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Minorities At Risk Project: Home    

Chronology for Poles in Lithuania

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Date(s) Item
1301 - 1400 The Baltic peoples coexisted with their neighbors to the East and West until the 12th century when the organization and military prowess of the Scandinavians, Germanic peoples and Slavs surpassed their own. The Danes had conquered the Estonians, but by the middle of the 14th century, both Estonia and much of present-day Latvia (the area known as Livonia) came into the realm of the Teutonic Order. The hierarchy of German landowners persisted through even the rule by the Russian Empire.
1301 - 1800 Meanwhile, the Lithuanians were finding success against the Teutonic Order and even were able to expand their control to Belorussia and Russian cities such as Kiev and Smolensk. Early in the 15th century, the Lithuanians began allying with the Poles and became formal allies in 1569. They would not be separated as such until the final partition in 1795. In 1721, the Treaty of Nystad marked the formal absorption of Estonia and Livonia (Latvia) into the Russian Empire. However, the southern regions remained in Lithuanian (and thereby Polish) control until 1795 when the final partition of Poland placed Lithuania into the Russian Empire (see Hiden and Salmon, pp.10-13).
1801 - 1900 During the 19th century, the program of Russification brought an end to the privileged status of Germans in the regions of Estonia and Latvia. Czar Alexander III, in 1885, instituted Russian as the compulsory language of government. It also led to large-scale migration of Russian peasants into Latvia and Estonia. Meanwhile, the Lithuanians were experiencing even more severe forms of Russification. The local nobility had estates confiscated and distributed to the peasants and the Lithuanian language was repressed. The rural nature of Lithuania limited migration there from Russia.
1918 After the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Revolutionary government of Soviet Russia ceded the Baltic region to Germany in its armistice. Upon the defeat of Germany in World War I, each of the republics gained full independence, and by 1919 each had functioning sovereign governments.
Apr 19, 1919 Polish forces entered and established control over the Vilnius region of Lithuania, claiming it as historically Polish territory.
Jul 1 - Oct 31, 1920 The Lithuanian government accepted the help of the Soviet Russian government in evicting the Poles from the Vilnius region by August. In October, they signed the Treaty of Suwalki, designating the Vilnius region as Lithuanian; however, the Poles immediately marched back into Vilnius and maintained control until 1939.
Aug 23, 1939 The Molotov-Ribbentrob Non-Aggression Pact was signed between Germany and the Soviet Union. The effect of this pact was to divide up Eastern Europe for conquest by the two powers, and so by the summer of 1940, Soviet troops had seized control of the governments of the Baltic Republics.
1945 - 1960 After World War II, Stalinization led to a policy of heavy industrialization in the Baltics which led to massive immigration of non-Baltic peoples (mainly Russians) into Latvia and Estonia. Environmental damage to Estonia and Latvia was also more severe than that to Lithuania. The militarization of these strategically vital republics also contributed to the mass immigration. The immigrants were mostly military and blue-collar workers and they settled in urban areas taking mostly low-skill, menial labor. This has contributed to a sense of cultural superiority among native Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians.
1981 - 1990 Immigration continued after industrialization and planned immigration was abandoned due to the better living conditions found in the Baltics. Latvia has come on the verge of losing its ethnic majority. Many large cities have non-Latvian majorities.
Mar 11, 1990 Lithuania declares its sovereignty and intention to re-establish independence. Tensions between Polish-Lithuanians and Lithuanians rose throughout the rest of the year.
Jan 7, 1991 Approximately 5,000 demonstrators, both ethnic Russians and Poles, rally outside the Supreme Council in Vilnius. They called for a halt to moves towards independence.
Jan 12, 1991 The leader of the Union of Poles, Jan Sienkiewicz, spoke on Lithuanian television appealing to all Poles living in Lithuania to support the Lithuanian government in its struggle for independence against the Soviets.
Feb 8, 1991 Lithuania holds a referendum on its independence drive over the objections of Moscow and its own Russian and Polish minorities.
Apr 1 - Jun 30, 1991 A Polish University and Polish Cultural Center are opened in Vilnius in response to longstanding pressure from Polish-Lithuanian groups including the Union of Poles, the Polish Cultural Foundation, and Polish deputies of the Lithuanian Parliament.
Aug 19, 1991 The failed coup attempt against Gorbachev by Soviet hardliners allows the Baltic Republics to establish independence and obtain recognition from the world community. Polish groups in the predominantly Polish regions around Vilnius are accused of backing the coup. The Lithuanian government in Vilnius disbands the Polish councils in the Vilnius and Soleczniki districts, as well as some Russian ethnic councils, and imposes central rule upon them.
Sep 1991 Lech Walesa writes the Lithuanian President, Landsbergis, expressing his concerns for the treatment and status of the Polish minority in Lithuania. Landsbergis blames the Polish media for exaggerating the plight of Poles in Lithuania.
