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True Lithuania

Symbols of Lithuania (Anthem, Flag, Coat of Arms)

Lithuanian coat of arms, known as the Vytis, depicts a mounted soldier with raised sword on a red field. Dating back to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania it is among the Europe's oldest emblems. Atypically its source is Grand duke's seal rather than a dynastic coat of arms.

As the Grand Duchy spanned far beyond modern Lithuania the Vytis inspired many other symbols. Between 1991 and 1994 it (in a slightly different form) served as the coat of arms of Belarus and it is also included in some municipal and regional coats of arms in Poland.

A flag with Vytis had also been used in the Grand Duchy. Today it is designated "Historic flag" and is increasingly used alongside (or even instead of) the national flag in many places.

The modern Lithuanian national flag is a 20th-century creation. As the reestablished Lithuanian state (1918) was a republic a tricolor design was adopted. Since the French Revolution (1789) most European republics used similar flags.

Lithuanian coat of arms (left) and the tricolor flag (right).

Lithuanian anthem "Tautiška giesmė" (National hymn) has been created in 1898 by Vincas Kudirka, one of the heroes of Lithuanian National Revival (adopted in 1920). It is notable for having each verse to follow a different melody and therefore should never be shortened (trimming the anthem in some sports events triggers discontent). A peculiar tradition calls every Lithuanian to sing the anthem on July 6th.

Tautiška giesmė
by Vincas Kudirka

Lietuva, Tėvyne mūsų,
Tu didvyrių žeme,
Iš praeities Tavo sūnūs
Te stiprybę semia.

Tegul Tavo vaikai eina
Vien takais dorybės,
Tegul dirba Tavo naudai
Ir žmonių gėrybei.

Tegul saulė Lietuvoj
Tamsumas prašalina,
Ir šviesa, ir tiesa
Mūs žingsnius telydi.

Tegul meilė Lietuvos
Dega mūsų širdyse,
Vardan tos Lietuvos
Vienybė težydi!

National hymn
English translation ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Lithuania, our homeland,
Land of great heroes!
May your sons draw their strength
From the past.

May your children follow
Only paths of virtue,
May them work for your benefit
And the good of human beings.

May the sun over Lithuania
Spread the darknesses away
May both light and truth
Guide our steps.

May the love of Lithuania
Burn in our hearts.
In the name of this Lithuania
Let unity blossom.

[audio:|titles=Lithuanian National Anthem (vocal) - click on right to listen]

Other symbols strongly associated with Lithuania are the Columns of Gediminas (or Pillars of Gediminas) and the Cross of Vytis (a.k.a. Cross of Jogaila), both named after medieval Lithuanian rulers. They are repeatedly used in many other symbols. For instance, Cross of Vytis forms a part of Lithuanian Coat of Arms and the air force ensign whereas the Pillars of Gediminas were used for the trademark of Eurobasket 2011 event held in Lithuania and political party symbols.

In Dzūkija where there is a strong presence of Polish speakers ethnic Lithuanians traditionally erect crosses of Vytis instead of traditional crosses in churchyards and roadsides to signify their ethnicity.

Cross of Vytis and Pillars of Gediminas in their typical forms (left) and their modern uses: a churchyard cross of Vytis in Dzūkija and the Pillars of Gediminas as architectural elements in Kaunas (on the Officer's club and a bridge). ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Other things and practices held as "national" by significant parts of society (none of these - except for language - are enshrined in law so that's purely traditional):

National bird: White stork (ciconia ciconia)
National tree: Oak
National flower: Rue
National language: Lithuanian
National religion: Roman Catholicism
National sport: Basketball
National meal: Cepelinai (a.k.a. Didžkukuliai)
National alcoholic beverage: Beer
National "mineral" (jewelry): Amber
National musical instrument: Kanklės
National saints: St. Casimir and St. George

Bird/tree/flower are based on their prevalence in folklore. Sport/religion/language are the most popular ones, followed by the majority of the population. Meal/beverage/mineral/musical instrument are based on popular opinion. Saints are recognized by the Catholic church.

A band in national clothes performs folk music. Lithuanian folk costume consists of plain white elements and colorful patterns (stripes, tiles, etc.) and cover all the body except for palms and head. Women wear skirts and men wear trousers. Currently, the national clothes are used only in folk art performances, historical re-enactments and (by some people) during national holidays. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Common abbreviations (country codes) for Lithuania are LT and LTU.

As Lithuania became a member state of the European Union and NATO, the European Union flag is waving near nearly every Lithuanian government institution or embassy next to the Lithuanian flag, while the NATO flag is waving at some institutions.

Flags as they appear in the main hall of the Lithuanian government. Lithuanian and European Union flags stand side-by-side while the table hosts the flags of all the member states. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Traditional Lithuanian wooden cross and Rūpintojėlis (a sculpture of a sad Jesus) have also become symbols of Lithuania, especially in the Lithuanian communities abroad where many Lithuanian churches and even secular buildings have such symbols erected in front of them.

Old crosses at Zervynos village. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

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  1. Dear Lithuanians,

    I just found a beautiful Lithuanian song “Lietuva Brangi”, composed by Juozas Naujalis(uploaded by HannaLoverika) from YouTube.

