Grand Duchy of Lithuania

Dafato Team | Feb 20, 2023

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The Grand Duchy of Litovsky, Russian and Zhemoytsky is the Eastern European state that existed from the middle of the 13th century to 1795 on the territory of modern Belarus (in its entirety), Lithuania (except for the Klaipeda region), Ukraine (most, until 1569), Russia (southwestern lands, including Smolensk, Bryansk and Kursk), Poland (Podlasie, until 1569), Latvia (part, after 1561), Estonia (part, from 1561 to 1629) and Moldova (left-bank part of Transnistria, until 1569).

The vast lands of Russia, which fell under the authority of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and constituted the lion's share of its territory, are referred to as Lithuanian Rus'.

From 1385 the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was in a personal union with the Kingdom of Poland, and from 1569 it was in the Seimas Union of Lublin as part of the federative Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. In XV-XVI centuries the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was a rival of the Russian state in the struggle for domination on the lands of Russia and in the whole Eastern Europe. It has stopped the existence after the third section of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1795. By 1815, the entire territory of the former principality became part of the Russian Empire.

The name of the state and the title of the ruler (ruler) were not constant and varied depending on changes in the political boundaries and the state structure. In the middle of the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries the state was called Lithuania. For example, the Grand Duke Mindovg was crowned "King of Lithuania. After the annexation of the Kiev region and other lands of present-day Ukraine to Lithuania, the ruler was titled "King of the Litvins and many Rusyns". After the incorporation of a part of modern Latvia, the Grand Duke of Lithuania Gedimin was titled "King of the Litvins and Rusins, ruler and prince of Zemgale". After the annexation of Samogitia (the central and western part of modern Lithuania) in the mid-15th century the ruler used the titulature "Grand Duke... of all the lands of Lithuania and Samogitia and of many Rus lands". In the Statute of 1529 states: "The rights written were given to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Rus', Zomoie and others by the nayasheynogo pan Zhikgimonte, by the God's mercy of the King of Poland, Grand Duke of Lithuania, Rus', Prussian, Zomoie, Mazovian and others". Thus, during this period the official name of the state in the Western Russian language was "Great Princedom Lithuanian, Russian, Žomojtian and others.

After the conclusion of the Union of Lublin and the annexation of present-day Ukraine to Poland (1569), the state began to be called only the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, although the ruler continued to be titled Grand Duke of Lithuania, Russian, Prussian, Samogitian, Mazovian, and after the accession of Livonia in 1561, also Livonian.

In official documents the names "Grand Duchy of Lithuania", "dominion", and "panstvo" were used to denote the state. The term "Rzeczpospolita" was used both to denote only the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and as the name of the entire Polish-Lithuanian state.

In Latin the name was written as Magnus Ducatus Lituaniae, in Polish as Wielkie Księstwo Litewskie.

In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the concept of "Rus' Lithuanian" emerged as a contrast to the concept of "Rus' Moscow.

In Russian historiography, the term Lithuanian-Russian state was widely used to describe the state.

Since the 6th century BC, the Baltic (Leto-Lithuanian) tribes inhabited the territories of modern Lithuania, Belarus, partly Latvia, Poland and Russia. From the VIII century AD in the course of Slavic colonization of the East European Plain, the eastern part of the Balts took part in the ethnogenesis of the Krivichi, Radimichi and Vyatichi, in the basin of the Protva River a part of researchers subsequently allocated a Baltic tribe Golyad.

The name Litua in the indirect case form Lituae first appears in the Kvedlinburg annals under 1009 when describing the death of missionary Bruno of Querfurt, who was killed "on the border of Rus' and Lithuania" by pagans who opposed the baptism of the leader Netimer:

In the Russian chronicles the first dated mention of Lithuania refers to 1040, when the campaign of Yaroslav the Wise took place and the construction of Novogrudok fortress was started. "The Tale of Bygone Years" refers to Lithuanians along with Semigallians and Couronians among the tribes-dancers of Kievan Rus', while the territory of Jatviags was directly annexed to it in 983.

It is traditionally believed that after the disintegration of Kievan Rus, the Lithuanians, Samogitians, Semigallians and Curonians remained in tributary dependence on the Principality of Polotsk (finally seceded in 1132), which, in turn, also underwent territorial fragmentation. As to another Russian principality bordering the Baltic territories, situated in the basin of the upper Neman in close proximity to the territories of the Yatviaghs, the Gorodensk principality, there are various theories of its origin: from the Turov, Polotsk or Volyn principality. The most northern of the Baltic tribes, the Latgalians, were dependent on the Novgorod Republic. At the beginning of the XIII century the Teutonic order began to occupy the lands of Prussians, lands of Semigallians, Couronians, Latgalians and Finno-Ugric tribes of Livonians and Estonians - the Order of Swordsmen. The latter was defeated by Samogitians and Semigallians in 1236, its remains were incorporated into the Teutonic Order.

From the last quarter of the XII century many Russian principalities bordering Lithuania (Goroden, Izyaslav, Drutsk, Gorodets, Logoisk, Strezhev, Lukom, Bryachislav) leave the field of view of chroniclers. According to "The Tale of Igor's Campaign", Prince Izyaslav Vasilkovich was killed in battle with Lithuania (earlier than 1185). In 1190 Rurik Rostislavovich has organized a campaign against Lithuania in support of relatives of the wife, has come to Pinsk, but because of thawing of snows the further campaign had to be cancelled. Since 1198 the land of Polotsk becomes a springboard for the expansion of Lithuania to the north and northeast. Lithuanian incursions began directly in the Novgorod-Pskov (1183, 1200, 1210, 1214, 1217, 1224, 1225-1226, 1229, 1234), Volhynia (1196, 1210), Smolensk (1204, 1225-1226, 1239, 1248) and Chernigov (1220) lands, with which the annalistic Lithuania had no common borders. Novgorod's first chronicle under 1203 mentions the battle of the Chernigov Olgovichi with Lithuania. In 1207 Vladimir Rurikovich went to Lithuania with Roman Borisovich, Constantine, Mstislav and Rostislav Davydovich.

Contacts also took place between Lithuania and the Russian principalities. In the 1180s, Lithuania provided military support to some of the princes of the Principality of Polotsk, while no military conflicts between Lithuania and the land of Polotsk are recorded in the chronicles. Lithuania frequently took the side of Polotsk in its military conflicts with crusaders. In 1214 the Crusaders of the Sword Order tried to attack the vassal of the Polotsk principality of Hersikiai, but were defeated by Lithuania. In 1216, Lithuania was going to take part in the march of Prince Vladimir of Polotsk against the crusaders, but the campaign did not take place because of his death. In 1235 the Lithuanian Duke Mindovg was allied with Prince Izyaslav of Novogrudok. Apparently, at the behest of the Galitsko-Volynsk prince Daniel, they attack Mazovia together.

