Grand Duchy of Lithuania

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Grand Duchy of Lithuania

c. 1236–17951
Royal banner of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.svg
Supposed appearance of the royal (military) banner with design derived from a 16th century coat of arms
Grand Duchy of Lithuania 1430.png
The Grand Duchy of Lithuania at the height of its power in the 15th century, superimposed on modern borders
Common languages Lithuanian, Ruthenian, Polish, Latin, German (see § Languages)
Grand Duke  
 1236–1263 (from 1251 as King)
Mindaugas (first)
Stanisław August Poniatowski (last)
Legislature Seimas
 Privy Council
Council of Lords
 Consolidation began
14 August 1385
1 July 1569
24 October 1795
1260200,000 km2 (77,000 sq mi)
1430930,000 km2 (360,000 sq mi)
1572320,000 km2 (120,000 sq mi)
1791250,000 km2 (97,000 sq mi)
1793132,000 km2 (51,000 sq mi)
ISO 3166 code LT
Succeeded by
Kingdom of Prussia Blank.png
Russian Empire Blank.png
1. Unsuccessful Constitution of 3 May 1791 envisioned a unitary state whereby the Grand Duchy would be abolished, however an addendum to the Constitution, known as the Reciprocal Guarantee of Two Nations, restored Lithuania on 20 October 1791. [1]

The Grand Duchy of Lithuania was a European state that lasted from the 13th century [2] to 1795, [3] when the territory was partitioned among the Russian Empire, the Kingdom of Prussia, and the Habsburg Empire of Austria. The state was founded by Lithuanians, who were at the time a polytheistic nation born from several united Baltic tribes from Aukštaitija. [4] [5] [6]


The Grand Duchy expanded to include large portions of the former Kievan Rus' and other neighbouring states, including what is now Belarus and parts of Ukraine, Latvia, Poland, Russia and Moldova. At its greatest extent, in the 15th century, it was the largest state in Europe. [7] It was a multi-ethnic and multi-confessional state, with great diversity in languages, religion, and cultural heritage.

The consolidation of the Lithuanian lands began in the late 12th century. Mindaugas, the first ruler of the Grand Duchy, was crowned as Catholic King of Lithuania in 1253. The pagan state was targeted in the religious crusade by the Teutonic Knights and the Livonian Order. The rapid territorial expansion started at the late reign of Gediminas [8] and continued to expand under the diarchy and co-leadership of his sons Algirdas and Kęstutis. [9] Algirdas's son Jogaila signed the Union of Krewo in 1386, bringing two major changes in the history of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania: conversion to Christianity and establishment of a dynastic union between the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland. [10]

The reign of Vytautas the Great, son of Kęstutis, marked both the greatest territorial expansion of the Grand Duchy and the defeat of the Teutonic Knights in the Battle of Grunwald in 1410. It also marked the rise of the Lithuanian nobility. After Vytautas's death, Lithuania's relationship with the Kingdom of Poland greatly deteriorated. [11] Lithuanian noblemen, including the Radvila family, attempted to break the personal union with Poland. [12] However, unsuccessful wars with the Grand Duchy of Moscow forced the union to remain intact.[ citation needed ]

Eventually, the Union of Lublin of 1569 created a new state, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. In the Federation, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania maintained its political distinctiveness and had separate ministries, laws, army, and treasury. [13] The federation was terminated by the passing of the Constitution of 3 May 1791, when it was supposed to become a single country, the Commonwealth of Poland, under one monarch, one parliament and no Lithuanian autonomy. Shortly afterward, the unitary character of the state was confirmed by adopting the Reciprocal Guarantee of Two Nations.

However, the newly reformed Commonwealth was invaded by Russia in 1792 and partitioned between neighbouring states. A truncated state (whose principal cities were Kraków, Warsaw and Vilnius) remained that was nominally independent. After the Kościuszko Uprising, the territory was completely partitioned among the Russian Empire, the Kingdom of Prussia and Austria in 1795.


Name of Lithuania (Litua) was first mentioned in 1009 in Annals of Quedlinburg. Some older etymological theories relate the name to a small river not far from Kernavė, the core area of the early Lithuanian state and a possible first capital of the would-be Grand Duchy of Lithuania, is usually credited as the source of the name. This river's original name is Lietava. [14] As time passed, the suffix -ava could have changed into -uva, as the two are from the same suffix branch. The river flows in the lowlands and easily spills over its banks, therefore the traditional Lithuanian form liet- could be directly translated as lietis (to spill), of the root derived from the Proto-Indo-European leyǝ-. [15] However, the river is very small and some find it improbable that such a small and local object could have lent its name to an entire nation. On the other hand, such a fact is not unprecedented in world history. [16] The most credible modern theory of etymology of the name of Lithuania (Lithuanian: Lietuva) is Artūras Dubonis's hypothesis, [17] that Lietuva relates to the word leičiai (plural of leitis, a social group of warriors-knights in the early Grand Duchy of Lithuania). The title of the Grand Duchy was consistently applied to Lithuania from the 14th century onward. [18]

In other languages, the grand duchy is referred to as:


Establishment of the state

Lithuania in the Mappa mundi of Pietro Vesconte, 1321. The inscription reads: Letvini pagani - pagan Lithuanians. Lithuania in the map of Pietro Vesconte, 1321.png
Lithuania in the Mappa mundi of Pietro Vesconte, 1321. The inscription reads: Letvini pagani - pagan Lithuanians.
Balts in the 12th century Baltic Tribes c 1200.svg
Balts in the 12th century

