Lineaments of culture and character of Zanavykai people

Angelė Vyšniauskaitė

Speaking about the ethnographic region of Suvalkija, special attention is usually paid to its northern part, i.e., the area of Zanavykai people, which inhabit the district beyond the Nova River. People living in at the eastern margin of this district are called Kapsai, while the southernmost part of the Alytus corner belongs to Dzūkai. Such division of Suvalkija is caused not only by historical past and language peculiarities, but also by some lineaments in the style of life. Although the differences are not abundant, as they are between the nations, yet some specificity has been noticed.

There were fewer manors in the area of Suvalkija; even at the beginning of the 19th century the peasants of the manors became libertines. All this contributed to the formation of an exceptional type of Suvalkija population. Undoubtedly, an important role was played by the relations of people in this land with the adjacent Lithuanian East Prussia or Lithuania Minor, where the first Lithuanian book “Katekizmo prasti žodžiai” (Simple words of Catechism) by Martynas Mažvydas and the “Aušra” magazine by Jonas Basanavičius was issued, as well as the bell of Vincas Kudirka’s “Varpas” (The Bell) tolled and book smugglers laid their paths there. All this nurtured the resistance of Lithuanian nation against the Tsarist regime. The innovations of Western civilisation were spreading via Lithuania Minor and affected the daily life of Suvalkija people, especially Zanavykai, their material culture, interrelationships and customs. All this was undoubtedly reflected in the landscape of Zanavykija and character of its people.