Lithuania: Eastern Europe or not?

Ever since my move to Lithuania a few months ago, I feel like I am in Eastern Europe. In fact, discovering Eastern Europe was one of the main reasons behind my move east (I should point out that I am from Germany), but whenever I mention this to Lithuanians, they are visibly insulted and correct me that I am not in Eastern but in Central Europe. I had always been tempted to ask “If this is not Eastern Europe, what is?” until I was informed that possibly Ukraine and definitely Armenia and Georgia are Eastern Europe, but not this Baltic country. I then apologise for the unintended insult, try not to repeat it and feel ashamed about having been so EU-centred when speaking of Europe.

Later, usually on my way home from the pub, I always wondered – thus far to no avail – why people are insulted by the term “East” but most probably wouldn’t be insulted by being called “Western”. Then I began to work out objective factors for what is Eastern Europe and what is not. I am sorry to say that after applying these objective factors, Lithuanian is part of Eastern Europe. I know this means that I will lose the few friends I have made here so far, but I am not one to hide my true conviction just to make people feel cosy or happy.

Let’s look at the facts, one by one:

Geography

On a somewhat ball-shaped planet, East and West are of course completely arbitrary concepts, as Christopher Columbus had to discover. Looking at parts of Europe from within Europe however, there is clearly an East, a West, a North and a South and of course a centre. Looking at a topographical map of Europe, it becomes obvious that it was indeed rather close-minded of me to equate Europe with the EU.

If we accept that the eastern geographical boundary of Europe are the Ural Mountains, this continent is actually a surprisingly large chunk of land.

According to one calculation, the geographical midpoint of Europe is actually in Lithuania. With that in mind, it would be hard to argue that Lithuania is anything but in Central Europe. But first, there are several geographical midpoints all over the continent, depending on the method of calculation. Second, all of this reasoning relies on counting a large part of Russia and Kazakhstan as Europe, which I find highly dubious given that the much larger parts of these countries are in Asia. If we are in the business of drawing clear-cut lines, like Sykes-Picot, Mason-Dixon or this article, we can’t allow a country to attend two parties. Good bye, Russia. And without Russia, it is very hard to argue that Lithuania is not in Eastern Europe. In fact, it is so far east that it is in danger of falling off into the abyss which already swallowed Napoleon’s Army and large parts of the Wehrmacht (albeit too late, unfortunately).

History & Politics

This brings us to history and politics. My interest in world affairs began to develop surprisingly soon after my birth (yes, I was the kid who read the newspaper while other children played in the sandbox) and my political socialization thus began in the 1970s and 1980s. It has been heavily influenced by the Cold War, which sounds like such a negative term (and for those in Asia, Africa and Latin America it was indeed not cold at all, but a rather lethal affair) but which many spies, political scientists, writers of thrillers and arms dealers miss for its clarity: there was East and there was West, with a clear line, dramatizingly dubbed “the Iron Curtain”.

The antagonism between NATO and Warsaw Pact, between free market economies and communism, between freedom and repression admittedly continues to influence my image of Europe. To me, history and politics are more important than rivers or mountains or other unelected boundaries. Therefore, any country that was part of the Soviet Union or the Warsaw Pact will always remain Eastern Europe.

(Some of you will try to be a smartass and point out that my own country, Germany, would be West and East according to this definition. I will retort that if East and West fuse together in one country, this means that this country is the only one which is really Central Europe.)

Time zone

Lithuania is within the Eastern European Time Zone, which is one hour ahead of the Central European Time Zone. The name says it all. If you want to be part of Central Europe, don’t make me wait an extra hour every evening to watch Tagesschau.

Language

Language offers the most incontrovertible evidence yet that Lithuania is part of Eastern Europe. Any language that has letters that look like č, š and ž (and sound accordingly) is definitely Eastern European.

(Central Europe is identified by ä, ö and ü, Western Europe by á, è and ô.)

Guidebooks

Lastly, and most authoritatively, Lithuania is included in the “Eastern Europe” guidebooks of most publishers, for example the Lonely Planet guidebook for Eastern Europe.

About Andreas Moser

You will most likely find me in the forest, next to the lake, reading a book. Just follow the cigar smoke!
This entry was posted in Cold War, Europe, Lithuania, Maps, Travel. Bookmark the permalink.

49 Responses to Lithuania: Eastern Europe or not?

  1. Pingback: Where is Lithuania? | The Happy Hermit

  2. Hmph says:

    I’m sorry, Andreas, but you’re analysis wasn’t nearly as objective as you claim.

