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|• Total||21,000 km2 (8,000 sq mi)|
|• Ethnicity||Samogitians Lithuanians|
|• Languages||Lithuanian (Samogitian)|
Samogitia or Žemaitija (Samogitian: Žemaitėjė; Lithuanian : Žemaitija; see below for alternate and historical names) is one of the five ethnographic regions of Lithuania and formerly one of the 2 core administrative divisions of Grand Duchy of Lithuania alongside Lithuania Proper. Žemaitija is located in northwestern Lithuania. Its largest city is Šiauliai. Žemaitija has a long and distinct cultural history, reflected in the existence of the Samogitian dialect.
Ruthenian sources mentioned the region as жемотьская земля, jemotskaia zemlia; this gave rise to its Polish form, Żmudź, and probably to the Middle High German Sameiten, Samaythen. In Latin texts, the name is usually written as Samogitia, Samogetia etc.The area has long been known to its residents and to other Lithuanians exclusively as Žemaitija (the name Samogitia is no longer in use within Lithuania and has not been used for at least two centuries); Žemaitija means "lowlands" in Lithuanian. The region is also known in English as Lower Lithuania or, in reference to its Yiddish names, זאַמעט Zamet or Zhamot.
Žemaitija is located in northwestern Lithuania in the territories of:
Eastern parts of:
Western part of:
The largest city is Šiauliai, or Klaipėda if the latter is considered in the region. Telšiai is the capital, although Medininkai (now Varniai ) was once the capital of the Duchy of Samogitia.
The largest cities are (Samogitian name, if different, is provided after slash):
The people of Žemaitija speak Samogitian, a dialect of the Lithuanian language that was previously considered one of 3 main dialects (modern linguists have determined that it is one of two dialects, the other being Aukštaitian and that both of these dialects have 3 subdialects each). Samogitian has northern and southern subdialects (which are further subdivided). A western subdialect once existed in the Klaipėda region, but it became extinct after World War II after its inhabitants fled the region as a result of being expelled or persecuted by the Soviet authorities. During the 15th and 16th centuries, the Samogitians of the Klaipėda region called themselves "Lietuvininkai",[ citation needed ] whereas at the end of the 19th century when the area, known in German as the Memelland, was part of Prussia (Germany), they were known as "Prūsai." After World War II, the territory of the western subdialect was resettled mainly by northern and southern Žemaičiai and by other Lithuanians. Samogitian has a broken intonation ("laužtinė priegaidė", a variant of a start-firm accent) similar to that of the Latvian language. In 2010, the Samogitian dialect was assigned with an ISO 639-3 standard language code ("sgs"), as some languages, that were considered by ISO 639-2 to be dialects of one language, are now in ISO 639-3 in certain contexts considered to be individual languages themselves.
Žemaitija is one of the most ethnically homogeneous regions of the country, with an ethnic Lithuanian population exceeding 99.5% in some districts. During the first part of the 19th century, Žemaitija was a major center of Lithuanian culture (Žemaičiai traditionally tended to oppose any anti-Lithuanian restrictions). The local religion is predominantly Roman Catholic, although there are significant Lutheran minorities in the south.
The use of the Samogitian dialect is decreasing as more people tend to use standard Lithuanian, although there have been some minor attempts by local councils, especially in Telšiai, to write certain roadside information in Samogitian as well some schools teach children Samogitian dialect in schools.
"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 as Samogitia, because in Lithuanian it is called lower land [ Žemaitija ]. And the Samogitians call Lithuania as Aukštaitija , that is, from the Samogitian point of view, a higher land. Also, the people of Samogitia have long called themselves as Lithuanians and never as 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). Term Aukštaitija is known since the 13th century.
The modern concept of "dialectological" Žemaitija appeared only by the end of the 19th century. The territory of ancient Samogitia was much larger than current ethnographic or "dialectological" Žemaitija and embraced all of central and western Lithuania.
The very term "Samogitians" is a Latinized form of the ancient Lithuanian name for the region's lowlanders, who dwelt in Central Lithuania's lowlands. The original subethnic Samogitia, i.e. Central Lithuania's flat burial grounds culture, was formed as early as the 5th–6th centuries. Before that, it was inhabited by southern Semigallians and southern Curonians. The western part of historical Žemaitija became ethnically Lithuanian between the 13th and 16th centuries. The primal eastern boundary of historical Samogitia was the Šventoji River (a tributary of the Neris River) since the end of the 13th century (at about that time, the Lithuanian ruler Vytenis had expanded the territory of his domain in Aukštaitija along the Nevėžis River at the expense of Žemaitija).
Because during the 13th through 16th centuries the Teutonic Order and the Livonian Order bordered Žemaitija, it was always threatened by their expansionist aims. As such, the Samogitian territory was offered to these orders, or exchanged in peace treaties, a number of times. Lithuania would then regain Žemaitija during subsequent conflicts.
