Literature in Lithuanian, earliest with religious content, originated in the 16th century. The oldest is Mažvyda’s translation from 1547 of Luther’s catechism. The fictional creation was initiated by Donelaitis, whose realistic hexameter poem “Metai” (“The Seasons”) was published in 1818. During the press ban 1864-1904 books and magazines were printed, among other things. in Ostpruss and smuggled into Lithuania. During this time, the national caller Maironis and the first female writer, Žemaitė, appeared.
After the liberation of the country in 1918, European modernism reached Lithuania. During this, Ignas Seinius, who introduced the psychological novel, and impressionist Jurgis Savickis. The next generation, through its universalism and style, came to assert itself far beyond the borders of the country. These include the prosaists Antanas Vaičiulaitis and Juozas Grušas.
- Countryaah: Population and demographics of Lithuania, including population pyramid, density map, projection, data, and distribution.
The Soviet occupation in 1940 meant that many writers fled west and that the literature in their homeland became increasingly narrow-gauge and one-way. Among the exile writers are Kazys Bradunas and Henrikas Nagys. However, during the so-called lethal period following Stalin’s death, the literary activity could be conducted in somewhat greater freedom. The generation that has grown up as a Soviet citizen is quite large and productive. This includes Romualdas Granauskas, whose novel “Gyvenimas po klevu” (1988; “Life under the Maple”) is a strange document about a society’s disintegration.
Nobel laureate Czesław Miłosz was born in Lithuania but emigrated first to Poland and later to the United States. Another exile writer is Tomas Venclova (born 1937), poet and essayist active in the United States since 1977. As a central figure in Lithuanian modernism, the poet Sigitas Geda (1943–2008) is counted. Jurga Ivanauskaite (1961–2007) attracted considerable attention with the novel “Ragana ir lietus” (1993; “The Witch and the Rain”), which challenged Christian mythology and Catholic sexual views. One of Lithuania’s most popular writers in the early 2000’s is Sigitas Parulskis (born 1965), who derives much of his material from the time of liberation from the Soviet Union.
Drama and theater
During the 19th century, the Russian force prohibited all theater activities in Lithuanian. However, there was a Lithuanian theater, which was of great importance for the national awakening. Due to a lack of theater premises, large farms (log theater) were played at the beginning. Outside the country, theater in Lithuanian was played in St. Petersburg as early as 1884 and by emigrants in the United States in 1889. As a starting year for Lithuanian theater in the country is usually counted in 1899, when Keturaki’s comedy “America in the sauna” was performed in Palanga. In 1922 the state’s dramatic theater was opened in Kaunas. Today, domestic and international works are played at theaters in all major cities.
In recent years, the Lithuanian theater has significantly strengthened its position internationally through prominent directors such as Rimas Tuminas, Oskaras Korsunavas and Eimuntas Nekrošius, who lead their own, mutually different theaters. In particular, the latter has, in a number of Shakespeare performances, purified a personal, deeply symbolic stage language.
The Lithuanian film is thought to have started with the polar bear animator Ladislas Starevich (1882-1965) making the short film “Prie Nemuno” (‘By the Nemunas River’, 1909) in Kaunas. However, it was not until 1921 before the first feature film was made in the country and until 1931 before the first feature film premiered: “Onite ir Jonelis” (“Onyte and Jonelis”).
As in other satellite states, the Soviet Occupation Force in 1940 established a documentary production mainly for propaganda films. A film studio and film school was set up in the 1950’s in Vilnius, where Vitautas Zalakevicius (1930–96) inspired a new generation of filmmakers with their thesis, the short film “Skenduolis” (“Fyllot”, 1956), followed by feature films such as “Niekas nenorejo mirti ”(“ Nobody Wanted to Die, ”1966) and“ Facts ”(“ Facts ”, 1981).
Up to 1990, 3-4 films were produced and one documentary feature film per year. During the perestroke in the late 1980’s, a number of independent film companies were formed, which also co-produced with foreign counterparts. The first and best known was Studio Kinema, founded by director Sarunas Bartas (born 1964). His main works include “Namai” (‘The House’, 1997), which was noted at a number of festivals, including in Cannes.
Another well-known name in recent years is the documentary filmmaker Arunas Matelis (born 1961). “Pries couple pendant į zemę” (‘Before the Return to Earth’, 2005). Famous exiles include the New York-based poet and experimental filmmaker Jonas Mekas, who opened the Jonas Mekas Visual Arts Center in Vilnius in 2007.
Lithuanian art has its origins in the ancient Baltic culture, which partly survived in the folk art. Byzantine and medieval Western European art has influenced the art of Lithuania, but only a few examples of the Gothic style have been preserved, among them a fresco in the crypt of Vilnius Cathedral.
The Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which was in union with Poland during the 1400’s-1700’s, had close cultural links with Central Europe. At the court of the great princes and magnates during the 16th century and the beginning of the 16th century, influences from the Italian, German and Dutch renaissance and mannerisms prevailed in painting, sculpture (especially tombs) and graphics. The latter part of the 17th century and the beginning of the 18th century exhibit a rich and varied, locally embossed Baroque art. Monumental frescoes and sculpture ensembles have been preserved in Pažaislis at Kaunas and at Peter and Paul Cathedral in Vilnius.
The art school at Vilnius University, which was operating from the turn of the century, laid the foundation for a national orientation, primarily in painting, with Pranciškus Smuglevičius and Jonas Rustemas as pioneers. Since the Czar closed down the University in 1832, Lithuanian artists studied at the Academy in St. Petersburg or at other foreign academies. Among the artists of the turn of the century are especially noticeable Antanas Žmuidzinavičius, Petras Rimša and Petras Kalpokas. A unique collaboration between music and painting characterizes Mikalojus Konstantas Čiurlioni’s work, which unites symbolism and Art Nouveau influences from the Lithuanian folk art. A combination of contemporary and traditional elements has since characterized Lithuanian 20th century art. During the interwar period, this nationally colored modernism was represented by the expressionists Antanas Samuolis, Antanas Gudaitis and Viktoras Vizgirda. In connection with the Soviet occupation in the 1940’s, many artists emigrated, while others adapted to the demands of socialist realism or ceased to work. After Stalin’s death, more individual modes of expression became possible, and during the 1960’s-1970’s Lithuanian artists again approached the modernist directions.
Traditional techniques such as wood and stone sculpture, oil painting and woodcuts predominate in Lithuanian art, which despite its influence has retained a strong local touch throughout the post-war period. The newer Lithuanian painting is characterized by an active colorite and exhibits both figurative and abstract expressionist features. In post-war painting, among other things, Jonas Svažas, Augustinas Savickas, Ričardas Vaitiekunas and Antanas Martinaitis as forerunners. Stained glass has a strong position in Lithuania, with Stasys Ušinskas as the forerunner. The monumental sculpture has been mainly represented by Jonas Mikėnas and Robertas Antinis, who, like their successors, combine classicist, archaic and folk forms. Among the sculptors of the late 20th century are Vladas Vildžiunas, Stanislovas Kuzma and Mindaugas Navakas.
The artist generation of the 1980’s was postmodernist and conceptually oriented and participated more and more in exhibitions abroad. Only the political upheavals of the 1990’s enabled close connections with contemporary art in the outside world. Of artists active in new art forms in the early 2000’s, mention is made of the video artists Deimantas Narkevičius (born 1964) and Arturas Raila (born 1962). Photographer Antanas Sutkus (born 1939) has been noted for his pictures of a Lithuania in rapid change.
During the 13th century, a network of fortified defense fortresses with massive walls and one or more higher towers was built. In addition to wood, many stone and clay brick walls were used. Residential citizens are of a more complicated structure with administrative buildings and dwelling houses. At this time, the architecture of Lithuania received its first features of the Western European Romanesque and Gothic styles, but Gothic’s actual period of prosperity fell in Lithuania during the 1400’s-1500’s. Among the most prominent Gothic buildings are the castle on the island of Trakai, the churches of St. Anna and St. Francis Bernardines in Vilnius, and the house of Perkūna in Kaunas. In the 16th century, there were about 220 privileged cities and urban-like communities in Lithuania. An irregular and radial planar structure characterized most of these locations, although in Klaipėda, regular city blocks were built as early as the 13th century. Other Lithuanian cities began to receive regulated settlements from the 16th century.
The second half of the 16th century and the first half of the 16th century were characterized by particular dynamics in the development of architecture. The best examples are evidence of the great Italian Renaissance influence. The palaces of ancient magnates, e.g. The lower castle of Vilnius and the palace of Raudondvaris and Siesikai are characterized by exquisite art objects in precious materials.
The end of the 17th century and the first half of the 18th century were characterized by a baroque architecture in Lithuania, characterized in particular by an abundance of artistically high interiors with numerous art objects. From that time on, polychromy gained an important place in the architecture of Lithuania. Beautiful examples include Saint Peter and Paul’s Church in Vilnius, as well as churches and monasteries in Pažaislis and Tytuvėnai. The Kaunas City Hall and the old University Observatory in Vilnius are characterized by harmony and imagination. Within the palace architecture, parks and gardens became a mandatory element.
In the late 1700’s and during the 19th century, classicism became of great importance for urban planning. Complexity characterized the newly-designed palaces, buildings and parks, and many of the older buildings were rebuilt, including. Vilnius Town Hall and Cathedral of Laurynas Stuoka-Gucevičius (1753–99), Lithuania’s most prominent architect at this time. Stuoka-Gucevičius was the first director of the Institute of Architecture at the University of Vilnius, where, from 1793, diplomats trained architects.