Data from archaeology and linguistics allow us to speak of the existence of a wide zone of active Baltic-Slavic peaceful contacts on the territory of Ponemanja, which became the core of the formation of the GDL in the 13th century.

Formation of the state, the reign of Mindovg

Evidence of the existence of early feudal associations on the territory of the future Grand Duchy of Lithuania is considered a treaty of 1219 between the principality of Galicia-Volhynia and the princes of Litva, Dyavoltva and Samogitia. In the contract among five senior Lithuanian princes mentioned Mindovg. In 1230th it has taken a leading position among Lithuanian Princes.

The consolidation of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania took place against the backdrop of the events of the late 1230s - early 1240s: the resistance of the Crusader Order in Livonia and the Teutonic Order in Prussia and the Mongol invasion of Russia. Turbulent events of that time do not allow us to establish the details of the formation of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. According to one hypothesis, the creation of the principality refers to the 1240s, when Mindovg was invited to reign by the boyars of Novogrudok, which became the center of Mindovg's possessions.

At the same time the expansion of the territory of the state in the north-west and north-east direction went on, which was most vividly demonstrated later, during the reign of the Grand Dukes Vojshelk and Trojden. In 1248-1249 the Lithuanians made a generally unsuccessful campaign to the principality of Vladimir-Suzdal, then began a power struggle between Mindovg and his nephew Tovtivil, who was aided by the Galician-Volyn Romanoviches (Daniel of Galicia was married to Tovtivil's sister).

In order to improve the foreign policy position of the principality, Mindovg established relations with the pope and embraced Catholicism (1251). With the consent of Pope Innocent IV, Mindovg was crowned king of Lithuania, thus the state was recognized as a full-fledged European kingdom. The Master of the Livonian Order, Andreas Stirland, Prussian Archbishop Albert II Zuerber, other nobles, Dominican and Franciscan monks were invited to the coronation on 6 July 1253. The ceremony was officiated by Bishop Chelmno Heidenreich (Polish), about the place of the coronation there are disputes among historians. According to some sources, the coronation could have been held in Novogrudok, on the basis of which a number of historians conclude that Novogrudok was the capital of the Mindovg state.

In 1254 Voyshelk, son of Mindovg, on behalf of Mindovg made peace with Daniel of Galicia and gave Novogrudok, with all his other cities and towns of Mindovg, to the son of Daniel of Galicia, Roman. In 1258 Roman was captured as a result of the conspiracy of Voyshelk and Tovtivil. In the same year there was a joint invasion of Galicia-Volynian and Horde troops led by Burundai, who greatly devastated the neighborhood of Novogrudok. Later, in 1258 Polotsk took Tovtivil, who was married to the daughter of Polotsk prince Brjacheslav, for the reign. Tovtivil maintained an alliance with Mindovg and Voyshelk.

Mindovg's son Vojshelk, renouncing his royal title, took monastic vows in an Orthodox monastery in Halych, and then in 1255-1258 went on pilgrimage to Athos. Discontent was brewing in the country with the activity of missionaries, who were trying to organize a Catholic Dominican bishopric at Lubch near Novogorodok. Presbyter Christian (Deutschland), appointed bishop of Lithuania, complained to the pope that his residence was being attacked by the infidels among Mindovg's subjects. According to the papal bulls and the later reports of Jan Dlugosz, in 1255 Mindovg raided and burned the Polish city of Lublin, and already on August 7, 1255 pope Alexander IV declared a crusade against Lithuania in Poland, Bohemia, and Austria. Later crusades against Lithuania were declared by the pope also in 1257, 1260 and 1261.

No later than 1260 Mindovg broke off peace with the Teutonic Order and supported the Prussian uprising against the Order, which began in the fall of 1260. According to German chronicles, Lithuanian armies participated in the defeat of the Order at Lake Durba in Courland on July 13, 1260, where 150 knights of the Order were killed, including the master, marshal and several komturs. Having renounced Christianity and formal peace with the crusaders, Mindovg in 1260-1263 made several devastating campaigns for the crusaders in Livonia, Prussia and Poland. In January 1263 he burned down the possessions of the archbishop of Gniezno in the land of Kulm.

In 1263 Mindovg was killed by conspirators, among whom various sources name the Polotsk prince Tovtivil, the Nalshan prince Dovmont, the prince Troinat or the great princely voivode Evstafy Konstantinovich.

Struggle for power in Lithuania

A struggle for the throne between the Polotsk prince Tovtivil and Mindovg's nephew Troinat commenced in the state. The latter succeeded in killing Tovtivil and took the throne, but Troyinat was soon overthrown by Mindovg's son Voyshelk. In 1263 the Lithuanians succeeded in taking Chernigov after the death of the local prince, but they were soon expelled from there by Roman of Bryansk.

Around 1265 Voyshelk invited Orthodox priests and founded a monastery to spread Orthodoxy in Lithuania. In 1267 he transferred the title and power to the son-in-law of Mindovg and son of the Galician-Volyn prince Daniel Shvarn. A year later, Shvarn died, after which Troyden became grand duke. After Troyden's murder, Dovmont reigned.

After Shvarn's death the relations of Lithuania with the Galicia-Volyn princes, who in 1274-1275 in alliance with the Khan of the Golden Horde Mengu-Timur, and in 1277-1278 in alliance with the Horde beklyarbek Nogai invaded the Lithuanian lands, worsened.

Between 1282 and 1291 the princes became Budikid and his brother Pukuver Budivid. This period, which lasted from the death of Troyden (1282) to the death of Budivid (1295), is very poorly covered in the sources, so information about it often has the character of speculation of varying degrees of reliability.

Formation of the Gediminovich dynasty

Budivid was succeeded in 1295 by his son Viten (1295-1316), and after his death by his second son, Gedimin (ruled 1316-1341). They united under their rule the forces of the whole state, stopped the movement of crusaders, secured the Western Russian lands (many of them voluntarily joined the GDL) for Lithuania, and began expansion in the Southern Russian lands, weakened by the Mongol ravages. Under Witten at the end of the 13th century, according to the lists of dioceses of the See of Constantinople made under Byzantine Emperor Andronicus II Palaeologus, the Lithuanian metropolitanate with its center in Novogrudok was established. The Lithuanian metropolitanate included at its initial stage the bishoprics of Polotsk and Turov, and from the fourteenth century onward, probably, of Kiev.