    Geography – Fair enough, but geography has little to do with the socioeconomic factors that influence a nation.

    History and Politics – A part from being forcibly annexed for half a century, I can’t see how Lithuanian politics / history can be identified as “Eastern European.”

    Time zone – So you will insist that Finland is Eastern European as well?

    Language – This is the part that struck me most. Lithuanian is not a Slavic language, which are found in proper Eastern Europe, in fact it has very little to do with Russian / Polish / Romanian / etc. The comment about the letters was a little inane, needless to say.

    Guidebooks – People just find it more convenient to categorize the Baltic states as Eastern European.

    I realize your analysis wasn’t meant to be taken at face value, but I couldn’t resist.

    • Andreas Moser says:

      Thanks for your comments! I am glad you noticed that my article was not to be taken completely seriously, I wouldn’t have wanted your blood pressure to rise.
      Actually, the main serious thing about it is the question why people mind being put into the “Eastern Europe” category. I don’t see what is bad about it. If somebody from Norway or from Iceland tells me that for him, Germany is “Southern Europe”, I wouldn’t mind. Nor would I mind if somebody from Malts would call me “Northern European”, although objectively Germany is neither on the Northern nor Southern periphery.

  3. Michael says:

    According to the UN (well, they’re as good an expert as any on such a tricky topic), Lithuania is in Northern Europe. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_Europe.
    And even the UEFA, for me an authority on anything European, regards the Baltic states as “Northern”, http://kassiesa.home.xs4all.nl/bert/uefa/uefa-cup-regions.html

    • Andreas Moser says:

      I have already received word that both of these assessments will be changed soon, based on my convincing arguments.

      • Michael says:

        Kudos for the convincing power :-)

      • Литхуйня says:

        Why? No… stay with your opinion. Don’t appear weak pressurised by some east Euro chauvinist. I love the typical innocently chauvinist opinions of west Euros. West is Best. East is Yeast. I told ya folks that letters and the way words are written matter very much, at least to the west Euros. C@@L or COOL has these round, cool letters. It’s all about (being) COOL to the West, just what KAWAII is to Japan. The two polka dots on top of a, e, u, o looks so cool meh, we are so West about those letters or central. Hey, but how about Finland and Turkey? I think Azeris, Uzbeks also use those umlauts. Love the UEFA map. Almost.

  4. If forced into a category, I’d hang it in Central Europe, with Estonia being the Western edge of “Eastern Europe”. (Not sure where Latvia would like itself placed, so I’ll leave them out of it for now. :D ) Of course, I’m biased with my World War 2 studies, and tend to think of European Russia as “Eastern Europe”, so my geography is probably not the best example to use…. ;)

  5. Mal Ta says:

    try saying that malta is part of africa (it’s actually more to the south than africa’s northern point) or that maltese people are arabs. you’ll get all sort of phone calls…..oh….you already did experience something like that :P

    • Литхуйня says:

      I also noticed that Malta are in African plate and their language is mostly Arabic with some Italianate words. No problem with that, we Love Malta! Then there’s Cyprus, which is clear;y i Asia, but I was forced to move it to Europe on my blog as I had some angry comments from Cypriots. And some Greek islands are too close to Turkey to be considered Europe, or let alone Western Europe. Yet! SCOTT postage stamps catalogue included Turkey and Yugoslavia with Western Europe.

  6. foinaven says:

    Entertaining, and with comments from educated non-troll people. Very refreshing! Keep up the good work, Andreas!

  7. Lithuanian says:

    well. the bad to be called EE country is of course wrong associations. Watch a bunch of movies about EE countries and note how these countries are drawn – very poor, people eat cats and drink vodka all day long. Even worse, people, who never been here, think that way also. These associations are not correct. Yes we are poor, but this is not our fault – years of occupation had negative impact on overall country development. But country is moving forward and at this point of time I already can see more “western” than “eastern” life style.
    All in all, there are no problem of being “eastern”, but the problem are wrong associations.

  8. 'NuffSaid says:

    What the average citizen thinks Eastern Europe looks like: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1mYqY5YELd0

    • Andreas Moser says:

      This “Eurotrip” is one of the worst films ever, not only about Eastern Europe.

      • Heckler without Koch says:

        So you disagree with the movie’s tagline “No Europeans were harmed in the making of this film.”? ;-)

      • Andreas Moser says:

        I think the film is so bad because for many non-Europeans (i.e. Americans) it is the only or at least primary source for their image of Europe. If people were informed about Europe, the movie wouldn’t do any harm. (Although it is still a terribly bad movie in which I couldn’t discover one funny bit.)

