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Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the 13–15th centuries

The Grand Duchy of Lithuania (GDL) was an Eastern and Central European state from the 12th /13th century until 1795. It was founded by the Lithuanians, one of the pagan Baltic tribes from Aukštaitija. The duchy later expanded to include large portions of the former Kievan Rus' and other Slavic lands, covering the territory of present-day Lithuaniamarker, Belarusmarker, Ukrainemarker, Latviamarker and parts of Moldovamarker, Polandmarker and Russiamarker. At its greatest extent in the 15th century, it was the largest state in Europe. It was a multi-ethnic and multi-confessional state with great diversity in languages, religion, and cultural heritage.

Consolidation of the Lithuanian lands began in the late 12th century. Mindaugas, the first Lithuanian ruler, was crowned as Catholic King of Lithuania in 1253. The pagan state was involved in the religious crusade with the Teutonic Knights and the Livonian Order. The multi-ethnic and multi-confessional state emerged only at the late reign of Gediminas and continued to expand under his son Algirdas. Algirdas's successor Jogaila signed the Union of Kreva in 1386, bringing two major changes in Lithuanian history: conversion into Catholicism and establishment of a dynastic union between the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of Poland.

Reign of Vytautas the Great marked not only the greatest territorial expansion of the Grand Duchy and defeat of the Teutonic Knights in the Battle of Grunwaldmarker in 1410, but also rise of the Lithuanian nobility. After Vytautas's death, Lithuania's relationship with the Kingdom of Poland greatly deteriorated. Lithuanian noblemen, including the Radziwiłłs, attempted to break the personal union with Poland. However, the unsuccessful Muscovite–Lithuanian Wars with the Grand Duchy of Moscow forced the union to remain intact. Eventually, the Union of Lublin of 1569 created a new state, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. In this federation, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania maintained its political distinctiveness and had a separate government, laws, army, and treasury. The Commonwealth failed to prevent territorial losses to expanding Russia. After a series of devastating wars, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was partitioned between the Russian Empiremarker, Prussia and Austria in 1795.


In other languages, the Grand Duchy is referred to as:
  • Old literary Lithuanian: Didi Kunigiste Letuvos
  • Ruthenian: Великое князство Литовское, Руское, Жомойтское и иных

The title of "Grand Duchy" was consistently applied to Lithuania from the 14th century onward.


Establishment of the state

The first written reference to Lithuania is found in the Quedlinburg Chronicle, which dates from 1009. In the 12th century, Slavic chronicles refer to Lithuania as one of the areas attacked by the Rus'. At first pagan Lithuanians paid tribute to Polotskmarker, but soon grew in strength and organized their own small-scale raids. At some point between 1180 and 1183 the situation began to change, and the Lithuanians started to organize sustainable military raids on the Slavic provinces, raiding the Polotskmarker duchy as well as Pskovmarker, and even threatening Novgorodmarker. The sudden spark of military raids marked consolidation of the Lithuanian lands in Aukštaitija. Possibly by the end of the 12th century the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was already formed in these lands.

The Livonian Order and Teutonic Knights, crusading military orders, were established in Rigamarker in 1202 and in Prussia in 1226. The Christian orders posed a significant threat to pagan Baltic tribes and further galvanized the formation of the state. The peace treaty with Galicia–Volhynia of 1219 provides evidence of cooperation between Lithuanians and Samogitians. This treaty lists 21 Lithuanian dukes, including five senior Lithuanian dukes from Aukštaitija (Živinbudas, Daujotas, Vilikaila, Dausprungas and Mindaugas) and several dukes from Samogitia. Although they had battled in the past, the Lithuanians and the Samogitians spoke a similar dialect and now faced a common enemy. Likely Živinbudas had most authority and at least several dukes were from the same families. The formal acknowledgment of common interests and the establishment of a hierarchy among the signatories of the treaty foreshadowed the emergence of the state.

Kingdom of Lithuania

Mindaugas, duke of southern Lithuania, was among the five senior dukes, mentioned in the treaty with Galicia–Volhynia. According to the Livonian Rhymed Chronicle, by mid-1230s Mindaugas acquired supreme power in the whole of Lithuania. In 1236, the Samogitians, led by Vykintas, defeated the Livonian Order in the Battle of Saule. The Order was forced to become a branch of the Teutonic Knights in Prussia. That meant that Samogitia, a strip of land that separated Livonia from Prussia, became the main target of both orders. The battle provided a break in the wars with the Knights and Lithuania exploited this situation, arranging attacks towards the Ruthenian provinces and annexing Navahrudakmarker and Hrodnamarker.

