2022-01-12 兰陵笑笑生 24393

How did some European countries like Lithuania, Hungary and Denmark go from large medi empires to such small and weak states?


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Napoleon de Geso
, works at Iran's Nuclear Program
Just few dates about Lithuania and lithuanians
1253 Mindaugas crowned as first king of unified Lithuania
1547 published first book in lithuanian language (in Prussia, catechismus by lithuanian prostestant priest, and financed by Prussian duke)
1595 published first book in lithuanian language in Lithuanian Grand Duchy (catholic cathechismus)


Juan Flores
Do you know the meaning of the expression to get one's right deserts?

你知道 "罪有应得"的意思吗?

Erjon Hektor Nyköping
, former Cabin Crew at Scandinavian Airlines
Denmark is a very strong country and not at all weak.
It is very developed as well. A small country does not necessarily mean that it is weak. This question does not make sense.


Mick Montenegro
it makes sense…… Denmark is rich thats true, but Hungary and Lithuania are not. However, all three are political dwarves and unimportant players on global scene…. yet in the past they were the giants.


Erjon Hektor Nyköping
With all due respect and in the past, Egypt has built pyramids that we can not build with our technology but at the same time is a very poor country.
The past does not matter, the present matters. Denmark is not small, it has Greenland and Iceland, plus Scandinavia is a unx and it can be like before.
They are rich because they have a plan for the future and the economy, the west and Lithuania are dependent on other countries due to poor management policy


Christina Jensen
While Denmark is small, it is definetely not weak. Why it is so small, is because of arrogance. Thinking they could win against Sweden in the 1600 and Prussia in 1864, as Well as being forced to Pick Napoleon’s side during the Napoleonic Wars. But despite the hardship it found a Way to stay strong and devleoped. Not weak.
Hungary went from being part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, to being an independent country, after the abolishing of said Empire after WWI. Whether it is weak, I Can not say because I don’t know much of this country.


Maciej Kulczycki
Did not Denmark surrender immediately to the Third Reich?

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Christina Jensen
Yes, but unlike previous conflicts, after WWII we didn’t loose further territories and we also showed Resistance against the Nazis in several different ways.


Gunārs Miezis
, knows Russian
The ammoun of land a nation possesses is corelated to their strength. These days lietuvieši, hungarians, and danes are weaker compared to their neibors than they used to be thus they have less land than they used to.


Ognivo Vitaliy
, Entrepreneur
First of all, I disagree that Lithuania and Denmark are weak country.
Then, if we talk about medi Lithuania you must understand that it was three nations country. Modern Ukrainian, Belorussian and Lithuanians people lived in that country. Sometimes it called Grand Duchy of Lithuania of Russia and Samogitia. It was really big country which could gather huge armies.


Thomas Rijswijk
, lives in The Netherlands (1997-present)
I will have a go at explaining this, don’t take my answers as an absolute however as I’m leaving out various facts for the sake of posterity.
The main factor that led to the sudden and explosive growth of Lithuania after the 13th century was the fragmentation of Kievan Rus in the 11th century. This vast power vacuum created multiple splintered Russian states where previously there had been one vast power.
Lithuania was then in a prime position to pick up land from these states and expand into a behemoth of a country relative to its contemporaries. The issue here is that the majority of this land remained ethnically Russian/Byelorussian. I would imagine that even without it being sandwiched between Russia, Prussia and Austria Hungary the polish-Lithuanian commonwealth would eventually have collapsed to the rise of nationalism in the same vein Austro-Hungary did.
This explains why modern Lithuania is such a tiny and relatively ‘weak’ country, as current Lithuania solely spans area inhabited by ethnic Lithuanians instead of also incorporating an enormous number of Russians and Byelorussians.
Unlike Lithuania Hungary actually had a sizeable population going for it, but it still ended up as a ‘small’ country in Europe for the same reason Germany lost 1/3rd of its territory: the world wars.
The treaty of Trianon saw Hungary over 70% of the territory it had previously held within Austro Hungary. Most of this wasn’t inhabited by even a minority of Hungarians but it still saw enormous numbers of Hungarians split off. I imagine that the loss of this territory and its population/resources it one of the contributing factors to Hungary lack of ‘power’ in modern day Europe.
You should also think about the fact that most landlocked nations that aren’t especially rich in terms of resources can’t be expected to become ‘powerful’ in the modern world.
I’m not all that knowledgeable about Danish history, but I imagine most of its former power came from trade. As a Dutchmen I know the Netherlands experienced a period of immense wealth in parts thank to trading in grain from the Baltics and that the Danish profited from this by taxing any passage through their waters.
I guess Danish power declined as a result of trade moving towards the North sea instead of the Baltic sea and because of the end of Danish control over the Swedes and Norwegians.