    • Литхуйня says:

      In fact in South Africa East Europeans are regarded as rich Europeans very much. They do not separate East from West as long as you look White and are well dressed.

  9. g says:

    I was trying also to locate my grandparents they were from from germany area but much has changed since the war in the 40s I cant even find their region which was called the goldberg region ever hear of it?

    greg

  10. Kosmoso šlavėja says:

    Nice article, i do not feel offended, i say myself that i am eastern european,so i don’t know who could be offended,just the topic about language is not correct as it is not slavic background and if you take for example portuguese language they pronounce č,ž also :)

  11. N.Smat says:

    As a Lithuanian-Canadian, I identify personally with the East.
    Much like yourself, I believe anything that was once part of the Warsaw Pact an Eastern European nation.
    I take no shame or humiliation of my Eastern and Soviet past, (not a Commie, but that’s a whole other convo) and don’t see why other Lithuanians would either.

  12. jpetros says:

    I know this was meant as a joke, but some of them did hurt a little bit. I don’t mind being eastern European but the slavic thing was a little much, especially considering I get it a lot

    • Stefan says:

      I am Slavic, why does it offend you so much, do you think you’re superior?

      • jpetros says:

        :( I don’t think I’m superior. I’m sorry if you got that impression. I’m just saying I’m not slavic. How would you feel if everyone started saying your germanic 24/7?

      • Slawofil says:

        If you want to find some really ugly people, always head for Slavic countries:

      • But there are some of the most attractive girls here.

      • Slawofil says:

        You mean the slutty looking attractiveness? And those attractive submissive in appearance ladies give birth to such ugly schmugly tiny mouthed buzzing like bugs males?

      • No, I mean the naturally attractive and self-confident look.

      • Slawofil says:

        Yes, but such a category of women exist in all countries. I personally find Slavic women in the appearance closest to Turkish and Middle Eastern. Except those that clearly have Scandinavian and Baltic look and genetics and even some Asian intermix. Such examples would be Belarusian, St. Petersburgan women (Scandobaltic), while Asian premix exists in eastern Ukraine and Russia.

  13. Ulian Aliev says:

    If Lithuania was more simular to Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands etc – then I wouldnt love it so much!

    YES!!! Lithuania is eastern Europe, mentality, location – everything! The capital is located more to the east than most european cities! And the mentality is “very eastern european”, with proud young ladies with mouch make-up and, macho men everywhere, most ppl are anti-gay-marriage, and the food is very ver very eastern european!

    I LOVE LITHUANIA BECAUSE IT IS SO DIFFIRENT FROM WESTERN EUROPE!

    • Литхуйня says:

      I was going to say it – when I travel around Europe, I always find some friendly people in Western Europe, but I prefer eastern Europeans, except I find Portuguese very friendly.
      I think the entire Europe and the world is a pearl, no matter where you go.The more diversity, the better.

  14. Pingback: Grumpy Cat coming to Lithuania | The Happy Hermit

  15. Tomas says:

    Letters of Slovenians, Czechs Latin alphabets: č, š, ž. Slovenia, Czechs – Eastern Europe? :)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slovene_alphabet

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Czech_alphabet

    What is Cyrillic script then – Eastern Eastern Europe? :D

    South Africa, Turkey, Greece, Finland – all belong to the Eastern European Time Zone. Turkey, Finland, South Africa – Eastern Europe? :)

    East Germany with cities Berlin, Dresden, Leipzig belonged to the Warsaw Pact. What is more, they all where commies. Dresden lies within Eastern Europe? :)
    Ok, Germany should be excluded.
    What about Hungary, Czech, Slovakia?

    Let us do not forget, that Lithuanians are mostly Catholic nation (79%) – just the same as Spanish, Portuguese, Italians or French.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Catholicism_in_Europe

    France, Spain – Eastern Europe or Belarus, Ukraine – not Europe? :)

    And so on, my friend.

