True Lithuania

Is (was) Lithuania a part of Russia?

Lithuania is not and was not Russia. During the 1940-1941 and 1944-1990 periods, Lithuania was occupied by the Soviet Union. This occupation was contrary to international law and not recognized by most democratic countries.

Even under the official explanation of the Soviet Union, however, Lithuania was never part of Russia. Rather, the Soviet Union, according to its own law, consisted of 15 Republics, one of which was Lithuania and another of which was Russia.

In reality, these Republics had little power, and the power over the Soviet Union rested in Russia's hands. Still, however, being "part of Russia" and "being ruled by Russia" are two different things, just as neither Ireland nor India were ever parts of England, despite once being ruled from England.

Why do some foreigners believe Lithuania was a part of Russia?

Many people outside the region know little about the Central/Eastern European history. In these areas, "Soviet Union" and "Russia" (as well as "Soviets" and "Russians") were often used as synonyms, while the unique situation of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia as occupied independent countries (rather than parts of the Soviet Union) was overshadowed by the global picture of the Cold War. Now, even the Cold War is history, and so people often simplify and forget things even more.

Why is the "Lithuania was Russia" myth so insulting to Lithuanians?

To most Lithuanians, the notion that "Lithuania was Russia" is greatly insulting for a number of reasons. Firstly, such notion implies that Lithuania was somehow rightfully or willingly part of Russia, and only then decided to be a separate nation, which is not the case, as Lithuanians considered themselves a separate nation long before occupied by the Soviet Union.

Also, this misconception incorrectly implies that Lithuanians are related to Russians (or even descended from Russians). See the article on the "Lithuanians are similar to the Russians" myth to know more why it is insulting.

Note: the "Lithuania was Russia" claim refers to Lithuania having been a part of the Soviet Union, which is addressed above.

However, even earlier, during the era of global colonialism, between the years 1795 and 1915, Lithuania was also ruled by the Russian Empire (which, together with French, British, Spanish, German, Italian, Dutch and other empires, has partitioned the world). This rule was a result of the joint Russian-Prussian-Austrian partition of the Poland-Lithuanian state and was never recognized by Lithuanians, who participated in numerous revolts against the Russian rule. The status of Lithuania was then in some (though not all) ways comparable to a colony as laws have differed from Russia-proper. Russian Emperors used a separate title "Grand Duke of Lithuania" since the conquest.

While many Lithuanians would prefer saying "Lithuania was occupied by the Russian Empire", it is probably not so much of a faux-pas to say "Lithuania was part of a Russian Empire" or, on the safe side, "Lithuania was ruled by the Russian Empire". However, "Lithuania was a part of Russia" is still generally not acceptable.

Article written by Augustinas Žemaitis

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