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Lithuania

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Republic of Lithuania
Lietuvos Respublika  (Lithuanian)
Anthem: Tautiška giesmė
National Hymn
Locator map of Lithuania
Location of  Lithuania  (dark green)

– in Europe  (green & dark grey)
– in the European Union  (green)  –  [Legend]

Capital
and largest city
Vilnius
54°41′N 25°19′E / 54.683°N 25.317°E / 54.683; 25.317
Official languages Lithuanian
Ethnic groups (2015[1])
Demonym Lithuanian
Government Unitary semi-presidential republic[2][3][4][5]
Dalia Grybauskaitė
Saulius Skvernelis
Viktoras Pranckietis
Legislature Seimas
Independence from Russia / Germany (1918)
9 March 1009
• Coronation of Mindaugas
6 July 1253
2 February 1386
1 July 1569
24 October 1795
16 February 1918
15 June 1940
22 June 1941
July 1944
11 March 1990
• Independence recognized by the Soviet Union
6 September 1991
17 September 1991
1 May 2004
Area
• Total
65,300 km2 (25,200 sq mi) (121st)
• Water (%)
1.35
Population
• 2017 estimate
2,821,674[6] (137th)
• Density
43/km2 (111.4/sq mi) (173rd)
GDP (PPP) 2017 estimate
• Total
$90.632 billion[7]
• Per capita
$31,935[7] (41st)
GDP (nominal) 2017 estimate
• Total
$46.666 billion
• Per capita
$16,443[8] (49th)
Gini (2015) Negative increase 37.9[9]
medium
HDI (2015) Increase 0.848[10]
very high · 37th
Currency Euro (€) (EUR)
Time zone EET (UTC+2)
• Summer (DST)
EEST (UTC+3)
Date format yyyy-mm-dd (CE)
Drives on the right
Calling code +370
ISO 3166 code LT
Internet TLD .lta
  1. Also .eu, shared with other European Union member states.

Coordinates: 55°N 24°E / 55°N 24°E / 55; 24

Lithuania (/ˌlɪθjˈniə/ (About this sound listen),[11][12][13] Lithuanian: Lietuva [lʲɪɛtʊˈvɐ]), officially the Republic of Lithuania (Lithuanian: Lietuvos Respublika), is a country in the Baltic region of northern-eastern Europe. One of the three Baltic states, it is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, to the east of Sweden and Denmark. It is bordered by Latvia to the north, Belarus to the east and south, Poland to the south, and Kaliningrad Oblast (a Russian exclave) to the southwest. Lithuania has an estimated population of 2.8 million people as of 2017, and its capital and largest city is Vilnius. Lithuanians are a Baltic people. The official language, Lithuanian, along with Latvian, is one of only two living languages in the Baltic branch of the Indo-European language family.

For centuries, the southeastern shores of the Baltic Sea were inhabited by various Baltic tribes. In the 1230s, the Lithuanian lands were united by Mindaugas, the King of Lithuania, and the first unified Lithuanian state, the Kingdom of Lithuania, was created on 6 July 1253. During the 14th century, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was the largest country in Europe; present-day Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, and parts of Poland and Russia were the territories of the Grand Duchy. With the Lublin Union of 1569, Lithuania and Poland formed a voluntary two-state union, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. The Commonwealth lasted more than two centuries, until neighboring countries systematically dismantled it from 1772–95, with the Russian Empire annexing most of Lithuania's territory.

As World War I neared its end, Lithuania's Act of Independence was signed on 16 February 1918, declaring the founding of the modern Republic of Lithuania. In the midst of the Second World War, Lithuania was first occupied by the Soviet Union and then by Nazi Germany. As World War II neared its end and the Germans retreated, the Soviet Union reoccupied Lithuania. On 11 March 1990, a year before the formal dissolution of the Soviet Union, Lithuania became the first Soviet republic to declare itself independent, resulting in the restoration of an independent State of Lithuania.

