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Lithuania

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suze
613491.  Tue Sep 15, 2009 5:13 pm Reply with quote

Certainly the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was quite large, but it wasn't established until 1569 and the QI claim refers specifically to the fourteenth century.

So for this purpose I reckon we can only consider the Grand Duchy of Lithuania as it existed between 1251 and 1569. Linked here is a political map of Europe as at 1400; I can't vouch for its complete accuracy but it's rather interesting and I hadn't seen such a thing before.

As you'll see, the eastern boundary of what that map calls the Grand Duchy of Vladimir or Muscovy was not precisely defined in those days - but the "civilized" area does seem to be smaller than the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The area shown as "Territories of the Golden Horde" extends off the edge of the map and looks to be larger, but I'd hear the comments that i) it was scarcely a homogeneous single country, and ii) much of its territory wasn't in Europe.

Accordingly, I don't know that we're actually any further forward. The claim that we made on the first DVD game is defensible but not utterly unpedantable.

 
Alfred E Neuman
613500.  Tue Sep 15, 2009 5:28 pm Reply with quote

I like the map...

 
Curious Danny
613629.  Wed Sep 16, 2009 4:05 am Reply with quote

Ditto ... that map is messy! You don't see enough maps like that. Are there ones for africa, asia etc.

 
jdean
613734.  Wed Sep 16, 2009 7:18 am Reply with quote

Certainly Lithuainia in the 14th century was a small insignificant country in a state of constant low level warfare with the Knights of the Teutonic Order. King Gediminas was killed in battle in 1341, but his grandsons Vytautas and Jogalia leading a combined army from Poland and Lithuainia won a decisive victory against the order in 1410. We really have to see this date as the begining of the Commonweath of Poland and Lithuainia as a real power. A small begining, maybe, but a begining none the less.

As far as the map is concerned, it is very interesting but the concept of nation states was so poorly defined and geopolitical borders so fluid in 1400 it is of limited use as a source.
Iki :)

 
suze
613795.  Wed Sep 16, 2009 11:10 am Reply with quote

Very true, jdean - many national borders were only very approximately defined before the twentieth century. Indeed, I'm not sure that all of them are precisely demarcated even today - some atlases show the borders in the Arabian desert with dotted lines to show that they are approximate.

So no, that map doesn't stand up to serious academic scrutiny, but it's of general interest all the same. I took it from http://mapsof.net/, but no, that site doesn't seem to have political maps of the other continents as at such early dates.

 
jdean
613809.  Wed Sep 16, 2009 11:50 am Reply with quote

On further study I have discovered that The Commonweath of Poland - Lithuania was, as you say, created with the Union Of Lublin in 1569. Before then the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was at its largest in the first half of the 16th century and is described as roughly the same size as the Holy Roman Empire and the largest political body in europe after the rapidly expanding Russian state.

So I guess the original question depends on your definition of what is and what isn't a country. Not an easy question.

 
jdean
613814.  Wed Sep 16, 2009 12:03 pm Reply with quote

Incidently, my favorite quote about Vilnius is from Murat, the King of Naples and Napoleon's Commander in Chief on his escape from the city ahead of the advancing Russian army: "I am not going to be taken here in this piss-pot!"
My Lithuanian girlfriend is particulary proud of this little fact.

 
suze
613817.  Wed Sep 16, 2009 12:14 pm Reply with quote

It really isn't an easy one to answer definitively.

I don't have too much difficulty with "dismissing" the Holy Roman Empire on the grounds that it wasn't really one country, and I'll quote Voltaire in support if necessary.

Russia is harder to "dismiss". Much of what we now call Russia can't really be said to be in Europe, but at the time we're speaking of most of Asiatic Russia was Mongol or Golden Horde territory (insofar as they were really countries either).

So it's hard to argue that the Russia of those days wasn't in Europe, and it probably was larger than Lithuania. But large parts of it were practically uninhabited, and I'm not sure that Moscow had any real control over remote settlements in the taiga and the tundra. Note for instance that the Russian language was practically unknown in some remoter parts until the twentieth century, and that at the time we're speaking of, Archangel - the largest city in the extreme north - was de facto under Norwegian control.

 
jdean
613821.  Wed Sep 16, 2009 12:38 pm Reply with quote

I am happy to accept that Russia was larger. As far as being largely uninhabited goes, so were large areas of Lithuania. On the subject of language usage, the German army took a census of Vilnius in 1914 on nationality as defined by the "mother tounge" principal and found that 50% spoke Polish, 44% Yiddish. Lithuanian, Russian and Byelorussian combined comprised the other 6%

 
suze
613834.  Wed Sep 16, 2009 1:45 pm Reply with quote

That's absolutely right, although when the Russians did the same in 1897 - Vilnius being at that time under Russian control - they found 56% Belarusian, 18% Lithuanian, 13% Yiddish, 8% Polish, and 5% Russian. Part of the issue was that some people declared themselves Polish or Lithuanian, depending who was asking, but it's also clear that at least one of the censuses must have been very inaccurate.

