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Lithuania (Lietuva)

The Lithuanians, or Lietuva, were a native Eastern Baltic people, not Slavic like their neighbours to the east and south. Baltic people have lived around the shores of Mare Suebicum, the Baltic Sea, and as far east as Moscow for several thousand years, arriving as Indo-European proto-Baltic peoples around 3000-2500 BC. They initially formed part of a general westwards migration of Indo-Europeans until splitting off around that time. They further divided from the closely-related Slavic group around 2500 BC and went on to form the ancestors of the Latvians, Lithuanians and Old Prussians. Late to unite into kingdoms and nations, they did so in the face of outside pressure.

Located in the heartland of the country they created, close to the later city of Vilnius, the Lithuanians under Mindaugas united the neighbouring tribes into a single entity which could fight off repeated incursions by the Teutonic Knights, who bordered them to the west and south. To the north, the Samogitians and Semigallians formed a buffer, first between the Lithuanians and the Lats, and Ests, and then against the Livonian Knights. Under subsequent rulers, the Lithuanians vastly extended the size of their state to the east and south, as Mongol power dwindled. They quickly took what is now Belarus, followed by Polotsk, Vitebsk, and Volynia, before extending to the north coast of the Black Sea, and east to Smolensk.

Lithuanian rulers held the title of 'kunigaikshtis', which can translate equally into 'duke' or 'king'. Later, however, the word 'karalius' was used to specifically denote a king. This is based on a Slavic derivative of 'Carolus', better known as Charles the Great or Charlemagne (the German/Russian use of Kaiser/Czar descends in much the same way from 'Caesar'). Even though their state was considered to be a grand duchy by Europe in general, the Lithuanian rulers always referred to themselves as kings. Some of their names have varied spellings, thanks to their being recorded by different authors in different languages.

(Additional information by Gediminas Kiveris and Yury Kanavalau, from The History of the Baltic Countries, various authors, and from The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World, David W Anthony.)

12,000 BC

The glacial ice sheet retreats from the territory that will later form southern and north-eastern Lithuania. The retreat is slow but constant, so that Lithuania is entirely free of the ice sheet by about 10,500 BC. Lakes and valleys have been formed by the melt water, and the landscape is littered with heaps of gravel and sand-layered hills which have been pushed up by the glacier, along with boulders from the Scandinavian mountain ridges. Areas of coastal Lithuania remain under the waters of the Baltic ice lake (the Yoldia Sea, the modern Baltic Sea), and a severe sub-Arctic climate prevails, making the spread of the first lichen, dwarf birch, and dwarf willow a slow process. The first hunters probably arrive within a millennium, following the last of the mammoths.

Retreating ice sheet
The retreat of the glacial ice sheet allowed first plants and then animals to migrate into the region, closely followed by the first hunter-gatherers

9000s BC

FeatureBy this date, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Prussia are settled by proto-Baltic hunter-gather tribes which all share the same cultural traces. They belong to two groups, one being the regionally-dominant Baltic Kunda culture, which is a development of the earlier Swiderian culture located to the south. The other is the Magdalen-Ahrensburg culture located in north-western Germany and Denmark, which probably enriches the Kunda culture.

Traditional scholarly belief has these hunter-gatherers migrating from the southern Baltics and further east, but a more recent idea suggests that while this is correct for the Baltics, Finland and northern Scandinavia are also first inhabited via the sweeping grass plains of Doggerland (now under the North Sea). Settlements at Eiguliai and Puvotsiai among others testify to the fact that hunter-gathers are present in Lithuania from as early as the eleventh millennium.

c.8200 BC

The waters of the ice-damned Baltic Ice Lake penetrate the region of the Billingen Mountains to form a link with the Atlantic Ocean. As a result, the Yoldia Sea drops rapidly, by about thirty metres. This retreat is so sudden, and probably has such a profound effect on the early inhabitants of the Baltic area, that it is known as the Billingen Catastrophe.

8000 - 7100 BC

The Preboreal period sees the climate become significantly warmer in the Baltics. Birch and pine forests start to spread, and elk, bears, beavers, and various species of water birds migrate into the region from the south.

