Lithuania ( Lithuanian: Lietuva; Ukrainian: Литва; Lytva). A country on the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea. Its capital is Vilnius. The Lithuanians belong to the Baltic group of Indo-European nations. They have had a long history of linguistic, cultural, and political interaction with their Slavic neighbors, including the Ukrainians. In 1940–1 and from January 1945 to March 1991 Lithuania constituted a Soviet republic within the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, with an area of 65,200 sq km. In 1989 it had a population of 3,674,802, of whom 2,924,251 (79.6 percent) were Lithuanians, 344,455 (9.4 percent) were Russians, 257,994 (7 percent) were Poles, 63,169 (1.7 percent) were Belarusians, and 44,789 (1.2 percent) were Ukrainians. Of the Ukrainians living in Lithuania in 1989, 51 percent gave the Ukrainian language as their native language, 45.3 percent gave Russian, and only 0.3 percent gave Lithuanian; only 16.8 percent could speak Lithuanian.
There are over 3.5 million Lithuanians in the world today. The largest concentrations outside Lithuania are in the United States (over 330,000 in 1970), Russia (70,427 in 1989), Latvia (34,630 in 1989), Canada (14,725 in 1986), Ukraine (11,278 in 1989), and Poland (approximately 10,000).
The medieval Lithuanian tribes (including the Yatvingians) frequently fought over territories with the Rus’ princes of Kyiv, Galicia-Volhynia, and Polatsk and with the Teutonic Knights. Not until the early 13th century, however, did they create a common political entity. In 1225 the majority of the Lithuanian tribes were united under the rule of Mindaugas, and formed the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Taking advantage of the disintegration of Kyivan Rus’ under the impact of the Mongol invasion, Mindaugas conquered Chorna Rus’ and parts of Polatsk principality and entered into a military alliance and dynastic union with the Principality of Galicia-Volhynia. In the 1250s King Danylo Romanovych of Galicia-Volhynia routed the Yatvingian tribes inhabiting what is today northern Podlachia, and their territory was divided among the princes of Galicia-Volhynia and Mazovia and the Teutonic Knights. Chorna Rus’ came under the rule of Danylo's son Roman Danylovych.
In 1267 Mindaugas's son and successor, Vaišvilkas, abdicated the Lithuanian throne in favor of his brother-in-law, Danylo Romanovych's son Shvarno Danylovych. Thus Lithuania and Galicia-Volhynia were briefly (until Shvarno's death in 1269) ruled by one dynasty. Lithuania's internecine conflicts and wars with its neighbors temporarily halted its southward and eastward expansion. Expansion resumed during the reign of Grand Prince Gediminas (1316 to ca 1340), who conquered most of Belarus and the Ukrainian lands of Turiv-Pynsk and northern Volhynia. With the demise of the Principality of Galicia-Volhynia in 1340, Volhynia came under the rule of Gediminas's son Liubartas. In the 1360s, during the reign of Gediminas's son Algirdas, the Lithuanian-Ruthenian state was consolidated, and extended over all the Belarusian and most of the Ukrainian lands except Galicia, which was annexed by Poland. During the height of its expansion Lithuania's possessions included nearly half of the former territory of Kyivan Rus’. Only 10 percent of the realm was inhabited by Lithuanians, and the official culture, language, law code (Kyivan Rus’ Ruskaia pravda), and religion of the new state became Ruthenian (ie, Ukrainian-Belarusian). An Orthodox Lithuanian metropoly was created. Following the Lithuanian-Polish dynastic Union of Krevo (1385) Lithuania ceased to be completely independent and became officially Catholic. Polish control increased steadily, particularly after the demise of the Jagiellon dynasty in 1572. After the Union of Lublin (1569) Lithuania was left with only limited autonomy within the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, having ceded most of its Ukrainian lands to Poland and accepted the Polish crown and a common parliament (diet). With time Polish culture and religious influence displaced Ruthenian influence and resulted in the Polonization of the Lithuanian-Ruthenian nobility. In 1529 the Lithuanian-Ruthenian state adopted a new law code, the Lithuanian Statute, revised in 1566 and again in 1588, introducing Polish concepts into its criminal law and civil law.
Polish domination of Lithuania did not cease after the partitions of Poland and the occupation of nearly all of ethnic Lithuania by the Russian Empire. Although Polish was banned as the official language in 1822, only after the unsuccessful Polish Insurrection of 1830–1 did Russification and the suppression of Lithuanian culture intensify. In the second half of the 19th century a Lithuanian national rebirth occurred, led by the intelligentsia of peasant origin and bolstered by Lithuanian immigrants in the United States and the nearly 150,000 Lithuanians living in the Prussian-ruled Klaipėda (Memel) region. During the First World War Lithuania was occupied by the Germans (1915–18), and after several preliminary efforts Lithuania became an independent republic in November 1918. The Vilnius region, however, which was inhabited by Belarusians, Poles, and Lithuanians, was forcibly annexed by Poland in 1920. After two decades of domestic instability and tensions with Poland and later Nazi Germany (culminating in Germany's annexation of the Klaipėda region in March 1939) Lithuania was occupied by the USSR in June 1940. Soviet oppression was followed by that of the Nazi occupation (June 1941 to January 1945). Thereafter Lithuania remained a Soviet republic until March 1991, when it regained its independence.
