Demographic history of the Vilnius region
The city of Vilnius, now the capital of Lithuania, and its surrounding region have at various times come under Polish-Lithuanian, Russian, Polish, German, and Soviet rule. The population has been categorised by linguistic and sometimes also religious indicators. At the end of the 19th century the main languages spoken were Polish, Lithuanian, Belarusian and Russian. Both Catholic and Orthodox Christianity were represented, while a large proportion of those within the city were Jews. The "Lithuanian" element was seen as declining, while the "Slavic" element was increasing.
Census data are available from 1897 onward, although the territorial boundaries and ethnic categorisation have not always been consistent. The Jewish population decreased greatly in the Holocaust of 1941-44, and subsequently many Poles were removed from the city, but less so from the surrounding countryside. Consequently, recent Census figures show predominance of Lithuanians in the city of Vilnius, but of Poles in the Vilnius district outside the city.
- 1 Ethnic and national background
- 2 After the partitions of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
- 3 Censuses
- 3.1 Russian census of 1897
- 3.2 1916 German census
- 3.3 1921 Polish census
- 3.4 Polish census of 1931
- 3.5 Lithuanian census of 1939
- 3.6 German-Lithuanian census of 1942
- 3.7 Soviet data from 1944-1945
- 3.8 Soviet census of 1959
- 3.9 Soviet census of January 1989
- 3.10 Lithuanian census of 2001
- 3.11 Lithuanian census of 2011
- 4 Jews of Vilnius
- 5 The situation today
- 6 See also
- 7 Notes and references
- 8 External links
Ethnic and national background
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Since the first contact in the 9th century the Slavic (Ruthenian, later Belarusian and Ukrainian) speaking areas have always bordered the vicinity of eastern Lithuania.
After the partitions of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
Most of the lands that formerly constituted the Grand Duchy of Lithuania were annexed by the Russian Empire. While initially the lands around the city of Vilna (Vilnius or Wilno) had a certain local autonomy, with local nobility holding the same offices as prior to the partitions, after several secessionist revolts against the Russian Empire, the Imperial government started to pursue a policy of both political and cultural assimilation of the newly acquired lands (Russification).
Following the failed November Uprising all traces of former Polish-Lithuanian statehood (like the Third Statute of Lithuania and Congress Poland) started to be replaced with their Russian counterparts, from the currency and units of measurement, to offices of local administration. The failed January Uprising of 1864 further aggravated the situation, as the Russian authorities decided to pursue the policies of forcibly imposed Russification. The discrimination of local inhabitants included restrictions and bans on usage of Lithuanian (see Lithuanian press ban), Polish, Belarusian and Ukrainian (see Valuyev circular) languages. This however did not stop the Polonization effort undertaken by the Polish patriotic leadership of the Vilna educational district even within the Russian Empire.
Despite that, the pre-19th-century cultural and ethnic pattern of the area was largely preserved. In the process of the pre-19th-century voluntary Polonization, much of the local nobility, boyars and gentry of Ruthenian and Lithuanian nobility origins adopted Polish language and culture. This was also true to the representatives of the then-nascent class of bourgeoisie and the Catholic and Uniate clergy. At the same time, the lower strata of the society (notably the peasants) formed a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural mixture of Lithuanians, Poles, Jews, Tatars and Ruthenians, as well as a small yet notable population of immigrants from all parts of Europe, from Italy to Scotland and from the Low Countries to Germany.
During the rule of the Russian tsars, the Lingua franca remained Polish as it had been in Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. By the middle of 17th century most of the Lithuanian nobility had started to also speak Polish. With passing time and changing circumstances Lithuanian, Ruthenian and Polish nobility merged politically and started to consider themselves to be citizens of one common state. The leader of independent Poland during the interwar period, Józef Piłsudski was an example of this phenomenon.
Russian census of 1897
In 1897 the first Russian Empire Census was held. The territory covered by the tables included large parts of today's Belarus, that is the voblasts of Hrodna, Vitebsk and Minsk. Its results are currently criticised with respect to the issue of ethnic composition, because the ethnicity was defined by language spoken. In many cases the reported language of choice was defined by general background (education, occupation), rather than ethnicity. Some results are also thought as skewed due to the facts that pidgin speakers were assigned to nationalities arbitrarily and the Russian military garrisons were counted in as permanent inhabitants of the area. Some historians point out the fact that the Russification policies and persecution of ethnic minorities in Russia were added to the notion to subscribe Belarusians, Lithuanians, Ukrainians and Poles to the category of Russians.
