From a religious point, the local Roman Catholics of Vilnius Province are Lithuanians. The Orthodox and Uniates (Eastern Rite Catholics) are Byelorussians. According to prof. Kazys Pakрtas, the religious-confessional boundary separating Lithuanian Catholics from Byelorussian Orthodox runs as follows: From the Daugava southward along the 1920 Treaty border (Brлslauja — Pastovis — Lake Narutis) to Smurgainys; then turning to the west below Aрmena and running south again to the Nemunas. Afterwards, the line goes along the Nemunas, turning to the north at Риiutinas; then along the Katra River toward Druskininkai. Then the line proceeds south toward the Bebra River, leaving Gardinas on the Orthodox side. East of the boundary (on the Orthodox side) are enclaves of Catholics which correspond to the Lithuanian language enclaves: Prozorokai, Glubokai, Glubiиiai. South of Vileika these enclaves of Catholics along the Berezina River are: Naugardukas and Zietela. They also extend south of Gardinas along the Svislocius River.
In considering the ethnicity of eastern Lithuania, the culture of the Jewish minority and its development should be analyzed. The first Jewish communities were established at Vilnius and elsewhere in eastern Lithuania during the reign of Grand Duke Gediminas. Lithuania (Lita in Hebrew and Lite in Yiddish) played an important role in the cultural and spiritual development of the Ashkenazim of northeastern Europe. The notion of the Lithuanian Jew or Litvak, as distinct from the Polener or Galizianer, is found in Jewish speech, folklore and literature. The term "Litvaks" applies to the Jewish community developed within the boundaries of historic Lithuania. This area included the provinces of Kaunas, Vilnius, Gardinas, and Suvalkai, and in an extended sense, Vitebsk, Minsk and Mogilev provinces. In the stricter linguistic and cultural sense, the true Litvaks were found in the Lithuanian provinces of Vilnius, Kaunas, Suvalkai and Gardinas and were distinct from the Byelorussian Jews.
The world outlook and way of life of Lithuanian Jewry were based on the Written Law and the Oral Law. The Shulhan Arukh and its commentaries flourished among wide circles, and love of Torah and esteem for its study was widespread among the masses of Lithuanian Jews (see J. Shatzky, Kultur Geshikhte fun der Maskole in Lite. 1950; A. Kariv, Lita Mekherati, 1960). Hebraic and Talmudic studies flourished in Vilnius, reaching highest development under Elijah Gaon of Vilna (1720-1797).
The Polish Jews in the West and the "Volhynians'' in the South in the Russian Empire associated specific characteristics with the Lithuanian Jews: a certain emotional dryness, the superiority of the intellect over emotion, mental alertness, sharpwittedness, and pungency. The piety of the Litvaks was also questioned (hence the popular derogatory appellation by Polish Jews for the Lithuanian Jews, "Tseylemkop"}. It was also a feature of Lithuanian Jewry that Hasidism did not strike roots in Lithuania, while in the provinces of Byelorussia it assumed a different nature and content — Habad trend — from the original Hasidism of Ukraine and Poland. Lithuanian Jews were considered the "prototype" of the Mitnaggedim. The religious distinction between Litvaks and Byelorussian Jews can be drawn along a line which coincides with the Polish-Soviet frontier of 1921.
Linguistic Considerations & Place-Names
The language and dialects of the autochtons are an important criterion in determining the nationality of a territory. In Ethnographic Lithuania — or more precisely in Lithuania Propria, the Lithuanian language was dominant until the 18th century. After 1697 the Lithuanian language began to decline among the people of the eastern and southern frontiers. Nonetheless, even when the linguistic borders shrank, linguistic monuments remain which demonstrate the Lithuanianism of the territory. Toponymy or place-names are utilized in making linguistic determinations. The oldest place-names are hydronyms, followed by the names of habitats along rivers, hills, mounds and other natural formations. The hydronyms of the regions of Suvalkai, Gardinas and Vilnius are of Lithuanian origin, especially the names of rivers with the suffix -ija. In Lithuanian most lake-names are of the masculine gender.
