Vilniaus universiteto Teisės fakulteto
Teisės teorijos ir istorijos katedros
Saulėtekio al. 9, I rūmai, LT-10222 Vilnius
Tel. (+370 5) 236 61 75
National minorities have always been an integral part of European history. However the main problem was not the plurality of minorities, but the attitude of different states towards them. National minorities played (and still are playing) a great role in international relations, especially in relations between neighbour states.
The first chapter of the article briefly reviews the history of protection of national minorities in Europe. The origin of modern concept of protection of national minorities is the protection of religious minorities in the Middle Ages.
The second chapter of the article deals with the analysis of protection of national minorities in the interwar Europe. The League of Nations system, based on four types of international obligations, is discussed. Treaty between Principal Allied and Associated Powers and Poland (Polish Treaty) served as a model for other so-called minority treaties.
The third chapter of the article reveals the ethnic composition of the interwar Lithuania. About 20 proc. of Lithuanian population belonged to different national minorities, who played a substantial role in the life of Lithuania. Considering Vilnius region, which was settled mostly by Poles and Jews, proportion of national minorities in interwar Lithuania would have been even bigger – up to 30 proc. of whole population.
The fourth chapter of the article is devoted to the analysis of Lithuanian citizenship. While recognizing the right to citizenship Lithuanian authorities followed the domicile principle, irrespective to the nationality.
The fifth chapter of the article analyses the Declaration Concerning the Protection of Minorities in Lithuania (May 1922). This Declaration was adopted by Lithuanian government as a condition of membership in the League of Nations. Basically it repeated provisions of Polish Treaty.
The sixth chapter deals with the provisions concerning national minorities in permanent Lithuanian Constitutions. The Constitutions from 1922 and 1928 had separate chapters on the rights of national minorities. However in 1938 such chapter disappeared from the Constitution. This fact reflected the change in attitude towards national minorities in the forth decade of XX century.
The seventh chapter discusses the special status of Memel (Klaipeda region).
The last, ninth, chapter of the article reviews the factual situation of national minorities in the interwar Lithuania. The Jews and the Germans were the most favoured minorities. On the other hand, the Poles were in much worse situation due to permanent conflict with Poland over Vilnius region.