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The cover page of  The Folklore of the Lietuvininkai

The Folklore of the Lietuvininkai


The Lithuanian Ethnological Society
The Lithuanian Ethnographical Society

The Editorial Committee: N.Vėlius (chief) et al.
Kaunas: Litterae universitatis,1995.
741 pp., 16 pp. illustrations

This book  is devoted to the language and folklore of the people who called themselves Lietuvininkai and lived in  East Prussia ( Lithuania Minor) and in the Klaipėda region.Some of  the examples of  Lithuanian folklore were taken from living memory and appear in print  for the first time.



.<....>. The destiny of the Lithuanian language was even more miserable in East Prussia, i.e. in that part of Lithuania Minor, which was under the dominion of Germany after the First World War. The Nazi were destroying it without mercy. By the end of the war many inhabitants moved to the interior Germany. Not all of them, however, did that. There were people who believed that joining Soviet Lithuania would save Lithuanians. It was not so. Stalin did not differentiate between Lithuanians and Germans. The terror began: people were deprived of their homes and murdered. It was genocide. Seeking salvation many people were fleeing to Soviet Lithuania. By the autumn 1944 – spring 1945 the inhabitants of East Prussia, mostly women, little children and disabled old persons, all living in penury, concentrated in the western part of Soviet Lithuania. Some spoke Lithuanian; however, there were people who did not understand the language at all. Despite Bolsheviks' prohibitions, everybody tried to help the deprived. The adults were deported by Soviet power to Germany or Siberia where almost all of them died. Mothers were leaving their children with Lithuanians and the latter raised them up. 40 years later "vokietukai" ("little Germans") started looking for their brothers, sisters and relatives.

It may be said that there is no autochthons left in East Prussia. With the exception of the western part which joined Poland, the region joined the Russian Federation regardless of the fact that the territories even were not communicating. Thus the major part of East Prussia became a Russian colony. Lithuania lost the 700 years old neighbourhood with the Germans and found itself surrounded by the Slavs.

The rulers of the Kremlin inhabitated East Prussia with Russians. People were coming from Smolensk, Voronez, Oriol, and other regions. By the end of 1946 about 12 thousand families had been moved. In 1988 about 800 thousand people, mostly Russians, lived in the region. Absurd ideas about East Prussia being the native Russian or at least Slavic land from times immemorable were drummed into their heads. That was even written in the Great Soviet Encyclopaedia published in 1953. Authors of scientific researches attempted to prove unreal facts.

In order to make East Prussia look more Russian names of places were changed. Cities, towns and settlements acquired Russian names which were often made of the Bolsheviks' statesmen's and servicemen's second names and even of the second names of the tsar's generals. The total of names of places underwent metamorphosis. The Lithuanian names of places, e.g., Būdviečiai, Gavaičiai, Girėnai, Kalnininkai, Kraupiškas, Lazdynai (Lazdėnai), Mielaukiai, Mielkiemis, Papelkiai, Pilkalnis, Pilipėnai, Skaisgiriai, Stalupėnai which had been "germanized" by Germans into Budwehten, Gawaiten, Girrehnen, Kalninghen, Kraupischken, Lasdehnen, Mehlauken, Mehlkehmen, Popelken, Pillkallen, Pilluponen, Gr. Skaisgirren, Stalluponen and only in 1938 were substituted by German names Altenkirch, Herzogsrode, Guldengrund, Herdenau, Breitenstern, Haselberg, Liebenfelde, Birkenmuhle, Marthausen, Schlossberg, Schlossbach, Kreuzingen, Ebenrode turned into Russian Malomožaiskojė, Gavrilovo, Grivino, Prachladnojė, Uljanovo, Krasnoznamensk, Zalesjė, Kalinino, Vysokojė, Dobrovolsk, Nevskojė, Boljšakovo, Nesterov, etc. No single Lithuanian or Baltic name in the old Baltic land had been left despite the neighbourhood of one of the Soviet Baltic Republics – Lithuania. The land was treated as if it had been uninhabited and therefore ought to be called after the discoverers' names. Cultural heritage was not taken into consideration. Specialists of the Baltic philology all over the world are acquainted with Pabėtai (Pobethen), the place in which the translator of the III Prussian Catechism Abelis Vilius lived and worked. However, the name was changed into Romanovo, as was the home of the brilliant Lithuanian writer Kristijonas Donelaitis: Tolminkiemis became Čistyje Prudy. The names of rivers and lakes were also changed into Russian ( which is uncommon in the world history): Aismarės (Frisches Haff) became Vislinskij zaliv, Alna – Lava, Ameta – Strogovka, Gilija – Matrosovka, Nemunynas – Zlaja, Rominta – Krasnaja, Skirvytė – Severnaja, etc. Not a trace remained of the long history of people who had been living on this land for centuries. It was not done by the Teutonic knights or Western robbers, but by the " elder brothers", who left behind the Nazi ( the latter changed only 56,7 % of the total of names of places in 1938). Polish followed the example of the " elder brothers" and made changes in the names of the acquired area of East Prussia, cp.: Degučiai ® Degucie ® Makow, Galviečiai ® Galviecie ® Duza Wies, Kiekskiemiai ® Kiekskiejmy ® Zielonka, Pluškiemiai ® Pluszkiejmy ® Placka...

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