Lithuania is a member of the European Union, the Council of Europe, a full member of the Eurozone, Schengen Agreement and NATO. It is also a member of the Nordic Investment Bank, and part of Nordic-Baltic cooperation of Northern European countries. The United Nations Human Development Index lists Lithuania as a "very high human development" country. Lithuania has been among the fastest growing economies in the European Union and is ranked 21st in the world in the 2017 Ease of Doing Business Index.

History

Map showing changes in the territory of Lithuania from the 13th century to the present day.

Prehistoric

The first people settled in the territory of Lithuania after the last glacial period in the 10th millennium BC. Over a millennium, the Indo-Europeans, who arrived in the 3rd – 2nd millennium BC, mixed with the local population and formed various Baltic tribes. The first written mention of Lithuania is found in a medieval German manuscript, the Annals of Quedlinburg, in an entry dated 9 March 1009.[14]

Medieval

Initially inhabited by fragmented Baltic tribes, in the 1230s the Lithuanian lands were united by Mindaugas, who was crowned as King of Lithuania on 6 July 1253.[15] After his assassination in 1263, pagan Lithuania was a target of the Christian crusades of the Teutonic Knights and the Livonian Order. Despite the devastating century-long struggle with the Orders, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania expanded rapidly, overtaking former Slavic principalities of Kievan Rus'.

By the end of the 14th century, Lithuania was one of the largest countries in Europe and included present-day Belarus, Ukraine, and parts of Poland and Russia.[16] The geopolitical situation between the west and the east determined the multicultural and multi-confessional character of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The ruling elite practised religious tolerance and Chancery Slavonic language was used as an auxiliary language to the Latin for official documents.

In 1385, the Grand Duke Jogaila accepted Poland's offer to become its king. Jogaila embarked on gradual Christianization of Lithuania and established a personal union between Poland and Lithuania. It implied that Lithuania, the fiercely independent land, was one of the last pagan areas of Europe to adopt Christianity.

After two civil wars, Vytautas the Great became the Grand Duke of Lithuania in 1392. During his reign, Lithuania reached the peak of its territorial expansion, centralization of the state began, and the Lithuanian nobility became increasingly prominent in state politics. In the great Battle of the Vorskla River in 1399, the combined forces of Tokhtamysh and Vytautas were defeated by the Mongols. Thanks to close cooperation, the armies of Lithuania and Poland achieved a great victory over the Teutonic Knights in 1410 at the Battle of Grunwald, one of the largest battles of medieval Europe.[17][18][19]

After the deaths of Jogaila and Vytautas, the Lithuanian nobility attempted to break the union between Poland and Lithuania, independently selecting Grand Dukes from the Jagiellon dynasty. But, at the end of the 15th century, Lithuania was forced to seek a closer alliance with Poland when the growing power of the Grand Duchy of Moscow threatened Lithuania's Russian principalities and sparked the Muscovite–Lithuanian Wars and the Livonian War.

Modern

The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth was created in 1569. As a member of the Commonwealth, Lithuania retained its institutions, including a separate army, currency, and statutory laws.[20] Eventually Polonization affected all aspects of Lithuanian life: politics, language, culture, and national identity. From the mid-16th to the mid-17th centuries, culture, arts, and education flourished, fueled by the Renaissance and the Protestant Reformation. From 1573, the Kings of Poland and Grand Dukes of Lithuania were elected by the nobility, who were granted ever increasing Golden Liberties. These liberties, especially the liberum veto, led to anarchy and the eventual dissolution of the state.

During the Northern Wars (1655–1661), the Lithuanian territory and economy were devastated by the Swedish army. Before it could fully recover, Lithuania was ravaged during the Great Northern War (1700–1721). The war, a plague, and a famine caused the deaths of approximately 40% of the country's population.[21] Foreign powers, especially Russia, became dominant in the domestic politics of the Commonwealth. Numerous factions among the nobility used the Golden Liberties to prevent any reforms. Eventually, the Commonwealth was partitioned in 1772, 1792, and 1795 by the Russian Empire, Prussia, and Habsburg Austria.

