Grand Duchy of Lithuania

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The Grand Duchy of Lithuania
Lithuania
Lithuania , officially the Republic of Lithuania is a country in Northern Europe, the biggest of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, whereby to the west lie Sweden and Denmark...

was a European state from the 12th /13th century until 1569 and then as a constituent part of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth was a dualistic state of Poland and Lithuania ruled by a common monarch. It was the largest and one of the most populous countries of 16th- and 17th‑century Europe with some and a multi-ethnic population of 11 million at its peak in the early 17th century...

 until 1791 when Constitution of May 3, 1791
Constitution of May 3, 1791
The Constitution of May 3, 1791 was adopted as a "Government Act" on that date by the Sejm of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. Historian Norman Davies calls it "the first constitution of its type in Europe"; other scholars also refer to it as the world's second oldest constitution...

 abolished it in favor of unitary state. It was founded by the Lithuanians
Lithuanians
Lithuanians are the Baltic ethnic group native to Lithuania, where they number around 2,765,600 people. Another million or more make up the Lithuanian diaspora, largely found in countries such as the United States, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Russia, United Kingdom and Ireland. Their native language...

, one of the polytheistic
Lithuanian mythology
Lithuanian mythology is an example of Baltic mythology, developed by Lithuanians throughout the centuries.-History of scholarship:Surviving information about Baltic paganism in general is very sketchy and incomplete. As with most ancient Indo-European cultures Lithuanian mythology is an example of...

 Baltic tribes from Aukštaitija
Aukštaitija
Aukštaitija is the name of one of five ethnographic regions of Lithuania. The name comes from the relatively high elevation of the region, particularly the eastern parts.-Geography:...

. The duchy later expanded to include large portions of the former Kievan Rus'
Kievan Rus'
Kievan Rus was a medieval polity in Eastern Europe, from the late 9th to the mid 13th century, when it disintegrated under the pressure of the Mongol invasion of 1237–1240....

 and other Slavic lands, covering the territory of present-day Belarus
Belarus
Belarus , officially the Republic of Belarus, is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, bordered clockwise by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Its capital is Minsk; other major cities include Brest, Grodno , Gomel ,...

, Latvia
Latvia
Latvia , officially the Republic of Latvia , is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by Estonia , to the south by Lithuania , to the east by the Russian Federation , to the southeast by Belarus and shares maritime borders to the west with Sweden...

, Lithuania
Lithuania
Lithuania , officially the Republic of Lithuania is a country in Northern Europe, the biggest of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, whereby to the west lie Sweden and Denmark...

  and parts of Estonia
Estonia
Estonia , officially the Republic of Estonia , is a state in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea, to the south by Latvia , and to the east by Lake Peipsi and the Russian Federation . Across the Baltic Sea lies...

, Moldova
Moldova
Moldova , officially the Republic of Moldova is a landlocked state in Eastern Europe, located between Romania to the West and Ukraine to the North, East and South. It declared itself an independent state with the same boundaries as the preceding Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1991, as part...

, Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

, Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 and Ukraine
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

. At its greatest extent in the 15th century, it was the largest state in Europe. 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
Mindaugas
Mindaugas was the first known Grand Duke of Lithuania and the only King of Lithuania. Little is known of his origins, early life, or rise to power; he is mentioned in a 1219 treaty as an elder duke, and in 1236 as the leader of all the Lithuanians...

, the first ruler of Grand Duchy, was crowned as Catholic
Catholicism
Catholicism is a broad term for the body of the Catholic faith, its theologies and doctrines, its liturgical, ethical, spiritual, and behavioral characteristics, as well as a religious people as a whole....

 King of Lithuania in 1253. The pagan state was targeted in the religious crusade by the Teutonic Knights
Teutonic Knights
The Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem , commonly the Teutonic Order , is a German medieval military order, in modern times a purely religious Catholic order...

 and the Livonian Order
Livonian Order
The Livonian Order was an autonomous Livonian branch of the Teutonic Order and a member of the Livonian Confederation from 1435–1561. After being defeated by Samogitians in the 1236 Battle of Schaulen , the remnants of the Livonian Brothers of the Sword were incorporated into the Teutonic Knights...

. The multi-ethnic and multi-confessional state emerged only at the late reign of Gediminas and continued to expand under his son Algirdas
Algirdas
Algirdas was a monarch of medieval Lithuania. Algirdas ruled the Grand Duchy of Lithuania from 1345 to 1377, which chiefly meant monarch of Lithuanians and Ruthenians...

. Algirdas's successor Jogaila
Jogaila
Jogaila, later 'He is known under a number of names: ; ; . See also: Jogaila : names and titles. was Grand Duke of Lithuania , king consort of Kingdom of Poland , and sole King of Poland . He ruled in Lithuania from 1377, at first with his uncle Kęstutis...

 signed the Union of Kreva in 1386, bringing two major changes in the history of Grand Duchy of Lithuania: conversion into Catholicism
Christianization of Lithuania
The Christianization of Lithuania – Christianization of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania that took place in 1387, initiated by the King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania Jogaila and his cousin Vytautas, that signified the official adoption of Christianity by Lithuanians, one of the last pagan...

 and establishment of a dynastic union
Dynastic union
A dynastic union is the combination by which two different states are governed by the same dynasty, while their boundaries, their laws and their interests remain distinct...

 between the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of Poland
Kingdom of Poland (1385–1569)
The Kingdom of Poland of the Jagiellons was the Polish state created by the accession of Jogaila , Grand Duke of Lithuania, to the Polish throne in 1386. The Union of Krewo or Krėva Act, united Poland and Lithuania under the rule of a single monarch...

.

The reign of Vytautas the Great
Vytautas the Great
Vytautas ; styled "the Great" from the 15th century onwards; c. 1350 October 27, 1430) was one of the most famous rulers of medieval Lithuania. Vytautas was the ruler of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania which chiefly encompassed the Lithuanians and Ruthenians...

 marked both the greatest territorial expansion of the Grand Duchy and defeat of the Teutonic Knights in the Battle of Grunwald
Battle of Grunwald
The Battle of Grunwald or 1st Battle of Tannenberg was fought on 15 July 1410, during the Polish–Lithuanian–Teutonic War. The alliance of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, led respectively by King Jogaila and Grand Duke Vytautas , decisively defeated the Teutonic Knights, led...

 in 1410. It also marked the rise of the Lithuanian nobility. After Vytautas's death, Lithuania's relationship with the Kingdom of Poland
Kingdom of Poland (1385–1569)
The Kingdom of Poland of the Jagiellons was the Polish state created by the accession of Jogaila , Grand Duke of Lithuania, to the Polish throne in 1386. The Union of Krewo or Krėva Act, united Poland and Lithuania under the rule of a single monarch...

 greatly deteriorated. Lithuanian noblemen, including the Radziwiłłs, attempted to break the personal union with Poland. However, the unsuccessful Muscovite–Lithuanian Wars
Muscovite–Lithuanian Wars
The Muscovite–Lithuanian Wars The conflicts are referred to as 'Muscovite wars' in Polish historiography and as 'Lithuanian wars' in Russian one; English historiography uses both, ex...

 with the Grand Duchy of Moscow
Grand Duchy of Moscow
The Grand Duchy of Moscow or Grand Principality of Moscow, also known in English simply as Muscovy , was a late medieval Rus' principality centered on Moscow, and the predecessor state of the early modern Tsardom of Russia....

 forced the union to remain intact. Eventually, the Union of Lublin
Union of Lublin
The Union of Lublin replaced the personal union of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania with a real union and an elective monarchy, since Sigismund II Augustus, the last of the Jagiellons, remained childless after three marriages. In addition, the autonomy of Royal Prussia was...

 of 1569 created a new state, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. In this federation
Federation
A federation , also known as a federal state, is a type of sovereign state characterized by a union of partially self-governing states or regions united by a central government...

, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania maintained its political distinctiveness and had a separate government, laws, army, and treasury. The Commonwealth failed to prevent territorial losses to expanding Russia. After a series of devastating wars, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was partitioned among the Russian Empire
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

, Prussia
Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

 and Austria
Habsburg Monarchy
The Habsburg Monarchy covered the territories ruled by the junior Austrian branch of the House of Habsburg , and then by the successor House of Habsburg-Lorraine , between 1526 and 1867/1918. The Imperial capital was Vienna, except from 1583 to 1611, when it was moved to Prague...

 in 1795.