The first written reference to Lithuania is found in the Quedlinburg Chronicle, which dates from 1009. [19] In the 12th century, Slavic chronicles refer to Lithuania as one of the areas attacked by the Rus'. Pagan Lithuanians initially paid tribute to Polotsk, but they soon grew in strength and organized their own small-scale raids. At some point between 1180 and 1183 the situation began to change, and the Lithuanians started to organize sustainable military raids on the Slavic provinces, raiding the Principality of Polotsk as well as Pskov, and even threatening Novgorod. [20] The sudden spark of military raids marked consolidation of the Lithuanian lands in Aukštaitija. [2] The Lithuanians are the only branch within the Baltic group that managed to create a state entity in premodern times. [21]

The Lithuanian Crusade began after the Livonian Order and Teutonic Knights, crusading military orders, were established in Riga in 1202 and in Prussia in 1226, respectively. The Christian orders posed a significant threat to pagan Baltic tribes, and further galvanized the formation of the Lithuanian state. The peace treaty with Galicia–Volhynia of 1219 provides evidence of cooperation between Lithuanians and Samogitians. This treaty lists 21 Lithuanian dukes, including five senior Lithuanian dukes from Aukštaitija (Živinbudas, Daujotas, Vilikaila, Dausprungas and Mindaugas) and several dukes from Žemaitija. Although they had battled in the past, the Lithuanians and the Žemaičiai now faced a common enemy. [22] Likely Živinbudas had the most authority [20] and at least several dukes were from the same families. [23] The formal acknowledgement of common interests and the establishment of a hierarchy among the signatories of the treaty foreshadowed the emergence of the state.[ citation needed ]

Kingdom of Lithuania

Mindaugas, the duke [24] of southern Lithuania, [25] was among the five senior dukes mentioned in the treaty with Galicia–Volhynia. The Livonian Rhymed Chronicle, reports that by the mid-1230s, Mindaugas had acquired supreme power in the whole of Lithuania. [26] In 1236, the Samogitians, led by Vykintas, defeated the Livonian Order in the Battle of Saule. The Order was forced to become a branch of the Teutonic Knights in Prussia, making Samogitia, a strip of land that separated Livonia from Prussia, the main target of both orders. The battle provided a break in the wars with the Knights, and Lithuania exploited this situation, arranging attacks towards the Ruthenian provinces and annexing Navahrudak and Hrodna. [26]

In 1248, a civil war broke out between Mindaugas and his nephews Tautvilas and Edivydas. The powerful coalition against Mindaugas included Vykintas, the Livonian Order, Daniel of Galicia and Vasilko of Volhynia. Taking advantage of internal conflicts, Mindaugas allied with the Livonian Order. He promised to convert to Christianity and to exchange some lands in western Lithuania in return for military assistance against his nephews and the royal crown. In 1251, Mindaugas was baptized and Pope Innocent IV issued a papal bull proclaiming the creation of the Kingdom of Lithuania. After the civil war ended, Mindaugas was crowned as King of Lithuania on 6 July 1253, starting a decade of relative peace. Mindaugas later renounced Christianity and converted back to paganism. Mindaugas tried to expand his influence in Polatsk, a major centre of commerce in the Daugava River basin, and Pinsk. [26] The Teutonic Knights used this period to strengthen their position in parts of Samogitia and Livonia, but they lost the Battle of Skuodas in 1259 and the Battle of Durbe in 1260. This encouraged the conquered Semigallians and Old Prussians to rebel against the Knights.[ citation needed ]

Encouraged by Treniota, Mindaugas broke the peace with the Order, possibly reverted to pagan beliefs. He hoped to unite all Baltic tribes under the Lithuanian leadership. As military campaigns were not successful, the relationships between Mindaugas and Treniota deteriorated. Treniota, together with Daumantas of Pskov, assassinated Mindaugas and his two sons, Ruklys and Rupeikis, in 1263. [27] The state lapsed into years of internal fighting. [28]

Rise of the Gediminids

Gediminas' Tower in Vilnius Beautiful spring sunset in Vilnius Lithuania.jpg
Gediminas' Tower in Vilnius
Columns of Gediminas COA of Gediminaiciai dynasty Lithuania.svg
Columns of Gediminas

From 1263 to 1269, Lithuania had three grand dukes – Treniota, Vaišvilkas, and Švarnas. The state did not disintegrate, however, and Traidenis came to power in 1269. He strengthened Lithuanian control in Black Ruthenia and fought with the Livonian Order, winning the Battle of Karuse in 1270 and the Battle of Aizkraukle in 1279. There is considerable uncertainty about the identities of the grand dukes of Lithuania between his death in 1282 and the assumption of power by Vytenis in 1295. During this time the Orders finalized their conquests. In 1274, the Great Prussian Rebellion ended, and the Teutonic Knights proceeded to conquer other Baltic tribes: the Nadruvians and Skalvians in 1274–1277, and the Yotvingians in 1283; the Livonian Order completed its conquest of Semigalia, the last Baltic ally of Lithuania, in 1291. [29] 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.[ citation needed ]

The Gediminid dynasty ruled the grand duchy for over a century, and Vytenis was the first ruler from the dynasty. [30] During his reign Lithuania engaged in constant warfare with the Order, the Kingdom of Poland, and Ruthenia. Vytenis was involved in succession disputes in Poland, supporting Boleslaus II of Masovia, who was married to a Lithuanian duchess, Gaudemunda. In Ruthenia, Vytenis managed to recapture lands lost after the assassination of Mindaugas and to capture the principalities of Pinsk and Turaŭ. In the struggle against the Order, Vytenis allied with citizens of Riga; securing positions in Riga strengthened trade routes and provided a base for further military campaigns. Around 1307, Polotsk, an important trading centre, was annexed by military force. [31] Vytenis also began the construction of a defensive castle network along the Neman River. Gradually this network developed into the main defensive line against the Teutonic Order.[ citation needed ]

Territorial expansion

Lithuanian state in 13-15th centuries Lithuanian state in 13-15th centuries.png
Lithuanian state in 13-15th centuries