For more than two hundred years, old Samogitia played a central role in Lithuania's wars against the crusading order of the Teutonic Knights (Knights of the Cross and Knights of the Sword). Invasions started in Lithuania in 1229. Combined military forces undertook numerous campaigns against Samogitians and Lithuanians. Saule (1236), Skuodas (1259), Durbe (1260), Lievarde (1261) are just a few of the battles that took place. Since Žemaitija was the last pagan region in Europe left to be invaded and christened, the Teutonic Order set their sights on this last mission. Between 1345 and 1382, the Knights of the Cross attacked from Prussia some 70 times, while the Livonian Knights of the Sword made 30 military forays. Year after year, fortresses were attacked, farms and crops were put to the torch, women and children enslaved and men killed. Despite all their effort, the Žemaičiai managed to defend their lands until 1410 decisive Battle of Grunwald or Žalgiris, where united Polish-Lithuanian forces defeated the Teutonic Order and ended their crusading era.
In the 15th century, Žemaitija was the last region in Core Europe to be converted to Christianity. During the 15–18th centuries, it was known as the Duchy or Eldership of Žemaitija, which included some territories of what is now considered Aukštaitija and Suvalkija as well. The Duchy of Žemaitija was an autonomous administrative unit in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania with some similarities to a voivodeship.
After the partitions of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, Žemaitija was incorporated into the Russian Empire along with the rest of Lithuania. Žemaitija was the main source of the Lithuanian cultural revival during the 19th century and was a focal point for the smuggling of books printed in the Lithuanian language, which was banned by the occupying Russians.
In 1883, Edmund Veckenstedt published a book Die Mythen, Sagen und Legenden der Zamaiten (Litauer) (English: The myths, sagas and legends of the Samogitians (Lithuanians)).
After World War I, Žemaitija became a part of the newly re-established Lithuanian State. The Žemaičiai resisted the Bolsheviks and the Bermontians. During World War II, Lithuania was occupied in turn by both Nazi Germany and Soviet Russians as the Eastern Front shifted. At the end of the war, all of Lithuania was surrendered to the Soviet Union, along with the other Baltic states of Latvia and Estonia, as a consequence of the Yalta Agreement. Although the United States maintained after Yalta that the Baltic states had been illegally annexed to the Soviet Union, this meant little until the administration of Mikhail Gorbachev conceded that the departure of the Baltic states was inevitable, and the Soviet Union, at last, recognized their independence on 6 September 1991. The last Soviet troops withdrew in August 1994.
In 1945, the Soviets denied the existence of the Lithuania Minor ethnographic region, out of political advantage, and declared the Klaipėda region a part of Žemaitija.
Tourist destinations in Samogitia include Palanga, Kretinga and Žemaičių Kalvarija. The majority of tourists come from Latvia, Poland, Belarus, Russia, Germany, Spain, Finland and Sweden.[ citation needed ]
Palanga is a tourist destination among tourists from the United Kingdom, Germany and Russia.[ citation needed ]
Žemaičių Kalvarija (or New Jerusalem as it used to be called) is visited by pilgrims from all around the world, due to its annual The Great Žemaičių Kalvarija Church Festival (usually in June or July).
Žemaitija historically was an autonomous region in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, although it lost this status once Lithuania was annexed by the Russian Empire following the Third Partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1795 as a part of the Vilnius Governorate. In 1843, Žemaitija was incorporated into the Kaunas Governorate, with a minor part attached to the Courland Governorate. Since then, Žemaitija has not had separate political status, but there were attempts to create a separate state during the uprising in February 1831.
Currently, Žemaitija is represented by the Samogitian cultural society, a group interested in preserving Samogitian culture and language.
The coat of arms depicts a black bear with silver claws and collar on a red shield topped with a crown. The greater arms are supported by a knight with a sword and a woman with an anchor, and has the motto Patria Una (Latin: One Fatherland). The current emblazonment of the arms was created by artist Algis Kliševičius.
The flag of Žemaitija depicts the coat of arms on a white background. It is a swallowtail flag.A variant of the flag charged with the greater coat of arms additionally has a red border around the flag.
Both symbols are assumed to have been used for centuries, especially the coat of arms (differing claims assert it was first used in the 14th or 16th centuries). The symbols were used by the Eldership of Žemaitija. These are the oldest symbols of the Lithuanian ethnographic regions. On 21 July 1994, these symbols were recognized by the government of Lithuania.
Because Žemaitija (Samogitia) does not correspond to any current administrative division of Lithuania, these symbols are not officially used anymore. However the Samogitian bear was used in the coats of arms of Šiauliai County and Telšiai County. It also appears on the arms of the city of Šiauliai.
Emblem of the Lithuanian Armed Forces Motorized Infantry Brigade Žemaitija (Samogitia) is the griffin with a sword in his right hand and a shield, which features the Samogitian bear, in his left hand.
The Grand Duchy of Lithuania was a European state that lasted from the 13th century to 1795, 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.