Names


According to the Statutes of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania the complete name of the state is Grand Duchy of Lithuania
Lithuania
Lithuania , officially the Republic of Lithuania is a country in Northern Europe, the biggest of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, whereby to the west lie Sweden and Denmark...

, Russia
Rus' (region)
Rus' is an ethno-cultural region in Eastern Europe inhabited by Eastern Slavs. Historically, it comprises the northern part of Ukraine, the north-western part of Russia, Belarus and some eastern parts of Poland and Slovakia.The name comes from Old East Slavic , and remains the same in modern...

 and Samogitia
Samogitia
Samogitia is one of the five ethnographic regions of Lithuania. It is located in northwestern Lithuania. Its largest city is Šiauliai/Šiaulē. The region has a long and distinct cultural history, reflected in the existence of the Samogitian dialect...

(Official language
Ruthenian language
Ruthenian, or Old Ruthenian , is a term used for the varieties of Eastern Slavonic spoken in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and later in the East Slavic territories of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth....

: Великого князства Литовского, Руского, Жомойтского и иных).
The title of "Grand Duchy" was consistently applied to Lithuania from the 14th century onward.

In other languages, the Grand Duchy is referred to as:
  • Old literary Lithuanian: Didi Kunigiste Letuvos
  • Ruthenian
    Ruthenian language
    Ruthenian, or Old Ruthenian , is a term used for the varieties of Eastern Slavonic spoken in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and later in the East Slavic territories of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth....

    : Великое князство Литовское, Руское, Жомойтское и иных

Establishment of the state




The first written reference to Lithuania
Name of Lithuania
The first known record of the name of Lithuania is in a 9 March 1009 story of Saint Bruno recorded in the Quedlinburg Chronicle . The Chronicle recorded a Latinized Slavic form of the name Lietuva: Litua pronounced [litvā]...

 is found in the Quedlinburg Chronicle, which dates from 1009. In the 12th century, Slavic chronicles refer to Lithuania as one of the areas attacked by the Rus'. At first pagan Lithuanians paid tribute
Tribute
A tribute is wealth, often in kind, that one party gives to another as a sign of respect or, as was often the case in historical contexts, of submission or allegiance. Various ancient states, which could be called suzerains, exacted tribute from areas they had conquered or threatened to conquer...

 to Polotsk, but 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
Slavic peoples
The Slavic people are an Indo-European panethnicity living in Eastern Europe, Southeast Europe, North Asia and Central Asia. The term Slavic represents a broad ethno-linguistic group of people, who speak languages belonging to the Slavic language family and share, to varying degrees, certain...

 provinces, raiding the Principality of Polotsk as well as Pskov
Pskov
Pskov is an ancient city and the administrative center of Pskov Oblast, Russia, located in the northwest of Russia about east from the Estonian border, on the Velikaya River. Population: -Early history:...

, and even threatening Novgorod. The sudden spark of military raids marked consolidation of the Lithuanian lands in Aukštaitija
Aukštaitija
Aukštaitija is the name of one of five ethnographic regions of Lithuania. The name comes from the relatively high elevation of the region, particularly the eastern parts.-Geography:...

.

The Livonian Order
Livonian Order
The Livonian Order was an autonomous Livonian branch of the Teutonic Order and a member of the Livonian Confederation from 1435–1561. After being defeated by Samogitians in the 1236 Battle of Schaulen , the remnants of the Livonian Brothers of the Sword were incorporated into the Teutonic Knights...

 and Teutonic Knights
Teutonic Knights
The Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem , commonly the Teutonic Order , is a German medieval military order, in modern times a purely religious Catholic order...

, crusading military order
Military order
A military order is a Christian society of knights that was founded for crusading, i.e. propagating or defending the faith , either in the Holy Land or against Islam or pagans in Europe...

s, were established in Riga
Riga
Riga is the capital and largest city of Latvia. With 702,891 inhabitants Riga is the largest city of the Baltic states, one of the largest cities in Northern Europe and home to more than one third of Latvia's population. The city is an important seaport and a major industrial, commercial,...

 in 1202 and in Prussia
Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

 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 Samogitia
Samogitia
Samogitia is one of the five ethnographic regions of Lithuania. It is located in northwestern Lithuania. Its largest city is Šiauliai/Šiaulē. The region has a long and distinct cultural history, reflected in the existence of the Samogitian dialect...

ns. This treaty lists 21 Lithuanian dukes, including five senior Lithuanian dukes from Aukštaitija
Aukštaitija
Aukštaitija is the name of one of five ethnographic regions of Lithuania. The name comes from the relatively high elevation of the region, particularly the eastern parts.-Geography:...

 (Živinbudas
Živinbudas
Živinbudas was one of the five senior Lithuanian dukes mentioned in the treaty with Halych-Volhynia in 1219. The treaty lists a total of 21 dukes, five of them being elder or superior. Since Živinbudas is mentioned first in the list, it is presumed that he was the supreme ruler of Lithuania...

, Daujotas
Daujotas
Daujotas was one of the 5 elder Lithuanian dukes mentioned in the peace treaty with Halych-Volhynia in 1219. In the same document Vilikaila is mentioned as brother of Daujotas which leads to believe that Daujotas was the older or perhaps more influential brother. The brothers are not mentioned in...

, Vilikaila
Vilikaila
Vilikaila or Viligaila was one of the 5 elder Lithuanian dukes mentioned in the peace treaty with Halych-Volhynia in 1219. He is mentioned as brother of Daujotas, which leads to believe he was the younger or perhaps less influential brother. He is not mentioned in any other sources...

, Dausprungas
Dausprungas
Dausprungas was older brother of Mindaugas, the first King of Lithuania. Dausprungas is mentioned only once in the peace treaty with Halych-Volhynia in 1219 among the 21 early dukes of Lithuania as one of the five elder dukes...

 and Mindaugas
Mindaugas
Mindaugas was the first known Grand Duke of Lithuania and the only King of Lithuania. Little is known of his origins, early life, or rise to power; he is mentioned in a 1219 treaty as an elder duke, and in 1236 as the leader of all the Lithuanians...

) and several dukes from Samogitia
Samogitia
Samogitia is one of the five ethnographic regions of Lithuania. It is located in northwestern Lithuania. Its largest city is Šiauliai/Šiaulē. The region has a long and distinct cultural history, reflected in the existence of the Samogitian dialect...

. Although they had battled in the past, the Lithuanians and the Samogitians now faced a common enemy. Likely Živinbudas had most authority and at least several dukes were from the same families. 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 Lithuania


Mindaugas, duke of southern Lithuania, was among the five senior dukes, mentioned in the treaty with Galicia–Volhynia. According to the Livonian Rhymed Chronicle
Livonian Rhymed Chronicle
The Livonian Rhymed Chronicle was a chronicle written in Low German by an anonymous writer. It covers the period 1180 – 1290 and contains a wealth of detail about Livonia — modern Estonia and Latvia....

, by mid-1230s Mindaugas acquired supreme power in the whole of Lithuania. In 1236, the Samogitia
Samogitia
Samogitia is one of the five ethnographic regions of Lithuania. It is located in northwestern Lithuania. Its largest city is Šiauliai/Šiaulē. The region has a long and distinct cultural history, reflected in the existence of the Samogitian dialect...

ns, led by Vykintas
Vykintas
thumb|200 px|Monument to Duke Vykintas in TveraiVykintas was Duke of Samogitia and rival to future King of Lithuania Mindaugas. In 1236 he probably led Samogitian forces in the Battle of Saule against the Livonian Order...

, defeated the Livonian Order
Livonian Order
The Livonian Order was an autonomous Livonian branch of the Teutonic Order and a member of the Livonian Confederation from 1435–1561. After being defeated by Samogitians in the 1236 Battle of Schaulen , the remnants of the Livonian Brothers of the Sword were incorporated into the Teutonic Knights...

 in the Battle of Saule. The Order was forced to become a branch of the Teutonic Knights
Teutonic Knights
The Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem , commonly the Teutonic Order , is a German medieval military order, in modern times a purely religious Catholic order...

 in Prussia. That meant that Samogitia, a strip of land that separated Livonia from Prussia, became 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 Hrodna
Hrodna
Grodno or Hrodna , is a city in Belarus. It is located on the Neman River , close to the borders of Poland and Lithuania . It has 327,540 inhabitants...

.