In 1316 Gedimin has grasped Berestey land, but then has made peace with the Galician-Volynian governors Leo and Andrey Jurjevich (Lubart Gediminovich married Andrey Jurjevich's daughter). After simultaneous death of brothers at unknown circumstances (1323) Gedimin has spent a campaign on Volyn, then on Kiev. Some historians deny historical reliability of data on submission of Kiev Gedimin. In both cases it is known about opposition Gedimin not only Russian princes, but also Tatars. Lubart received possessions in Volyn, and in Kiev in the following years is known Duke Fyodor, who acted in the interests of Gedimin, but ruled under the continuing Basques. In 1333 the non-Russian prince Narimunt Gediminovich was invited to Novgorod for the first time in history as a ministerial prince, who received suburbs and Karelian land as his tribute (during 1333-1471 years the Lithuanian princes of Gediminovich kind were invited many times for defending the Novgorod lands). After the termination of the local Galician dynasty Lubart became Prince of Galicia-Volynia (1340), but then began a war for the Galician-Volynian succession between Lithuania and Poland (until 1392).

In 1317 Gedimin succeeded in reducing the metropolitanate of the Grand Duchy of Moscow: at his request, under Patriarch John Glick (1315-1320) was created the Orthodox metropolitanate of Lithuania, with its capital at Novgorod (Novogrudok - Small Novgorod). This metropolis, apparently, was subordinated to those dioceses that were dependent on Lithuania, that is, Turov, Polotsk, and then, probably, also Kiev.

Under Gedimin, the founder of the ruling dynasty, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania demonstrated considerable military successes, it strengthened considerably economically and politically, and Orthodox and Catholic churches and temples were built in the country. Gedimin established dynastic ties with the leading monarchical houses in Eastern Europe: his daughters were married to the Polish king Casimir III, the Galician prince Yuri II Boleslav, the Tver prince Dmitry Grozny Ochi and the Moscow prince Semyon Gordy. Gedimin had peace with the principality of Moscow; he had tense relations with Poland, which sometimes led to military campaigns; the enmity with the Germanic city communities and the Pope did not cease. It is also known that Gedimin used the Golden Horde troops against the crusaders.

Olgerd and Keystut

Since the Grand Duchy of Lithuania had no fixed order of succession to the throne, for five years after Gedimin's death (1341-1345) the state was in danger of fragmenting into independent lands. The state was divided into eight parts, ruled by Gedimin's brother Warrior, and Gedimin's seven sons: Monvid, Narimunt, Koriat, Olgerd, Keistut, Lubart and Eunutius. The crusaders, who had allied themselves with Poland in 1343 and were preparing to march on Lithuania, wanted to take advantage of this.

By agreement between Olgerd and Keistut (1345) Eunutius was expelled from Vilna. The brothers made a treaty by which they were all to obey Olgerd as grand duke. Keistut ruled the northwestern part of the principality and fought the Order. Olgerd's actions were focused on the eastern and southeastern direction. Under Olgerd (who ruled in 1345-1377) the Duchy in fact became the dominant power in the region. In the south Olgerd's possessions were expanded by the annexation of the Bryansk principality (1355). Particularly the position of the state strengthened after Olgerd defeated the Tatars in the Battle of the Blue Waters in 1362 and annexed the Podolsk land to his possessions. After that, Olgerd deposed the prince of Kiev, Feodor, who was subordinate to the Golden Horde, and gave Kiev to his son, Vladimir. At first this led to the termination of the payment of tribute to the Horde, which in those years was struggling for power, from these lands.

The lands of the principality under Olgerd stretched from the Baltic to the Black Sea steppes, the eastern border passed approximately along the present-day border of Smolensk and Moscow, Orel and Lipetsk, Kursk and Voronezh regions. During his reign, the state included modern Lithuania, the entire territory of modern Belarus, southwest of modern Russia (including Smolensk, Bryansk, and Kursk), and part of Ukraine. For all the inhabitants of Western Russia, Lithuania became the natural center of resistance to the traditional enemies, the Golden Horde and the Teutonic Order. As part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania there were "politically separated areas", which had a certain self-government (Polotsk, Vitebsk, Smolensk, Kiev, Volyn and other lands).

A special place in Olgerd's policy was occupied by the struggle with the Moscow principality, which sought domination in Northeastern Russia, including helping the principality of Kashinsk to achieve independence from the Tver principality. In 1368 and 1370 Olgerd twice unsuccessfully besieged Moscow, forced to divert to the fight against crusaders. In 1371 by the side of Tver prince was also achieved leadership in the Golden Horde Mamai, about the same time resumed payment of tribute to the Horde from the Southern Russian lands, subordinate to Lithuania. In 1372 Olgerd concluded peace with Dmitry Donskoy, but in the last years of his rule Olgerd lost control of the eastern lands of the principality, especially Bryansk and Smolensk, which inclined toward an alliance with Moscow, including against the Horde.

For possession Volhynia Olgerd waged a struggle with Poland, which ended in peace in 1377. The appanages of Beresti, Vladimir, and Lutsk were ceded to Lithuania, and the lands of Kholmsk and Belzsk were ceded to Poland.

Yagaylo and Vitovt

After the death of Olgerd (1377) Keystut remained the elder of the clan, but in accordance with Olgerd's wish he recognized the seniority of one of the twelve sons of Olgerd and his nephew Jagailo. The latter was not recognized by his half-brothers: Andrei of Polotsk and Dmytro of Bryansk went to Moscow and together with Dmytro Bobrok took part in the battle of Kulikovo against Mamay (1380). Soon Keistut, learning of his nephew's relations with the Order in order to assert his oneness, deposed him from the throne in 1381. The following year Jagailo was able to capture Keistut and have him tortured in prison. During this struggle, Jagailo ceded the land of Zhmud to the Order (1382). In 1384 Jagailo, Skirgailo and Koribut concluded an agreement with Dmitry of Moscow on a dynastic marriage between Jagaila and Dmitry's daughter and the baptism of Lithuania in the Orthodox Church. But in the same year Keistut's son Vitovt escaped from prison to the Germans and with them began an attack on Lithuania. Yagaylo hastened to make peace with Vitovt, gave him Grodno and Troki as his inheritance, and promised the Order to adopt Catholicism within four years.

In 1385 Grand Duke Jagiello signed the Krevo union with the Polish kingdom - he adopted Catholicism and the new name Wladyslaw, married the heiress to the Polish throne Jadwiga and became the King of Poland, while remaining the Grand Duke of Lithuania. This strengthened the position of both states in the confrontation with the Teutonic Order. In 1387 Vladislav Jagaila officially christened Lithuania.

