Mosques, Islamic centre and tourist place

Lithuania – the only of the Baltic states having mosques

In Lithuania the first mosques were being built in the 15th century. The Mosques of Trakai, Vilnius, Naugardukas, Daubutiskes and others were first mentioned in written sources in the 16th century. However wars and the division of the territory of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the 18th and the 19th centuries, as well as the migration of Tatars inside Lithuania and abroad made the impact to the upbuilding of some new mosques and dismantling of the others. There were 25 mosques in the year 1914, but 5 of them were demolished during the First World War.

Currently there are four mosques in Lithuania: one in Kaunas, two in the district of Vilnius (Nemezis and Keturiasdesimt totoriu village), and one in Raiziai, the district of Alytus. The Muslims’ community of Lithuania is still hoping to build one more mosque in the capital, Vilnius, instead of the demolished mosque of Lukiskes in the year 1968.

The mosques of Prophet Muhammad in Makkah and Madina were taken as the examples by the Muslims of Lithuania for building their mosques in Lithuania. These were small, square shaped buildings having a dual pitched (mosques of Trakai, Lukiskės [until 1866], Keturiasdesimt Totoriu village) or triple pitched (mosques of Raiziai and Lukiskes [after 1867]) roof and a small minaret on the top. By their shape they looked similar to the churches. Lithuanian tatars used timber for the building of the mosques. This resulted in the change of their facade and finish because many of them burnt down and had to be rebuilt few times. The first brick-built mosques started being built only in the second half of the 20th century (mosques of Kaunas and Minsk).

The four distinct architectural features of the mosques:

1.       Square or rectangle shaped building, having a dual-pitched roof (mosque in the village of Keturiasdesimt Totoriu);

2.       Rectangle shaped building having hip roof or longer top;

3.       Hipped roof with a ridge and an elevated minaret at the frontal side of the building;

4.       Building having a dual-pitched or triple- pitched roof and a small minaret on the top of it.

Lithuanian mosques are situated in the villages, except the mosque of Kaunas which is located in the quiet park in the centre of the second largest city of Lithuania. They are surrounded by scenery views and natural landscapes covered by lawn. Usually Muslims’ cemetery called mizar used to be close to or near the mosques.

Except the mosque in Kaunas which is divided into two levels, the prayer halls of the other mosques in Lithuania are divided lengthwise into two parts: one side is for the men and another – for the women. Each side has a separate entrance. There is a glassless window, covered by the curtains, in the wall which divides these two sides of the mosque. This window is made mainly for acoustic reasons. The contemporary mosque of Kaunas has a single entrance but two floors, second of which is a spacious balcony. On the right next to the entrance of the mosque there are stairs to this balcony which is used by the women while men stays and prays in the hall of on the first floor.

In one of the walls of the mosques there is a niche called mihrab which indicates the direction of prayer towards Makkah. To the right side of mihrab you will find a small staircase called minbar from which the imam addresses the congregation and reads khutbah. The walls of Lithuanian mosques are embelished in a very simple way by framed panels with Quranic inscriptions in calligraphic arabic writing style. The floors are usually covered by mats of different sizes or one big carpeting for the Muslims to offer their daily prayer, but benches can also be found for those who are weak or old and find it too difficult to bow down on the floor. Islamic literature, booklets, magazines, books and the Quran versions in arabic, russian, lithuanian languages are stored in the mosques.

  • Kaunas mosque

    Kauno mečetė, Totorių g. 6, Kaunas (54.894436,23.928371)

    kauno_mecete Žiūrėti didesnį žemėlapio vaizdą

    In 1930 the government of Lithuania was planning to organize many events and build numerous public buildings in order to commemorate an anniversary of the death of Vytautas The Great. Thus, Kaunas Muslims' community got an idea to build a mosque next to the old wooden community house built in 1910 by rich tatar hajji Alexander Ilyasevich. After the approval of the Government of Lithuania, most of the funds for building of the mosque was provided by the state and the other part of them was collected from Tatars. The project of the building was prepared by architects Adolfas Netyksa and Vaclovas Michnevicus.