In 1248 a civil war broke out between Mindaugas and his nephews Tautvilas
Tautvilas
Tautvilas was Duke of Polatsk and one of the sons of Dausprungas and nephews of King of Lithuania Mindaugas. Tautvilas together with his brother Edivydas and uncle Vykintas waged a civil war against Mindaugas...

 and Edivydas. The powerful coalition against Mindaugas included Vykintas, the Livonian Order, Daniel of Galicia, and Vasilko of Volhynia. Mindaugas, taking advantage of internal conflicts, allied with the Livonian Order. He promised to convert to Christianity and gift some lands in western Lithuania in exchange for military assistance against his nephews and the royal crown. In 1251 Mindaugas was baptized and Pope Innocent IV
Pope Innocent IV
Pope Innocent IV , born Sinibaldo Fieschi, was pope from June 25, 1243 until his death in 1254.-Early life:...

 issued a papal bull
Papal bull
A Papal bull is a particular type of letters patent or charter issued by a Pope of the Catholic Church. It is named after the bulla that was appended to the end in order to authenticate it....

, proclaiming the creation of the Kingdom of Lithuania
Kingdom of Lithuania
The Kingdom of Lithuania was a Lithuanian monarchy which existed from 1251 to roughly 1263. King Mindaugas was the first and only crowned king of Lithuania. The status of a kingdom was lost after Mindaugas' assassination in 1263. Other monarchs of Lithuania are referred to as Grand Dukes, even...

. After the civil war ended, Mindaugas was crowned as King of Lithuania on July 6, 1253, starting a decade of relative peace. Mindaugas tried to expand his influence in Polatsk
Polatsk
Polotsk , is a historical city in Belarus, situated on the Dvina river. It is the center of Polotsk district in Vitsebsk Voblast. Its population is more than 80,000 people...

, a major center of commerce in the Daugava River basin, and Pinsk
Pinsk
Pinsk , a town in Belarus, in the Polesia region, traversed by the river Pripyat, at the confluence of the Strumen and Pina rivers. The region was known as the Marsh of Pinsk. It is a fertile agricultural center. It lies south-west of Minsk. The population is about 130,000...

. The Teutonic Knights used this period to strengthen its position in parts of Samogitia
Samogitia
Samogitia is one of the five ethnographic regions of Lithuania. It is located in northwestern Lithuania. Its largest city is Šiauliai/Šiaulē. The region has a long and distinct cultural history, reflected in the existence of the Samogitian dialect...

 and Livonia
Livonia
Livonia is a historic region along the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea. It was once the land of the Finnic Livonians inhabiting the principal ancient Livonian County Metsepole with its center at Turaida...

, but lost the Battle of Skuodas
Battle of Skuodas
The Battle of Skuodas or Schoden was a medieval battle fought in ca. 1259 near Skuodas in present-day Lithuania during the Northern Crusades. The Samogitian army of 3,000 invaded Courland and on their way back defeated the Livonian Order, killing 33 knights and many more low-rank soldiers...

 in 1259 and the Battle of Durbe
Battle of Durbe
-External links:**...

 in 1260. These losses encouraged conquered Semigallians
Semigallians
Semigallians were the Baltic tribe that lived in the southcentral part of contemporary Latvia and northern Lithuania...

 and Prussians
Old Prussians
The Old Prussians or Baltic Prussians were an ethnic group, autochthonous Baltic tribes that inhabited Prussia, the lands of the southeastern Baltic Sea in the area around the Vistula and Curonian Lagoons...

 to rebel against the Knights.

Encouraged by Treniota
Treniota
Treniota was the Grand Duke of Lithuania .Treniota was the nephew of Mindaugas, the first and only king of Lithuania. While Mindaugas had converted to Christianity in order to discourage Livonian Order and Teutonic Knights attacks on Lithuania, becoming king in the process, Treniota remained a...

, Mindaugas broke the peace with the Order, possibly relapsed into his old beliefs
Lithuanian mythology
Lithuanian mythology is an example of Baltic mythology, developed by Lithuanians throughout the centuries.-History of scholarship:Surviving information about Baltic paganism in general is very sketchy and incomplete. As with most ancient Indo-European cultures Lithuanian mythology is an example of...

, and allied with Alexander Nevsky
Alexander Nevsky
Alexander Nevsky was the Prince of Novgorod and Grand Prince of Vladimir during some of the most trying times in the city's history. Commonly regarded as the key figure of medieval Rus, Alexander was the grandson of Vsevolod the Big Nest and rose to legendary status on account of his military...

 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
Daumantas of Pskov
Daumantas, later Dovmont , Christian name Timothy , ; c. 1240? – May 17, 1299), was a Lithuanian princeling best remembered as a military leader of the Pskov Republic between 1266 and 1299...

 assassinated Mindaugas and his two sons, Ruklys and Rupeikis, in 1263. The state lapsed into years of internal fights.

Rise of the Gediminids




From 1263 to 1269, Lithuania had three Grand Dukes – Treniota
Treniota
Treniota was the Grand Duke of Lithuania .Treniota was the nephew of Mindaugas, the first and only king of Lithuania. While Mindaugas had converted to Christianity in order to discourage Livonian Order and Teutonic Knights attacks on Lithuania, becoming king in the process, Treniota remained a...

, Vaišvilkas
Vaišvilkas
Vaišelga or Vaišvilkas was the Grand Duke of Lithuania...

, and Svarn
Svarn
Shvarn or Shvarno was the knyaz of western parts of Galicia. An influential leader, he became involved in internal struggles of power within neighboring Grand Duchy of Lithuania and briefly was the Grand Duke...

. However, the state did not disintegrate and Traidenis
Traidenis
Traidenis was the Grand Duke Lithuania from 1270 till 1282. He is the second most prominent, after Mindaugas, Grand Duke of Lithuania in the 13th century. His reign ended a seven-year unrest period after Mindaugas was assassinated in 1263 and firmly established the Grand Duchy as a pagan state...

 came to power in 1269. He strengthened Lithuanian control in Black Ruthenia
Black Ruthenia
Black Ruthenia, Black Rus or Black Russia are variant conventional terms used for a region around Navahrudak , in the western part of contemporary Belarus on the upper reaches of the Neman River for the time period between the 13th and 14th centuries...

 and fought with the Livonian Order, winning the Battle of Karuse
Battle of Karuse
Battle of Karuse or Battle on the Ice was fought on February 16, 1270 between the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Livonian Order on the frozen Baltic Sea. In 1270 Lithuanians and Semigallians led by Traidenis, Grand Duke of Lithuania from ca. 1269 to 1282, raided Livonia and reached as far as...

 in 1270 and the Battle of Aizkraukle
Battle of Aizkraukle
The Battle of Aizkraukle or Ascheraden was a battle fought on March 5, 1279 between the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, led by Traidenis, and the Livonian Order near Aizkraukle in present-day Latvia. The Order suffered a great defeat: 71 knights, the Grand Master Ernst von Rassburg, and the leader of...

 in 1279. There is considerable uncertainty about the identities of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania between Traidenis' death in 1282 and Vytenis
Vytenis
Vytenis was the Grand Duke of Lithuania from c. 1295 to c. 1316. He became the first of the Gediminid dynasty to rule for a considerable amount of time. In the early 14th century his reputation outshone that of Gediminas, who is regarded by modern historians as one of the greatest Lithuanian rulers...

' assumption of power 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
Nadruvians
The Nadruvians were one of the now-extinct Prussian clans. They lived in Nadruvia , a large territory in northernmost Prussia...

 and Skalvians
Skalvians
The Scalovians , also known as the Skalvians, Schalwen and Schalmen, were a Baltic tribe related to the Prussians. According to the Chronicon terrae Prussiae of Peter of Dusburg, the now extinct Scalovians inhabited the land of Scalovia south of the Curonians and Samogitians, by the lower Neman...

 in 1274–1277, and the Yotvingians
Yotvingians
Yotvingians or Sudovians were a Baltic people with close cultural ties to the Lithuanians and Prussians...

 in 1283; the Livonian Order completed its conquest of Semigalia, the last Baltic ally of Lithuania, in 1291. 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.