Wladyslaw Jagaila transferred the throne to his brother Skirgaila, who recognized the supreme power of the Polish king. The Catholic baptism of Lithuania led to an increase in Polish and Catholic influence. Lithuanian and Russian boyars who adopted Catholicism were given a privilege to own land without limitation on the part of dukes (nobility on the Polish model). Their estates were exempted from the duties, except for the construction of cities with all the land. For Catholics the Polish castellan courts were introduced. These orders caused displeasure among the Russian-Lithuanian nobility, headed by Vladislav's cousin Yagaylo Vitovt. He waged long struggle for the throne, drawing anti-Polish princes and boyars of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania to his side and finding allies in crusaders and Grand Duke of Moscow Vasily I. Dmitryevich whom he gave his daughter Sophia in 1390. The policy of rapprochement between Lithuania and Moscow was greatly supported by Metropolitan Cyprian of Kiev.

In 1392 Yagaylo and Vitovt concluded Ostrovskoe agreement, under which Vitovt became Grand Duke of Lithuania, and Yagaylo retained the title of "Supreme Duke of Lithuania". Skirgailo was transferred to Kiev, where he soon died (possibly poisoned). After the conclusion of the Ostrovski Agreement and the ending of the war for the Galician-Volynian succession (1392) the dukes Svidrigailo in Vitebsk, Dmytro-Koribut in Novgorod-Seversk, Fedor Koriatovich in Podolia, Vladimir Olgerdovich in Kiev were deprived of their estates, and Vitovt also replaced the Smolensk prince with his deputy (1395). This policy was aimed primarily at strengthening the Grand Duchy's power in the most economically developed southern and eastern lands of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Soon it was abolished, and the dukes began to receive estates as fiefdoms again. Vitovt began to strive for full independence and refused to pay tribute to Jagailo. By virtue of his alliance with the sons of Mamai Mamai, Vitovtu succeeded in peacefully annexing large territories of the Wild Field to his princedom in the south in the 1390s. In 1399 Vitovt, who supported the deposed Horde khan Tokhtamysh against Tamerlane's protégé Timur-Kutluk, suffered a severe defeat at the battle of Vorskla by the Tatar murza Yedigei. After his defeat Vitovt was forced to make peace with Novgorod, lost Smolensk (recaptured after several campaigns with the help of the Polish army in 1405), and began to seek rapprochement with Jagailo. The weakened Grand Duchy of Lithuania in 1401 was forced to conclude a new alliance with Poland (the so-called Union of Vilna and Radom). According to the provisions of the signed act, after Vitovt's death his power was to pass to Jagailo, and after the latter's death the Poles were obliged not to elect a king without Vitovt's consent.

In 1405 Vitovt began hostilities against Pskov, which turned to Moscow for help. However, Moscow declared war on the Grand Duchy of Lithuania only in 1406, large-scale hostilities did not actually take place and after several truces and standing on the Ugra Vitovt and Grand Duke of Moscow Vasily I concluded the "eternal peace", which first established a common border between the two states.

In the west the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was struggling with the Teutonic Order, the land of Zmud, given to the Germans, constantly appealed to Lithuania for liberation. The united forces of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the Battle of Grunwald (1410) inflicted a defeat on the Teutonic Order, from which the Order could no longer recover. By the Peace of Toruń (in 1422 the Teutonic Order finally gave up Samogitia.

In the 1410s, the Horde, led by Yedigei, thoroughly devastated the south of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. In 1416 Kiev, the Pechersk monastery and a dozen surrounding towns were devastated. In subsequent years Podolia was ruined.

In Gorodna the Seim reaffirmed the union of Lithuania and Poland: Seimas were established in Lithuania, the rights of the Lithuanian nobility were compared with those of the Polish nobility. The consequence was an increase in the influence of the Poles and the Catholic clergy in Lithuania. Vitovt strove for the union of the churches, considering uniatism to be a compromise to which both Orthodox and Catholics could agree. But his negotiations on the subject and the support of the Hussites led nowhere. In his last years Vitovt thought of the separation of Lithuania from Poland, and he planned to be crowned for that purpose, but the Poles intercepted the ambassadors who were bringing him the crown from the Emperor Sigismund.

Vitovt interfered in the affairs of the Grand Duchy of Moscow when, in 1427, a dynastic strife broke out between Vitovt's grandson Vasily the Dark and Vasily's uncle Yuri of Zvenigorod. Vitovt, relying on the fact that the Grand Duchess of Moscow, his daughter Sofia, together with his son, people and lands, accepted his protection, claimed supremacy over all of Russia. Vitovt also interfered in the politics of European countries and had considerable weight in the eyes of European sovereigns. The Holy Roman Emperor twice offered him the crown, but Vitovt refused and accepted only the Emperor's third offer.

The coronation was scheduled for 1430 and was to take place in Vilna, where numerous guests gathered. The recognition of Vitovt as king and, consequently, of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania as a kingdom did not suit the Polish magnates, who hoped for the incorporation of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Jagailo agreed to Vytautas' coronation, but the Polish magnates intercepted the royal crown on Polish territory. Vytautas was ill at the time, according to legend he could not bear the news of the loss of the crown and died in 1430 in his castle of Trok (Trakai) in the arms of Jagailo.

Struggle for power in the state, after Vitovt's death

After Vitovt's death the princes and boyars of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania elected Svidrigailo, the younger brother of Jagailo, as Grand Duke at the Diet; the latter recognized this election. This was done without the consent of the Polish king, magnates and pans, despite the fact that such agreement was stipulated by the union between the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of Poland. Thus, the union between the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Poland was broken, moreover, a military conflict between them soon began over Volhynia.

In 1432, a group of pro-Polish princes carried out a coup and enthroned Vitovt's brother Sigismund. This led to a feudal war between supporters of Sigismund and Svidrigailo. During the war, Yagaylo and Sigismund had to make a number of concessions in order to get Svidrigailo's supporters on his side. The outcome of the war was decided in 1435 in the battle of Vilkomir (now Ukmerge), in which Svidrigailo's troops suffered very heavy losses.

Svidrigailo held on in the Russian regions for a few more years. Sigismund's reign did not last long - the Orthodox prince Czartoryjski and the boyars, dissatisfied with his policies, suspiciousness and unjustified repressions, conspired against him and he was murdered in the castle of Trok (1440).

Some stood for Sigismund's son Michael, others for Svidrigailo, and still others for King Wladyslaw. The latter, elected at that time King of Hungary, sent his brother Casimir Jagailovich, who was elected Grand Duke of Lithuania, as his viceroy. The instability of the political power in the state tried to take advantage of some Russian lands to restore their independence (Smolensk riots of 1440-1442).

