Ethnic minorities in Lithuania

Ethnic minorities in Lithuania


Independent Lithuania (1918–1940)

From 1918 to 1924 two ministries were specifically dedicated to ethnic minorities, the Ministry for Belarusian Affairs and the Ministry for Jewish Affairs.

On May 12, 1922 a Declaration concerning the protection of minorities in Lithuania was signed at Geneva under the auspices of the League of Nations. Its article 1 stipulated that "The stipulations of this Declaration are recognized as fundamental laws of Lithuania and no law, regulation or official action shall conflict or interfere with these stipulations, nor shall any law, regulation or official action now or in the future prevail over them.".[1]

art.4 §4 Notwithstanding the establishing by the Lithuanian Government of an official language, appropriated facilities will be given to Lithuanian citizens with another language than Lithuanian, for the use of their language, be it by oral way or by written way, before the courts.[1]

World War II (1939–1945)

Soviet Lithuania (1944–1990)

In 1989, a Law on National Minorities was voted and a Committee of Nationalities for the Government of the Republic of Lithuania was established.[2] Since 1999, it has been renamed Department of National Minorities and Émigrés.

Independent modern Lithuania (1990–present)

The Council of Europe's Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities was signed on February 1, 1995, and ratified on March 23, 2000. It came into force on July 1, 2000.[3] Several other national laws have a direct or indirect link to minorities, e.g. the State Language Law (1995) and the Law of Education (1991, amended in 2003).[4]

According to the census conducted in 2001, about 16,5% of Lithuania's population was composed of ethnic minorities:[5]

Ethnic groups Total population Compared to all
population, %
Total 3,483,972 100
ethnic Lithuanians 2,907,293 83.45
Poles 234,989 6.74
Russians 219,789 6,31
Belarusians 42,866 1.23
Ukrainians 22,488 0.65
Jews 4,007 0.12
Germans 3,243 0.09
Tatars 3,235 0.09
Latvians 2,955 0.08
Roma 2,571 0.07
Armenians 1,477 0.04
Other 6,138 0.18
No response on
the ethnicity question
32,921 0.94

The percentage of ethnic Lithuanians has increased from 79.6% in 1989 to 83.5% in 2001; the percentage of Poles has decreased from 7.0% to 6.7%, Russians from 9.4% to 6.3%.[6]

According to the 2001 census, in Vilnius and Šalčininkai district municipalities as well as in the town of Visaginas (which enjoys a special status) ethnic Lithuanians are in minority (22, 10 and 15 per cent respectively).[7][8]


The respondents in the various censuses do not have the option to choose for the Samogitian ethnicity, a situation similar to the Polish Kashubians. This was contested before a court by the Žemaitē bova, īr ė būs ("Samogitians were, are and will be") Association, also named Žemaitiu soeiga, which considers that it is a violation of the Constitution, more particularly of the provision that everyone has the right to decide on his nationality.[9] According to Egidijus Skarbalius, the founder of the Samogitian Party‎, a new Samogitian autonomist party founded in April 2008, Samogitians could be as many as one million, thus representing a third of Lithuania's total population.[10][11]

Discrimination against ethnic minorities

Since 1990 Lithuanian authorities have been accused of discrimination against ethnic minorities (especially Polish minority). Some journalists claim Lithuania's government tries to make minorities play a secondary role in the society[12]


  1. ^ a b "Declaration concerning the protection of minorities in Lithuania". League of Nations. 1922. Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  2. ^ "Law on Ethnic Minorities". 23 November 1989. Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  3. ^ November 2009&CL=ENG "Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities". Council of Europe. Status as of: 14 November 2009. November 2009&CL=ENG. Retrieved 2009-11-14. 
  4. ^ "Lithuania - Cultural minorities, groups and communities". Compendium of Cultural Policies and Trends in Europe, 10th edition. Council of Europe. 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  5. ^ "Population by ethnicity (2001 Census)". Department of Statistics to the Government of the Republic of Lithuania (Statistics Lithuania), 2005. Retrieved 2009-11-14. 
  6. ^ "2002 Edition – Country Reports - Lithuania". Recent Demographic Developments in Europe. Council of Europe. 2002. Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  7. ^ "Population by some ethnicities by county and municipality (2001 Census)". Department of Statistics to the Government of the Republic of Lithuania (Statistics Lithuania), 2005. Retrieved 2009-11-14. 
  8. ^ Budryte, Dovile and Pilinkaite-Sotirovic, Vilana, Lithuania: progressive legislation without popular support, pp.151-165, in Rechel, Bernd, ed (2009). Minority rights in Central and Eastern Europe. Taylor & Francis. pp. 242. ISBN 9780203883655. Retrieved 2009-11-14. 
  9. ^ IAR (August 2, 2007). "Żmudzini chcą być uznani za naród" (in Polish). Gazeta Wyborcza.,80708,4358628.html. Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  10. ^ PAP (April 21, 2008). "Żmudzini chcą być narodem" (in Polish). Gazeta Wyborcza.,80708,5141627.html. Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  11. ^ "Żmudzki niedźwiedź się budzi (The Samogitian bear wakes up )" (in Polish). Kurier Wileński (Vilnius Courier). January 2009.,goniec-kresowy?zobacz/zmudzki-niedzwiedz-sie-budzi. Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  12. ^ "Discrimination of Polish minority in Lithuania". - Journalist blog. September 11, 2011. Retrieved 2011-09-20. 

See also

External links

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