Gediminids
Gediminids
The Gediminids were a dynasty of monarchs of Grand Duchy of Lithuania that reigned from the 14th to the 16th century. One branch of this dynasty, known as the Jagiellons, reigned also in Kingdom of Poland, Kingdom of Hungary and Kingdom of Bohemia...

 dynasty has ruled Grand Duchy of Lithuania for several centuries, and Vytenis was the first ruler from the dynasty. His reign saw constant warfare with the Order, the Kingdom of Poland, and Ruthenia. Vytenis was involved in succession disputes in Poland, supporting Boleslaus II of Masovia
Boleslaus II of Masovia
Boleslaw II of Masovia or Boleslaw II of Płock was a ruler of Masovia. He was the younger brother Konrad II of Masovia and son of Siemowit I of Masovia. His mother was Pereyaslava , daughter of Daniel of Galicia....

, who was married to a Lithuanian duchess Gaudemunda
Gaudemunda of Lithuania
Gaudemunda Sophia, Princess of Lithuania was a daughter of Traidenis, Grand Duke of Lithuania . In 1279 she married Duke of Masovia Boleslaw II of the Piast dynasty...

. In Ruthenia, Vytenis managed to recapture lands lost after the assassination of Mindaugas and capture the principalities of Pinsk
Pinsk
Pinsk , a town in Belarus, in the Polesia region, traversed by the river Pripyat, at the confluence of the Strumen and Pina rivers. The region was known as the Marsh of Pinsk. It is a fertile agricultural center. It lies south-west of Minsk. The population is about 130,000...

 and Turaŭ
Turau
Turaŭ or Turaw is a town in the Zhytkavichy Raion of Homiel Province of Belarus and the former capital of the medieval Principality of Turov and Pinsk.-History:...

. In the struggle against the Order, Vytenis allied with citizens of Riga
Riga
Riga is the capital and largest city of Latvia. With 702,891 inhabitants Riga is the largest city of the Baltic states, one of the largest cities in Northern Europe and home to more than one third of Latvia's population. The city is an important seaport and a major industrial, commercial,...

. Securing positions in Riga strengthened trade routes and provided a base for further military campaigns towards. Around 1307, Polotsk, an important trading center, was annexed by military force. Vytenis also began the construction of defensive castle network along the Neman River
Neman River
Neman or Niemen or Nemunas, is a major Eastern European river rising in Belarus and flowing through Lithuania before draining into the Curonian Lagoon and then into the Baltic Sea at Klaipėda. It is the northern border between Lithuania and Russia's Kaliningrad Oblast in its lower reaches...

. Gradually this network developed into the main defensive line against the Teutonic Order.

Territorial expansion



The expansion reached its heights under Gediminas, who created a strong central government and established an empire, which later spread from the Black Sea
Black Sea
The Black Sea is bounded by Europe, Anatolia and the Caucasus and is ultimately connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Mediterranean and the Aegean seas and various straits. The Bosphorus strait connects it to the Sea of Marmara, and the strait of the Dardanelles connects that sea to the Aegean...

 to the Baltic Sea
Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea is a brackish mediterranean sea located in Northern Europe, from 53°N to 66°N latitude and from 20°E to 26°E longitude. It is bounded by the Scandinavian Peninsula, the mainland of Europe, and the Danish islands. It drains into the Kattegat by way of the Øresund, the Great Belt and...

. In 1320, most of the principalities of Western Rus' were either vassaled or annexed by Lithuania. In 1321 Gediminas captured Kiev
Battle on the Irpen' River
The Battle on the Irpin River occurred in early 1320s between the armies of Gediminas, the Grand Duke of Lithuania, and Prince Stanislav of Kiev, allied with Oleg of Pereyaslavl' and Roman of Bryansk. On the small Irpin River about south west of Kiev, Gediminas resoundingly defeated Stanislav and...

 sending Stanislav, the last Rurikid to ever rule Kiev
Kiev
Kiev or Kyiv is the capital and the largest city of Ukraine, located in the north central part of the country on the Dnieper River. The population as of the 2001 census was 2,611,300. However, higher numbers have been cited in the press....

, into exile. Gediminas also re-established the permanent capital of Grand Duchy of Lithuania in Vilnius
Vilnius
Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania, and its largest city, with a population of 560,190 as of 2010. It is the seat of the Vilnius city municipality and of the Vilnius district municipality. It is also the capital of Vilnius County...

, which was presumably moved from Trakai in 1323. Some researches, including 16th century Maciej Stryjkowski
Maciej Stryjkowski
Maciej Stryjkowski was a Polish-Lithuanian historian, writer and a poet, notable as the author of Chronicle of Poland, Lithuania, Samogitia and all of Ruthenia , amongst other aspects of this work considered the first printed book on the history of Lithuania.-Biography:Maciej Stryjkowski was...

 claim that Navahrudak was the capital of the 13th century state.

Lithuania was in an ideal position to inherit the western and the southern parts of Kievan Rus'
Kievan Rus'
Kievan Rus was a medieval polity in Eastern Europe, from the late 9th to the mid 13th century, when it disintegrated under the pressure of the Mongol invasion of 1237–1240....

. While almost every other state around it had been plundered or defeated by the Mongols, their hordes stopped at the modern borders of Belarus and most of the territory of Grand Duchy of Lithuania was left untouched. The expansion of Lithuania was also accelerated because of the weak control the Mongols had over the areas they had conquered. Rus' principalities were never incorporated directly into the Golden Horde
Golden Horde
The Golden Horde was a Mongol and later Turkicized khanate that formed the north-western sector of the Mongol Empire...

. Instead, they were always vassal states with a fair degree of independence. The rise of Lithuania occurred at the ideal time when they could expand while meeting very little resistance in the territories populated by East Slavs and only limited opposition from the Mongols.

But Grand Duchy of Lithuania was not built only on military aggression, as its existence always depended on diplomacy just as much as on arms. Most, while not all, cities it annexed were never defeated in battle but agreed to be vassals of Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Since most of them were already vassals of the Golden Horde or of the Grand Prince of Moscow
Grand Prince of Moscow
This is a list of Princes and Grand Princes of Russian Grand Duchy of Moscow.Note: the first 3 Princes are not members of the family of Daniel of Russia and their ownership of Moscow is disputed.- Princes of Moscow :* Vladimir Yuryevich This is a list of Princes and Grand Princes of Russian Grand...

, such a decision was not one of giving up independence but rather of exchanging one master for another. This can be seen in the case of Novgorod, which was often brought into the Lithuanian sphere of influence and became an occasional dependency of Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Rather, Lithuanian control was the result of internal frictions within the city, which attempted to escape submission to Moscovia. This method of building the state was, however, unstable. The change of internal politics within a city could pull it out of Lithuania's control, as happened on a number of occasions with Novgorod and other East-Slavic cities.

Union with Poland



Lithuania was Christianized in 1387. Christianization was led by Jogaila, who personally translated Christian prayers into the Lithuanian language
Lithuanian language
Lithuanian is the official state language of Lithuania and is recognized as one of the official languages of the European Union. There are about 2.96 million native Lithuanian speakers in Lithuania and about 170,000 abroad. Lithuanian is a Baltic language, closely related to Latvian, although they...

. The state reached a peak under Vytautas the Great
Vytautas the Great
Vytautas ; styled "the Great" from the 15th century onwards; c. 1350 October 27, 1430) was one of the most famous rulers of medieval Lithuania. Vytautas was the ruler of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania which chiefly encompassed the Lithuanians and Ruthenians...

, who reigned from 1392 to 1430. Vytautas was one of the most famous rulers of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. He was the Grand Duke
Grand Duke
The title grand duke is used in Western Europe and particularly in Germanic countries for provincial sovereigns. Grand duke is of a protocolary rank below a king but higher than a sovereign duke. Grand duke is also the usual and established translation of grand prince in languages which do not...

 from 1401–1430, also the Prince
Prince
Prince is a general term for a ruler, monarch or member of a monarch's or former monarch's family, and is a hereditary title in the nobility of some European states. The feminine equivalent is a princess...

 of Hrodna
Hrodna
Grodno or Hrodna , is a city in Belarus. It is located on the Neman River , close to the borders of Poland and Lithuania . It has 327,540 inhabitants...

 (1370–1382) and the Prince of Lutsk
Lutsk
Lutsk is a city located by the Styr River in northwestern Ukraine. It is the administrative center of the Volyn Oblast and the administrative center of the surrounding Lutskyi Raion within the oblast...

 (1387–1389). Vytautas was the son of Kęstutis
Kestutis
Kęstutis was monarch of medieval Lithuania. He was the Duke of Trakai and governed the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, 1342–82, together with his brother Algirdas , and with his nephew Jogaila...

