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Grand Duchy of Lithuania

grand duchy of lithuania over modern europe, grand duchy of lithuania and poland

Coat of arms

The Grand Duchy of Lithuania at the height of its power in the 15th century, superimposed on modern borders Capital
  • Voruta hypothetical; 13th century
  • Kernavė after 1279 – before 1321
  • Trakai c 1321–1323
  • Vilnius from 1323
Languages Lithuanian, Ruthenian, Polish, Latin, German see § Languages Religion
  • Paganism
  • Eastern Orthodox
  • Roman Catholicism
  • Hereditary monarchy 1230–1572
  • Elective monarchy 1572–1795
Grand Duke    1236–1263 from 1251 as King Mindaugas first    1764–1795 Stanisław August Poniatowski last Legislature Seimas    Privy Council Council of Lords History    Consolidation began 1180s    Kingdom of Lithuania 1251–1263    Union of Krewo 14 August 1385    Union of Lublin 1 July 1569    Third Partition 24 October 1795 Area    1260 200,000 km² 77,220 sq mi    1430 930,000 km² 359,075 sq mi    1572 320,000 km² 123,553 sq mi    1791 250,000 km² 96,526 sq mi    1793 132,000 km² 50,965 sq mi Population    1260 est 400,000       Density 2 /km²  52 /sq mi    1430 est 2,500,000       Density 27 /km²  7 /sq mi    1572 est 1,710,000       Density 53 /km²  138 /sq mi    1791 est 2,500,000       Density 10 /km²  259 /sq mi    1793 est 1,800,000       Density 136 /km²  353 /sq mi
Succeeded by
Kingdom of Prussia
Russian Empire
Today part of
  •  Belarus
  •  Latvia
  •  Lithuania
  •  Moldova
  •  Poland
  •  Russia
  •  Transnistria2
  •  Ukraine
1 Unsuccessful Constitution of May 3, 1791 envisioned a unitary state whereby the Grand Duchy would be abolished

2 Internationally recognized as part of Moldova

The Grand Duchy of Lithuania was a European state from the 13th century1 until 17952 The state was founded by the Lithuanians, one of the polytheistic Baltic tribes from Aukštaitija345

The Grand Duchy later expanded to include large portions of the former Kievan Rus' and other Slavic lands, including territory of present-day Belarus, parts of Ukraine, Poland and Russia At its greatest extent in the 15th century, it was the largest state in Europe6 It was a multi-ethnic and multi-confessional state with great diversity in languages, religion, and cultural heritage

Consolidation of the Lithuanian lands began in the late 12th century Mindaugas, the first ruler of the Grand Duchy, was crowned as Catholic King of Lithuania in 1253 The pagan state was targeted in the religious crusade by the Teutonic Knights and the Livonian Order The multi-ethnic and multi-confessional state emerged only at the late reign of Gediminas7 and continued to expand under his son Algirdas8 Algirdas's successor Jogaila signed the Union of Krewo in 1386, bringing two major changes in the history of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania: conversion to Catholicism and establishment of a dynastic union between the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland9

The reign of Vytautas the Great marked both the greatest territorial expansion of the Grand Duchy and the defeat of the Teutonic Knights in the Battle of Grunwald in 1410 It also marked the rise of the Lithuanian nobility After Vytautas's death, Lithuania's relationship with the Kingdom of Poland greatly deteriorated10 Lithuanian noblemen, including the Radvila family Radziwiłłs, attempted to break the personal union with Poland11 However, the unsuccessful Muscovite–Lithuanian Wars with the Grand Duchy of Moscow forced the union to remain intact

Eventually, the Union of Lublin of 1569 created a new state, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth In this federation, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania maintained its political distinctiveness and had separate government, laws, army, and treasury12 This federation was terminated by the passing of the Constitution of May 3, 1791, and since then there was supposed to be a single country – Respublica Poloniae – under one monarch and one parliament Shortly after, the unitary character of the state was confirmed by adopting the Reciprocal Guarantee of Two Nations The newly reformed Commonwealth was invaded by Russia in 1792 and partitioned between the neighbours, with a truncated state principal cities being Kraków, Warsaw and Vilnius remaining only nominally independent After the Kościuszko Uprising, the territory was partitioned among the Russian Empire, the Kingdom of Prussia, and Austria in 1795


  • 1 Etymology
  • 2 History
    • 21 Establishment of the state
    • 22 Kingdom of Lithuania
    • 23 Rise of the Gediminids
    • 24 Territorial expansion
    • 25 Union with Poland
    • 26 Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth
    • 27 Partitions and the Napoleonic period
  • 3 Religion and culture
  • 4 Languages
    • 41 Languages for state and academic purposes
    • 42 Lithuanian language situation
  • 5 Demographics
  • 6 Legacy
  • 7 Gallery
  • 8 See also
  • 9 References
  • 10 Sources
  • 11 External links


The Statutes of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania name the complete name of the state as Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Ruthenia and Samogitia Ruthenian: Великое князство Литовское, Руское, Жомойтское и иных13 The title of "Grand Duchy" was consistently applied to Lithuania from the 14th century onward14

In other languages, the Grand Duchy is referred to as:

  • Belarusian: Вялікае Княства Літоўскае
  • German: Großfürstentum Litauen
  • Estonian: Leedu Suurvürstiriik
  • Latin: Magnus Ducatus Lituaniae
  • Lithuanian: Lietuvos Didžioji Kunigaikštystė
  • Old literary Lithuanian: Didi Kunigystė Lietuvos
  • Latvian: Lieitija or Lietuvas Lielkņaziste
  • Polish: Wielkie Księstwo Litewskie
  • Ruthenian: Великое князство Литовское
  • Russian: Великое княжество Литовское
  • Ukrainian: Велике князiвство Литовське