The turn of the century was dominated by romanticism and historicism and was very productive. Initially, the architecture was dominated by historicism with elements of neoclassicism, e.g. in the art school in Kaunas (1922, Vladimiras Dubeneckis) and in the bank in the same city (1929, Mykolas Songaila). Eventually, rational criteria and a simpler design language were established, represented by, among other things. the central post in Kaunas (1932, Feliksas Vizbaras) and the bank in Vilnius (1932, J. Penkovskis and S. Gelenzovskis).
The radical changes that took place in Lithuania from 1940 had severe consequences for Lithuania’s architecture. The first decade of the post-war period was characterized by ideologising historicism and reconstruction, but was replaced by a sudden adaptation to the general ideals of industrialism and functionalism, which, however, later became more regionally embossed. New cities, including Elektrėnai and Visaginas, were built in a similar spirit. Rationalism characterizes the architecture of the massive neighborhoods in, among other places. Vilnius, Kaunas and Klaipėda.
A more sensitive relationship with the surroundings and a pluralism in artistic creation characterizes the newest architecture in Lithuania. Prominent works include: Historical Museum of Vilnius (1980, Gediminas Baravykas), Vilnius Dramatic Theater (1981, Algimantas and Vytautas Nasvytis), and the Tables Gallery in Kaunas (1988, Evgenijus Miliūnas, Kęstutis Kisielius and Saulius Juškys).
A lively musical life arose during the Late Middle Ages at the court of the Lithuanian princes, after Christianization in 1387 also in the Catholic Church. At the Trakai Castle, there was an ensemble of 80 musicians during the early 16th century. Vilnius became a major cultural and scientific center during the 16th century, with schools for higher music education. The time between the union with Poland (mid-1500’s) and the liberation from Russia (1918) is characterized by strong influences from Polish and Russian music culture. In Vilnius, Italian opera was played in 1636 and thirty years later the first Lithuanian music theory thesis was published. During the 19th century, music life grew in size, including by the Polish pianist and composer Stanisław Moniuszko, active in Vilnius 1840–58.
In the late 1800’s, a strong national movement arose among musicians and composers. Cultural associations with choirs and orchestras organized concerts and competitions. Folk songs were collected and adapted for a rapidly growing number of amateur musicians and singers. A large repertoire of mainly organ, choral and orchestral music was created. Late Romantic touch has many works by “the father of Lithuanian music”, the composer and painter Mikalojus Čiurlionis. During independence (1918–40) an opera (1920), several symphony orchestras (the first in 1926) and a conservatory (1930) were founded in Kaunas. A national style was developed, based either on folk music (Stasys Šimkus, 1887–1943), expressionism (Juozas Gruodis, 1884–1948) or impressionism (Jurgis Karnavičius, 1884-1941).
Since Vilnius again became the capital in 1940, a state philharmonic orchestra was founded and in 1948 a state opera and ballet theater. During the Soviet era, music life came to follow closely in the rest of the Soviet Union, including through composers such as Balys Dvarionas (1904–72) and Antanas Račiūnas (1905–84). In the areas of choral and chamber music, however, a more independent development can be discerned. In the early 1960’s, modern influences from Poland are noticed in music by, among others, Eduardas Balsys (1919–84), and Julius Juzeliūnas (1916–2001). Large choral festivals have been held regularly since 1924, sometimes with over 15,000 participants. As in Estonia and Latvia, they have been of great importance for national liberation.
In the 1970’s, influenced the musical life of the modern European trends, with greater emphasis on individual expression and chamber music forms by composers Vytautas Barkauskas (1931-2020), Osvaldas Balakauskas (born 1937), Bronius Kutavičius (born 1932), Vytautas Jurgutis (1930 –2013), Algimantas Bražinskas (1937–2020) and others.
In the 1980’s, a group of composers, the “machinists”, appeared with a minimalist aesthetic, among them Ričardas Kabelis (born 1957). Among the younger composers of today are noticed. Raminta Šerkšnytė (born 1975), Vytautas V. Jurgutis (born 1976), Ramūnas Motiekaitis (born 1976) and Marius Baranauskas (born 1978).
Jazz bands emerged in many cities after the First World War, not infrequently counteracted by official cultural life. In Kaunas, a jazz band was formed at the radio in 1940. After the occupation of the Soviet Union, jazz was officially banned until the late 1950’s. With the trio GTCh in the 1970’s, the jazz got a breakthrough throughout the country. From the late 1970’s a rock scene was developed, with rock festivals and bands such as Foje, Antis and Bix. Among the most popular rock artists of the 2000’s is the group SKAMP, which mixes rock, pop, hip-hop and reggae, and singer Jurga (actually Jurga Šeduikytė, born 1980).
