On February 16th, Lithuania celebrates one of its two independence days, known as ‘Restoration of the State’ Day. Occupied by Germany and given the choice of aligning with either Germany or Russia, Lithuania instead proclaimed independence on this day in 1918.
Historically, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was formed in 1253. During the 14th century, the Grand Duchy was the largest country in Europe, and was one of the most diverse and tolerant countries up until that time. It was multicultural and multiconfessional, with a wide range of religions, ethnic groups, cultures and so forth.
More recently Lithuania has a tumultuous history of upheaval and resilience. Frequently occupied by Germany and the Soviet Union, it was not until 11 March 1990 that Lithuania declared the end of the 46-year old post WW2 Soviet occupation – the country’s second celebrated Independence Day, ‘Independence Restoration Day’.
Lithuania resisted occupation in peaceful ways, one way of particular significance being basketball. The country’s devotion to the sport has made it a traditional force in Europe. It was said by journalist Arūnas Pakula:
“We felt like an occupied nation. We had no weapons to use. The only opportunity to prove ourselves against the Soviets was in basketball.”
The Lithuanian language is also remarkably resilient, being one of the two living Eastern Baltic languages and one of the oldest spoken languages in the world. Lithuanian is regarded as the prototype language for the reconstruction of the Proto-Indo-European language which eventually spread throughout Europe.
Martin Bullock Lawyers congratulates Lithuania on its independence, and also on founding one of the first diverse, tolerant and multicultural states in the world.