Dzukija
Overview
 
Dzūkija or Dainava is one of five ethnographic regions of Lithuania
Regions of Lithuania
Lithuania can be divided into historical and cultural regions . The exact borders are not fully clear, as the regions are not official political or administrative units. They are delimited by culture, such as country traditions, traditional lifestyle, songs, tales, etc. To some extent regions...

. Dzūkija is a cultural region defined by traditional lifestyles and dialects of the local Lithuanian population (mostly rural farmers) and has never been defined as a political or administrative unit. Traditionally, Alytus
Alytus
Alytus is a city with municipal rights in southern Lithuania. It is the capital of Alytus County. Its population in 2007 was 68,835. Alytus is the historical centre of the Dzūkija region. The city lies on the banks of the Nemunas River. The major highways linking Vilnius, Kaunas, Lazdijai, and...

 is regarded as the capital of the region, although it is not the largest city in Dzūkija.
Dzūkija is situated southeastern Lithuania
Lithuania
Lithuania , officially the Republic of Lithuania is a country in Northern Europe, the biggest of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, whereby to the west lie Sweden and Denmark...

 and consists of Alytus County
Alytus County
Alytus County is one of ten counties in Lithuania. It is the southernmost county, and its capital is the city of Alytus. Its territory lies within the ethnographic region of Dzūkija...

 and southern Vilnius County
Vilnius County
Vilnius County is the largest of the 10 counties of Lithuania, located in the east of the country around the city Vilnius. On 1 July 2010, the county administration was abolished, and since that date, Vilnius County remains as the territorial and statistical unit.-History:Until the Partitions of...

.
Encyclopedia
Dzūkija or Dainava is one of five ethnographic regions of Lithuania
Regions of Lithuania
Lithuania can be divided into historical and cultural regions . The exact borders are not fully clear, as the regions are not official political or administrative units. They are delimited by culture, such as country traditions, traditional lifestyle, songs, tales, etc. To some extent regions...

. Dzūkija is a cultural region defined by traditional lifestyles and dialects of the local Lithuanian population (mostly rural farmers) and has never been defined as a political or administrative unit. Traditionally, Alytus
Alytus
Alytus is a city with municipal rights in southern Lithuania. It is the capital of Alytus County. Its population in 2007 was 68,835. Alytus is the historical centre of the Dzūkija region. The city lies on the banks of the Nemunas River. The major highways linking Vilnius, Kaunas, Lazdijai, and...

 is regarded as the capital of the region, although it is not the largest city in Dzūkija.

Geography

Dzūkija is situated southeastern Lithuania
Lithuania
Lithuania , officially the Republic of Lithuania is a country in Northern Europe, the biggest of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, whereby to the west lie Sweden and Denmark...

 and consists of Alytus County
Alytus County
Alytus County is one of ten counties in Lithuania. It is the southernmost county, and its capital is the city of Alytus. Its territory lies within the ethnographic region of Dzūkija...

 and southern Vilnius County
Vilnius County
Vilnius County is the largest of the 10 counties of Lithuania, located in the east of the country around the city Vilnius. On 1 July 2010, the county administration was abolished, and since that date, Vilnius County remains as the territorial and statistical unit.-History:Until the Partitions of...

. Historically, the extended into northeastern Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 (Podlaskie Voivodeship
Podlaskie Voivodeship
Podlaskie Voivodeship , is a voivodeship in northeastern Poland. It borders on Masovian Voivodeship to the west, Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship to the northwest, Lublin Voivodeship to the south, the Belarusssian Voblasts of Grodno and Brest to the east, the Lithuanian Counties of Alytus and...

) and western Belarus
Belarus
Belarus , officially the Republic of Belarus, is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, bordered clockwise by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Its capital is Minsk; other major cities include Brest, Grodno , Gomel ,...

.

Large parts of Dzūkija have light sandy soil, unsuited for agriculture. Therefore the region is densely covered with pine forests, including Dainava Forest
Dainava Forest
The Dainava Forest is the largest forest in Lithuania. Located in Dzūkija region in southern Lithuania, it covers the total area of of which is covered by trees. A large part of the forest is protected by the Dzūkija National Park....

, the largest in Lithuania. The biggest swamp in Lithuania, the Čepkeliai Marsh
Cepkeliai Marsh
Čepkeliai marsh is the largest swamp in Lithuania, in the territory of Dzūkija National Park. Located south of Marcinkonys village, near the Lithuanian-Belarusian. The area of the swamp is protected as a natural reserve....

, is situated in the region near the border with Belarus. It is also the most sparsely populated region in Lithuania, with average population density dropping below 15 people per square kilometer in Varėna district municipality
Varena district municipality
Varėna district municipality is a municipality in southern Lithuania, Alytus County.- History :Along with Vilnius region, a large part of Varėna district municipality was on the Polish side of not-mutually recognized border during the interwar period. This was mainly due the strategic Warsaw –...

