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True Lithuania

Myths about Lithuania – introduction

Regular foreigners, foreign media, foreign politicians, and even foreign researchers often encounter and unwillingly spread some misconceptions about Lithuania.

Some of the misconceptions about Lithuania have their roots in subtle language and cultural differences, others come either from biased sources of information (e.g. Soviet propaganda) or superficial sources of information (e.g. TV shows), and yet others might have been true in the past but are no longer so. All of them tend to get repeated even by many reputable people, therefore it is often impossible to discover that something is a myth just by checking your sources.

Here we have collected the top myths about Lithuania foreigners often have. We try to also analyze how each of these myths came into being.

Note: many of these myths may be insulting to Lithuanians or even regarded to be a manifestation of anti-Lithuanian hatred. Therefore, if you have Lithuanian friends or business contacts, please avoid mentioning them.

Broadly, the key misconceptions about Lithuania can be grouped into four categories, ranging from the least insulting to the most insulting:

1.The myths that Lithuania is a worse place to be than it really is - that it is extremely poor, unsafe. These myths do not take into account the progress Lithuania made since the Soviet occupation ended but may be seen as a genuine faux-pas since the progress has been too fast for the public opinions to go in line with it.

2.The myths that Lithuania is a new country/nation which previously was Russian, Polish, Belarusian or that Lithuanians are similar to the Russians. In reality, Lithuania was the medieval Europe's biggest country and Lithuanians as a culture developed in this land long before most other European cultures (~4000 years ago). People who perpetuate these myths may be seen as ignorant by Lithuanians but not necessarily malevolent as these myths are usually repeated simply due to oversimplification of history.

3.The myths that incorrectly or superficially explain the Lithuanian culture and language arriving at various wrong conclusions. The most prevalent among those is the myth that Lithuanians are unwilling to consider minorities as Lithuanian but the myth about racist Lithuanians often also has roots in incorrect interpretations of Lithuanian culture. While believing such myths may arguably be somewhat acceptable for tourists, the fact that there are some foreigners who live in Lithuania for many years and yet continue to repeat these myths baffles and deeply saddens many Lithuanians. The long-term believers of such myths may be seen as being either ignorant, prejudiced or having a cultural superiority complex.

4.The blatant or indirect denial of the occupations, persecutions, and genocides suffered by Lithuanians in the 20th century or portrayals of the Lithuanian victims as responsible for their own fate or even for the fate of others. These myths (most of them originating in Soviet propaganda) claim that either Lithuania has joined the Soviet Union willingly, that Lithuanians were communists, that Soviet Union has liberated Lithuania and was better than Nazi Germany or that Soviet rule in Lithuania had many bright sides. Interestingly, there are other (just as insulting) myths that claim exactly the opposite: that Lithuania supported the Nazi Germany, that Lithuanians were or even are Nazis. These myths are not only seen as extremely insulting by Lithuanians but also as dangerous, as similar myths have been used by Russia in order to denigrate the statehoods of Lithuania and other Central/Eastern European countries and promote wars against them.

Moreover, in a separate article, we explore the 6 different approaches to Lithuanian historiography based on the standpoints of 6 different ethnic groups. One-sided interpretations of historical events often give rise or support to myths about Lithuania.

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