Even a short visit to Lithuania is enough to give an outsider an appreciation for the pride they have for tradition and national identity. Along with their Baltic neighbors, more than 50 years of occupation under the Soviet boot were spent in careful negotiation to maintain a sovereign cultural identity without angering their occupier.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, many eastern European countries - Lithuania as much as any - embraced their cultural heritage as a symbol of their survival and as a celebration of a finally achieved independence.
The folk ensemble "Ratillo" is one of many groups that keeps the tradition of Lithuania's cultural clothing fresh in the nation's memory. The group travels throughout the nation, and internationally, performing music, dance and interpretation at events and festivals.
This is a sample of images made in cooperation with the University of Vilnius and its folklore group "Ratilio." All clothing and instruments shown are owned by the University.
The photos represent the five ethnic regions of Lithuania: Aukštaitija, Žemaitija, Lithuania Minor, Suvalkija and Dzūkija. They show a rich diversity of cultural styles that most outsiders may not expect from a country the size of Lithuania.