Lithuania News, Lithuania Weather and Links ( Lithuanian News and Lithuanian Weather )

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The New York Times, January 13, 1918, p.X10:

LITHUANIA DECLARES ITS INDEPENDENCE
Not Only Russian Territory,
but Part of Prussia, Including Koenigsberg,
Claimed for New State in Eastern Europe.

    LITHUANIA formally declared her independence of Russia last Tuesday, Jan. 8, according to a cablegram received by Lithuanians in this city from Dr. J. Szlupasof Scranton, Penn., who presided at a conference of Lithuanian delegates held in Stockholm, beginning Jan. 5, at which the declaration was made...

    For hundreds of years the history of Lithuania was intertwined with that of Poland, with which it long maintained a loose sort of union. At the time of the dismemberment of Poland it went for the most part to Russia.
    Lithuania now comprises the Russian "Governments" of Kovno [Kaunas], Vilna [Vilnius], Grodno [Hrodna, Belarus], Vitebsk [in Belarus], Minsk [in Belarus], Mogilev [in Belarus], and Suwalki [Suwałki, Poland] (the last a part of Russian Poland). The territory is almost entirely occupied just now by the Germans, who swept over it in their campaign of 1915 against the Russians.
    In the heyday of the Lithuanians the dominions of their princes extended, however, far beyond the limits of today, reaching even the shores of the Black Sea, and embracing districts now included in Ukraine, Poland, and other parts of Russia.

    A most interesting point about the claims... is that, in their extreme form, they contemplate not only the separation of Lithuania from Russia, but also the incorporation into the new State of German territory which centuries ago formed part of Lithuania. This district includes the important city of Königsberg [now Kaliningrad, Russia] in what is now East Prussia...
    If the federation with Lettland [Latvia], desired by the Lithuanians, should be consummated, the new Lithuanian State would have within its boundaries the City of Riga, wrested a few months ago from the Russians by the Germans...

    Much of the early history of Lithuania, including that of the period when the Lithuanians are said to have ruled over territories from the Baltic to the Black Sea, is inextricably bound up with legend. A survey of it, together with interesting sidelights on the country and its people, was given the other day by A. M. Martus, a Lithuanian residing in this city...

    The Lithuanian nation in the fourth century of our era... was living along the coast of the Baltic Sea between Riga and Königsberg, which we call Lithuanian Karaliauchus.
    From the tenth to the sixteenth century the Lithuanian principality extended from the Baltic to the Black Sea. In that territory were White Russians and Ukrainians or Little Russians. White Russians are mostly of Lithuanian stock, Russianized in earlier centuries. Whoever goes from Lithuania to White Russia soon notices the same types, customs and festivities there. The language of White Russia is 25 per cent. Lithuanian, and the attitude of the people toward the Lithuanians is very friendly.

    Letts and Lithuanians come from the same stock, but, separated by historical events, their national lives were shaped along different lines. The Letts came under the domination and influence of Teutons, the Lithuanians under those of the Slavs (Russians and Poles). Now the Letts and the Lithuanians are trying to throw in their lot together.
    The northeastern part of East Prussia is Lithuanian. Königsberg was taken by the Teutons from Lithuania in A. D. 1263. During my last visit to Königsberg, (which is still called Karaliauchus by Lithuanians,) in 1914, I found Lithuanian spoken very little in the city itself, but in the surrounding villages plain Lithuanian is spoken. Therefore, Lithuanians justly demand that this part of Prussia be added to the rest of Lithuania.

    The Lithuanians are Indo-Aryans, fair, light-haired, blue-eyed, tall, and strong. They are in no way related to the Slav or Teuton. They are said to have crossed from Asia to Europe about 2,000 B. C. They settled along the Black Sea, near the mouth of the Danube. Gradually they were driven by other races until they came to the shores of the Baltic, where they finally settled.
    Here Lithuanians grew and prospered. They were peaceful folk, never fighting unless attacked, busy with agricultural pursuits, and a few with hunting and fishing. As a nation they were prevented from going into manufacturing or commerce by physical surroundings, but some of the more venturesome made trips to Roman territory with cargoes of amber and various products of their country.

    The language of the Lithuanians has been preserved to this day. Some even say that it is the oldest language in use. It closely resembles the Sanskrit and, in many cases of research work, is the key to it.

    The Lithuanians lived in clans until the thirteenth century, when, because of national danger, they banded together. They chose Ringaudas [Ryngold] as the first Grand Duke of Lithuania, and he soon collected a large army. He defeated the Germans and stopped the western advance of the Mongolians. He likewise defeated the Russians and increased the territory of Lithuania considerably.

