• 2007-10-24
  • Aleksas Vilcinskas, London

With reference to your "Lietuva in brief" article (TBT Vol.10, #577) about Muslims in Lithuania, the [Lithuanian Security Services'] notion that Lithuanian mosques could be infiltrated by terrorists is ludicrous.

Most of the 3,000 Muslims in Lithuania are descendants of Tatars who originally settled in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania some 610 years ago in the time of Vytautas the Great. Some were migrants, others refugees from internecine strife, yet others prisoners of war. They were renowned cavalrymen and served in Vytautas' army as such. They played a notable part in the famous Battle of Zalgiris against the Teutonic Knights. The military tradition continues to this day although over the centuries the majority became farmers and craftsmen, latterly professionals and academics. A Lithuanian Tatar, Capt. R. Vilcinskas, recently returned from duty with NATO forces in Afghanistan.

There are Tatar mosques in Kaunas (Totoriu g. 6), 40 Totoriu kaimas (40 Tatars' Village, just south of Vilnius on the road to Baltoji Voke), Nemezis (just southeast of Vilnius on E28/A3 highway), and in Raiziai (Alytus Region). The site of the Vilnius mosque can be found by going to Mecetes gatve (Mosque Street). Obvious traces of earlier Tatar communities may be found in place names with the root 'Totor…,' e.g. Totoriu (genitive plural of Totorius), Totoriskiai and the like. There is a Totoriu gatve (street) in Vilnius Old Town.

Lithuanian Tatar communities are small; most families are interrelated and have known one another for generations. Any stranger can be identified immediately, any terrorist suspect would be reported to the security services without delay. There are very few converts 's Christian women who marry Middle Eastern students and leave the country with their husbands.


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