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David Szabo
But in the medi times the percentages of the Hungarian population was much higher in Hungary (I do not count now Croatia because it was personal unx with Hungary and I do not see any problem that Croatia and Hungary now are indepent states). But it was many many wars and devastations and many immigrations, like today many immigrants move to western Europe thus the population is already different like 100 years ago.
Also the new border did not follow the ethnic borders and it cerated many new multi ethnic artificial countries where the Hungarians were supressed.


Nyerges Á. Zoltán
Using those post-medi data are not valid for Hungary. Because during the 300 years-long turkish wars most of the Hungarians were killed or dragged into slavery. This is how we became minority in our own country.


Bruno L
If you want a simple answer.
Lithuania because of Russia and Germany. Denmark because of the founder of Sweden. Hungary because of the world wars.
Mostly, European nations tended to coherence from shared similarities, but other powers would try to weaken them or keep them apart. That’s how you get the balance of power that fuels the dynamics of Europe since the Middle Ages to the current era.
This is of course an oversimplification. Form this general idea do some research.


Victor Haydin
, map lover
We modern people tend to put equality sign between modern states and historical ones that have a similar name and occupy somewhat similar territory. However, in fact most modern countries are Nation States, a concept that largely developed throughout 19th century. For sure there is certain continuity between modern Lithuania and medi Grand Duchy of Lithuania (GDL), as well as modern Hungary and medi Kingdom of Hungary, not talking about Kingdom of Denmark, which is still ruled by the same royal dynasty since 15th century or so. But this continuity shouldn’t be overestimated. Medi states weren’t nations: they were sort of family businesses specialized in governing, war, diplomacy and tax collection that controlled certain territories and were supported by elites living on these territories.
In some cases these territories were populated by rather homogenous ethnicity speaking the same language and because of that they were very similar to their descendant nation state. But in other cases, royal families and their closest allies were representing relatively small ethnic groups from smaller territories that gradually managed to expand their influence on neighbouring ethnicities, but couldn’t influence major change in language and identity of people living there. Both medi Lithuania and Hungary are examples of such. My answer will be mostly covering Lithuanian case, as I am more knowledgeable about it than about Hungary.
1000 years of European borders, source: Google.
Medi Grand Duchy of Lithuania (GDL) was build on ashes of Kyivan Rus’ destroyed by Mongolian invasion. Being largely untouched by Mongols, GDL was perfectly positioned to quickly fill the power vacuum that formed on Rus’ lands in the aftermath. In a very short time, Gediminids expanded their territory from what is modern territory of Lithuania to include what is now Belarus and majority of Ukraine. Of course these territories were still populated by Ruthenians, who were a majority in this new great empire of Eastern Europe. For most of the people living there at the time transfer of power to Lithuanian state wasn’t really a big deal: they were still living lives they lived before, speaking the same language, practicing the same religion, sometimes even paying taxes to the same local lord, even though the latter would transfer a cut of it to someone else.
Map of Grand Duchy of Lithuania at its greatest extent. Greyish northwestern territory is a ethnic Lithuanian territories, from where it all expanded. Green territories are mostly former lands of Kyivan Rus, populated by Ruthenians.
Despite being ruled by Lithuanian royal family, this state used Ruthenian language as one of the official languages, along with Lithuanian and Polish. Statutes of Lithuania (legal code of the state) were written in three languages including Ruthenian. In fact, the text itself was heavily based on Rus’ka Pravda - medi legal code of Kyivan Rus, first written by Yaroslav the Wise, Grand Duke of Kyiv in 11th century.
Ruthenian nobility such as Ostrogsky, Wiśniowiecki, Czartoryski were backbone of ruling elite, occupying the highest positions in state, going as high as King/Grand Duke’s position itself in later periods (see Michał Korybut Wiśniowiecki). Of course, over time most of these families gradually drifted towards dominant ethnicity in the state, in this case Polish, which dominated the Commonwealth after unx of Lublin was signed and GDL itself started to lose its autonomy.
Now, why Lithuanians couldn’t assimilate conquered territories?
First and foremost, Grand Duchy of Lithuania wasn’t really that Lithuanian except in the name. According to modern estimates, by the time it finished expansion to former Rus’ lands, ethnic Lithuanians were only about 10–14% of total population: Demographics of Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Of course, being such a small portion of total population it was hard if not impossible for ethnic Lithuanians to assimilate much larger Ruthenian population. Since importance of nation-building wasn’t understood back then, no one cared about system assimilation policy. In contrary, GDL was using “keep the old way, don’t introduce new” when integrating former Rus’ territories and this was one of the key success factors of this integration process.
Second factor is the distance one has to go to be assimilated. Language plays central role here. An Ukrainian or Belarusian person understands significant part of Polish or Russian text even without learning it before. That’s not the case with Lithuanian. Lithuanian language is not Slavic, it is Baltic. Both groups are distantly related, but understanding and speaking Lithuanian isn’t easy for speakers of most of slavic languages. As a Ukrainian I can’t really understand Lithuanian: it is almost completely foreign for me.
Map of Lexical Distance between European languages. Lithuanian is quite far from most of Slavic languages. At the same time Polish and Ruthenian (which eventually split into Ukrainian and Belarusian) are closely related. This map also hints that Hungarian language is in similar position as well.
Perhaps even more important element of medi identity was religion and here Lithuanians had a roadblock as well. Despite ruling dynasty converting to Christianity as early as middle of 13th century, most of Lithuanians were practicing local polytheistic religion as long as till the end of 14th century. This of course wasn’t helpful as well, especially that Christians were rather hostile towards pagan religions.
Finally, when it comes to the legacy of Grand Duchy of Lithuania, one has to understand that it is not only modern Lithuania who has some claim for it. In fact, one of the central elements of Belarusian historiography, used by opposition to current pro-Russian government is that Belarus formed its own identity under the rule of Grand Duchy of Lithuania, played important if not central role in its life during 14–16 century and has to trace its origins back to that period. It is not a coincidence that flag used by Belarusian opposition resembles that of GDL:
GDL Royal Banner, circa 16th century
Flag of Belarus in 1918 and 1991–1995
Antigovernmental Protests in Belarus, 2021