Establishment of the stateedit

Main article: History of Lithuania 1219–1295 Balts in the 12th century

The first written reference to Lithuania is found in the Quedlinburg Chronicle, which dates from 100915 In the 12th century, Slavic chronicles refer to Lithuania as one of the areas attacked by the Rus' Pagan Lithuanians initially paid tribute to Polotsk, but they soon grew in strength and organized their own small-scale raids At some point between 1180 and 1183 the situation began to change, and the Lithuanians started to organize sustainable military raids on the Slavic provinces, raiding the Principality of Polotsk as well as Pskov, and even threatening Novgorod16 The sudden spark of military raids marked consolidation of the Lithuanian lands in Aukštaitija1

The Livonian Order and Teutonic Knights, crusading military orders, were established in Riga in 1202 and in Prussia in 1226 The Christian orders posed a significant threat to pagan Baltic tribes and further galvanized the formation of the state The peace treaty with Galicia–Volhynia of 1219 provides evidence of cooperation between Lithuanians and Samogitians This treaty lists 21 Lithuanian dukes, including five senior Lithuanian dukes from Aukštaitija Živinbudas, Daujotas, Vilikaila, Dausprungas and Mindaugas and several dukes from Žemaitija Although they had battled in the past, the Lithuanians and the Žemaičiai now faced a common enemy17 Likely Živinbudas had the most authority16 and at least several dukes were from the same families18 The formal acknowledgment of common interests and the establishment of a hierarchy among the signatories of the treaty foreshadowed the emergence of the state

Kingdom of Lithuaniaedit

Main article: Kingdom of Lithuania Navahrudak Castle

Mindaugas, the duke19 of southern Lithuania,20 was among the five senior dukes mentioned in the treaty with Galicia–Volhynia The Livonian Rhymed Chronicle, reports that by the mid-1230s, Mindaugas had acquired supreme power in the whole of Lithuania21 In 1236, the Samogitians, led by Vykintas, defeated the Livonian Order in the Battle of Saule The Order was forced to become a branch of the Teutonic Knights in Prussia, making Samogitia, a strip of land that separated Livonia from Prussia, the main target of both orders The battle provided a break in the wars with the Knights, and Lithuania exploited this situation, arranging attacks towards the Ruthenian provinces and annexing Navahrudak and Hrodna21 Belarusian historians consider that Mindаugas was invited to rule Navahrudak and that the union was peaceful2223

Trakai Island Castle

In 1248 a civil war broke out between Mindaugas and his nephews Tautvilas and Edivydas The powerful coalition against Mindaugas included Vykintas, the Livonian Order, Daniel of Galicia and Vasilko of Volhynia Taking advantage of internal conflicts, Mindaugas allied with the Livonian Order He promised to convert to Christianity and to exchange some lands in western Lithuania in return for military assistance against his nephews and the royal crown In 1251 Mindaugas was baptized and Pope Innocent IV issued a papal bull proclaiming the creation of the Kingdom of Lithuania After the civil war ended, Mindaugas was crowned as King of Lithuania on July 6, 1253, starting a decade of relative peace Mindaugas later renounced Christianity and converted back to paganism Mindaugas tried to expand his influence in Polatsk, a major center of commerce in the Daugava River basin, and Pinsk21 The Teutonic Knights used this period to strengthen their position in parts of Samogitia and Livonia, but they lost the Battle of Skuodas in 1259 and the Battle of Durbe in 1260 This encouraged the conquered Semigallians and Old Prussians to rebel against the Knights

Encouraged by Treniota, Mindaugas broke the peace with the Order, possibly reverted to pagan beliefs, and allied with Alexander Nevsky of Novgorod He hoped to unite all Baltic tribes under the Lithuanian leadership As military campaigns were not successful, the relationships between Mindaugas and Treniota deteriorated Treniota, together with Daumantas of Pskov, assassinated Mindaugas and his two sons, Ruklys and Rupeikis, in 126324 The state lapsed into years of internal fighting

Rise of the Gediminidsedit

Gediminas Tower in Vilnius

From 1263 to 1269, Lithuania had three Grand Dukes – Treniota, Vaišvilkas, and Svarn The state did not disintegrate, however, and Traidenis came to power in 1269 He strengthened Lithuanian control in Black Ruthenia and fought with the Livonian Order, winning the Battle of Karuse in 1270 and the Battle of Aizkraukle in 1279 There is considerable uncertainty about the identities of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania between his death in 1282 and the assumption of power by Vytenis in 1295 During this time the Orders finalized their conquests In 1274 the Great Prussian Rebellion ended, and the Teutonic Knights proceeded to conquer other Baltic tribes: the Nadruvians and Skalvians in 1274–1277, and the Yotvingians in 1283; the Livonian Order completed its conquest of Semigalia, the last Baltic ally of Lithuania, in 129125 The Orders could now turn their full attention to Lithuania The "buffer zone" composed of other Baltic tribes had disappeared, and Grand Duchy of Lithuania was left to battle the Orders on its own

The Gediminids dynasty ruled the Grand Duchy for over a century, and Vytenis was the first ruler from the dynasty26 During his reign Lithuania engaged in constant warfare with the Order, the Kingdom of Poland, and Ruthenia Vytenis was involved in succession disputes in Poland, supporting Boleslaus II of Masovia, who was married to a Lithuanian duchess, Gaudemunda In Ruthenia, Vytenis managed to recapture lands lost after the assassination of Mindaugas and to capture the principalities of Pinsk and Turaŭ In the struggle against the Order, Vytenis allied with citizens of Riga; securing positions in Riga strengthened trade routes and provided a base for further military campaigns Around 1307, Polotsk, an important trading center, was annexed by military force27 Vytenis also began the construction of a defensive castle network along the Neman River Gradually this network developed into the main defensive line against the Teutonic Order