, cousin of Jogaila
Jogaila
Jogaila, later 'He is known under a number of names: ; ; . See also: Jogaila : names and titles. was Grand Duke of Lithuania , king consort of Kingdom of Poland , and sole King of Poland . He ruled in Lithuania from 1377, at first with his uncle Kęstutis...

, who became King of Poland in 1386, and grandfather of Vasili II of Moscow. In 1410, Vytautas himself commanded the forces of the Grand Duchy in the Battle of Grunwald
Battle of Grunwald
The Battle of Grunwald or 1st Battle of Tannenberg was fought on 15 July 1410, during the Polish–Lithuanian–Teutonic War. The alliance of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, led respectively by King Jogaila and Grand Duke Vytautas , decisively defeated the Teutonic Knights, led...

. The battle ended in a decisive Polish-Lithuanian victory against the Teutonic Order. Vytautas backed economic development of his 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 Grand Duchy of Lithuania. During Vytautas' rule, the Radziwiłł and Goštautas families started to gain influence.

The speedy expansion of Moscovia's influence soon put it into a position to rival Grand Duchy of Lithuania, however, and after the annexation of Novgorod in 1478, Moscovia was unquestionably the preeminent state in Northeastern Europe. Between 1492 and 1508, Ivan III, after winning the key Battle of Vedrosha
Battle of Vedrosha
The battle on the Vedrosha River was a battle in the course of the Russo-Lithuanian war of 1500-1503 which ended with a decisive Russian victory and proved to be of strategic significance...

, regained such ancient lands of Rus
Kievan Rus'
Kievan Rus was a medieval polity in Eastern Europe, from the late 9th to the mid 13th century, when it disintegrated under the pressure of the Mongol invasion of 1237–1240....

 as Chernigov and Bryansk
Bryansk
Bryansk is a city and the administrative center of Bryansk Oblast, Russia, located southwest of Moscow. Population: -History:The first written mention of Bryansk was in 1146, in the Hypatian Codex, as Debryansk...

.

Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth





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
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

, uniting with its western neighbor as the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth was a dualistic state of Poland and Lithuania ruled by a common monarch. It was the largest and one of the most populous countries of 16th- and 17th‑century Europe with some and a multi-ethnic population of 11 million at its peak in the early 17th century...

 (Commonwealth of Two Nations) in the Union of Lublin
Union of Lublin
The Union of Lublin replaced the personal union of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania with a real union and an elective monarchy, since Sigismund II Augustus, the last of the Jagiellons, remained childless after three marriages. In addition, the autonomy of Royal Prussia was...

 of 1569. According to the Union many of the territories formerly controlled by the largely Ruthenized Grand Duchy of Lithuania were transferred to the Crown of the Polish Kingdom
Crown of the Polish Kingdom
The Crown of the Kingdom of Poland , or simply the Crown , is the name for the unit of administrative division, the territories under direct administration of Polish nobility from middle-ages to late 18th century...

, while the gradual process of Polonization
Polonization
Polonization was the acquisition or imposition of elements of Polish culture, in particular, Polish language, as experienced in some historic periods by non-Polish populations of territories controlled or substantially influenced by Poland...

 slowly drew Lithuania itself under Polish domination. The Grand Duchy retained many rights in the federation
Federation
A federation , also known as a federal state, is a type of sovereign state characterized by a union of partially self-governing states or regions united by a central government...

 (including a separate government, treasury and army) until the May Constitution of Poland was passed in 1791.

Partitions and the Napoleonic period


Following the Partitions of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
Partitions of Poland
The Partitions of Poland or Partitions of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth took place in the second half of the 18th century and ended the existence of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, resulting in the elimination of sovereign Poland for 123 years...

, most of the lands of the former Grand Duchy were directly annexed by the Russian Empire
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

 rather than attached to the Kingdom of Poland
Congress Poland
The Kingdom of Poland , informally known as Congress Poland , created in 1815 by the Congress of Vienna, was a personal union of the Russian parcel of Poland with the Russian Empire...

, a rump state in personal union with Russia. However, in 1812, soon before the French invasion of Russia
French invasion of Russia
The French invasion of Russia of 1812 was a turning point in the Napoleonic Wars. It reduced the French and allied invasion forces to a tiny fraction of their initial strength and triggered a major shift in European politics as it dramatically weakened French hegemony in Europe...

, the lands of the former Grand Duchy revolted against the Russians. Soon after his arrival to Vilnius, Napoleon proclaimed the creation of a Commissary Provisional Government of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which in turn renewed the Polish-Lithuanian Union
Polish-Lithuanian Union
The term Polish–Lithuanian Union sometimes called as United Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania refers to a series of acts and alliances between the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania that lasted for prolonged periods of time and led to the creation of the Polish–Lithuanian...

. However, the union was never formalized 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 end.

Demographics


In 1260 the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was the land of Lithuania
Duchy of Lithuania
Duchy of Lithuania was a state-territorial formation of ethnic Lithuanians, that existed from the 12th century until 1413. Most of the time it was a constituent part and a nucleus of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania...

, and ethnic Lithuanians formed majority (67.5%) of its 0.4 million population. With the acquisition of new Ruthenia
Ruthenia
Ruthenia is the Latin word used onwards from the 13th century, describing lands of the Ancient Rus in European manuscripts. Its geographic and culturo-ethnic name at that time was applied to the parts of Eastern Europe. Essentially, the word is a false Latin rendering of the ancient place name Rus...

n territories, in 1340 this portion decreased to 30% By the time of the largest expansion towards Rus'
Kievan Rus'
Kievan Rus was a medieval polity in Eastern Europe, from the late 9th to the mid 13th century, when it disintegrated under the pressure of the Mongol invasion of 1237–1240....

 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 Lithuanian.

An estimate of the population in the territory of Poland and Grand Duchy of Lithuania together gives a population at 7.5 million for 1493, breaking them down by ethnicity at 3.75 million Ruthenians
Ruthenians
The name Ruthenian |Rus']]) is a culturally loaded term and has different meanings according to the context in which it is used. Initially, it was the ethnonym used for the East Slavic peoples who lived in Rus'. Later it was used predominantly for Ukrainians...

 (ethnic Ukrainians
Ukrainians
Ukrainians are an East Slavic ethnic group native to Ukraine, which is the sixth-largest nation in Europe. The Constitution of Ukraine applies the term 'Ukrainians' to all its citizens...

, Belarusians
Belarusians
Belarusians ; are an East Slavic ethnic group who populate the majority of the Republic of Belarus. Introduced to the world as a new state in the early 1990s, the Republic of Belarus brought with it the notion of a re-emerging Belarusian ethnicity, drawn upon the lines of the Old Belarusian...

), 3.25 million Poles and 0.5 million Lithuanians. With the Union of Lublin
Union of Lublin
The Union of Lublin replaced the personal union of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania with a real union and an elective monarchy, since Sigismund II Augustus, the last of the Jagiellons, remained childless after three marriages. In addition, the autonomy of Royal Prussia was...

, 1569, Lithuanian Grand Duchy lost large part of lands to the Polish Crown.

See also: Demographics of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

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, including ethnic Lithuanian population in Vilnius surroundings
Vilnius Voivodeship
The Vilnius Voivodeship was one of voivodeships in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, created in 1413, from the Duchy of Lithuania and neighbouring lands.- Geography and administrative division :...

. Besides devastation, Ruthenian population declined proportionally after the territorial losses to Russian Empire
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

. By 1770 there were about 4.84 million inhabitants in the territory of 320 thousand km2, the biggest part of whom were inhabitants of Ruthenia and about 1.39 million or 29% – of ethnic Lithuania. During the following decades, the population decreased in a result of partitions.

Languages


In the 13th century, the center of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania
Lithuania proper
Lithuania proper refers to a region which existed within Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and spoke Lithuanian language. The primary meaning is identical to the Duchy of Lithuania, a land around which Grand Duchy of Lithuania evolved...

, was inhabited by a majority which spoke Lithuanian, but it was not a written language till 16th century. At the other parts of the duchy, especially in the economically better developed Belarus, the majority of population, including Ruthenian nobles
Ruthenian nobility
Ruthenian nobility can refer to:* Boyars* Ukrainian nobility * Belarusian nobility See also: Ruthenia, Ruthenians...

 and normal people used both spoken and written Ruthenian language
Ruthenian language
Ruthenian, or Old Ruthenian , is a term used for the varieties of Eastern Slavonic spoken in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and later in the East Slavic territories of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth....

s. 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, took up the local culture quickly over subsequent generations. Ruthenians were native to the center and south-eastern part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and since they were the major population in a wider area than a half of a whole after the Union of Lublin and in larger portions of a whole before the union, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was a Slavic country in this sense.

