National Symbols 

Lithuania's name

Lithuania's name Lietuva is considered to have developed from the name of the 11-km long rivulet Lietauka.

The area between the middle Nemunas and the Neris where Kernavė, Nemenčinė and Maišiagala now are is believed to have been the land called Lietuva. Duke Mindaugas was the ruler there, and the River Lietauka ran through that area and fell into the Neris upstream of the Šventoji.

The Land of Lietuva (Lithuania) is supposed to have been named after the river, and the name was later extended to the State of Lithuania. Other sources indicate that the Land of Lietuva, was on the right bank of the Šventoji in the area between Anykščiai and Viešintai and prove their conclusion by the existence of the administrative unit, Vaitystė of Leitava, there.


The first mention of Lithuania's name in written sources


The first written source to mention Lithuania in 1009 was the Annals of the East German City Quedlinburg (Annales Quedlinburgenses):


"In 1009 St Bruno, who is called Boniface (Bonifatius), Archbishop and monk, in the second year of his conversion, on the border between Russia and Lithuania (Lituae), having been hit on the head by the pagans, and his 18 men went to heaven on the 23rd of February."

There are several sources that mention the event - the killing of the missionary, but they refer to Prussia rather than Lithuania, which proves that both Germans and Poles did not know about the existence of Lithuanians then: they thought that Prussians were the only Balts (or the majority of Balts). Quedlinburg Annals mentioned Lithuania because they were keen on precision, and the information was received from St Bruno's entourage. The story about St Bruno describes the political organisation of Lithuanians, which was peculiar and not characteristic of other Baltic tribes before the 13th century.


The millennium of the first mention of Lithuania's name will be marked in 2009.

Last updated on 2006-01-06

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