Territorial expansionedit

The expansion of the state reached its height under Grand Duke Gediminas, who created a strong central government and established an empire that later spread from the Black Sea to the Baltic Sea In 1320, most of the principalities of western Rus' were either vassalized or annexed by Lithuania In 1321 Gediminas captured Kiev, sending Stanislav, the last Rurikid to rule Kiev, into exile Gediminas also re-established the permanent capital of the Grand Duchy in Vilnius,citation needed presumably moving it from Trakai in 1323; some researchers, such as Maciej Stryjkowski,28 claim that Navahrudak was the capital of the 13th century state

The ruins of Kaunas Castle from the mid-14th century were restored in the late 20th century

Lithuania was in an ideal position to inherit the western and the southern parts of Kievan Rus' While almost every other state around it had been plundered or defeated by the Mongols, the hordes stopped at the modern borders of Belarus, and the core territory of the Grand Duchy was left mostly untouched The weak control of the Mongols over the areas they had conquered allowed the expansion of Lithuania to accelerate Rus' principalities were never incorporated directly into the Golden Horde, maintaining vassal relationships with a fair degree of independence Lithuania annexed some of these areas as vassals through diplomacy, as they exchanged rule by the Mongols or the Grand Prince of Moscow with rule by the Grand Duchy An example is Novgorod, which was often in the Lithuanian sphere of influence and became an occasional dependency of the Grand Duchy29 Lithuanian control resulted from internal frictions within the city, which attempted to escape submission to Muscovy Such relationships could be tenuous, however, as changes in a city's internal politics could disrupt Lithuanian control, as happened on a number of occasions with Novgorod and other East-Slavic cities

The Grand Duchy of Lithuania managed to hold off Mongol incursions and eventually secured gains In 1333 and 1339, Lithuanians defeated large Mongol forces attempting to regain Smolensk from the Lithuanian sphere of influence By about 1355, the State of Moldavia had formed, and the Golden Horde did little to re-vassalize the area In 1362 regiments of the Grand Duchy army defeated the Golden Horde at the Battle at Blue Waters30 In 1380 a Lithuanian army allied with Russian forces to defeat the Golden Horde in the Battle of Kulikovo, and though the rule of the Mongols did not end, their influence in the region waned thereafter In 1387, Moldavia became a vassal of Poland and, in a broader sense, of Lithuania By this time, Lithuania had conquered the territory of the Golden Horde all the way to the Dnieper River In a crusade against the Golden Horde in 1398 in an alliance with Tokhtamysh, Lithuania invaded northern Crimea and won a decisive victory In an attempt to place Tokhtamish on the Golden Horde throne in 1399, Lithuania moved against the Horde but were defeated in the Battle of the Vorskla River, losing the steppe region

Union with Polandedit

Poland and Lithuania 1386-1434

Lithuania was Christianized in 1387, led by Jogaila, who personally translated Christian prayers into the Lithuanian language31 The state reached a peak under Vytautas the Great, who reigned from 1392 to 1430 Vytautas was one of the most famous rulers of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, serving as the Grand Duke from 1401–1430, and as the Prince of Hrodna 1370–1382 and the Prince of Lutsk 1387–1389 Vytautas was the son of Kęstutis, cousin of Jogaila, who became King of Poland in 1386, and he was the grandfather of Vasili II of Moscow

In 1410 Vytautas commanded the forces of the Grand Duchy in the Battle of Grunwald The battle ended in a decisive Polish-Lithuanian victory against the Teutonic Order Vytautas backed economic development of the state and introduced many reforms Under his rule, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania slowly became more centralized, as the governors loyal to Vytautas replaced local princes with dynastic ties to the throne The governors were rich landowners who formed the basis for the nobility of the Grand Duchy During Vytautas' rule, the Radziwiłł and Goštautas families started to gain influencecitation needed

The Battle of Grunwald, 1410, with Ulrich von Jungingen and Vytautas at center

The rapid expansion of the influence of Muscovy soon put it into a comparable position as the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and after the annexation of Novgorod in 1478, Muscovy was among the preeminent states in northeastern Europe Between 1492 and 1508, Ivan III further consolidated Muscovy, winning the key Battle of Vedrosha and regaining such ancient lands of Kievan Rus' as Chernigov and Bryansk

On 8 September 1514, the allied forces of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Kingdom of Poland, under the command of Hetman Konstanty Ostrogski, fought the Battle of Orsha against the army of the Grand Duchy of Moscow, under Konyushy Ivan Chelyadnin and Kniaz Mikhail Golitsin The battle was part of a long series of Muscovite–Lithuanian Wars conducted by Russian rulers striving to gather all the former lands of Kievan Rus' under their rule According to Rerum Moscoviticarum Commentarii by Sigismund von Herberstein, the primary source for the information on the battle, the much smaller army of Poland–Lithuania under 30,000 men defeated the 80,000 Russian soldiers, capturing their camp and commander The Russians lost about 30,000 men, while the losses of the Poland–Lithuania army totaled only 500 While the battle is remembered as one of the greatest Lithuanian victories, Muscovy ultimately prevailed in the war Under the 1522 peace treaty, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania made large territorial concessions

Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealthedit

Main article: Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth The Grand Duchy of Lithuania within the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth c 1635

The loss of land to Moscow and the continued pressure threatened the survival of the state of Lithuania, so it was forced to ally more closely with Poland, uniting with its western neighbor as the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth Commonwealth of Two Nations in the Union of Lublin of 1569 During the period of the Union, many of the territories formerly controlled by the largely Ruthenized32 Grand Duchy of Lithuania were transferred to the Crown of the Polish Kingdom, while the gradual process of Polonization slowly drew Lithuania itself under Polish domination323334 The Grand Duchy retained many rights in the federation including a separate government, treasury and army until the May Constitution of Poland and Reciprocal Guarantee of Two Nations were passed in 1791