1916 German census
City of Wilna
Source: 1916 German census
Source: 1916 German census
As a result of World War I, almost all of the territory encompassing the present borders of modern Lithuania and Poland was occupied by the German Army. On 9 March 1916, the German military authorities organized a census to determine the ethnic composition of their newly conquered territories. Many Belarusian historians note that the Belarusian minority is not noted among the inhabitants of the city.
A similar census was organized for all of the territory of German-occupied Lithuania and the northern border of the territory was more or less correspondent to that of present-day Lithuania, however its southern border was expanded greatly and ended near Brest-Litovsk, and included the city of Białystok.
1921 Polish census
City of Wilno
Source: 1921–1923 Polish census
Administrative Area of Wilno
Source: 1921–1923 Polish census
After the Polish-Bolshevik War and the Treaty of Riga, the eastern Polish border was largely established. In 1921 the first Polish census was held on territories under Polish control. However, Central Lithuania, seized by the forces of General Lucjan Żeligowski after a staged mutiny in 1920 was outside of the Polish borders and it was not until 22 March 1922 that the short-lived state was annexed by Poland.
As a result, the Polish census of 20 September 1921 covered only parts of the future Wilno Voivodship area, that is the communes of Brasław, Duniłowicze, Dzisna and Wilejka. The remaining part of the territory of Central Lithuania (that is the communes of Wilno, Oszmiana, Święciany and Troki) was covered by the additional census organised there in 1923. The tables on the right give the combined numbers for the area of Wilno Voivodship (Administrative Area of Wilno), taken during both the 1921 and 1923 censuses.
Polish census of 1931
City of Wilno
Source: 1931 Polish census
The 1931 Polish census was the first Polish census to measure the population of whole Wilno and Wilno Voivodship at once. It was organised on 9 December 1931 by the Main Statistical Office of Poland. However, in 1931 the question of nationality was replaced by two separate questions of religion worshipped and the language spoken at home. Because of that, it is sometimes argued that the "language question" was introduced to diminish the number of Jews, some of whom spoke Polish rather than Yiddish or Hebrew. The table on the right shows the census findings on language. Wilno Voivodship did not include Druskininkai (Druskinieki) area and included just a small part of Varena (Orani) area where the majority of inhabitants were Lithuanians. The Voivodship, however, included Brasław, Dzisna, Mołodeczno, Oszmiana, Postawy and Wilejka counties which now belong to Belarus.
Lithuanian census of 1939
In December 1939, shortly after their take-over of the area, the Lithuanian authorities organized a new census in the area. However, the census is often criticized as skewed, intending to prove the historical and moral rights of Lithuania to the disputed area, rather than to determine the factual composition. Lithuanian figures from that period are criticized as significantly inflating the number of Lithuanians.
German-Lithuanian census of 1942
City of Wilna
Source: 1942 German census
Source: 1942 German census
After the outbreak of the German-Soviet War in 1941, the area of former Central Lithuania was quickly seized by the Wehrmacht. On 27 May 1942 a new census was organised by the German authorities and the local Lithuanian collaborators. The details of the methodology used are unknown and the results of the census are commonly believed to be an outcome of the racial theories and beliefs of those who organised the census rather than the actual ethnic and national composition of the area. Among the most notable features is a complete lack of data on the Jewish inhabitants of the area (see Ponary massacre for explanation) and a much lowered number of Poles, as compared to all the earlier censuses. However, Wilna-Gebiet did not include Brasław, Dzisna, Mołodeczno, Postawy and Wilejka counties but included Svyren district (current Kaišiadorys and Elektrėnai municipalities. That explains the decline of number of Poles.
Soviet data from 1944-1945
City of Vilnius
Source: 1944 Soviet data
The registered population of Vilnius was 107,000. People who moved to the city during the German occupation, military personnel and temporary residents were not counted. According to the data from the beginning of 1945, the total population of Vilnius, Švenčionys and Trakai counties amounted to 325,000 people, half of them Poles. About 90% of the Vilnius' Jewish inhabitants had been killed in the Holocaust. Every Pole in the city was forced to register for resettlement and about 80% of Vilnius Poles left for Poland.
Soviet census of 1959
During 1944-1946 period about 50% of the registered Poles in Lithuania were transferred to Poland. Dovile Budryte estimates that about 150,000 people left the country. During 1955-1959 period, another 46,600 Poles left Lithuania. However, Lithuanian historians estimate that about 10 percent of people who left for Poland were ethnic Lithuanians. While the removal of Poles from Vilnius was a matter of primary importance for the Lithuanian communist authorities, the depolonization of the countryside was limited due to fear that it would cause depopulation and labor shortage. This led to the emergence of the ethnic segregation, with Lithuanians and Russians prevailing in the city and Poles in the surrounding areas. These are the results of the migration to Poland and the growth of the city due to industrial development and the Soviet Union policy.