尽管由立陶宛王室统治,但这个国家使用鲁塞尼亚语作为官方语言之一,同时还有立陶宛语和波兰语。立陶宛的法规(国家的法典)是用包括鲁塞尼亚语在内的三种语言编写的。事实上,文本本身在很大程度上是基于Rus'ka Pravda--基辅罗斯的中世纪法典,由基辅大公Yaroslav the Wise在11世纪首次撰写。


Silvestras Guoga
Rhutenian nobility was never a backbone of the rulling elite in the grand Duchy of Lithuania. For a very simple reason - in order to participate in ruling the state one had to be a Catholic. Before the baptism of the country the unwritten rule of the Gediminids was - once you baptised as an Orthodox you were loosing the right to the throne. That is why Ruthenian lands were seen as provinces for cousins or former enemies to rule. Ethnic Lithuanian lands were considered a patrimony and a center. The claim that Belarus which didn’t exist back then as ethnicity and even a region played central role in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania is ridiculous.


Lavoy Joe
, studies Science & History at St. Mary's Catholic High School (2023)
Lithuania and Hungary were enormous empires in the Middle Ages.
Nowadays Lithuania’s territory is only 65,300 sq km, and Hungary covers an area of only 93,030 sq km.
The Kingdom of Hungary was invaded and occupied by the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century. Greater Hungary survived as part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until its collapse 1918. The multiethnic state broke up and Hungary’s territory was limited to the ethnic Magyar areas.
The Grand Duchy of Lithuania lost vast territories to Muscovy / Russia during the 16th century. Then it joined Poland to form the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, which survived until its partition between Russia, Prussia, and Austria in 1795. Lithuania reemerged after the collapse of the Russian and German empires in 1918.

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Ákos Németh
A bit add-on: “and Hungary’s territory was limited to 60% of the ethnic Magyar areas”


Marek Mošať
you forgot to mention, that most of the other territories with Hungarians (not all) were populated also by other nationalities. But, ofcourse, this little detail is inconvenient for your ideology.

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Mitch Ribberson
Like pretty much every single territory out there. What really matters is percentage of that ethnic group and if that makes them majority.


Genghis Khan
An interesting aside to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth: all legislation had to be UNANIMOUS to become law. Think about that for a second. The government couldn’t get anything done because the legislature could never unanimously agree on anything.


Julius Geonczeol
Hungary was broken up by the entente after 1919 because they could not brake the Hungarians during ww1. After the armictice at Padua they simply armed bands of chechs Serbs and rumanians to enter Hungary against the existing armistice terms. No wonder that Putin says that any agreement with the west is no more valuable and worthless even the paper that is written on.


Juan Felipe Motta
Are you serious? The Austro-Hungarian army was in tatters by late 1918, there was nothing the Hungarian half could have done to stem the tide. Also, by your logic bands of armed rabble from Serbia and Romania were able what (by your own admission) the full might of the Entente armies couldn't, give me a break.