The largest area of Lithuanian territory became part of the Russian Empire. After unsuccessful uprisings in 1831 and 1863, the Tsarist authorities implemented a number of Russification policies. They banned the Lithuanian press, closed cultural and educational institutions, and made Lithuania part of a new administrative region called Northwestern Krai. The Russification failed owing to an extensive network of book smugglers and secret Lithuanian home schooling.

After the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878), when German diplomats assigned what were seen as Russian spoils of war to Turkey, the relationship between Russia and the German Empire became complicated. The Russian Empire resumed the construction of fortresses at its western borders for defence against a potential invasion from Germany in the West. On 7 July 1879 the Russian Emperor Alexander II approved of a proposal from the Russian military leadership to build the largest "first-class" defensive structure in the entire state – the 65 km2 (25 sq mi) Kaunas Fortress.[22] Large numbers of Lithuanians went to the United States in 1867–1868 after a famine.[23] A Lithuanian National Revival laid the foundations of the modern Lithuanian nation and independent Lithuania.

20th and 21st centuries

The original 20 members of the Council of Lithuania after signing the Act of Independence of Lithuania, 16 February 1918.

World War I rapidly reached the territory of Lithuania. Germany’s push to the east drove the forces of the Russian Empire to retreat. By the end of 1915, Germany occupied the entire territory of Lithuania and Courland.[24] A new administrative entity, Ober Ost (short for Oberbefehlshaber der gesamten Deutschen Streitkräfte im Osten, which is German for "Supreme Commander of All German Forces in the East"), was established. Lithuanians lost all political rights they had gained: personal freedom was restricted, and at the beginning the Lithuanian press was banned.[25]

However, the Lithuanian intelligentsia tried to take advantage of the existing geopolitical situation and began to look for opportunities to restore Lithuania’s independence. On 18–22 September 1917, the Vilnius Conference elected the Council of Lithuania. At the conference, it was decided to re-establish the state of Lithuania with its ethnographic borders and the capital of Vilnius. Antanas Smetona was elected the chairman of the Council (Jonas Basanavičius became the chairman only on 16 February 1918). Following the geopolitical situation, on 11 December 1917, the Council of Lithuania adopted a resolution announcing the restoration of an independent state of Lithuania with the capital in Vilnius and severing all ties that had ever been established with other countries and calling for the eternal union with Germany. The latter statement was rejected by some of the members of the Council, forcing Mykolas Biržiška, Steponas Kairys, Stanislovas Narutavičius and Petras Vileišis to leave the organization.[26]

As Germany was losing the war, a decision had been made to abandon this union. A resolution adopted on 16 February 1918, was recognized as the Act of Independence of Lithuania. It restored an independent state of Lithuania governed by democratic principles, with Vilnius as its capital. The Act also stated that Lithuania’s relations with other countries will be established by the democratically elected Constituent Assembly of Lithuania. The state of Lithuania which had been built within the framework of the Act lasted from 1918 until 1940.[27]

In July 1918, resisting the plans of those who welcomed the annexation by Germany the Council of Lithuania elected Prince Wilhelm of Urach, Count of Württemberg, as King of Lithuania, with a regnal name of Mindaugas II. However, following the capitulation of Germany in November 1918, the idea of the monarchy was abandoned, leaving the question about the ruling system to the constituent assembly.

On 11 November 1918, the first Provisional Constitution of Lithuania was written. At the same time, the army, the government, and other state institutions began to be organized. In 1919 the office of the presidency was introduced. Antanas Smetona was elected the president of the state.[28]

As the Bolsheviks were pushing for Vilnius, the government was moved to Kaunas, which had become a provisional capital. According to the Lithuanian Constitution of 1928 and 1938, the capital of the country was Vilnius. Trying to establish the statehood and draw state borders, Lithuania had to fight not only with the Bolsheviks, but also with the West Russian Volunteer Army or Bermontians and the Poles.