And some in Lithuania will tell you that the Polish seizure of the Vilnius region was actually a blessing in disguise, because if it hadn't happened then the Soviets would have taken Lithuania twenty years earlier than they did.

By the way jdean, are you Lithuanian by any chance? I'm Polish ...

 
jdean
613842.  Wed Sep 16, 2009 2:00 pm Reply with quote

No, I am English but my girlfriend is Lithuanian and I have spent a lot of time in Kaunas. I really love the country. I am even learning the language (not an easy task, and apparently my cockney accent is very funny!).

I read about the Russian census, and I agree that it was a bit chaotic to say the least, and given the turmoil (big understatement!) of 1914 there has to be problems with that one too!

I think the idea that some were happy with Polish control of Vilnius is not without some support, but I have found that an increasing number of people are beging to look back on the Soviet era with a sense of nostalgia given the "succsess" of capitalism in the last few years.

Where in Poland are you from?

 
suze
613978.  Wed Sep 16, 2009 4:50 pm Reply with quote

I'm actually from that well known part of Poland called Vancouver, British Columbia! But my paternal grandparents were ethnic Poles from Danzig / Gdańsk who emigrated to North America in 1933, shortly before the Nazis took control of the Freie Stadt. (My mother's family was Scottish.)

So I was brought up in Canada with a Polish surname, and my father never allowed me to forget that I was a Slav. Since then, I've moved to England and married an Englishman, but I took out Polish citizenship a few years back and spent a term teaching English in Gdańsk. (I have three citizenships - Canadian, Polish, and now British as well. It's a bit of a hobby of mine!)

My only trip to Lithuania has been a long weekend in Vilnius, but the people I spoke to there* were keen on greater involvement with Europe - quite a few had ambitions to go and work in Britain or Germany - and were very much less keen on Moscow. A difference between Vilnius and Kaunas, perhaps? You certainly don't find too many people in modern Poland who long for a return to the former system, and in fact current Polish politics is all rather right wing.

Good luck with learning Lithuanian! Polish has a lot of grammar, but Lithuanian has plenty more!


* Admittedly, this may not be a true reflection. I don't speak Lithuanian, and so the people I spoke to were ones who could have a conversation in English, German, or Polish.

 
jdean
614011.  Wed Sep 16, 2009 5:14 pm Reply with quote

I don't want to overstate the nostlgia thing. The people I have spoken to were not exactly looking back on a golden age. My girlfriends father (a native of Vilnius) tried to explain it to me. He belives that the only improvement is the right to vote for thier govenment, but as he said "when the only choice is between two corrupt criminals, whats the point?" and many of his friends agree.

On the whole, I think you are right, most people see their future in Europe and I think this is a generational thing. The younger generations are, by their nature, looking ahead. But it has to be said, the banking crisis has hit the baltic states hard, and it has dented their confidence some what.

It seems there are little corners of Poland all over the world! It is good to remember your origins. My girlfriend is very proud of her country and culture and it is infectious!

 
Jenny
614425.  Thu Sep 17, 2009 10:41 am Reply with quote

You two know a fair amount of Lithuanian history between you - can you make sense for me of the line in T S Eliot's 'Wasteland' where the woman says: "Bin gar keine Russin, stamm' aus Litauen, echt deutsch." I understand the literal translation, but not why she would have said it or the cultural implications of it. Russian = barbarous and German = civilized is the best sense I can make of it.

 
jdean
614432.  Thu Sep 17, 2009 11:01 am Reply with quote

She says "I am not Russian, I am a German from Lithuainia"

There was such a confussing mixture of nationalities in Lithuania (especialy in Vilnius) at the time the poem is set it can be hard to make sense of it all. Basicaly, I think, the Germans saw themselves as a civilizing force on the edges of the civilized world. Lithuania was very much seen (by the Germans, as well as others in western Europe) as a border land. On one side, mordern civilized Europe. On the other, wild and barbarous Russia.

So I belive she was making sure it was understood on which side of that border she stood.

Your equation "Russian = barabous, German = civilized" sums it up quite nicely.

 

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