Society of Medieval Lithuania: Introduction
Medieval Lithuania is a distinct medieval world, which does not fit in a traditional scheme of medieval European history. In the Later Middle Ages (14–15th centuries) Lithuania was among the greatest states of
Europe, an empire uniting large areas of Central and Eastern Europe. At
the same time it was the last pagan state of Europe which accepted
Christianity only at the end of the Middle Ages.
|Lithuanians in the 7-8th centuries|
The society of Medieval
Lithuania and its culture were marked by their military character. That was predestined by the necessity of defence against
the military pressure of Catholic Europe. Lithuania not only managed to resist this pressure, but also took possession of large
areas of Christian (Orthodox) Ruthenia. That was connected with the search for “life power”,
which ethnic Lithuania lacked for during the war with the Crusaders. At that time the Ruthenian lands were devastated by the Tartars, disunited and
comparatively easy to subjugate. That gave Lithuania a chance of
survival, but governing such large territories was impossible without making compromises with the local inhabitants.
The Wars of the Cross diverted the development of the Lithuanian society to
an unnatural direction. Lithuania had to refuse the unification of the Baltic lands and search for support
in lands alien to it in terms of ethnicity and religion. Undoubtedly, that
laid down a basis for religious tolerance, which was a characteristic feature of Lithuanian culture for long centuries. But that also impeded
the effective development of Lithuanian national culture in the future.
Medieval Lithuania can not boast of rich literature. Even oral creative work – epos – was not recorded and was forgotten.
The little attention paid to the development of literature and language,
as well as the high percentage of other nationalities in the State,
stimulated the process of denationalisation of the ruling elite, which manifested itself in the Modern Times. However, this process still did not make any great progress in the Middle Ages.
The military way of
development of Lithuanian society also favoured the appearance of a high
percentage of gentry in Lithuania. This led to the formation of a
distinct form of noble democracy, which was already developed already in the Modern Times.
The Grand Dukes of Lithuania