The purpose of this Independent Study is to examine the experiences of the first- and second-generation members of the Lithuanian American community so as to better understand how and why they identify ethnically. Additionally, I look at what role the perception of Russia and the former Soviet Union play in the formation of ethnic identity among this population, which has a very specific and unique history. To better understand these concepts, I conducted ten in-depth interviews with a first- and second-generation member of five Lithuanian American families in the greater Chicagoland area. I primarily relied on the theories of Mary Waters, William Safran, and Eglė Rindzevičiūtė on ethnic identity, diasporic communities, and Lithuanian national identity (respectively) as the framework through which I analyzed the experiences of the individuals I interviewed. Additionally, I discussed the influence and work of Tomas Venclova, a Lithuanian writer who offers a unique and critical perspective on the attitudes of Lithuanians. I couple my work on Venclova with an analysis of a Russian article (which I translated into English) by a Ukrainian author who is critical of the Lithuanian understanding and celebration of its past. The experiences of the Lithuanian-Americans described in their interviews, together with the two critical points of view form Venclova and the Russian article and my own perspective as a member of the Lithuanian community gave me a well-rounded understanding of how it second-wave Lithuanian Americans make sense of their ethnic identity. I come to the conclusion that unique historical circumstance, the shared experiences and history of the community, and a romanticized perception of Russia and its impact on Lithuania are the most influential factors in Lithuanian-Americans of the second wave claiming Lithuanian identity, despite having been born and grown up in America.


Fitz Gibbon, Heather

Second Advisor

Filimonova, Tatiana


Russian Studies; Sociology and Anthropology


ethnic identity, diaspora, russia

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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