    Mindaugis [Mindaugas], the next Grand Duke, a capable organizer and administrator, continued the work successfully. Gedeminas [Gediminas], a shrewd diplomat, as is shown in his correspondence with the Popes of Rome and the Teutonic Order, was the next Grand Duke of note. He established the Grand Duchy of Lithuania a firm basis, vanquished the Russians, Teutons, and especially the Tartars [Tatars], and so helped save Europe from the greatest disaster that could have befallen it—invasion and occupation by Mongolians.
    At this time Lithuania extended from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea. After the death of Gedeminas, his two sons, Algirdas and Keistutis [Kęstutis], reigned, and waged great battles with Teutons and Slavs.

    Yagello [Jogaila], son of Algirdas, married Hedwig, Queen of Poland [Jadwiga], in 1386. This brought Poland and Lithuania into closer relationship, but did not end the individuality of Lithuania. Yagello left the Lithuanian throne to his cousin Vytautas, who tried to establish a united Lithuanian kingdom, free from Polish interference. His death, however, prevented him from carrying out his plans and being crowned King of Lithuania.

    In 1569 a sort of dual Polish-Lithuanian Government was adopted. Even then, Lithuania kept its independence, having a separate administration, army, and currency, though, later, all this was gradually taken away by the Poles. After Lithuania opened her doors to the Poles absorption of much of her individuality was inevitable. Finally, the nobility adopted Polish customs and language, and soon became "Poles." But the majority of the people and the nobility in the district of Samogitia remained true Lithuanians.

    Diets and edicts soon became the vogue, and, as a result, anarchy ensued. The nobles tried to weaken the monarchy and kept their own standing armies. To support these they levied taxes upon the people. This kept on until 1763, when the factions appealed to Maria Theresa of Austria [1717-1780] and Catherine of Russia [Catherine II, 1729-1796] to help settle their differences.
    Frederick the Great [Frederick II of Prussia] of Germany, seeing his opportunity, persuaded Catherine and Maria Theresa to join him. When their armies overran the country, Lithuania and Poland were powerless and had to submit. In the three partitions of Poland that ensued the major part of Lithuania was annexed by Russia and the smaller by Germany. Thus Lithuania was removed from the map of the world.

    The people were forbidden to use the Lithuanian language, and the possession of any Lithuanian books, even prayer books, was considered a political crime, and schools teaching Lithuanian were closed. The Russian Government prohibited the use of any type in print but the Russian [Cyrillic alphabet]. The people, as a result, smuggled in books and newspapers printed in Latin type, from Germany.
    Eventually the imperial order was revoked and the use of Latin type reestablished. From that time on Lithuanian literature has flourished, many newspapers having been published and many books printed.

    There are probably about 7,500,000 persons of genuine Lithuanian stock. In addition to these, the Lithuanian State would include 1,300.000 Poles, Jews, Russians, and Germans, making a total of 9,000,000 for Lithuania proper. If Lettland should be united with Lithuania, it would add 2,500,000 Letts, making a grand total population of 11,500,000 for the new nation.
    There are about 750,000 Lithuanians in the United States and Canada, considerable colonies in the Argentine and South Africa, and 50,000 in England. Most of the Lithuanians who emigrated from their native land did so because they could not better themselves there and hoped to find in other countries markets for their brains, inventive talent and strength. Many of them have become influential citizens of the communities where they have found new homes.

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    The Republic of Lithuania is the southernmost and largest of the three Baltic states. It is bounded on the north by Latvia, on the east and south by Belarus, on the southwest by an exclave of Russia and by Poland, and on the west by the Baltic Sea. The capital is Vilnius. The area of Lithuania is 25,213 square miles (65,301 square km). The estimated population of Lithuania for July, 2009 is 3,555,179. The official language is Lithuanian.

    Lithuanian lands were united under MINDAUGAS in 1236; over the next century, through alliances and conquest, Lithuania extended its territory to include most of present-day Belarus and Ukraine. By the end of the 14th century Lithuania was the largest state in Europe.

An alliance with Poland in 1386 led the two countries into a union through the person of a common ruler. In 1569, Lithuania and Poland formally united into a single dual state, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. This entity survived until 1795, when its remnants were partitioned by surrounding countries. Lithuania regained its independence following World War I but was annexed by the USSR in 1940 - an action never recognized by the US and many other countries.

    On 11 March 1990, Lithuania became the first of the Soviet republics to declare its independence, but Moscow did not recognize this proclamation until September of 1991 (following the abortive coup in Moscow). The last Russian troops withdrew in 1993.
    Lithuania subsequently restructured its economy for integration into Western European institutions; it joined both NATO and the EU in the spring of 2004.
    CIA World Factbook: Lithuania

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