The Lithuanian–Soviet War or Lithuanian–Bolshevik War was fought between newly independent Republic of Lithuania and the proto-Soviet Union in the aftermath of World War I. It was part of the larger Soviet westward offensive of 1918–1919; the offensive followed retreating German troops with aims of incorporating the Baltic states and Poland into the Soviet Union and bring victory to the German Revolution. Soviet Russia and the other Soviet republics were de jure independent entities but were de facto in union, they did not unite into the Soviet Union until 1922. By the end of December 1918 Soviet forces reached Lithuanian borders. Unopposed, they took one town after another and by the end of January 1919 controlled about ⅔ of the Lithuanian territory. In February the Soviet advance was stopped by Lithuanian and German volunteers, who prevented the Soviets from capturing Kaunas, the temporary capital of Lithuania. From April 1919 the Lithuanian war went parallel with the Polish–Soviet War. Poland had territorial claims over Lithuania the Vilnius Region, these tensions spilled over into the Polish–Lithuanian War.
Historian Norman Davies summarized the situation: "the German army was supporting the Lithuanian nationalists, the Soviets were supporting the Lithuanian communists and the Polish Army was fighting them all." In mid-May the Lithuanian army, now commanded by General Silvestras Žukauskas, began an offensive against the Soviets in northeastern Lithuania. By mid-June the Lithuanians reached the Latvian border and cornered the Soviets among lakes and hills near Zarasai, where the Soviets held out until the end of August 1919; the Soviets and Lithuanians, separated by the Daugava River, maintained their fronts until the Battle of Daugavpils in January 1920. As early as September 1919 the Soviets offered to negotiate a peace treaty, but talks began only in May 1920; the Soviet–Lithuanian Peace Treaty was signed on July 12, 1920. The Soviet Union recognized the independent Republic of Lithuania. Lithuania became part of the Russian Empire after the final partition of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1795.
During World War I Lithuania made part of Ober Ost. On February 16, 1918 the Council of Lithuania declared independence from both Russia. Three weeks the Bolsheviks, encumbered with the Russian Civil War, sued for peace with the Central Powers and signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, they renounced Russian claims to Finland, Latvia, Ukraine and Poland. However, the Lithuanians were only allowed minimal autonomy and could not establish de facto independence; that changed when Germany lost the war and signed the Compiègne Armistice on November 11, 1918. Lithuania soon began organizing basic institutions, established their first government led by Augustinas Voldemaras. On November 13, 1918, the Soviet Russian government renounced the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, which had assured Lithuania's independence; the Bolshevik Western Army followed retreating German troops maintaining a distance of about 10–15 kilometres between the two armies. Demoralized Germans left valuable armaments and other equipment to the Soviets.
The Soviets attempted to spread the global proletarian revolution and sought to establish Soviet republics in the region. They saw Baltic states as a barrier or a bridge into Western Europe, where they could join the German and the Hungarian Revolutions. By the end of December 1918, Bolshevik forces reached eastern Lithuania. Augustinas Voldemaras, the first Prime Minister of Lithuania, did not believe that forming the military was a priority and advocated Lithuanian neutrality, he trusted that German mercenaries would protect Lithuania until the upcoming Paris Peace Conference could establish peace. Residents organized local self-defense units to defend themselves from retreating Germans; the first laws regarding the army were not issued until November 23. Some Lithuanians, who had served in the Russian army during the World War, returned to Lithuania and started organizing battalions in Kaunas, Alytus, they lacked guns and officers. At the end of December, with the Bolsheviks in the country, Lithuania was left leaderless.
Augustinas Voldemaras, Antanas Smetona, Chairman of the Council of Lithuania, Martynas Yčas, Minister of Finance, departed for Germany to ask for financial assistance. General Kiprijonas Kundratavičius, Vice Minister of Defense, suggested a retreat to Hrodna and refused to command the Lithuanian defense; the first Cabinet of Ministers resigned on December 26, 1918. Mykolas Sleževičius organized a new government. On December 29, he issued the first mass appeal in four languages calling for volunteers for the Lithuanian Army. Sleževičius government adopted new policy on land reform, which could be summarized in a slogan "land for those who cultivate it." It meant the land would be taken from large landowners and redistributed first to the volunteers for free and to small peasants for a fee. Mobilization of officers was announced only on January 25. In Berlin, Smetona and Yčas signed a loan agreement with Germany for 100 million marks; the money was used to build and supply the army. They further negotiated direct German support in the war against the Soviets.