Toward the end of the 19th century Lithuanian-Ukrainian relations were renewed. In the Russian State Duma Ukrainian and Lithuanian representatives collaborated within the Autonomists' Union, and Oleksander Lototsky maintained close ties with the Lithuanian leader V. Matulaitis. Lithuanian students in Kyiv co-operated with Ukrainian student organizations. At the peace talks with the Central Powers culminating in the Peace Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in 1918, the future Lithuanian prime minister A. Voldemaras secretly took part in the delegation of the Ukrainian National Republic as an adviser so as to inform the Lithuanians of the progress of the negotiations with the Germans. The newly formed Ukrainian and Lithuanian republics did not have the opportunity to solidify relations, however. After the unsuccessful Ukrainian struggle for independence (1917–20) Lithuania supported the revolutionary struggle of the Ukrainian Military Organization (UVO) and the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) in Polish-ruled Western Ukraine through semiofficial organizations, such as the Lithuanian Riflemen's Association and the Union for the Liberation of Vilnius (headed by M. Biržiška). The UVO organ Surma (1927–34) was printed in Kaunas, and Ukrainian-Lithuanian activists were issued Lithuanian passports and granted asylum. The Ukrainian-Lithuanian Society in Kaunas (1927–35), headed by Biržiška, informed the Lithuanian public about the Ukrainian question through its bulletin Lietuvių Ukrainiečių Draugijos Zinios (1933–5). The UVO and, later, OUN representative I. Reviuk-Bartovych resided in Kaunas. In the West émigré Ukrainians collaborated with émigré Lithuanians in the Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations and other organizations.
There were also cultural ties between Lithuania and Ukraine. Before the First World War theatrical troupes from Russian-ruled Ukraine toured Lithuanian towns several times, and from 1912 Ivan Kotliarevsky's play Natalka Poltavka (Natalka from Poltava) was part of the repertoire of many Lithuanian amateur theatrical groups. In the 1880s J. Andziulaitis's translations of several of Taras Shevchenko's poems were published in Lithuanian journals. In 1891, stories by Ivan Franko were also translated. From 1909 L. Gira translated and popularized Shevchenko's poetry; his translations were published as a separate volume in 1912. Gira also wrote the first Lithuanian article about Shevchenko. In 1914, despite the tsarist ban, a celebration of Shevchenko's centenary was organized by the writer J. Žemaitė in Lithuania. Throughout the postwar Soviet period many Lithuanian poets translated Shevchenko's works. Separate editions of them were published in 1951, 1955, and 1961, and in 1964 V. Abramavičius's book about Shevchenko in Vilnius was published. Works by Lesia Ukrainka, Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky, Maksym Rylsky, Pavlo Tychyna, Ostap Vyshnia, Oles Honchar, Mykhailo Stelmakh, and other Ukrainian writers have also been translated into Lithuanian. Lithuanian-Ukrainian literary relations were surveyed in a book by K. Korsakas (1954). Lithuanian writers whose works have been translated into Ukrainian include S. Nėris, A. Venclova, Žemaitė, P. Cvirka, J. Baltušis, E. Mieželaitis, and M. Sluckis. Plays by Franko, Oleksander Korniichuk, Vasyl Mynko, and other Ukrainian dramatists have been staged in Lithuania, and since 1955 Semen Hulak-Artemovsky's opera Zaporozhets’ za Dunaiem (Zaporozhian Cossack beyond the Danube) has been part of the repertoire of the Vilnius Opera and Ballet Theater. Similarly, Lithuanian plays have been staged in Ukraine. Since 1961, 10-day festivals of Ukrainian literature and art have been held in Lithuania, and in 1968 the 17th Shevchenko scholarly conference was held in Vilnius.
In December 1988 the Hromada of Ukrainians of Lithuania was formed in Vilnius, and in October 1989 the Constituent Congress of Ukrainians in Lithuania was held there. The Hromada supported the Lithuanian independence movement and has had close ties with the Popular Movement of Ukraine (Rukh). Hromada branches are active in Vilnius, Kaunas, Klaipėda, Mažeikiai, and Jonava. Ukrainian choirs have been formed in Vilnius and Klaipėda, and Ukrainian Sunday schools in Vilnius and Jonava.
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Jurgėla, C. History of the Lithuanian Nation (New York 1948)
Gerutis, A. (ed). Lithuania: 700 Years (New York 1969)
Trembits’kyi, V. ‘Vil’na i Kyïv z perspektyvy storich (Do pytannia lytovs’ko-ukraïns’kykh vidnosyn),’ Al’manakh Ukraïns’koho narodnoho soiuzu na rik 1972 (Jersey City and New York)
Ochmański, J. Historia Litwy, 2nd rev edn (Wrocław, Warsaw, Cracow, Gdańsk, and Łódź 1982)
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Volodymyr Kubijovyč, Arkadii Zhukovsky
[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 3 (1993).]