Partitions and the Napoleonic periodedit

Following the partitions of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, most of the lands of the former Grand Duchy were directly annexed by the Russian Empire, the rest by Prussia In 1812, just prior the French invasion of Russia, the former Grand Duchy revolted against the Russians Soon after his arrival in Vilnius, Napoleon proclaimed the creation of a Commissary Provisional Government of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania which, in turn, renewed the Polish-Lithuanian Union35 The union was never formalized, however, as only half a year later Napoleon's Grande Armée was pushed out of Russia and forced to retreat further westwards In December 1812, Vilnius was recaptured by Russian forces, bringing all plans of recreation of the Grand Duchy to an end35 Most of the lands of the former Grand Duchy were re-annexed by Russia The Augustów Voivodeship later Augustów Governorate, including the counties of Marijampolė and Kalvarija, was attached to the Kingdom of Poland, a rump state in personal union with Russia

Religion and cultureedit

See also: Lithuanian mythology "Christianization of Lithuania in 1387", oil on canvas by Jan Matejko, 1889, Royal Castle in Warsaw St Anne's Church and the church of the Bernardine Monastery in Vilnius

After the baptism in 1252 and coronation of King Mindaugas in 1253, Lithuania was recognized as a Christian state until 1260, when Mindaugas supported an uprising in Courland and according to the German order renounced Christianity Up until 1387, Lithuanian nobles professed their own religion, which was polytheistic Ethnic Lithuanians were very dedicated to their faith The pagan beliefs needed to be deeply entrenched to survive strong pressure from missionaries and foreign powers Until the seventeenth century there were relics of old faith reported by counter-reformation active Jesuit priests, like feeding žaltys with milk or bringing food to graves of ancestors

The lands of modern-day Belarus and Ukraine, as well as local dukes princes in these regions, were firmly Orthodox Christian Greek Catholic after the Union of Brest, though While pagan beliefs in Lithuania were strong enough to survive centuries of pressure from military orders and missionaries, they did eventually succumb In 1387, Lithuania converted to Catholicism, while most of the Ruthenian lands stayed Orthodox At one point, though, Pope Alexander VI reprimanded the Grand Duke for keeping non-Catholics as advisers36 There was an effort to polarise Orthodox Christians after the Union of Brest in 1596, by which some Orthodox Christians acknowledged papal authority and Catholic catechism, but preserved their liturgy The country also became one of the major centers of the Reformation

In the second half of the 16th century Calvinism spread in Lithuania, supported by the families of Radziwiłł, Chodkiewicz, Sapieha, Dorohostajski and others By the 1580s the majority of the senators from Lithuania were Calvinist or Socinian Unitarians Jan Kiszka

In 1579, Stephen Báthory, King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, founded Vilnius University, one of the oldest universities in Northern Europe Due to the work of the Jesuits during the Counter-Reformation the university soon developed into one of the most important scientific and cultural centers of the region and the most notable scientific center of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania37 The work of the Jesuits as well as conversions from among the Lithuanian senatorial families turned the tide and by the 1670s Calvinism lost its former importance though it still retained some influence among the ethnically Lithuanian peasants and some middle nobility, by then thoroughly Polonized


The Constitution of May 3 was one of the first official state documents, issued in both Polish and Lithuanian language Lithuanian language edition of the Constitution

In the 13th century, the center of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, was inhabited by a majority which spoke Lithuanian,38 but it was not a written language until the 16th century39 In the other parts of the duchy, the majority of the population, including Ruthenian nobles and ordinary people used both spoken and written Ruthenian languages38 Nobles who migrated from one place to another would adapt to a new locality and adopt the local religion and culture and those Lithuanian noble families which moved to Slavic areas, often took up the local culture quickly over subsequent generations40 Ruthenians were native to the east-central and south-eastern parts of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania

The Ruthenian language, also called Chancery Slavonic in its written form, was used to write laws alongside Polish, Latin and German, but use varied between regions From the time of Vytautas, there are fewer remaining documents written in Ruthenian than there are in Latin and German, but later Ruthenian became the main language of documentation and writings, especially in eastern and southern parts of the Duchy In the 16th century at the time of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Lithuanian lands became increasingly polonized over time and started to use the Polish language instead of the Lithuanian and Ruthenian languages and Polish officially became the chancellery language of the Lithuanian-Polish Commonwealth in 169740414243

The voivodeships with the predominant ethnic Lithuanian population, Vilniuscitation needed, Trakaicitation needed and Samogitian voivodeships, remained almost wholly Lithuanian speaking, both colloquially and by ruling nobility In the extreme southern parts of Trakai voivodeship, and south-eastern parts of Vilnius voivodeship Ruthenian communities were also present In addition to Lithuanians and Ruthenians, other important ethnic groups on throughout the Grand Duchy of Lithuania were Jews and Tatars40 Vilnius's city population and its surroundings were multi-ethnic and spoke Lithuanian, Polish, Belarusian, Yiddish, German, Tatar, and Karaim among otherswhen

Languages for state and academic purposesedit

Tribunal of Grand Duchy of Lithuania, printed in Ruthenian language, 1586

Numerous languages were used in state documents depending on which period in history and for what purpose These languages included Lithuanian, Ruthenian East Slavonic; Old Belarusian or Old Ukrainian,4344 Polish and, to a lesser extent mostly in diplomatic communication, Latin and German394042