The reign of the Jagiellonian dynasty

The attempt of the Poles to divide Lithuania between Wladyslaw and Kazimir provoked strong resistance in Lithuania. Taking advice from Hashtold, Casimir learned the Lithuanian language and became accustomed to their customs. Upon the death of Wladyslaw the Poles elected Kazimir king, and demanded the union of Lithuania and Poland, but Lithuania was against it. At the Seimas (Lublin 1447, Parczewski 1451, Serad 1452, Parczewski and Petrokov 1453) this question was raised, but no agreement was reached.

In 1449 Casimir concluded a peace treaty with Grand Duke Basil II of Moscow, which divided the zones of influence of the two states in Eastern Europe (in particular, the Republic of Novgorod was recognized as a zone of Moscow influence), forbade each side to accept internal political opponents of the other side and was respected until the end of the 15th century.

Under Kazimir was established the Kiev Orthodox metropolitanate centered in Vilna (1458), originally uniate, since 1470 under the authority of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople (while the metropolitanate of Moscow retained its autocephaly). The Novgorodians' request to the metropolitan of Kiev to send them a new archbishop was followed by the seizure of Novgorod land by the principality of Moscow (1478). In 1480 Moscow Prince Ivan III liberated subordinated lands from Horde yoke, and in 1487 received the title of Prince of Bulgaria, after which subordinated to Lithuania Verkhovsky Princes began to go to the service of Moscow princes together with possessions, which opened a series of wars, called in Russian historiography "Russian-Lithuanian". In particular, as a result of war of 1500-1503 years Lithuania has lost about one third of the territory (the Chernigov-Northern lands), in 1514 - Smolensk lands.

Casimir expanded the international influence of the Jagiellonian dynasty - he subjected Prussia to Poland and put his son on the Czech and Hungarian thrones. In 1492-1526 the political system of the Jagiellons covered Poland (with vassals Prussia and the Duchy of Moldavia), Lithuania, Bohemia and Hungary.

According to the will of Casimir (d. 1492) Poland passed to his son Jan Olbracht, Lithuania to Alexander. On the death of John Albrecht (1501) Alexander also became King of Poland. He sought to spread the Polish beginning in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Under his reign in 1501 the political union between the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of Poland was confirmed on the principles set up by Jagaila.

After Alexander, the younger Kazimirovich Sigismund I (1506-1548) was elected grand duke, later elected also king of Poland. His constant goal was to bring Lithuania even closer to Poland. He had to endure the struggle with the claims of the szlachta (nobility) whose Seimas were constantly strengthening. The discord between the king, on the one hand, and the clergy and nobility, on the other, was greatly aided by Sigismund Bon's second wife. The distribution of estates and the exemption of the owners from duties weighed heavily on the state treasury. Lands were initially given away for temporary use, but gradually turned into hereditary lands. At the Diet of 1535, at Sigismund's suggestion, a resolution was passed to verify the land rights of the nobles on the basis of the crown metric. Sigismund decided to carry out a general verification of the nobles' rights and statutes, and then to restore certain taxes that had been abolished by previous kings, such as the ox-duty on the cattle sold by the nobles. This aroused strong dissatisfaction; when in Lvov in 1537 gathered "polospolitic ruin" against Moldavia, the nobility did not want to join it and the campaign did not take place. This episode bears the ironic name of the "chicken war". The Reformation entered Lithuania from Prussia, but spread rather weakly at first.

As part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth

During the Livonian War, under Sigismund II Augustus (1522-1572) the Union of Lublin (1569) was concluded. The Union was strongly opposed by the Lithuanian elite and only by strong pressure did the Kingdom of Poland succeed in forcing Lithuania to agree. The Grand Duchy of Lithuania had to cede Podlasie, Volhynia and Kyiv to Poland. Livonia was declared a possession of both states. The Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of Poland merged to form a federative state, the Rzeczpospolita. Under the act of the Union of Lublin (the original act has not survived to our day), Lithuania and Poland were ruled by a jointly elected king, and state affairs were decided in a common Seimas. But the legal systems, the monetary system, the army and the governments remained separate, and there was also a border between the two states, where customs duties were levied. Three years later the Jagiellonian dynasty was dissolved.

In the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was dominated by gentry democracy. In the second half of XVII - the beginning of XVIII centuries, after devastating Russian-Polish and Northern wars of 1654-1667 and Northern war of 1702-1709 the Rzeczpospolita fell into decay.

In 1772, 1793 and 1795 there were three partitions of the territory of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth between the Russian Empire, Prussia and the Austrian Empire. According to the Petersburg convention of 1795 the most part of territory of Grand Duchy of Lithuania has been attached to Russia, but the Bialystok land, and Suvalkia (territory between East Prussia and Neman) have departed to Prussia. 14 (25) December 1795 the Russian Empress Catherine II issued a manifesto "On the accession to the Russian Empire of all the parts of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which after the termination of unrest in Lithuania and Poland was occupied by the troops". This put an end to the actual existence of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

Subsequently, under the Peace of Tilsit in 1807, Suwalkia became part of the Duchy of Warsaw, and the land of Bialystok went to Russia.

During the Great Patriotic War the territory of the former GDL was divided by the French occupation administration into departments, united into two governor-generalships. The departments, which territorially coincided with the former Lithuanian provinces, were subordinated to Governor-General Hogendorp. He had a local government body of magnates, the "Provisional Government Commission of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania". The former Belarusian provinces were subordinated to their governor-general, under whom a second commission of magnatery operated. The gentry from the departments of the Hohenthorpe joined the General Confederation of the Polish Kingdom. The confederation was dissolved in March 1813.

After the Congress of Vienna (1815), when the Russian Empire established the Kingdom of Poland (which included most of the defunct Duchy of Warsaw, including Suwalkiya), all the territories that once were the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, became part of Russia.

The Grand Duchy of Lithuania was a multi-ethnic state, caused by the ethnic heterogeneity of its constituent lands. The ethnocultural basis of the principality was made up of Slavs and Balts. The Slavic majority of the population of the principality were the inhabitants of the former principalities of Russia, annexed by the Lithuanian grand dukes.

The Baltic population of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania - the Samogitians, Aukstaitians, Dzūks, part of the Jatvians and Prussians - became the basis of the Lithuanian people. The Slavic population of the principality became the basis for the formation of the two East Slavic peoples - the Belarusians and Ukrainians.

The Grand Duchy of Lithuania was also inhabited by Poles (Couronians, Latgalians, Seles, Semigallians who fled forced Christianization in the 13th century, Prussians (Germans who were primarily merchants and lived mostly in cities; Jews (Litvaks), Lithuanian Tatars, Karaites, small groups of Scots (Scots), Armenians, Italians, Hungarians and other peoples.