The Bermontians were defeated in November 1919 at Radviliškis. The peace treaty with the Soviet Russia was signed on 12 July 1920. A peace treaty signed between Lithuania and Poland on 7 October 1920, in Suwałki, recognized Vilnius as the capital of Lithuania.[29] However, soon the Poles broke the treaty. Lithuanians were able to stop their push deeper into the territory only on 21-22 November at Širvintos and Giedraičiai. Notwithstanding, Vilnius remained to be part of Poland becoming the cornerstone of Lithuania’s foreign policy.[30]

On 15 May 1920, the first meeting of the democratically elected constituent assembly took place. The documents it adopted, i. e. the temporary (1920) and permanent (1922) constitutions of Lithuania, strove to regulate the life of the new state. Land, finance, and educational reforms started to be implemented. The currency of Lithuania, the Lithuanian litas,[31] was introduced. The University of Lithuania was opened. All major public institutions had been established. As Lithuania began to gain stability, foreign countries started to recognize it. In 1921 Lithuania was admitted to the League of Nations.

The first Parliament of Lithuania or Seimas was elected in October 1922. Aleksandras Stulginskis[32] was elected as a president. One of the most important achievements of that time was the incorporation of Klaipėda Region into the territory of Lithuania in 1923 and its international recognition in 1924. The Third Seimas elected Kazys Grinius,[33] a member of Lithuanian Popular Peasants’ Union, as the country’s president. However, his leadership did not last long.

On 17 December 1926, a military coup d’état took place resulting in the replacement of the democratically elected government with a conservative authoritarian government led by Antanas Smetona. Augustinas Voldemaras was appointed to form a government. The so-called authoritarian phase had begun strengthening the influence of one party, the Lithuanian Nationalist Union, in the country. In 1927, the Seimas was released. A new constitution adopted in 1928, which consolidated presidential powers. Gradually the opposition parties were banned, the censorship was tightened, and the rights of national minorities were narrowed.

The situation was aggravated by the global economic crisis.[34] The purchase price of agricultural products had declined significantly. In 1935, farmers began strikes in Suvalkija and Dzūkija. In addition to economic ones, political demands were made. The government cruelly suppressed the unrest. In the spring of 1936, four peasants were sentenced to death for starting the riots.[35]

1939–1940

On the eve of World War II, as the geopolitical situation in the region started to change, Lithuania was forced to accept the ultimatums of the neighboring countries.[36] On 17 March 1938, Poland delivered an ultimatum calling for diplomatic relations. Although practically it meant Poland’s “refusal” of Vilnius, Lithuania had also sought to restore relations with its neighbor, and accepted the ultimatum. On 20 March 1939, Lithuania was handed an ultimatum by Nazi Germany. A request was made to transfer the Klaipėda Region to Nazi Germany. Two days later, without seeing the way out, the Lithuanian government signed the agreement.

Another international agreement, this time—with the USSR, was signed on 10 October 1939. On the basis of the agreement, the USSR handed over Vilnius and the Vilnius Region to Lithuania in exchange for the possibility to deploy Soviet military units in the territory of the country.[37] The next step made by the USSR was accusations of the abduction of the Red Army soldiers in Lithuania. Although the Lithuanian government denied such allegations, the tensions became heightened on both sides.[38] On 14 June 1940, the USSR issued an ultimatum to Lithuania, demanding to replace the government and allow Red Army's units to enter the territory of Lithuania without any prior agreements, which meant the occupation of the country.[39]

1940–1944

The anti-Jewish pogrom in Kaunas, in which thousands of Jews were killed in the last few days of June 1941