Article 12 of the Compiègne Armistice required the Germans to protect Lithuania from possible Soviet attacks, but Germany was interested in maintaining its influence in the region and weakening Russia. At first they tried to organize volunteers from the retreating soldiers of the 10th German Army, commanded by General Erich von Falkenhayn. However, the soldiers were tired a
Order of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas
The Order of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas is the Lithuanian Presidential Award, re-instituted to honour the citizens of Lithuania for outstanding performance in civil and public offices. Foreign nationals may be awarded this Order; the Order of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas was instituted in 1928. It features the Columns of one of the national symbols of Lithuania; the Order of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas has five classes: The first five persons awarded the Order of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas after the restoration of the Independent State of Lithuania in 1991 were poets Justinas Marcinkevičius, Bernardas Brazdžionis, priest Ričardas Mikutavičius, painter Vytautas Kazimieras Jonynas and mathematician Jonas Kubilius. Edvard Beneš, Czech politician and President of Czechoslovakia Algirdas Budrys, clarinetist Štefan Füle, Czech politician and diplomat James L. Jones, retired United States National Security Advisor and Commandant of the Marine Corps Ina Marčiulionytė, Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of the Republic of Lithuania to UNESCO George Robertson, Baron Robertson of Port Ellen, tenth Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation Mstislav Rostropovich, cellist Juan Antonio Samaranch, former President of the International Olympic Committee George Soros, philanthropist Order of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas
Lithuania the Republic of Lithuania, is a country in the Baltic region of Europe. Lithuania is considered to be one of the Baltic states, it is situated to the east of Sweden and Denmark. It is bordered by Latvia to the north, Belarus to the east and south, Poland to the south, Kaliningrad Oblast to the southwest. Lithuania has an estimated population of 2.8 million people as of 2019, its capital and largest city is Vilnius. Other major cities are Klaipėda. Lithuanians are Baltic people; the official language, along with Latvian, is one of only two living languages in the Baltic branch of the Indo-European language family. For centuries, the southeastern shores of the Baltic Sea were inhabited by various Baltic tribes. In the 1230s, the Lithuanian lands were united by Mindaugas, the King of Lithuania, the first unified Lithuanian state, the Kingdom of Lithuania, was created on 6 July 1253. During the 14th century, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was the largest country in Europe. With the Lublin Union of 1569, Lithuania and Poland formed a voluntary two-state personal union, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.
The Commonwealth lasted more than two centuries, until neighbouring countries systematically dismantled it from 1772 to 1795, with the Russian Empire annexing most of Lithuania's territory. As World War I neared its end, Lithuania's Act of Independence was signed on 16 February 1918, declaring the founding of the modern Republic of Lithuania. In the midst of the Second World War, Lithuania was first occupied by the Soviet Union and by Nazi Germany; as World War II neared its end and the Germans retreated, the Soviet Union reoccupied Lithuania. On 11 March 1990, a year before the formal dissolution of the Soviet Union, Lithuania became the first Baltic state to declare itself independent, resulting in the restoration of an independent State of Lithuania. Lithuania is a developed country, it is a member of the European Union, the Council of Europe, Schengen Agreement, NATO and OECD. It is a member of the Nordic Investment Bank, part of Nordic-Baltic cooperation of Northern European countries; the United Nations Human Development Index lists Lithuania as a "very high human development" country.
