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Samogitia

From Academic Kids

Note: this article is about the ethnographic region of Lithuania. For info about the historical Samogitian Eldership/Duchy, see Eldership of Samogitia

Samogitia (Lithuanian: Žemaitija, literally lowlands) is one of the five ethnographic regions of Lithuania. It is also known as Žmudź in Polish and Schamaiten in German.

Contents

Geography

The region is located in western Lithuania in the territories of Palanga municipality, Rietavas municipality, municipalities of Tauragė district, Šilalė district, Skuodas district, Jurbarkas district, Mažeikiai district, Kretinga district, Plungė district, Telšiai district, Akmenė district, Kelmė district, Šiauliai district, Raseiniai district, eastern parts of Klaipėda district and Šilutė district, western part of Joniškis district and the Šiauliai city. The largest city is Šiauliai, or Klaipėda if the latter is considered in the region. Telšiai is the capital, although Medninkai was once the capital of the Eldership of Samogitia. The largest cities (those with over 20,000 inhabitants) are (Samogitian name, if different, is provided after slash):

Demographics and language

People in Samogitia speak Samogitian, a dialect of Lithuanian previously considered to be one of the four main dialects (because of Soviet oversimplification of the categorisation of Lithuanian ethnic dialects). However, it is now generally accepted that Samogitian is one of two dialects, the other being Aukstaitian, and that both of these dialects have 3 subdialects each. Samogitian has northern and southern subdialects (which are further subdivided). A western subdialect once existed, but became extinct after World War II as inhabitants fled the Memelland region or were expelled or killed by the Soviet authorities. The territory of the western subdialect was resettled by northern and southern Samogitians or by Russians.

Samogitia is a major center for Lithuanian culture and traditionally tends to oppose any anti-Lithuanian restrictions. It is one of the most ethnically pure regions of the country, with an ethnic Lithuanian population exceeding 99.5% in some districts. The region is predominantly Roman Catholic, although there are significant Lutheran minorities in the south. The use of the Samogitian language is decreasing as more people tend to use standard Lithuanian, although there have been some minor attempts by local councils, especially in Telšiai, to write certain roadside information in Samogitian as well.

History

The territory of the ancient Samogitian tribes was much larger than current Samogitia, but this territory shrank as that of the Aukštaitians expanded. In the 15th century it was the last region in Europe to be converted to Christianity. During the Middle Ages it was known as the Eldership of Samogitia, which included parts of what is now considered Aukštaitija and Sudovia as well. An eldership was an administrative unit similar to a voivodship in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the later Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. While Samogitia was part of the Commonwealth it was included in the Duchy of Samogitia.

After the partitions of the Commonwealth, Samogitia was incorporated into the Russian Empire along with Lithuania. Samogitia was the main source of the Lithuanian cultural revival in the 19th century and was a focal point for the smuggling of books printed in the banned Lithuanian language. After World War I the region mostly became part of the newly reborn Lithuanian state. The Samogitians resisted the Bermontian Russians, only to fall to the Soviet Union in the Molotov-Ribbentrop_Pact. Samogitia avoided Russification while under Soviet occupation. The Soviets denied the existence of the Lithuania Minor ethnographic region due to political concerns and included Klaipėda and the Klaipėda region as part of Samogitia.

Politics

Samogitia historically was an autonomous region in the medieval Eldership of Samogitia, although it lost this status once Lithuania was occupied by Imperial Russia. The region was incorporated into the guberniya of Kaunas, with part of it being added to that of Courland. Since then the region has not been unified, although there have been some plans to administratively reform Lithuania into the traditional ethnocentric regions.

Currently Samogitia is represented by the Samogitian cultural society, a group interested in preserving Samogitian culture and language, and the Žemaitijos parlamentas (literally Parliament of Samogitia), which concerns itself with regional autonomy based on historical claims. These claims often include the Klaipėda region in the interwar and would claim Klaipėda rather than Telšiai as the capital. The same group, led by Justinas Burba and having a small membership, has also published the controversial newspaper Žemaitijos parlamentas, which raised the idea that the European Union should repay Samogitia for its defense of Europe against the Mongols.

Symbols

Missing image
Zeme-herbas.png
Historic coat of arms of Samogitia
The coat of arms depicts a black bear with white nails and collar on a red background on a shield topped with a crown.
Missing image
Zeme-veliava.png
Historic flag of Samogitia
The unofficial flag of Samogitia depicts the coat of arms on a white background. It is a non-rectangular flag ending in two triangles, rather than the rectangular flag typically used. The only official non-rectangular flags are those of Nepal and of Ohio, USA.

Both symbols are assumed to have been in use for centuries, especially the coat of arms (differing claims assert it was first used in the 14th or 16th centuries). The symbols were used by the Eldership of Samogitia. These are the oldest symbols of the Lithuanian ethnographic regions.

Because Samogitia does not correspond to any current administrative division of Lithuania, these symbols are not officially used. However, they might come back into use if Lithuania undergoes administrative refom in the future.

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