The following are the 20 dates that "turned the tides" in Lithuanian history. Some had strengthened Lithuania, others sent it into a decline.
They are listed chronologically:
1009 - First mention of name "Lithuania" in writing. A murder of a missionary St. Bruno at likely Lithuanian pagan hands is recorded by a German scribe. "Irrelevant barbarian land" became known as the "final pagan piece of Europe" in Catholic European minds. Sporadic attempts to Christianise the Balts thus turned into a massive onslaught of crusading knights.
1253 - Coronation of king Mindaugas. Mindaugas became the first king of Lithuania recognized as such by the other nations. While the theories that credit him with the establishment of Lithuanian state may be too far-fetched (that likely happened beforehand), his rule solidified Lithuania so it was never conquered by the Crusaders (unlike all the other Baltic lands) and instead went in a rapid expansion drive.
1385 - Union of Krėva. Under this treaty Lithuanians adopted Christianity, kicking off much of the European support for the anti-Lithuanian crusades. Furthermore, Lithuanian leaders also became Polish kings as the countries established a long-lasting alliance.
1410 - Žalgiris (Grunewald) battle. Joint Lithuanian-Polish forces defeated the Teutonic Knights, signifying the power of Lithuania that now stretched from Baltic to the Black sea (the largest medieval European state).
1503 - Lithuanian-Moscow truce. Lithuania ceded almost 1/3rd of its territory to Muscovy as it lost the first war to that rapidly strengthening power. While the alienated lands were geographically and culturally distant, this was the beginning of the "Russian menace" that continued to haunt Lithuania ever since.
1569 - Union of Lublin. Lithuania and Poland merged into a single massive Commonwealth, restoring invincibility for another century. This came at a heavy price, however: Lithuania became secondary-in-status to Poland (to which it also ceded entire Ukraine). Therefore the Lithuanian nobility increasingly adopted Polish language and customs.
1655 - The Deluge. Poland-Lithuania have been overran by Russian and Swedish forces. Vilnius was sacked for the first time in history. While the Commonwealth was liberated by 1660 it became plagued by internal conflicts and regular foreign interventions, never to become a great power again.
1795 - 3rd Partition of Poland-Lithuania. European superpowers (Russia, Prussia, Austria) completed the dismemberment Poland-Lithuania with most of Lithuania falling under Russian yoke. All subsequent attempts to restore Poland-Lithuania failed, with Russia tightening its grip every time.
1864 - Lithuanian language ban. Russian Empire banned Lithuanian language and persecuted Catholic faith, hoping to Russify the land. The measures proved counter-productive as they made Lithuanians to respect their language, spurring Lithuanian National Revival that sought to establish a Lithuanian state independent of both Russia and Poland.
1915 - German occupation of Lithuania. Germany conquered Lithuania in World War 1 from a rapidly weakening Russian Empire. Its less oppressive and more mercantilist approach raised Lithuanian expectations for freedom.
1918 - Declaration of independence. National Revival culminated in independence declaration that restored a fully sovereign Lithuanian country for the first time since 1569. The country achieved a remarkable prosperity in the subsequent decades.
1920 - Polish occupation of Vilnius region. Breaching the previous Treaty of Suwalki Polish troops captured Vilnius region of Lithuania, which was later annexed to Poland. The subsequent international dispute over Vilnius (1920-1939) put the final nail in the coffin of a "united Polish-Lithuanian nation" idea.
1923 - Klaipėda Revolt. Lithuanians deposed the League of Nations rule in Klaipėda Region and joined it to Lithuania. For the first time since the 1200s, Lithuania-proper was unified with a part of Lithuania Minor and Lithuania acquired a major port. Foreign nations ceased to treat Lithuania as a weak temporary statelet and offered diplomatic recognitions.
1940 - Soviet occupation of Lithuania. The Soviet Union occupied Lithuania and soon launched a genocide. The most terrible treatment since The Deluge made Lithuanians seek help anywhere they could expect it, including Germany.
1941 - Nazi German occupation of Lithuania. Lithuanians declared independence from Soviet rule, but Nazi German army occupied Lithuania nevertheless and extinguished all forms of self-rule. While the Germans did not reinstate Soviet Genocide and discrimination, they launched a genocide of their own (Holocaust).
1944 - Soviet re-occupation of Lithuania. As Soviet armies forced out the Germans, the Soviet mass murders, exiles, discrimination re-emerged while Lithuanian forests were engulfed by guerilla war. Entire Lithuania Minor was wiped out in Genocide. Lithuania was effectively sentenced to 46 more years of occupation, the failed socialist economic policies dragging its economy decades behind the West.
1989 - Baltic Way. Millions of Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians stood hand-in-hand showing their unity in the face of the Soviet regime and making the return of freedom seem increasingly probable.
1990 - Restoration of independence. Lithuania becomes the first Soviet-ruled Republic to declare independence, triggering a rapid decline of the Union as a whole.
1991 - January events. Hundreds of thousands of armless Lithuanians used their bodies to cover key institutions from invading Soviet/Russian tanks, effectively saving independence and earning its first diplomatic recognitions. Lithuania launched swift transformation into a free market democratic state.
2004 - Joining the European Union. Lithuania ceded parts of its sovereignty to this international organization that has been gradually integrating into a federation-like structure. Lithuanian laws became subordinated to European Union directives and regulations, border controls were abolished and Lithuania lost ~20% of population to emigration.
Article written by Augustinas Žemaitis
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