Lithuania 1569-1795

A.) The Grand Duchy of Lithuania within the Polish-Lithuanian Kingdom

The UNION OF LUBLIN was created against the will of Lithuania's leading families. King ZYGIMANDAS AUGUSTAS (i.e. Sigismund Augustus), annexed the Grand Duchy's southern districts to Poland; in the end Lithuania's leading families gave in, in order not to lose the support of Lithuania's lower nobility which supported the union.
The positions of King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania were combined in perpetuity, and Poland's and Lithuania's assemblies were merged to form a single SEJM. The capital of the combined state was to be CRACOW, the language of the Sejm Polish. The Grand Ducht of Lithuania, although retaining a separate administration and army, lost its independent political representation (the Lithuanian assembly) and its right to elect a Duke independent from Poland's parliament. Over time, most of Lithuania's nobility assimilated, taking on a Polish identity; the Grand Duchy of Lithuania became an pften neglected annex to the Polish Kingdom.
In the POLISH PARTITIONS of 1772, 1793 and 1795, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, step by step, was annexed into the Russian Empire.
For the history of the central and southern parts of the Grand Duchy with an Orthodox population, see Ruthenia.

B.) Catholic Lithuania, 1569-1795

The cultural center of Catholic Lthuania was VILNIUS; the city was the seat of a bishopric. In 1579 the UNIVERSITY OF VILNIUS was founded, the oldest university in Eastern Europe. The Polish crown supported the Counterreformation, and Lithuania, where the reformation previously had gained some ground, was won for Tridentine Catholicism. Under Bishop Merkelis Giedraitis of Samogitia, the first book in Lithuanian language was printed in the late 16th century; yet Lithuanian was rerely used in writing; Latin and Polish dominated as languages of education, administration and jurisdiction.
The ethnically Lithuanian regions within the DUCHY IN PRUSSIA were converted to LUTHERANISM in 1525, with the mass held in German and children given elementary education in German language. The area was called LITTLE LITHUANIA.
Centuries of dominant Polish influence - the University at Vilnius, as a center of the Counterreformation, also was a center of Polish culture - communities with a Polish identity emerged on the southeastern border of the Lithuanian ethnicity, in part a result of immigration, in part of assimilation.
Most of Catholic Lithuania was annexed by Russia in the THIRD POLISH PARTITION in 1795. A small part of Catholic Lithuania, the area located to the west of the Nemunas (Njemen, Memel) River, in 1795 was annexed by Prussia (to remain Prussian for only a brief period).

Links to Lithuanian history from SRC
History of Lithuania, from Scantours
History of Lithuania, from Ramunas' Personal Pages
Chronology of Catholic Dioceses - :Lithuania, from Den Katolske Kirke i Norge
Articles Lithuania, Lublin (on Union of Lublin), from Catholic Encyclopedia 1912 edition
Lithuanian Classic Literature Anthology
On ethnicity of Magnates in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, from Artium Unitio
DOCUMENTS Lithuanian Grand Dukes from Information about Lithuania
Maps of The Baltic Lands, 1617, The Baltic Lands 1701, The Baltic Lands 1772, from Freeman's Historical Geography 1903, posted by Perry Castaneda Library, UTexas
Map of 1579 featuring western Lithuania, Map of 1635, by Hondius, featuring Lithuania, Map of 1739 of Poland and Lithuania, from Polish Museum, Rapperswil
REFERENCE Manfred Hellmann, Grundzüge der Geschichte Litauens (Main Features of Lithuania's History), Darmstadt : Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft 1976 (in German)

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on November 11th 2004

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