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Cultural regions of today's Lithuania
  • Lithuania Minor (formerly Memelland)
  • Žemaitien (Lower Lithuania)
  • Aukštaitien (Upper Lithuania)
  • Suvalkija (Sudauen)
  • Dzūkija (Central Lithuania)
  • Samogitia - Žemaitėjė in the Schemaitic dialects, Žemaitija in the Lithuanian language , Latinized Samogitia , German also Shamaites or, more recently, Lower Lithuania , Yiddish Zámet - is a historical landscape in the western part of today's Lithuania . The Tauragė and Telšiai districts belong to the Netherlands . In addition, there are the former South Curonian landscapes Megowe ( Palanga ) and Ceclis ( Plunge - Mažeikiai ). The unofficial capital of Lower Lithuania is Telšiai .


    Compared to Aukštaitien , Žemaitien is more sparsely populated and more agricultural . The name Žemaitien refers to the Baltic tribe of the Žemaiten (other spellings Samogiten , Semaiten , Schemaiten , lit. žemaičiai ). Žemė means "earth" and žemai means "below"; but also the Baltic cures were named as residents of Samogiti. "Niederlitauen" lies on a ridge. Only a few ridges in the east of Aukštaiti reach higher heights than the Žemaitiens. Two thirds of its area are below 100 m above sea level, one third between 100 and 200 m, a few ridges above, at one point 250 m. From the higher region in the middle, the terrain level drops in all directions, including to Aukštaitien in the east and to the Latvian region of Kurzeme (Kurland) in the north.

    Name and language

    The Samogite ethnic group (lit. Žemaičiai ) did not appear as a term until 1215 in the Volhyn Chronicle (see Halytsch ). In connection with the policy of Konrad of Masovia before 1228, she mentions the "Scoweae (= Schalauer ), Prutheni , Lithuani and Szanmitae (= Žemaiten)". The eponymous Ur-Žemaiten lay in the 13th and 14th centuries between the Mūša spring , the upper reaches of the Venta in the north, the reservoir area of Žarėna in the northwest, the lower Mituva in the southwest, the Memel in the south and the Nevėžis in the east. Highlands can only be found in the western and south-western parts of the original Žemaiten. The term "Netherlands" or "Unterland" only applies to the eastern Central Lithuanian Plain and is likely to have been assigned by the Aukštaičiai . Around 880 AD, Wulfstan referred to the Žemaites as Sarmantians .

    The žemaitic language is divided into three subgroups: the western Zemaitic , the northern Zemaitic (both influenced by Old Kurish ) and the southern Zemaitic . Again, the dialects of the Telšiai , Varniai and Raseiniai regions differ .


    Settlement areas of the Baltic tribes in the 12th century. East Baltic in brown, West Baltic in green

    Early history

    In the 5th and 6th centuries, ethnic groups of the West Baltic Kurds , the East Baltic (today Latvian) Semgallians and the group of the Karschauer , which - scientifically not sufficiently clarified - are either to be assigned to the Kur or the Žemaites, possibly even to the Prussians , settled in what was later Samogitia . Around 900, Lithuanian tribes gradually immigrated. When these parts of the population merged, the Lithuanian component gradually predominated. The Anglo-Saxon travelers Wulfstan called to the 880 Žamaiten as Sarmanten .

    Period of the Lithuanian Wars

    In the High and Late Middle Ages, Žemaitien played a central role in the disputes between the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the German Order . First attempts by the Brothers of the Sword to subdue the Žemaites , who invaded Livonia again and again , were initially unsuccessful. Their devastating defeat in the battle in the land of the Schauler in 1236 forced the remaining sword brothers to stand in 1237 after the intervention of Pope Gregory IX. to join the Teutonic Order . Eventful battles culminated in the following decades in the Battle of the Durbe in July 1260. Due to the devastating defeat, the attempt of the Teutonic Order to eliminate the Lithuanian threat to Livonia failed.

    Historical flag of Samogiti

    After 1272 the German Order started the south Žemaitiens preferred landscape scalovia to subdue (1275 conquest of skalvians Castle Ragnit ). This exposed the Shamaites to the north and south of an increasingly massive threat from the highly armed knights of the order. The sustained efforts of the knights of the order to create a land bridge between their Prussian possessions and the mastership of Livonia by annexing Žemaitiens was masked after 1302 with the Christianization of the previously "pagan" Lithuanians. Throughout the 14th century, Žemaitien was subjected to continued attacks by the knights of the order. The already sparsely populated country became a battlefield.