The first known record of the name of Lithuania is in a 9 March 1009 story of Saint Bruno in the Quedlinburg Chronicle. The Chronicle recorded a Latinized form of the name Lietuva: Litua. Due to the lack of reliable evidence, the true meaning of the name is unknown. Nowadays, scholars still debate the meaning of the word and there are a few plausible versions. Since Lietuva has a suffix, the original word should have no suffix. A candidate is Lietā; because many Baltic ethnonyms originated from hydronyms, linguists have searched for its origin among local hydronyms. Such names evolved through the following process: hydronym → toponym → ethnonym. Lietava, a small river not far from Kernavė, the core area of the early Lithuanian state and a possible first capital of the eventual Grand Duchy of Lithuania, is credited as the source of the name. However, the river is small and some find it improbable that such a small and local object could have lent its name to an entire nation. On the other hand, such a naming is not unprecedented in world history.
Artūras Dubonis proposed another hypothesis. From the middle of the 13th century, leičiai were a distinct warrior social group of the Lithuanian society subordinate to the Lithuanian ruler or the state itself; the word leičiai is used in the 14–16th-century historical sources as an ethnonym for Lithuanians and is still used poetically or in historical contexts, in the Latvian language, related to Lithuanian. The first people settled in the territory of Lithuania after the last glacial period in the 10th millennium BC: Kunda and Narva cultures, they did not form stable settlements. In the 8th millennium BC, the climate became much warmer, forests developed; the inhabitants of what is now Lithuania traveled less and engaged in local hunting and fresh-water fishing. Agriculture did not emerge until the 3rd millennium BC due to a harsh climate and terrain and a lack of suitable tools to cultivate the land. Crafts and trade started to form at this time. Over a millennium, the Indo-Europeans, who arrived in the 3rd – 2nd millennium BC, mixed with the local population and formed various Baltic tribes.
The Baltic tribes did not maintain close cultural or political contacts with the Roman Empire, but they did maintain trade contacts. Tacitus, in his study Germania, described the Aesti people, inhabitants of the south-eastern Baltic Sea shores who were Balts, around the year 97 AD; the Western Balts became known to outside chroniclers first. Ptolemy in the 2nd century AD knew of the Galindians and Yotvingians, early medieval chroniclers mentioned Old Prussians and Semigallians; the Lithuanian language is considered to be conservative for its close connection to Indo-European roots. It is believed to have differentiated from the Latvian language, the most related existing language, around the 7th century. Traditional Lithuanian pagan customs and mythology, with many archaic elements, were long preserved. Rulers' bodies were cremated up until the conversion to Christianity: the descriptions of the cremation ceremonies of the grand d
January Events (Lithuania)
The January Events took place in Lithuania between 11 and 13 January 1991 in the aftermath of the Act of the Re-Establishment of the State of Lithuania. As a result of Soviet military actions, 14 civilians were killed and 702 were injured; the events were centered in its capital, along with related actions in its suburbs and in the cities of Alytus, Šiauliai, Varėna, Kaunas. The Baltic states, including Lithuania, were forcibly annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940; this move was never recognized by Western powers. See Occupation of the Baltic states; the Lithuanian Republic declared independence from the Soviet Union on 11 March 1990, thereafter underwent a difficult period of emergence. During March–April 1990 the Soviet Airborne Troops occupied buildings of the Political Education and the Higher Party School where encamped the alternative Lithuanian Communist Party, on the CPSU platform; the Soviet Union imposed an economic blockade between April and late June. Economic and energy shortages undermined public faith in the newly restored state.
The inflation rate continued to increase rapidly. In January 1991 the Lithuanian government was forced to raise prices several times and was used for organization of mass protests of the so-called "Russophone population". During the five days preceding the events, Soviet and other workers at Vilnius factories protested the government's consumer goods price hikes and what they saw as ethnic discrimination. In protection of the rallied Russophone population, the Soviet Union sent elite armed forces and special service units. On 8 January the conflict between Chairman of the Parliament Vytautas Landsbergis and the more pragmatic Prime Minister Kazimira Prunskienė culminated in her resignation. Prunskienė met with Soviet Union president Mikhail Gorbachev on that day, he refused her request for assurances. On the same day the Yedinstvo movement organized a rally in front of the Supreme Council of Lithuania. Protesters tried to storm the parliament building, but were driven away by unarmed security forces using water cannons.