According to the Latvian scholar Stalрans, 61% of the tributaries of the Pripet (from Pina to Lanл) have Yatvygian-Lithuanian names (viz., Pripetл, Pina, Jesiolda, Strumena, Ternra, Vinece, Nocus, Labe). Sixteen of the 26 tributaries of the Narew have Lithuanian names, as, for example: Rudava, Kluona, Lutauna, Nareva, Rudna, Liza, Lukna, Supraslis, Langa, Nereslis, Рlija, Bebras, Sidra, Alрл, Lukas and Visa.
in analyzing the hydronyms of the southern and eastern border areas of Lithuania, the oldest names are of Lithuanian or Yatvygian origin. Some of the larger bodies of water have the following Lithuanian appellations:
In Dysna county: rivers — Dysna, Druja, Joda (Juoda), Degilas, Gulbija, Vieрnys, Serveиiai; lakes — Dedynas, Aukрlys and Vaюys)
In Vileika county: rivers — Rakyta, Spengla, Smerdija, Ilija, Iюa, Plemenл, Nerys, Narutis, Uюla; lakes — Narutis (the Byelorussians refer to Narutis or Naroиius as Morza Litevska — "the Lithuanian Lake"), Medilas, Рvokрtas, Aрmenлlл, Uoksna, Smaltas;
In Maladeиina county: Uрa, Balta;
in Valaюinas county: rivers — Isloиius, Рilvл, Berюыna, Gauja, Alрia, Velюл, Kliava, Lazыna, Juoda and Dzitva;
In Naugardukas county: rivers — Baiaite, Plisa, Zietela, Osa, Rыta, Jatra;
In Риiutinas county: rivers — Turija, Neviрa, Spaюa, Katra, Рventyиia:
In Gardinas county: rivers — Gardinл, Asuюл (Oюл), Mлta, Dorupis, Grыda, Versminis, Juodupis. Birva; Lakes — Grыdas, Salotas, Berюtas, Ilgis, Lyteюeris:
In Sokuika-Kuznica county: Verecija, Svisloиius, Alрл, Bebra, Sidra. Laрiрinл, Akmena, Juodoji Anиia;
And in Augustavas county: rivers — Mлta, Sainas, Sainelis, Kalna, Vilkuрa. Tainas, Anиia; lakes — Sirvas and Baltasis.
The southern and western parts of Vilnius province are Dzыkian (dzыkai) regions. The Norwegian philologist O.Broch traced Dzыkian dialects in 1895 in Юirmыnai, Bastыnai and Lyda. According to the Soviet scholar M.J. Grinblat, the area between Aрmena and Brлslauja is Eastern Highland (Rytш Aukрtaiиiai) territory, while the area between Aрmena-Naugardukas and Gardinas was inhabited by the Yatvygians. According to Grinblat (see "K voprosu ob uchastii litovcev v etnogeneze belorusov") many "Byelorussian Catholics" in Dysna and Vileika counties are persons with Lithuanian surnames. A multitude of place-names have the suffiz -iski, -iski, -iszki, i.e., -iрkis, -iрkiai, -iрkл, -iрkлs which bears witness to the fact that they are of Lithuanian origin. In all of the border areas of Ethnographic Lithuania one finds Lithuanian place-names. The more prominent place-names of Lithuanian or Baltic origin are given below by county for border areas, to wit:
In Dysna county: Dysna (the county name is derived from the Lithuanian desine (right side)), Girstыnai, Grauюл, Lipnagai, Юymgala, Saulukai, Sauиionys, Lepeikiai, Kapteliai, Рvila, Staрiuliai, Serpuиiai, Paрvilл, Lieplлnai, Dailydavas, Kжstuиiai. Pestыnai, Gediminavas. Treskыnai, Юerstvл, Armanaviиiai (Germanaviиiai), Dokрyиiai (Daukрyиiai), Druja, Jodai (Juodai), Rimkai, and Bareikiai;
In Vileika county: Vileika (name derived from Neris-Vilija river), Mikaliрkes, Nestoniрkes, Uюnarotл, Spengla, Юadiрkes, Vaistamas, Jukantas, Iюa, Рvedai, Юarai, Rabыnai, Latygala;
In Maladeиina county: In old documents the city is called Meldлnai. On December 16, 1389 duke Dimitri Kaributas was granted the town of Maladeиina which was called Meldany in the chronicles. Other place-names: Gruzdavas, Uюumedis, Ardilava, Luюenai, Uрa;
In Valaюinas county: The town's name is derived from the Velюл River. Other place-names include: Lugamлnai, Lazыnai, Gudenionai, Salos, Valdюikai, Pasaliai, Babrenai, Joskыnai, Uюberюis, Vyрniavas, Surviliрkлs, Trobos, Jurotiрkлs, Beюemiai, Dervagiai, Daunoriai, Janиiыnai, Uosgiriai, Рeрkai, Юidюiыnai, Paрviliai, Bokрtai, Dora, Daubenai, Perрojys;
Naugardukas county: Naugardukas (town name is derived from nauias (new) and gardas (stockade, fortress), Rыta, Zaseиiai, Zietela, Dainava, Pagiriai, Kupiрkiai;
In Риiutinas county: Mastai. Arlia, Panemuniai, Dirvonys, Skribonys, Gaudava, Senosios Vosyliрkлs, Astryna, Naujadvaris, Jokubonys, Uюubalis, Mikeliрkлs;
In Gardinas county: Gardinas (derived from gardas — "stockade'", "fortress"), Kamantavas, Juronys, Oюiai, Virtiliрkлs, Graudys, Marcinkonys, Pervalkas, Perlamas, Indura, Aрuюa, Berрtai, Eюeronys;
In Sokuika-Kuznica county: Sakalлnai, Kilmonai, Eismantai, Maselionys, Aleksyиiai, Sidra. Naujadvaris;
In Augustavas county: Юarnava, Jominiai, Riglaukiai, Babras, Adomonys, Karuюai, Silvanonys.
