Lithuania History

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From the rise to a major European power to the end of the Polish-Lithuanian Union

The ancestors of the Lithuanians already settled the lower reaches of the Memel and the Neris valley in prehistoric times. In the era of the Crusades they were able to assert themselves militarily against the Teutonic Order (around 1230-1410), although numerous military campaigns were directed against the (until 1385) predominantly pagan Lithuanians (especially the so-called Prussian or Lithuanian journeys of occidental nobles). Around 1240 Grand Duke Mindaugas (Mindowe) succeeded in uniting the Lithuanian tribes. He was baptized and was then made king by the Pope in 1253, but his kingdom fell apart after his assassination in 1263. Under Gediminas (Gedimin, 1316–41) and his sons Algirdas (1345–77) and Kęstutis (1345–82) began the rise of Lithuania to become the largest territorial state in Europe. Numerous principalities of the Kiev Empire were conquered (Kiev 1362) or incorporated through a clever marriage policy. The rivalry with his cousin Vytautas (Witold) and the war with the Teutonic Order induced Algirdas’ son Jagiełło (Jogaila in Lithuanian) to marry the Polish heir to the throne Hedwig (Jadwiga) in 1385 and to create a personal union with Poland (Christianization of Lithuania). Vytautas(1392–1430), officially called Jagiełłos since 1401 (Union of Vilnius and Radom)Deputy ruled, led Lithuania to the height of its power development (1395 capture of Smolensk). After the Battle of Tannenberg (1410), the Teutonic Order finally renounced Schemeiten as a land bridge between East Prussia and Courland in 1422 (Peace of Melno). The outcome of the Livonian War (1558–82) enlarged Poland-Lithuania to include Livonia with the city of Riga (1561). Under pressure from the emerging Moscow state, the two brother states merged in 1569 (Lublin Union) to form the »Rzeczpospolita obejga narodów« (»Republic of Both Peoples«), which was established under Stephan IV. Báthory (1575–86) and Sigismund III. Wasaexperienced its heyday. In the course of the 18th century, the once powerful Lithuania developed into a province of Poland, the Lithuanian nobility Polonized, and Lithuanian became a peasant language. When the empire, weakened by aristocratic rivalries, was divided up between the neighboring states at the end of the 18th century, with the third partition of Poland in 1795, the Lithuanian heartlands also fell to the Russian Empire.

Russian rule and the rise of the national movement

From 1815 to 1918 Lithuania consisted of the Russian governorates of Vilna, Kovno and Suwałki. In 1830 and 1863 there were two major revolts against Russian domination on the territory of the former dual state. Lithuania in particular suffered from severe punitive measures and a ruthless russification policy. Catholics were excluded from civil service in Lithuania, and the school system was brought into line with that of Russia. From 1864–1904 the printing of Lithuanian books in Latin letters was banned. The Lithuanian literature of that time had to be printed in East Prussia and secretly brought across the border (“Age of Book Carriers”). This led to an unprecedented wave of emigration overseas up to the First World War (especially to the USA [center of Chicago] and to Canada, around 20% of the population). Under these conditions, the national movement of the Lithuanians was also delayed (1880s). In addition to the Catholic clergy, the peasants of Suwałki played a leading role, who had already gained personal freedom through the Code Napoléon (1807), while the rest of the peasantry did not become free until 1861. In the absence of major unrest in the 1905 revolution, various bans were lifted. As a result, numerous parties emerged. In December 1905 the “Wilnaer Landtag” met and demanded inter alia. national autonomy. while the rest of the peasantry did not become free until 1861. In the absence of major unrest in the 1905 revolution, various bans were lifted. As a result, numerous parties emerged. In December 1905 the “Wilnaer Landtag” met and demanded inter alia. national autonomy. while the rest of the peasantry did not become free until 1861. In the absence of major unrest in the 1905 revolution, various bans were lifted. As a result, numerous parties emerged. In December 1905 the “Wilnaer Landtag” met and demanded inter alia. national autonomy.