7100 - 5800 BC

The Boreal period sees the climate continue to warm and become drier. Pine forests decrease, allowing deciduous trees to gain a firmer foothold and become prevalent. The animal population thrives, with red deer, roe deer, and hares increasing considerably.

5800 - 2800 BC

The Atlantic period is characterised by a climate that is warmer than that of the present day. New species migrate into the Baltic region, including Baltic aurochs and wild boar, which inhabit forests of broad-leaved trees. Water chestnuts grow in the many lakes, and the bountiful life draws hunter-gatherers into the area. The warmness fails towards the end of this period, causing the disappearance of aurochs, wild horses, and water chestnuts.

c.3000 BC

The Comb Ceramic culture reaches Prussia, Latvia, Estonia and Finland as new peoples arrive from the east, almost certainly the Finno-Ugric tribes who form the later core of Finland and Estonia (Estonians, Finns, Livonians, Karelians, Wots, Weps, and Ingrians). The early Neolithic culture seems to form on the basis of the previous Mesolithic cultures, but uses a greater variety of bone, antler and stone implements, and employs boring, drilling, and abrading skills. The Mesolithic Nemunas culture of southern Lithuania is replaced by the Neolithic Nemunas culture.

c.2500 BC

The Corded Ware culture (or Boat Axe culture) arrives in southern Finland, along the coastal regions, as well as in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, western Russia, Poland, northern Germany, Denmark, and southern Sweden. These new, probably early Indo-European, arrivals also have some domesticated animals and bring agriculture with them, although it continues to exist alongside universally-practised hunter-gather activities for some time. Both these people form the proto-Baltic ancestors of the later Latvians and Lithuanians.

c.AD 50 - 150

MapThe arrival in Poland of the Gothic people in the first and second centuries AD has a great impact on the Baltic population there, resulting in them moving towards eastern Lithuania. In all probability, due to the ethnic affinity of these peoples, peaceful relations are established. The appearance of various new groups of pottery, part of the Willenberg culture, testifies to the further merging of these ethnic groupings.

River Vistula
The mouth of the Vistula in the first century AD was ideal for settlement

c.150 - 200

Far from remaining settled where they are in Poland, the Goths gradually renew their migration, now moving slowly southwards from the Oder and Vistula, heading on a path that will eventually take them into Ukraine. The migration could be caused by pressure from the Baltic tribes, early segments of the later Lithuanians, who are expanding back into territory they had lost to the Germanic tribes in the first century AD.

5th century

In the first half of the fifth century, there is some evidence of a new wave of invaders in Lithuania. There is every reason to believe that nomadic hordes (either the Huns or a fringe group related to or vassals of them) carry out raids on the forts of southern and eastern Lithuania. Traces of fires and three blade spearheads are later uncovered at the forts of Aukstadvaris, Kernave, Pasvonis, and Vilnius to support the idea.

1009

The annals of the town of Quedlinburg in Germany report the arrival of Saint Brunon, known more normally as Bonifatius, on missionary work among the Prussians. His attempt ends in failure, and it is believed he is killed together with his eighteen companions somewhere in the vicinity of the Lithuanian border (the first mention of 'Lithuania' in written sources).

before 1203

A semi-legendary 'Grand Principality of Lithuania' is supposed to exist, ruled by a grand prince. In reality, the Lithuanians are ruled by several dukes and princes who preside over various tribes and vassals, many of whom are loosely united by bonds of pagan religion, kinship, and trade. It is possibly that this bonding process had begun when the region suffered Mongol incursions, but it is the arrival of German crusaders in the territory of the Lats and the Prussians which really spark the process of unification amongst the Lithuanians.

before 1219

Ringaudas

fl 1219

Zivinbudas

1219

Mindaugas is mentioned as an elder duke. His father is mentioned in the Livonian Rhymed Chronicle as an unnamed powerful duke (later sources name him as Ringaudas).

? - c.1235/38

Dausprungas

Son of Ringaudas?

1235? - 1236

Mindaugas / Mindouh

Brother? United Lithuanian tribes and became first grand duke.

1236

Following the shock defeat of the Livonian Knights by the Samogitian and Semigallian tribes, Mindaugas is able to consolidate his control of Lithuania, creating a grand duchy.