Soviet census of January 1989
City of Vilnius
Source: Census 1989
Poles accounted for 63.6% of the population in Vilnius rayon/county (currently Vilnius district municipality, excluding the city of Vilnius itself), and 82.4% of the population in Šalčininkai rayon/county (currently known as Šalčininkai district municipality).
Lithuanian census of 2001
Lithuanian census of 2011
Vilnius city municipality
Source: 2011 Lithuanian census
Vilnius district municipality
Source: 2011 Lithuanian census
Jews of Vilnius
The Jews living in Vilnius had their own complex identity, and labels of Polish Jews, Lithuanian Jews or Russian Jews are all applicable only in part. The majority of the Yiddish speaking population used the Litvish dialect.
The situation today
The Vilnius urban region is the only area in East Lithuania that doesn't face decline in population density.
Poles are the majority of native rural population in the Vilnius region. The share of the Polish population across the region is decreasing, mainly due to natural decline of rural population and process of suburbanization – majority of new residents in the outskirts of Vilnius are Lithuanians.
Most speakers in the area today speak a language known as po prostu, and they consider this language to be Polish. Colloquial Polish in Lithuania includes dialectic qualities and is influenced by other languages. Educated Poles speak a language close to standard Polish.
The Northern-kresowy dialect of Polish is also spoken.
Notes and references
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- Aviel Roshwald, Ethnic Nationalism and the Fall of Empires: Central Europe, Russia and the Middle East, 1914–1923, Routledge, 2001, ISBN 0-415-17893-2, Google Print, p.24
- Anna Geifman, Russia Under the Last Tsar: Opposition and Subversion, 1894–1917, Blackwell Publishing, 1999, ISBN 1-55786-995-2, Google Print, p.116
- Tomas Venclova, Four Centuries of Enlightenment. A Historic View of the University of Vilnius, 1579–1979, Lituanus, Volume 27, No.1 — Summer 1981
- Rev. Stasys Yla, The Clash of Nationalities at the University of Vilnius, Lituanus, Volume 27, No.1 — Summer 1981
- Ronald Grigor Suny, Michael D. Kennedy, "Intellectuals and the Articulation of the Nation", University of Michigan Press, 2001, pg. 265 
- The genealogical tree of Józef Klemens (Ziuk) Piłsudski
- (Russian) Demoscope.
- (Polish) Piotr Łossowski, Konflikt polsko-litewski 1918–1920 (The Polish-Lithuanian Conflict, 1918–1920), Warsaw, Książka i Wiedza, 1995, ISBN 83-05-12769-9, pp. 11.
- (Russian) Demoscope.
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- Egidijus Aleksandravičius; Antanas Kulakauskas (1996). Carų valdžioje: Lietuva XIX amžiuje (Lithuania under the reign of Czars in the 19th century) (in Lithuanian). Vilnius: Baltos lankos. pp. 253–255.
- various authors (2002). Wiesław Łagodziński, ed. 213 lat spisów ludności w Polsce 1789–2002 (in Polish). Główny Urząd Statystyczny, Warsaw.
- Michał Eustachy Brensztejn (1919). Spisy ludności m. Wilna za okupacji niemieckiej od. 1 listopada 1915 r. (in Polish). Biblioteka Delegacji Rad Polskich Litwy i Białej Rusi, Warsaw.
- Ludwik Krzywicki (1922). "Rozbiór krytyczny wyników spisu z dnia 30 IX 1921 r". Miesięcznik Statystyczny (in Polish). V (6).
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- Joseph Marcus (1983). Social and political history of the Jews in Poland, 1919-1939. Walter de Gruyter. p. 17. ISBN 978-90-279-3239-6. Retrieved 5 March 2011.
- Zakład Wydawnictw Statystycznych (corporate author) (1990). Concise Statistical Year-Book of Poland: September 1939 – June 1941. Zakład Wydawnictw Statystycznych. ISBN 83-7027-015-8.
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- Główny Urząd Statystyczny (corporate author) (1939). Mały rocznik statystyczny 1939 (in Polish). Główny Urząd Statystyczny, Warsaw.
- Stanisław Ciesielski; Aleksander Srebrakowski (2000). "Przesiedlenie ludności z Litwy do Polski w latach 1944–1947". Wrocławskie Studia Wschodnie (in Polish) (4): 227–53. ISSN 1429-4168. Archived from the original on 2002-10-17.
