Today the eastern limit of the region lies between the Lithuanian and Belarusian border. This border divides the Vilnius
Vilnius
Region into two parts: western and eastern. The Western Vilnius
Vilnius
Region, including Vilnius, is now part of Lithuania. It constitutes about one third of the total Vilnius
Vilnius
Region. Lithuania
Lithuania
gained about 6,880 km² on October 10, 1939 from the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
and 2,650 km² (including Druskininkai
Druskininkai
and Švenčionys) on August 3, 1940 from the Byelorussian SSR. The Eastern Vilnius
Vilnius
Region became part of Belarus. No parts of the region are in modern Poland. None of the countries have any further territorial claims. The term Central Lithuania
Lithuania
refers to the short-lived puppet state of the Republic of Central Lithuania, proclaimed by Lucjan Żeligowski after his staged mutiny in the annexed areas. After eighteen months of existing under Poland's military protection, it was annexed by Poland on March 24, 1922 thus finalizing Poland's claims over the territory. Vilnius
Vilnius
dispute[edit]

A satirical picture from interwar Polish press (around 1925–1935): a caricature of marshal Józef Piłsudski
Józef Piłsudski
and Lithuania, criticizing Lithuanian unwillingness to compromise over Vilnius
Vilnius
region. Marshal Piłsudski offers the sausage labeled "agreement" to the dog (with the collar labelled Lithuania); the dog barking "Wilno, wilno, wilno" replies: "Even if you were to give me Wilno, I would bark for Grodno and Białystok, because this is who I am."