In 1248 a civil war broke out between Mindaugas and his nephews Tautvilas and Edivydas. The powerful coalition against Mindaugas included Vykintas, the Livonian Order, Daniel of Galicia, and Vasilko of Volhynia. Mindaugas, taking advantage of internal conflicts, allied with the Livonian Order. He promised to convert to Christianity and gift some lands in western Lithuania in exchange for military assistance against his nephews and the royal crown. In 1251 Mindaugas was baptized and Pope Innocent IV issued a papal bull, proclaiming creation of the Kingdom of Lithuania. After the civil war ended, Mindaugas was crowned as King of Lithuania on July 6, 1253, starting a decade of relative peace. Mindaugas tried to expand his influence in Polatskmarker, a major center of commerce in the Daugava River basin, and Pinskmarker. The Teutonic Knights used this period to strengthen its position in parts of Samogitia and Livonia, but lost the Battle of Skuodas in 1259 and the Battle of Durbe in 1260. These losses encouraged conquered Semigallians and Prussians to rebel against the Knights.

Encouraged by Treniota, Mindaugas broke the peace with the Order, possibly relapsed into his old beliefs, and allied with Alexander Nevsky of Novgorodmarker. He hoped to unite all Baltic tribes under the Lithuanian leadership. As military campaigns were not successful, the relationships between Mindaugas and Treniota deteriorated. Treniota together with Daumantas assassinated Mindaugas and his two sons, Ruklys and Rupeikis, in 1263. The state lapsed into years of internal fights.

Rise of the Gediminids

From 1263 to 1269, Lithuania had three Grand Dukes – Treniota, Vaišvilkas, and Svarn. However, the state did not disintegrate and Traidenis came to power in 1269. He strengthened Lithuanian control in Black Ruthenia and fought with the Livonian Order, winning the Battle of Karuse in 1270 and the Battle of Aizkraukle in 1279. There is considerable uncertainty about the identities of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania between Traidenis' death in 1282 and Vytenis' assumption of power in 1295. During this time the Orders finalized their conquests. In 1274 the Great Prussian Rebellion ended, and the Teutonic Knights proceeded to conquer other Baltic tribes: the Nadruvians and Skalvians in 1274–1277, and the Yotvingians in 1283; the Livonian Order completed its conquest of Semigalia, the last Baltic ally of Lithuania, in 1291. The Orders could now turn their full attention to Lithuania. The "buffer zone" composed of other Baltic tribes had disappeared, and Lithuania was left to battle the Orders on its own.

Vytenis was the first ruler from the Gediminids dynasty who ruled Lithuania for several centuries. His reign saw constant warfare with the Order, the Kingdom of Poland, and Ruthenia. Vytenis was involved in succession disputes in Poland, supporting Boleslaus II of Masovia, who was married to a Lithuanian duchess Gaudemunda. In Ruthenia, Vytenis managed to recapture lands lost after the assassination of Mindaugas and capture the principalities of Pinskmarker and Turaŭmarker. In the struggle against the Order, Vytenis allied with citizens of Rigamarker. Securing positions in Riga strengthened trade routes and provided a base for further military campaigns towards. Around 1307, Polatskmarker, an important trading center, was annexed by military force. Vytenis also began the construction of defensive castle network along the Neman Rivermarker. Gradually this network developed into the main defensive line against the Teutonic Order.

Territorial expansion

The expansion reached its heights under Gediminas, who created a strong central government and established an empire, which later spread from the Black Seamarker to the Baltic Seamarker. In 1320, most of the principalities of Western Rus' were either vassalized or annexed by Lithuania. In 1321 Gediminas captured Kiev sending Stanislav, the last Rurikid to ever rule Kievmarker, into exile. Gediminas also re-established the permanent capital of Lithuania in Vilniusmarker, which was presumably moved from Trakaimarker in 1323.