The Court used Ruthenian to correspond with Eastern countries while Latin and German were used in foreign affairs with Western countries4345 During the latter part of the history of the Grand Duchy, Polish was increasingly used in State documents, especially after the Union of Lublin42 By 1697, Polish had largely replaced Ruthenian as the "official" language at Court,394346 although Ruthenian continued to be used on a few official documents until the second half of the 18th century41

Usage of the Lithuanian language still continued at Court after the death of Vytautas and Jogaila while Grand Duke Alexander I could understand and speak Lithuanian Zygmunt August, maintained both Polish- and Lithuanian-speaking courts47

From the beginning of the 16th century, and especially after a rebellion led by Michael Glinski in 1508, there were attempts by the Court to replace the usage of Ruthenian with Latin48 But the Ruthenian tongue had deep cultural roots Its use by academics in areas formerly part of Rus' and even in Lithuania proper was widespread Court Chancellor of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania Lew Sapieha, noted in the preface of the Third Statute of Lithuania 1588 that this code was to be written exclusively in Ruthenian

And clerk must use ruthenian letters and ruthenian words in all pages, letters and requests, and not any other language or words

— А писаръ земъский маеть по-руску литерами и словы рускими вси листы, выписы и позвы писати, а не иншимъ езыкомъ и словы, The Statute of GPL 1588 Part 4, article 149

Nonetheless, Mikalojus Daukša, writing in Polish, noted in his Postilla 1599 that many people, especially szlachta, preferred to speak Polish rather than Lithuanian, but spoke Polish poorlycitation needed Such were the linguistic trends in the Grand Duchy that by the political reforms of 1564–1566 parliaments local land courts, appellate courts and other State functions were recorded in Polish48 and Polish became increasingly spoken across all social classes

Lithuanian language situationedit

Area of the Lithuanian language in the 16th century

Ruthenian and Polish languages were used as state languages of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, besides Latin and German in diplomatic correspondence Vilnius, Trakai and Samogitia were the core voivodeships of the state, being part of Lithuania Proper, as evidenced by the privileged position of their governors in state authorities, such as the Council of Lords Peasants in ethnic Lithuanian territories spoke exclusively Lithuanian, except transitional border regions, but the Statutes of Lithuania and other laws and documentation were written in Ruthenian Following the royal court, there was tendency to replace Lithuanian with Polish in the ethnic Lithuanian areas, whereas Ruthenian was stronger in ethnic Belarusian and Ukrainian territories There is Sigismund von Herberstein's note left, that there were in an ocean of Russian language in this part of Europe two non-Ruthenian regions: Lithuania and Samogitia48

At one point in the history of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the higher strata of Lithuanian society from ethnic Lithuania spoke Lithuanian, although since the later 16-th century gradually began using Polish, and from Belarus – Old Belarusian Samogitia was exclusive through state in its economical situation – it lay near portsclarification needed and there were fewer people under corvee, instead of that, many simple people were money payersclarification needed As a result, the stratification of the society was not as sharp as in other areas Being more similar to a simple population the local szlachta spoke Lithuanian to a bigger extent than in the areas close to the capital Vilnius, which itself had become a center of intensive linguistic Polonization of surrounding areas since the 18th century

In Vilnius University there are preserved texts written in the Lithuanian language of the Vilnius area, lying south-eastwards from Vilnius, then called Lithuanian language, today called a dialect of Eastern Aukštaitian The source are preserved in works of graduates from Stanislovas Rapalionis Vilnius based Lithuanian language school graduate Martynas Mažvydas and Rapalionis relative Abraomas Kulvietis

One of the main sources of Lithuanian written and common language is the Eastern Aukštaitian dialect Vilnius dialect, preserved by Konstantinas Sirvydas in a trilingual Polish-Latin-Lithuanian 17th-century dictionary, Dictionarium trium linguarum in usum studiosae juventutis, the main Lithuanian language dictionary used until the late 19th century


See also: Historical demography of Poland § Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth 1569–1795 The Statute of Grand Duchy of Lithuania 1588 in Ruthenian printed in Vilnius The first printed book in Lithuanian Catechism of Martynas Mažvydas by Martynas Mažvydas

In 1260 the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was the land of Lithuania, and ethnic Lithuanians formed majority 675% of its 400,000 people50 With the acquisition of new Ruthenian territories, in 1340 this portion decreased to 30%51 By the time of the largest expansion towards Rus' lands, which came at the end of the 13th and during the 14th century, the territory of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was 800 to 930 thousand km2, just 10% to 14% of which was ethnically Lithuanian5052

An estimate of the population in the territory of Poland and Grand Duchy of Lithuania together gives a population at 75 million for 1493, breaking them down by ethnicity at 375 million Ruthenians ethnic Ukrainians, Belarusians, 325 million Poles and 05 million Lithuanians53 With the Union of Lublin, 1569, Lithuanian Grand Duchy lost large part of lands to the Polish Crown

In the mid and late 17th century, due to Russian and Swedish invasions, there was much devastation and population loss on throughout the Grand Duchy of Lithuania,54 including ethnic Lithuanian population in Vilnius surroundings Besides devastation, Ruthenian population declined proportionally after the territorial losses to Russian Empire By 1770 there were about 484 million inhabitants in the territory of 320 thousand km2, the biggest part of whom were inhabitants of Ruthenia and about 139 million or 29% – of ethnic Lithuania50 During the following decades, the population decreased in a result of partitions50


See also: Statutes of Lithuania

Some Russian historianswho claim, one of the most crucial effects of Lithuanian rule was ethnic divisions amongst the inhabitants of former Kievan Rus' From this point of view, the creation of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania played a major role in the division of Eastern Slavs After the Mongolian conquest of Rus', Mongols attempted to keep Eastern Slavs unified and succeeded in conquering most of Ruthenian lands