Wilno Voivodeship in interwar Poland

In the Middle Ages, Vilnius
Vilnius
and its environs had become a nucleus of the early ethnic Lithuanian state, the Duchy of Lithuania, also referred to in Lithuanian historiography as a part of the Lithuania Propria,[1][2] that became Kingdom of Lithuania
Lithuania
and later Grand Duchy of Lithuania. After the Partitions of Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in the late 18th century it was annexed by the Russian Empire
Russian Empire
which founded here the administrative district of the Vilna Governorate. In the effect of World War I
World War I
it was seized by Germany and given to the civilian administration of the Ober-Ost. With the German defeat in World War I and the outbreak of hostilities between various factions of the Russian Civil War, the area was disputed by the newly established Lithuanian, Polish and Belarusian states. Poles based their claims on demographic grounds and pointed to the will of the inhabitants. Lithuanians used geographical and historical arguments and underlined the role Vilnius
Vilnius
played as the capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.[3][4] Lithuanian national activists viewed Poles and Belarusians of the region as "Slavicized Lithuanians".[5] The Vilnius
Vilnius
Conference of September 1917, organized by Lithuanian activists under German auspices, elected a council of Lithuania, and an Act of Independence of Lithuania
Lithuania
proclaimed an independent Lithuanian state with its capital in Vilnius. The Lithuanian government, however, failed to recruit soldiers among the Vilnius
Vilnius
area inhabitants and was unable to organize defense of the region against the Bolsheviks. During November and December 1918, local Polish self-defense formations were created in Vilnius
Vilnius
and in many surrounding localities. They were formally enlisted into the Polish Army by the end of the year. The Lithuanian Taryba
Taryba
left Vilnius together with the German garrison on 1 January 1919, when the first skirmishes took place between the approaching Bolshevik forces and the Polish troops east of the city.[6] After the outbreak of the Polish–Soviet War, during the summer offensive of the Red Army, the region got under Soviet control as the part of planned Lithuanian–Belorussian Soviet Socialist Republic (Litbel). In exchange for military cooperation after Lithuanian–Soviet War, the Bolshevist authorities signed a peace treaty[7] with Lithuania
Lithuania
on July 12, 1920. According to the Soviet–Lithuanian Peace Treaty, all area disputed between Poland
Poland
and Lithuania, at the time controlled by the Bolsheviks, was to be transferred to Lithuania. However, the actual control over the area remained in Bolsheviks
Bolsheviks
hands. After the Battle of Warsaw
Warsaw
of 1920 it became clear that the advancing Polish Army
Polish Army
would soon recapture the area. Seeing that they could not secure it, the Bolshevik authorities started to transfer the area to Lithuanian sovereignty. The advancing Polish Army
Polish Army
managed to retake much of the disputed area before the Lithuanians arrived, while the most important part of it with the city of Vilnius
Vilnius
was secured by Lithuania. Due to Polish-Lithuanian tensions, the allied powers withheld diplomatic recognition of Lithuania
Lithuania
until 1922.[8] Since the two states were not at war, diplomatic negotiations were begun. The negotiations and international mediation led to nowhere and until 1920 the disputed territory remained divided into a Lithuanian and a Polish part. In the 1920s, League of Nations
League of Nations
twice attempted to organise plebiscites, although neither side were eager to participate. After a staged mutiny by Lucjan Żeligowski
Lucjan Żeligowski
Poles took control over the area, and organised elections, which were boycotted by most Lithuanians, but also by many Jews and Belarusians [9] because of strong Polish military control. The Polish government never acknowledged the Russo-Lithuanian convention of July 12, 1920, that granted the latter state territory seized from Poland
Poland
by the Red Army
Red Army
during the Polish–Soviet War, then promised to Lithuania
Lithuania
as the Soviet forces were retreating under the Polish advance; particularly as the Soviets had previously renounced claims to that region in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. In turn, the Lithuanian authorities did not acknowledge the Polish–Lithuanian border of 1918–1920 as permanent nor did they ever acknowledged the sovereignty of puppet Republic of Central Lithuania. In 1922 the Republic of Central Lithuania
Republic of Central Lithuania
voted to join Poland
Poland
and the choice was later accepted by the League of Nations,[10] The area granted to Lithuania
Lithuania
by the Bolsheviks
Bolsheviks
in 1920 continued to be claimed by Lithuania, with the city of Vilnius
Vilnius
being treated as that state's official capital and the temporary capital in Kaunas, and the states officially remained at war. It was not until the Polish ultimatum of 1938, that the two states resolved diplomatic relations. Some historians speculated, that the loss of Vilnius