Despite a Supreme Council vote the same day to halt price increases, the scale of protests and provocations backed by Yedinstvo and the Communist Party increased. During a radio and television address, Landsbergis called upon independence supporters to gather around and protect the main governmental and infrastructural buildings. From 8–9 January several special Soviet military units were flown to Lithuania; the official explanation was that this was needed to ensure constitutional order and the effectiveness of laws of the Lithuanian SSR and the Soviet Union. On 10 January Gorbachev addressed the Supreme Council, demanding restoration of the constitution of the USSR in Lithuania and the revocation of all anti-constitutional laws, he mentioned. When Lithuanian officials asked for Moscow's guarantee not to send armed troops, Gorbachev did not reply. In the morning, Speaker of the Supreme Council Vytautas Landsbergis and Prime Minister Albertas Šimėnas were presented with another ultimatum from the "Democratic Congress of Lithuania" demanding that they comply with Gorbachev's request by 15:00 on 11 January.
11:50 – Soviet military units seize the National Defence Department building in Vilnius. 12:00 – Soviet military units surround and seize the Press House building in Vilnius. Soldiers use live ammunition against civilians. Several people are hospitalized, some with bullet wounds. 12:15 – Soviet paratroopers seize the regional building of the National Defence Department in Alytus. 12:30 – Soviet military units seize the regional building of the National Defence Department in Šiauliai. 15:00 – In a press conference held in the building of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Lithuania, the head of the Ideological Division Juozas Jermalavičius announces the creation of the "National Salvation Committee of Lithuanian SSR" and that from now on it will be the only legitimate government in Lithuania. 16:40 – Minister of Foreign Affairs Algirdas Saudargas sends a diplomatic note to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Union in which he expresses his concerns about Soviet army violence in Lithuania.
21:00 – Soviet military units seize a TV re-translation center in Nemenčinė. 23:00 – Soviet military units seize the dispatcher's office of the Vilnius railway station. Railway traffic restored several hours later. During an overnight session of the Supreme Council, Speaker Vytautas Landsbergis announced that he had tried to call Mikhail Gorbachev three times, but was unsuccessful. Deputy Minister of Defense of the Soviet Union, General Vladislav Achalov, arrived in Lithuania and took control of all military operations. People from all over Lithuania started to encircle the main strategic buildings: the Supreme Council, the Radio and Television Committee, the Vilnius TV Tower and the main telephone exchange. 00:30 – Soviet military units seize the base of the Lithuanian SSR Special Purpose Detachment of Police in a suburb of Vilnius. 04:30 – Soviet military units unsuccessfully try to seize the Police Academy building in Vilnius. 11:20 – Armed Soviet soldiers attack a border-line post near Varėna.
14:00 – A Soviet military truck collides with a civilian vehicle in Kaunas. One person dies and three are hospitalized with serious injuries. Vilnius residents carry food to passengers in stalled trucks on strike. Citizens in the neighborhood of Naujoji
Act of the Re-Establishment of the State of Lithuania
The Act of the Re-Establishment of the State of Lithuania or Act of March 11 was an independence declaration by the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic adopted on March 11, 1990, signed by all members of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania led by Sąjūdis. The act emphasized restoration and legal continuity of the interwar-period Lithuania, occupied by the USSR and lost independence in June 1940, it was the first time. After the partitions of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in the 18th century, Lithuania was part of the Russian Empire. In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Council of Lithuania, chaired by Jonas Basanavičius, proclaimed the Act of Independence of Lithuania on February 16, 1918. Lithuania enjoyed independence for two decades. In August 1939, the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany signed the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact dividing Eastern Europe into spheres of influence; the Baltic states were assigned to the Soviet sphere of influence and subsequently were occupied in June 1940 and converted into soviet socialist republics.
In Lithuania's case, President Antanas Smetona left the country rather than accept the occupation. He did not resign but turned over his presidential duties to Prime Minister Antanas Merkys as per the constitution; the next day, Merkys declared himself president in his own right. Two days under Soviet pressure, he appointed Justas Paleckis, a left-wing journalist and longtime opponent of the Smetona regime, as prime minister. Merkys resigned at Moscow's insistence, making Paleckis acting president as well; the Soviets used the Paleckis government to give the final Soviet takeover the appearance of legality. The Paleckis government staged a rigged election for a "People's Seimas," in which voters were presented with a single Communist-dominated list; the newly-elected People's Seimas met on July 21 with only one piece of business–a resolution declaring Lithuania a Soviet republic and petitioning for admission to the Soviet Union, which carried unanimously. The Soviet Union duly "approved" the request on August 3.