    I have no idea who are singing this song (it’s a choir version), what is the lyric’s meaning, who is Juozas Naujalis?

    Is anyone who speaks good English be able to upload Juozas Naujalis-Lietuva Bragi (with English translation) to the YouTube?

    I think people from all over the world will love this beautiful Lithuanian song (but same choir version please) because most of us never heart this song.

    It is a good opportunity to introduce beautiful Lithuanian song to world audience.

    Thank you.
    Arigato gozaimasu from Japan.

    • This song is based on a famous poem by Maironis, who is regarded as the national poet of Lithuania. Juozas Naujalis was a famous composer of the era.

      Generally, the song/poem indirectly describes the feelings of Lithuanians of the National Revival era (late 19th century). It addresses the Lithuanians’ re-learning of their heroic history (Grand Duchy of Lithuania), it mentions the feelings of mostly peasant Lithuanians towards their nature, folk songs as well as the divide between this Lithuanian-speaking peasantry and the noble elite who have adopted Polish language and customs. It also mentions the people who rediscovered their Lithuanian roots. Deep religiousity of Lithuania and the position of the church as an institution that connects Lithuanians (and also justapoxes them against the Russian Imperial regime of the time) is also mentioned.

      In general, however, the political things are not mentioned directly in the song, with e.g. words “Russian”, “Polish”, “Catholic”, “National revival” not appearing. Instead, more generic words and symbols are used, such as rues (the national flower).

      It is one of the more famous patriotic songs and poems.

      ENGLISH TRANSLATION BY ME (Augustinas Žemaitis):

      Beautiful you are, dear fatherland;
      A country where in graves heroes are sleeping:
      Beautiful you are, for the blueness of your sky!
      Dear: so much poverty, so many torments have you suffered.

      So nice the valleys of a fast-flowing Dubysa,
      The hills are greening (like rues) with forests;
      And on these hills all the sisters
      Are sorrowfully singing the lovely songs.

      There, a content dark Nevėžis
      Like a strip it surrounds the green grasslands;
      It waves after borrowing a deep channel;
      His deep thought is known to the God alone.

      So nice your manors, oh fatherland,
      Protruding in white from the green gardens!
      Yet they forgot the dear language of the fathers
      And so they have few ties to our hearts.

      So happy are the farmsteads when a lark
      Cozily twitters, after rising high above,
      Or when the sun is setting and the nice evening
      Brings a calm – after sweetly turning silent.

      Your churches are glitteting not in their beauty
      Not in the richness of their paintings or golds;
      They are burning with love, with the power of prayer,
      With the living faith of the old ages.

      When before a midday Sunday prayer everybody, as agreed,
      Sorrowfully sings “Let’s fall on our knees!”
      The feelings of a non-believer, opened once again,
      Learn to believe from those little kids.

      Beautiful you are, dear fatherland;
      A country where in graves heroes are sleeping!
      Not reasonlessly the men of old have defended you so,
      Not reasonlessly the singers praised you so.


      Graži tu, mano brangi tėvyne,
      Šalis, kur miega kapuos didvyriai:
      Graži tu savo dangaus mėlyne!
      Brangi: tiek vargo, kančių prityrei.

      Kaip puikūs slėniai sraunios Dubysos,
      Miškais lyg rūta kalnai žaliuoja;
      O po tuos kalnus sesutės visos
      Griaudžiai malonias dainas ringuoja.

      Ten susimąstęs tamsus Nevėžis
      Kaip juosta juosia žaliąsias pievas;
      Banguoja, vagą giliai išrėžęs;
      Jo gilią mintį težino Dievas.

      Kaip puikūs tavo dvarai, tėvyne,
      Baltai iš sodų žalių bekyšą!
      Tik brangią kalbą tėvų pamynę
      Jie mūsų širdis mažai ką riša.

      Kaip linksma sodžiuos, kai vyturėlis
      Jaukiai pragysta, aukštai iškilęs,
      Ar saulė leidžias, ir vakarėlis
      Ramumą neša, saldžiai nutilęs.

      Bažnyčios tavo ne tiek gražybe,
      Ne dailės turtais, ne auksu žiba;
      Bet dega meilės, maldos galybe,
      Senųjų amžių gyva tikyba.

      Kai ten prieš sumą visi sutarę
      Griaudžiai užtraukia „Pulkim ant kelių”,
      Jausmai bedievio vėl atsidarę
      Tikėti mokos nuo tų vaikelių.

      Graži tu, mano brangi tėvyne,
      Šalis, kur miega kapuos didvyriai!
      Ne veltui bočiai tave taip gynė,
      Ne veltui dainiai plačiai išgyrė!

  2. Thank you for a lovely translation. Just need to mention that LIETUVA has a feminine ending, so it is more appropriate to refer to it as Motherland (not fatherland) . If itr were masculine, it would be Lietuvas.

    • Yes, however, the Lithuanian word “Tėvynė” is derived from “Tėvas” rather “Mama” / “Motina”, so it is closer in the direct meaning to “Fatherland”.

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