Learn more about Lithuanians
- This article is about the ethnic group called Lithuanians. For the inhabitants of Lithuania, see Demographics of Lithuania.
|Image:Ciurlionis.jpgImage:Vydunas - 200 litai.jpgImage:Antanas Baranauskas.jpg|
|Total population||4 - 5 million (est.)|
|Regions with significant populations|| Lithuania
Rest of the World:
|Religion|| Roman Catholicism <tr>
<th style="background-color:#fee8ab;">Related ethnic groups</th> <td style="background-color:#fff6d9;">Latvians</td>
Lithuanians are the Baltic ethnic group native to Lithuania, where they number a little over 3 million . Another million or more make up the Lithuanian diaspora, largely found in countries such as the United States, Brazil, Canada and Russia. 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 proper identified themselves as Lithuanians, 6.74% as Poles, 6.31% as Russians, 1.23% as Belarusians, and 2.27% as members of other ethnic groups. Most Lithuanians belong to the Roman Catholic Church. The Lietuvininkai, the residents of the part of the Lithuanian nation near the former German-Lithuanian border, were mostly Lutherans.
The territory of the Balts, including modern Lithuania, was once inhabited by several Baltic tribal entities (Sudovians, Curonians, Selonians, Samogitians, Nadruvians and others), 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 defense against the marauding Teutonic Order and Muscovite Russians. During the process they converted suddenly to Christianity. Lithuanians were the last surviving non-nomadic European nation to abandon paganism.
Since the time of Grand Duchy, Lithuanian territory has shrunk - once Lithuanians made up a majority of population not only in what is now Lithuania, but also in northwestern Belarus, in large areas of the territory of modern Kaliningrad Oblast of Russia, and in some parts of modern Latvia and Poland.
However, due to a late medieval view that the Lithuanian language was unprestigious, a preference for the Polish language in the territories of the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth, as well as a preference for the German language in the territories of the former East Prussia (now Kaliningrad Oblast of Russia), the number of Lithuanian speakers shrank. 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 generations.
At the end of the 19th century a Lithuanian cultural and linguistic revival occurred. Some of the Polish- and Belarusian-speaking Lithuanians still affiliated themselves with the Lithuanian nation, although others did not. Lithuania declared independence after World War I, which helped its national consolidation. A standard Lithuanian language was approved. However, the eastern parts of Lithuania, including the Vilnius region, were occupied by Poland, while the western areas were controlled by Germany. 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 U.S.S.R. in June 1941, and from 1941-1944, Lithuania was occupied by Germany. The Germans retreated in 1944, and that occupier was replaced by another, and Lithuania was under the Soviet yoke. The long-standing communities of Lithuanians in the Kaliningrad Oblast ("Lithuania Minor"), and in the Belarusian SSR, were almost destroyed as a result.
The Lithuanian nation as such remained primarily in Lithuania, in a few villages in Poland and Latvia, and also in the hearts and minds of a 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 the European Union on May 1, 2004. A low birth rate and increased emigration after joining EU is threatening the nation's future.
 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.
Poles are concentrated in the Vilnius region, the area controlled by Poland in the interwar period. Especially large Polish communities are located in the Vilnius district municipality (61.3% of the population) and the Šalčininkai district municipality (79.5%). This concentration allows Election Action of Lithuania's Poles, an ethnic minority-based political party, to exert political influence. This party has held 1 or 2 seats in the parliament of Lithuania for the past decade. The party is more active in local politics and controls several municipality councils.
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 city municipality (52%). Most of them are scientists who moved from Russia to work at the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant. Lithuania is noted for its success in limiting Russian worker migration during the Soviet occupation (1945-1990). A number of ethnic Russians left Lithuania after 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 its Jews were killed during the Nazi Germany occupation or later emigrated to the United States and Israel. Now there are only about 4,000 Jews living in Lithuania.
 Cultural Subgroups
Apart from the various religious and ethnic groups currently residing in Lithuania, Lithuanians themselves are usually divided into 5 groups: Samogitians, Sudovians, Aukštaitians, Dzūkians and Lietuvininks, the last of which is extinct. City dwellers are usually considered just Lithuanians, especially ones from large cities such as Vilnius or Kaunas.
The five 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.
