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For the surname, see Litvin (surname).
Regions with significant populations
 Belarus 66[1]
 Ukraine 22[2]
local dialect

The word Litvin (Belarusian: літвін, ліцвін, litvin, litsvin; Russian: литвин, litvin, Ukrainian: литвин, lytvyn) is a Slavic term meaning Lithuanian. In historical contest it can also refer to Slavic people identifying themselves with the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

Recently it has been used in modern Belarus to describe ethnic Belarusians[3][4] in historical contexts. In other contexts it can also refer to Slavic people identifying themselves with the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania in present-day Lithuania and Belarus, as well in Ukraine, western Russia and parts of Poland. In modern Belarus, the term is used by some to stress Belarusian participation and contributions to the former Grand Duchy.[4][5]

History of the term[edit]

The Polish–Lithuanian–Ruthenian Commonwealth in 1658. The part referred to as Lithuania is marked yellow and includes territories of modern Lithuania, Belarus and parts of Poland, while Ruthenia denotes parts of what is now Ukraine.

The term Belarusian as an ethnonym referring to the inhabitants of what is now Belarus developed only in the 20th century.[6] Before the late 19th century, the term White Ruthenia usually referred specifically to eastern regions of modern Belarus.[7] Slavic-speaking inhabitants of the Grand Duchy, especially those living east of the historical Baltic lands of the Lithuania Propria – in cities like Minsk, Hrodna, Navahrudak – were usually referred to as Ruthenians in the English language. According to Belarusian historian Anatol Hrytskievich, lands of modern north-western Belarus constituted the major part of historical Lithuania and one should therefore not associate the medieval Grand Duchy of Lithuania exclusively with the modern Republic of Lithuania.[8]

During the 19th century Russian authorities attempted to erase the terms Lithuania and Lithuanians, and replace them with the term White-Ruthenia, that was present on the maps since 16th century. For instance, this can be traced by editions of folklorist researches by Ivan Sakharov, where in the edition of 1836 Belarusian customs are described as Litvin, while in the edition of 1885 the words Литва (Lithuania) and Литовцо-руссы (Lithuanian-Russians) are replaced by respectively Белоруссия (Byelorussia) and белоруссы (Byelorussians).[9]

A new wave of national revival on the territory of modern Belarus arose inspired by local intellectuals and nobility like Vincent Dunin-Marcinkevich and Jan Czeczot who created literature in the modern Belarusian language.

An example of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania heritage is the Ukrainian subgroup of Sivershchyna Litviny in Chernihiv Oblast, on the border with Belarus.[10]

Modern usage[edit]

Today the term “Litvin” is enjoying a revival, in some quarters,[vague] in Belarus, since many Belarusians[vague]prefer to be called “Litvins” and to affiliate themselves with the historical Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and believe that Belarusians contributed greatly to its culture.[citation needed]

Some folk bands and clubs bear the name "Litvins". A folk band, Stary Olsa, promotes the culture of the historical Litvins through original songs. The songs are written in the Old Belarusian language, which was used in the 15th to 17th centuries at the royal court of Vilna, and used the word "Litvin" to cover the heroic past of Litvins.

Today the term Litviny is often[5] used by Belarusian historians and writers to distinguish between inhabitants of the modern Lithuania and the inhabitants of the historical Grand Duchy of Lithuania and to underline thereby Belarusian participation in the legacy of the Grand Duchy.

There are intellectuals in Belarus proposing resurrection of the name Litviny and Litva (Lithuania) referring to modern Belarus.[5] Some of them are trying to confront the claimed monopoly of modern Lithuanians on the legacy of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania by referring to Belarus as Great Litva (Great Lithuania) as opposed to Small Litva associated by them with the modern Republic of Lithuania.[citation needed] Others, to the contrary, propose the idea of a unification with the modern Republic of Lithuania basing on common roots of the Belarusian and modern Lithuanian statehood in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ &n_page=1
  3. ^ Вячаслаў Насевіч. Літвіны // Вялікае княства Літоўскае: Энцыклапедыя. У 2 т. / рэд. Г. П. Пашкоў і інш.Т. 2: Кадэцкі корпус — Яцкевіч. — Мінск: Беларуская Энцыклапедыя, 2005. С. 206—208.
  4. ^ a bПразднуем
  5. ^ a b c Зянон Пазьняк. ВКЛ (урывак з артыкула «Прамаскоўскі рэжым») Archived April 8, 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Я.Станкевіч. Язык і языкаведа. Вільня: Інстытут беларусістыкі, 2007. с.854
  7. ^ Алесь Белы. Хронiка Белай Русi
  8. ^ (Russian) Ягайло и Витовт говорили по-белорусски
  9. ^ Сказанія русскаго народа о семейной жизни своихъ предковъ, собранныя И.Сахаровымъ, СПб, 1836, s.195-196; Сахаров И.П. Сказания русского народа, собранные И.П.Сахаровым. [Часть 1-2]. СПб, 1885, p.I, s.142-143 (
  10. ^ see Anatoliy Ponomariov. "Ethnic groups of Ukrainians" (in Ukrainian). Available online.
  11. ^ Адраджэнне Духу Вялікай Літвы Archived February 25, 2012 at the Wayback Machine

External links[edit]