Grand Duchy & Kingdom of Lithuania
AD 1236 - 1263

In 1236 the Samogitians and Semigallians (situated between the Lithuanians and the Lats in what is now southern Latvia) decimated the Livonian Knights at the Battle of Schaulen (Saule), in what was the north-west of the Lithuanian tribal territories. At the same time, Mindaugas, who may have ruled for perhaps a year beforehand, was able consolidate his control of the eastern Lithuanian and southern Black-Rus (modern northern Belarus) territories, forming the grand duchy of Lithuania and Ruthenia, with a capital based at Navahradak.

The state quickly came to consist of all the Lithuanian lands located mainly in the basin of the River Nemunas, taking in the tribes of Upyte, Deltuva, Neris, Dainava, Nalšia, plus Melnkrievija in the south, and the Zhemait Prussians in the west. Mindaugas' power was also acknowledged to a certain extent by the Skalvs, and Nadruvs, and elements of the Yatvyags, all Prussian tribes in the west and south, and the Sels in the north-eastern corner of Lithuania, with the result that the lands by the Upper Nemunas with their mixed Balto-Slavic population became part of the new Lithuanian state.

1236 - 1263

Mindaugas / Mindouh

Converted to Christianity. Assassinated.

c.1240

Mindaugas makes the powerful Samogitians his vassals. Local rulers are allowed to remain in charge, especially as Lithuania's southern borders soon come under attack by the White Horde forces of Orda Khan as part of the general Mongol attack on Poland.

1242

The principality of Polotsk becomes a Lithuanian vassal state. Mindaugas places the Samogitian ruler, Tautvila, in command of the principality.

1248 - 1251

Mindaugas faces a stern test when conflict arises between him and the Galicia-Volynian Prince Daniil when the latter, along with the political powers in Livonia, and elements of the Yatvyags and Zhemaits (borderland Prussians) who have been subdued by Mindaugas now rise against him. The conflict threatens to destroy the new state. With a mixture of politics and promises, Mindaugas wins over the Livonian Knights, and converts to Christianity in 1251.

1253

As the final stage of subduing the rebellion against him, Mindaugas is crowned king of Lithuania, using a crown sent to him by the Pope (thereby officially recognising the Lithuanian state). He transfers part of the Samogitian territories to the Livonian Knights as a means of ensuring peace. The protection of the kingdom is maintained by Mindaugas from the legendary wooden castle of Voruta, one of a series of wooden castles which appear in Lithuania but which do not survive to the present day, with only hill forts remaining.

Typical Lithuanian wooden castle
A typical Lithuanian wooden castle from a time when the land was filled with them, approximately 450 in all, held by the nobility against the country's powerful enemies

1259

At the end of a two year truce, the eager Samogitians inflict a defeat on the Livonian Knights at the Battle of Skuodas under the leadership of Treniota, nephew of Mindaugas. Their success encourages the Semigallians to rebel against the rule of the Knights.

1260 - 1263

The Samogitians inflict a severe defeat on a joint army of Livonian Knights and Teutonic Knights at the Battle of Durbe in 1260 (now in south-western Latvia). Mindaugas is encouraged by Treniota to support the resulting rebellions against Teutonic rule, and his nephew organises military campaigns into Livonia until his own position has been strengthened. Then in 1263 he assassinates his uncle, returns the Lithuanians to paganism and takes over their governance.

Grand Duchy of Lithuania (& Ruthenia)
AD 1263 - 1795

Treniota was the nephew of King Mindaugas and leader of the fierce Samogitian tribe during the defeats which were inflicted on the Livonian Knights. He also encouraged his uncle to give up the Christianity which he had only accepted in order to prevent attacks by the Teutonic Knights, a policy which had failed. When Mindaugas began to question the alliance with his nephew, Treniota assassinated him and two of his sons, with the help of Daumantas, duke of Nalmas in northern Lithuania, and took over the reins of power in Lithuania, albeit only briefly before he was deposed by Vaisvilkas.