The Ruthenian language
Ruthenian language
Ruthenian, or Old Ruthenian , is a term used for the varieties of Eastern Slavonic spoken in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and later in the East Slavic territories of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth....

 was used to write laws alongside Latin and German. 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. In 16th century at the time of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Lithuanian lands became increasingly polonized
Polonization
Polonization was the acquisition or imposition of elements of Polish culture, in particular, Polish language, as experienced in some historic periods by non-Polish populations of territories controlled or substantially influenced by Poland...

 over time and started to use the Polish language
Polish language
Polish is a language of the Lechitic subgroup of West Slavic languages, used throughout Poland and by Polish minorities in other countries...

 instead of Ruthenian language
Ruthenian language
Ruthenian, or Old Ruthenian , is a term used for the varieties of Eastern Slavonic spoken in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and later in the East Slavic territories of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth....

 and was officially changed by Polish
Polish language
Polish is a language of the Lechitic subgroup of West Slavic languages, used throughout Poland and by Polish minorities in other countries...

 as the chancellery language of the Lithuanian-Polish Commonwealth in 1697.

The voivodeships with the predominant ethnic Lithuanian population were Vilnius
Vilnius Voivodeship
The Vilnius Voivodeship was one of voivodeships in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, created in 1413, from the Duchy of Lithuania and neighbouring lands.- Geography and administrative division :...

, Trakai
Trakai Voivodeship
Trakai Voivodeship, Trakai Palatinate, or Troki Voivodeship , was a unit of administrative division and local government in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania from 1413 until 1795.-History:...

 and Samogitian
Eldership of Samogitia
The Duchy of Samogitia had been the administrative unit of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania from 1422 . Between 1422 to 1441 it was known as the Eldership of Samogitia...

 voivodeships. In the southern part of Trakai voivodeship, and south-eastern part of Vilnius voivodeship there were many Belarusians too, in some of the south-eastern volosts they were the major linguistic group. In addition to Lithuanians
Lithuanians
Lithuanians are the Baltic ethnic group native to Lithuania, where they number around 2,765,600 people. Another million or more make up the Lithuanian diaspora, largely found in countries such as the United States, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Russia, United Kingdom and Ireland. Their native language...

 and Ruthenians
Ruthenians
The name Ruthenian |Rus']]) is a culturally loaded term and has different meanings according to the context in which it is used. Initially, it was the ethnonym used for the East Slavic peoples who lived in Rus'. Later it was used predominantly for Ukrainians...

, other important ethnic groups on throughout the Grand Duchy of Lithuania were Jews
Lithuanian Jews
Lithuanian Jews or Litvaks are Jews with roots in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania:...

 and Tatars
Lipka Tatars
The Lipka Tatars are a group of Tatars who originally settled in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania at the beginning of 14th century. The first settlers tried to preserve their shamanistic religion and sought asylum amongst the non-Christian Lithuanians...

. Vilnius city population and its surroundings were multi-ethnic, among languages spoken here, there were Lithuanian
Lithuanian language
Lithuanian is the official state language of Lithuania and is recognized as one of the official languages of the European Union. There are about 2.96 million native Lithuanian speakers in Lithuania and about 170,000 abroad. Lithuanian is a Baltic language, closely related to Latvian, although they...

, Polish
Polish language
Polish is a language of the Lechitic subgroup of West Slavic languages, used throughout Poland and by Polish minorities in other countries...

, Belarusian
Belarusian language
The Belarusian language , sometimes referred to as White Russian or White Ruthenian, is the language of the Belarusian people...

, Yiddish
Yiddish language
Yiddish is a High German language of Ashkenazi Jewish origin, spoken throughout the world. It developed as a fusion of German dialects with Hebrew, Aramaic, Slavic languages and traces of Romance languages...

, German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 also Tatar
Tatar language
The Tatar language , or more specifically Kazan Tatar, is a Turkic language spoken by the Tatars of historical Kazan Khanate, including modern Tatarstan and Bashkiria...

, Karaim
Crimean Karaites
The Crimean Karaites , also known as Karaim and Qarays, are a community of ethnic Turkic adherents of Karaite Judaism in Eastern Europe...

 etc.

Languages used for State and Academic Purposes Within the Grand Duchy



Numerous languages were used in state documents depending on which period in history and for what purpose. These languages included Ruthenian
Ruthenian language
Ruthenian, or Old Ruthenian , is a term used for the varieties of Eastern Slavonic spoken in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and later in the East Slavic territories of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth....

 (East Slavonic
East Slavic languages
The East Slavic languages constitute one of three regional subgroups of Slavic languages, currently spoken in Eastern Europe. It is the group with the largest numbers of speakers, far out-numbering the Western and Southern Slavic groups. Current East Slavic languages are Belarusian, Russian,...

; Old Belarusian or Old Ukrainian), and to a lesser extent (mostly in diplomatic communication) Latin, German and Polish.Casimir's Code of 1468 and all three editions of Statutes of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (1529, 1566, and 1588) were written in the Old Belarusian language
Old Belarusian language
Old Belarusian was a historic East Slavic language, written and spoken at least in the 14th–17th century, and reported spoken as late as the very beginning of the 19th century, in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and later in the East Slavic territories of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, probably...

. The statutes of the Grand Duchy were later translated into Latin and Polish as well.

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

Although usage of the Lithuanian language
Lithuanian language
Lithuanian is the official state language of Lithuania and is recognized as one of the official languages of the European Union. There are about 2.96 million native Lithuanian speakers in Lithuania and about 170,000 abroad. Lithuanian is a Baltic language, closely related to Latvian, although they...

 at Court after the death of Vytautas and Jogaila
Jogaila
Jogaila, later 'He is known under a number of names: ; ; . See also: Jogaila : names and titles. was Grand Duke of Lithuania , king consort of Kingdom of Poland , and sole King of Poland . He ruled in Lithuania from 1377, at first with his uncle Kęstutis...

 is disputed, it is believed Grand Duke Alexander I
Alexander Jagiellon
Alexander of the House of Jagiellon was the Grand Duke of Lithuania and later also King of Poland. He was the fourth son of Casimir IV Jagiellon...

 could understand and speak Lithuanian, and the last Grand Duke Zygmunt August maintained both Polish- and Lithuanian-speaking courts.

From the beginning of the 16th century, and especially after a rebellion led by Michael Glinski
Michael Glinski
Michael Glinski was a noble from the Grand Duchy of Lithuania of distant Tatar extraction who was also a tutor of his nephew, Ivan the Terrible. As a young man, Glinski served in the court of Emperor Maximilian I and earned distinction for his military service. Around 1498 he returned to Lithuania...

 in 1508, there were attempts by the Court to replace the usage of Ruthenian with Latin. 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
Kanclerz
Kanclerz was one of the highest officials in the historic Poland. This office functioned from the early Polish kingdom of the 12th century until the end of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1795. A respective office also existed in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania since the 16th...

 of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania Lew Sapieha
Lew Sapieha
Lew Sapieha . He was born in Astrouna , near Vitsebsk, Belarus. He became Great Secretary of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in 1580, Great Clerk of the Grand Duchy in 1581, Court Chancellor of the GDL in 1585, Grand Chancellor of the GDL from 1589 until 1623, Voivode of Vilnius in 1621, Great...

, noted in the preface of the Third Statute of Lithuania
Statutes of Lithuania
The Statutes of Lithuania originally known as the Statutes of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania were a 16th century codification of all the legislation of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and its successor, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth...

 (1588) that this code was to be written exclusively in Ruthenian.

Nonetheless, Mikalojus Daukša
Mikalojus Daukša
Mikalojus Daukša was a Lithuanian and Latin religious writer, translator and a Catholic church official...

, writing in Polish, noted in his Postilla (1599) that many people, especially szlachta
Szlachta
The szlachta was a legally privileged noble class with origins in the Kingdom of Poland. It gained considerable institutional privileges during the 1333-1370 reign of Casimir the Great. In 1413, following a series of tentative personal unions between the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of...

