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Governor-General of Lithuania

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Title: Governor-General of Lithuania  
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Governor-General of Lithuania

Виленская губерния
Vilenskaya guberniya
Vilna Governorate
Governorate of the Russian Empire


Coat of arms

Vilna Governorate (light green), 1843-1915
Capital Vilnius
 -  Third Partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth 1795
 -  World War I 1915

The Vilna Governorate (1795–1915) (also known as Lithuania-Vilnius Governorate from 1801 until 1840) (Russian: Виленская губерния, Vilenskaya guberniya, Lithuanian: Vilniaus gubernija, Polish: gubernia wileńska) or Government of Vilnius was a governorate (guberniya) of the Russian Empire created after the Third Partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1795. It was part of the Lithuanian General Governorate, which was called the Vilnius General Governorate after 1830, and was attached to the Northwestern Krai. The seat was in Vilnius (Vilna in Russian), where the Governors General resided.


The first governorates, Vilnius Governorate (consisting of eleven uyezds or districts) and Slonim Governorate, were established after the third partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Just a year later, on December 12, 1796, by order of Tsar Paul I they were merged into one governorate, called the Lithuanian Governorate, with its capital in Vilnius.[1] By order of Tsar Alexander I on September 9, 1801, the Lithuanian Governorate was split into the Lithuania-Vilnius Governorate and the Lithuania-Grodno Governorate. After 39 years, the word "Lithuania" was dropped from the two names by Nicholas I.[2] In 1843, another administrative reform took place, creating the Kaunas Governorate (Kovno in Russian) out of seven western districts of the Vilnius Governorate, including all of Žemaitija. The Vilnius Governorate received three additional districts: Vileyka and Dzisna from the Minsk Governorate and Lida from Grodno Governorate.[3] It was divided to districts of Vilnius, Trakai, Disna, Oshmyany, Lida, Vileyka and Sventiany. This arrangement remained unchanged until World War I. A part of the Vilnius Governorate was then included in the Lithuania District of Ober-Ost, formed by the occupying German Empire.

During the Polish-Soviet War, the area was annexed by Poland. In 1923, the Wilno Voivodeship was created, which existed until 1939, when the Soviet Union occupied Lithuania and Poland and returned most of the Polish-annexed land to Lithuania. It is important to note that the annexation of Vilnius and the surrounding territory by the Poles in 1920 was not recognized by other countries; however, the area could not be retaken then by the Lithuanians as Lithuania barely had a standing army in 1920, having only rid itself of Russian rule in 1918.


In 1834, the Vilnius Governorate had about 789,000 inhabitants; by 1897, the population had grown to about 1,591,000 residents[4] (37 per square kilometer) The population was 56.1 percent Belarussians due to forced settlement and the exiling of native Lithuanians, 17.6 percent Lithuanian, 12.7 percent ethnic Jewish and 8.2 percent Polish.[5] Between 1862 and 1909 (see table below), the proportion of Lithuanians in the territory declined steadily as the proportion of Slavic-speakers (Russians, Belarussians and Poles) increased with the effects of Russification and the exiling of ethnic Lithuanians to Siberia. Between the Lithuanian independence of 1918 and the Polish occupation of 1920, there was little time for ethnic Lithuanians to reoccupy the territory. This trend of Slavic settlement and predominance did not begin to reverse until 1944, when an exodus of Poles to Poland began under occupation by the Soviet Union; between 1944 and 1946, about 150,000 people, mostly but not all of Polish extraction, left the area for Poland (about 10 percent of this group may have been Lithuanians hoping to escape Soviet rule). Between 1955 and 1959, another 46,000 Poles left Lithuania (see the Ethnic history of the Vilnius region). Meanwhile, the Jewish population of the area, just as in the rest of Lithuania, was virtually exterminated by the Nazis during World War II. As of 2001, ethnic Lithuanians once again predominated within the city of Vilnius (59 percent), but the area of the former governorate as a whole remained about 62 percent Polish, with the percentage of Russians (8.6) and Belarussians (4.4) having dwindled to a tiny minority.


Uyezds in 1795 Uyezds in 1843
Braslaw (since 1835 Novoaleksandrovsk (Zarasai)) To Kovno Governorate
From Minsk Governorate Dzisna
Kovno (Kaunas) To Kovno Governorate
From Grodno Governorate Lida
Raseiniai To Kovno Governorate
Šiauliai To Kovno Governorate
Telšiai To Kovno Governorate
Ukmergė To Kovno Governorate
Upytė (since 1843 Panevėžys) To Kovno Governorate
From Minsk Governorate Vileyka
Vilna (Vilnius)

Governors General residing in Vilnius

Ethnic composition

Russian authorities periodically performed censuses. However, they reported strikingly different numbers:[6]

Year Total Lithuanians Poles Belarusians Russians Jews Other
1862 838,464 418,880 50% 154,386 18% 146,431 17% 14,950 2% 76,802 9% 27,035 3%
1865 891,715 210,273 24% 154,386 17% 418,289 47% 27,845 3% 76,802 9% 4,120 0%
1883 1,192,000 417,200 35% 281,312 24% 239,592 20% - 176,416 15% 77,480 7%
1897 1,561,713 274,414 18% 126,770 8% 880,940 56% 75,803 5% 197,929 13% 5,857 0%
1909 1,550,057 231,848 15% 188,931 12% 570,351 37% 408,817 26% 146,066 9% 4,094 0%

See also


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