True Lithuania

Regional and city symbols of Lithuania

To many Lithuanians the city they come from is the most important part of their regional identity. Therefore city symbols are very popular and city coats of arms are also used for official purposes.

Lithuanian city coats of arms (emblems)

City and town emblems are the best known local symbols of Lithuania. Nearly every urban location has its own, while the coats of arms of municipal capitals are also used by municipal authorities (for example, they adorn the uniforms of local policemen).

A map of Lithuania with all the city and town arms depicted on it. Such maps or posters are relatively popular, symbolizing the unity and diversity of Lithuania. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Largely banned by Russian Imperial (1795-1915) and then Soviet (1940-1990) overlords the Lithuanian town heraldry resurged in the 1990s as people drew inspiration from the past. Oldest and largest cities re-adopted their pre-18th-century coats of arms. Smaller towns and villages never had their emblems, therefore they launched an arms-creating spree. The process is tightly regulated by the State Heraldry commission which allows only conservative designs with no post-1800 inventions depicted. Therefore, for example, the railway hub town of Kaišiadorys had to adopt a coat of arms with rectangular horses (rather than trains).

With hundreds official arms now available only the main city ones are well known Lithuania-wide:
* Vilnius coat of arms - St. Cristopher with baby Jesus.
* Kaunas coat of arms - aurochs with a cross on its head.
* Klaipėda coat of arms - stylized German castle.
* Šiauliai coat of arms - a black bear, an ox and a Divine Providence symbol.
* Panevėžys coat of arms - a Medieval defensive tower.

Coats of arms (emblems) of Lithuania's largest cities.

Other well-known but unofficial symbols of cities:

Abbreviations used in netspeak, in most cases the first three consonants of city name: Vilnius - VLN, Kaunas - KNS, Klaipėda - KLP, Panevėžys - PNV

Nicknames which are used interchangeably with city names even by media: Vilnius is nicknamed "The capital", Kaunas - "Temporary capital", Klaipėda - "Port city", Šiauliai - "Sun city", Panevėžys - "Lithuanian Chicago", Palanga - "Summer capital".

Some cities also have unofficial anthems of varying local popularity.

Regional symbols of Lithuania

While Lithuania has five regions, only two of them have historic symbols.

Prior to World War 2 and the subsequent Soviet genocide there were actually two Lithuanias. Current Catholic Lithuania-proper had sister Lutheran Lithuania Minor which had been ruled by German states throughout most of its post-medieval history. Lithuania Minor had its own symbols which predated modern Lithuanian ones: a tricolor flag dating to 1660 and an anthem by Georg Sauerwein "Lietuvininkais mes esam gimę" ("Lietuvininks we are born" 1879). Much of the region was Russified and the symbols became rare even in its Lithuanian-controlled rump.

The most widely used regional flag today is the irregularly shaped Samogitian "bear flag". It represents the long-autonomous region of Western Lithuania which has a unique dialect. A few people even claim Samogitians to be a separate ethnicity but there is no separatism and none of the Lithuanian regional symbols have any negative connotations.

Flags of Samogitia (left) and Lithuania Minor (right).

Mythological symbols

Many Lithuanian locations have legends associated with them and the legendary people and creatures are recognized as local symbols, having sculptures built for them.

First and foremost among those is the Iron Wolf, the symbol of Vilnius. According to a local legend, the city was established by Grand Duke Gediminas after he dreamt of Iron Wolf and his seer interpreted this as a request to build a new capital.

Iron Wolf statue on top of Vilnius train station. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

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