Lithuanian expansion stalled until Gediminas came to the throne, but then expanded beyond all recognition. Ruthenia was a Latinisation of 'Rus', the Lithuanian-controlled Slavic lands to the south, which now forms parts of Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine, with minor extensions into Poland and Slovakia. Much of it was contained within the weakening state of Galicia-Volhynia. During this period, the peoples within the grand duchy, the Lithuanians (of 'Highland' Lithuania), Samogitians, Kurshes (Couronians), Semgals, Sels, Prussians, and Yatvyags, became consolidated as the Lithuanian people.

1263 - 1264

Treniota

Samogitian ruler. Reverted to paganism. Assassinated.

1264 - 1267

Vaisvilkas

Son of Minduoh. Assassinated.

1267

Svarnas, ruler of the powerful Kievan principality of Halych, secures the throne through his marriage to one of the daughters of Mindaugas. Svarnas' brother, Lev I of Halych, assassinates Vaisvilkas just to ensure that he is not challenged but also in revenge for not being handed a division of the Lithuanian lands.

Veiselga Monastery
Veiselga Monastery, shown here in oils by Napoleon Orda, was apparently founded by Vaisvilkas, who twice retired to live a monastic life

1267 - 1269

Svarnas of Galicia / John

Prince of Halych. Assassinated.

1270 - 1281/2

Traidenis / Traidjanis

1274 - 1275

Smolensk is the last of the independent principalities of the Rus, but it now falls to Mongke Temur of the Golden Horde. The following year he defends his Rus vassals by dispatching a Mongol-Rus force to ward off the Lithuanians, an action requested by Duke Lev I of Halych-Volynia.

1282

Traidenis has managed to restore a level of stability to the state, reunifying the territories which form Lithuania and pushing back the rulers of Volynia who were threatening to take over, but his death leaves some doubt about the succession, especially in the minds of later scholars, owing to a lack of chronicling for the period.

1282/83 - 1285

Daumantas

The same as Daumantas of Pskov?

1283

The Teutonic Knights continue to advance north through Prussia, and having conquered the lands of the Skalvs and part of that of the Yatvyags, it drives the Nadruvians to the River Nemunas in 1283, right on the border with Lithuania. The population of these areas is killed off, with only a few managing to escape across the border.

1285 - 1291

Butigeidis

First certain member of the Gediminid dynasty.

1291 - 1294

Pukuveras / Butvydas

Brother. Samogitian ruler.

1294

Pukuveras' accession to the Lithuanian throne unites Samogitia to the crown on a permanent basis. The son of Pukuveras rules both as a single political entity.

1295 - 1316

Viten / Vytenis

Son.

1316 - 1341

Gediminas / Hedymin

Brother.

1307

The brother of Gediminas, Vainius, secures the rule of the principality of Polotsk from the archbishopric of Riga. Successive Lithuanian rulers in Polotsk help in fending off attacks by the Livonian Knights.

1323

Gediminas transfers the Lithuanian capital to Vilnius. During his reign he also expands Lithuanian control over the Bela-Rus in the south, Vitebsk in the east, and Volynia in the south-east. The Golden Horde Mongols begin to perceive the growing power of the Lithuanians as a direct threat to their hegemony over the Rus. As a result, the Muscovites are soon granted extra powers to counter this threat.

1330

Lithuania defeats the boyars of the Rus and occupies Kiev and its surrounding territory. The loss of this vassal state by the Golden Horde removes not only it from their control, but also cuts off Wallachia whose ruler, Basarab I, effectively becomes independent, although this has increasingly been the case for several years.

1341/2 - 1345

Jaunutis

Son.

1341 - 1377

Algirdas / Olgierd / Alhierd

Brother.

1341 - 1377

Algirdas expands Lithuanian territory further eastwards, bringing it into conflict with the grand duchy of Moscow, initially under Grand Prince Simeon, who has been granted extra powers by his overlord, Ozbeg Khan of the Golden Horde specifically to counter the Lithuanian threat. In 1342 Algirdas' son, Andrei, is made prince of Polotsk.

1377 - 1381

Jogaila / Jagiello

Son. Converted. m Jadwiga. Became Wladyslaw V of Poland.

1377

Jogaila forces the principality of Polotsk to accept his loyal brother, Skirgaila, in favour of Andrei, whom he sees as a rival.