    In 15th July, 1933 its doors were opened. The construction of new mosque lasted for three years. The purpose of the building is highlighted by interlaced historical forms and eastern details in the compact, modest size mosque. Outside: an elliptical dome and small minaret. Inside: the main hall of 90m² for men, 45m² open balcony for women, a corner for performance of rituals for dead people, an utility room, next to it – stairs to the balcony and the minaret. There was Muslims’ graveyard outside, at the corner of Tatars’ street and Traku Street, separated by the fence. The mosque was not radically changed up to these days, but graveyard was demolished during the Soviet times.

    In 1941, mosque was closed and robbed – windows were broken, carpets, furniture and old manuscript of Qur’an were stolen. During the period of 1941 and 1947 the mosque was again opened and still serving its purpose, however it was again closed for a long period of time since 1947. At first its ownership was transmitted to the Chancery of Kaunas municipality and it was used as a storehouse of the Chancery of this city. Later around year of 1950 the circus of Valentinas Dikulis was running therein. Since 1986 it was used as a library and storehouse of the Arts Museum of Mikalojus Konstantinas Ciurlionis.

    In 1972-1973 building of the mosque was repaired by the project of architect Z. Dargis. A new open gallery made of ferroconcrete was attached next to its southern wall. There was a plan to establish Museum of Eastern Arts in the mosque, however this project stayed unrealized.

    In 1991, after the Independence of Lithuania, the ownership of the mosque and the territory of 0,84 hectares around it was returned to the community of the Muslims. After long time the first prayers were held therein.

    Since 2009 the mosque of Kaunas has the status of the state protected object of cultural heritage. It is the only brick-built mosque in the Baltic countries.

    At the moment there are about 260 Lithuanian Tatars living in Kaunas. Around the same number as Tatars here are the post-World War II arrivals from Caucasus, Crimea, Middle Asia, who have acquired the citizenship of Republic of Lithuania. There are a lot of regular students from countries of the Near East and Muslims’ countries in Kaunas. All these people are the worshippers of the present day mosque of Kaunas. For the Friday prayer mosque is always overcrowded which results in a group of Muslims having to pray outside the mosque. The community is increasing in numbers each year..

    Sources:

    • Laurinaitis Paulius Tautvydas, Petrulis Vaidas. Totorių mečetė Kaune. Prieiga per internetą: Totorių mečetė Kaune [Žiūrėta 2014-01-02].
    • Makaveckas Romualdas. Kauno apskrities totorių bendruomenė. Prieiga per internetą: Kauno totorių istorija [Žiūrėta 2014-01-02].
    • Buinovska Fatima. Lietuvos totorių sakralinis paveldas: mečetės. Kaunas: Aušra, 2010.
  • Raižiai mosque

    Mosque of Raižiai, Raižių k., Alytaus r. (54.479854, 24.187812).

    raiziai-mecete Žiūrėti didesnį žemėlapio vaizdą

    The mosque of Raiziai

     

    The village of Raiziai was founded at the end of the 15th century - the beginning of the 16th century and was inhabited by Tatars. By now it is called the capital of Lithuanian Tatars. During the times of the Duke Gediminas the Tatars army of The Golden Horde were launching attacks on the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, therefore some of them were taken as captives. The Duke Gediminas allied himself with these Tatars who served in the Polish-Lithuanian military and some of them settled in the lands of Lithuania. The largest part of Tatars arrived to Lithuania during the reign of the Grand Duke Vytautas (1392-1430) who started to settle them with their families. Some of them inhabited village of Raiziai and built a mosque therein.

    The mosque which was built in the village of Raiziai was first mentioned in 1556. The current mosque itself was built in 1889 and was the only one in Lithuania functioning during the Soviet period. The building of this mosque has the status of the state protected object of cultural heritage.

    The pulpit (minbar) of the mosque of Raiziai is a valuable woodwork made by unknown artists. This sacral art monument of Lithuanian Tatars is dated 1684. At the end of the 18th century of the beginning of the 20th century it was brought from burnt mosque of neighbouring village of Bazorai.

    The mosque of Raiziai is a wooden structure of rectangular shape and folk architecture style. Its jetty in the facade of the apse has a form of pentahedron. It has iron span roof with a small minaret on the top which is not used for its original purpose.

