Since 1918, Lithuanian (lietuvių kalba) has been the official state language of Lithuania, and since 2004 a recognised official language of the European Union. The overall Lithuanian-speaking population amounts to approximately 3.2 million, both in Lithuania and abroad. Lithuanian is also an acknowledged minority language in Poland, Belarus, Latvia, and the Kaliningrad Oblast of Russia.
Along with Latvian, Lithuanian is an East Baltic language of the Indo-European language family. Lithuanian, believed to be the most conservative Indo-European language, maintains many structures unique to early languages such as Sanskrit or Ancient Greek. Before variances began appearing between Lithuanian and Latvian in 800 ACE, these languages could be seen as dialects of a single language.
Appearing in 1547, Catechism by Martynas Mažvydas was the first printed Lithuanian book. Lithuanian books existed after this but were not regularly obtainable, as literacy through the 18th century was low among Lithuanian people. After the January Uprising in 1864, the Russian Governor General of Lithuania, Mikhail Muravyov, banned the use of the Latin alphabet and the Lithuanian language in teaching and printing. Nevertheless, Lithuanian books were still published in East Prussia and the United States and smuggled into the country. Despite the threat of imprisonment, these book runners helped encourage a growing independence movement that eventually resulted in the sanction being lifted in 1904. Lithuania now boasts a monument erected in honour of book smugglers.
Language conservation and eradication strategies have been established by the Lithuanian government in an attempt to remove loanwords from the language and replace it with new equivalent words. Unfortunately, many English terms, particularly to do with technology, have already become accepted and are now included in the Lithuanian lexicon.
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