Lithuanians are a Baltic ethnic group. They are native to Lithuania, where they number around 2,561,300 people. Another million or more make up the Lithuanian diaspora, largely found in countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, Brazil, Russia, and Canada. Their native language is Lithuanian, one of only two surviving members of the Baltic language family along with Latvian. According to the census conducted in 2001, 83.45% of the population of Lithuania identified themselves as Lithuanians, 6.74% as Poles, 6.31% as Russians, 1.23% as Belarusians, and 2.27% as members of other ethnic groups. Most Lithuanians belong to the Catholic Church, while the Lietuvininkai who lived in the northern part of East Prussia prior to World War II, were mostly Evangelical Lutherans.
Telšiai is a city in Lithuania with about 21,500 inhabitants. It is the capital of Telšiai County and Samogitia region, and it is located on the shores of Lake Mastis.
Samogitians are a subgroup of Lithuanians that inhabit the region of Samogitia in Lithuania. Many speak the Samogitian dialect, one of the main dialects of the Lithuanian language together with the Aukštaitian dialect. The Samogitian dialect differs the most from the standard Lithuanian language.
Lithuania can be divided into historical and cultural regions. The exact borders are not fully clear, as the regions are not official political or administrative units. They are delimited by culture, such as country traditions, traditional lifestyle, songs, tales, etc. To some extent, regions correspond to the zones of Lithuanian language dialects. This correspondence, however, is by no means strict. For example, although the Dzūkian dialect is called South Aukštaitian, it does not mean that Dzūkija is part of Aukštaitija. In certain parts of some regions, dialects of other regions are spoken, while for example in Samogitia, there are three indigenous dialects, some of which are subdivided into subdialects.
Aukštaitija is the name of one of five ethnographic regions of Lithuania. The name comes from lands being in upper basin of Nemunas River or being relative to Lowlands up to Šiauliai.
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Samogitian is an Eastern Baltic variety spoken mostly in Samogitia. It is mostly treated as a dialect of Lithuanian, but is considered a separate language by some linguists outside Lithuania. Its recognition as a distinct language is increasing in recent years, and attempts have been made to standardize it.
Mažeikiai District Municipality is located in the north-west of Lithuania, on the River Venta in Telšiai County. The administrative center of Mažeikiai District is the city of Mažeikiai. Its territory of 1,220.2 km² is composed of 32 km² of towns and settlements, 22 km² of industrial enterprises and roads, 614 km² of agricultural lands, 273 km² of forests, and 68 km² of tracts of other designation. There is one urban and 8 rural elderates. In 2003, the population was 67,393. Of this number, 46,223 live in towns and 21,170 in villages.
The Duchy of Samogitia was an administrative unit of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania from 1422. Between 1422 and 1441 it was known as the Eldership of Samogitia. The Grand Duke of Lithuania also held the title of Duke of Samogitia, although the actual ruler of the province, responsible to the Duke, was known as the General Elder (Seniūnas) of Samogitia.
Kretinga is a town in Klaipėda County, Lithuania. It is the capital of the Kretinga district municipality. It is located 12 km (7.5 mi) east of the popular Baltic Sea resort town of Palanga, and about 25 km (16 mi) north of Lithuania's 3rd largest city and principal seaport, Klaipėda.
Semigallia, also spelt Semigalia, is one of the Historical Latvian Lands located in the south of the Daugava river and the north of the Saule region of Samogitia. The territory split between Latvia and Lithuania, previously inhabited by the Semigallian Baltic tribe. They are noted for their long resistance (1219–1290) against the German crusaders and Teutonic Knights during the Northern Crusades. Semigallians had close linguistic and cultural ties with Samogitians.
Skuodas is a city located in Klaipėda County, in northwestern Lithuania, on the border with Latvia. The Bartuva river flows through the town.
Lithuania attracts many visitors from neighbouring countries and all over the world. In 2018, 1,7 million foreign visitors arrived to Lithuania for business, family and leisure. Historical legacy of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, rich history, architecture, pristine nature, seaside and SPA resorts are the main attraction points of Lithuania. Domestic tourism is also highly popular - in 2018 it grew by 12% percent. Lithuanians also prefer to spend their vacations in Lithuania - 70 percent.
Žemaičių Kalvarija is a small town in Plungė district municipality, Lithuania. It is known as a major site for Catholic pilgrimage.
The Great Žemaičių Kalvarija Festival or The Great Samogitian Calvary Festival is a Roman Catholic festival dedicated to St. Mary. The festival is held annually and takes place every July in the small town of Žemaičių Kalvarija in Samogitia, Lithuania, attracting many pilgrims and tourists.
Litvin is a Slavic word for residents 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.
The Samogitian Party is an ethnic-regionalist autonomist party of the Lithuania's Samogitian minority founded in April 2008.
The Samogitian Diocese Museum is a museum dedicated to the former Diocese of Samogitia. Established in 1999, the museum is located in the building of the former Varniai Priest Seminary which was relocated to Kaunas after the failed Uprising of 1863. The museum is a branch of the Samogitian Museum Alka based in Telšiai.
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