21 June 2011


This week is COUNTRY SPOTLIGHT Week.

I've wanted to post on Lithuania for weeks since I realized, to my great horror, that this Baltic country hasn't been featured at all.  I guess I kept thinking I had posted about Lithuania when it was in fact Latvia.  I want to establish that I do know they are not the same country, but their names became conflated in my mind for reasons unknown to me.  To correct this horrible error and befuddling oversight, I am dedicating a post to Lithuania the country.

I had come across news of Lithuania via news of Poland.  Through Eastern Approaches, I only read about Polish-Lithuanian squabbles.  This information did not leave a great impression of Lithuania on me since my contact with the country and its culture has been limited.  Then I came across this EU Observer article that left a better, though still vague, impression of Lithuania.  So I decided to do some digging and get more information on the nation Lietuva.

The first information that caught my eye is that Lithuanian is an Indo-European language and is in the Baltic family of the Balto-Slavic languages.  If you look at the linked image, you have to scroll down to the far lower right of the image to see the Balto-Slavic family.  I don't know about you, but I love seeing how they relate to each other.  I always thought that Lithuanian was more closely related languages like Polish and Russian, but oh how wrong I was!  Linguistics and languages are hobbies of mine and this news was exciting.  Latvian is closely related to Lithuanian, but they are not mutually intelligible languages.  This reminds me of the Finno-Ugric languages' relationship in which the languages are related, though mutually unintelligible.  But the most super-cool piece of linguistic information is that Lithuanian is one of the oldest surviving Indo-European languages and retains some features of the Proto-Indo-European language (the language that spawned that entire family of modern languages), such as an inflectional case system and pitch-accent.  If language is your thing, you can even listen to the Lithuanian alphabet and a phrase here

I found some information on their "national costume", which may be otherwise known as "folk costume".  Lithuania's national costumes seems to be a little more down to earth than some elaborate national dress.  While they are still a little too fancy for Monday through Saturday chores, I don't think its absolutely preposterous that they try to pass as every day clothing.  There's also a variety, so I believe the approved array of costumes may more accurately represent the entire populace, as opposed to some nations that have adopted one group's dress for the entire nation.  (For those who have studied Europe academically, you know that the idea of costumes and nationalism are very linked.)

Everybody, I have a huge shocker.  The famed Pole Czesław Miłosz is actually of Lithuanian heritage.  Česlovas Milošas is his name in Lithuanian.  Now given that Poland and Lithuania do share a lot of roots, it's not that surprising.  I had no idea Czesław was anything but Polish.  This section of his Wiki page was also interesting because it provides insight into the Polish-Lithuanian dynamic in his life and provides book references.  Who knew Wiki writers used books?

Salomėja Nėris may not be a well known name, but she is a famous Lithuanian poet of the interwar period.  I found her poetry very lovely and this page has a sample of her work.

Antanas Strazdas is another famous poet of Lithuanian origin.  If you can read and understand Lithuanian, you can read some Strazdas' work here.

This short film, Skrydis per Lietuva, gives a beautiful look at the country.  If you didn't have any plans on making a trip there before this video, I'm sure you'll have some after.

Internet Findings
I thought this video was quite funny, though may be more funny if I knew where they got these foreign myths.  I'm not sure I hear anyone referencing Lithuania, but maybe I'm not paying attention.  Most of the videos that showed up on the first search page were all promotional "visit Lithuania" type like this one from the Travel Channel or EuroVision entries.  Or perhaps this Lithuanian song.

This Wiki page has an excellent list of famous Lithuanians and famous people of Lithuanian descent.  Some of them are not to Lithuania's great pride, but if the modern world has taught us anything it's that there's no such thing as bad press.  Right?