The expansion of the state reached its height under Grand Duke Gediminas, who created a strong central government and established an empire that later spread from the Black Sea to the Baltic Sea. In 1320, most of the principalities of western Rus' were either vassalized or annexed by Lithuania. In 1321, Gediminas captured Kiev, sending Stanislav, the last Rurikid to rule Kiev, into exile. Gediminas also re-established the permanent capital of the Grand Duchy in Vilnius,[ citation needed ] presumably moving it from Old Trakai in 1323.[ citation needed ]

Lubart's Castle in Ukraine, built by the son of Gediminas' Liubartas in the mid-14th century, is famous for the Congress of Lutsk which took place in 1429 Lutsk castle tower.jpg
Lubart's Castle in Ukraine, built by the son of Gediminas' Liubartas in the mid-14th century, is famous for the Congress of Lutsk which took place in 1429

Lithuania was in a good position to conquer the western and the southern parts of former Kievan Rus'. While almost every other state around it had been plundered or defeated by the Mongols, the hordes stopped at the modern borders of Belarus, and the core territory of the Grand Duchy was left mostly untouched. The weak control of the Mongols over the areas they had conquered allowed the expansion of Lithuania to accelerate. Rus' principalities were never incorporated directly into the Golden Horde, maintaining vassal relationships with a fair degree of independence. Lithuania annexed some of these areas as vassals through diplomacy, as they exchanged rule by the Mongols or the Grand Prince of Moscow with rule by the Grand Duchy. An example is Novgorod, which was often in the Lithuanian sphere of influence and became an occasional dependency of the Grand Duchy. [32] Lithuanian control resulted from internal frictions within the city, which attempted to escape submission to Muscovy. Such relationships could be tenuous, however, as changes in a city's internal politics could disrupt Lithuanian control, as happened on a number of occasions with Novgorod and other East-Slavic cities.[ citation needed ]

The Grand Duchy of Lithuania managed to hold off Mongol incursions and eventually secured gains. In 1333 and 1339, Lithuanians defeated large Mongol forces attempting to regain Smolensk from the Lithuanian sphere of influence. By about 1355, the State of Moldavia had formed, and the Golden Horde did little to re-vassalize the area. In 1362, regiments of the Grand Duchy army defeated the Golden Horde at the Battle at Blue Waters. [33] In 1380, a Lithuanian army allied with Russian forces to defeat the Golden Horde in the Battle of Kulikovo, and though the rule of the Mongols did not end, their influence in the region waned thereafter. In 1387, Moldavia became a vassal of Poland and, in a broader sense, of Lithuania. By this time, Lithuania had conquered the territory of the Golden Horde all the way to the Dnieper River. In a crusade against the Golden Horde in 1398 (in an alliance with Tokhtamysh), Lithuania invaded northern Crimea and won a decisive victory. In an attempt to place Tokhtamish on the Golden Horde throne in 1399, Lithuania moved against the Horde but was defeated in the Battle of the Vorskla River, losing the steppe region.[ citation needed ]

Personal Union with Poland

Poland and Lithuania in 1386-1434 Polska 1386 - 1434.png
Poland and Lithuania in 1386–1434
Trakai Island Castle, residence of the Grand Duke Vytautas Castillo de Trakai.jpg
Trakai Island Castle, residence of the Grand Duke Vytautas

Lithuania was Christianized in 1387, led by Jogaila, who personally translated Christian prayers into the Lithuanian language [34] and his cousin Vytautas the Great who founded many Catholic churches and allocated lands for parishes in Lithuania. The state reached a peak under Vytautas the Great, who reigned from 1392 to 1430. Vytautas was one of the most famous rulers of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, serving as the Grand Duke from 1401 to 1430, and as the Prince of Hrodna (1370–1382) and the Prince of Lutsk (1387–1389). Vytautas was the son of Kęstutis, uncle of Jogaila, who became King of Poland in 1386, and he was the grandfather of Vasili II of Moscow.[ citation needed ]

In 1410, Vytautas commanded the forces of the Grand Duchy in the Battle of Grunwald. The battle ended in a decisive Polish-Lithuanian victory against the Teutonic Order. The war of Lithuania against military Orders, which lasted for more than 200 years, and was one of the longest wars in the history of Europe, was finally ended. Vytautas backed the economic development of the state and introduced many reforms. Under his rule, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania slowly became more centralized, as the governours loyal to Vytautas replaced local princes with dynastic ties to the throne. The governours were rich landowners who formed the basis for the nobility of the Grand Duchy. During Vytautas' rule, the Radziwiłł and Goštautas families started to gain influence.[ citation needed ]

The Battle of Grunwald, 1410, with Ulrich von Jungingen and Vytautas at center Jan Matejko, Bitwa pod Grunwaldem.jpg
The Battle of Grunwald, 1410, with Ulrich von Jungingen and Vytautas at center

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

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

Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth

The Grand Duchy of Lithuania within the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth c. 1635 Rzeczpospolita voivodships.png
The Grand Duchy of Lithuania within the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth c. 1635

The wars with the Teutonic Order, the loss of land to Moscow, and the continued pressure threatened the survival of the state of Lithuania, so it was forced to ally more closely with Poland, uniting with its western neighbour as the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth (Commonwealth of Two Nations) in the Union of Lublin of 1569. During the period of the Union, many of the territories formerly controlled by the Grand Duchy of Lithuania were transferred to the Crown of the Polish Kingdom, while the gradual process of Polonization slowly drew Lithuania itself under Polish domination. [35] [36] [37] The Grand Duchy retained many rights in the federation (including separate ministries, laws, army, and treasury) until the May Constitution of Poland and Reciprocal Guarantee of Two Nations were passed in 1791. [38]

