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The Road of a Thousand Years
LITHUANIAN QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES,Volume 55, No.3 – Fall (2009)
One of Lithuania’s foremost historians traces the thousand years traveled by Lithuania from Netimeras’s clansmen to the contemporary state reestablished in 1990 in a European context as an assembly of citizens. Kiaupa refutes arguments that the modern Lithuanian state established in 1918 had no continuity with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania which expired in 1795, or that it was their language rather than their political convictions that made Lithuanians a true nation, as suggested by Czesław Miłosz. His thesis is that the modern Lithuanian state reestablished in 1918 was the result of complex ethno-cultural and political factors involving representatives from various political and social classes, based on national unity rather than mere language, and with a definite connection to the historic past. Lithuania has changed many times, becoming a different nation, but not another nation. Geographically, it exists in the same place, and linguistically, its residents still speak the same language. In other words, contemporary Lithuania and the Lithuanian nation are directly descended from the eleventh-century Lithuania of Netimeras and the Lithuanians of that time.
Lithuania’s name was recorded for the first time in the first half of the eleventh century in the annals of the Quedlinburg monastery (Annales Quedlinburgenses). It was mentioned in a narrative describing the mission of Bruno, the future saint, to pagan lands, and his death by martyrdom. In 1009, Bruno and his entourage reached the borderlands of Rus’ and Lithuania. There he succeeded in converting the pagan rex [ruler, king] Netimeras and his people to Christianity, but was martyred by some of Netimeras’s clansmen who refused to be baptized.