Integration or Segregation: The Polish Minority in Lithuania


Algimantas Gureckas (Independent Scholar, Germantown, MD, USA)

Polish people constitute the largest national minority in Lithuania.  There are 213 thousand Poles in Lithuania, 6.6 percent of the 3.2 million total population in that country;  44 percent of the Lithuania’s Poles live in the capital city  Vilnius,  46 percent in the countryside around Vilnius, and 10 percent elsewhere in Lithuania.

The districts around Vilnius, where the Poles are the  majority of the population, constitute a Polish ethnic enclave that is separated from the main Polish area in Poland by a wide area inhabited by Lithuanians and Belarusians.

Until 1920 there was no Polish immigration and settlement in the countryside around Vilnius.  Polish settlers from the 1920-1939 period,  left after World War II during repatriation of  Poles from Lithuania.   The remaining Lithuania’s Poles are of Lithuanian descent.  They became Polish entirely as a result of an intensive Polonization of  Lithuanian peasants during the 19th and the beginning of the 20th   centuries.

Since Lithuania has regained its independence in 1990,  a Polish political party has  dominated  municipal governments in two Polish majority districts in the vicinity of Vilnius.  The Polish political leadership has adopted a policy of unalloyed hostility and confrontation  toward  Lithuania’s government and the Lithuanian nation.

Polish leaders reject and resist any integration of  Polish people into the life of the country.  The  government of  Poland fully supports the leadership of Lithuania’s Polish minority.  This has caused considerable apprehension in Lithuania about the ultimate  results of  such a policy of self-segregation.

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