Partitions and the Napoleonic period

Following the partitions of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, most of the lands of the former Grand Duchy were directly annexed by the Russian Empire, the rest by Prussia. In 1812, just prior to the French invasion of Russia, the former Grand Duchy revolted against the Russians. Soon after his arrival in Vilnius, Napoleon proclaimed the creation of a Commissary Provisional Government of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania which, in turn, renewed the Polish-Lithuanian Union. [39] The union was never formalized, however, as only half a year later Napoleon's Grande Armée was pushed out of Russia and forced to retreat further westwards. In December 1812, Vilnius was recaptured by Russian forces, bringing all plans of recreation of the Grand Duchy to an end. [39] Most of the lands of the former Grand Duchy were re-annexed by Russia. The Augustów Voivodeship (later Augustów Governorate), including the counties of Marijampolė and Kalvarija, was attached to the Kingdom of Poland, a rump state in personal union with Russia.[ citation needed ]

Administrative division

Lithuania and its administrative divisions in the 17th century Lithuania in the 17th century.png
Lithuania and its administrative divisions in the 17th century

Administrative structure of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (1413–1564). [40]

Voivodeship (Palatinatus)Established
Vilnius 1413
Trakai 1413
Samogitian eldership 1413
Kiev 1471
Polotsk 1504
Naugardukas 1507
Smolensk 1508
Vitebsk 1511
Podlaskie 1514
Brest Litovsk 1566
Minsk 1566
Mstislavl 1569
Volhyn 1564–1566
Bratslav 1564
Duchy of Livonia 1561

Religion and culture

Church of St. Johns in Vilnius. Example of Vilnius Baroque style Vilnius University Great Courtyard 1, Vilnius, Lithuania - Diliff.jpg
Church of St. Johns in Vilnius. Example of Vilnius Baroque style
St. Anne's Church and the church of the Bernardine Monastery in Vilnius Vilnius St Anns church.jpg
St. Anne's Church and the church of the Bernardine Monastery in Vilnius

After the baptism in 1252 and coronation of King Mindaugas in 1253, Lithuania was recognized as a Christian state until 1260, when Mindaugas supported an uprising in Courland and (according to the German order) renounced Christianity. Up until 1387, Lithuanian nobles professed their own religion, which was polytheistic. [42] 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 17th century, there were relics of old faith reported by counter-reformation active Jesuit priests, like feeding žaltys with milk or bringing food to graves of ancestors. The lands of modern-day Belarus and Ukraine, as well as local dukes (princes) in these regions, were firmly Orthodox Christian (Greek Catholic after the Union of Brest), though. While pagan beliefs in Lithuania were strong enough to survive centuries of pressure from military orders and missionaries, they did eventually succumb. A separate Eastern Orthodox metropolitan eparchy was created sometime between 1315 and 1317 by Constantinople Patriarch John XIII. Following the Galicia–Volhynia Wars which divided the Kingdom of Galicia–Volhynia between the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of Poland, in 1355 the Halych metropoly was liquidated and its eparchies transferred to the metropoles of Lithuania and Volhynia. [43]

In 1387, Lithuania converted to Catholicism, while most of the Ruthenian lands stayed Orthodox, however, on 22 February 1387, Supreme Duke Jogaila banned Catholics marriages with Orthodox, and demanded those Orthodox who previously married with the Catholics to convert to Catholicism. [44] At one point, though, Pope Alexander VI reprimanded the Grand Duke for keeping non-Catholics as advisers. [45] Consequently, only in 1563 Grand Duke Sigismund II Augustus issued a privilege which equalized the rights of Orthodox and Catholics in Lithuania and abolished all previous restrictions on Orthodox. [46] There was an effort to polarise Orthodox Christians after the Union of Brest in 1596, by which some Orthodox Christians acknowledged papal authority and Catholic catechism, but preserved their liturgy. The country also became one of the major centres of the Reformation. [47]

In the second half of the 16th century, Calvinism spread in Lithuania, supported by the families of Radziwiłł, Chodkiewicz, Sapieha, Dorohostajski and others. By the 1580s the majority of the senators from Lithuania were Calvinist or Socinian Unitarians (Jan Kiszka). [48]

In 1579, Stephen Báthory, King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, founded Vilnius University, one of the oldest universities in Northern Europe. Due to the work of the Jesuits during the Counter-Reformation the university soon developed into one of the most important scientific and cultural centres of the region and the most notable scientific centre of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. [49] The work of the Jesuits as well as conversions from among the Lithuanian senatorial families turned the tide and by the 1670s Calvinism lost its former importance though it still retained some influence among the ethnically Lithuanian peasants and some middle nobility.[ citation needed ]


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

In the 13th century, the centre of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was inhabited by a majority that spoke Lithuanian, [50] though it was not a written language until the 16th century. [51] In the other parts of the duchy, the majority of the population, including Ruthenian nobles and ordinary people, used both spoken and written Ruthenian. [50] 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 that moved to Slavic areas often took up the local culture quickly over subsequent generations. [52] Ruthenians were native to the east-central and south-eastern parts of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.[ citation needed ]

Ruthenian, also called Chancery Slavonic in its written form, was used to write laws alongside Polish, Latin and German, but use varied between regions. From the time of Vytautas, there are fewer remaining documents written in Ruthenian than there are in Latin and German, but later Ruthenian became the main language of documentation and writings, especially in eastern and southern parts of the Duchy. In the 16th century at the time of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, Lithuanian lands became partially polonized over time and started to use Polish for writing much more often than the Lithuanian and Ruthenian languages. Polish finally became the official chancellery language of the Commonwealth in 1697. [52] [53] [54] [55]

The voivodeships with predominantly ethnic Lithuanian population, Vilnius, Trakai, and Samogitian voivodeships, remained almost wholly Lithuanian-speaking, both colloquially and by ruling nobility. [56] Ruthenian communities were also present in the extreme southern parts of Trakai voivodeship and south-eastern parts of Vilnius voivodeship. In addition to Lithuanians and Ruthenians, other important ethnic groups throughout the Grand Duchy of Lithuania were Jews and Tatars. [52]