Dec 11, 1991 Lithuania passes citizenship laws requiring immigrants since 1940 to meet language requirements in addition to requiring they have been residents for at least 10 years and renounce their former citizenship. The effect of this law is minimal due to the July 29, 1991 agreement with Russia, as well as the law granting citizenship to those born in Lithuania (well over 90% of non-Lithuanian ethnics are granted citizenship in 1991). The Third Congress of the Union of Poles in Lithuania declares their intention to form a political party with the aim of uniting the Polish-dominated districts of Vilnius and Soleczniki into a single district with considerable autonomy.
Jan 1992 Polish-Lithuanian parliamentary deputies, civic group leaders and journalists are summoned to the Public Prosecutor's Office for questioning on charges of cooperating with the KGB to destabilize the Lithuanian government.
Aug 1992 The Lithuanian Parliament sets dates for local elections and for the restoration of the local councils in Vilnius and Soleczniki. They are to be held November 22, 1992.
Oct 1992 Sajudis is defeated in parliamentary elections by the Democratic Labor Party of Lithuania. Polish-Lithuanian leaders hail this as a victory for their group.
Nov 22, 1992 The local government elections are held. Members of the Union of Poles in Lithuania and other Polish groups charge that the elections were held in an atmosphere of "moral terror" even though turnout of Polish-Lithuanians in the Polish regions was estimated at 80% (Polish News Bulletin, Nov. 24, 1992). Regardless, turnout in 55 of the 76 city council districts in Vilnius and Soleczniki is below the 50% level required to be valid. Parliament dismisses the councils with new elections to be called for the districts.
Feb 14, 1993 New elections are successfully held in Lithuania for the two district councils in Vilnius and Soleczniki alongside the Presidential elections, thereby easing tensions between the government and Poles. The earlier elections were invalidated due to low turnout. There are some reports of voting irregularities, but little becomes of them.
Sep 1993 The Lithuanian Parliament criticizes the "Macierz," an affiliation of Polish-language teachers for promoting Polish culture to the detriment of Lithuania.
Feb 1994 At the conclusion of the Fourth Congress of the Union of Poles in Vilnius, leaders criticize the Lithuanian government for trying to limit access to Polish culture and closing Polish schools.
Apr 26, 1994 Poland and Lithuania sign a treaty of friendship confirming the present Polish-Lithuanian borders.
May 12, 1994 The Lithuanian Parliament decides that social organizations, such as the Union of Poles, will not be allowed to field candidates in the upcoming local elections in November. Polish parliamentary deputies support the decision.
Jun 16, 1994 The Union of Lithuanian Poles along with a host of other social organizations are demanding that the government lift the recently imposed ban on the participation of social organizations in local elections. They have threatened to call for a boycott of local elections if their demands are not met. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 6/20/94)
Jun 20, 1994 Lithuanian president Algirdas Brazauskas has turned down without signing the recently passed law on local elections, returning it to parliament for further consideration. The president proposed to the Seimas that they pass amendments to the law allowing social organizations to run in municipal elections together with political parties. The president’s decision is expected to satisfy the demands of the Union of Lithuanian Poles. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 6/20/94)
Jul 7, 1994 Lithuanian authorities have deemed illegal the four-day celebration of the 54th anniversary of the Polish Home Army [AK] operation called Ostra Brama that has been taking place in Vilnius. Jan Widacki, the Polish ambassador to Lithuania, has been summoned to the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for questioning. Widacki allegedly laid a wreath in the Home Army section of the cemetery at the Polish Church of the Holy Spirit. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 7/7/94)
Sep 2, 1994 The Union of Lithuanian Poles, a public organization, had now become a political organization. The constituent congress of the Electoral Action of the Union of Lithuanian Poles, as this new political organization will be called, was held in Vilnius on 28th August. The political organization was founded because, according to the new law on elections to the local councils, candidates for the elections could be nominated only by political parties and organizations. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 9/2/94)
Feb 1, 1995 President Algirdas Brazauskas met representatives of public and cultural organizations of the Lithuanian Poles. Representatives of the Polish organizations expressed their dissatisfaction with the state language law which was adopted January 31. This law, according to them, virtually forbids the use of the Polish language in the spheres of state and public life, with the exception of private life, religious rites and events organized by Polish organizations. The president was asked not to sign the law and return it to the Seimas for reconsideration. Other topics discussed in the meeting were the setting up of a Polish university in Vilnius, and the unification of all areas densely populated by Poles into a single administrative unit. Brazauskas categorically disapproved of both of these ideas. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 2/8/95)
Oct 16, 1995 A new social organization for the Polish minority in Lithuania has been created in Vilnius. It is called the Congress of Poles of Lithuania Kongres Polakow Litwy - KPL. It brings together primarily Polish intelligentsia, politicians, teachers and businessmen. The KPL sets itself the aim of raising of the level of culture, education and national awareness of Lithuanian Poles and also favors their integration with Lithuanian society. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 10/16/95)