, preferred to speak Polish rather than Lithuanian, but spoke Polish poorly. Such were the linguistic trends in the Grand Duchy that by the political reforms of 1564–1566 parliaments
Sejmik
A sejmik was a regional assembly in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, and earlier in the Kingdom of Poland. Sejmiks existed until the end of the Commonwealth in 1795 following the partitions of the Commonwealth...

 local land courts, appellate courts and other State functions were recorded in Polish. and Polish became increasingly spoken across all social classes.

Lithuanian language situation



Lithuanian, Ruthenian and Polish languages were used as state languages of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Vilnius, Trakai and Samogitian were the core voivodeships of the state, 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
Statutes of Lithuania
The Statutes of Lithuania originally known as the Statutes of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania were a 16th century codification of all the legislation of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and its successor, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth...

 and other laws and documentation were written in Ruthenian. Following the royal court, there was tendency to replace Lithuanian
Lithuanian language
Lithuanian is the official state language of Lithuania and is recognized as one of the official languages of the European Union. There are about 2.96 million native Lithuanian speakers in Lithuania and about 170,000 abroad. Lithuanian is a Baltic language, closely related to Latvian, although they...

 with Polish in the ethnic Lithuanian areas, whereas Ruthenian was stronger in ethnic Belarusian and Ukrainian territories. There is Sigismund von Herberstein
Sigismund von Herberstein
Siegmund Freiherr von Herberstein, , was an Carniolan diplomat, writer, historian and member of the Holy Roman Empire Imperial Council...

's note left, that there were in an ocean of Russian language in this part of Europe two non Russian regions: Lithuania and Samogitia.

Following the expansion of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the mid 14th century the adjective "Lithuanian", besides denoting an ethnic Lithuanian, from early times denoted any inhabitant of Grand Duchy of Lithuania, irrespective of ethnicity: a Ruthenian, a Jew, a Lithuanian. In the 18th century "Litvin" (Polish: Litwin, Russian: Литвин) meant Polish, Belarusian and Lithuanian speakers. Since an adjective Lithuanian was applied after a name of a state, the understanding of it varied depending on place. For example, in eastern Ukraine, around Poltava
Poltava
Poltava is a city in located on the Vorskla River in central Ukraine. It is the administrative center of the Poltava Oblast , as well as the surrounding Poltava Raion of the oblast. Poltava's estimated population is 298,652 ....

, "Litvin" was a person living in the other side of Desna River
Desna River
Desna is a river in Russia and Ukraine, left tributary of the Dnieper. The word means "right hand" in the Old East Slavic language. Its length is , and its drainage basin covers ....

, Belarusian speaker.

At one point of the history of Grand Duchy of Lithuania, higher strata of Lithuanian society from ethnic Lithuania mostly spoke Polish, and from Belarus – Old Belarusian
Old Belarusian language
Old Belarusian was a historic East Slavic language, written and spoken at least in the 14th–17th century, and reported spoken as late as the very beginning of the 19th century, in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and later in the East Slavic territories of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, probably...

. Samogitia
Eldership of Samogitia
The Duchy of Samogitia had been the administrative unit of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania from 1422 . Between 1422 to 1441 it was known as the Eldership of Samogitia...

 was exclusive through state in its economical situation – it lain near ports and there were less people under corvee
Corvée
Corvée is unfree labour, often unpaid, that is required of people of lower social standing and imposed on them by the state or a superior . The corvée was the earliest and most widespread form of taxation, which can be traced back to the beginning of civilization...

, instead of that, many simple people were money payers. 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
Szlachta
The szlachta was a legally privileged noble class with origins in the Kingdom of Poland. It gained considerable institutional privileges during the 1333-1370 reign of Casimir the Great. In 1413, following a series of tentative personal unions between the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of...

 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.
The last sermons in Lithuanian in one of Vilnius churches were stopped to say in 1738. In schooling, Latin language was being changed to Polish and Lithuanian language repudiated. It was not let into Vilnius University
Vilnius University
Vilnius University is the oldest university in the Baltic states and one of the oldest in Eastern Europe. It is also the largest university in Lithuania....

 in the late 18th century, parochial and powiat school learning for Lithuanian speaking children through Lithuania was organized in Polish by people having offices in Vilnius. In such circumstances "Samogitians" were known as szlachta, besides Polish using Lithuanian too, and the mass of "Lithuanians", that is any citizens on throughout the state, were understood as mostly Polish speaking szlachta living in Vilnius and its surrounding area and Polish-Belarusian speaking Belarusian szlachta.

There were texts written in the local Lithuanian language of the Vilnius area, lying south-eastwards from Vilnius, then called Lithuanian language, today called a dialect of Eastern Aukštaitian, appearing at the end of the 17th century, the beginning of the 18th century, but it did not become used widerly as a written language and disappeared. The main written language, not including Polish, used by Lithuanians as their own one, became a language, which was then called Samogitian language, today – a dialect of western Aukštaitian, and was spoken in the area starting about Nevėžis River
Nevežis River
Nevėžis River is the sixth longest river in Lithuania and one of the main tributaries of the Neman River. Its length is , and it flows only within the geographical confines of Lithuania. It is the second longest river in Lithuania, after the Šventoji River, that flows exclusively within its borders...

 lowland westwards from Aukštaitija.

Military



Despite Lithuania's mainly peaceful acquisition of much of its Ruthenian holdings it could call upon military strength if needed and it was the only power in Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe is the eastern part of Europe. The term has widely disparate geopolitical, geographical, cultural and socioeconomic readings, which makes it highly context-dependent and even volatile, and there are "almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region"...

 that could effectively contend with the Golden Horde. When the Golden Horde did try to prevent Lithuanian expansion they were often rebuffed. In 1333 and 1339 Lithuanians defeated large Mongol forces attempting to regain Smolensk
Smolensk
Smolensk is a city and the administrative center of Smolensk Oblast, Russia, located on the Dnieper River. Situated west-southwest of Moscow, this walled city was destroyed several times throughout its long history since it was on the invasion routes of both Napoleon and Hitler. Today, Smolensk...

 from the Lithuanian sphere of influence. By about 1355, the State of Moldavia
Moldavia
Moldavia is a geographic and historical region and former principality in Eastern Europe, corresponding to the territory between the Eastern Carpathians and the Dniester river...

 had formed. The Golden Horde did little to re-vassalize the area. In 1387, Moldavia became a vassal of Poland and in a broader sense, Lithuania. By this time, Lithuania had conquered 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
Tokhtamysh
Tokhtamysh was the prominent khan of the White Horde, who briefly unified the White Horde and Blue Horde subdivisions of the Golden Horde into a single state. He was a descendant of Genghis Khan's eldest grandson, Orda Khan or his brother Tuqa-Timur...

), Lithuania invaded northern Crimea and won a decisive victory. Then in 1399, Lithuania (intent on placing Tokhtamish on the Golden Horde throne) moved against the Horde. In the Battle of the Vorskla River
Battle of the Vorskla River
The Battle of the Vorskla River was a great battle in the medieval history of Eastern Europe. It was fought on August 12, 1399, between the Tatars, under Edigu and Temur Qutlugh, and the armies of Tokhtamysh and Grand Duke Vytautas of Lithuania...

 however, Lithuania was crushed by the Horde and lost the steppe region.

Religion and culture




After the baptism in 1252 and coronation of King Mindaugas
Mindaugas
Mindaugas was the first known Grand Duke of Lithuania and the only King of Lithuania. Little is known of his origins, early life, or rise to power; he is mentioned in a 1219 treaty as an elder duke, and in 1236 as the leader of all the Lithuanians...

 in 1253, Lithuania was recognized as a Christian state until 1260, when Mindaugas supported an uprising in Courland
Courland
Courland is one of the historical and cultural regions of Latvia. The regions of Semigallia and Selonia are sometimes considered as part of Courland.- Geography and climate :...

 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, like feeding žaltys
Žaltys
Žaltys is a household spirit in the Lithuanian mythology. As sacred animal of the sun goddess Saulė, it is a guardian of the home and a symbol of fertility. People used to keep it as a pet by the stove or other special area of the house, believing that it would bring good harvest and wealth....

 or bringing food to graves of ancestors.