1379

Bishop Dietrich of Dorpat hates the Livonian Knights with some intensity, so much so that he forms a coalition against the Knights with Lithuania, Mecklenburg and the notorious Victual Brothers who are Baltic pirates. The Knights invade the bishopric but achieve no success. In the end their lack of results removes from them the right to demand military service from the Livonian bishops.

1381

While Jogaila is away, attempting to reinforce his brother's rule in Polotsk, his uncle, Kestutis, removes him from the throne, triggering the Lithuanian Civil War (1381-1384). Jogaila manages to win back control over the country.

1381 - 1382

Kestutis / Kiejstut

Brother of Algirdas. Ruler of Samogitia.

1382 - 1401

Jogaila / Jagiello

Restored. Accepted Christianity. Also king of Poland (1386-1434).

1385 - 1386

The Union of Kreva (Krewo) is agreed by Jogaila as the only certain way to halt the crusading attacks by Poland, the Teutonic Knights and Moscow. The union includes the throne of Poland in return for the Catholic Christianisation of the Lithuanians, and in 1386 Jogaila becomes king of Poland under the name Wladyslaw Jagiello. The Orthodox, Rus, nobles in the country are reduced to second class status as the Catholic nobles (or boyars) gain the best positions, but as Lithuania finds itself part of Poland and ruled in part by Poles, even the Catholic nobles are not pleased with the situation.

1387

With Jogaila's conversion to Christianity, Lithuania becomes the last state in Europe to end its pre-Christian paganism (although the Lithuanian Zemaitija - the Samogitians - are not converted until after 1410). As he is now king of a far larger domain than just Lithuania, Jogaila appoints governors to handle Lithuania's day-to-day affairs, but unhappy with the situation one of them, Vytautas, is supported by the nobles in his fight for power. In the same year Jogaila attacks Polotsk to the east and the Livonian Knights do not protect it, virtually gifting it to its attackers.

1387 - 1390

Skirgaila Ivan

Governor of Samogitia for Jogaila.

1389 - 1390

Klemensas / Klemens Moskorzowski

Governor in Lithuania for Jogaila.

1390 - 1392

Jasius / Jan Olesnicki

Governor in Lithuania for Jogaila.

1392

Vytautas is successful in gaining Jogaila's concession of power in Lithuania, and rules the country as great prince, while Jogaila concentrates on his Polish domains.

1392 - 1401

Vytautas

Governor of Samogitia for Jogaila. Became grand duke in 1401.

1397

The principality of Polotsk is abolished and becomes an administrative division of Lithuania, known as the Polotsk Voivodeship.

1398 - 1411

The duchy of Samogitia is briefly conquered by the Teutonic Knights, before being recovered by Lithuania.

1401 - 1430

Vytautas / Witold the Great

Son of Kestutis. 'Regent' (1392-1401), then grand duke.

1410

Lithuania and Poland defeat the Teutonic Knights at Tannenberg, becoming dominant for a time over Eastern Europe. Under Vytautas, Lithuania reaches the height of its territorial expansion, the equivalent size of fifteen modern Lithuanias, by taking Smolensk.

1411

Jalal ad Din, son of the powerful Toqtamish Khan who had reunified the Golden Horde, has been in exile for some years. He has taken part in the Battle of Tannenberg alongside the Lithuanians, and it is with Lithuanian support that he is now able to overthrow Temur Khan and regain his rightful place as ruler of the Golden Horde. Unfortunately, after a brief reign in which he writes a history of the Mongol empire, he is murdered by his brother, Karim Berdi.

1422

The Teutonic Knights officially cede Samogitia to Lithuania under the terms of the Treaty of Melno. In the same year, Vytautas accepts an offer by the Hussites to take the crown of Bohemia, and sends his deputy, Zygmunt Koribut, there. By now he has already raided the Rus, and subordinated Novgorod and Pskov, and even Moscow comes under Lithuania's influence in 1425. Vytautas is also acknowledged by the khans of Tatar.