Languages for state and academic purposes

Lithuanian primer for kids, published in Vilnius, Grand Duchy of Lithuania, 1790 edition Lithuanian primer for kids, published in Vilnius, Grand Duchy of Lithuania, 1783 edition.jpg
Lithuanian primer for kids, published in Vilnius, Grand Duchy of Lithuania, 1790 edition

Numerous languages were used in state documents depending on which period in history and for what purpose. These languages included Lithuanian, Ruthenian, [55] [57] Polish and, to a lesser extent (mostly in early diplomatic communication), Latin and German. [51] [52] [54]

The Court used Ruthenian to correspond with Eastern countries while Latin and German were used in foreign affairs with Western countries. [55] [58] During the latter part of the history of the Grand Duchy, Polish was increasingly used in State documents, especially after the Union of Lublin. [54] By 1697, Polish had largely replaced Ruthenian as the "official" language at Court, [51] [55] [59] although Ruthenian continued to be used on a few official documents until the second half of the 18th century. [53]

Use of Lithuanian still continued at the Court after the death of Vytautas and Jogaila while Grand Duke Alexander I could understand and speak Lithuanian. Sigismund II Augustus maintained both Polish- and Lithuanian-speaking courts. [60]

From the beginning of the 16th century, and especially after a rebellion led by Michael Glinski in 1508, there were attempts by the Court to replace the usage of Ruthenian with Latin. [61] The use of Ruthenian by academics in areas formerly part of Rus' and even in Lithuania proper was widespread. Court Chancellor of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania Lew Sapieha noted in the preface of the Third Statute of Lithuania (1588) that all state documents to be written exclusively in Ruthenian. The same was stated in part 4 of the Statute:

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

А писаръ земъский маеть по-руску литерами и словы рускими вси листы, выписы и позвы писати, а не иншимъ езыкомъ и словы..., The Statute of GDL 1588. Part 4, article 1 [62]

Despite that, Polish-language editions stated the same in Polish. [63] Statutes of the Grand Duchy were translated into Latin and Polish. One of the main reasons for translations into Latin were that Ruthenian had no well defined and codified law concepts and definitions, which caused many disputes in courts. Another reason to use Latin was a popular idea that Lithuanians were descendants of Romans – mythical house of Palemonids. Augustinus Rotundus translated the Second Statute into Latin. [64]

According to scientist Rita Regina Trimonienė, the Lithuanians surnames are not slavified and are written as they were pronounced by parishioners in the registers of baptism of Šiauliai Church (dated in the 17th century). [65]

In 1552, Grand Duke Sigismund II Augustus ordered that orders of the Magistrate of Vilnius be announced in Lithuanian, Polish, and Ruthenian. [66] The same requirement was valid for the Magistrate of Kaunas. [67] [68]

Mikalojus Daukša, writing in the introduction to his Postil (1599) (which was written in Lithuanian) in Polish, advocated the promotion of Lithuanian in the Grand Duchy, noting in the introduction that many people, especially szlachta, preferred to speak Polish rather than Lithuanian, but spoke Polish poorly.[ citation needed ] Such were the linguistic trends in the Grand Duchy that, by the political reforms of 1564–1566, parliaments, local land courts, appellate courts and other State functions were recorded in Polish, [61] and Polish became increasingly spoken across all social classes.[ citation needed ]

Lithuanian language situation

"We do not know on whose merits or guilt such a decision was made, or with what we have offended Your Lordship so much that Your Lordship has deservedly been directed against us, creating hardship for us everywhere. First of all, you made and announced a decision about the land of Samogitia, which is our inheritance and our homeland from the legal succession of the ancestors and elders. We still own it, it is and has always been the same Lithuanian land, because there is one language and the same inhabitants. But since the land of Samogitia is located lower than the land of Lithuania, it is called Samogitia, because in Lithuanian it is called lower land [ Žemaitija ]. And the Samogitians call Lithuania Aukštaitija , that is, from the Samogitian point of view, a higher land. Also, the people of Samogitia have long called themselves Lithuanians and never Samogitians, and because of such identity (sic) we do not write about Samogitia in our letter, because everything is one: one country and the same inhabitants."

Vytautas the Great, excerpt from his 11 March 1420 Latin letter sent to Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor, in which he described the core of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, composed from Žemaitija (lowlands) and Aukštaitija (highlands), and its language. [69] [70] The term Aukštaitija has been known since the 13th century. [71]

Area where Lithuanian was spoken in the 16th century Lithuanian language in the 16th century.png
Area where Lithuanian was spoken in the 16th century

Ruthenian and Polish were used as state languages of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, besides Latin and German in diplomatic correspondence. Vilnius, Trakai and Samogitia were the core voivodeships of the state, being part of Lithuania Proper, as evidenced by the privileged position of their governors in state authorities, such as the Council of Lords. Peasants in ethnic Lithuanian territories spoke exclusively Lithuanian, except transitional border regions, but the Statutes of Lithuania and other laws and documentation were written in Ruthenian, Latin and Polish. Following the example of the royal court, there was a tendency to replace Lithuanian with Polish in the ethnic Lithuanian areas, whereas Ruthenian was stronger in ethnic Belarusian and Ukrainian territories. A note written by Sigismund von Herberstein's states that, in an ocean of Ruthenian in this part of Europe, there were two non-Ruthenian regions: Lithuania and Samogitia. [61]

Panegyric to Sigismund III Vasa, visiting Vilnius, first hexameter in Lithuanian, 1589 Lithuanian panegyric to Sigismund III Vasa, first hexameter in Lithuanian, 1589.jpg
Panegyric to Sigismund III Vasa, visiting Vilnius, first hexameter in Lithuanian, 1589

