Sūduva (Suvalkija) ethnographic region of Lithuania, is situated in the southern and south-western part of the country on the other side of the River Nemunas, therefore it is often called Užnemunė (the other side of the Nemunas). During the tsarist occupation in 1866-1915 Užnemunė was annexed to the Province of Suwalki (a town in northern Poland close to the Lithuanian border). That name (Suvalkija) of this region still used from these times lost its meaning long ago.
Sūduva covers the ethnic lands of the Sūduviai (Sudovians) having separated from the Jotvingiai (Yotvingians or Yatvingians), a big Baltic group, around the middle of the 1st millennium. The Sūduviai were earliest mentioned in written sources of all the residents of the current Lithuanian ethnographic regions, in the 2nd century, in “Geography” (sudinoi) by scientist and traveller Claudius Ptolemy; for another several hundred years, however, the Sūduviai were often named the Jotvingiai as well.
Since the beginning of the 1st millennium the Sūduviai have been mainly engaged in agriculture. The fact that serfdom was abolished in Sūduva earlier than in other regions of Lithuania, fertile lands favourable for farming as well as diligence of people made the region’s inhabitants the richest Lithuanian farmers of the 19th-20th centuries. Furthermore, the region had most probably the largest number of educated people at that time–even 6 of 20 signatories to the State Reestablishment Act of February 16th came from Sūduva. Jonas Jablonskis, creator of standard Lithuanian and author of several grammar books, and Vincas Kudirka, author of the Lithuanian anthem, were also born in this region.
The Sūduviai are characterized as rational, clever and extremely economical people. There are lots of anecdotes about their fist-tightness; one of them goes that the Sūduviai cut the tails of their cats away in winter in order a lesser amount of cold is admitted into the house when they go out and come in. The Sūduviai bake delicious bread on Acorus calamus leaves; they are fond of singing monophonic songs having meandering melodies. The region is home to the oldest in Lithuania ensemble of the kanklės (an ancient Lithuanian string instrument) players.
Sūduva is the region of wide plains and fertile lands where one would hardly find even a stone. Homesteads surrounded by trees look like green islets in the wide open spaces of fields. Apparently all rocks and hills have gathered in the south-western part of Sūduva by the beautiful lake of Vištytis (Vištytis Regional Park is located here).
Sūduva is crossed by the European Northern-Southern highway Via Baltica. Kalvarija Customs-house represents the most important national gateway to Poland and Western Europe; Kybartai is also one of the most important customs-houses on the Lithuanian-Russian border.