1429 - 1430

At the assembly of East and Central European leaders, held in Lutsk (now in Ukraine but at this time part of Lithuania), Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund von Luxembourg offers Lithuania a crown. In 1430, protests are made by the Polish Royal Council in their efforts to deny Lithuania crown status. Poland refuses passage to the emperor's envoys and their offering of a crown to Lithuania. The coronation of Vytautas in Vilnius fails. On 27 October, Vytautas dies (or is killed). His remains are entombed in Vilnius Cathedral (then known as St Stanislaus' Church). Jogaila grants the title of great prince of Lithuania to his brother, Swidrygiello.

1430 - 1432

Swidrygiello / Svitrigaila

Son of Algirdas.

1430 - 1432

Swidrygiello attempts to implement Vytautas' goal of achieving a coronation. However, he is forcibly removed from power due to the efforts of Polish politicians.

1432 - 1440

Zygmunt / Sigismund

Brother of Vytautas. Murdered by conspirators.

1435

Zygmunt has strengthened his position by granting personal immunity to the nobles of the state, including those in the lands of Rus. Now he crushes the opposition forces of Swidrygiello and his ally, the Livonian Knights. This proves to be the last invasion into Lithuania to be carried out by the Knights.

1440 - 1492

Kazimierz / Casimir

Son of Jogaila. Also king of Poland (1446-1492).

1446

Grand Duke Casimir gains the throne of Poland and becomes Casimir IV, king of Poland, as well as retaining command of the grand duchy. The union of two thrones is renewed on a personal basis (except between 1492-1501). Firstly due to Casimir's age, and then due to his responsibilities in Poland, real power in Lithuania is concentrated in the hands of the most powerful nobles, the 'Pans' Rada' or Council of Masters ('pans' is 'master' or 'mister' in Polish and Czech, a title of nobility at the time, while 'rada' means council). Their power grows steadily.

1471

The Jagiello dynasty gains control of Bohemia in the form of Ladislas II. His successor is a member of the same dynasty.

1480

In alliance with the khans of the Crimea, Moscow's Ivan III refuses tribute to the Great Horde. The latter, now allied to Lithuania, attempts an invasion of Moscow's territory but this fails. The independence of Moscow is confirmed.

1492 - 1506

Alexander

Son. Also king of Poland (1501-1506) upon his brother's death.

1500

The Lithuanian state is forced to begin its defensive wars against the grand duchy of Moscow when the latter begins to lay claim to the Russian lands within the grand duchy. However, the Rus population remains loyal to Lithuania and Moscow's efforts are resisted. To the south the khanate of Crimea sometimes raids across the border to collect slaves - a thriving industry amongst the khanates.

Map of the Tartar Khanates AD 1500
The Mongol empire created by Chingiz Khan gradually broke up over the course of three hundred years until, by around AD 1500, it had fragmented into several more-or-less stable khanates that each vied with the others for power and influence, while having to fend off the growing power of the Ottoman empire to the south and Moscow Sate (Muscovy) to the north - in the end it was an unwinnable fight (click on map to show full sized)

 

1506 - 1544

Sigismund I

Brother. Also king of Poland.

1513 - 1514

Sigismund takes Smolensk and smashes the Moscow army near Orsha the following year.

1526

Following a devastating defeat at the Battle of Mohács and the death of Louis, the Jagiello dynasty loses Hungary and Bohemia to the Habsburgs. The defeat effectively destroys the dynasty's dream of effecting the 'Jaigello dynasty idea' wherein Lithuania, Poland, Bohemia, and Hungary are drawn together in union. The dream lives on in a more modest form for some years but is never realised.

1529

The first Lithuanian Statute is drawn up. The state system, governmental and administrative organs, and the status of the privileged nobility are legally formulated by virtue of the Statute.

1537

A peace treaty is concluded between Lithuania and Moscow in order to end nearly four decades of warfare between the two countries. However, Lithuanian relations with Moscow remain the most important concern as the Rus state begins to evolve into Russia.

1544 - 1569

Sigismund II Augustus

Son. King of Poland (1548-1572) & grand duke of Livonia (1566).

1548

Having until now been fulfilling the role of grand duke of Lithuania alone, upon his father's death, Sigismund II assumes the crown of Poland. He is the last to hold the crown in personal union, with the more formal commonwealth being initiated by his successor.