Since Soviet sources have maintained that Lithuania's petition to join the Soviet Union marked the culmination of a Lithuanian socialist revolution, thus represented the legitimate desire of the Lithuanian people to join the Soviet Union. The Soviet authorities undertook Sovietization policies: nationalization of all private property, collectivization of agriculture, suppression of the Catholic Church, the imposition of totalitarian control. At the same time, free education and free national health system were introduced; the armed anti-Soviet partisans were liquidated by 1953. 130,000 Lithuanians, dubbed "enemies of the people", were deported into Siberia. After the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953, the Soviet Union adopted de-Stalinization policies and ended mass persecutions. Nonviolent resistance continued both among the Lithuanian diaspora; these movements were secret and more focused on social issues, human rights, cultural affairs rather than political demands. As Mikhail Gorbachev attempted to revive the economy of the Soviet Union, he introduced glasnost and perestroika.
Gorbachev's political agenda went for great and deep changes within the Soviet government, as such, Gorbachev invited the Soviet public into open and public discussions unseen before. For the soviet Lithuanian dissidents, activists, it was a golden opportunity not to be missed, to bring their movements from underground into the public life. On August 23, 1987, the Lithuanian Liberty League organized the first public protest rally that did not result in arrests. Encouraged by the non arrests, by mid-1988, a group of 35 intellectuals organized the Sąjūdis Reform Movement with the original goal of supporting and implementing Gorbachev's reforms yet short of supporting independence from the USSR. However, Sąjūdis grew in popularity, attracting large crowds to rallies in Vingis Park and therefore radicalizing its agenda, taking advantage of Gorbachev's passiveness. By 1989, Sąjūdis, not afraid of angering Moscow and causing a violent clampdown, continuously pushed further with its demands: from limited discussions on Gorbachev's reforms, to demand of greater say in economic decisions, to political autonomy within the Soviet Union.
By the time of the Baltic Way, a human chain spanning over 600 kilometres across the three Baltic states to mark the 50th anniversary of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, full independence was the official goal of Sąjūdis. Parliamentary elections of February 1990 were the first free and democratic elections in Lithuania since World War II; the people overwhelmingly voted for the candidates endorsed by Sąjūdis though the movement did not run as a political party. The result was the first post-war non-communist government. During its first assembly on March 11, 1990, the Supreme Soviet of the Lithuanian SSR elected Vytautas Landsbergis as its chairman and restored Lithuania's prewar name of the Republic of Lithuania, it changed it name to the Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania, formally declared the re-establishment of Lithuanian independence. The act was approved at 10:44 pm by 124 members of the council. There were no votes against. SUPREME COUNCIL OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA ACT On the Re-establishment of the State of Lithuania The Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania, expressing the will of the nation and solemnly proclaims that the execu
Antanas Smetona was one of the most important Lithuanian political figures between World War I and World War II. He served as the first President of Lithuania from 4 April 1919 to 19 June 1920, he again served as the last President of the country from 19 December 1926 to 15 June 1940, before its occupation by the Soviet Union. He was one of the most prominent ideologists of nationalism in Lithuania. Smetona was born on 10 August 1874 in the village of Užulėnis, Kovno Governorate, Russian Empire, to a family of farmers – former serfs of the Taujėnai Manor, which belonged to the Radziwiłł family. Researcher Kazimieras Gasparavičius has traced Smetona's patrilineal ancestry to Laurentijus, born around 1695 and lived near Raguva. Smetona was the eighth of nine children, his parents were hardworking people. His father was literate and Smetona learned to read at home, his father died in 1885 and, despite financial difficulties, a year Smetona – the only of his siblings – was sent to the primary school in Taujėnai where instruction was in Russian.
