Vilnius - History - Vilnius Lithuanian capital



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Vilnius - History

The history of Vilnius and Lithuania is one of long foreign occupations and harsh repressions, still evident in the present days in the resentment of the population toward everything that is Russian.

Invasione Sovietica - Vilnius

The first written documents on Vilnius date from 1323. The city was founded as a Baltic settlement, and originated from a wooden fort built on the Gediminas hill. The town has had strong multiethnic connotations ever since its foundation, being populated by communities of Polish, Lithuanian, Byelorussian, Jewish, Russian and German, who were attracted by the flourishing craftsman activities and the commercial trades. As all the European cities of the Middle age and Renaissance, Vilnius was soon provided with defence walls. The city lived its maximum wealth and development under the kingdom of Sigismund II of Poland, who established his court here in 1544, surrounding himself with artists, men of science and culture. This Golden Age of Lithuania culminated with the foundation of the National University in 1579.

The first occupation by the Russian dates back to 1655, which caused a massacre among the population and the city destruction. In 1795 Vilnius was annexed to Russia, becoming the capital of a Guberniya, the administrative regions in which Russia was divided. By the second half of the 19th century the first attempts of rebellion burst out, which were brutally repressed. As a consequence of these insurrections, the use of Lithuanian, Polish and Byelorussian was banned in favour of Russian.

The years between the first and the second world war see a continuous alternation of foreign occupations , by Germany, Poland and Russia. The Country is at the mercy of foreign powers. This situation, however, doesn't stop commercial activities, on the contrary, Lithuania and Vilnius in particular live a second golden age.

On June 1940 Lithuania is occupied once again by the Soviet Union, and Vilnius becomes the capital city of the newborn Soviet Socialist Republic of Lithuania, with a short break in 1941, when the Germans conquer the city. After the Second World War a radical change of population, culture and habits take place in Lithuania, partly caused by the holocaust of the Jewish, partly by the ejection of Polish people and the wave of immigration from other Soviet republics.

On august 1991 the Soviet Union officially acknowledges the independence of Lithuania, and in 2004 the country joins the European Union.