The lands of modern-day Belarus
Belarus
Belarus , officially the Republic of Belarus, is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, bordered clockwise by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Its capital is Minsk; other major cities include Brest, Grodno , Gomel ,...

 and Ukraine
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

, as well as local duke
Duke
A duke or duchess is a member of the nobility, historically of highest rank below the monarch, and historically controlling a duchy...

s (princes) in these regions, were firmly Orthodox Christian (Greek Catholic after the Union of Brest
Union of Brest
Union of Brest or Union of Brześć refers to the 1595-1596 decision of the Church of Rus', the "Metropolia of Kiev-Halych and all Rus'", to break relations with the Patriarch of Constantinople and place themselves under the Pope of Rome. At the time, this church included most Ukrainians and...

), 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
Catholicism
Catholicism is a broad term for the body of the Catholic faith, its theologies and doctrines, its liturgical, ethical, spiritual, and behavioral characteristics, as well as a religious people as a whole....

, while most of the Ruthenian lands stayed Orthodox
Eastern Orthodox Church
The Orthodox Church, officially called the Orthodox Catholic Church and commonly referred to as the Eastern Orthodox Church, is the second largest Christian denomination in the world, with an estimated 300 million adherents mainly in the countries of Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece,...

. There was an effort to polarize Orthodoxes after the Union of Brest
Union of Brest
Union of Brest or Union of Brześć refers to the 1595-1596 decision of the Church of Rus', the "Metropolia of Kiev-Halych and all Rus'", to break relations with the Patriarch of Constantinople and place themselves under the Pope of Rome. At the time, this church included most Ukrainians and...

 in 1596, by which Orthodox Greek Catholics acknowledged papal authority and Catholic catechism, but preserved Orthodox liturgy. Country also became one of the major centers of reformation.
In the second half of the 17h century Calvinism spread in Lithuania, supported by the families of Radziwiłł, Chodkiewicz
Chodkiewicz
The Chodkiewicz family was one of the most influential noble families of Ruthenian descent in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the 16th-17th centuries. Chodko Jurewicz, chamberlain to Grand Duke Vytenis was probably ancestor of whole clan and gaved it name Chodkiewicz, meaning "son of Chodzko"...

, Sapieha
Sapieha
The Sapieha is a Polish-Lithuanian princely family descending from the medieval boyars of Smolensk. The family acquired great influence in the sixteenth century.-History:...

, Dorohostajski and others. By 1580s the majority of the senators from Lithuania were Calvinist or even Arians (Jan Kiszka
Jan Kiszka
Jan Kiszka was a politician, magnate, patron, and benefactor of Polish brethren in the 16th century Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Kiszka served as Carver of Lithuania from 1569, Royal Deputy Cupbearer of Lithuania and Elder of Samogitia from 1579, castellan of Vilnius from 1588, voivode of Brest...

).

In 1579, Stefan Batory
Stephen Báthory
Stephen Báthory may refer to several noblemen of Hungarian descent:* Stephen III Báthory , Palatine of Hungary* Stephen V Báthory , judge of the Royal Court and Prince of Transylvania...

, King of Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 and Grand Duke of Lithuania, founded Vilnius University
Vilnius University
Vilnius University is the oldest university in the Baltic states and one of the oldest in Eastern Europe. It is also the largest university in Lithuania....

, one of the oldest universities in Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe is the eastern part of Europe. The term has widely disparate geopolitical, geographical, cultural and socioeconomic readings, which makes it highly context-dependent and even volatile, and there are "almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region"...

. Due to the work of the Jesuits during the Counter-Reformation
Counter-Reformation
The Counter-Reformation was the period of Catholic revival beginning with the Council of Trent and ending at the close of the Thirty Years' War, 1648 as a response to the Protestant Reformation.The Counter-Reformation was a comprehensive effort, composed of four major elements:#Ecclesiastical or...

 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 Lithuania. The work of the Jesuits as well as conversions from among the Lithuanian senatorial families turned the tide and by 1670s Calvinism
Polish Reformed Church
The Polish Reformed Church, officially called the Evangelical Reformed Church in the republic of Poland is a historic Protestant church in Poland established in the 16th century, still in existence today.-Structure and organisation:An internal census showed that in 2004 the Polish Reformed Church...

 lost its former importance though it still retained some influence among the ethnically Lithuanian peasants and some middle nobility, by then thoroughly Polonized.

Legacy



According to some historians (especially in Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

), one of the most crucial effects of Lithuanian rule was ethnic divisions amongst the inhabitants of former Kievan Rus'
Kievan Rus'
Kievan Rus was a medieval polity in Eastern Europe, from the late 9th to the mid 13th century, when it disintegrated under the pressure of the Mongol invasion of 1237–1240....

. 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
Balts
The Balts or Baltic peoples , defined as speakers of one of the Baltic languages, a branch of the Indo-European language family, are descended from a group of Indo-European tribes who settled the area between the Jutland peninsula in the west and Moscow, Oka and Volga rivers basins in the east...

 origin) were attacking Masovia, and that was the reason Duke Konrad of Masovia invited the Teutonic Knights
Teutonic Knights
The Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem , commonly the Teutonic Order , is a German medieval military order, in modern times a purely religious Catholic order...

 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 (Belarus
Belarus
Belarus , officially the Republic of Belarus, is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, bordered clockwise by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Its capital is Minsk; other major cities include Brest, Grodno , Gomel ,...

ian principalities) joined the Grand Duchy of Lithuania from the very beginning. Some other lands in Ukraine were vassalized by Lithuania later. The subjugation of Eastern Slavs by two powers created substantial differences that persist to this day. According to this claim, while under Kievan Ruthenia there were certainly substantial regional differences, it was the Lithuanian annexation of much of southern and western Ruthenia that led to the permanent division between Ukrainians
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

, Belarus
Belarus
Belarus , officially the Republic of Belarus, is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, bordered clockwise by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Its capital is Minsk; other major cities include Brest, Grodno , Gomel ,...

ians, and Russians
Russians
The Russian people are an East Slavic ethnic group native to Russia, speaking the Russian language and primarily living in Russia and neighboring countries....

.

Others argue, that the ethnic and linguistic divisions amongst inhabitants of Ruthenia were not initiated by division of this area between Mongols
Mongols
Mongols ) are a Central-East Asian ethnic group that lives mainly in the countries of Mongolia, China, and Russia. In China, ethnic Mongols can be found mainly in the central north region of China such as Inner Mongolia...

 and Lithuania
Lithuania
Lithuania , officially the Republic of Lithuania is a country in Northern Europe, the biggest of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, whereby to the west lie Sweden and Denmark...

, 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 I, who was conditionally 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 restore the Kingdom under German Prince Urach
Mindaugas II of Lithuania
Prince Wilhelm of Urach, Count of Württemberg, 2nd Duke of Urach was a German prince who was elected King of Lithuania with the regnal name Mindaugas II on 11 July 1918...

.

See also

  • Belarus
    Belarus
    Belarus , officially the Republic of Belarus, is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, bordered clockwise by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Its capital is Minsk; other major cities include Brest, Grodno , Gomel ,...

  • Cities of Grand Duchy of Lithuania
  • Crimea
    Crimea
    Crimea , or the Autonomous Republic of Crimea , is a sub-national unit, an autonomous republic, of Ukraine. It is located on the northern coast of the Black Sea, occupying a peninsula of the same name...

  • Duchy of Lithuania
    Duchy of Lithuania
    Duchy of Lithuania was a state-territorial formation of ethnic Lithuanians, that existed from the 12th century until 1413. Most of the time it was a constituent part and a nucleus of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania...

  • History of Lithuania
    History of Lithuania
    The history of Lithuania dates back to at least 1009, the first recorded written use of the term. Lithuanians, a branch of the Baltic peoples, later conquered neighboring lands, establishing the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and in the 13th century the short-lived Kingdom of Lithuania. The Grand Duchy...

  • List of Belarusian rulers
  • List of Lithuanian rulers
  • Lithuania
    Lithuania
    Lithuania , officially the Republic of Lithuania is a country in Northern Europe, the biggest of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, whereby to the west lie Sweden and Denmark...

  • Lithuania proper
    Lithuania proper
    Lithuania proper refers to a region which existed within Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and spoke Lithuanian language. The primary meaning is identical to the Duchy of Lithuania, a land around which Grand Duchy of Lithuania evolved...

  • Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
    Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
    The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth was a dualistic state of Poland and Lithuania ruled by a common monarch. It was the largest and one of the most populous countries of 16th- and 17th‑century Europe with some and a multi-ethnic population of 11 million at its peak in the early 17th century...

  • Ukraine
    Ukraine
    Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...


External links