    A wide, uninhabited “wilderness” (lit. dykra ) had emerged along the borders of the order state and Žemaitiens due to the devastation and the subsequent forced abandonment of the local population . This “ no man's land ” was made even more impassable by the Lithuanian side by extensive cutting of trees. This made surprise attacks by the order extremely difficult.

    Nevertheless, despite constant attacks, the order did not succeed in gaining a lasting foothold in the impassable Žemaitien. Efforts by the Lithuanian Grand Dukes Algirdas and Kęstutis to end the attacks of the Crusaders on Žemaitien through their own attacks against the Order's land failed in view of the order's tactical and armaments superiority. The Lithuanian princes were defeated in the battles on the Streva in 1348 and at Rudau in 1370.

    After the death of Algirdas in 1377, power struggles broke out in Lithuania between the pretenders Vytautas and Jogaila , in which the order interfered with temporary success. In 1384 the Königsberg Treaty was signed between Vytautas and the order , in which Samogitia was promised to the order. However, Vytautas was not a Grand Duke at the time. Through the personal union of Lithuania with Poland agreed in Krewo in 1385 as a result of Jogaila's election as King of Poland , the supremacy of the order could at least be curbed with the accompanying Christianization of Lithuania. Vytautas was granted the dignity of a grand duke in the Treaty of Krewo, which gave him extensive autonomy. The territorial ambitions of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Vytautas against the Golden Horde ruling in the east led to efforts by this Grand Duke to secure his western border through an agreement with the order, which is still interested in Žemaitien. This led to the 1398 Treaty of Sallinwerder , in the wording of which Žemaitien was pledged to the order. This agreement was reluctantly accepted at the Polish royal court. From then on, Žemaitiens real estate was administered by a bailiff. From 1405 this increasingly difficult position was held by the future Grand Master Michael Küchmeister von Sternberg .

    With the crushing defeat of Vytautas in the Battle of the Worskla against the Golden Horde in 1399, a decisive change in his foreign policy began. Previously he tried to win the order in order to have support for his strategic ambitions in the east, but now he took the initiative in Žemaitien: he indirectly supported the Lower Lithuanians, who were dissatisfied with the rule of the order.

    The order never lived up to the administrative rights granted to it in the Treaty of Sallinwerder in Žemaitien. An official bull of the Pope from 1403 was also unable to prevent administrative attacks by local vassals of the order. The resistance of the indigenous population of Žemaitiens against the rigorous collection of church tithes as well as other canonically justified taxes provoked extremely restrictive measures by the order. This was followed in turn around 1409 by a widespread outrage of the local nobility, who until then had been largely loyal to the order.

    Letters of complaint by the people of Lower Lithuania, who rebelled under the tyranny of the order, reached the curia as well as numerous offices of European princes and the important cities of Western Europe. Favored by Vytautas, a guerrilla war broke out in Lower Lithuania around 1400 , which culminated in an uprising in 1409 with the express approval of the Polish King Jogaila . This open support for the rebellion in a territory claimed by orders caused the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order Ulrich von Jungingen to seek the decision on the battlefield. The resulting open conflict led to the Battle of Tannenberg (1410) , the decisive defeat of the order against the Polish-Lithuanian Union. In 1411 the order had to cede Žemaitien to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the 1st Peace of Thorner in 1411. In the Peace of Lake Melno in 1422/26, the militarily and politically weakened order finally renounced any claims to property in Lithuania, namely in Žemaitien.

    After 1425

    Historical map of Samogitia with adjacent territories ( Duchy of Courland , Duchy of Prussia ) from 1659

    Now an indispensable part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Žemaitien shared the fortunes of this nation. As the Duchy of Samogitia , it was treated as a voivodship . In 1569 the Polish-Lithuanian personal union was combined with the Union of Lublin to form the Realunion ( aristocratic republic of Poland-Lithuania ), which increased Polish influence on Lithuania. With the third division of Poland in 1795, the west of Lithuania also fell to the tsarist empire . In 1919 and 1992 Lithuania, now limited to the Lithuanian-speaking area, became independent again. It was annexed by Soviet troops in 1940 as a result of the Secret Additional Protocols to the Hitler-Stalin Pact. Lithuania only succeeded in breaking away from the Russian-dominated state association with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990.

