1863-1914 1918-1922

German stamps overprinted Postgebiet Ober-Ost (postal area upper east).
For use in occupied Lithuania and Courland

Lithuania during World War I, 1914-1918

Lithuania - i.e. those areas of the Russian Empire where the vast majority of the population spoke and felt Lithuanian and adhered to Catholicism (as opposed to the much larger historical Duchy of Lithuania) was occupied by German troops during 1915. The retreating Russian troops induced many Lithuanians to flee with them.
Lithuania was administratively made part of the occupied area called OBER-OST, administrated by German officers. The German administration constructed railway lines and undertook other steps to modernise the country; on the other hand it demanded deliveries of agricultural and forestry products and ordered the local population to join labour battalions; this harsh treatment resulted in much grievance. Geographically, the District of Lithuania, under German military occupation, included the Russian Gouvernement of Kowno (Kaunas) and the western parts of the Government of Wilna (Vilnius), with the circles of Vilnius, Troki and with parts of Swenzjany. This Lithuania had an area of 63,225 square km and a population, in 1917, of 1,928,000 inhabitants.
In 1917, with the consent of the German military administration, political assemblies were held and Lithuania's political future discussed. Meanwhile in Russia the Revolution had established a new situation; the Lithuanian community in Russia also began to organize itself.
On November 29th German chancellor Graf Hertling, in the Reichstag, announced Lithuania's independence; the Lithuanian organization TARYBA proclaimed independence on Dec. 11th, adding that VILNIUS was to be the young kingdom's capital (also claimed by Poland). Lithuania received recognition by Germany March 23rd 1918. A constitution was drafted, Duke Wilhelm von Urach elected King of Lithuania (July 9th 1918).

Germany's arrangements in formerly Russian territory were not recognized by the Entente when Germany asked for an armistice on November 11th 1918. Lithuania changed from a monarchy into a republic; representatives of the Lithuanian exile community were included in the Taryba; a national government was formed.

History of Lithuania, from Scantours
DOCUMENTS Banknotes German Occupation Ober-Ost, from Geldscheine Online, comment in German
REFERENCE David G. Kirby, The Baltic World 1772-1993, London : Longman 1995
Manfred Hellmann, Grundzüge der Geschichte Litauens (Main Features of Lithuania's History), Darmstadt : Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft 1976 (in German)
Presseabteilung Ober-Ost (ed.) : Das Land Ober-Ost. Deutsche Arbeit in den Verwaltungsgebieten Kurland, Litauen und Bialystok-Grodno (The Land Ober-Ost : German Effort in the Administrative Regions of Courland, Lithuania and Bialystok-Grodno), Stuttgart : Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt 1917; an official publication by the military administration of the occupied region

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

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