History of Lithuania

History Lithuania
First humans in the Curonian Spit could be dated by early Paleolith approximately 8000 B.C.
They were small groups of roaming hunters, which were following reindeers and elks. However, no signs of their presence have been found in the northern part of the Curonian Spit.

Regular settlements in the Curonian Spit appeared just in the beginning of Mesolithic Age about 4000 B.C. Warmer climate attracted people of Narva Culture to the spit. Deciduous woods, marshy lakes, shallow sea lagoons and channels weere most suitable for fishing, hunting and gathering forest goods. People used pots and dishes, which they made of clay and mollusc shells. They raised such domestic animals as dogs and pigs, wove mats and started to process amber, which they collected.

The Pamarys or Marine Culture expanded across the Curonian Spit at the end of the middle stone age, i.e. 3000 B.C. It absorbed elements of Rope Ceramics from Central European and local Narva cultures. The Marine Culture gave birth to suuch western Baltic tribes as Prussians, Jatvingians and Curonians (Kurshes). Some changes in occupations, day-to-day activities, family structure and world outlook appeared. Inhabitants of the Curonian Spit started to raise goats and use horses. For the very first time in th

he Curonian Spit, people cultivated land and started to grow barley and wheat. Salt extraction by evaporating seawater became a brand new occupation.
The Bronze Age (between 2000 and 500 B.C.) hasn’t been much investigated in the Curonian Spit. The available information allows us to consider that landscape changes in the peninsula and the fall of temperature had a main impact on living conditions. About 1700 B.C. the sea flooded part of the Stone Age settlements. Humans moved to higher places. It is suggested that many of them deserted the Curonian Spit. Their occupations stayed the same. Solitary bronze articles like axes, speartips and pins weren’t very commonly used, but rather showed the position in the social hierarchy. Archaeologists also noticed that the quuality of ceramics worsened in the Bronze Age.

Single archaeology findings from the Iron Age (between 500 B.C. and 1300) said very little about this period in the northern part of the spit. It seems that humans deserted the peninsula completely. It could be the consequence of the Movement of Nations. People settled in the areas, which had more fertile soils and were more suitable for agriculture. The northern part of the Curonian Spit didn’t satisfy their needs. However, only a detailed ar

rchaeological survey can give clearer picture of this blank page in the peninsula’s history.

The middle of the 13th century was a break line in the history of the Northern Curonian Spit. It is widely described in chronicles, old documents, contemporary notes and maps. The detailed archaeological survey of this period hasn’t been started yet.

DATES

• In 1253 the Order of Swordbearers or Livonia Order built the castle of Memel (Klaipeda); the northern part of the Curonian Spit came under its subordination. Since then Klaipeda and North of the spit had one history.
• In 1328 the Livonia Order passed the Klaipeda diocese to the Teutonic Order. The diocese border between Klaipeda and Sambia divided the Curonian Spit into the northern and southern parts. This border has changed very little since then.
• From 1525 until 1701 the spit belonged to the Dukedom of Prussia, which latter became a kingdom (from 1701 until 1871).
• Many times different countries occupied the Curonian Spit. In 1629 – 1635 it was owned by Swedes, from 1757 until 1762 – by Russians, from 1871 until 1918 it belonged to German Empire. From 1918 till 1923, the Klaipeda district and the northern part of the Curonian Spit served as France protectorate.
• In 1923 these lands were joined to Lithuania and belonged to it until 1939, when Ge

ermany occupied the Memel lands again. In 1945, after World War II, the Klaipeda district and Northern Curonian Spit went back to Lithuania, which was occupied by Soviet Russia then. Lithuania got its independence in 1990; the northern part of the Curonian Spit remains as a part of it.

HUMANS

It is suggested, that Sambians and Curonians lived in the vicinity of Nida in the middle of the 13th century. Curonians and Germans are documented from the 14th to 16th centuries. In addition to them, Lithuanians appeared between the 16th and 20th centuries. Residents of the spit suffered from epidemics and natural disasters. Most of settlements in the peninsula were deserted between 1629 and 1635 due to devastation by Swedish mercenaries. New dwellers from the continent occupied empty farmsteads. Emigrants from the Curland between the 17th and 18th centuries influenced the dialect of local Curonians. Slowly it became the New Curonian dialect of Latvian. The multilingual social structure formed in the Curonian Spit in the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. German language was used in state institutions. But among themselves, especially when fishing, Curonians used Curonian. And in church everybody spoke Lithuanian. At the end of the 19th century, Germans started to dominate ov

ver the Lithuanians. This process went faster after World War I. Many local citizens evacuated before the front line came in 1945. Just a few of them returned home after the war. Some of them were repressed later and some of them repatriated back to Germany. Residents from other places of Lithuania settled in the northern part of the Curonian Spit.

OCCUPATIONS

From the 14th till the middle of the 20th century, the prevailing occupation for inhabitants of the Curonian Spit was fishing. Its importance grew up significantly from the 17th to 19th centuries, when arable land decreased. Specific living conditions defined a very unique way of life and character of local people.

Tourism as a new business came to the Curonian Spit in the middle of 19th century. Juodkrante became famous among holidaymakers from 1840. W. Stantien & M. Becker amber excavation company, which worked in Juodkrante from 1860 until 1890, also supported economical development of this resort. After 1880 artists and vacationers discovered Nida. On the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries citizens of Klaipeda became attached to Smiltyne and Kopgalis. In the third decade of 20th century artists and peace lovers found interest in Preila and Pervalka. Many resorts and cottages in the spit remained from the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. Most of fisherman’s farmsteads were suited for holidaymakers also. Providing accommodation to them and fishing even nowadays remain the basic occupation for residents of the spit.

MAN AND NATURE

The transit road through the spit had a crucial impact to the development of northern spit settlements in the end of the 13th and until beginning of the 19th century. This road connected Konighsberg (Karaliaucius or Kaliningrad), Memel (Klaipeda), Riga, Tallinn and Sankt Petersburg. It was a road of international importance, because it linked Prussia, Curland, Livonia and Russia. It was used for dislocation of armies, for post and trade. Many interesting and famous persons from the 14th till 19th centuries passed through the peninsula, including French encyclopaedist Didro, the Emperor of Russia Peter I, Queen of Prussia Louisa and others. The post stations and inns appeared by the road. Later villages grew around them. The network of settlements started to form in the 14th century and changed according to the transit road. Present settlements of the Curonian Spit are connected by the road, which was established at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries.
Decisive human activity between the 16th and 19th centuries caused vital landscape changes in the Curonian Spit. Permanent forest clearing and removing of reeds were sequenced by coastal erosion and the appearance of travelling dunes. Later this brought serious threats to the settlements in the spit. From the 17th until the 19th century they were close to extinction. Continuously attacked by water and sands, people kept moving from one place to another. Entire villages were deserted and buried beneath the sand. Especially huge damage to the forest was done during the Russian occupation between 1757 and 1762. Each of the present settlements in the Curonian Spit has experienced the impact of the drifting sand and erosion.
The period between the end of the 18th and beginning of the 20th centuries was significant because of the positive influenceto the spit by human activities. People constructed a foredune on the seacoast and planted the moving dunes. In this way the government was seeking to prevent the Klaipeda Channel from filling by sand and to preserve the Curonian Road and settlements. The pioneers in the fight with sand in the Northern Curonian Spit were S.Born, S.Lilliethal, father and son Gotlib David and Georg David Kuwerts. Work expenses were covered by Prussia, Germany, Lithuania and later by Soviet Lithuania. Present landscapes of the Curonian Spit are the result of conscious human activity.

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