Lithuania was in an ideal position to inherit the west and the south part of Kievan Rus'. While almost every other state around it had been plundered or defeated by the Mongols, their hordes never reached as far north as Lithuania and its territory was left untouched. The expansion of Lithuania was also accelerated because of the weak control the Mongols had over the areas they had conquered. (Rus' principalities were never incorporated directly into the Golden Horde. Instead, they were always vassal states with a fair degree of independence. The rise of Lithuania occurred at the ideal time when they could expand while meeting very little resistance in the territories populated by East Slavs and only limited opposition from the Mongols.

Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the 17th centuries with administrative divisions.
The Lithuanian state was not built only on military aggression. Its existence always depended on diplomacy just as much as on arms. Most, while not all, cities it annexed were never defeated in battle but agreed to be vassals of Lithuania. Since most of them were already vassals of the Golden Horde or of the Grand Prince of Moscow, such a decision was not one of giving up independence but rather of exchanging one master for another. This can be seen in the case of Novgorodmarker, which was often brought into the Lithuanian sphere of influence and became an occasional dependency of Lithuania. Rather, Lithuanian control was the result of internal frictions within the city, which attempted to escape submission to Moscovia. This method of building the state was, however, unstable. The change of internal politics within a city could pull it out of Lithuania's control, as happened on a number of occasions with Novgorod and other East-Slavic cities.

Union with Poland

Lithuania was Christianized in 1387. Christianization was led by Jogaila, who personally translated Christian prayers into the Lithuanian language. The state reached a peak under Vytautas the Great, who reigned from 1392 to 1430. Vytautas was one of the most famous rulers of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. He was the Grand Duke from 1401-1430, also the Prince of Hrodnamarker (1370-1382) and the Prince of Lutskmarker (1387-1389). Vytautas was the son of Kęstutis, cousin of Jogaila, who became King of Poland in 1386, and grandfather of Vasili II of Moscow. In 1410 Vytautas himself commanded the forces of the Grand Duchy in the Battle of Grunwaldmarker (also called the Battle of Tannenberg or Žalgirio mūšis). The battle ended in a decisive Polish-Lithuanian victory against the Teutonic Order. Vytautas backed economic development of his state and introduced many reforms. Under his rule the Grand Duchy of Lithuania slowly became more centralized, as the governors loyal to Vytautas replaced local princes with dynastic ties to the throne. The governors were rich landowners who formed the basis for the Lithuanian nobility. During Vytautas' rule Radziwiłł and Goštautas families started to gain influence.

The speedy expansion of Moscow's influence soon put it into a position to rival Lithuania, however, and after the annexation of Novgorod in 1478 Moscovia was unquestionably the preeminent state in Northeastern Europe. Between 1492 and 1508, Ivan III, after winning the key Battle of Vedroshamarker, regained such ancient lands of Rus as Chernigov and Bryanskmarker.

Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth

The loss of land to Moscow and the continued pressure threatened the survival of the state of Lithuania, so it was forced to ally more closely with Polandmarker, uniting with its western neighbour as the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (Commonwealth of Two Nations) in the Union of Lublin of 1569. According to the Union many of the territories formerly controlled by the largely Ruthenized"Within the [Lithuanian] Grand Duchy, the Ruthenian lands initially retained considerable autonomy. The pagan Lithuanians themselves were increasingly converting to Orthodoxy and assimilating into Ruthenian culture. The grand duchy's administrative practices and legal system drew heavily on Slavic customs, and Ruthenian became the official state language. Direct Polish rule in Ukraine since the 1340s and for two centuries thereafter was limited to Galicia. There, changes in such areas as administration, law, and land tenure proceeded more rapidly than in Ukrainian territories under Lithuania. However, Lithuania itself was soon drawn into the orbit of Poland."
from Ukraine. (2006). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Grand Duchy of Lithuania were transferred to the Crown of the Polish Kingdom, while the gradual process of Polonization slowly drew Lithuania itself under Polish domination."Formally, Poland and Lithuania were to be distinct, equal components of the federation,[...] But Poland, which retained possession of the Lithuanian lands it had seized, had greater representation in the Diet and became the dominant partner.
from Lublin, Union of (2006). In Encyclopædia Britannica"While Poland and Lithuania would thereafter elect a joint sovereign and have a common parliament, the basic dual state structure was retained. Each continued to be administered separately and had its own law codes and armed forces. The joint commonwealth, however, provided an impetus for cultural Polonization of the Lithuanian nobility. By the end of the 17th century it had virtually become indistinguishable from its Polish counterpart."

from Lithuania, history in Encyclopædia Britannica The Grand Duchy retained many rights in the federation (including a separate government, treasury and army) until the May Constitution of Poland was passed in 1791.

Partitions and the Napoleonic period

Following the Partitions of Poland, most of the lands of the former Grand Duchy were directly annexed by the Russian Empiremarker rather than attached to the Kingdom of Polandmarker, a rump state in personal union with Russia. However, in 1812, soon before the French invasion of Russia, the lands of the former Grand Duchy revolted against the Russians. Soon after his arrival to Vilnius, Napoleon proclaimed the creation of a Commissary Provisional Government of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which in turn renewed the Polish-Lithuanian Union. However, the union was never formalized as only half a year later Napoleon's Grande Armée was pushed out of Russia and forced to retreat further westwards. In December 1812 Vilnius was recaptured by Russian forces, bringing all plans of recreation of the Grand Duchy to the end.

Demographics and languages

The nucleus of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was the land of Lithuania, the ethnic land of Lithuanians. At the birth of the Grand Duchy, ethnic Lithuanians made up about 70% of the population. . Statistical numbers, usually accepted in historiography (the sources, their treatment, the method of measuring is not discussed in the source), are given, according to which in 1260 there were about 0.27 million Lithuanians out of a total population of 0.4 million (or 67.5%). The size of the territory of the Grand Duchy was about 200 thousand km2. The following data on population is given in the sequence - year, total population in millions, territory, Lithuanian (inhabitants of ethnic Lithuania) part of population in millions: 1340 - 0.7, 350 thousand km2, 0.37; 1375 - 1.4, 700 thousand km2, 0.42; 1430 - 2.5, 930 thousand km2, 0.59 or 24%; 1490 - 3.8, 850 thousand km2, 0.55 or 14% or 1/7; 1522 - 2.365, 485 thousand km2, 0.7 or 30%; 1568 - 2.8, 570 thousand km2, 0.825 million or 30%; 1572, 1.71, 320 thousand km2, 0.85 million or 50%; 1770 - 4.84, 320 thousand km2, 1.39 or 29%; 1791 - 2.5, 250 km2, 1.4 or 56%; 1793 - 1.8, 132 km2, 1.35 or 75% With the acquisition of new Ruthenian territories, this portion decreased to 50% and later to 30%Letukienė, N., Istorija. Politologija: kurso santrauka istorijos egzaminui, 2003, p. 182; there were about 0.37 million Lithuanians of 0.7 million of a whole population by 1340 in the territory of 350 thousand km2 and 0.42 million of 1.4 million by 1375 in the territory of 700 thousand km2. Different numbers can also be found, for example: Kevin O'Connor, The history of the Baltic States, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2003, ISBN 0313323550, Google Print, p.17. Here author estimates that there were 9 millions of inhabitants in GDL, and 1 million of them were ethnic Lithuanians by 1387. By the time of the largest expansion towards Rus' lands, the end of the 13th and during the 14th century, the territory of the GDL was about 800 thousand km2, 10% of which was ethnically Lithuanian, or up to 930 thousand km2 with 14% or 1/7 of population being ethnic Lithuanian. An estimate of the population in the territory of Poland and Grand Duchy of Lithuania together gives a population at 7.5 million for 1493, breaking them down by ethnicity at 3.25 million Poles, 3.75 million Ruthenians and 0.5 million Lithuanians. With the Union of Lublin, 1569, Lithuanian Grand Duchy lost large part of lands to the Polish Crown (see demographics of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth). In the mid and lte 17th century, due to Russian and Swedish invasions, there was much devastation and population loss on throughout the GDL, including ethnic Lithuanian population in Vilnius surroundings. Besides devastation, Ruthenian population declined proportionally after the territorial losses to Russian Empiremarker. By 1770 there were about 4.84 million inhabitants in the territory of 320 thousand km2, the biggest part of whom were inhabitants of Ruthenia and about 1.39 million or 29% – of ethnic Lithuania. During the following decades, the population decreased in a result of partitions.

