A Lithuanian census carried out in the region found its total population was 141,000. Declared language was used to classify the inhabitants, and on this basis 43.5 percent were German, 27.6 percent were Lithuanian, and 25.2 percent were "Klaipėdan" (Memelländisch). Other sources give the interwar ethnic composition as 41.9 percent German, 27.1 percent Memelländisch, and 26.6 percent Lithuanian.
|141,645||41.9%||27.1%||26.6%||4.4%||95% Evangelical Christians|
|141,645 (1930)||45.2%||24.2% (1925)||26.5%||-||Evangelical Lutheran 95%, Roman Catholic (1925)|
Overall, Prussian Lithuanians were more rural than Germans; the part of Lithuanian speakers in the city of Klaipėda itself increased over time due to urbanization and migration from villages into cities and later also from remaining Lithuania (in the city of Klaipėda, Lithuanian-speaking people made up 21.5% in 1912, 32.6% in 1925 and 38.7% in 1932*). Foreign citizens might include some Germans, who opted for German citizenship instead of Lithuanian (although at the time the German government pressured local Germans to take Lithuanian citizenship, so that German presence would remain). There were more Lithuanian speakers in the north of region (Klaipėdos apskritis and Šilutės apskritis) than in south (Pagėgių apskritis). Other locals included people of other nationalities who had citizenship of Lithuania, such as Jews.
In the 1930s, a novel by local author Ieva Simonaitytė based on family history illustrated the centuries-old German–Lithuanian relations in the region.
The authoritarian regime of A. Smetona enforced a policy of discrimination and Lithuanisation: it sent administrators from Lithuania, and German teachers, officials and priests were fired from jobs. Local inhabitants—both Germans and Prussian Lithuanians—were not accepted for state service in Memel Territory. People were sent from Kaunas instead.
Until 1938, no Governor was appointed from local Prussian Lithuanians. This policy led Prussian Lithuanian intelligentsia and some local Germans to organise a society in 1934 to oppose Lithuanian rule. This group was soon dismantled.
Election results in Memel Territory were irritating for the authoritarian Smetona regime, and it attempted to "colonise" Memel Territory with Lithuanians. The Lithuanian settlements Jakai and Smeltė were built. The number of newcomers increased: in 1926 the number was 5,000, in 1939—30,000.
Lithuania introduced a hard-line Lithuanisation campaign that led to even deeper antagonism between local Prussian Lithuanians, Memellanders, Germans and newcomers.
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