    See also


    Contemporary chronicles

    Source editions

    • Theodor Hirsch, Max Toeppen , Ernst Strehlke: Scriptores rerum Prussicarum. The historical sources of the Prussian prehistoric times up to the fall of the order . Volumes 1–5, Leipzig 1861–1874.
    • Klaus Scholz, Dieter Wojtecki: Peter von Dusburg. Chronicle of the Prussia. Translation and explanation . Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 1984, ISBN 3-534-00604-6 ( selected sources on the German history of the Middle Ages , volume XXV).
    • Ēvald Mugurēvičs: Hermanni de Wartberge Chronicon Livoniae. , annotated translation by Chronicon Livoniae . Rīga 2005.
    • Juozas Jurginis: H. Latvis, H. Vartbergė. Livonijos kronikos. , annotated translation by Chronicon Livoniae . Vilnius 1991.

    Scientific works

    • Uwe Ziegler: Cross and Sword. The history of the Teutonic Order ; Böhlau, Cologne 2003, ISBN 3-412-13402-3
    • Dieter Zimmerling: The German Knight Order ; Econ, Munich 1998, ISBN 3-430-19959-X .
    • Edvardas Gudavičius: Kryžiaus karai Pabaltijyje ir Lietuva XIII a. ; [Cross Wars in the Baltic States and Lithuania in the 13th century]; Vilnius 1989.
    • Bronius Dundulis: Lietuvos kova dėl Baltijos jūros ; [The Battle of Lithuania for the Baltic Sea]; Vilnius 1985.
    • Vytenis Almonaitis: Žemaitijos politinė padėtis 1380-1410 metais ; [The political situation in Lower Lithuania in the years 1380–1410]; Kaunas 1998, ISBN 9986-501-27-X .
    • Gerhard Bisovsky, Hans Schafranek, Robert Streibel : The Hitler-Stalin Pact. Requirements, backgrounds, effects. Vienna 1990.
    • Rainer Eckert, Elvira-Julia Bukevičiūtė, Friedhelm Hinze : The Baltic languages. An introduction. Langenscheidt Verlag, Enzyklopädie Verlag, Leipzig, Berlin, Munich 1994. ISBN 3-324-00605-8 .
    • Marija Gimbutas: The Balts . Herbig, Munich 1983 (1963 English).
    • Hans Mortensen: The Lithuanian Migration . News of the Society of Sciences in Göttingen Philol.-Histor. Kl., Göttingen 1927 pp. 177-195.
    • Anton Salys: The Zemaitic dialects , part 1: History of the Zemaitic language area Tauta ir Zodis, Vol. VI Kaunas 1930 (= Diss. Leipzig 1930)
    • Johann Severin Vater: Mithridates or general language studies with the Our Father as a language sample . Berlin 1809

    Individual evidence

    1. Anton Salys: Die Zemaitischen Mundarten, Part 1: Geschichte des Zemaitischen Sprachgebiet Tauta ir Zodis , Vol. VI, Kaunas 1930 (= Diss. Leipzig 1930), S. 175 ff
    2. Eckert, Rainer / Bukevičiute, Elvire-Julia / Hinze, Friedhelm: The Baltic languages, an introduction, Langenscheidt 1994, 5th edition 1998, p 41 ff.
    3. a b Bronius Dundulis: Lietuvos kova dėl Baltijos jūros ; The struggle of Lithuania for the Baltic Sea; Vilnius 1985
    4. Klaus Scholz, Dieter Wojtecki: Peter of Dusburg. Chronicle of the Prussia. Translation and explanation . Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1984, ISBN 3-534-00604-6 ( Selected Sources on German History of the Middle Ages , Volume XXV)
    5. Ēvald Mugurēvičs: Hermanni de Wartberge Chronicon Livoniae. , annotated translation by Chronicon Livoniae . Rīga 2005
    6. ^ Theodor Hirsch: Scriptores rerum Prussicarum , Volume 2, Part VI The Chronicle of Wigand von Marburg: Original fragments , Latin translation and other remains , Appendix I: The Lithuanian reports on the road, pp. 662–711
    7. a b Dieter Zimmerling: The German Knight Order ; Econ, Munich 1998, ISBN 3-430-19959-X
    8. a b c Vytenis Almonaitis: Žemaitijos politinė padėtis 1380-1410 metais ; The political situation in Lower Lithuania in the years 1380–1410; Kaunas 1998, ISBN 9986-501-27-X
    9. Gerhard Bisovsky, Hans Schafranek, Robert Streibel : The Hitler-Stalin Pact. Requirements, backgrounds, effects. Vienna 1990.

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