The center of the state, Lithuania Proper, was inhabited by a majority which spoke Lithuanian, but it was not a written language at the time. Ruthenian nobles spoke Ruthenian languages; and the entire noble class (Ruthenian and Lithuanian) became increasingly polonized over time and started to use the Polish language. Nobles who migrated from one place to another would adapt to a new locality and adopt the local religion and culture. Therefore those Lithuanian noble families which moved to Slavic areas, took up the local culture quickly over subsequent generations. Ruthenians were native to the center and south-eastern part of the GDL and since they were the major population in a wider area than a half of a whole after the Union of Lublin and in larger portions of a whole before the union, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was a Slavic country in this sense. The Ruthenian chancellery language was used to write laws. From the time of Vytautas, there are fewer remaining documents written in Ruthenian than there are in Latin and German, but later Ruthenian became the main language of documentation and writings, and was officially changed by Polish as the chancellery language of the Lithuanian-Polish Commonwealth in 1697. The voivodeships with the predominant ethnic Lithuanian population were Vilnius, Trakai and Samogitian voivodeships. In the southern angle of Trakai voivodeship, and south-eastern part of Vilnius voivodeship there were many Belarusians too, in some of the south-eastern volosts they were the major linguistic group. In addition to Lithuanians and Ruthenians, other important ethnic groups on throughout the GDL were Jews and Tatars. Vilnius city population and its surroundings were multi-ethnic, among languages spoken here, there were Polish, Lithuanian, Belarusian, Yiddish, German also Tatar, Karaim etc.

As a state, Grand Duchy of Lithuania was Ruthenian, Lithuanian, Polish. The politically prerogative voivodeships were Vilnius, Trakai and Samogitian. About half of nobility families of GDL had ethnic Lithuanian roots, people in ethnic Lithuania spoke Lithuanian and it is not known clearly what was the extent of use of Ruthenian among Lithuanian boyars. Writing the Statutes of Lithuania and other laws and documentation in Ruthenian does not necessarily imply anything about spoken languages in ethnic Lithuania. Last king of the Duchy, Zygmunt August, maintained both a Polish and Lithuanian speaking court and Lithuanian language, following the royal court, was tended to be changed to Polish in ethnic Lithuania, when Ruthenian was stronger in Rus'. There is Sigismund von Herberstein's note left, that there were in an ocean of Russian language in this part of Europe two non Russian regions: Lithuania and Samogitia.

Following the expansion of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the mid 14th century the adjective "Lithuanian", besides denoting an ethnic Lithuanian, from early times denoted any inhabitant of GDL, irrespective of ethnicity: a Ruthenian, a Jew. In the 18th century "Litvin" (Polish: Litwin, Russian: Литвин) meant Polish, Belarusian and Lithuanian speakers. Since an adjective Lithuanian was applied after a name of a state, the understanding of it varied depending on place. For example, in eastern Ukraine, around Poltavamarker, "Litvin" was a person living in the other side of Desna River, Belarusian speaker.

At one point of the history of Grand Duchy of Lithuania, higher strata of Lithuanian society from ethnic Lithuania mostly spoke Polish, and from Belarus – Belarusian. Samogitia was exclusive through state in its economical situation – it lain near ports and there were less people under corvee, instead of that, many simple people were money payers. As a result, the stratification of the society was not as sharp as in other areas. Being more similar to a simple population the local szlachta spoke Lithuanian to a bigger extent than in the areas close to the capital Vilnius, which itself had become a center of intensive linguistic Polonization. The last sermons in Lithuanian in one of Vilnius churches were stopped to say in 1738. In schooling, Latin language was being changed to Polish and Lithuanian language repudiated. It was not let into Vilnius Universitymarker in the late 18th century, parochial and powiat school learning for Lithuanian speaking children through Lithuania was organized in Polish by people having offices in Vilnius. In such circumstances "Samogitians" were known as szlachta, besides Polish using Lithuanian too, and the mass of "Lithuanians", that is any citizens on throughout the state, were understood as mostly Polish speaking szlachta living in Vilnius and its surrounding area and Polish-Belarusian speaking Belarusian szlachta.

There were texts written in the local Lithuanian language of the Vilnius area, lying south-eastwards from Vilnius, then called Lithuanian language, today called a dialect of Eastern Aukštaitian, appearing at the end of the 17th century, the beginning of the 18th century, but it did not become used widerly as a written language and disappeared. The main written language, not including Polish, used by Lithuanians as their own one, became a language, which was then called Samogitian language, today – a dialect of western Aukštaitian, and was spoken in the area starting about Nevėžis River lowland westwards from Aukštaitija.


