The Baltic Region

2019 Vol. 11 №1

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The Polish minority in the Republic of Lithuania: internal and external factors



The ethnic makeup of the population significantly affects the domestic policy of any state, and its relations with neighbouring countries. Although interactions with ethnic minorities are not as urgent a problem in Lithuania as they are in the two other Baltic States, ethnicity-related conflicts continue to occur, particularly, as regards the relations between the Lithua­nian state and the Polish minority, which is the largest in the country. The Polish minority—Lithuania—Poland relations are not the only factor that affects the situation of the Poles in Lithuania. The other important factors are Lithuania and Poland’ EU membership, the rela­tions between Lithuania and Russia, and the Russian minority in Lithuania. Our analysis shows that the EU membership of Lithuania and Poland did not provide an instant solution to the problem of the Polish minority but rather attenuated it. Although the EU factor played a significant role before the accession of Poland and Lithuania to the Union, its influence is very limited today. The effect of the Russian factor is different. Strained Polish-Russian rela­tions do not affect the relations between the Polish and Russian minorities in Lithuania. On the contrary, both minorities collaborate on a wide range of issues.