Excerpt from The Lithuanians of Cleveland
The territory included under the term Lithuania depends upon the time of which one speaks. In the fifteenth century the kingdom extended from the Baltic Sea at Polangen and the mouth of the Niemen river to the Black Sea, and from the Bug river on the west to the Oka on the east. Gradually the political unit was reduced in size until today without recognized political entity we can speak only of the territory in which live those who use the Lithuanian language. In this sense it now includes the entire province of Kovno, Vilna, the part of Grodno north of the Niemen, Suvalki, Courland and, the north-eastern part of eastern Prussia. Closely akin and usually classified with them are the Letts, a people living in Courland, Livonia, Vitebsk, and a remnant of the old Prussians living east of the mouth of the Vistula.
The Lithuanians are a branch of the indo-european race quite distinct from the Scandinavians, Slavs or Germans by whom they are surrounded. Their language shows a marked similarity to the Sanskrit. From a careful comparison of the pre-historic skulls unearthed in this region with the Lithuanians of today, it would seem that they had been in Western Europe many centuries before the Slavs or Germans migrated from their Asiatic homes. Six hundred years ago the southern Lithuanians came under Prus sian domination. In 1569 by the Convention of Lublin the fortunes of the kingdom were inextricably merged with those of Poland. The dual monarchy ostensibly at least, became entirely Polish and Lithuania seemed to have disappeared. It was a bloodless political conquest, but it did not essentially change the genius or aspirations of this freedom-loving people. At the close of the eighteenth century, with the third partition of Poland by its avaricious neighbors, Lithuania passed into the hands of Russia, and to Europeans and Americans became nothing more than a memory. Her government down to the pettiest oﬂ'ieers was Russian. Her statutes were abolished; the size of the leasehold of her people was limited to one hundred and sixty acres; lectures and meetings were prohibited; even the language itself was barred and the Russian characters substituted for the Latin. Lithuanian commerce was discouraged and great tracts of country were sold to Russian colonists. The hardest blow of all was the suppression of the press in 1864, so that the people had to rely on what literature could be smuggled in from Germany and America. But such literature did come in, as evidenced by the fact that the Lithuanian provinces have shown a smaller percentage of illiteracy than any other section of the late Russian Empire. It was none the less a tragedy for Lithuania that her youths with literary ambition, the potential leaders of her people, should have to go beyond her boundaries for their education, and afterward, in too many cases, to write in a tongue which their own people could not read.
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