Lithuanian Statute (FLS).
Drafted in 1529. First
Page from text of Lavrentij Copy
Lithuanian Statute (SLS).
Drafted in 1566.
First Page from text of Luck Copy
Lithuanian Statute (TLS).
Printed in Vilnius, 1588.
The Lithuanian Statutes (LS) were three legal codes (1529, 1566, 1588),
which constituted the system of law for the government of the ancient
Lithuanian state, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania - GDL - which existed
from 1240 to 1795. The Lithuanian Statutes were drawn when Lithuania,
the last European country to accept Christianity (1387), having
thoroughly embraced the values of western Latin culture during the 15th
century, finally became an integral part of Middle Europe in the 16th
century. The Lithuanian Statutes not only demonstrated the GDL's
equality with other Middle European states, and Lithuania's ability to
accomplish civilizing steps (required of no other European country, all
having Christianized much earlier, in what was considered a timely
manner), but was also a very important influence on neighboring
countries. The Statutes were cited as precedent in Polish and Livonian
courts, and in 1649 the Russian legal code was rewritten according to
Lithuania's Statutes. During union with Poland, both the personal
(dynastic) epoch (1385-1569) and the epoch of confederated statehood
with Poland (1569-1795), Lithuania's Statutes were her greatest
expression of independence. The Lithuanian Statutes, especially the
Third, were so well-written that they answered society's needs for 250
years. In 1791, efforts were made to change the system and do away with
the privileges of the nobility, creating a constitutional monarchy with
a modern citizenry. However, these plans came to naught when Russia,
abetted by Austria and Prussia, destroyed the Polish-Lithuanian state,
although leaving the Lithuanian Statutes in effect in Lithuania until
1840. Despite Russian hindrance a modern civic society developed and
Independence was re-asserted twice during the 20th century (1918 and
1990), and this may be viewed as an indirect result of the earlier
discussions about the nobility and citizenry for the Lithuanian