Lithuania/History

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Background: The first record of the Litua occurs in 1008/9 in the annals of the monastery of Quedlinburg (for February 14, 1009?).

In 1236 small Baltic tribal groups were united under the rule of Mindaugas or Mindowe. In 1250 Mindaugas signed an agreement with the Teutonic Order and in 1251 in their presence was baptized by the bishop of Kulm (Culmer Land. On Jul.6, 1253 Mindaugas was crowned as King of Lithuania. But Mindaugas was murdered by his nephew and great unrest and relaps into heathenism followed.

In 1316 Gediminas with the aid of colonists from Germany started the restoration of the land .Many cities were founded with German law system (Magdeburg rights). The largest city was Vilnius. It later became the capital city. The brothers Vytenis and Gediminas united into one Lithuania.

Then Gediminas extended to the east in battles by successfully defeating the Tatars, who had taken over Russia ,which brought Lithuania to the Black Sea. It got him into conflicts with the Teutonic Order.

After he was slain, his son Algirdas or Olgerd suppressed the monasteries. Algirdas's son again made overtures to the Teutonic Order and concluded a secret treaty with them. His uncle Kestutis took him prisoner and a civil war ensued. Kestutis was then seized , imprisioned and put to death.

Lithuanians wanted to remain seperate, but gradually they were taken over by Poland. Jagiello was grand duke of Lithuania since 1377.Jadwiga, queen of Poland was strongly urged by the Poles to marry Jogaila or Jagiello. For the good of Christianity, she consented and married Jagiello three days after he was baptized. Wladislaw Jagiello on Feb.2, 1386 , was elected King of Poland by lower chamber of the Polish Parliament (Sejm). Lithuania and Poland now shared the same rulers. Lithuania was to remain a seperate country though and Lithuania remained ruled by grand dukes. (Often the grand duke of Lithuania was also the king of Poland etc.)

With the 1569 Lublin Union strong Polanization of Lithuanian institutions were undertaken . All counts, barons, and gentry were dominated by Polish higher classes and Polish church.

There was however the distinct entity of the Lithuanian Province in the Kingdom of Poland which remained separate : the Army, jurisdiction, administration and the Treasury. With the Partition of Poland also Lithuania was partitioned between Russia and Prussia.

By the end of the 19th century there was growing a nationalist movement. In 1905 there was a demand for autonomy and in 1918 by the Treaty of Brest-Litowsk Lithuania became independent.

In years 1920-1922 Poland had claimed western part of Lithuania and it was joined with Poland later. After a coup in 1926 there was a dictatorial rule by a Antanas Smetona in Lithuania.


World War II

In 1939, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union signed a secret agreement (the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact), assigning spheres of influence in the Baltic area. Lithuania was initially assigned to the German sphere of influence, but when Lithuania refused to ally with Germany in the attack on Poland, it was transferred to the Soviets in another secret pact later that year. Shortly thereafter, the city of Vilnius was returned to Lithuania, and the Soviets established a military presence within the country.

In 1940, Lithuania was proclaimed the ??th Soviet republic and joined the USSR. This event was met with great resentment among the Lithuanian people, excepting the Jewish population, who viewed the Russians as the lesser of two evils. The Jews' perceived support of the Soviet occupation increased resentment amongst the gentile population, and led to an increasing number of anti-semitic acts. In June of 1941, the USSR deported approximately 35,000 Lithuanians to Siberia and other parts of Russia.

On June 22nd, 1941, Hitler invaded the Soviet Union. Shortly thereafter, the German army occupied Lithuania. For a period of time, Lithuania was allowed limited self-governance. This was a bloody time for Lithuania; local tensions, no longer held back by the Red Army, exploded and led to the wholesale slaughter of many Jews and individuals seens as Russian collaborators. The Germans soon dissolved the local government, and began a rigorous program of deportation and extermination, mainly of Jewish citizens. Approximately 200,000 Jews were murdered, most of them shot or buried alive in mass-graves throughout the countryside, as wholesale death camps such as Auschwitz and Dachau were not yet in operation.

Although many Lithuanians had welcomed the German invasion as liberation from Soviet oppression, it was soon clear that the Germans viewed the natives as second-class citizens. The importation of thousands of German farmers to work natives' lands, along with the dismissal of the Luthuanian government, soon produced a vigorous resistance movement. Partisans moved through the woods and countrside, attacking German positions and supply lines.

In summer of 1944, the Red Army reached eastern Lithuania, occupying Vilnius. By January 1945, the Russians captured Klaipeda on the Baltic coast. The USSR subsequently reclaimed Lithuania as a Soviet republic, with the agreement of the United States and Britain (see Yalta and Potsdam Agreements.)

Post World War II

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Post Soviet Era

On March 11, 1990, Lithuania became the first of the Soviet republics to declare its independence, but this proclamation was not generally recognized until September of 1991 (following the abortive coup in Moscow). The last Russian troops withdrew in 1993. Lithuania subsequently has restructured its economy for eventual integration into Western European institutions.




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