His mother hoped. After graduation in 1889, Smetona wanted to continue his education, but gymnasiums admitted pupils only up to the age of 12 and he was 15 years old. Therefore, he was forced to study in Ukmergė in order to catch up and be able to pass examinations to enter the fourth class of gymnasium. In summer 1891, he attempted to gain admission to the Liepāja Gymnasium as his brother Motiejus worked in a factory in Liepāja, he was instead applied to the Palanga Pre-Gymnasium, which had no age restrictions. Smetona received a tuition waiver; as a superintendent of a student dormitory, he received free housing and was able to support himself by providing private lessons. Three other future signatories of the Act of Independence of Lithuania attended the Pro-Gymnasium at the same time: Steponas Kairys, Jurgis Šaulys, Kazimieras Steponas Šaulys; as Palanga was close to East Prussia, it was easier to obtain Lithuanian literature, banned by the Tsarist authorities. Smetona began reading Lithuanian periodicals and books, including a history of Lithuania by Maironis.
After graduation in 1893, according to his family's wishes, he passed his entrance examinations for the Samogitian Diocesan Seminary in Kaunas. However, he enrolled at the Jelgava Gymnasium in Latvia; this was a cultural hub of the Lithuanian National Revival and attracted many future leaders in Lithuanian culture and politics, including Juozas Tūbelis and Vladas Mironas who became Smetona's political companions. In particular, Lithuanian language and culture was promoted by the linguist, Jonas Jablonskis, teacher of Greek, with whom Smetona developed a close professional relationship. Jablonskis visited Smetona's native village collecting data on Lithuanian dialects. Smetona met his future wife, Sofija Chodakauskaitė, through Jablonskis who recommended him as tutor for her brother. In fall 1896, the administration of the Jelgava Gymnasium forced the Lithuanian students to recite their prayers in Russian while Latvian and German students were allowed to use their native languages. Smetona and other students were expelled.
Most agreed to pray in Russian and were re-admitted, but a handful who refused were prohibited from attending any other school. The students sent petitions to Pope Leo Ivan Delyanov, Minister of National Education. Smetona and two others, Jurgis Šlapelis and Petras Vaiciuška, managed to secure an audience with Delyanov who allowed the Lithuanians to pray in Latin and the expelled students to continue their education. Smetona finished up at Gymnasium No. 9 in Saint Petersburg. Upon graduation in 1897, Smetona entered the Faculty of Law of the University of Saint Petersburg, he was more interested in history and languages, but knew that as a Catholic his choices were limited to priest, lawyer, or doctor if he wanted to work in Lithuania. Saint Petersburg, with a direct railway connection to Lithuania, was becoming a Lithuanian cultural center. Smetona chaired a secret Lithuanian student organization, he joined a Lithuanian choir led by Česlovas Sasnauskas, organist at the Church of St. Catherine.
Smetona was exposed to socialist ideas and read Marx's Capital, but resolutely rejected them. He was expelled from the university, imprisoned for two weeks, deported to Vilnius for participating in the February 1899 student protests, it was the first time Smetona visited the city, the historical capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, it left a deep impression on him. A month he was allowed to return to the university. In 1898, Smetona and his roommate, Vladas Sirutavičius, using a mimeograph printed about 100 copies of a brief Lithuanian grammar written by Petras Avižonis based on the German-language writings of Frydrichas Kuršaitis; this grammar was insufficient for Lithuanian needs and in summer 1900 Jonas Jablonskis set out to work on his Lithuanian grammar. He was assisted by Avižonis, Žemaitė, Smetona, though Smetona edited works of Bishop Motiejus Valančius; the grammar was published in 1901 and became a fundamental work in establishing the standard Lithuanian language. In early 1902, the police began investigating a network of Lithuanian book smugglers and raided Smetona's room where they found a several prohibited Lithuanian publications.