The Limits of the Lithuanian Language Area
During the 19th century the Lithuanian language boundary shrank west quite swiftly. In writing about the inhabitants of Vileika in 1827, Kazimierz Tyszynski asserted that "people speak Lithuanian beyond the Rakyta River. Priests even give sermons in that tongue. "
The ethnographer Michal Balinski wrote that in 1849 people still used the Lithuanian language on the right bank of the Nemunas, but that in the southern part of Vilnius county the Byelorussian and Polish languages mingled with Lithuanian. Trakai was almost exclusively Lithuanian. The Lithuanian language disappeared from the towns of Aрmena, Alрлnai and Vyрniava. In Lyda county the people still spoke Lithuanian in the towns of Beniakonys, Eiрiрkлs, Юirmыnai, and near the Dzitva River;
beyond Lyda the locals (Tutejszy) began to speak Slavonic (po prostemu).
In Suvalkai region Teodor Narbutt drew the linguistic line through Bakalanavas to the east via Rospuda River to Lake Baitoji near Augustavas, through Studenas, juodoji Ancia to the Nemunas.
According to a 1905 map which appeared in Vilniaus Юinios, the Lithuanian language boundary went from Druja through Vidюiai, Pastovis, Svyriai, Юadiрkлs, Aрmena, Deveniрkes, Subatninkai, Armoniрkes, Юirmыnai, Uюubalis, Sapackinл, Berюninkai, Seinai, Punskas to Galdapл (East Prussia). But even in modern times Lithuanian-language enclaves survived to the east of this line. Before World War I the peasants spoke Lithuanian at the Glubokai fair. According to the 1936 map of the Soviet Academy of Minsk, based on Soviet data (volosti s litovskim naseleniem po dannvm nasei kartoteki), the Lithuanian language predominated in the following townships of Brлslauja county: Brлslauja, Apsas, Pelekai, Vydюiai, Kamojus, Lentupis, Gervлиiai, Bernakaimis, Varanavas. In Dysna county there were Lithuanian enclaves in the townships of Gruzdava, Miorai, Golubiиiai, Armanaviиiai and Prozorokai.
In Vileika county, near Vileika itself, in 1941-44 ten villages still spoke Lithuanian. The populace of Kriviиiai also spoke Lithuanian. In 1961 twenty villages in the district of Юadiрkлs still spoke the Dzыkian dialect (dzыkiрkai).
Although the population of Maladeиina has become Byeiorussified or considers itself as tutejszy, during a 1957 song festival the locals of Maladeиina performed with Lithuanian songs.
Until the end of the 19th century, in Lazunai township, county of Valaюinas, fifteen villages comprised a Lithuanian language enclave. According to prof. Mykolas Birюiрka, in the interwar period (1919-1940) some 12,348 inhabitants of Valaюinas countv still spoke Lithuanian. Lithuanian is still spoken by the populace of Naujadvaris, Artia, Astryna, Риiutinas, Vosyliрkлs and Roюenka townships in Риiutinas county. In Naugardukas county there were Lithuanian-language enclaves until recently in the districts of Zietela, Zaseиiai and Pagiriai.