Prussian tribes of Baltic origin were attacking Masovia, and that was the reason Duke Konrad of Masovia invited the Teutonic Knights to settle near the Prussian area of settlement The fighting between Prussians and the Teutonic Knights gave the more distant Lithuanian tribes time to unite Because of strong enemies in the south and north, the newly formed Lithuanian state concentrated most of its military and diplomatic efforts on expansion eastward

The rest of former Ruthenian lands Belarusian principalities joined the Grand Duchy of Lithuania Some other lands in Ukraine were vassalized by Lithuania later The subjugation of Eastern Slavs by two powers created substantial differences between them, that persist to this day While there were certainly substantial regional differences in Kievan Rus, it was the Lithuanian annexation of much of southern and western Ruthenia that led to the permanent division between Ukrainians, Belarusians, and Russians Somewho argue, that the ethnic and linguistic divisions amongst inhabitants of Ruthenia were not initiated by division of this area between Mongols and Lithuania, and are older than the creation of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania They state that until the twentieth century, ethnic and linguistic frontiers between Ukrainians, Belarusians, and Russians coincided with no political borders

Notwithstanding the above, Lithuania was a kingdom under Mindaugas, who was crowned by authority of Pope Innocent IV in 1253 Gediminas and Vytautas the Great also assumed the title of King, although uncrowned A failed attempt was made in 1918 to revive the Kingdom under a German Prince, Wilhelm Karl, Duke of Urach, who would have reigned as Mindaugas II of Lithuania

In the first half of the 20th Century, the memory of the multiethnic history of the Grand Duchy saw a revival by the Krajowcy movement,5556 that included Ludwik Abramowicz Liudvikas Abramovičius, Konstancja Skirmuntt, Mykolas Römeris Michał Pius Römer, Józef Albin Herbaczewski Juozapas Albinas Herbačiauskas, Józef Mackiewicz and Stanisław Mackiewicz5758 This feeling was expressed in poetry by Czesław Miłosz58


See alsoedit

  • Belarus
  • Cities of Grand Duchy of Lithuania
  • Crimea
  • Duchy of Lithuania
  • History of Lithuania
  • List of Belarusian rulers
  • List of Lithuanian rulers
  • Lithuania
  • Lithuania proper
  • Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
  • Ukraine


