The article studies the contested process of construing a new geographic image of Lithuania as a national territory (rather than a historical land) at the turn of the twentieth century. Different approaches to defining Lithuanians as a nation begot alternative visions of the boundaries of their national territory. The author distinguishes two principal aspects of this process. First, by manipulating the boundaries of historical lands, modern-day administrative units, and linguistic groups, Lithuanian national activists carved the future national territory in such a way as to secure the dominant position for ethnically defined Lithuanians. Second, they were determined to include Vilnius (which at the time has only a tiny minority of Lithuanians among its population) in the future national territory. The historical capital of the medieval and Early Modern Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Vilnius was seen as a symbolic link to the glorious past and vivid proof of the “historical” nature of the emerging new Lithuanian nation. There was also a political significance for claiming Vilnius as Lithuanian: the much more powerful Polish nationalism claimed the entire territory of the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania as part of the Polish national territory, so the Lithuanianization of Vilnius was seen as a way to undermine these historical claims with very practical implications.


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pp. 125-174
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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