Sep 5, 1996 Around 300 Lithuanian Poles protested in Vilnius in front of the office of the Lithuanian president against the curtailment of the rights of national minorities in the run-up to the Seimas [parliament] elections scheduled for 20th October. The picketers protested against the new division of regions into electoral districts. The protestors claim the new electoral districts have been drawn up in such a way as to make Poles the minority in as many districts as possible. The picketers also protested the introduction for the first time of an election threshold of 5 per cent for national minority groups as well as other parties. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 9/5/96)
Sep 16, 1996 The Electoral Action of the Union of Lithuanian Poles announced it is going to take part in the forthcoming elections jointly with Russian and Belarusian organizations. The list of candidates presented by the LLSRA contains 31 individuals of Polish, Russian and Belarusian nationality, including seven women. The 10 candidates at the top of the list include two Russians and a Belarusian. According to Senkiewicz, the highlight of the LLSRA election manifesto is the idea that all citizens of the country, regardless of their national origin, must be entitled to equal rights. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 9/19/96)
Oct 23, 1996 Janas Senkevicius from the Poles Electoral Action movement in Lithuania was the third candidate to be elected from a single-seat constituency to the new Seimas [ parliament] The [Homeland Union] Conservative's leader Vytautas Landsbergis was the first, and the Conservative’s board chairman, Gediminas Vagnorius was the second. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 10/28/96)
Jan 9, 1997 The Lithuanian education minister [Zigmas Zinkievicius], in a recent interview, questioned the existence of non-Lithuanian schools in that country. He said that people who did not have sufficient knowledge of the Lithuanian language were not Lithuanian citizens. The Lithuanian Foreign Minister Algirdas Saudargas released a statement the day after Zinkievicius’ interview. Saudargas stressed that his country's government complies with its international obligations with regard to ethnic minorities. The foreign minister also said that the statement by the education minister was not compatible with the position of the Lithuanian government. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 1/9/97)
Feb 22, 1997 The Lithuanian Poles Electoral Action has deemed the requirement to conduct election campaigns only in Lithuanian "a total nonsense" and says it intends to ask for changes in campaigning rules. "Such rules of the Supreme Electoral Commission and national television contradict common sense and do not correspond to international documents," said the chairman of the Lithuanian Poles Electoral Action, Jan Sienkiewicz. He stated that voters for his association did not speak Lithuanian. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 2/22/97)
Apr 3, 1997 The [Lithuanian] Central Electoral Commission has confirmed the official outcome of the municipal elections that took place on 23rd March. The Electoral Action of Lithuanian Poles won 56 of the roughly 1500 available seats. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 4/3/97)
Apr 17, 1997 The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has submitted to Lithuanian Foreign Minister Algirdas Saudargas a demarche in which it accuses Lithuania of failing to abide by its interstate agreements with Poland. The issue in question is the spelling of Christian and family names of the Polish national minority in Lithuania. The Polish-Lithuanian treaty on good-neighbourly relations and cooperation guarantees the right for members of the national minority to spell their names in the way they are spelled in their native language. However, the bill, which has already had its first reading in the Lithuanian Seimas [ parliament] , envisages only the phonetic spelling. In a letter to the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry, Poland points out that this provision does not ensure that Poles living in Lithuania will be able to take full advantage of the treaty guarantees. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 4/17/97)
Jul 18, 1997 Poland and Lithuania announced today the creation of a joint Polish/Lithuanian assembly. The Lithuanian and Polish parliamentary assembly which met for the first time today is comprised of 20 parliament members, representing different factions from both countries. The assembly will deal with bilateral and international issues that are of interest to both parliaments. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 7/19/97)
Aug 9, 1997 The Lithuanian State Security Department has officially instructed the Lithuanian Alliance of National-Socialist Unity [LNSVS] and its leader, Mindaugas Murza, to stop their anti-constitutional activities, including the publication of the LNSVS, called Voice of the Nation. The publication openly attacks Jews, Poles and Russians and insists that unbearable conditions should be created for them in order to force them to leave Lithuania as soon as possible. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 8/9/97)
Apr 4, 1998 The president of Lithuania, Valdas Adamkus, met with Polish Senate Speaker Alicja Grzeskowiak to discuss problems of the Polish national minority in Lithuania and the Lithuanian national minority in Poland. Senate Speaker Alicja Grzeskowiak presented to President Adamkus a number of the most important problems of Poles living in Lithuania, such as the issue of unfettered use of the Polish language, the issue of the development of Polish language education, the issue of the Polish university in Vilnius and also the problem of the excessively slow reprivatization of land in the Vilnius region. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 4/4/98)