    There are several Tatars cemeteries in the village of Raiziai and one of them is used nowadays for burial of Tatars as well as muslims of other nationalities.

    At the moment 2500 Tatars are living in Lithuania (most of Tatars are muslims) and more than 400 of them are residing in the district of Alytus, mostly in Raiziai, Butrimonys and Alytus.

  • Nemėžis mosque

    Mosque of Nemėžis, Totorių g. 4, Nemėžio k., Vilniaus r. (54.635509, 25.357279).

    Nemėžio mečetė Žiūrėti didesnį žemėlapio vaizdą

    The Mosque of Nemezis Village

    In 1397 Vytautas The Great settled Tatars in the old village called Nemezis, nearby Vilnius. There also was a summer mansion house which belonged to Vytautas the Great and his wife in the 14th century.

    In 1684 a mosque was built in this village and it remained till recent times, but it burned down in 1909. It was rebuilt according to the project of architect A. Soninas. This mosque is wooden, of rectangular plan with hip-roof made of tin. There is an addition to it on the side of Mecca (mihrab), and small gazebo of minaret on the top of the roof. There is an old Tatars’ cemetery next to it.

    During the wars and Soviet era mosque suffered. At the end of The World War II missiles (rocketry) of Soviet Union was installed in the territory of the cemetery of this mosque. They were used to bombard the city. In 1963 the mosque started burning but fire was stopped on time by cutting down the minaret which was on open fire. The government of Soviets wanted to demolish the mosque, but people resisted. In 1968 there was a warehouse of grain, later - a museum of regional studies in the building of the mosque.

    In 1978 the mosque was returned to the muslims’ community. In 1993 it was repaired, in 2009 - renovated. The mosque of Nemezis has a status of cultural monuments of Republic of Lithuania.

  • Keturiasdešimt Totorių

    Mosque of 40 tatars's village, Keturiasdešimt Totorių k., Vilniaus r. (54.562194, 25.170355). keturiasdesimt-tortoriu-mecete Žiūrėti didesnį žemėlapio vaizdą

    Forty Tatars’ village is one of the oldest Tatars’ settlements in Lithuania, which is known until our times. In 1630 there were 42 Tatars’ houses. The mosque which was in this villages was first mentioned in written sources in 1558, but it is thought to be burned down during Napaleon’s march to Russia. Until these days there is a wooden mosque, standing in the middle of this village, which was built in 1815. It is one of the oldest mosques in Lithuania.

    Next to the mosque there is muslims’ cemetery, called mizar, and in the area of the village there are three more Tatars’ old cemeteries. These old cemeteries can be traced back to the times of the establishment of this village. There graves, which are marked by stones, may be of the 14th - 16th centuries. Others with the inscriptions on the back side of gravestones may be dated back to the 17th century.

    The mosque of the Forty Tatars’ Village is of rectangular plan and hip-roof made of tin. There is a small gazebo of minaret on the top of the roof. This mosque is different from other Lithuanian Tatars mosques by one feature - it does not have mihrab (an arch in the wall on the side of Mecca). In Soviet times this mosque was closed, but prayers were held inside illegally. It was returned to the Muslims’ community in 1980. It was repaired and renovated in 1993. The building of the mosque of the Forty Tatars’ Village has the status of the state protected object of cultural heritage.

  • Vilnius mufti centre

    The Spiritual Center of the Lithuanian Sunni Muslims – Muftiate. Islamic center. Smolensko g. 19, Vilnius (54.674036,25.259133)

    islamo-kulturos-centras Žiūrėti didesnį žemėlapio vaizdą

    In 1998 The Spiritual Center of the Lithuanian Sunni Muslims – Muftiate was re-established. Its residence now is in Vilnius. The Muftiate has administrative-organisatory and spiritual-religious functions. The purpose of it is to refresh religious traditions, take care of religious life of muslims in Lithuania, look after all the mosques of Lithuania and islamic centres. Romualdas Krinickis was elected as the first mufti. Since 2008 Romas Jakubauskas replaced him in this position.

