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RUSSIFICATI0N measures were used in Lithuania by Tsarist authorities during the occupation of 1795-1915 and have re-emerged in more subtle fashion since the Soviet takeover in 1944. Following the final partition of the joint Lithuanian-Polish state in 1795, when most of Lithuania devolved to Russia, Catherine the Great immediately imposed the Russian administrative system on Lithuania by creating the provinces (gubernii) of Vilnius and Slanimas (Slonim); she also granted ownership of numerous private and government estates to Russian generals and high officials, and replaced the Lithuanian Statute (q. v.) with the Russian legal code. Disagreeing with his mother's policies, her son and success'or Paul I in 1796 reversed the last-mentioned decree and fused the two provinces into a single unit officially called Litovskaia gubernia, thus preserving its national identification. After his assassination (1801), the country was again divided into two provinces (Vilnius and Gardinas), both of which retained the madifier "Lithuanian" in their official designations. But in 1840 this practice was abandoned, as both provinces came to be included in a unit officially referred to as Severozapadnyi Krai (Northwestern Territory). By banishing the name of Lithuania from public use, Tsarist authorities hoped to convey the impression that these were Russian lands, constituting an inseparable part of the Russian empire. Indeed, in annexing Lithuania, Catherine the Great already had put forward the claim that she was simply recovering lands inhabited since antiquity by Russians but ruled for many centuries by Lithuanians. This claim was repeated by author and historian Nikolai M. Karamzin (d. 1826), argued for in great detail by historians Nikolai G. Ustrialov (Ob otnoshenii Litovskogo kniazhestva k Rossii, 1839) and Mikhail, I. Koialovich (Lektsii po istorii zapadnoi Rossii, 1864), and echoed by a great number of other historians and publicists. As a result, the historical Lithuanian state, which besides its undeniably Slavic-inhabited territories had nevertheless always possessed an ethnographic core indigenously populated by Lithuanians, came to be called Zapadnaia Rossiia (Western Russia) in Russian writings.
Russification became m'ore intense after the insurrections of 1831 and 1863. Prior to the former, repressive measures had already been instituted against the University of Vilnius, where a movement of Polish-Lithuanian patriots was centered. Nikolai N. Novosiltsev, a trusted subordinate of Tsar Alexander I, had been sent to Vilnius in 1823 to uncover and punish secret student 'organizations (see Philomaths). After the insurrection, the university was closed (1832) except for two departments which were completely reorganized - the Theological Academy and the Medical-Surgical Academy. In 1842 the former was transferred to the Russian capita] St. Petersburg, while the latter was liquidated. Thus not a single institution of higher learning was left in Lithuania until the reestablishment of its independence, compelling Lithuanian youth to study in Russia. On June 25, 1840, a decree of Nicholas I repealed the Lithuanian Statute (in effect since 1529), thereby breaking the last institutional tie with the former Lithuanian state. The Russian administrative system with uniform designations and regulations for all offices and officials was introduced. Members of the nobility were allowed to keep some of their traditional privileges, and their interests were represented at district and province agencies by delegates that they elected in their own dietines (q.v.). But after the insurrection of 1863 they lost these special rights.
Realizing that the Polonized landlord class and the Roman Catholic clergy were the driving force behind the anti-Russian movement, the Russian government determined to undercut its material foundations. Landlords (and peasants) who had participated in the insurrections were stripped of their property and deported to Russia or Siberia. Those charged with lesser offenses were merely ordered to sell their holdings to new Russian settlers. Furthermore, all nobles lost the right to acquire new lands by purchase or inheritance. A decree of 1865 restricted real estate acquisition rights to "Orthodox clergy, Old Believers, and totally loyal peasants." The latter were theoretically permitted to acquire land (up to 65 ha), but in practice only a few peasants in Catholic Lithuania were allowed to make use of the provision. Estates of Catholic dioceses, diocesan chapters, theological seminaries, monasteries and parishes had already been confiscated in 1841, with the exception of 35-ha allotments to support parish churches and their servants. Some of the monasteries had been closed immediately after the insurrection of 1831; many more were closed after that of 1863. Their buildings were appropriated for Russian Orthodox use or as prisons or barracks. Confiscated estates were settled with Russian colonists, of whom approximately 150,000 arrived between1864-1897 (see Colonization). Their needs were served by Orthodox churches and schools newly built or confiscated from the Catholics.