Tribunal of Grand Duchy of Lithuania, 1586
The chancellery languages of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania were Ruthenian (East Slavonic; Old Belarusian or Old Ukrainian), and to a lesser extent (mostly in diplomatic communication) Latin, German and Polish. The East Slavonic was used to write laws (Statutes of Lithuania) and to correspond with Eastern countries; Latin and German were used in foreign affairs with western countries. Polish was increasingly used as the Polish influence spread after the Union of Lublin. In 1697, Polish replaced Ruthenian as the chancellery language, but documents in the East Slavonic are still found from the second half of the 18th century too.. Although usage of the Lithuanian language in ruling the state after Vytautas and Jogaila is disputed, it is believed Grand Duke Alexander I could understand and speak Lithuanian, and the last Grand Duke Zygmunt August maintained both Polish- and Lithuanian-speaking courts. Since the times of Vytautas, and likely before that, Lithuanian was not a language of administration used by the authorities.

From the beginning of the 16th century, especially after an armed rebellion of Michael Glinski in 1508, there were wishes to change Russian language to Latin. But Ruthenian language appeared to be ingrained, its educational structures were strong not only in Rus' part but also in ethnic Lithuania. In a context of Polish language coming to GDL, Court Chancellor of the GDL Lew Sapieha, noted in a preface of the Third Statute of Lithuania (1588) that this code was written in the own, Russian language. Similarly, a canon of a chapter of the bishopric of Samogitia Mikalojus Daukša in the preface, written in Polish, of his Postilla (1599) invited readers, citizens of the Grand Duchy to use Lithuanian language and shamed them for indifference towards their native language. He noted that many people, especially szlachta, preferred Polish to Lithuanian, and nevertheless most of them still knew Polish badly. Such atmosphere appeared in a context of political reforms of 1564–1566, by which political law structures of Polish type were created: local parliaments of szlachta members for election of candidates to the General sejm, local land courts, Tribunal, the appellate court. The Polish language was tended to adopt as their own by Lithuanians following the royal court.


Despite Lithuania's mainly peaceful acquisition of much of its Ruthenian holdings it could call upon military strength if needed and it was the only power in Eastern Europe that could effectively contend with the Golden Horde. When the Golden Horde did try to prevent Lithuanian expansion they were often rebuffed. In 1333 and 1339 Lithuanians defeated large Mongol forces attempting to regain Smolenskmarker from the Lithuanian sphere of influence. By about 1355, the State of Moldavia had formed. The Golden Horde did little to re-vassalize the area. In 1387, Moldavia became a vassal of Poland and in a broader sense, Lithuania. By this time, Lithuania had conquered territory of the Golden Horde all the way to the Dnieper River. In a crusade against the Golden Horde in 1398, (in an alliance with Tokhtamysh), Lithuania invaded northern Crimea and won a decisive victory. Then in 1399, Lithuania (intent on placing Tokhtamish on the Golden Horde throne) moved against the Horde. In the Battle of the Vorskla River however, Lithuania was crushed by the Horde and lost the steppe region.

Religion and culture

After the baptism in 1252 and coronation of King Mindaugas in 1253, Lithuania was recognized as a Christian state until 1260, when Mindaugas supported an uprising in Courland and (according to the German order) renounced Christianity. Up until 1387, Lithuanian nobles professed their own religion, which was a pagan belief based on deification of natural phenomena. Ethnic Lithuanians were very dedicated to their faith. The pagan beliefs needed to be deeply entrenched to survive strong pressure from missionaries and foreign powers. Until the seventeenth century there were relics of old faith, like feeding žaltys or bringing food to graves of ancestors.

The lands of modern-day Belarusmarker and Ukrainemarker, as well as local dukes (princes) in these regions, were firmly Orthodox Christian (Greek Catholic after the Union of Brest), though. While pagan beliefs in Lithuania were strong enough to survive centuries of pressure from military orders and missionaries, they did eventually succumb. In 1387, Lithuania converted to Catholicism, while most of the Ruthenian lands stayed Orthodox. There was an effort to polarize Orthodoxes after the Union of Brest in 1596, by which Orthodox Greek Catholics acknowledged papal authority and Catholic catechism, but preserved Orthodox liturgy. Country also became one of the major centers of reformation.

In the second half of the 17h century Calvinism spread in Lithuania, supported by the families of Radziwiłł, Chodkiewicz, Sapieha, Dorohostajski and others. By 1580s the majority of the senators from Lithuania were Calvinist or even Arians (Jan Kiszka).