The language of record was mainly in Western Russian (also known in Belarusian historiography as Old Belarusian, in Ukrainian as Old Ukrainian), which was formed as a result of the interaction of the Western dialects of the Old Russian language of the Eastern Slavs and Old Slavonic language. The term "Old Belarusian" was introduced into academic usage by Russian philologist Yevfimi Karski in 1893, basing on the similarity of the lexical structure of the West Russian language with the old Belarusian dialects of the 19th century. In the 14th-15th centuries, West Russian became the main written language in the chancellery of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and remained dominant until the mid 17th century, when it was superseded by Polish. No records were kept in Lithuanian proper.

Western Russian was the state language. The written languages of the principality were also Church Slavonic, Latin, and occasionally Lithuanian (in some cases German, Tatar, and Khazar were used).

It is also noted that the state status of the Western Russian language is fixed by the Statutes of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. According to Lithuanian researchers, Western Russian written language preserved a certain distance from colloquial languages, which is why in Lithuanian historiography Western Russian written language is called the clerical language of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

According to Lithuanian scholars, based on linguistic data; research of lists of church metrics, educational institutions indicating ethnicity and language proficiency; separate mentions in judicial sources, indicating the household language situation, legal, economic and household terminology, consisting of a large proportion of lituanisms; Lithuanian language in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania had a certain spread and was used as a communication language in the territory of Samogitia and Aukstaitija, and by lower class people, as well as by the people of the area of Lithuania. According to the Belarusian scholars, Lithuanian was spread only among the lower classes in ethnic Lithuania, although gradually the inhabitants of these lands were switching to Slavic languages. The Russian lands of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania spoke East Slavic dialects, which formed the basis of the Belarusian and Ukrainian languages and were called "Rusyn" or "Ruski language".

In the 18th century literary monuments in the Western Russian written language are represented mainly by interludes - short insertions into a foreign-language text. At the end of the 18th century the main documents began to be printed already in Polish, the first parallel translations of certain documents into Lithuanian appeared, which were published for the residents of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, while the Western Russian language was ousted from records management. For instance, the constitution of May 3, 1791 was written in Polish and immediately translated only into Lithuanian (it was the first legal act in this language).

From 1791, translations of the resolutions of the Seimas into Lithuanian also appear. Tadeusz Kosciuszko's "proclamations" of 1794 to the rebellious inhabitants of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania also address fellow citizens, including in Lithuanian.

The legal structure of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was built on the norms of Old Russian law ("We do not destroy the old days, we do not introduce new things"), which, in turn, were substantially influenced by the norms of Byzantine civil and criminal law. From the 2nd half of the 14th century, following the union with the Kingdom of Poland, Roman law was gradually adopted. The legal structure was laid down in the Code of Laws of 1468 and then three Statutes of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania: 1529, 1566 and 1588.

The development of the social and legal structure of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania is associated with the development of feudal relations, the development of cities and the formation of the nobility (nobility), and from the second half of the 16th century with the gradual enslavement of serfs in the Polish style.

In 1565-1566 an administrative reform was carried out in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which established the following administrative division of the state:

The culture of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was formed in the territory of present-day Lithuania, Belorussia, most of Ukraine, part of Poland and part of Russia. It developed under the influence of interrelated socio-economic, class and political factors and was based on the rich ancient Russian heritage and Western traditions. It had features of commonality of East Slavic and European cultures.

When the Grand Duchy of Lithuania emerged, its constituent lands were at different levels of economic, political and cultural development. The main ethnic features of the material and spiritual culture of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania were defined in the 13th-16th centuries, when as a result of the wide interaction between the East Slavic, West Slavic and Baltic cultures, the cross-over phenomena appeared. The territories of modern Ukraine, Belarus and partially Russia comprised 90% of the total area of the duchy, and, in fact, a single meta-culture had emerged in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania by the end of the 16th century. This was also facilitated by historical traditions and cultural and linguistic affinity. The cultural life of the state was characterized by the presence of two tendencies: ethno-religious self-consciousness focused on traditional cultural values and the natural interaction of cultures, which created a unified cultural space.


Prior to the Union of Krevo, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania had two religiously distinct territories: the northwestern part of the state had retained its traditional paganism, while the other part had been baptized into Orthodoxy already in the period of Ancient Rus'. After the Union of Krev, Catholicism, which was supported by the central government, began to spread actively. From the middle of the sixteenth century, under the influence of the Reformation, Protestant ideas were disseminated in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and widely accepted among the magnatery. In 1596 the Brest Union was signed, as a result of which a part of the Orthodox recognized the authority of the pope and formed a separate Catholic Church, which adhered to the Byzantine rite and was known as Uniatism. Among non-Christian religions in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Judaism and Islam were the most common, first recorded here in the 14th century.


In the 13th century, writing began to spread among the townspeople, merchants, and artisans. In the 14th and especially in the 15th century, schools were established in large estates. The education of children by travelling self-taught teachers ("masters of literacy", "darektoram") expanded. The course of study was limited to elementary literacy.

As Catholics made their way into Lithuania, they also established their own colleges. One of the first was the college founded by Queen Jadwiga for 12 Lithuanians at the academy in Prague; then the Krakow academy was established, where many Lithuanian nobles graduated. However, the Catholic colleges also initially taught in the Western Russian language. Thus in 1454 an academy for training clergymen was established at St. Stanislaus Cathedral of Vilno. In this school the representatives of secular professions studied also, but a considerable part of its graduates were intended for clerical service in churches. In this school from its foundation until the beginning of the 17th century sciences were taught in Latin and in Western Russian. Teaching in church schools not only in Lithuania, but also in Samogitia was conducted in the Western Russian language until the end of the seventeenth century.

In the 16th century, Calvinist schools emerged in the cities and towns of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and later schools of various Catholic orders: the Jesuits, Basilians, and Aryans. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, fraternal schools played an important role in the organization of education.

In the 1550s, Calvinist communities sprang up in Vilna, Brest, Keidany, Nesvizh, Biržai, Kletsk, and Dubinka. By the 1560s, most of the magnates of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania embraced Calvinism, and the number of communities grew. Churches were erected in the communities and schools were established.

In the second half of the 16th and early 17th centuries Calvinist schools existed in Shiluv, Vitebsk, Novogrudok, Orsha, Ivie, Smorgon, Zaslavl, Kovno, Minsk, Kopyl, Plung, Koidanow, Lubce, Ivenets, Retawas and other places.

The schools emphasized religious education, but considerable attention was also given to the secular sciences: theology, various languages, rhetoric, history, mathematics, ancient poetry, and church singing were studied.

They studied for six to ten years. Graduates of individual schools received enough knowledge to enter a university.