. Due to lower harvests in infertile soil, the region was relatively poorer that the rest of Lithuania. The farmers had to supplement their yields with edible mushrooms and berries collected in the forests. Mushroom hunting
Mushroom hunting
Mushroom hunting, mushrooming, mushroom picking, and similar terms describe the activity of gathering mushrooms in the wild, typically for eating...

 remains an important part of the local economy.

Two of the total 5 national parks in Lithuania are to be found in Dzūkija: Dzūkija National Park
Dzukija National Park
Dzūkija National Park - a national park in Dzūkija, Lithuania, was established in 1991 in order to preserve the pine forests, the landscape, and the villages of the region. The area encompasses approximately 550 square kilometers on the banks of the Nemunas River.The park is the largest protected...

 east of Varėna
Varena
Varėna is a city in Dzūkija, Lithuania.-History:The town was founded in 1862 near the Warsaw – Saint Petersburg Railway, south of Sena Varėna . At that time it was a small settlement, but following steady development it eventually became the center of the district in 1950. In the interbellum...

 established there in 1991 and Trakai National Historic Park near Trakai
Trakai
Trakai is a historic city and lake resort in Lithuania. It lies 28 km west of Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. Because of its proximity to Vilnius, Trakai is a popular tourist destination. Trakai is the administrative centre of Trakai district municipality. The town covers 11.52 km2 of...

 set up in 1992.

Language

People in Dzūkija traditionally speak the Dzūkian dialect (also known as South Aukštaitian), which is a sub-dialect of the Aukštaitian dialect
Aukštaitian dialect
Aukštaitian dialect is one of the dialects of the Lithuanian language, spoken in ethnographic regions of Aukštaitija, Dzūkija and Suvalkija. It became the basis for the standard Lithuanian language.-Classification:...

. Same as elsewhere in Lithuania, the local dialects are dying out as people adopt the standard Lithuanian
Lithuanian language
Lithuanian is the official state language of Lithuania and is recognized as one of the official languages of the European Union. There are about 2.96 million native Lithuanian speakers in Lithuania and about 170,000 abroad. Lithuanian is a Baltic language, closely related to Latvian, although they...

 through schools and mass media.

The very first Lithuanian handwritten texts from the early 16th century show traits of the Dzūkian dialect.

Coat of arms

Coat of arms of Dzūkija pictures a white armored warrior with a pollaxe in a blue shield. The blue color symbolizes loyalty and strength. The grand coat of arms is supported by two lynxes and has a Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 motto Ex gente bellicosissima populus laboriosus (Out of most warring tribe – industrious people). These symbols were created by heraldic artist Arvydas Každailis
Arvydas Každailis
upright|thumb|[[Coat of arms of Lithuania]] modernized by Každailis in 1991Arvydas Stanislavas Každailis is a Lithuanian artists, best known as the creator of many coat of arms for cities and towns of Lithuania...

 in 2003 using the historical symbols of Trakai
Trakai
Trakai is a historic city and lake resort in Lithuania. It lies 28 km west of Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. Because of its proximity to Vilnius, Trakai is a popular tourist destination. Trakai is the administrative centre of Trakai district municipality. The town covers 11.52 km2 of...

. Dzūkija was part of the Duchy of Trakai
Duchy of Trakai
Duchy of Trakai was a subdivision of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania during the 14th and early 15th centuries. The Duke of Trakai was an important position held either by the Grand Duke of Lithuania himself or his second-in-command.-History:...

 and later Trakai Voivodeship
Trakai Voivodeship
Trakai Voivodeship, Trakai Palatinate, or Troki Voivodeship , was a unit of administrative division and local government in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania from 1413 until 1795.-History:...

 from the 14th to late 18th century. The same image was used for coat of arms of Alytus County
Alytus County
Alytus County is one of ten counties in Lithuania. It is the southernmost county, and its capital is the city of Alytus. Its territory lies within the ethnographic region of Dzūkija...

, officially adopted in 2004. The coat of arms is a modified version of the coat of arms of Trakai district, which depicts a knight with a spear in a red shield. This symbol was taken from a seal used by Duke of Trakai Kęstutis
Kestutis
Kęstutis was monarch of medieval Lithuania. He was the Duke of Trakai and governed the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, 1342–82, together with his brother Algirdas , and with his nephew Jogaila...

 (died in 1382). The motto honors the memory of the Yotvingians
Yotvingians
Yotvingians or Sudovians were a Baltic people with close cultural ties to the Lithuanians and Prussians...

, one of the ancient Baltic tribes that lived in what is now Dzūkija and were considered fine warriors.
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