In 1579, Stefan Batory, King of Polandmarker and Grand Duke of Lithuania, founded Vilnius Universitymarker, one of the oldest universities in Eastern Europe. Due to the work of the Jesuits during the Counter-Reformation the university soon developed into one of the most important scientific and cultural centers of the region and the most notable scientific center of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The work of the Jesuits as well as conversions from among the Lithuanian senatorial families turned the tide and by 1670s Calvinism lost its former importance though it still retained some influence among the ethnically Lithuanian peasants and some middle nobility, by then thoroughly Polonized.


[[File:Mazvydo katekizmas.jpg|thumb|180px|The first printed book in Lithuanian languageThe Simple Words of Catechism (by Martynas Mažvydas). Book was dedicated to Grand Duchy of Lithuania.]]

According to some historians (especially in Russiamarker), one of the most crucial effects of Lithuanian rule was ethnic divisions amongst the inhabitants of former Kievan Rus'. From this point of view, the creation of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania played a major role in the division of Eastern Slavs. After the Mongolian conquest of Rus', Mongols attempted to keep Eastern Slavs unified and succeeded in conquering most of Ruthenian lands.

Prussian tribes (of Baltic origin) were attacking Masovia, and that was the reason Duke Konrad of Masovia invited the Teutonic Knights to settle near the Prussian area of settlement. The fighting between Prussians and the Teutonic Knights gave the more distant Lithuanian tribes time to unite. Because of strong enemies in the south and north, the newly formed Lithuanian state concentrated most of its military and diplomatic efforts on expansion eastward.

The rest of former Ruthenian lands (Belarusianmarker principalities) joined the Grand Duchy of Lithuania from the very beginning. Some other lands in Ukraine were vassalized by Lithuania later. The subjugation of Eastern Slavs by two powers created substantial differences that persist to this day. According to this claim, while under Kievan Ruthenia there were certainly substantial regional differences, it was the Lithuanian annexation of much of southern and western Ruthenia that led to the permanent division between Ukrainiansmarker, Belarusiansmarker, and Russians.

Others argue, that the ethnic and linguistic divisions amongst inhabitants of Ruthenia were not initiated by division of this area between Mongols and Lithuaniamarker, and are older than the creation of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. They state that until the twentieth century, ethnic and linguistic frontiers between Ukrainians, Belarusians, and Russians coincided with no political borders.

Notwithstanding the above, Lithuania was a Kingdom under Mindaugas I, who was conditionally crowned by authority of Pope Innocent IV in 1253. Gediminas and Vytautas the Great also assumed the title of King, although uncrowned. A failed attempt was made in 1918 to restore the Kingdom under German Prince Urach.

