Immigrants Who Become Lithuanian by Becoming American - William Wolkovich-Valkavicius
In late October, Lithuania elected a fringe anti-emigration party, the Farmers and Greens Union, to head its parliament. That result should not have been surprising. The country had seen around ten percent of its population leave since it joined the European Union in Weeks before, the Visegrad group of central European nations—Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia— convened a summit to call for more action to prevent the emigration of younger citizens. But mass migration has not only energized anti-immigrant and anti-EU groups in the West, it has also hollowed out the economies of eastern European periphery.
But, given that February of this year marked the 25th anniversary of the Maastricht Treaty, the pact that created the single market, the downsides of a one-size-fits-all strategy are becoming all too apparent.
Sign in Subscribe. Alfonsas Eidintas. Vilnius: Mokslas, Tables, notes and English summary. The Commonwealth consisted of two major political subdivisions, the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The latter presented a varied and colorful ethnic and religious mosaic. The core was inhabited by Lithuanians and their close kinsmen the Samogitians, known in Polish as the "Litwini" and "Zmudzini " Within the confines of the Grand Duchy there were also White Ruthenians, Ukrainians, Letts or Latvians, German and other Western immigrants, Tatars, Karaim and the largest settlement of Jews in the world at that time, and of course a great number of immigrant ethnic Poles and polonized members of other ethnic groups.
In ethnic Poland and ethnic Lithuania, the Roman Catholic religion predominated. This huge multi-national, multireligious entity was held together by the " szlachta ," a super national ruling class joined together by a common social ethos.
Although originally of various ethnic origins they eventually fused into a fairly composite group in a process akin to that of the American "melting pot. Politically for the most part all of the szlachta including the Lithuanian bajorai and Ruthenian boyars became Poles but retained something of their original ethnic identities. The ordinary folk in the Grand Duchy particularly however continued in the ways, customs, languages and religions of their forefathers and did not for the most part melt into the Polish nation ethnically, culturally or linguistically.
By the late nineteenth century the multi-national szlachta of the eastern borderlands became so polonized as to no longer be distinguishable from their counterparts on the Wisla. What is often forgotten both in the popular mind as well as by some historians is the simple fact that nationalism and the idea of an ethnically defined state are nineteenth century concepts particularly in East Central Europe. The complexities of the relationships and inter-relationships of that marvelous ethnic patchwork quilt which the respected Oskar Halecki referred to as "The Borderlands of Western Civilization" tend to be overlooked in general histories of the area.
Even though the meaning of "Polak," "Litwin" and "Rusin" as well as "Polska," "Litwa" and "Rus" have wandered over the centuries, many ethnocentric authors of all nationalities continue to apply such terms as best suit their present ethno-political purposes. It is the responsibility of the historian always to begin studies dealing with the borderlands described by Halecki with a "definitio nominis" or definition of terms.
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Tudorianu, a Soviet Moldavian scholar, uses the term "Rossiiskoi" or "Russian" as a political generic, rather than the ethnic "Russian" when referring to all citizens of the Tsarist Russian Empire regardless of ethnic origin. In this instance "Rossiiskoi" is analogous to "Sovietski" or Soviet.
His study describes the economic, social, cultural and political circumstances leading to the emigration primarily of ethnic-Poles and ethnic Lithuanians as well as Finns, Germans, Jews, Ukrainians Ruthenians and others who simply referred to themselves either by their own ethnic names or as living "pod Moskalem" or "Under the Muscovite. The first deals with seasonal agricultural and later industrial emigration of laborers from Poland and its neighboring Lithuanian provinces to Germany and Scandinavia. These areas have been substantially and meticulously researched by American, Polish, German and Scandinavian scholars.
Of particular interest to Western researchers are Tudorianu's sources. He relies heavily on primary materials which have been hitherto unknown in the West or simply unavailable to the Western scholar. They consist mostly of reports made to and for as well as by tsarist and later Soviet officialdom.
Most Lithuanians still emigrate for economic reasons
In essence they reveal the great interest shown by the tsarist and Soviet governments in the problems of emigration and the development of overseas colonies of emigrants essentially hostile to the regime at home. With this work, Eidintas firmly establishes himself as the foremost contemporary Lithuanian expert on emigration.
The book itself is less extensive in coverage than the title implies. It is essentially a collection of not necessarily connected essays on emigration and follows the general directions established by Truska and Vaitekunas. Specifically the study deals with three major themes and several subtopics to include: the causes and development of emigration from Lithuania between ; the social and national processes which led to emigration; the assistance tended their native land by immigrants; the attitudes of tsarist officialdom and later the Lithuanian Republic and particularly the attitudes of nationalist intellectuals toward the problem of emigration and immigration and reemigration to South America.
Many of the topics dealt with by the author have already been thoroughly researched in the ethnic Polish context, which in no way detracts from the significance of Eidintas's study. All emigration-immigration studies complement each other and transcend the lines on maps we call national borders. This study with its English language summary, written in Russian is therefore a valuable contribution to the overall effort of emigration-immigration studies.
It is of particular interest to those interested in the European background of those Poles who emigrated from the tsarist provinces of Vilna, Kovno and Grodno. The author's inclusion of Lithuanian-Polish relationships in the early days of immigration in the United States is incisive. Eidintas mentions that in the beginning, most ethnic Lithuanian immigrants gravitated to early Polonia. Most shared a strong common Catholic faith with the Poles, as well as elements of a common historical past.