Saturday, October 24, 2009

Migration & Eastern Europe

There is an interesting discussion about the current state of the economies in Eastern Europe on

It seems to me that the crisis in the Baltic states and their chosen devaluation model (internal vs. external - i.e. wholesale salary cuts vs. currency devaluation) has intensified exodus of people - as the cuts in salaries and reduction of business opportunities have forced them to believe that it is better elsewhere.

If memory serves me right, I think the number of people who have already left those countries is similar to the number of people who were forcibly deported from the Baltics to the Gulags before and after WWII.

Is there a way to quantify how the chosen devaluation policy affects emigration? Would it be fair to say that the cost of having a pegged currency is increased emigration? Is this worth it - esp. considering example of Poland which devaluated the currency and currently is experiencing milder (relatively speaking) effects of the crisis?

Speaking about emigration, presents a cool videograph of migration of people Worldwide:

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Litvaks

Yesterday I had a pleasure to participate in Mark Ozer's presentation of his book called "The Litvak Legacy".

This was a very interesting presentation that provided a discussion of causes of Litvak emigration and their influence world-wide. It would take too much time to tell all the interesting facts and stories that were presented there. I will give just one here - did you know that the Jewish community of South Africa is dominated by Litvaks? There is an interesting reason for that. It seems that there was a person by name Marks who emigrated to South Africa when the diamond trade was just at its beginning. He was quite a capable fellow and became very rich. Later, when the Synagogue in his town of birth in the old country burned down, he sent (if memory serves me right) 2000 golden pounds to rebuild it. That was a big sum of money back then in the Russian empire. So guess what - every Jew around that town decided that South Africa is the country where they want to go to.

Lithuanian history cannot be looked at without considering all the people that lived there. If you go to and look at the bestsellers related to Lithuania (Bestsellers in Books Any Category > Books > History > Europe > Lithuania) you will find that Lithuanian Jews or Litvaks figure there prominently.

Litvaks made a significant contribution to Lithuanian culture during the Soviet times as well and do so presently. Since the pop culture is most visible and accessed by perhaps the most people I'll just give few examples from this area - think about Danielius Dolskis, or pop groups "Kertukai" or "Hiperbole".

1. The Jews that once lived in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania can be considered Litvaks.
2. A note aside - the name "Grand Duchy of Lithuania" comes from the fact that the country was not Christian and therefore had no King that was approved by the Pope as it was common in Europe at that time.
The term Lithuanian Grand Duchy does not to indicate that it had was a subject of some other country. Linguists perhaps know more, but in Lithuanian the word "kunigaikštis" comes from "kunigas" - that in Lithuanian means a "priest", but in Old Prussian means a "knight" - and perhaps then meant "knight of knights" or something like that. One more consideration would be to think about transformation of Balt "Kunigas/kunigaikštis -> Kunigaikštystė" and consider German "Koenig -> Koenigreich". So in essence it was a Kingdom ruled by what to outsiders seemed a Grand Duke but the meaning held by locals was that the person was a King - confusing, no?

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Įdomus T.Venclovos straipsnelis

Gan įdomiai parašyta apie Vilnių. Man patiko diskusija apie "lenkišką" periodą ir kitų kultūrų apžvalga.

Taip pat įdomu kad straipnelis panašu buvo parašytas lenkiškai (gale nurodyta vertėja) - gal ir simboliška: juk Lietuvos ir Lenkijos istorija ilgą laiką buvo neatsiejama. Juk berods dar ir dabar Lietuvoj populiariausia pavarde yra Kazlauskas (Kozlowski) - tai tik įrodo kiek daug panašumo ir abipusės įtakos kažkada buvo tarp šių dviejų tautų. (Beje, dar viena nuoroda apie pavardes iš Kauno Dienos: