Welcome to the Global True Lithuania website, dedicated to the Lithuanian heritage worldwide.
For a nation merely 3 million strong Lithuanians left a remarkable legacy as far away as America and Australia. These traces represents a unique history of a spectacular survival and major contributions to various other nations of the world. The Lithuanian heritage exits for You to find and explore.
Global True Lithuania welcomes additions, suggestions and corrections (write them in comments).
The website is developed by Augustinas Žemaitis who is also the author of all its articles.
History of Lithuanian diaspora and heritage abroad
Despite of being attached to their land culturally a large number of Lithuanians left or were forced to leave their homeland over the centuries. Therefore many places are related to Lithuania in lands as distant as Siberia, America or Australia, let alone Europe. Surely there is much more Spanish, French or British heritage all over the world than there is Lithuanian, but few other nations merely three million strong could compete with Lithuanians in the mark they left on far-away shores. Who knows, maybe you could find shards of Lithuania without even leaving your homeland?
In 13th-16th centuries Lithuania was an independent Grand Duchy that encompassed not only modern-day Lithuania, but also Belarus and Ukraine, parts of Russia, Poland, Moldova and Latvia. Noble Lithuanian families of the era had manors and build castles far outside ethnic boundaries, sometimes intermarrying with local nobility. Most of these can be found in modern-day Belarus and Ukraine.
Lithuanian peasantry dominated beyond current boundaries as well. The processes of assimilation, sometimes forced upon, eroded these ethnic exclaves by the second half of the 20th century, but a few of them remain, such as Punsk (Punskas) and Sejny (Seinai) in Poland. In much more of such villages and towns there are few if any Lithuanians left, but the history is nevertheless well visible. The best examples are in the Kaliningrad Oblast of Russia that forms the bulk of Lithuania Minor ethnic region.
In the 19th century Lithuanian words and culture spread much further than ever before. Railroads and ocean-going steamships allowed Lithuanians to leave their agricultural hinterland for the industrial and educational wonders elsewhere. Many were lured by the industry of modern-day Latvia in Riga and Liepaja. Others went to Saint Petersburg, the capital of the Russian Empire.
Starting in late 19th century more and more Lithuanians crossed the Atlantic for the USA. They settled primarilly in New England and Midwest, building their elaborate churches and cemetaries with massive tombstones. Lithuanian districts formed in cities like Chicago and Detroit. Lithuanian-inspired placenames appeared on the maps in Pennsylvania and Canada.
During the same era Lithuania's Jews prefered South Africa as an emigration destination. Today as many as 70% of South Africa's Jews trace their descent to Lithuania.
The tragedy of World War 2 and Soviet occupation had terrible consequences on Lithuania and forced large numbers of additional people away. Hundreds of thousands Lithuanians were deported to Siberia by the Soviet regime. Stripped of most belongings these people left few traces except for humble crosses in permafrost.
Hundred of thousands others avoided the Soviet genocide by fleeing westwards - mostly to the USA via Germany. While those who were left beyond the Iron curtain were largely isolated from the outer world, the Lithuanian communities abroad, already some 1 million strong, contributed much to the world culture. Fluxus movement of modern art was started by a couple of Lithuanian Americans, for instance.