Arianism, as a current in Christianity, appeared in the early fourth century in the Roman Empire. In the sixteenth century, the ideas of Arianism were revived in the form of the doctrine of Socinianism, which also came to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The most important Socinian communities were located in Novogrudok, Ivie and Nesvizh. Schools were opened in the communities. There were schools in Ivie, Kletsk, Lubch, Losk and Nesvizh.

The schools had three to five classes. In addition to theology, they studied the works of ancient philosophers, Greek, Latin, Polish, and Belorussian languages, rhetoric, ethics, music, arithmetic, etc. Not only Sotsinians, but also other Catholics and Orthodox children studied there.

The most famous was the school in Ivie. In 1585-1593 its rector was Jan Licinius of Namyslau.

Educational institutions of the Catholic Piarist Order appeared in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the 18th century. There were schools in Vilna, Szczuchyn, Raseinia, Voronow, Dukšte, Mogilev, Ukmerga, Rossony, Postavy, Panevėžys, Vitebsk, and Zelva. In 1726 a board of piers was established in Vilna, which functioned until 1842. In 1782-1831 the Polotsk higher piaristic college operated.

They raised their children in a spirit of religiosity and devotion to the order. Education was considered free, but children from poor families did work for the monastery.

In the 1740s on the initiative of the Polish enlightener S. Kanarski a reform of piar schools was carried out: a course of theology, the study of the Polish language and literature, mathematics, music, drawing was introduced.

Orthodox fraternities were usually established at churches and monasteries. Brotherhood schools were opened in Brest (1591), Mogilev (1590-1592), Minsk (1612) and other cities of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

The school was headed by a rector, and teachers were elected at fraternity meetings. The schools were community schools, with three to five classes. They studied different languages, rhetoric, works of ancient thinkers and music. Some knowledge of arithmetic, geography and astronomy was also given.

On July 26, 1400, King Jagiello of Poland resumed the activities of the University of Krakow, which was of particular importance not only for Poland, but also for the Grand Duchy of Lithuania - while neither Königsberg University (1544) nor Vilna University (1579) were founded, the University of Krakow was the main institution of higher education for Lithuanian youth. Jagiello supported Lithuanians studying at the university: in 1409 he commissioned a house to house poor students, especially those who "came from Lithuania and Russia."

Literature of the Principality

Multilingual literature of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania developed in Western Russian, Church Slavonic, Polish, Latin, and Lithuanian.


The beginning of book printing in the territory of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was started by Dr. Francis Skorina of Polotsk. In 1517 he printed in Prague the Czech Psalter, then 22 holy books translated into the Belarusian version of the Church Slavonic language (or, in another version, in the Church style of the Western Russian language), having previously verified translations from the Greek and Hebrew texts and from the Vulgate. Transferring his activities to Vilna, Skorina printed the Apostle and the Psalter in 1526.

The famous Russian printers Ivan Fyodorov and Pyotr Mstislavets also continued their work in Lithuania after they fled Moscow. They worked for hetman Grigory Khodkevich, who founded a printing house on his estate in Zabludovo. The first book printed by Ivan Fyodorov and Pyotr Mstislavtsev in Zabludovo printing house was "The Teacher's Gospel" (1568), a collection of interviews and teachings with the interpretation of Gospel texts. In 1570 Ivan Fyodorov published "Psalter with the Book of Hours", which was widely used also for literacy teaching.

The first book in Lithuanian was compiled and published in Königsberg in 1547 by Martin Mosvidius, "Simple Words of Catechism." In addition to the catechism, the book contained a poetic preface in Lithuanian, eleven church hymns with notes, and the first Lithuanian primer. In Vilna in the 16th-17th centuries there were printing houses of the zemstvo and tribunal clerk - Melchior Petkevich and a native of the city - Jakub Markovich. Petkevich published the first Protestant book in Lithuanian language in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in his printing house in 1598. Markovich published "Postilla lietuviška ..." in 1600 with the support of Voivode Christopher Radziwill Perun.  - the largest work in Lithuanian published in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the 16th century.

In 1629 professor Konstantin Shirvid of the University of Vilna prepared the first Polish-Latin-Lithuanian Dictionary of Three Languages. The first edition was published in Vilna c. 1620. Later it was republished many times: second revised edition in 1629; 1631, 1642, 1677, 1713. The dictionary was intended for students of poetics and rhetoric and contained some 14,000 words. Until the mid-19th century the dictionary remained the only Lithuanian language dictionary printed in Lithuania (Lithuanian dictionaries were published in Prussia). Sirvydas also published a collection of sermons (more precisely - abstracts or summaries of sermons) "Punktai sakymų" in Lithuanian and Polish (first edition - 1629, second - 1644). He published commentaries on "Song of Songs" and "Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Ephesians". In 1629 or 1630 Konstantinas Sirvydas prepared and published first grammar of Lithuanian language "Key to Lithuanian Language", but this edition was not saved. In 1737, also at the University of Vilna, an unknown author published a grammar of the Lithuanian language "Grammar of the Main Speech of the Duchy of Lithuania".

In the XVII century Keidany became an important publishing center of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. In 1651, a publishing house was opened next to the Reformed School founded in 1625 on the initiative of Janusz Radziwiłłł.

In 1653 in Keidany, a native of the city and mayor (1631-1666) Stepan Telega with the help of Janusz Radziwiłłł published a large edition "Knygą nabožnystės krikščioniškos" in Lithuanian with a circulation of 500 copies. The book has the first verse dedication in Lithuanian to Janusz Radziwiłłł "accept this work graciously, obey the Word of the Lord, pray to God, sing mercifully." This is the largest Calvinist publication in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. In addition to this edition, the printing house published works by Samuel Minwid, Jan Božimovski (senior), Jan Božimovski (junior), Samuel Tamasovski, Samuel Bohuslav Hilinski and, separately from the former, Jan Božimovski (senior), a Bible in Lithuanian was prepared and a treatise by Adam Rasius on politics and law in trade was published.


The musical art of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania developed within the framework of both folk and high culture. Initially church music had the greatest influence, in the 17th century secular music began to develop actively, which resulted in the creation of private orchestras and chapels. The first European-class opera and ballet theater appeared in Nesvizh in 1724. The plays for the theater were written by Michail Radziwill's wife Francisca Ursula. The famous German composer Jan David Holland served as a Kapellmeister in the court chapel of Karl Stanislaus Radziwill. In the 18th century classical works of foreign and local authors were staged in the theater.