  1. ^ a b Baranauskas, Tomas 2000 "Lietuvos valstybės ištakos" The Lithuanian State in Lithuanian Vilnius: viduramziuistorijanet Retrieved 20 July 2016 
  2. ^ Sužiedėlis, Saulius Historical dictionary of Lithuania 2nd ed Lanham, Md: Scarecrow Press p 119 ISBN 978-0-8108-4914-3 
  3. ^ Rowell SC Lithuania Ascending: A pagan empire within east-central Europe, 1295-1345 Cambridge, 1994 p289-290
  4. ^ Ch Allmand, The New Cambridge Medieval History Cambridge, 1998, p 731
  5. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica Grand Duchy of Lithuania
  6. ^ R Bideleux A History of Eastern Europe: Crisis and Change Routledge, 1998 p 122
  7. ^ Rowell, Lithuania Ascending, p289
  8. ^ Z Kiaupa "Algirdas ir LDK rytų politika" Gimtoji istorija 2: Nuo 7 iki 12 klasės Lietuvos istorijos vadovėlis CD 2003 Elektroninės leidybos namai: Vilnius
  9. ^ N Davies Europe: A History Oxford, 1996, p 392
  10. ^ J Kiaupienė Gediminaičiai ir Jogailaičiai prie Vytauto palikimo Gimtoji istorija 2: Nuo 7 iki 12 klasės Lietuvos istorijos vadovėlis CD 2003 Elektroninės leidybos namai: Vilnius
  11. ^ J Kiaupienë, "Valdžios krizës pabaiga ir Kazimieras Jogailaitis" Gimtoji istorija 2: Nuo 7 iki 12 klasės Lietuvos istorijos vadovėlis CD 2003 Elektroninės leidybos namai: Vilnius
  12. ^ D Stone The Polish-Lithuanian state: 1386-1795 University of Washington Press, 2001, p 63
  13. ^ Statute of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania 1529, Part 1, Art 1: "На первей преречоным прелатом, княжатом, паном, хоруговым, шляхтам и местом преречоных земель Великого князства Литовского, Руского, Жомойтского и иных дали есмо:"; According to: Pervyi ili Staryi Litovskii Statut // Vremennik Obschestva istorii i drevnostei Rossiiskih 1854 Book 18 p 2-106 P 2
  14. ^ Bojtár, Endre 1999 Foreword to the Past: A Cultural History of the Baltic People Central European University Press p 179 ISBN 978-963-9116-42-9 
  15. ^ "Lithuania" Encarta 1997 Archived from the original on 29 October 2009 Retrieved 21 September 2006 
  16. ^ a b Encyclopedia Lituanica Boston, 1970-1978, Vol5 p395
  17. ^ Lithuania Ascending p50
  18. ^ A Bumblauskas, Senosios Lietuvos istorija, 1009–1795 The early history of Lithuania, Vilnius, 2005, p 33
  19. ^ By contemporary accounts, the Lithuanians called their early rulers kunigas kunigai in plural The word was borrowed from the German language – kuning, konig Later on kunigas was replaced by the word kunigaikštis, used to describe to medieval Lithuanian rulers in modern Lithuanian, while kunigas today means priest
  20. ^ ZKiaupa, J Kiaupienė, A Kunevičius The History of Lithuania Before 1795 Vilnius, 2000 p 43-127
  21. ^ a b c V Spečiūnas Lietuvos valdovai XIII-XVIII a: Enciklopedinis žinynas Vilnius, 2004 p 15-78
  22. ^ А Кравцевич История Великого Княжества Литовского
  23. ^ Краўцэвіч, АК Стварэнне Вялікага Княства Літоўскага
  24. ^ Senosios Lietuvos istorija p 44-45
  25. ^ Kiaupa, Zigmantas; Jūratė Kiaupienė; Albinas Kunevičius 2000 1995 "Establishment of the State" The History of Lithuania Before 1795 English ed Vilnius: Lithuanian Institute of History pp 45–72 ISBN 9986-810-13-2 
  26. ^ Lithuania Ascending p55
  27. ^ New Cambridge p706
  28. ^ Maciej Stryjkowski 1985 Kronika polska, litewska, żmódzka i wszystkiéj Rusi Macieja Stryjkowskiego Warsaw: Wydawnictwa Artystyczne i Filmowe p 572 
  29. ^ Hinson, E Glenn 1995, The Church Triumphant: A History of Christianity Up to 1300, Mercer University Press, p 438, ISBN 978-0-86554-436-9 
  30. ^ Cherkas, Borys 30 December 2011 Битва на Синіх Водах Як Україна звільнилася від Золотої Орди Battle at Blue Waters How Ukraine freed itself from the Golden Horde in Ukrainian istpravdacomua Retrieved 22 February 2016 
  31. ^ Kloczowski, Jerzy 2000, A History of Polish Christianity, Cambridge University Press, p 55, ISBN 978-0-521-36429-4 
  32. ^ a b Makuch, Andrij "Ukraine: History: Lithuanian and Polish rule" Encyclopædia Britannica Online Retrieved 20 July 2016 Within the Lithuanian grand duchy the Ruthenian Ukrainian and Belarusian lands initially retained considerable autonomy The pagan Lithuanians themselves were increasingly converting to Orthodoxy and assimilating into Ruthenian culture The grand duchy's administrative practices and legal system drew heavily on Slavic customs, and an official Ruthenian state language also known as Rusyn developed over time from the language used in Rus Direct Polish rule in Ukraine in the 1340s and for two centuries thereafter was limited to Galicia There, changes in such areas as administration, law, and land tenure proceeded more rapidly than in Ukrainian territories under Lithuania However, Lithuania itself was soon drawn into the orbit of Poland following the dynastic linkage of the two states in 1385/86 and the baptism of the Lithuanians into the Latin Roman Catholic church 
  33. ^ "Union of Lublin: Poland-Lithuania 1569" Encyclopædia Britannica Online Retrieved 20 July 2016 Formally, Poland and Lithuania were to be distinct, equal components of the federation, But Poland, which retained possession of the Lithuanian lands it had seized, had greater representation in the Diet and became the dominant partner 
  34. ^ Stranga, Aivars "Lithuania: History: Union with Poland" Encyclopædia Britannica Online Retrieved 12 August 2016 While Poland and Lithuania would thereafter elect a joint sovereign and have a common parliament, the basic dual state structure was retained Each continued to be administered separately and had its own law codes and armed forces The joint commonwealth, however, provided an impetus for cultural Polonization of the Lithuanian nobility By the end of the 17th century it had virtually become indistinguishable from its Polish counterpart 
  35. ^ a b Marek Sobczyński "Procesy integracyjne i dezintegracyjne na ziemiach litewskich w toku dziejów" The process of integration and disintegration in the territories of Lithuania in the course of events PDF in Polish Zakład Geografii Politycznej Uniwersytetu Łódzkiego Retrieved 22 February 2016 
  36. ^ von Pastor, Ludwig The History of the Popes, from the Close of the Middle Ages 6 p 146 Retrieved 18 July 2016 he wrote to the Grand Duke of Lithuania, admonishing him to do everything in his power to persuade his consort to 'abjure the Russian religion, and accept the Christian Faith' 
  37. ^ Vilniaus Universitetas History of Vilnius University Retrieved on 20070416
  38. ^ a b Daniel Z Stone, A History of East Central Europe, p4
  39. ^ a b c O'Connor, Kevin 2006, Culture and Customs of the Baltic States, Greenwood Publishing Group, p 115, ISBN 978-0-313-33125-1, retrieved 12 August 2016 
  40. ^ a b c d Burant, S R; Zubek, V 1993 "Eastern Europe's Old Memories and New Realities: Resurrecting the Polish-lithuanian Union" PDF East European Politics & Societies 7 2: 370–393 doi:101177/0888325493007002007 ISSN 0888-3254 subscription required help 
  41. ^ a b Zinkevičius, Zigmas 1995 "Lietuvos Didžiosios kunigaikštystės kanceliarinės slavų kalbos termino nusakymo problema" in Lithuanian Vilnius: viduramziuistorijanet Retrieved 19 July 2016 
  42. ^ a b c Daniel Z Stone, A History of East Central Europe, p46
  43. ^ a b c d Wiemer, Björn 2003 "Dialect and language contacts on the territory of the Grand Duchy from the 15th century until 1939" In Kurt Braunmüller; Gisella Ferraresi Aspects of Multilingualism in European Language History John Benjamins Publishing pp 109–114 ISBN 90-272-1922-2 Retrieved 19 July 2016 
  44. ^ Stone, Daniel The Polish-Lithuanian State, 1386-1795 Seattle: University of Washington, 2001 p 4
  45. ^ Kamuntavičius, Rustis Development of Lithuanian State and Society Kaunas: Vytautas Magnus University, 2002 p21
  46. ^ Eberhardt, Piotr 2003 Ethnic Groups and Population Changes in Twentieth-Century Central-Eastern Europe ME Sharpe p 177 ISBN 978-0-7656-1833-7 Retrieved 19 July 2016 
  47. ^ Daniel Z Stone, A History of East Central Europe, p52
  48. ^ a b c Dubonis, Artūras 2002 "Lietuvių kalba: poreikis ir vartojimo mastai XV a antra pusė - XVI a antra pusė" Lithuanian language: the need for and extent of use second half XV c - second half XVI c in Lithuanian viduramziuistorijanet Retrieved 19 July 2016 
  49. ^ не обчымъ яким языкомъ, але своимъ властнымъ права списаные маемъ ; Dubonis, A Lietuvių kalba
  50. ^ a b c d Letukienė, Nijolė; Gineika, Petras 2003 "Istorija Politologija: kurso santrauka istorijos egzaminui" in Lithuanian Vilnius: Alma littera: 182  Statistical numbers, usually accepted in historiography the sources, their treatment, the method of measuring is not discussed in the source, are given, according to which in 1260 there were about 027 million Lithuanians out of a total population of 04 million or 675% The size of the territory of the Grand Duchy was about 200 thousand km2 The following data on population is given in the sequence - year, total population in millions, territory, Lithuanian inhabitants of ethnic Lithuania part of population in millions: 1340 - 07, 350 thousand km2, 037; 1375 - 14, 700 thousand km2, 042; 1430 - 25, 930 thousand km2, 059 or 24%; 1490 - 38, 850 thousand km2, 055 or 14% or 1/7; 1522 - 2365, 485 thousand km2, 07 or 30%; 1568 - 28, 570 thousand km2, 0825 million or 30%; 1572, 171, 320 thousand km2, 085 million or 50%; 1770 - 484, 320 thousand km2, 139 or 29%; 1791 - 25, 250 km2, 14 or 56%; 1793 - 18, 132 km2, 135 or 75%
  51. ^ Letukienė, N, Istorija, Politologija: Kurso santrauka istorijos egzaminui, 2003, p 182; there were about 037 million Lithuanians of 07 million of a whole population by 1340 in the territory of 350 thousand km2 and 042 million of 14 million by 1375 in the territory of 700 thousand km2 Different numbers can also be found, for example: Kevin O'Connor, The History of the Baltic States, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2003, ISBN 0-313-32355-0, Google Print, p17 Here the author estimates that there were 9 million inhabitants in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and 1 million of them were ethnic Lithuanians by 1387
  52. ^ Wiemer, Björn 2003 "Dialect and language contacts on the territory of the Grand Duchy from the 15th century until 1939" In Kurt Braunmüller; Gisella Ferraresi Aspects of Multilingualism in European Language History John Benjamins Publishing pp 109; 125 ISBN 90-272-1922-2 Retrieved 12 August 2016 
  53. ^ Pogonowski, Iwo 1989, Poland: A Historical Atlas, Dorset, p 92, ISBN 978-0-88029-394-5 - Based on 1493 population map 
  54. ^ Kotilaine, J T 2005, Russia's Foreign Trade and Economic Expansion in the Seventeenth Century: Windows on the World, BRILL, p 45, ISBN 90-04-13896-X, retrieved 12 August 2016 
  55. ^ Gil, Andrzej "Rusini w Rzeczypospolitej Wielu Narodów i ich obecność w tradycji Wielkiego Księstwa Litewskiego – problem historyczny czy czynnik tworzący współczesność" Ruthenians/Rus/Rusyns in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth and their presence in the tradition of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania - an historical problem or contemporary creation PDF in Polish Instytut Europy Środkowo-Wschodniej Central and Eastern European Institute Retrieved 12 August 2016 
  56. ^ Pawełko-Czajka, Barbara 2014 "The Memory of Multicultural Tradition of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the Thought of Vilnius Krajowcy" PDF International Congress of Belarusian Studies Retrieved 12 August 2016 
  57. ^ Gałędek, Michał "Wielkie Księstwo Litewskie w myśli politycznej Stanisława Cata-Mackiewicza" The Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the Political Thought of Stanisław Cat-Mackiewicz in Polish academiaedu Retrieved 12 August 2016 
  58. ^ a b Diena, Kauno; Vaida Milkova 5 May 2011 "Miłosz's Anniversary in the Context of Dumb Politics" Vytautas Magnus University, Lithuania Retrieved 12 August 2016 