1558 - 1562

Following Russian provocation and the conquest of Dorpat, the Livonian Wars erupt in the Baltic States in 1558. The Livonian Knights and the archbishop of Riga seek help from Sigismund II, pawning five Order castles and two archbishopric castles together with their surrounding territory to help procure it. However, the army of the Livonian Knights is completely destroyed by the Russians at the Battle of Ergeme in 1560, and a year later, on 29 November 1561, the master of the Order, Gotthard Kettler, acknowledges the supreme power of Grand Duke Sigismund over all areas regarding the Order, including its territories, formally dissolving the Livonian Knights. By means of this, Lithuania gains Livonia and the archbishopric of Riga, along with the bishopric of Courland from the Danes. The territory of the Semigallians is joined to Courland to form a vassal duchy.

The death of Sigismund II
The death of Sigismund II Augustus, the last hereditary Lithuanian ruler of Poland as depicted by Jan Matejko, which signalled the end of Lithuania's independence from Poland

1569 - 1795

The Union of Poland-Lithuania, Ruthenia, Livonia, Polotsk, and Samogitia is effected in 1569, establishing the Commonwealth of Poland. Sigismund becomes king of a united Poland-Lithuania. From this point on, Lithuania's fate is tied to that of Poland until the joint kingdoms are extinguished in 1795 and Lithuania is taken entirely by the Russian empire.

Russian Governors of Lithuania
AD 1795 - 1915

The Third Partition of Poland-Lithuania in 1795 brought about the total disappearance of the Lithuanian state, although Russia had already taken chunks of Lithuanian territory in the first two partitions of 1772 and 1793. For the next two centuries, the country remained a province within the mighty Russian empire until its dissolution towards the end of the First World War. Until then it was controlled by local governors. Sometimes known as the Vilnа Governorate between 1801-1840, it was controlled from Vilnius.

1795 - 1796

?

Military governor, name unknown.

1796 - 1798

Nikolay Vasilyevich Repnin

1798 - 1799

Moritz Lacy

1799 - 1801

Mikhail Illarionovich Golenschev-Kutuzov

1801 - 1806

Levin August Theophil Freiherr Bennigsen

1806 - 1809

Aleksandr Mikhailovich Rimsky-Korsakov

1809 - 1811

Mikhail Illarionovich Golenschev-Kutuzov

Second term.

1811 - 1812

Ivan Stepanovich Guriel

1812

Aleksandr Mikhailovich Rimsky-Korsakov

Second term.

1812

Napoleon invades the Russian empire with one of the largest armies Europe has ever seen, occupying the Baltic States for several months until he is forced to drag his French-led army back to Germany. Russian control of Lithuania is immediately restored. As the Lithuanians welcomed Napoleon as a liberator, any thoughts of a relaxation of controls are replaced by a policy of Russification.

1812 - 1830

Aleksandr Mikhailovich Rimsky-Korsakov

Restored.

1831

Aleksandr Vasilyevich Khrapovickiy

1831 - 1840

Nikolai Andreyevich Dolgorukov

1840 - 1850

Fyodor Yakovlevich Mirkovich

1850 - 1855

Ilya Gavrilovich Bibikov

1855 - 1863

Vladimir Ivanovich Nazimov

1863 - 1865

Mikhail Nikolayevich

1864

Following the 1863-1865 January Uprising across Poland, Lithuania, the Baltic Provinces, Latgallia, and Livonia, the Lithuanian language and the use of a Latin alphabet are banned in junior schools. However, the smuggling of Lithuanian-language books into the country is widespread.

January Uprising
The January Uprising took place across the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth as a result of Russian occupation and control, but the last of its leaders were captured in 1865

1865 - 1866

Konstantin von Kauffmann

1866 - 1868

Eduard

Count Baranov.

1868 - 1874

Aleksandr L'vovich Potapov

1874 - 1880

Pytor Pavlovich Albedinsky

1880 - 1884

Eduard (Ivanovich)

Count Totleben.

1882 - 1884

Aleksandr Pavlovich Nikitin

Acting governor.

