Prussian Lithuanians - Culture and Traditions

Culture and Traditions

The Prussian Lithuanians that settled in the monastic state of the Teutonic Knights over the centuries were influenced by German culture and the German language. They adopted the cultural values and social conventions of the German state, but preserved their Lithuanian language, traditions and folk culture. For centuries Prussian Lithuanians lived in a political and religious environment that was different from that of other Lithuanians and evolved into a separate ethnic group. The common state united some aspects of, traditions and folk culture. who viewed its rulers as their own rulers. Hanging portraits of the rulers of the House of Hohenzollern in the home was widespread.

The Pietist congregational movement attracted large numbers of Prussian Lithuanians: evangelical fellowships (German: Stundenhalter, Lithuanian: Surinkimininkai) were very active in Prussia, as they were in the rest of the German Empire. About 40% of Lithuanians belonged to such fellowships, whose members lived by ascetic principles.

Until the mid-19th century Prussian Lithuanians were mostly villagers. Their feudal mentality is reflected in the poem The Seasons by Kristijonas Donelaitis. The Seasons criticizes the tendency to adopt German ways, since this was often associated with decadent noblemen. Donelaitis called for Lithuanians to do their duty, to not envy those who went to town, to not complain or be lazy, and try to work as much as was needed to be a good peasant:

There, in the city, one is laid up with his gout;
Another's aches and pains require a doctor's aid.
Why do these countless ills torment the luckless rich?
Why does untimely death so often strike them down?
It is because they scorn the fruitful work of boors,
Lead sinful lives, loaf, sleep too long and eat too much.
But here we simple boors, held by the lords as knaves,
Fed on unwinnowed bread and pallid buttermilk,
Work on the quick each day, as simple folk must do.

Towns were not large. People who emigrated to the major towns, Königsberg and Memel, usually became bilingual and eventually became Germanized.

After World War II, virtually no Prussian Lithuanians remained in Russia's Kaliningrad Oblast and only a small number survived in the Lithuanian SSR. Their peasant culture, first threatened by germanization in the German Empire and politically oppressed in the Nazi era, was now completely wiped out by the Soviets, who made no distinction between Germans and Lithuanians. The situation was somewhat better in the former Memel Territory but even there churches and cemeteries were destroyed.

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