Part I

Increased Western Influence in Lithuania

The 16th century was a period for major changes in Lithuania. Editions of the Statue of Lithuania were enacted and remained in effect until 1840. Land reforms gave a new direction to the agricultural and social life in Lithuania. Farmers were massed into villages, had to farm according to a three field farming system, and became serfs or paid a fee to the estate. These agricultural changes remained a part of Lithuania until the time of its independence. The 16th century was also the start of a great internal colonization in the large and abundant forests which from ancient times separated the land of Lithuania from those claimed by the Teutonic Order. New settlements with villages and estates were started. This colonization executed by the Grand Princes, led to increased areas of arable land and raised the level of agriculture.

But the most important factor to change Lithuania in the 16th century was the Reformation. The new teachings soon began to dominate the Prussian Teutonic State, which became the first Lutheran state outside the borders of Germany. From this new and powerful duchy, Luther’s teachings spread to Lithuania through German settlers who generally lived in the larger cities, where they had the opportunity to spread the new faith.

However, Luther’s teachings were not widely accepted in Lithuania since the Lithuanians had fought the Germans for centuries. But the German settlers are credited with publishing the first Lithuanian book, a catechism, in 1549. Lithuanian literature thus received its start in the Reformation and therein lies its significance to Lithuania.

Along these same lines, another reformational doctrine, Calvinism, had an effect on Lithuania. With the backing of the powerful Radvilas (Radziwill) family, a printing press was established for the production of Calvinistic material. Later, after returning to Catholicism, Radvilas turned the press over to the Jesuits and moved it to Vilnius.



Lithuanian Americans and Their Communities of Cleveland Copyright © 2020 by Cleveland State University . All Rights Reserved.

Share This Book