He managed to secure acquittal and graduate that spring. After his graduation from the Univer
The Jagiellonian dynasty was a royal dynasty, founded by Jogaila (the Grand Duke of Lithuania, who in 1386 was baptized as Władysław, married Queen regnant Jadwiga of Poland, was crowned King of Poland as Władysław II Jagiełło. The dynasty reigned in several Central European countries between the 16th centuries. Members of the dynasty were Kings of Poland, Grand Dukes of Lithuania, Kings of Hungary, Kings of Bohemia; the personal union between the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania is the reason for the common appellation "Poland–Lithuania" in discussions about the area from the Late Middle Ages onward. One Jagiellonian ruled both Poland and Hungary, two others ruled both Bohemia and Hungary and continued in the distaff line as a branch of the House of Habsburg; the Polish "Golden Age", the period of the reigns of Sigismund I and Sigismund II, the last two Jagiellonian kings, or more the 16th century, is most identified with the rise of the culture of Polish Renaissance. The cultural flowering had its material base in the prosperity of the elites, both the landed nobility and urban patriciate at such centers as Kraków and Gdańsk.
The name comes from Jogaila. In Polish, the dynasty is known as the patronymic form: Jagiellończyk. Jogaila name etymologically means strong rider, from gailus; the rule of Piasts, the earlier Polish ruling house had ended with the death of King Casimir III the Great. Gediminids, the immediate predecessors of the first Jagiellonian, were rulers of medieval Lithuania with the title of Grand Duke, their realm, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, was chiefly inhabited by Ruthenians. Jogaila, the eponymous first ruler of the Jagiellonin dynasty, started as the Grand Duke of Lithuania; as a result of the Union of Krewo he converted to Christianity and married the 11-year-old Hedwig of Poland. Thereby he founded the dynasty. Angevin rulers were the Jagiellonian third dynasty of Polish Kings. In 1385 the Union of Krewo was signed between Queen Jadwiga of Poland and Jogaila, the Grand Duke of Lithuania, the last pagan state in Europe; the act arranged for Jogaila's baptism and for the couple's marriage and constituted the beginning of the Polish–Lithuanian union.
The Union strengthened both nations in their shared opposition to the Teutonic Knights and the growing threat of the Grand Duchy of Moscow. Uniquely in Europe, the union connected two states geographically located on the opposite sides of the great civilizational divide between the Western or Latin, the Eastern or Byzantine worlds; the intention of the Union was to create a common state under Władysław II Jagiełło, but the Polish ruling oligarchy's idea of incorporation of Lithuania into Poland turned out to be unrealistic. There would be territorial disputes and warfare between Lithuanian factions. Geographic consequences of the dynastic union and the preferences of the Jagiellonian kings accelerated the process of reorientation of Polish territorial priorities to the east; the political influence of the Jagiellonian kings was diminishing during this period, accompanied by the ever-increasing role in central government and national affairs of landed nobility. The royal dynasty, had a stabilizing effect on Poland's politics.
The Jagiellonian Era is regarded as a period of maximum political power, great prosperity, in its stage, the Golden Age of Polish culture. The Great War of 1409–1411, precipitated by the Lithuanian uprising in the Order controlled Samogitia, included the Battle of Grunwald, where the Polish and Lithuanian-Rus' armies defeated the Teutonic Knights; the offensive that followed lost its impact with the ineffective siege of Malbork. The failure to take the fortress and eliminate the Teutonic state had for Poland dire historic consequences in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries; the Peace of Thorn had given Poland and Lithuania rather modest territorial adjustments, including Samogitia. Afterwards there were negotiations and peace deals that didn't hold, more military campaigns and arbitrations. One attempted, unresolved arbitration took place at the Council of Constance. During the Hussite Wars, Jagiełło, Vytautas and Sigismund Korybut were involved in political and military maneuvering concerning the Czech crown, offered by the Hussites first to Jagiełło in 1420.
Zbigniew Oleśnicki became known as the leading opponent of a union with the Hussite Czech state. The Jagiellonian dynasty was not entitled to automatic hereditary succession, as each new king had to be approved by nobility consensus. Władysław Jagiełło had two sons late in life from Sophia of Halshany. In 1430 the nobility agreed to the succession of the future Władysław III, only after the King gave in and guaranteed the satisfaction of their new demands. In 1434 the old monarch died and his minor son W