The ethnographic region of Dzūkija lies between the Neris and the Nemunas Rivers in south-eastern part of Lithuania. Around the 13th century the land of Dainava (literally the Land of Songs) lied there; later it was incorporated into the Duchy of Trakai and the beautiful name was forgotten. The name of Dzūkija emerged in the Lithuanian literature of the 19th century, apparently coming from an original dialect of the region or, to be more specific, from a quirk of the dialect: people here often put the letter z after a constant.
Dzūkija is the most infertile but the woodiest region of Lithuania. Thus, the wood was and still is the major source of income for the majority of population. In earlier times people used to cut trees, make timber, produce rail ties, float rafts, make household articles; they used to fish in spring, pick berries and herbs in summer, hunt and pick mushrooms in autumn. Dried mushrooms were sold even to merchants from distant Russian lands, while today dried, pickled and fresh frozen mushrooms and forest berries from Dzūkija are delivered as delicacies not only to the stores in Lithuania but also in Western Europe. In Dzūkija hollow honey is still available as some beekeepers still continue the old hollow beekeeping traditions.
Dzūkija has retained most of its ancient crafts. Many homes, furniture and utensils are handmade. The region is proud of its carpenters, potters, blacksmiths, wickerwork makers, wood carvers and masters of black ceramics. Girls from Dzūkija can also work miracles; they are the most creative weavers in Lithuania, also good at knitting, embroidering and straw tatting. Textile from this region is full of flowers and leaves as in the attempt to capture nature’s beauty. And the beauty of Dzūkija’s nature is really exquisite. Majestic forests dotted with lakes, rivers rumbling with streams and marshy glades colonized by various fauna. A few ethnographic villages dating back to the 17-18th centuries look like inhabited museums.
Since ancient times Dzūkija has been mentioned as the land of songs, where everybody sings, the young and the old. Old singers-soloists still remember and know hundreds of old songs and pass them over to numerous folklore groups. It is said that the songs of Dzūkija are the most sonorous, the psalms are the saddest and the laments are the most pathetic. People of Dzūkija are real song-lovers; they sing at work and in the wedding, sing psalms while christening a baby and lament during funerals. Such is the character of the hospitable people of Dzūkija.