Since the founding of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the higher strata of Lithuanian society from ethnic Lithuania spoke Lithuanian, although from the later 16th century gradually began using Polish, and those from Ruthenia – Ruthenian. Samogitia was unique because of its economic situation – it lay near sea ports and there were fewer people under corvee, instead of that, many commoners were taxpayers.[ clarification needed ] As a result, the stratification of the society was not as sharp as in other areas. Being more similar to a commoner population, the local szlachta spoke Lithuanian to a bigger extent than in the areas close to the capital Vilnius, which itself had become the starting point of intensive linguistic Polonization of the surrounding areas since the 18th century.[ citation needed ]

In Vilnius University, there are preserved texts written in the Lithuanian language of the Vilnius area, a dialect of Eastern Aukštaitian, which was spoken in a territory located south-eastwards from Vilnius. The sources are preserved in works of graduates from Stanislovas Rapolionis-based Lithuanian language schools, graduate Martynas Mažvydas and Rapalionis relative Abraomas Kulvietis.[ clarification needed ][ citation needed ]

One of the main sources of Lithuanian written in the Eastern Aukštaitian dialect (Vilnius dialect) was preserved by Konstantinas Sirvydas in a trilingual (Polish-Latin-Lithuanian) 17th-century dictionary, Dictionarium trium linguarum in usum studiosae juventutis, which was the main Lithuanian dictionary used until the late 19th century. [72] [73]


"This is the peace made by the Livonian Master and the King of Lithuania and expressed in the following words:
(...) Next, a German merchant can travel safely concerning his life and property through Rus' [ Ruthenia ] and Lithuania as far as the King of Lithuania's authority seeks.
(...) Next, if something is stolen from a German merchant in Lithuania or Rus', it must be put on trial where it happens; if it happens that a German steals from a Rus [ Ruthenian ] or a Lithuanian, the same way it must be put on trial where it happens.
(...) Moreover, if a Lithuanian or a Rus [ Ruthenian ] wants to sue a German for an old thing, he must apply to the person to whom the person is subordinate; the same must be done by a German in Lithuania or Rus'.
(...) That peace was made in the one thousand three hundred and thirty-eighth year of the birth of God, on All Saints' Day, with the consent of the Master, the Marshal of the Land and many other nobles, as well as the City Council of Riga; they kissed the cross on the matter; With the consent of the King of Lithuania [ Gediminas ], his sons and all his nobles; they also performed their sacred rites in this matter [ Pagan rites ]; and with the consent of the Bishop of Polotsk [ Gregory ], the Duke of Polotsk [ Narimantas ] and the city, the Duke of Vitebsk [ Algirdas ] and the city of Vitebsk; they all, in approval of the said peace treaty, kissed the cross."

— From the 1338 Peace and Trade Agreement, concluded in Vilnius, between the Grand Duke of Lithuania Gediminas and his sons and the Master of the Livonian Order Everhard von Monheim, establishing a peace zone, which clearly distinguishes the Lithuanians and the Rus' people [ Ruthenians ], and Lithuania from Rus' [ Ruthenia ]. [74] [75]

The Statute of Grand Duchy of Lithuania (1588) in Ruthenian printed in Vilnius Statut Vialikaha Kniastva Litouskaha. Statut Vialikaga Kniastva Litouskaga.jpg
The Statute of Grand Duchy of Lithuania (1588) in Ruthenian printed in Vilnius

In 1260, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was the land of Lithuania, and ethnic Lithuanians formed the majority (67.5%) of its 400,000 people. [76] With the acquisition of new Ruthenian territories, in 1340 this portion decreased to 30%. [77] By the time of the largest expansion towards Rus' lands, which came at the end of the 13th and during the 14th century, the territory of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was 800 to 930 thousand km2, just 10% to 14% of which was ethnically Lithuanian. [76] [78]

On 6 May 1434, Grand Duke Sigismund Kęstutaitis released his privilege which tied the Orthodox and Catholic Lithuanian nobles rights in order to attract the Slavic nobles of the eastern regions of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania who supported the former Grand Duke Švitrigaila. [79]

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 (ethnic Ukrainians, Belarusians), 3.25 million Poles and 0.5 million Lithuanians. [80] With the Union of Lublin, 1569, Lithuanian Grand Duchy lost large part of lands to the Polish Crown.

In the mid and late 17th century, due to Russian and Swedish invasions, there was much devastation and population loss on throughout the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, [81] including ethnic Lithuanian population in Vilnius surroundings. Besides devastation, Ruthenian population declined proportionally after the territorial losses to Russian Empire. By 1770 there were about 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. [76] During the following decades, the population decreased in a result of partitions. [76]


The first printed book in Lithuanian Catechism of Martynas Mazvydas by Martynas Mazvydas Mazvydo katekizmas.jpg
The first printed book in Lithuanian Catechism of Martynas Mažvydas by Martynas Mažvydas

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

The rest of the former Ruthenian lands were conquered by the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Some other lands in Ukraine were vassalized by Lithuania later. The subjugation of Eastern Slavs by two powers created substantial differences between them that persist to this day. While there were certainly substantial regional differences in Kievan Rus', it was the Lithuanian annexation of much of southern and western Ruthenia that led to the permanent division between Ukrainians, Belarusians, and Russians.

In the 19th century, the romantic references to the times of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania were an inspiration and a substantial part of both the Lithuanian and Belarusian national revival movements and Romanticism in Poland.

