Lithuania was first mentioned in 1009 in the ancient Annales Quedlingburgenses. Now Quedlinburg is a
town in Germany near Magdeburg famous for its old history. Based on this source Lithuanians are preparing for
their millennium celebration in the year 2009.
The Lithuanian people belong to the Baltic group, which is a branch of the Indo-European group.
Indo-European tribes settled in what is now Lithuania some 5,000 years ago.
Eventually these tribes began to mix with the, local inhabitants who had been there since the end of
the last Ice Age, approximately 10,000 years ago.
What are Lithuanians like? The famous English linguist, Richard Lewis, President of Communications at
he Institute for Foreign Languages, wrote about Lithuanians in his book, When Cultures Collide. Lewis notes Lithuanian hospitality, (a host might keep a guest until the early morning hours), a definite nationalism, a love of nature, (a large garden or orchard outside of town is de rigueur), romanticism, (an opinion is frequently expressed in a tone of romantic idealism or nostalgia), strong family feelings, and morality.
Lithuanians are very self-critical. There have been no special studies made on the national character, but on a positive note, journalists stress diligence when trying to reach a goal. There is a bag-full of pejorative traits, the most notable are the tendencies to weep, to swagger and to be pessimistic, especially applicable to the mid-life and older generations. These traits are in evidence especially since Lithuania regained its independence: for many years all national holidays were celebrated in a minor, even in a lamenting mode. Then the minor tone got boring for the younger generation and they started celebrating their own, cheerful holidays.
A visitor will notice one thing from early spring till late fall and that is the abundance of flowers. There are florists on every other block of every larger city. Senior citizens spend their days selling garden flowers on nearly every major intersection. The first day of school and the last day of school are marked with children marching off to school with flowers in hand for the teachers. Every visit to a home means bringing a small bouquet of flowers. Sending people off at the airport or picking people up at the airport means presenting flowers. Maybe the songs are sad, but the flowers are a riot of color -
a pick-me-up from the drabness of daily life through a love of nature.
A more serious national psychosis began showing up - that of 'victim'. This psychological complex takes on the form of mistrust of other nations, whether they be to the East or to the
West. It is expressed by a portion of the society in its skeptical view of joining the EU, and forming partnerships with larger nations. The
roots of this complex are historical. Lithuania was once 'the larger nation' when it spread through Europe from the Baltic to the Black Sea in the 15th century. This was followed by a practically forced 220 year union with Poland. Then came 120 years of domination by Czarist Russia. Lithuania had a mere 20 years of freedom
and independence before the Soviet 'iron curtain' slammed down for 50 years. This historical seesaw just might be the cause for the
national feeling of depression and the 'small nation syndrome'.
A visitor should know about the current growing crime-wave. There is the common caricature of a Lithuanian threatening with
a club, a cartoon created by foreigners. Unfortunately, guests to this country can become victims of muggings, deceptions and car theft. This must be kept in mind. Freedom has its disadvantages.