1884 - 1893

Ivan Semyonovich Kakhanov

1893 - 1897

Pytor Vasilyevich Orzhevsky

1897 - 1901

Vitaliy Nikolayevich Trocky

1902 - 1904

Pytor Dmitriyevich Svyatopolk-Mirsky

1904 - 1905

Aleksandr Alekseyevich Freese

1905 - 1909

Konstantin Faddeyevich Krshivicky

1909 - 1912

The position of governor in Lithuania is vacant.

1912 - 1915

?

Unknown last Russian governor.

1916 - 1918

Russian First World War defeats of 1916 and 1917 leave the empire in chaos and bring the Baltic States under German imperial control.

Modern Lithuania
AD 1918 - Present Day

Lithuania is the largest of the Baltic States, nestling the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea in Northern Europe. Independent of Soviet Russian occupation since 1990, it and its neighbours have proven themselves to be some of the better former Eastern Bloc countries in terms of their economic performance and standard of life, although problems do still exist. Lithuania is neighboured to the north by Latvia, to the east and south by Belarus (the only one of the Baltic States not to have a border with Russia), to the south-west by Poland, and to the west by Kaliningrad and - across the Baltic Sea - by Sweden.

Russian First World War defeats of 1916 and 1917 brought the Baltic States under German Imperial control. In 1917, Bolshevik-inspired thoughts of revolution were swiftly put down by the Germans, as were thoughts of independence. Lithuanians elected a German nobleman by the name of Wilhelm of Urach, a member of the royal house of Württemberg, as their king in the hope that this would bring about a form of independence. Instead, Germany's collapse in 1918 brought about the creation of a republic, as any German level of control was rejected throughout the Baltics.

(Additional information from External Link: BBC Country Profiles.)

1918

Mindaugas II

Wilhelm of Urach. Rejected and never crowned.

1918

Lithuania rejects a German aristocracy and forms a republic instead, with the country's act of independence being signed on 16 February.

1919

The Russo-Polish War is ignited between Poland and Ukraine on one side and Soviet Russia on the other over the creation of the Second Polish Republic and the somewhat uncertain borders on its eastern flank. Polish Chief of State Józef Piłsudski considers this the best opportunity to restore Poland to its former greatness, and he leads his troops into both Vilnius (part of the fairly brief Polish-Lithuanian War) and Kiev.

Polish-Lithuanian War
A parade of Polish uhlans at Sejny, a town in Poland today, but initially Lithuanian (after 1915), which swapped hands several times in the Polish-Lithuanian War of 1919-1920

1920 - 1921

The Polish-Lithuanian War is briefly fought over the control of Vilnius. With Poland the victor, the short-lived Republic of Central Lithuania is formed (later to be transformed into a Polish voivodeship). Red Army pressure causes the Poles to fall back temporarily, but Józef Piłsudski leads his forces to a notable victory against the Russians at the Battle of Warsaw. As the Poles again advance, a ceasefire is agreed with the Soviets in October 1920 and Vilnius is regained (to be held until 1939). The Peace of Riga is signed on 18 March 1921, which formally divides disputed territory between the Soviets and Poles, states that the easternmost parts of Lithuania remain part of Poland, including Vilnius.

1940 - 1944

Although the country is occupied by Soviet forces as agreed under the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in 1940, the German army swiftly occupies Lithuania until 1944. The country's populace is forced to rely on its strong Catholic traditions and memories of independence to survive this and the following occupation.

1944 - 1987

The Soviet army repels the German forces and re-establishes control in Lithuania. At the same time, the country regains Vilnius and the easternmost territories, which had been lost to Poland in 1919. Lithuanian society and industry are modelled along Soviet lines and absolute control rests with the Soviet Communist Party. The United Kingdom and most other western countries never recognise de jure the Baltic States' incorporation into the USSR.

Cathedral of Vilnius
The modern Cathedral of Vilnius is the fourth of its kind, all built one on top of the other in successive phases of rebuilding, mostly after fires

1990 - 1991

On 11 March 1990, Lithuania becomes the first Soviet republic to declare its renewed independence. The following year the declaration becomes fact as Poland, Lithuania and Belarus finally regain independence with the fall of the Soviet Union. Former East Prussia, renamed Kaliningrad, remains directly part of Russia, and is now an isolated enclave on Poland's north-eastern border.