Vilnius
might have nonetheless safeguarded the very existence of the Lithuanian state in the interwar period. Despite an alliance with Soviets (Soviet–Lithuanian Peace Treaty) and the war with Poland, Lithuania was very close to being invaded by the Soviets in the summer of 1920 and having been forcibly converted into a socialist republic. They believe it was only the Polish victory against the Soviets in the Polish–Soviet War
Polish–Soviet War
(and the fact that the Poles did not object to some form of Lithuanian independence) that derailed the Soviet plans and gave Lithuania
Lithuania
an experience of interwar independence.[11] In 1939, the Soviets proposed to sign the Soviet–Lithuanian Mutual Assistance Treaty. According to this treaty, about one fifth of the Vilnius
Vilnius
Region, including the city of Vilnius
Vilnius
itself, was returned to Lithuania
Lithuania
in exchange for stationing 20,000 of Soviet troops in Lithuania. Lithuanians at first did not want to accept this, but later the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
said that troops would enter Lithuania, anyway, so Lithuania
Lithuania
accepted the deal. 1/5 of the Vilnius
Vilnius
region was ceded, despite of the fact that the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
always recognised the whole Vilnius
Vilnius
region as part of Lithuania
Lithuania
previously. The Soviet Union
Soviet Union
was awarded the Vilnius
Vilnius
region during the Yalta Conference, and it subsequently became part of the Lithuanian SSR. About 150,000 of the Polish population was repatriated from Lithuanian SSR to Poland. Ethnography[edit] Main article: Demographic history of the Vilnius
Vilnius
region The area was originally inhabited by Lithuanian Balts. It was subjected to East Slavic and Polish cultural influences and settlement[dubious – discuss], which led to its gradual Ruthenization and Polonization.[12][13] According to Norman Davies, Vilnius
Vilnius
was culturally Polish by the 17th century.[14] By the 18th and 19th centuries, the city was almost completely surrounded by Slavs, while the Vilnius
Vilnius
region became exceptionally ethnically diverse Belarusian-Polish-Lithuanian territory. The Belarusian population moved into the areas devastated by wars of the 17th and the early 18th centuries (Northern Ashmyany, Trakai, Švenčionys
Švenčionys
and Vilnius counties) and only a few Lithuanian settlements remained there.[15] According to the Russian census of 1897 (which studied the linguistic situation, but didn't include the category of ethnic affiliation)[16]) the Vilna Governorate
Vilna Governorate
was occupied predominantly by Belarusian speakers (56,05%), while Polish speakers amounted to only 8,17% of the population.[17] The Russians maintained that the local Poles belonged chiefly to the nobility and gentry, and that the peasants in the region could not be Polish.[6] The later German (1916) and Polish (1919) censuses showed that Vilnius
Vilnius
and its environs had a Polish majority.[6][18] Vilnius
Vilnius
at that point was divided nearly evenly between Poles and Jews, with Lithuanians constituting a mere fraction (about 2–2.6%) of the total population.[18][19][20] These censuses and their organisation were heavily criticized by contemporary Lithuanians of the region as biased.[21][22][23] At the end of the First World War, 50% of the Vilnius
Vilnius
inhabitants were Polish and 43% were Jewish. According to E. Bojtar, who cites P. Gaučas, the surrounding villages were mainly inhabited by Belarusian speakers who considered themselves Poles.[24] There was also a large group who adopted nationality at will depending upon the political circumstances.[25] According to the 1916 census conducted by the German authorities Lithuanians constituted 18.5% of the population. However, during this census the Vilnius
Vilnius
region was expanded greatly and ended near Brest-Litovsk, and included the city of Białystok. Due to the addition of further Polish regions, the percentage of Lithuanian population was diluted. The post-war Polish censuses of 1921 and 1931, found 5% of Lithuanians living in the area, with several almost purely Lithuanian enclaves located to the south-west, south ( Dieveniškės
Dieveniškės
enclave), east (Gervėčiai enclave) of Vilnius and to the north of Švenčionys. The majority of the population was composed of Poles (roughly 60%) according to the latter three censuses. The results of Polish censuses were questioned by some Lithuanian historians[citation needed] and the Lithuanian government claimed that the majority of local Poles were in fact Polonised Lithuanians.[9] Today, the Po prostu dialect is the native language for Poles in Šalčininkai District Municipality
Šalčininkai District Municipality
and in some territories of Vilnius
Vilnius
District Municipality, its speakers consider themselves to be Poles and believe Po prostu language to be purely Polish.[26][27] The population, including those of "the locals" (Tutejshy) who live in the other part of Vilnius
Vilnius
region that was occupied by Soviet Union
Soviet Union
and passed on to Belarus, still has a strong presence of Polish identity.