    In 2013 Islamic culture and educational centre was opened by initiative of Lithuanian Tatars. At the moment both organisations are registered at the same address - Smolensko 19, Vilnius. There are spacious prayer rooms as well as 2 classrooms where courses of Arabic, Turkish and Tatars languages and religious lessons for women and men are held once a week. During Ramadan after evening prayer muslims gather there for iftars. The Muftiate is opened on the every work day as well as on the weekends.

  • Kėdainiai minaret

    Kėdainių minaret – Touristic monument (55.307891, 23.976099)

    kedainiai-minaretas Žiūrėti didesnį žemėlapio vaizdą

    The Minaret of Kedainiai (Kedain)

    The minaret of Kedainiai was built in around 1880 by an Imperial Russian Army general Eduard Totleben, who also an earl of German origin. He owned a manor of Kedainiai. On the west side of minaret there was a mosque - a wooden pavilion with the dome roof, also there was a terrace and a home for the sticker. After The World War I this complex of the minaret started decaying. In 1932 the wooden pavilion with the dome roof was demolished. Only the minaret remained until our days. There are few versions about the purpose of building it. According to one of it, the minaret was built in honor of the earl’s wife, who was of Turkish origin. Another story tells that it only had to be a decoration of the park, commemorating the successful battle with Turks in 1877-1878, and from this minaret Totleben used to show his lands. Also there are stories telling that the tower of the minaret was brought from the mosque of Pleven, Bulgaria as the spoils of the war and the minaret itself was built by Turks, who were prisoners of this war. At the moment the minaret of Kedainiai is an architectural monument of The Republic of Lithuania.

    The minaret has the features of Ottoman architecture: steeple (peaked top), height of 25 metres, with balcony around all the tower and a crescent on the top of the roof. There are two marble panels remained with inscriptions in Arabic and old Turkish languages. One of them recites Quran: “Who is he that can intercede with Him except with His Permission?” (2:255). The other which is on the southeast side of minaret and is in Turkish language has no relation to the minaret itself or its surroundings. As a result of this it is thought that this panel was taken down from unknown sultan Mehmet’s palace in Bulgaria. This inscription tells: “The ridge of high gates raised its peak till the heavens. And flashed like the sun with golden sign. That is a palace of Ottomans’ victory, in which is clearly inscripted a sign of precious victory. May it dominate for the long years and creat few more such excellent, incomparable palaces. His slave Izet wrote the date - a grain of treasury: the generous king of the kings established a famous castle, no demolished or empty place remained during His reign. By His justice He adorned the world and especially this palace, which is enthralling by its charm and is similar to the paradise. Built by His Majesty sultan Mehmet. He jewelled this splendid palace so much that even the heaven had never seen more beautiful and wonderful.”

  • Lithuanian Tatars museum

    Address : Totorių buities muziejus V. Krėvės g. 6 - Subartonys, Varėna

    GPS : Latitude: 54.205055 | Longitude: 24.17858

    1-muziejus

    Lithuanian Tatars museum was opened by Tatar Liuse Gaidukeviciene (Milkamanaviciute) and Lithuanian Vladas Gaidukevicius in the village of Subartonys, district municipality of Varena, in their house built in 1939. The owners of this homestead offers not only take a look at exhibits in the museum but also taste Tatars dishes and go for a ride by the buggy pulled by horse in the beautiful surroundings of their village.

    Life in binational family did not change member’s of national minority attitude while the husband who supports his wife in all activities admires Tatars’ nation, their culture and religion. Islam is not only a faith of Tatars’ antecedents but also lifestyle and enshrining of traditions of all muslims. And the most honourable is the most pious.

    In this museum one can see: the hand written Qur’an,  chamail (“pocket” books of prayer), the prewar handbook of religion written in Arabic script, old photos and documents, posters of the heraldry of Tatars noble families, antiques - hand woven linen towel, fur craft tools, items made of leather, household utensils, embroidered housewares and others. Among other things one can also find an old pitchfork for harvesting potatoes made by blacksmith, inherited from the distant relatives. Furthermore, one narrow corner of the museum shows the history of Tatars from the region of Merkine, tells about the officers of Tatars origin who were fighting for the freedom of Lithuania during various time periods.

    Lithuanian Tatars museum is a significant attempt to preserve evidences of this ethnic minority national oneness of the last two centuries.