Lithuanians are among the tallest people in the world. The average height of males is 181.3 cm (almost 6'), and that of females is 167.5 cm (about 5'6"). There was a rapid increase in average height during the 20th century, although the rate of increase has slowed. At the end of the 19th century, the average height of males was 163.5 cm and the average height of females was 153.3 cm. <ref name="Tutkuviene">J. Tutkuviene. Sex and gender differences in secular trend of body size and frame indices of Lithuanians. Anthropologischer Anzeiger; Bericht über die biologisch-anthropologische Literatur. 2005 Mar;63(1):29-44.</ref>
 Lithuanian Diaspora
Apart from the traditional communities in Lithuania and its neighboring countries, 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; up to one million Lithuanians live in the USA. Emigration to America began in the 19th century, with an interruption during the Soviet occupation, when travel and emigration were severely restricted.
- Lithuanian communities in South America (Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, and Uruguay) developed before World War II, beginning in the late 19th and early 20th century. Currently, there is no longer a flow of emmigrants to these destinations, since economic conditions in those countries are not better than those in Lithuania (see Lithuanians in Brazil).
- Lithuanian communities in other regions of the former Soviet Union were formed during the Soviet occupation; the numbers of Lithuanians in Siberia and Central Asia increased dramatically when a large portion of 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 intensified after Lithuania became part of the European Union. It should be noted that London and Glasgow have long had large Lithuanian Catholic and Jewish populations. The Republic of Ireland probably has the highest concentration of Lithuanians relative to its total population size in Western Europe; its estimated 45,000 Lithuanians 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, Brisbane, Hobart and Sydney.
 Culture and Traditions
The Lithuanian national sport is usually considered to be basketball (krepšinis), which is popular among Lithuanians in Lithuania as well as in the diasporic communities. Basketball came to Lithuania through the Lithuanian-American community in the thirties. Lithuanian basketball teams were bronze medal winners in the 1992, 1996, and 2000 Summer Olympics.
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.
 Lithuanian Cuisine
Main Article: Lithuanian cuisine
Lithuanian cuisine 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. Since it shares its climate and agricultural practices with Eastern Europe, Lithuanian cuisine has much in common with other Eastern European and Jewish cuisines. Nevertheless, it has its own distinguishing features, which were formed by a variety of influences during the country's long and difficult history.
Because of their long common history, Lithuanians and Poles share many dishes and beverages. Thus there are similar Lithuanian and Polish versions of dumplings (pierogi or koldūnai), doughnuts (pączki or spurgos), and crepes (blini or 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. The most exotic of all the influences is Eastern (Karaite) cuisine, and the dishes kibinai and čeburekai are popular in Lithuania. The popular "Torte Napoleon" was introduced during Napoleon's passage through Lithuania in the 19th century.<ref>http://www.balticsww.com/napoleon_graves.htm.</ref>
The Soviet occupation badly damaged Lithuanian cuisine. As elsewhere in the Soviet Union, however, the people were allowed to maintain their own small garden plots; these were, and are, lovingly tended. After the restoration of independence in 1990, traditional cuisine became one of the ways to celebrate Lithuanian identity.
Cepelinai, a stuffed potato creation, is the most famous national dish. It is popular among Lithuanians all over the world. Other national foods include dark rye bread, cold beet soup (borscht, or 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 areas with a heavy Lithuanian presence.
Perhaps as a result of the shortages during the Soviet era, the Lithuanians concentrated on quality rather than quantity, and they are among the thinnest people in the developed countries of the world.<ref>Lissau, I., et al., Body mass index and overweight in adolescents in 13 European countries, Israel, and the United States (Abstract), Archives of pediatrics & adolescent medicine, 2004 Jan; 158(1):27-33.</ref> The emphasis of Lithuanian cuisine is on attractive presentation of freshly prepared foods.
 Lithuanian literature
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), Skirgaila (1925), and Mindaugo mirtis (The Death of Mindaugas, 1935). Petras Vaičiūnas was another popular playwright, producing one play each year during the 1920s and '30s. 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 autobiographical novel.
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 <ref>Alfonsas Nyka-Niliūnas. Keturi vėjai ir keturvėjinikai, Aidai, 1949, No. 24</ref>.
Oskaras Milašius (Oscar Vladislas de Lubicz Milosz) (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 graduated from 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 preferred 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 Charge d’Affairs 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, in which he tried to persuade the reader that Lithuanians have the same origin as Jews from the Pyrenees peninsula.
 Folk music
Main article: Music of Lithuania
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 dried peas.<ref name="Cronshaw">Cronshaw, Andrew (2000). “Singing Revolutions”, Broughton, Simon and Ellingham, Mark with McConnachie, James and Duane, Orla (Ed.) World Music, Vol. 1: Africa, Europe and the Middle East, 16-24, London: Rough Guides. ISBN 1-85828-636-0.</ref>
 See also