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

In the first half of the 20th century, the memory of the multiethnic history of the Grand Duchy was revived by the Krajowcy movement, [82] [83] which included Ludwik Abramowicz (Liudvikas Abramovičius), Konstancja Skirmuntt, Mykolas Römeris (Michał Pius Römer), Józef Albin Herbaczewski (Juozapas Albinas Herbačiauskas), Józef Mackiewicz and Stanisław Mackiewicz. [84] [85] This feeling was expressed in poetry by Czesław Miłosz. [85]

According to the 10th article of the Law on the State Flag and Other Flags of the Republic of Lithuania (Lithuanian : Lietuvos Respublikos valstybės vėliavos ir kitų vėliavų įstatymas), adopted by the Seimas, the historical Lithuanian state flag (with horseback knight on a red field, which initial design dates back to the reign of Grand Duke Vytautas the Great) [86] must be constantly raised over the most important governmental buildings (e.g. Seimas Palace, Government of Lithuania and its ministries, Lithuanian courts, municipal council buildings) and significant historical buildings (e.g. Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania, Trakai Island Castle), also in Kernavė and in the site of the Senieji Trakai Castle. [87]

See also

Related Research Articles

History of Lithuania Historical development of Lithuania

The history of Lithuania dates back to settlements founded many thousands of years ago, but the first written record of the name for the country dates back to 1009 AD. Lithuanians, one of the Baltic peoples, later conquered neighboring lands and established the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the 13th century. The Grand Duchy was a successful and lasting warrior state. It remained fiercely independent and was one of the last areas of Europe to adopt Christianity. A formidable power, it became the largest state in Europe in the 15th century through the conquest of large groups of East Slavs who resided in Ruthenia. In 1385, the Grand Duchy formed a dynastic union with Poland through the Union of Krewo. Later, the Union of Lublin (1569) created the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth that lasted until 1795, when the last of the Partitions of Poland erased both Lithuania and Poland from the political map. After the dissolution, Lithuanians lived under the rule of the Russian Empire until the 20th century, although the were several major rebellions, especially in 1830–1831 and 1863.

Lithuanian nobility

The Lithuanian nobility was historically a legally privileged class in the Kingdom of Lithuania and Grand Duchy of Lithuania consisting of Lithuanians, from the historical regions of Lithuania Proper and Samogitia, and, following Lithuania's eastern expansion, many Ruthenian noble families (boyars). Families were primarily granted privileges for their military service to the Grand Duchy. The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth had one of the largest percentages of nobility in Europe, close to 10% of the population, in some regions, like Samogitia, it was closer to 12%. However, the high nobility was extremely limited in number, consisting of the magnates and later, within the Russian Empire, of princes.

Coat of arms of Lithuania

The coat of arms of Lithuania, consisting of an armour-clad knight on horseback holding a sword and shield, is also known as Vytis. It is recognized as the official coat of arms of Lithuania since the early 15th century and is also known in other Lithuanian language names as Waikymas, Pagaunė or as Pogonia, Pogoń, Pahonia in the Polish and Ruthenian languages. Vytis should be translated as Chase, Pursuer, Knight or Horseman, similar to the Slavic word Витязь. Historically – raitas senovės karžygys or in heraldry – raitas valdovas. The coat of arms of Lithuania is one of the oldest national coats of arms among European countries.

Vytautas Grand Duke of Lithuania

Vytautas, also known as Vytautas the Great from the 15th century onwards, was a ruler of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which chiefly encompassed the Lithuanians and Ruthenians. He was also the Prince of Grodno (1370–1382), Prince of Lutsk (1387–1389), and the postulated king of the Hussites.

Treaty of Melno

The Treaty of Melno or Treaty of Lake Melno was a peace treaty ending the Gollub War. It was signed on 27 September 1422, between the Teutonic Knights and an alliance of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania at Lake Melno, east of Graudenz (Grudziądz). The treaty resolved territorial disputes between the Knights and Lithuania regarding Samogitia, which had dragged on since 1382, and determined the Prussian–Lithuanian border, which afterwards remained unchanged for about 500 years. A portion of the original border survives as a portion of the modern border between the Republic of Lithuania and Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia, making it one of the oldest and most stable borders in Europe.

Kingdom of Lithuania Short lived Baltic kingdom in the middle ages

The Kingdom of Lithuania was a Lithuanian monarchy which existed roughly from 1251 to 1263. King Mindaugas was the first and only Lithuanian monarch crowned King of Lithuania with the assent of the Pope.

Vilnius Castle Complex

The Vilnius Castle Complex is a group of cultural, and historic structures on the left bank of the Neris River, near its confluence with the Vilnia River, in Vilnius, Lithuania. The buildings, which evolved between the 10th and 18th centuries, were one of Lithuania's major defensive structures.

Battle of Durbe Battle in Europe, 1260

The Battle of Durbe was a medieval battle fought near Durbe, 23 km (14 mi) east of Liepāja, in present-day Latvia during the Livonian Crusade. On 13 July 1260, the Samogitians soundly defeated the joint forces of the Teutonic Knights from Prussia and Livonian Order from Livonia. Some 150 knights were killed, including Livonian Master Burchard von Hornhausen and Prussian Land Marshal Henrik Botel. It was by far the largest defeat of the knights in the 13th century: in the second-largest, the Battle of Aizkraukle, 71 knights were killed. The battle inspired the Great Prussian Uprising and the rebellions of the Semigallians, the Couronians, and the Oeselians. The battle undid two decades of Livonian conquests and it took some thirty years for the Livonian Order to restore its control.


Olshanski was a Lithuanian princely family of Hipocentaur coat of arms from the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Their patrimony was in Halshany and their property included Rokantiškės and Halshany Castles. During the 14–16th centuries most of the family was Orthodox by faith and Ruthenian by language, although there were exceptions, in particular Paweł Holszański was a Catholic Church official.

