Lithuania History

Lithuania History

Middle ages

From about 1000 AD the areas along the Memel and Neris rivers were populated by Baltic Lithuanians. Around 1235 Prince Mindaugas (1236-1263) united the Lithuanian principalities, which had hitherto been numerous. The Principality of Lithuania successfully defended itself against the raids of the Teutonic Order. The expansion to the east began under the leadership of Prince Gedymin (1316-1341). Large parts of what is now Belarus and Ukraine were conquered by 1362. The Lithuanian Empire now stretched from the Baltic to the Black Sea.

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Marriage politics (the Grand Duke Jagello married the Polish heiress to the throne Hedwig) led to a personal union with Poland in 1386. Jagello ascended the Polish throne as King Vladislav II and founded the Jagellon dynasty. The Lithuanian people were Christianized by him. In 1410 the united Polish-Lithuanian army inflicted a crushing defeat on the troops of the Teutonic Order in the Battle of Tannenberg. After further defeats, the Order State had to surrender large parts of its territory to Poland-Lithuania in the Second Thorner Peace (1466). In the east, Lithuanian areas had to be given over to the Grand Duchy of Moscow, which could later be partially recaptured (Livonian War 1558-1583).

Modern times until the 19th century

In the Union Treaty of 1569, Lithuania and Poland were assimilated, for both countries there was a common Reichstag and a common election of the king. In fact, Lithuania became part of the Polish kingdom and largely lost its independence. After the Jagellons dynasty died out in 1572, the elected kings were mostly foreigners (such as August II the Strong of Saxony (1697-1706) and August III of Saxony (1733-63)).

In the course of the three Polish divisions in 1772, 1793 and 1795, which ended the existence of the Polish state, Lithuania fell to Russia except for a small area in the northwest. In the 19th century there were numerous Polish-Lithuanian uprisings against the partitioning powers, which were predominantly borne by Poland (eg 1831, 1863). Nevertheless, the Lithuanian culture and language of the Lithuanians were massively suppressed or banned by the Russian occupying powers. As a result of these measures, on the one hand numerous Lithuanians emigrated to North America, on the other hand, the development of Lithuanian national awareness was indirectly promoted.

Early 20th century

In 1905, Lithuania was granted its own parliament by Moscow. At the beginning of the First World War, the country was occupied by German troops (the Baltic States should be incorporated into the German Empire). In February 1918 the republic was proclaimed in Lithuania and Lithuania declared independent. In the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, Lithuania (as well as Estonia and Latvia) was recognized under international law, and in 1920 also by Soviet Russia. In 1920 Poland annexed the area around Vilnius, in 1923 Lithuania occupied the East Prussian Memel area.

According to AbbreviationFinder, numerous changes of government took place in the Lithuanian National Assembly (Seimas) in the first half of the 1920s. In 1926 there was a coup by right-wing parties and associations and part of the army: the constitution was abolished and a nationalist dictatorship was established under the leadership of President Anton Smetona. The national party became the unitary party.

German and Soviet occupation

In the mid-1930s, the conflict between Nazi Germany and Lithuania over the Memel region intensified. In March 1939 it was occupied by German troops and annexed to East Prussia, the Soviet Union was given a free port in Memel. In the secret additional agreement of the Hitler-Stalin Pact of 1939, Lithuania was assigned to the Soviet sphere of interest. The Lithuanian government first had to accept the establishment of Soviet bases on Lithuanian territory, and then the entry of Soviet troops. On July 21, 1940 Lithuania was annexed to the USSR as the “Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic”.

In the course of the attack by German troops on the Soviet Union, Lithuania was occupied by German troops in June 1941. Three years later, Soviet units forced them to withdraw, and Lithuania became part of the USSR again. The Russification of the country was targeted: Many Lithuanians were imprisoned under the pretext of collaboration with the Germans and deported to Siberia (an estimated 300,000 people by 1952), and the Lithuanian language was banned. Due to the targeted settlement of Russians and Belarusians, their share of the population rose sharply.

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Only through the reforms initiated by Mikhail Gorbachev in the Soviet Union in the mid-1980s could a national movement (“Sajudis”) form again in Lithuania. A first concession was the economic independence of Lithuania guaranteed by Moscow in 1989 (parallel to Estonia and Latvia). In June 1990, the three Baltic states mutually agreed to leave the USSR, to which Moscow initially responded by sending troops, but soon recognized the country’s independence (September 6, 1991). After the initial economic crisis and political instability, reform policies became increasingly dynamic. In 1990 the Sajudis became the strongest political force in Lithuania, it was replaced by the Social Democrats just two years later. As a result, the various governments changed rapidly; a firm structure of parties had to develop first, numerous parties were newly founded. A liberal-bourgeois coalition ruled from the end of 2008, one of its main tasks was to solve the economic problems against the background of the financial crisis. The elections in October 2012 and March 2013 again led to a change of government. The new government consists of the Social Democrats, the Labor Party, “order and justice” and the Polish electoral alliance.

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