Folk music has archaic features, is predominantly vocal and linked to the ritual calendars of the family and agriculture. The songs have mostly lyrical content, not infrequently with a pronounced female perspective. Most tunes go in major tones. Two and three rhythms are most common, but alternations between different rhythms, extensions and abbreviations of melody and text phrases often occur. The tempo is usually calm and fluid. Most of the songs are unanimous, but in several parts of Lithuania there are several types of multistory. Old-fashioned features show the improvised lamentations (raudos) at funerals, often performed by professional lamenters. An age-old ambiguity is found in sutartinės, dance songs sung by women on repeated, rhythmically accented and often syncopated syllables in complicated counterpoint features. They could also be performed instrumentally by men. on panflies (shotučiai) or wooden trumpets (ragai) of various sizes.
A younger and more common type includes two- and three-part triangular-based songs, often accompanied by accordion, clarinet, wind instrument or the scattered 5-10 string citrana chancel. Common instruments, soloist or together with accordion and bass in small ensembles, are also violin, birbynė (a folk clarinet), lumzdelis (flute), kelmas and scrap balai (drum and wooden blocks).
Folk music played a significant role in the national music scene throughout the 20th century, through arrangements for choirs and orchestras, and through folklore ensembles with reconstructed instruments in various combinations. Skriaudžia kanklés was formed in 1906, in the 1940’s the state folklore ensemble Lietuva was founded after Soviet model. At the end of the 1960’s, a folk music revival, the Ramuvar Movement, was started by students interested in authentic folk culture.
In the 1980’s close to 900 ensembles were formed. As in other Baltic countries, these, together with song choirs, played a significant role in the liberation from the Soviet Union 1989-90, “the singing revolution”.
Most of the folk dances are ring and chain dances, ratelai, which is performed for singing by the dancers themselves. A very old dance is sutartinės performed in cannon by two groups of women, with small steps at a slow pace. Many ring dances consist of mimicry, of sowing and harvesting (linelis – lin, dobilas – clover), work (calvis – blacksmith), birds (blezdingėlė – swallow) etc.
During the 19th century, a number of instrumentally accompanied pair dances from Western Europe, šokiai, were introduced. polka, drum and quadrille, most performed at a slow pace. In the 20th century, many folk dances were reconstructed for stage use. A permanent ballet ensemble was created in Kaunas in 1925. During the 1920’s and 1930’s, a domestic dance repertoire emerged, based on a combination of classical ballet, Lithuanian folklore and modern dance.
The dance theater Aura in Kaunas, founded in 1982, is the leading institution of modern dance in Lithuania. Since 1989, the theater organizes an international dance festival every year.
The popular culture of present-day Lithuania has its roots in a peasant culture that still had an old-fashioned touch in the early 1900’s. In most of the country the peasants lived as a living until 1861. The peasant population had a special connection to the extensive plains, where the livestock management, with a system of village shepherds, also played a major role. The fishing characterized the culture both along the Baltic Sea coast and at the numerous inland waterways. Despite the strong ties to the east, the Lithuanian people’s culture was affected early by Western influences from Central Europe over Poland; these have led to differences in popular culture between western and eastern Lithuania.
As in Latvia, within the traditional building condition in the west, there was a type of dwelling with a porch used as a kitchen, in the east, however, the Eastern European smokehouse. A precursor to these house types was a simple so-called hearth cabin (namas), with open hearth and intended for both people and livestock, which has been regarded as an originally Baltic housing type. Cultural elements that spread from Central Europe to Lithuania include the clogs and the straw braided hive. Especially in national costumes, age-old features have been preserved. Like the Latvians, the Lithuanians have a rich folk poetry, where the folk songs (dainos; see daina) are a striking feature.
Lithuania’s historical-ethnographic museum (1855) in Vilnius has a central place in the cultural heritage. An open-air museum with Skansen in Stockholm as a model was opened in 1966 in Rumšiškė’s east of Kaunas. Jonas Basanavičius is counted as a pioneer of Lithuanian folklore, whose work in the 1930’s was continued by Jonas Balys.
Basketball is undoubtedly Lithuania’s national sport. Due to the limited population base, the country has achieved remarkable success internationally, especially on the men’s side: European Championship gold 1937, 1939 and 2003, Olympic bronze 1992, 1996 and 2000, World Cup bronze 2010. Arvydas Sabonis is counted among the biggest stars (born 1964) and Šarūnas Marčiulionis (born 1964), both of whom have had successful careers in the American Pro League NBA. They were also part of the Soviet team that took the Olympic gold in 1988.
Bicycle, athletics and football are other popular sports in Lithuania. The country’s most qualified athletes of recent times are the discus thrower Virgilijus Alekna (born 1972) with Olympic gold in 2000 and 2004, World Cup gold in 2003 and 2005.