Lithuania Cities


Panevėžys [-ve ː ʒ is], Russian Paneweschis, city in central Lithuania, in the Mittellitauischen level (2020) of 85 900 residents.

Catholic bishopric; several museums, art gallery, theater; Industrial city, the most important branches are electrotechnical-electronic, industry, textile and food industry, brewery, construction industry; Transport hub on the European roads from Vilnius and Kaunas to Riga.

Panevėžys was first mentioned in 1503 and received market rights in 1661. Industrial development began at the end of the 19th century.


Šiauliai [ ʃ æ  lε  ], German Siauliai, formerly Russian Schawli, Šavli [ ʃ -], city in northern Lithuania, 110-130 m above sea level, on the eastern edge of Schemaiter heights (2020) 101,500 residents.

University (until 1997 Pedagogical College), Catholic bishopric; Food industry, metal processing (including bicycles), electrotechnical-electronic (including televisions), textile industry, leather processing, communication technology; Transport hub. Due to a sharp decline in industrial production, Šiauliai experienced high unemployment in the late 1990s.

At Saule, which is probably identical to today’s Šiauliai, the Order of the Brothers of the Swords suffered a heavy defeat against a Lithuanian army in 1236. The “Hill of Crosses” is the city’s landmark and serves as a place of pilgrimage.


Klaipėda [-pe ː da, Lithuanian], German Memel, Russian Klajpeda, city ​​in Lithuania, (2020) 149,200 residents (1940: 43,000 residents).

Klaipėda, the third largest city in Lithuania, is located in the Memel region, opposite the northern tip of the Curonian Spit, at the exit of the Curonian Lagoon (Memel Deep) to the Baltic Sea; University (since 1992), Maritime College; Museum of the Memel region (“Little Lithuania”), maritime museum, clock museum and picture gallery. Industry is closely linked to the port economy (shipbuilding yard “Baltija”, three repair yards); In addition, the food industry (including fish processing), chemical, wood processing and automotive supply industries are important sectors. In the east of the city special economic zone. Klaipėda is the starting point for tourism on the Curonian Spit. The port, ice-free all year round, is the only Lithuanian seaport and of great importance for transit traffic. It is connected to the Memel by a canal to the Minge (Lithuanian Minija, Memel tributary). Container terminal; the oil terminal is located in Būtingė north of Klaipėda. Ferry connections with Sassnitz on Rügen (discontinued in 2013), Kiel (car ferry, freight transport) and Travemünde. Motorway connection with Kaunas and Vilnius, about 30 km north of Klaipėda-Palanga Airport.

A castle (Memel castrum, Memelburg) of the Livonian branch of the Teutonic Order was founded in the settlement of Klaipėda in 1252. In 1254 the city received Lübisches law, and in 1475 Culmer law. The isolated location of the city near the border led to frequent attacks and destruction (including 1629–35 by Swedes, 1757–62 by Russians). 1807/08 Klaipėda was the refuge of the Prussian court from Napoleon I, 1924–39 seat of the governor and directorate of the Memel area.


Vilnius (German Wilna), capital of Lithuania with (2020) 551,000 residents. Visit rctoysadvice for Lithuania Major Cities.

The city has the oldest university in the Baltic States as well as other universities and colleges, theaters and museums. Around a quarter of Lithuania’s industrial production is concentrated in the greater Vilnius area. The city is also an important trade center and transport hub with an international airport.

Vilnius has a remarkable old town with a partially preserved wall ring from 1503-22. Late Gothic brick churches and buildings from the Wilna Baroque are among the sights. Many buildings (opera house, parliament building, etc.) were built after the Second World War. Modern high-rise office buildings are grouped around the central Europaplatz.

Between the world wars, the area around Vilnius was disputed between Poland and Lithuania (Vilnius question). Until the Holocaust, Vilnius was regarded as the center of traditional Jewish culture and literature (»Jerusalem of the East«).

World Heritage Sites in Lithuania

World Heritage Sites

  • Vilnius Old Town (1994)
  • Curonian Spit (2000)
  • Kernavė Archaeological Site (2004)
  • Measuring points of the Struve arch (2005)


Lithuania History

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