|Conventional short name:|
|Others:||Lithuanian (African Lithuanian), Belarussian|
|Declared:||1940 (as Pakštuva, which became Maasai several years later)|
|Recognized:||1951 (as Maasai)|
Originally the region, referred to as Maasai by the Europeans, was much larger than it is now. It extended to the coast of the Indian Ocean and encompassed more land to the south and the north. However, the exact northern and southern boundaries of the nation were not delimited until 1934.
Maasai has had various names throughout history, By the Ethiopians it was known as "The borderland" as it marked the southern border of their advances. The Chinese, who had a colony of Chinese East Africa in the south called it "The fierce land" . The name Maasai, however, became predominant in Europe, due to the Maasai people, who were the most noticeable and most fierce, living there although they formed only about a quarter of the area's population.
The Maasai land up to the 20th century had never been conquered by enemies, except for its coastline, which once was ruled by the Caliphate of Somalia. The Caliphate of Somalia brought Islam to the Maasai. While the people on the coast of Indian Ocean (Swahilis, Mijikendas) for the most part became devout Muslims, in the interior parts of country Islam blended with the animist beliefs of the local people (the Maasai, the Luo and others).
In general, tribalism was dominant in Maasai. However, the tribes, despite their frequently fighting each other, used to unite against foreign enemies who were seen as infidels. They were known for their fanaticism at running into enemies even when the enemy's weaponry was clearly superior. Therefore all attempts by the Chinese and the Ethiopians to capture this land were crushed. In time, however, some tribes of the area paid tributes to either Somalia, Ethiopia or China without being directly ruled by them.
The situation changed when the 20th century came and major inventions in warfare such as airships, tanks and machine-guns made local traditional weapons completely inferior. But in spite of that, the status quo continued into the 20s. There were no known resources that would make the land valuable and other countries were happy with the status quo whereby both Ethiopians and Chinese would receive tributes from certain tribes. Besides, attempts to seize the whole land by one of the powers would probably have caused the other power to intervene.
In the late 20s, however, in one of Maasai tribes a new charismatic leader Abdullah Legishon arose, who was a good military leader as well. He conquered the territories of several other tribes in what was known as the Maasai wars. The Ethiopians, weakened by the First Great War, and the Chinese, preoccupied with wars in Asia, did not pay much attention to this and expected the intertribal warfare to end as it always had. However, Lithuania, a state in Europe without colonies, which had become independent after the First Great War, was planning to start the colonial program (see Colonies of Lithuania) and the Maasai had the only as yet uncolonised coastline in Africa. Aitvaras Geležinkelietis, a Lithuanian student and expert on Africa, became an advisor of the father of the Lithuanian colonial program, Kazys Pakštas, on this matter. Geležinkelietis spent many years in Africa and learned various languages, including the Maa and Somali languages. He knew the political realities of the place as well. When Pakštas decided to colonise Maasai, Geležinkelietis was sent there as a diplomat to meet Legishon. The Lithuanians offered him assistance with modern weaponry; a treaty of alliance was signed, since Geležinkelietis, knowing the local culture, was able to convince Legishon quickly. In exchange the Lithuanians demanded relatively little, such as permission to build and use a port in the Maasai land later.
This was a wise move for Lithuania, as they knew that the Chinese probably would not have tolerated outright colonisation. Therefore, the whole area was at first conquered by Legishon. It was not that hard using Lithuanian-supplied modern weaponry. To save himself from the Chinese, Legishon at first signed an agreement under which he was meant to pay tribute to China. This left only the Ethiopians in a bad position, as they had lost the tribes who used to pay tribute to them, but Ethiopia at the time was weak. The Lithuanian port city was established in Maasai on the coast of the Indian Ocean. To appease Legishon it was originally named Legishono after him. Only a few Lithuanians moved in at first, while most of those who moved there were Maasai taking the opportunity to have a relatively well paid job (on their standards) at servicing ships. The major point for the estabilishment of city was, however, as later events showed, not the servicing of ships, of which there were not many since most European powers had their own ports on the Somali coast, but rather a preparation for taking control of the land.
