Poles in Lithuania

The Polish minority in Lithuania (Polish: Polacy na Litwie, Lithuanian: Lietuvos lenkai), estimated at 164,000 people, according to the Lithuanian estimates of 2015, or 5.6% of the total population of Lithuania, is the largest ethnic minority in the country and the second largest Polish diaspora group among the post-Soviet states after the one in Belarus. Poles are concentrated in the Vilnius Region. According to Polish[4] and Lithuanian research,[5][6][7][8] they are mostly Slavicized Lithuanians, although Walter C. Clemens mentions a Belarusian origin.[9]

Poles in Lithuania
Polish minority marching in Vilnius (2008)
Total population
200,317 (2011 census),[1] 164,000 (2015 estimates)[2]
Regions with significant populations
Vilnius County
Polish, Lithuanian, Russian, Belarusian
Predominantly Roman Catholic[3]
Related ethnic groups
Poles, Lithuanians, Belarusians

The relationship between Poles and Lithuanians has been long and complex. From 1588 until 1840, the Lithuanian Statutes forbid Polish nobility from purchasing manors in Lithuanian territory, regardless of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth uniting both Poland and Lithuania.[6] Both nations simultaneously lost their independence after the Commonwealth was partitioned in the late 18th century and they regained their independence in the wake of World War I, but hostilities over the ownership of Vilnius and the surrounding region broke out in 1920. The disputes became politically moot after the Soviet Union exercised power over both countries after World War II. Lithuania–Poland relations were tense over the Vilnius Region after Lithuanian independence in 1990.[10][11] Poland was highly supportive[how?] of Lithuanian independence and became one of the first[citation needed] countries to recognize independent Lithuania, despite apprehensions over Lithuania's treatment[clarification needed] of its Polish minority.[12][13][14]