See also

Notes and references

  1. T. Baranauskas. Lietuvos valstybės ištakos. Vilnius, 2000
  2. Rowell S.C. Lithuania Ascending a pagan empire within east-central Europe, 1295-1345. Cambridge, 1994. p.289-290
  3. Ch. Allmand. The New Cambridge Medieval History. Cambridge, 1998 p. 731.
  4. Encyclopædia Britannica. Grand Duchy of Lithuania
  5. R. Bideleux. A History of Eastern Europe: Crisis and Change. Routledge, 1998. p. 122
  6. Lithuania Ascending p.289.
  7. Z. Kiaupa. Algirdas ir LDK rytų politika. Gimtoji istorija 2: Nuo 7 iki 12 klasės (Lietuvos istorijos vadovėlis). CD. (2003). Elektroninės leidybos namai: Vilnius.
  8. N. Davies. Europe: A History. Oxford, 1996 p. 392
  9. J. Kiaupienė. Gediminaičiai ir Jogailaičiai prie Vytauto palikimo. Gimtoji istorija 2: Nuo 7 iki 12 klasės (Lietuvos istorijos vadovėlis). CD. (2003) Elektroninės leidybos namai: Vilnius.
  10. J. Kiaupienë Valdžios krizës pabaiga ir Kazimieras Jogailaitis. Gimtoji istorija 2: Nuo 7 iki 12 klasės (Lietuvos istorijos vadovėlis). CD. (2003). Elektroninės leidybos namai: Vilnius.
  11. D. Stone. The Polish-Lithuanian state: 1386-1795. University of Washington Press, 2001. p. 63
  12. E. Bojtár. Forward to the Past: A Cultural History of the Baltic People. Central European University Press, 1999 p. 179
  13. Encarta. Lithuania. Accessed September 21, 2006. Archived 2009-10-31.
  14. Encyclopedia Lituanica. Boston, 1970-1978, Vol.5 p.395
  15. Lithuania Ascending p.50
  16. A.Bumblauskas. Senosios Lietuvos istorija, 1009 – 1795 (The Early History of Lithuania).Vilnius, 2005, p.33
  17. By contemporary accounts, the Lithuanians called their early rulers kunigas (kunigai in plural). The word was borrowed from the German languagekuning, konig. Later on kunigas was replaced by the word kunigaikštis, used to describe to medieval Lithuanian rulers in modern Lithuanian, while kunigas today means priest.
  18. Z.Kiaupa, J. Kiaupienė, A. Kunevičius. The History of Lithuania Before 1795. Vilnius, 2000. p. 43-127
  19. V. Spečiūnas. Lietuvos valdovai (XIII-XVIII a.): enciklopedinis žinynas. Vilnius, 2004. p. 15-78.
  20. Senosios Lietuvos istorija p. 44-45
  21. Lithuania Ascending p.55
  22. New Cambridge p.706
  23. Glenn Hinson. The Church Triumphant: A History of Christianity Up to 1300. 1995, p.438
  24. Jerzy Kloczowski. A History of Polish Christianity. Cambridge University Press, 2000. p.55
  25. Bjorn Wiemer, Dialect and language contacts on the territory of the Grand Duchy from the 15th century until 1939, Kurt Braunmüller, Gisella Ferraresi, Aspects of multilingualism in European language history, John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2003, ISBN 9027219222, Google Print, p.109; 125
  26. Based on 1493 population map (p.92) from Iwo Cyprian Pogonowski, Poland a Historical Atlas, Hippocrene Books, 1987, ISBN 0880293942
  27. Jarmo Kotilaine, Russia's foreign trade and economic expansion in the seventeenth century: windows on the world, BRILL, 2005, ISBN 900413896X, Google Print, p.45
  28. Daniel. Z Stone, A History of East Central Europe, p.4
  29. Kevin O'Connor, Culture And Customs of the Baltic States, Greenwood Press, 2006, ISBN 0313331251, Google Print, p.115
  30. Bjorn Wiemer, Dialect and language contacts on the territory of the Grand Duchy from the 15th century until 1939, Kurt Braunmüller, Gisella Ferraresi, Aspects of multilingualism in European language history, John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2003, ISBN 9027219222, Google Print, p.109-114
  31. Lietuvos Didžiosios kunigaikštystės kanceliarinės slavų kalbos termino nusakymo problema Z. Zinkevičius
  32. Stone, Daniel. The Polish-Lithuanian State, 1386-1795. Seattle: University of Washington, 2001. p.4
  33. Daniel. Z Stone, A History of East Central Europe, p.46
  34. Stephen R. Burant and Voytek Zubek, Eastern Europe's Old Memories and New Realities: Resurrecting the Polish-lithuanian Union, East European Politics and Societies 1993; 7; 370, online, p.4
  35. Kamuntavičius, Rustis. Development of Lithuanian State and Society. Kaunas: Vytautas Magnus University, 2002. p.21.
  36. Piotr Eberhardt, Jan Owsinski, Ethnic Groups and Population Changes in Twentieth-century Central-Eastern Europe: History, Data, Analysis, M.E. Sharpe, 2003, ISBN 0765606658, Google Print, p.177
  37. Daniel. Z Stone, A History of East Central Europe, p.52
  38. Lietuvių kalba: poreikis ir vartojimo mastai (XV a. antra pusė - XVI a. antra pusė); A. Dubonis
  39. [...] не обчымъ яким языкомъ, але своимъ властнымъ права списаные маемъ [...]; Dubonis, A. Lietuvių kalba
  40. Vilniaus Universitetas. History of Vilnius University. Retrieved on 2007.04.16
  1. S. C. Rowell. Chartularium Lithuaniae res gestas magni ducis Gedeminne illustrans. Gedimino laiškai. Vilnius, 2003
  2. Norman Davies. God's Playground. Columbia University Press; 2 edition (December 15, 2002) ISBN 0-231-12817-7

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