ISLAM and MUSLIMS IN LITHUANIA

      

General Information

Republic of Lithuania

National name: Lietuvos Respublika

Total area: 25,174 sq mi (65,200 sq km)

Population (2008 est.): 3,565,205

Capital and largest city (2003 est.): Vilnius, 543,500

Other large cities: Kaunas, 379,800; Klaipéda, 193,400

Monetary unit: Litas

Languages: Lithuanian 82% (official), Russian 8%, Polish 6% (2001)

Ethnicity/race: Lithuanian 83.4%, Polish 6.7%, Russian 6.3%, other or unspecified 3.6% (2001)

Religions: Roman Catholic 79%, Russian Orthodox 4%, Protestant (including Lutheran, evangelical Christian Baptist) 2%, none 10% (2001)

National Holiday: Independence Day, February 16

Literacy: 100% (2003 est.)

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2007 est.): $59.64 billion; per capita $17,700. Real growth rate: 8.8%. Inflation: 5.8%.

Lithuania is situated on the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea and borders Latvia on the north, Belarus on the east and south, and Poland and the Kaliningrad region of Russia on the southwest. It is a country of gently rolling hills, many forests, rivers and streams, and lakes. Its principal natural resource is agricultural land.

The Liths, or Lithuanians, united in the 12th century under the rule of Mindaugas, who became king in 1251. Through marriage, one of the later Lithuanian rulers became the king of Poland (Ladislaus II) in 1386, uniting the countries. In 1410, the Poles and Lithuanians defeated the powerful Teutonic Knights at Tannenberg. From the 14th to the 16th century, Poland and Lithuania made up one of medieval Europe's largest empires, stretching from the Black Sea almost to Moscow. The two countries formed a confederation for almost 200 years, and in 1569 they formally united. Russia, Prussia, and Austria partitioned Poland in 1772, 1792, and 1795. As a consequence, Lithuania came under Russian rule after the last partition. Russia attempted to immerse Lithuania in Russian culture and language, but anti-Russian sentiment continued to grow. Following World War I and the collapse of Russia, Lithuania declared independence (1918), under German protection.

The republic was then annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940. From June 1941 to 1944, it was occupied by German troops, with whom Lithuania served in World War II. Some 240,000 Jews were massacred in Lithuania during the Nazi years. In 1944, the Soviets again annexed Lithuania.

The Lithuanian independence movement reemerged in 1988. In 1990, Vytautas Landsbergis, the non-Communist head of the largest Lithuanian popular movement (Sajudis), was elected president. On the same day, the Supreme Council rejected Soviet rule and declared the restoration of Lithuania's independence, the first Baltic republic to take this action. Confrontation with the Soviet Union ensued along with economic sanctions, but they were lifted after both sides agreed to a face-saving compromise.

Lithuania's independence was quickly recognized by major European and other nations, including the United States. The Soviet Union finally recognized the independence of the Baltic states on Sept. 6, 1991. UN admittance followed on Sept. 17, 1991.

Islamic History and Muslims

Lithuania has some 12 mosques and one group working to spread awareness of Islam. Muslims in Lithuania are estimated at 110,000, mostly of Caucasus and Arab origins. The group said more than 10,000 young people from various areas of the country have bought copies of the Noble Qur'an from government-run libraries in Vilnius. The study also expected Islam to become one of the main religions in Lithuania within 20 or 30 years. The European Parliament committees invited Muslims to their meetings on the bloc's draft constitution, which carry articles for religious freedom and equal treatment of minorities.

In Lithuania, unlike many other northern and western European countries, Islam came long ago. It was so because the medieval Grand Duchy of Lithuania, stretching from Baltic to Black seas, included some Muslim lands in the south, inhabited by Crimean Tatars. Some of people from those lands were moved into ethnically Lithuanian lands, now the current Republic of Lithuania, mainly under rule of Grand Duke Vytautas. The Tatars, now referred to as Lithuanian Tatars, lost their language over time and now speak Lithuanian as natives; however, they have not lost Islam as their religion. Due to long isolation from all the other Islamic world, the practices of the Lithuanian Tatars differs somewhat from the rest of Sunni Muslims; they are not considered a separate sect however.

In Lithuania, unlike many other European societies at the time, religious freedom was pursued. Lithuanian Tatars settled in certain places, such as around Raižiai (in Alytus district municipality).

Much of the Lithuanian Tatar culture, mosques, graveyards and such were destroyed by the Soviet Union after it annexed Lithuania. After restoration of Lithuanian independence however the government supported the promotion of Lithuanian Tatar culture among those Lithuanian tatars who lost it. Three original wooden mosques remain now (in villages of Nemėžis, Keturiasdešimt Totorių (both in Vilnius district municipality) and Raižiai (Alytus district municipality), typically having relatively large Muslim populations), as well as a new brick mosque built in Kaunas during the period of interwar independence of Lithuania (in the 30s) to commemorate the anniversary of Vytautas, the duke who brought Tatars and Islam to Lithuania. That mosque is called Vytautas Didysis Mosque after duke Vytautas. In the capital of Lithuania, Vilnius, however, no mosque remains, as Russians destroyed the Lukiškės Mosque which was there. The Lithuanian Tatar community is trying to rebuild the mosque, but faces various problems, including lack of funds as well as certain actions by the government of Vilnius city municipality.

Currently, only several thousand Lithuanian Tatars remain, however with the restoration of Lithuanian independence, they are experiencing a kind of national revival.

During the time of the Soviet Union, some people from other Muslim nationalities were moved in, however many of them were atheists; as well other Muslims came as immigrants after restoration of independence, but as for now this number is very small compared to similar numbers in western Europe; therefore for now Lithuanian Tatars remain the core of Islam in Lithuania, supported by some Lithuanians who converted. Overall, there are less than 3000 Muslims in Lithuania according to the last census held in 2001.

Mosque in Kaunas

Mosquee de Raiziai
 

Mosquee de Keturiasdesimt Tortoriu

 

Mosquee de Nemezis

  Islamic Centers and Organizations

Lithuanian Muslim Youth Community, TOTORIŲ g. 6, Ramybės parkas,LT-3000  Kaunas, 3043, LITHUANIA. Phone: +37065506504, Fax: +370-37718638, Email: LMYS_1995@yahoo.com, URL: http://www.musulmonai.lt

Lietuvos Musulmonu Muftijatas, Vivulskio str. 3, ilnius, Vilnius , LITHUANIA. Directions: Near the Snoro Bankas bank on Algirdo Street. General Information: It\'s a Masjed and Islamic center as the Muftiat in Lithuania.

First Islamic Website, Kaunas, LITHUANIA. URL: www.islamas.lt , General Information: www.islamas.lt  is the first website in Lithuanian language, started in July 1999. Till now it helped Lithuanian people to understand Islam, and guided new Muslim to the right path. Alhamdolillah.
http://mosqueedelituanie.over-blog.com (explanations in French language and a lot of photos of the different mosques)

   Muslim Owned Business

References
Islam in Lithuania  ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islam_in_Lithuania   , October, 2008).
Info please ( http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0107730.html ,  October, 2008).
Islam Finder ( http://www.islamicfinder.org/cityPrayerNew.php?country=lithuania   , October, 2008).
Lithuanian Muslims Fearful After "Terror" Arrests ( http://www.islamonline.net/English/News/2004-07/22/article01.shtml   , October, 2008).
Anonymous, Documents from Representatives of Islamic Organizations in Lithuania, October 2008.