Census in 1897

Language spoken. Majorities. Green - Belarusian-speaking population, yellow - Lithuanian-speaking population. Note: relative majority in Vilnius
Vilnius
uyezd. Belarusian: (25,8 % with Vilnius
Vilnius
city; 41,85% if excluding Vilnius), Lithuanian: (20,93 % with Vilnius
Vilnius
city; 34,92% if excluding Vilnius)[28][29]

Belarusian-speaking population

Lithuanian-speaking population

Lithuanian Jews, speaking Litvish dialect of Yiddish

Polish-speaking population

Russian-speaking population

After the extermination of Jews, displacements and migrations, Lithuanians became the undisputed ethnic majority in the Vilnius region. The share of Lithuanians in the Vilnius
Vilnius
city grew from 2% in the first half of the 20th century to 42.5% in 1970,[30] 57.8% in 2001 (while the total population of the city expanded several times).[31] and 63.2% in 2011.[citation needed] The Poles are still concentrated in the area around Vilnius, and constituted 63.6% of the population in Vilnius
Vilnius
District Municipality and 82.4% of the population in Šalčininkai District Municipality
Šalčininkai District Municipality
in 1989,[25] 52.07% of the population in Vilnius
Vilnius
District Municipality and 77.75% in Šalčininkai District Municipality
Šalčininkai District Municipality
in 2011.[32]

Lithuanian language
Lithuanian language
in the 16th century

Polish ethnographic map from 1912, showing the proportions of Polish population on the territory of the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, according to pre-war censuses