- Vitalija Stravinskiene. Polska ludność Litwy Wschodniej i Południowo-Wschodniej w polu widzenia sowieckich służb bezpieczeństwa w latch 1944-1953. Instytut Historii Litwy. "Biuletyn Historii Pogranicza". Vol 11. 2001. p. 62.
- Timothy Snyder. The Reconstruction of Nations. Yale University Press. 2003 . pp. 91-93, 95
- Dovile Budryte, Taming nationalism?: political community building in the post-Soviet Baltic States, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2005, ISBN 0-7546-4281-X, Google Print, p.147
- Theodore R. Weeks. "Remembering and forgetting: creating Soviet Lithuanian capital Vilnius 1944-1949." In: Jorg Hackmann, Marko Lehti. Contested and Shared Places of Memory: History and politics in North Eastern Europe. Routledge. 2013. pp. 139-141.
- Donatas Burneika, Rūta Ubarevičienė, Gintarė Pociūtė, Edis Kriaučiūnas. The Impact of Vilnius City on the Transformation Trends of the Sparsely Populated EU East Border Region. Lithuanian Social Research Centre, Institute of Human Geography and Demography, Vilnius. pp. 50, 58-59.
- Saulius Stanaitis, Darius Cesnavicius. Dynamics of national composition of Vilnius population in the 2nd half of the 20th century. Bulletin of Geography, Socio-Economic Series. No. 13/2010. pp. 35-37.
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- Population by some ethnicities by county and municipality . Data from Statistikos Departamentas, 2001 Population and Housing Census. Archived 29 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
- Census 2011, Statistics Lithuania, 2013
- Ezra Mendelsohn, On Modern Jewish Politics, Oxford University Press, 1993, ISBN 0-19-508319-9, Google Print, p.8 and Mark Abley, Spoken Here: Travels Among Threatened Languages, Houghton Mifflin Books, 2003, ISBN 0-618-23649-X, Google Print, p.205
- Lietuvos rytai; straipsnių rinkinys The east of Lithuania; the collection of articles; V. Čekmonas, L. Grumadaitė "Kalbų paplitimas Rytų Lietuvoje" "The distribution of languages in eastern Lithuania"
- K. Geben, Język internautów wileńskich (The language of Vilnius Internauts),in Poradnik Jezykowy, 2008 Archived 18 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
- Dialekt północnokresowy
- Rutowski, Tadeusz, ed. (1888). Rocznik Statystyki Przemysłu i Handlu Krajowego. Lwów: Krajowe Biuro Statystyczne.
- Kleczyński, Józef (1892). Spisy ludności w Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej. Akademia Umiejętności, Kraków.
- Kleczyński, Józef (1898). Poszukiwania spisów ludności Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej w zbiorach Moskwy, Petersburga i Wilna. Kraków: Akademia Umiejętności.
- Pierwsze dziesięciolecie Głównego Urzędu Statystycznego. T. 3, Organizacja i technika opracowania pierwszego polskiego spisu powszechnego z 30 września 1921 roku. Warsaw: Główny Urząd Statystyczny. 1930.
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- Skarbek, Jan, ed. (1996). Mniejszości w świetle spisów statystycznych XIX-XX w. Lublin: Instytut Europy Środkowo-Wschodniej. ISBN 83-85854-16-9.
- Eidintas, Alfonsas; Bumblauskas, Alfredas; Kulakauskas, Antanas; Tamošaitis, Mindaugas (2013). The History of Lithuania (PDF). Vilnius: Eugrimas. ISBN 978-609-437-163-9.
- Dolbilov, Mikhail (2010). Русский край, чужая вера: Этноконфессиональная политика империи в Литве и Белоруссии при Александре II (in Russian). Moscow: Новое литературное обозрение. ISBN 978-5-86793-804-8.
- Anisimov, Vladimir Ilyich (1912). Виленская губерния. Энциклопедический словарь Русского библиографического института Гранат (in Russian). 10: Вех — Воздух. Moscow: Изд. тов. А. Гранат и К°.
- Theodore R. Weeks, From "Russian" to "Polish": Vilna-Wilno 1900–1925
- Lithuanian-Belarusian language boundary in the 4th decade of the 19th century
- Lithuanian-Belarusian language boundary at the beginning of the 20th century
- List of the 19th-century Suwałki region family names
- 1921 and 1931 censuses (DOC), HTML
- Repatriation and Resettlement of Ethnic Poles
- std.lt 2001 census (PDF) std.lt In English
- [ vilniaus-r.lt]