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tiistai 2. helmikuuta 2016

Lithuania, Cool Facts #97

<= 96. Latvia                                                                                                                98. Denmark =>

1. King Mindaugas  

In 1251 the kingdom of Lithuania was established and in 1253 Mindaugas was crowned as the first and only king of Lithuania. King Mindaugas made deals with the Livonian Order so that Lithuania got some more land and the royal crown in exchange for his conversion to Catholicism. 

Lithuania had the last areas in Europe, where Christianity hadn't spread yet. King Mindaugas died in 1263 with his two sons in a conflict. After that Lithuania reverted to paganism and its status as a kingdom was lost. 

The state survived though as the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which became the biggest country in Europe in the 1400s. In 1387 Lithuania the Grand Dukes finally converted into Christianity. 

Coronation of King Mindaugas

2. Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth 

In 1386 the Lithuanian ruler Jogaila aka Wladyslaw II Jagiello, married the young 12-year old queen Jadwiga. This meant the beginning of the centuries-long Polish-Lithuanian union. The two countries established the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1569 after the Union of Lublin. The two countries had been a personal union before this but now they were a federation, which had a common monarch.

Personal Union = combination of two or more countries, who have the same monarch but their boundaries, laws and interests remain separate
Federation = unlike a personal union, the parties of the federation are united by a central government

The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was one of the largest and most populous countries in Europe with its 11 million inhabitants. Poland was the more dominant party in the federation and in 1696 Polish became the only official language.

The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was partitioned between Russia, Prussia and Habsburg Austria in the three partitions in 1772, 1792 and 1795. The European superpower had disappeared from the map and its areas had been incorporated into surrounding countries.

The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth at its largest extent in 1619

3. Lithuanian Jews 

Lithuania had been an important center of Jewish scholarship and culture from the 18th century until the Second World War. The genocide of Lithuanian Jews was one of the most severe from the German occupied countries.

About 91-95% of the pre-war Jews had died during the holocaust. The Germans also killed a lot of Lithuanian intellectuals, army officers and Romani people. The amount of killed Jews was around 190,000. In 2009 there were only about 4000 Jews in Lithuania.

Percentage of Jews who died in the Holocaust

4. Kaliningrad

The Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev was ready to cede the Kaliningrad region, former Königsberg, to the Lithuanian SSR in the 1950s like it ceded Porkkala back to Finland and Crimea to Ukraine.

The leader of the Lithuanian SSR refused taking it and thus avoided the growing Russian influence as the Russian speaking population would have increased after obtaining Kaliningrad.

Compared to other Baltic countries Lithuania hasn't had problems with its current Russian minority and it's also significantly smaller than in Estonia and Latvia.

5. Curonian Spit

The Curonian Spit is an UNESCO World Heritage Site situated in Lithuania and Kaliningrad, which belongs to Russia. The Curonian Spit has the highest drifting sand dunes in Europe.

The average height of the dunes is 35 meters but some of them attain even a height of 60 meters. Several wetlands, meadows and forests are on or near the Spit so it's home to several ecological communities.

Curonian Spit Lagoon 
Dunes in the Curonian Spit


1009 First written mention of Lithuania in a medieval German manuscript
1252 Mindaugas becomes the first king of Lithuania
1300s Lithuania becomes the last European country where Christianity spreads
1386 Grand Duke Jogaila married the 12-year old Polish queen Jadwiga becoming the king of Poland and Lithuania
1410 Battle of Grunwald, one of the largest medieval battles in Europe, Poland and Lithuania defeat the German Teutonic Knights
1569 The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth is established
1696 Polish language became the only official language 
1772, 1792 and 1795 the Commonwealth was partitioned between Russia, Prussia and Habsburg Austria
1800s Russia starts Russification policies in Lithuania
1831 and 1863 uprising against Russia by the Lithuanians
1867-1868 Large amounts of Lithuanians went to USA after a famine 
1915 Germany occupied Lithuania during the World War I
1918 During the German occupation, Antennas Smetanon and his council declared Lithuania independent
1919 After German capitulation the Red Army occupied Lithuania
1920 The Russians had to leave and recognize the Lithuanian independence, the Polish had conquered Vilnius and the area around it without ceding it to Lithuania
1922 Land reform in Lithuania
1926 After a coup d'état Antanas Smetona became the president from the Tautininkai party
1939 Memel was ceded to Germany
1940 Soviet troops occupied the country forming a Soviet friendly puppet regime, which pleaded for joining the Soviet Union
1941 Germany occupies Lithuania
1944 Soviet rule was returned in Lithuania
1949 Agriculture was collectivized and 60,000 people were forced to move to Siberia
1990 The Sajudis popular front declared Lithuania independent. Soviet Union imposed an economic blockade and Soviet troops attacked some places in Lithuania
1991 Lithuanian independence was recognized internationally after the Moscow coup attempt
1992 Algirdas Brazauskas becomes the first president
1998 Valdas Adamkus becomes is elected as the president
2004 Lithuania joined both Nato and EU


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