Polish ethnographic map from 1916, showing the proportions of Polish population, according to German censuses of 1916

Poles in present-day Lithuania

See also[edit]

Disputed territories of Baltic States History of Vilnius Poles in Lithuania Polish National-Territorial Region Suwałki Region

References[edit]

^ Smetona, Antanas. " Lithuania
Lithuania
Propria". Darbai ir dienos (in Lithuanian). 3 (12): 191–234.  ^ (in Lithuanian) Viduramžių Lietuva Viduramžių Lietuvos provincijos. Retrieved on 2007.04.11 ^ Lithuanians used historical and geographical arguments to defend their claims, Poles pointed to the overwhelmingly Polish ethnic character of the Land of Vilnius, and to the explicit will of its inhabitants. In: Jan Owsinski, Piotr Eberhardt. Ethnic Groups and Population Changes in Twentieth-Century Central-Eastern Europe. M.E. Sharpe. 2003. p. 36. ^ Lithuanians based their claims to Vilnius
Vilnius
on its role as the historical capital of the medieval Grand Duchy of Lithuania, whereas Poland
Poland
staked its claim on the grounds that the city and surrounding area were predominantly ethnically Polish. Tomas Balkelis. "Nation State, Ethnic Conflict, and Refugees in Lithuania
Lithuania
1939-1940". Shatterzone of Empires. Coexistence and Violence in the German, Habsburg, Russian, and Ottoman Borderlands. Indiana University Press. 2013. p. 244. ^ Jerzy Borzecki. The Soviet-Polish Peace of 1921 and the creation of interwar Europe. Yale University Press. 2008. p. 35. According to one of the leading Lithuanian national activists, Mykolas Biržiška, "the issue of belonging to a certain nationality is not decided by everyone at will, it is not a matter that can be resolved according to the principles of political liberalism, even one cloaked in democratic slogans." Another leading activist, Petras Klimas, had already declared in September 1917: "Giving the right of self-determination to the inhabitants of Wilno, a population devoid of culture, would mean giving an opportunity to agitators to fool people. The thing is to unite former branches with the old trunk. Based on that, we draw the border far beyond Wilno, near Oszmiana. Lida County is also Lithuanian...", p. 322 (Notes). ^ a b c Jerzy Borzecki. The Soviet-Polish Peace of 1921 and the creation of interwar Europe. Yale University Press. 2008. pp. 2-3, 10-11. ^ Čepėnas, Pranas. naujųjų laikų Lietuvos istorija (in Lithuanian). Chicago: DR. Griniaus fondas.  ^ Stephanie Salzmann. Great Britain, Germany and the Soviet Union: Rapallo and After, 1922-1934. Boydell Press. 2013. p. 93. ^ a b Kiaupa, Zigmantas (2004). The History of Lithuania. Vilnius: Baltos lankos. ISBN 9955-584-87-4.  ^ (in Polish) Krajewski Zenon, Geneza i dzieje wewnętrzne Litwy Środkowej (1920-1922), Lublin 1996; ISBN 83-906321-0-1 ^ Alfred Erich Senn, The Formation of the Lithuanian Foreign Office, 1918-1921, Slavic Review, Vol. 21, No. 3. (Sep., 1962), pp. 500-507.: "A Bolshevik victory over the Poles would have certainly meant a move by the Lithuanian communists, backed by the Red Army, to overthrow the Lithuanian nationalist government... Kaunas, in effect, paid for its independence with the loss of Vilna." Alfred Erich Senn, Lietuvos valstybes... p. 163: "If the Poles didn't stop the Soviet attack, Lithuania
Lithuania
would fell to the Soviets... Polish victory costs the Lithuanians the city of Wilno, but saved Lithuania itself." Antanas Ruksa, Kovos del Lietuvos nepriklausomybes, t.3, p.417: "In summer 1920 Russia was working on a communist revolution in Lithuania... From this disaster Lithuania
Lithuania
was saved by the miracle at Vistula." Jonas Rudokas, Józef Piłsudski
Józef Piłsudski
- wróg niepodległości Litwy czy jej wybawca? (Polish translation of a Lithuanian article) "Veidas", 25 08 2005: [Piłsudski] "defended both Poland
Poland
and Lithuanian from Soviet domination" ^ Katarzyna Leśniewska, Marek Barwiński. " Vilnius
Vilnius
region as a historical region". Region and Regionalism. No. 10. 2010. pp. 95-98. ^ Jerzy Ochmański. Litewska granica etniczna na wschodzie: od epoki plemiennej do XVI wieku. Wydawn. Nauk. Uniwersytetu im. Adama Mickiewicza. 1981. p. 81. ^ Norman Davies, God's Playground: The origins to 1795, Oxford University Press, 2005, p. 29. ^ Jerzy Ochmański, "The National Idea in Lithuania
Lithuania
from the 16th to the First Half of the 19th Century: The Problem of Cultural-Linguistic Differentiation", Harvard Ukrainian Studies, Vol. X. No. 3/4. 1986, p. 314. ^ Toomas Karjaharm. Terminology Pertaining to Ethnic Relations as Used in Late Imperial Russia. Acta Historica Tallinnensia (15). 2010. pp. 32-33. ^ (in Russian) Demoscope. ^ a b (in Polish) Piotr Łossowski, Konflikt polsko-litewski 1918-1920 (The Polish-Lithuanian Conflict, 1918–1920), Warsaw, Książka i Wiedza, 1995, ISBN 83-05-12769-9, pp. 11, 104. ^ Michał Eustachy Brensztejn (1919). Spisy ludności m. Wilna za okupacji niemieckiej od. 1 listopada 1915 r (in Polish). Biblioteka Delegacji Rad Polskich Litwy i Białej Rusi, Warsaw. pp. 8, 21.  ^ Eugenjusz Romer, "Spis ludności na terenach administrowanych przez Zarząd Cywilny Ziem Wschodnich (Grudzień 1919)", Prace Geograficzne: Issue 7, p. 31. ^ Pranciškus Bieliauskas "Vilniaus dienoraštis. 1915-1919", Vilnius, 2009 ^ Petras Klimas
Petras Klimas
"Iš mano atsiminimų", Vilnius, Enciklopedijų Redakcija, 1991, p. 148 ^ Vytautas Merkys "Tautinė Vilniaus vyskupijos gyventojų sudėtis 1867-1917" in "Istorijos Akiračiai", 2004, p. 408-409 ^ E. Bojtar. Foreword to the past: a cultural history of the Baltic people. Central European University Press. 2000. p. 201. ^ a b Jan Owsinski, Piotr Eberhardt. Ethnic Groups and Population Changes in Twentieth-Century Central-Eastern Europe. M.E. Sharpe. 2003. pp. 48, 59 ^ (in Lithuanian) Lietuvos rytai; straipsnių rinkinys The east of Lithuania; the collection of articles; V. Čekmonas, L. Grumadaitė "Kalbų paplitimas Rytų Lietuvoje" ("The distribution of languages in eastern Lithuania") ^ http://www.istorija.lt/le/kalnius1998_summary.html ^ "Первая всеобщая перепись населения Российской Империи 1897 г. Виленский уезд, весь".  ^ "Первая всеобщая перепись населения Российской Империи 1897 г. Виленский уезд без города".  ^ Roman Szporluk. Russia, Ukraine and the Breakup of the Soviet Union. Hoover Press. 2000. p. 47. ^ Saulius Stanaitis, Darius Cesnavicius. Dynamics of national composition of Vilnius
Vilnius
population in the 2nd half of the 20th century. Bulletin of Geography. Socio-economic Series. No. 13. 2010 33-44 pp. 33, 36. ^ "Gyventojai gyvenamosiose vietovėse". Statistics Lithuania. 2013-01-25. Retrieved 2017-02-25. 

External links[edit]

Repatriation and Resettlement of Ethnic Poles Maps of Ethnic Groups Lithuanian- Belarusian language
Belarusian language
boundary in the 4th decade of the 19th century Lithuanian- Belarusian language
Belarusian language
boundary in the beginning of the 20th century

Coordinates: 54°30′N 25°25′E / 54.500°N 25.417°E / 54

.