  16. Pingback: Sad Things (7) Language Courses | The Happy Hermit

  17. Pingback: Ich lerne Kyrillisch | Mosereien

  18. Литхуйня says:

    UEFA maps creates Moldova-Romania and Corsica-France separation problem. Regarding Lithuania (sometimes Russians call it Литхуйня) it belongs to Africa accordingly to the colours of its flag. :-)

  19. Литхуйня says:

    By the way, Lithuania is all 5 (N, S, W, E, C). Let me prove it. Northern, because it is in Northern Europe and its genetics are Northern European mostly. Eastern Europe – very much so too for all the above and historical reasons (Grand Duchy etc.). Central Europe because the geo centre of Europe is near Vilnius. Western Europe, because it is westernmost part of Eurasia along with the Scandinavian countries and it is in the EU, NATO and has been westernised. Southern Europe, because it has a great influence of Italian architecture, especially in Vilnius and the temperament of Lithuanians, they are called the Southerners of the Baltic countries for a good reason. Can’t pas a bunch of guys on a sidewalk without getting in trouble. :-)

  20. Pingback: Unter Schwulen: Baltic Pride 2013 | Mosereien

  21. Pingback: Among Gays: Baltic Pride 2013 | The Happy Hermit

  22. 4lulz says:

    Just a quick Q : How does Germans will feel if call them Turkish ? A: Some will ignore it,but most will be offended!
    P.S. I don’t care either I belong to Eastern or Northern part. As for your “research” you can wipe your bom bom with it. As all this article is just a CHEAP attempt to get click from attention whore like you :)

    • Литхуяйнья says:

      I would avoid strong language like this. I’d rather ask a German whether he or she is a French or a Polish. That would be closer to the reality. Or Russian. East European. Because a lot of Germans look and act very much like Russians do. Friendly but rude. But then again, it all depends on an individual person.

  23. Angele Roy says:

    Think if some Lithuanians lightened up with their judgements it would not matter if they are Eastern European or need to have all 5. Five?

    Prussia, once upon a time, was west of Lithuania. My mother, who was born in Lithuania and whose ancesters were from Prussia, was shamed because of her heritage. Prussi was not a nice thing to be called in our Lithuanian household.

    Lithuania may not rank third place on the list of sucide countries if some of those value judgements were gone. Did it not hold first place for a while? Anybody have an explaination for that?

    • Aliaen Xhaxhazhi says:

      Prussian was a Baltic tribe. They were also called Semba, Prusa. Germans stole their name and were using it for “their” country called Preussen, but today a lot of Germans have Baltic blood. All those blonde White Germans are actually Balts. Look at their baltic faces. The most beautiful people in the world come from Baltic Sea. Other Germans are Slavic and Germanic. Balts are one of the most Aryan people along with Swedes and other Scandinavians. They are most blonde people around the Baltic Sea and tallest. Lithuania is one of the best countries in the world and I have been there. No matter what you say, Baltics and Scandinavia rulez!

  24. Aliaen Xhaxhazhi says:

    Lithuania # 1 or # 3 for suicides because they are beautiful, intelligent, but depressed people because of the cold climate, but I personally think that a cold climate is much more soulful and has much more genius loci. Suicide rate has also something to do with the economic development, which is still lagging somehow.

  25. Brigita says:

    The only Lithuanians that wouldn’t mind being ‘Eastern European’ would be those that don’t mind Eastern Europe itself. When most people think of Eastern Europe, they imagine poor countries with cheap booze and ugly promiscuous girls. Whereas, when most people think of Northern Europe, they automatically assume Scandinavia and rich countries full of pretty blonde people. Now you see, those who like the lifestyle currently in Lithuania, would accept that they are Eastern European as they do not think outside the box and aren’t as eager for Lithuania to develop. Eastern Europe is poor and less developed than pretty much any other hemisphere in Europe. Those who have hope for Lithuania (they are possibly delusional though) will very much rather be called Northern European. I don’t even live in Lithuania, but I wish I did, and I wish I was old enough to make a change for the better. Because right now, even though Lithuania is in Northern Europe geographically ( AND THAT IS WHY YOU SHOULD CONSIDER IT NORTHERN EUROPEAN as it’s all about the precise geographical locations), it feels very much like it belongs in Eastern Europe. The accents itself, and the physical attributes make this clear. So yes, Lithuania is Eastern European due to its lifestyle (for now, as it WILL BECOME A BETTER COUNTRY), but it truly belongs in Northern Europe, and time for development will make this clear, and there won’t be anymore stupid threads as of such, and I won’t be tempted to respond to such intimidating posts.

    • CHEMTRAILS says:

      As far as I know, in 2014, the living standard in Lituania is better than in Portugal or Greece. The “accent” the way people speak (about 50% speak with a russified accent), will not disappear; it will always be there, unless the linguists will do an excellent job to eradicate beginning with kindergarten and the primary schools.

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