Lithuanian Civil War (1432–1438) War of succession in medieval Lithuania

The Lithuanian Civil War of 1432–1438 was a conflict over the succession to the throne of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, after Vytautas the Great died in 1430 without leaving an heir. The war was fought on the one side by Švitrigaila, allied with the Teutonic Knights, and on the other by Sigismund Kęstutaitis, backed by the Kingdom of Poland. The war threatened to sever the Union of Krewo, the personal union between Poland and Lithuania. Švitrigaila's alliance with the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order, Paul von Rusdorf, launched the Polish–Teutonic War (1431–1435) but failed to secure victory for Švitrigaila.

Ostrów Agreement

The Ostrów or Astrava Agreement was a treaty between Jogaila, King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, and his cousin Vytautas the Great, signed on 4 August 1392. The treaty ended the destructive Lithuanian Civil War, launched in 1389 by Vytautas who hoped to gain political power, and concluded the power struggle between the two cousins that erupted in 1380 after Jogaila secretly signed the Treaty of Dovydiškės with the Teutonic Knights. The Ostrów Agreement did not stop attacks from the Teutonic Knights and the territorial dispute over Samogitia continued up to 1422. According to the treaty, Vytautas became the ruler of Lithuania, but he also acknowledged Jogaila's rights to Lithuania. The details of the Polish–Lithuanian relationship were clarified in several later treaties, including the Union of Vilnius and Radom in 1401 and Union of Horodło in 1413.

Lithuanian Civil War (1389–1392)

The Lithuanian Civil War of 1389–92 was the second civil conflict between Jogaila, King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, and his cousin Vytautas. At issue was control of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, then the largest state in Europe. Jogaila had been crowned King of Poland in 1386; he installed his brother Skirgaila as ruler of Lithuania. Skirgaila proved unpopular and Vytautas attempted to depose him. When his first attempt to take the capital city of Vilnius failed, Vytautas forged an alliance with the Teutonic Knights, their common enemy – just as both cousins had done during the Lithuanian Civil War between 1381 and 1384. Vytautas and the Knights unsuccessfully besieged Vilnius in 1390. Over the next two years it became clear that neither side could achieve a quick victory, and Jogaila proposed a compromise: Vytautas would become Grand Duke and Jogaila would remain Superior Duke. This proposal was formalized in the Ostrów Agreement of 1392, and Vytautas turned against the Knights. He went on to reign as Grand Duke of Lithuania for 38 years, and the cousins remained at peace.

Lithuanian Civil War (1381–1384)

The Lithuanian Civil War of 1381–1384 was the first struggle for power between the cousins Jogaila, Grand Duke of Lithuania and later King of Poland, and Vytautas the Great. It began after Jogaila signed the Treaty of Dovydiškės with the Teutonic Knights which was aimed against his uncle Kęstutis, father of Vytautas. Kęstutis briefly seized power in the Grand Duchy, but was betrayed by adherents of Jogaila primarily from Vilnius. During negotiations for a truce Kęstutis and Vytautas were arrested and transported to the Kreva Castle. Kęstutis died there a week later but Vytautas managed to escape and then sought an alliance with the Teutonic Knights. Subsequently their joint forces raided Lithuanian lands. Eventually the cousins were reconciled as Jogaila needed internal stability in anticipation of negotiations with the Grand Duchy of Moscow and the Kingdom of Poland regarding the possible Christianization of Lithuania. The war did not settle the power struggle; it continued during the next Lithuanian Civil War (1389–1392) which was resolved by the signing of the Ostrów Agreement. After more than ten years of struggle, Vytautas finally became the Grand Duke of Lithuania and ruled the country for thirty-eight years.

Litvin is a Slavic word for residents of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which was used no earlier than the 16th century mostly by the East Slavs. Currently, Litvin or its cognates are used internationally for Lithuanians.

Christianization of Lithuania

The Christianization of Lithuania occurred in 1387, initiated by King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania Władysław II Jagiełło and his cousin Vytautas the Great. It signified the official adoption of Christianity by Lithuania, the last pagan country in Europe. This event ended one of the most violent processes of Christianization in European history.


Mindaugas was the first known Grand Duke of Lithuania and the only Christian 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 contemporary and modern sources discussing his ascent mention strategic marriages along with banishment or murder of his rivals. He extended his domain into regions southeast of Lithuania proper during the 1230s and 1240s. In 1250 or 1251, during the course of internal power struggles, he was baptised as a Roman Catholic; this action enabled him to establish an alliance with the Livonian Order, a long-standing antagonist of the Lithuanians. During the summer of 1253 he was crowned King of Lithuania, ruling between 300,000 and 400,000 subjects.

History of Lithuania (1219–95) History of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania

The history of Lithuania between 1219 and 1295 concerns the establishment and early history of the first Lithuanian state, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The beginning of the 13th century marks the end of the prehistory of Lithuania. From this point on the history of Lithuania is recorded in chronicles, treaties, and other written documents. In 1219, 21 Lithuanian dukes signed a peace treaty with Galicia–Volhynia. This event is widely accepted as the first proof that the Baltic tribes were uniting and consolidating. Despite continuous warfare with two Christian orders, the Livonian Order and the Teutonic Knights, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was established and gained some control over the lands of Black Ruthenia, Polatsk, Minsk, and other territories east of modern-day Lithuania that had become weak and vulnerable after the collapse of Kievan Rus'.

Vytenis Grand Duke of Lithuania

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. The rule of Vytenis was marked by constant warfare in an effort to consolidate the Grand Duchy of Lithuania with the Ruthenians, Masovians, and the Teutonic Order.

Lithuanian Crusade 13th–15th century military campaigns by the Teutonic Order

The Lithuanian Crusade was a series of economic Christian colonization campaigns by the Teutonic Order and the Livonian Order under the pretext of forcibly Christianizing the pagan Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The Livonian Order occupied Riga in 1202 and the Teutonic Order conquered Culmerland in the 1230s. They first conquered other neighboring Baltic tribes—Curonians, Semigallians, Latgalians, Selonians, and Old Prussians—in the Livonian Crusade and Prussian Crusade.


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