This unit was developed by Vytautas Volungevičius   Bibliography   Didactic Comments

Information Text   Source Sheet   Worksheet 


Source Sheet: Vilnius 1655, Russian Invasion - Multiethnical structure of population

1. What is reflected by the old names of city streets?

In modern Vilnius you can find German (Vokiečių g.), Jewish (Žydų g.), Tartarian (Totorių g.), Russian (Rusų g.) streets. They are situated in the old city and reflect the old names of the streets originated in the old times, when on the German street the Germans were living, on the Jewish street – the Jews, on the Tartarian street – the Tartars, on the Russian street – the Ruthenians.

Žydų g. / Jewish str.
Žydų g. / Houses in Jewish str.
Vokiečių g. / Name of German street
Vokiečių g. / Houses in the German str.
Totorių g. / Tartarian str.
Rusų g. / Russian str.


1. Find the German (Vokiečių g.), Jewish (Žydų g.), Tartarian (Totorių g.), Russian (Rusų g.) streets on the interactive map of the old city of the modern Vilnius. For search use a zoom function.


2. In many European cities the multicultural society has formed. It is especially notable since the second part of 20th c. Do you think the category of ”multicultural society” could be applied while describing the structure of citizens of Vilnius city in 16th  and 17th cc.?

2. Since when only Jews have settled on the German street in Vilnius?

„The Jews living in Vilnius were mentioned in the document of 1567. But then they had no right to buy houses, they could only lease them; the Jews got right to buy buildings in Vilnius only in 1593. At first they could dwell only in the lands not belonging to magistrate, which were called “jurisdics”. At the end of 16th - beginning of 17th centuries they were allowed to settle and buy property on the  Jewish, St. Michael’s and Butcher’s streets; they could dwell also on German street, but the windows of their flats could not come to the street’s side“.

Lietuvos tautinės mažumos. Kultūros paveldas. – Vilnius: Kronta, 2001, p. 43.

[Ethnic groups if Lithuania. The heritage of culture.]


Find the German street (Die Deutsche goße) in the plan of Vilnius city published in the Braun’s atlas

And now read what the famous Polish writer and historian of 19th c., Józef Ignacy Kraszewski, wrote in his memories of Vilnius of  1830-1835, where he connected the present condition with the deeper past of city. Here about the German street:

“On the German street, where since XVII century only the Jews have been dwelling with the draper’s shops, the bill services, is plenty of Jews, has set the Israeli spring (a new-school style), is plenty of very busy people, hurrying,  finishing to manage their matters in the street because of quickness;…”

Juzefas Ignacas Kraševskis. Vilniaus prisiminimai 1830-1835. In: Švyturys, 1989, Nr. 9, p. 26.

[Józef Ignacy Kraszewski. The memories of Vilnius 1830-1835.]


1. What has happened that the Jews, who were allowed to dwell on the German street only on the yard side, during 17th  c. set over the whole German street? How could it be explained?

2. Where the Germans vanished from the German street?

While answering these questions, pay attention to the changes of structure of Vilnius’ townsmen due to the Russian occupation in 1655-1661.

3.  New citizens of Vilnius in 1661–1795

The New Citizens of Vilnius after 1661

“The meaning of conception of a „New citizen“ is such: it is an adult  person of male gender, who swears (or has just sworn) the fidelity for the city government and for this reason becomes a member of citizens’ estate. This phenomenon is also called as “admission to the city” both in the sources and in historiography. The phrase “a new citizen” is the equivalent to the Latin term “civis novus”. By this term a person admitted to the citizens was called in the books of Vilnius city council acts and in the protocol books. This term is used also in historiographies of the neighbour states, in the towns of which the Magdeburg Law was effectual, it means of Germany (“Neubürger”) and Poland (“nowy obywatel”).

We know about the new citizens from the so called “new citizens’ acts”. These acts are one of many sorts of records, prepared at the Vilnius council office. They are important because of fact that there the data, which is the most necessary for the exploration, is presented: the name of a new citizen, the title of activity, place of origin and date of city right receiving.”  – P. 12-13.

“The available data show that the activity of the municipality – the authority governing the Magdeburg-Law part of the city – was renewed completely after 1663, i.e. afer the wars and other disasters of the mid-seventeenth century. There are also some data about new citizens going back to 1661. Therefore this year is taken as the starting point of the period under investigation, and its end is the date of the Third Partition (1795) of Poland and Lithuania by Austria, Prussia and Russia, thus mrking the demise of the GDL”. – P. 377.

Urbanavičius A. Vilniaus naujieji miestiečiai 1661–1795 m. – Vilnius, 2005.
[Urbanavičius, A. The New Citizens of Vilnius (1661-1795)]

The number of new citizens in Vilnius according to the coutries of origin in 1661–1795

Grand Duchy of Lithuania  3139

Kingdom of Poland  334

Germany  305

Eastern Prussian  251

Dominion of Habsburgs (Austria, Czechia)  89

Curonia and Livonia  64

Russia   44

Scandinavia  16

Mediterranean coast  14

Balcans    7

France   6

Switzerland   5

Holland     3

England  2

Armenia  1

Persia   1

Unmarked  62

Undefined  10

Urbanavičius A. Vilniaus naujieji miestiečiai 1661–1795 m. – Vilnius, 2005, p. 216.


1. Analyse the statistical data. Calculate approximately, what  % of new townsmen of Vilnius was made by local citizens of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and what one by foreigners. What resumptive conclusion can you make following the obtained data?

2. From what country the most of foreigners arrived? For what reason, by your opinion?

3. Indicate the lands from where the foreigners came to Vilnius.

General Tasks

1. What can you tell about your city and the situation within it? Is it multiethnical? What do you think about the minorities? What is the minorities policy in your country? Are people enough tolerant to others which come from different culture or speak different language?

2. How can you explain the different between ruthenians and modern-day Russians, Ukrainians and Byelorussians?

3. Think about your country history and write what do you know about minorities which lived in your country five century before? What changed until today?