Apr 18, 1998 The sole Polish-language daily newspaper in Lithuania announced that it would cease publication on May 1st, due to lack of funds. However, Polish diplomats deemed the deprivation of their countrymen in Lithuania of their only Polish-language daily newspaper to be unacceptable, and therefore agreed that until the next shareholders’ meeting, the financing of the printing of Kurier Wilenski’ would be taken over by the embassy and consulate. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 4/18/98)
Aug 7, 1998 The local government of the Vilnius District, which is mostly inhabited by Poles, has protested against the planned introduction by the Lithuanian authorities of a new territorial division of the state. The draft administrative reform would abolish the Vilnius District and fragment the Salcinkai Dstrict where the Polish population dominates. The Vilnius District government said these administrative divisions are economically unjustified, would bring about a change in the nationality structure on territory densely inhabited by Poles, would disintegrate the Polish community, limit Polish influence on decisions about the region’s affairs, and would breach the provisions of the Polish-Lithuanian treaty. The councillors have said that they will request the president, the government and the Seimas [Lithuanian parliament] to give up the reform plans and, if this is unsuccessful, they will seek assistance from international organizations. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 8/7/98)
Dec 16, 1998 The first district court of Vilnius declared null and void the decisions by the council and board of the Vilnius district municipality aimed at legalizing bilingual administration. The board of the district municipality passed decrees in 1997 and 1998, institutionalizing the use of Polish in the district's administrative organizations. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 12/18/98)
Dec 21, 1998 A statue of the Polish poet Adam Mickiewicz by the well-known Lithuanian sculptor Prof Bronius Vishnauskas has been unveiled in the center of Soleczniki Salcininkai near Vilnius. This is the second statue of the poet in Lithuania. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 12/21/98)
Feb 11, 1999 Poles in Lithuania are protesting against the abolition of the requirement that all students receiving education in Polish schools to learn Polish as well as Lithuanian. They have collected 25,000 signatures and have presented them to the Speaker of the Seimas, Vytautas Landsbergis. The Poles fear that the abolition of the examination will lower the prestige of the Polish language and might later bring about the closure of Polish schools in Lithuania. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 2/11/99)
Mar 26, 1999 Residents in three Lithuanian constituencies will continue to remain unrepresented in the country's parliament. On Sunday, by- elections were held in Panevezys in central Lithuania and in two constituencies in Vilnius District with the majority Polish-speaking population. The by- elections were declared invalid because of low turnout. In Panevezys, 34 per cent of voters took part, against the required 40 per cent on the election register, and in Naujoji Vilnia, the Vilnius and Trakai regions, where the majority of voters are Polish-speaking, turnout was below 20 percent. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 3/26/99)
Apr 2, 1999 Five Polish autonomy founders were sentenced for anti-state activities. When the second congress of deputies from all levels of the Vilnius region was held in Eisiskes [southern Lithuania] in October 1990 the five founders declared the establishment of a Polish national territorial district within Lithuania. The founders of the autonomous territory had also declared the restoration of the independent state of Lithuania by the Lithuanian Supreme Council null and void and re-adopted the constitution of the Soviet Union. Following two years of hearings into the case of the organizers of Salcininkai territorial autonomy in Lithuania, the Vilnius Regional Court handed down sentences ranging from six to 18 months in prison. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 4/6/99)
Apr 14, 1999 A joint Lithuanian and Polish peackeeping battalion was created with the help of NATO. The Polish defense minister, Janusz Onyszkiewicz, likened the creation of the joint battalion to the Battle of Gruenwald of 1420 , which was important for the histories of both Lithuania and Poland. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 4/15/99)
Apr 16, 1999 While in Vilnius for a meeting with the leaders of the Polish organizations in Lithuania, Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski made an appeal to Lithuanian Poles to stop their quarrels and squabbles. In the course of the meeting, activists made mutual accusations, and ones against the Lithuanian and Polish authorities of insufficient care for the resolving of their problems. President Kwasniewski explained that the voice of Lithuanian Poles will only be heard and respected when it is a collective voice. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 4/16/99)
May 3, 1999 On their last day in power, the Gediminas Vagnorius government decided that seven communes situated near Vilnius will be joined with the Lithuanian capital. As a result, the inhabitants of these communes in which Poles constitute a majority would be subordinated to the local government of Vilnius dominated by Lithuanians. Presidential National Security Office chief Marek Siwiec termed the decision as "incomprehensible and egoistic". (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 4/14/99)
Dec 13, 2005 Approximately 2,000 Poles from the Vilnius region demonstrated in the Lithuanian capital against the slow progress of land reprivatization. (BBC Monitoring Europe - Political. 12/13/2005. "Lithuanian Poles hold land reprivatization and education protest in capital.")

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Information current as of July 16, 2010