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Lithuania/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.4 Cultural diversity and inclusion policies

The Lithuanian Constitution, adopted by a referendum in October 1992, accords ethnic communities the right to administer their affairs, including cultural, educational and charitable organisations and mutual assistance. It promises state support for ethnic communities and gives the right to citizens who belong to ethnic communities to foster their language, culture and customs.

According to the data of Statistics Lithuania, there were 2 943 472 people living in Lithuania at the beginning of 2014 (see: In comparison with 2013 the population decreased by more than 28 000.

Since the early 13th century, the Lithuanian state has been multinational,multilingual, multicultural and multireligious. According to the population census of 2011, there were 154 nationalities living in Lithuania: Lithuanians – 84.2%, Polish – 6.6%, Russian – 5.8%, Belarusian – 1.2%, Ukrainian – 0.5%, others – 1.7 %. In comparison with the population census in 2001, the national composition of the population of Lithuania has changed very little. Lithuania is the most ethnically homogeneous of the Baltic states. There are smaller populations of Armenians, Germans, Karaims (Karaites), Latvians, Moldovans, Roma, Tatars and Uzbeks. The capital of Lithuania, Vilnius, is the most multinational andmultilingual city in Lithuania: in 2011 there were 128 nationalities living in the city.

According to population census, 59 religious communities lived in Lithuania in 2011. The main religious communities are: Roman Catholics (77.2%), Orthodox (4.1%), Old Believers (0.8%), Lutherans (0.6%), and Evangelical Reformers (0.2%), etc.

Specific minority rights were established by the Citizenship Law, adopted in November 1989 (amended in 1991), before the renewal of independence. Lithuania was the first country of Central and East Europe to pass the Law on National Minorities. This law gave most people in the republic the right to choose whether to become a Lithuanian citizen. The Law applied most directly to people who settled in Lithuania while it was annexed by the Soviet Union. More than 90 per cent of ethnic Poles, Russians, Belarusians and Ukrainians residing in Lithuania in 1991 renounced their previous citizenship and were granted Lithuanian citizenship. By adopting the so-called zero option, which gave all people residing in the republic the right to choose, if they wish, to become a Lithuanian citizen, Lithuania has virtually eliminated the critical issue of citizenship that dominates interethnic relations in the other Baltic countries.

The Law guarantees the right of national minorities to receive state support for fostering of their national culture, access to information and press in their native language and to establish cultural and educational organisations. The State Language Law (1995) gives national minorities the right to publish information and organise events in their native language alongside the official language (Lithuanian). However other points of language policy raised discussions recently, such as the legality of Polish street names in the Polish-dominated municipalities. Inter-ethnic relations are generally good in Lithuania. Unlike in many European nations, Lithuania's largest ethnic minorities enjoy public schools where the language of instruction is their native one rather than the official Lithuanian language (see:

In 2000, the Seimas of Lithuania ratified the Council of Europe Framework Convention on the Protection of National Minorities (1995).

The Lithuanian state television and radio programmes also broadcast programmes in languages other than Lithuanian and books and newspapers are available in the languages of the national minorities.

The state's legislation guarantees that everyone has the right to choose / or not to which national minority he / she belongs. Therefore, the terms "official" or "non-official status" of national minorities is not used in practice.   

The Law of Education (1991, amended in 2003) states that educational institutions must incorporate information on ethnic cultures into their curricula and that national minorities should have access to pre-and post-grade schools funded by the state, including lessons in their own language. There is some evidence that national minority families are sending their children to primarily Lithuanian-medium schools, suggesting that social integration processes are advancing successfully.

In 2009 the Department of National Minorities and Lithuanians Living Abroad, under the government of Lithuania, was liquidated and its functions were delegated to the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Education and Science. The main reason to divide the functions of the Department was government's decision to reduce the number of institutions under the government. The Ministry of Culture became responsible for national minorities living in the country, the Ministry of Education and Science for schools and education of national minorities, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Lithuanian community living abroad. The Division of National Minorities and the Expert Commission of National Minorities operates at the Ministry of Culture.

With a view to co-ordinating the state's policy in the field of national minorities, the Ministry of Culture is implementing the Strategy for Development of National Minorities and the Action Plan for Integration of the Roma community into Lithuanian society for the year 2012–2014.

The state provides financial support for institutions such as the Russian Drama Theatre of Lithuania and the Vilnius Gaon Jewish State Museum of Lithuania as well as for municipalities with a large number of national minorities e.g., in the South-East region of Lithuania where Polish and Russian minorities dominate. Nearly 300 non-governmental organisations of national minorities are engaged in active cultural activities in Lithuania. The non-governmental organisations have been established by Armenian, Azerbaijani, Belarusian, Bulgarian, Chechen, Estonian, Greek, Caraite, Latvian, Polish, Roma, Romanian, Russian, Tatar, Ukrainian, Uzbek, Hungarian, German, Jewish and other persons belonging to national minorities. These are cultural, educational, professional and other organisations. Their educational and cultural projects are financed from the state budget.

Periodicals and magazines in the Russian, Polish, Yiddish and Tatar languages are published in Lithuania. Distribution of newspapers according to language is as follows: 91.8% Lithuanian; 6.9% Russian; 1.2% Polish; other 0.1%. There were 585 magazines and other periodicals published in 2013: 87.8% Lithuanian; 8.8% English; 1.3% Russian; 0.5% Polish, other 1.6% (data of 2013; see: Lithuanian Radio and Television broadcasts information for national minorities in the Russian, Belarusian, Polish, Yiddish and Ukrainian languages. Since 2008 daily information in Russian is available via the internet (, and since 2012 in Polish (

With a view to meeting the cultural and educational needs of Lithuanian national minorities, several social activity centres of national minorities have been established: the House of National Communities in Vilnius (in 1991), the Kaunas Cultural Centre of Various Nations Culture (in 2004), the Roma Community Centre (in 2001), and the Folklore and Ethnography Centre of the Lithuanian National Minorities (in 2007; see:

Chapter published: 28-11-2014

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