The beginning of the theatrical art of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania lies in the folk theater with its ritual songs and dances, where elements of game action and theatrical reincarnation were present. Elements of theatrical action can be found in many calendar and household ceremonies. The first actors were skomorokh, whose performances, filled with folk songs, dances, proverbs and sayings, jokes and tricks, became the event of any holiday. Later, in the XVII-XVIII centuries, the art of skomorokhov transformed into circuses, and the art of puppet theaters - into vertepy. Sometimes skomorokhas performed with bears trained in special schools, the most famous of which was the Smorgon Bear Academy. A school of rope jumpers existed in Semezhiv near Kopyl.

The folk puppet theater - batlejka - was widely known. For the performances of batlejka used an original stage, which was a wooden box in the form of a house or church with horizontal partitions, which served as separate tiers-scenes. The stage was trimmed with cloth, paper and geometrical figures made of thin sticks and resembled a balcony where the action took place. The box was closed with doors. The need for a tiered structure of boxes was no longer necessary when the shows of Batlleika acquired a secular character. Puppet characters were made of wood, colored paper and fabric. The dolls were attached to a rod, with the help of which the batlleiker drove them through the slots in the tier-scene. The batlleika with puppets on strings is also known, as well as glove puppets. With time, initially religious repertoire of batleika was supplemented with life and folklore material, and the canonical story was played out on the upper tier-scene, secular - on the lower tier-scene. The most popular was the secular repertoire with comic scenes, folk songs and dances.

In the 16th-18th centuries in Orthodox academies and fraternal schools, Jesuit, Basilian, Piarist, and Dominican colleges and schools the so-called school theater was widely represented, showing interludes and dramas on biblical, and later on historical and everyday life subjects. The show was performed in Western Russian, Latin, Polish, and Lithuanian, and the sketches used the techniques and plots of batleika. Actors were pupils, who were taught the scenic art by teachers of rhetoric. The school theater had its own developed poetics with canonized means of stage movement, the manner of performance, makeup and stage decoration. The stage was lit by a ramp, had a painted backdrop and volumetric scenery for stage effects. The performances were especially frequent in Jesuit educational institutions, where school theater was given special importance as a method of education.

The origin of professional theater in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania dates back to the 18th century. Since 1740, the Nesvizh Amateur Fortress Theater of the Radziwill Princes operated in which Ursula Radziwill's works were staged, including Moliere's plays translated and adapted by her. In 1753-1762 Prince Michael "Rybonka" Radziwill gave the Nesvizh Theater a professional character; it operated, among other things, as a traveling theater. Opera and ballet were very popular. Besides Nesvizh, famous magnate theaters existed in Slutsk, Grodno, Minsk, Slonim, Shklov, Svisloch, Ruzhany and Mogilev.

In the XIV-XVI centuries in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania painting, graphics, sculpture developed and secular forms of art were formed. Renaissance fine arts in the state were strongly influenced by the rich traditions of Byzantine and Old Russian cultures. Already in the middle of the 16th century the influence of the Italians was already evident, for example, the portrait of Katerina Tencinskaya-Slutskaya by an unknown master-Mannerist. The art of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania of that period is peculiar for its interest in showing the inner world of personality, its moral image. In painting we can observe an increased interest in dramatic situations. Especially active was the portrait genre. One of the most outstanding monuments of the Sarmatian portrait genre is the portrait of Yuri Radziwill, painted in the second half of the 16th century.

Artists turned to sculpture and painted icons. Mural paintings decorated princely palaces, churches and churches. Masters from the Grand Duchy of Lithuania executed murals in other countries, primarily in Poland. For example, in the 15th century Lithuanian painters led by Master Andrew of Minsk made murals in Lublin castle. When creating icons in the XIV-XVI centuries, decorative and plastic means (carvings and modeling), painting the background, the presence of various superimposed elements, covering the pictorial surface with protective varnish of egg-white or resin were used. A fine example is an icon of the turn of the XIV-XV centuries "Our Lady of Solace" from Malorita.

In 1496-1501 the Lithuanian woodcarver Anania created for Pinsk prince Fyodor Yaroslavich a unique carved icon "Wisdom has created a temple for herself".


  1. Grand Duchy of Lithuania
  2. Великое княжество Литовское
  3. Памяць: Гісторыка-дакументальная хроніка Навагрудскага раёна. — Мн.: Беларусь, 1996.
  4. Вялікае княства Літоўскае / Рэдкал.: Г. П. Пашкоў (гал. рэд.) і інш. — Мн.: БелЭн, 2007. — Т. 2. — С. 357. — 792 с. — ISBN 978-985-11-0394-8.
  5. Города, местечки и замки Великого княжества Литовского / Т. В. Белова (пред.) [и др.]. — Мн.: БелЭн, 2009. — С. 234. — 312 с. — ISBN 978-985-11-0432-7.
  6. Letukienė N., Gineika P. Istorija. Politologija: kurso santrauka istorijos egzaminui. — Vilnius: Alma littera, 2003. — P. 182.
  7. Thomas Noble e.a. (2014): Western Civilization, beyond boundaries, 7th edition, Wadsworth cengage learning, blz. 470.
  8. ^ "History of the national coat of arms". Seimas. Retrieved 8 July 2021.
  9. ^ Herby Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej i Wielkiego Księstwa Litewskiego. Orły, Pogonie, województwa, książęta, kardynałowie, prymasi, hetmani, kanclerze, marszałkowie (in Polish). Jagiellonian Library. 1875–1900. pp. 6, 30, 32, 58, 84, 130, 160, 264, 282, 300. Retrieved 21 August 2021.
  10. ^ a b c d e Vaitekūnas, Stasys. "Lietuvos Didžiosios Kunigaikštystės gyventojai". Universal Lithuanian Encyclopedia (in Lithuanian). Retrieved 19 September 2021.
  11. ^ Tumelis, Juozas. "Abiejų Tautų tarpusavio įžadas". (in Lithuanian). Retrieved 9 April 2021.
  12. ^ Sužiedėlis, Saulius (2011). Historical dictionary of Lithuania (2nd ed.). Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press. p. 119. ISBN 978-0-8108-4914-3.
  13. ^ De iure, il Granducato continuò ad esistere fino al 1795, anno in cui avvenne la terza spartizione della Polonia: Suziedelis, p. 119;
  14. ^ Assieme a Mindaugas, morirono due dei suoi figli, Ruklys e Rupeikis. I due vengono menzionati in un'unica occasione in fonti storiche, ovvero solo nello specifico contesto dell'assassinio. Per questo motivo gli storici si sono divisi in due filoni: vi è chi dubita della loro reale esistenza e chi crede che in realtà il loro nome sia stato erroneamente trascritto dagli scribi, in quanto nel 1271 si fa riferimento nelle cronache a due tali Replys e Gerstukas: per approfondire, vedi Casato di Mindaugas.

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