  1. S C Rowell Chartularium Lithuaniae res gestas magni ducis Gedeminne illustrans Gedimino laiškai Vilnius, 2003
  2. Norman Davies God's Playground Columbia University Press; 2nd edition 2002, ISBN 0-231-12817-7
  3. Вялікае княства Літоўскае: Энцыклапедыя – Мінск: БелЭн, 2005—2010 – Т 1—3
  4. Гісторыя Беларусі: Падруч у 2 ч / ЯК Новік, ГС Марцуль, ІЛ Качалаў і інш; Пад рэд ЯК Новіка, ГС Марцуля – Мінск : Выш шк, 2003 – Ч 1 Ад старажытных часоў – па люты 1917 г – 416 с
  5. Гісторыя Беларусі: у 6 т / Ю Бохан і інш; рэдкал: М Касцюк гал рэд і інш – Мінск : Экаперспектыва, 2000—2012 – Т 2 Беларусь у перыяд Вялікага Княства Літоўскага – Мінск : Экаперспектыва, 2008 – 688 с
  6. Краўцэвіч, АК Стварэнне Вялікага Княства Літоўскага / АК Краўцэвіч – Rzeszów, 2000 – 238 с ISBN 985-08-0249-9
  7. Насевiч, ВЛ Пачаткі Вялікага княства Літоўскага: Падзеі і асобы – Мінск : Полымя, 1993 – 160 с

External linksedit

  • History of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania
  • Cheryl Renshaw The Grand Duchy of Lithuania 1253-1795
  • Grand Duchy of Lithuania
  • Grand Duchy of Lithuania Administrative map
  • Lithuanian-Ruthenian state at the Encyclopedia of Ukraine

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