In closing the monasteries, many secondary schools were also closed. As early as 1832 only 7 classical schools (out of the former 12) and 22 district schools (out of 59) were left in the educational district of Vilnius. In 1867 in the province of Kaunas, comprising all of northwestern Lithuania, there remained 2 normal secondary schools, a few secondary schools with a two-year course, and 5 so-called schools of the nobility. These and subsequently built new schools came under state control. Private elementary schools were also closed: the Polish schools in 1862, the Lithuanian in 1864. Samogitia with formerly 200 elementary schools was left with 50 public schools. Only Russians were allowed to be hired as teachers, while Poles and Lithuanians were dismissed. The language of instruction, even in religion for Catholic children, was Russian. All students were compelled to pray from Russian prayerbooks and to attend Orthodox services. Only in the primary grades was religious instruction in the Lithuanian language allowed. An exception was made for southern Lithuania (province of Suvalkai), which belonged to the educational district of Warsaw; there teachers were allowed to be Lithuanian and in some schools the language was taught. Otherwise, a policy of intense Russification was pursued. The Educational Board of Russia at St. Petersburg declared that "all foreigners be Russianized without any reservations" through the educational process (Feb. 2, 1870). In assuming his throne, Tsar Alexander III (1881-94) declared that his policies can not help but be "Russian and nationalist."The intensified Russification effort was in part a reaction against the awakening national sentiments of the empire's numerous ethnic minorities.
Russian policy-makers viewed the Lithuanians as an insignificant minority culturally dominated by the Poles. They reasoned that once this domination was rendered ineffective, it would be an easy matter to assimilate them to the Russians. In order to hasten this process, it was decided to replace the standard Latin with the Russian (Cyrillic) alphabet for printing Lithuanian books. In communicating about this project with Vilnius province's Governor-general Mikhail N. Muraviev (q.v.), statesman Nikolai A. Miliutin wrote: "Our alphabet will finish what our sword has begun" (April 15, 1864). Accordingly, Muraviev verbally, and his successor, Konstantin P. Kaufman, by written decree (Sept. 8, 1865), banned the printing of any Lithuanian texts using Latin characters. It turned out that Russian authorities had completely failed to foresee the reaction to this prohibition, as there ensued a 40-year long struggle over the alphabet, involving ever increasing segments of the Lithuanian population, very likely the first such struggle In history. The villagers were the first to refuse prayerbooks printed .In the Cyrillic alphabet, seeing them as a deceitful means of inculcating Orthodoxy. Later, with the growth of a native intelligentsia, national, social and political motives entered as factors in a nation-wide resistance. Lithuanian publications in the Latin alphabet began to be printed just across the border in East Prussia, as well as in the United States, and then smuggled into and covertly disseminated in the country. Despite stiff sentences to prison or Siberian exile, the national movement grew in scope and power until, finally, the Russian administration was forced to lift the press ban on May 4, 1904.
The Lithuanian people proved to be rather resistant to such Russianization measures. Only a relatively small number of persons who were studying in Russia remained there, formed mixed families, and gradually became de-Lithuanianized. In Lithuania itself the Russians could not increase their numbers except by sending in colonists, officials, and military personnel. In 1914, out of a total population of 4,000,000, only 180,000 (4.5%) were Russian. At the outbreak of World War I, the better half of them retreated to Russia.
The Tsarist empire, which came to an end during World War I, had been dubbed a "prison of nations." Appealing to this charge, the leaders of the Bolshevik coup (Oct. 25, 1917) promised to open the gates of this prison and to recognize any nation's right to political self-determination. However, the intention of the Bolsheviks seems to have been to deter the various nationalities from forming their own states and to compel their participation in the revolution by promising them an opportunity to decide their own political fate. For as soon as Armenia, Belorussia, Georgia, and the Ukraine severed ties with Russia, the Red Army turned against them and succeeded in reincorporating them into Soviet Russia. Out of the nations formerly in the Tsarist Empire, only Poland and the Baltic states managed to defend their independence from Soviet encroachment. But the latter finally fell victim to it during World War II. As a result of this war Russia again became "the largest and most oppressed empire in the world" (Nicholas V. Riasonovsky, A History of Russia, 1963, p. 641).

Text from the ENCYCLOPEDIA LITUANICA I-VI.  Boston, 1970-1978