Legishon did not actually wanted to live his life paying tribute to the Chinese, and thus attacked Chinese East Africa, likely under the advice of Geležinkelietis. At first his army overran a considerable chunk of land since the Chinese, considering the Maasai to be uncivilised barbarians, were not prepared for such an attack. However eventually the tables started to turn. The Maasai (allegedly with the support of Lithuanian colonists) organised a revolt which deposed the Legishon government while he was away in Chinese East Africa. Abdullah Legishon was defeated and arrested, but the Chinese had to recognise Maasai, ruled by new leaders (who were still ethnic Maasais but much less ambitious than previous leadership) as a completely independent state without the requirement to pay tribute. The Lithuanians asserted even more control over the area. A "Treaty of Friendship" was signed with the new leaders which gave much power to the "leader of the local Lithuanians" as well. Aactually, the treaty had been signed previously, when these leaders needed support in the revolution. Under that treaty, Lithuania also promised to defend the Maasai in case of war. In exchange, Lithuanian people were allowed to settle in Maasai and the state of Lithuania had the right to buy certain amounts of land every year for a fixed price. The exact wording of the treaty, however, is controversial, since the versions written in the Maasai and Lithuanian languages had some differences.
Lithuania would buy the land according to the quotas. Then it was distributed among certain Lithuanians who wanted to settle there for a fee. The majority of the colonists of this area, known in Lithuanian as Masaja, were Slavs, but there were Lithuanians as well. In general, the Lithuanians became the most powerful class in the area, the Slavs were in the middle and the locals usually became badly paid workers on Slavic- or Lithuanian-owned farms or in the cities. Many of Maasai remained nomadic and this was encouraged. A new capital was estabilished on the other side of the state, on the large lake to which the name Lake Smetona was given. It was named Naujasis Vilnius (New Vilnius), and the port city was renamed Naujasis Kaunas.
The number of Lithuanians and Slavs increased and their control became more and more serious, eventually leaving the Maasai leaders only a limited role in ruling the country. In 1934, the area was formally integrated into Lithuania as Naujojo Vilniaus apskritis. This was approved by the "Congress of Maasai" (estabilished after the Treaty of Friendship), in which officially the Maasai and the Lithuanian had equal power, but some Maasai were allegedly bribed to vote the way the Lithuanians wanted or the election was rigged. However, in practice the area remained sui generis with the Maasai still having certain (mostly formal) powers. The term Naujojo Vilniaus apskritis was primarilly used in European Lithuania to encourage colonists to move to the area.
Attempts by the local blacks to revolt were crushed by better armed Lithuanians. Aid from Ethiopia did not come during the most serious attempt to depose the Lithuanians (1934 and later). Lithuania normalized relations with Ethiopia by renouncing its claims to the Užneris area.
In 1936, a famine did great damage to the Maasai. Afterwards some additional failed uprisings followed. General Povilas Plechavičius was installed as the ruler of the area by the leadership of Lithuania.
In 1940, after mainland Lithuania was annexed by Russia (see Thunderstorm War), a Russian invasion of Lithuania's African colony failed due to sabotage of the transport navy, but military actions continued for several months, which did great damage to the area. A peace treaty was signed with the Russians by Plechavičius. In exchange for stopping the attacks the Russians demanded that the African colony become an independent and neutral country. Plechavičius accepted this and the area became the independent country of Pakštuva. In 1942, in the Borderland War this country was conquered by the Chinese and the Ethiopians who, officially in support of local blacks, established the state of Maasai in only the northwestern part of what was the Lithuanian colony (the area inhabited primarily by the Maasai and the Luo). The rest of Pakštuva was incorporated into Chinese East Africa. The Maasai state itself was a puppet state of China until the end of Second Great War. Throughout the war it, however, stayed officially neutral.
Since then, the percentage of people of European ancestry (Lithuanians and Slavs) decreased because of persecutions against them and other reasons. The Maasai state has also been troubled internally and there are calls for the reunification of the whole Maasai.
Islam with certain animist blend.
This page was created by Abdul-aziz.