In Lithuania, World War II began on 15 June 1940, when the USSR occupied the territory of the country. Sovietization was started right away. New power banned opposition, its press, and organizations and also restricted ties with foreign countries. Forced elections with falsified results to the People's Seimas were organized. Nationalization of property and deportation of the local population was in full swing. These processes were somewhat slowed down because of the war that erupted between the USSR and Nazi Germany on 22 June 1941. Taking advantage of the situation, Lithuanians organized an uprising, drove away the Soviets and formed the Provisional Government. The latter hoped for Nazi Germany's recognition, but instead the Germans ceased government's activities and incorporated Lithuania into the German Reichskommissariat Ostland governed by a civilian administration.[39] A new occupation had begun. Nationalized assets were not returned to the residents. Some of them were forced to fight for Nazi Germany or were taken to German territories as a forced laborers. Jewish people were herded into ghettos and gradually killed by shooting or sending them out to concentration camps.[40][41]

1944–1991

Monument in Naujoji Vilnia in memory of the Soviet deportations from Lithuania.

After the retreat of the German armed forces, the Soviets reestablished the annexation of Lithuania in 1944. Under border changes promulgated at the Potsdam Conference of 1945, the former German Memelland, with its Baltic port Memel (Lithuanian: Klaipėda), was again transferred to Lithuania, which was now referred to as the Lithuanian SSR. Most of Memelland's German residents had fled the area in the final months of World War II.

As the front was heading towards west, in July-October 1944 the USSR took over Lithuania again. The second Soviet occupation commenced. The massive deportations to Siberia were resumed and lasted until the death of Stalin in 1953. All Lithuanian national symbols were banned. People were persecuted for using them. Under the pretext of Lithuania’s economic recovery, the Moscow authorities encouraged the migration of workers and other specialists to Lithuania with intention to further integrate Lithuania into the Soviet Union and develop country’s industry. At the same time, Lithuanians were lured to work in the USSR by promising them all the privileges of settling in a new place.

The second Soviet occupation was accompanied by the armed resistance of the Lithuanian population, which took place in 1944-1953. It sought to restore an independent state of Lithuania, to consolidate democracy by destroying communism in the country, returning national values and the freedom of religion. People from all walks of life, different age groups and education joined the resistance. The government classified them as bandits. The Soviet occupation made them to go to the forests and fight against the new system with a gun in their hands.[42]

Lithuanian partisan warfare is divided into three stages. The first stage started in summer 1944 and lasted until summer 1946. During this time, large partisan groups were created, but they lacked one unified organization. There were frequent military encounters with the Red Army. The second stage covered summer 1946 until the end of 1948. At that time, the organizational structure of the partisans was formed, and the size of the groups was reduced to 5-15 people living in bunkers. Partisans used the tactics of underground combat and organized unexpected attacks. The third stage lasted from 1949 to the end of 1953. At that time, the Union of Lithuanian Freedom Fighters was founded under the leadership of Jonas Žemaitis (codename Vytautas). The number of people in a group fell to 3–5 people.[43] Open encounters with the Red Army took place rarely; the guerillas used mostly sabotage and terror. Despite the fact that the guerrilla warfare did not achieve its goal of liberating Lithuania and that it demanded more than 20 000 deaths, the armed resistance showed the world that Lithuania did not voluntarily joined the USSR and it also legitimized the will of the people of Lithuania to be independent.[44]

Even with the suppression of partisan resistance, the Soviet government failed to stop the movement for the independence of Lithuania. The underground dissident groups were active publishing the underground press and Catholic literature. The most active participants of the movement had been Vincentas Sladkevičius, Sigitas Tamkevičius and Nijolė Sadūnaitė. In 1972, after Romas Kalanta’s public self-immolation, the unrest in Kaunas lasted for several days.

The Helsinki Group, which was founded in Lithuania after the international conference in Helsinki (Finland), where the post-WWII borders were acknowledged, announced a declaration for Lithuania’s independence on foreign radio station.[45] The dissident movement lifted up the spirit of the people and did not allow forgetting history and national values. The Helsinki Group informed the Western world about the situation in the Soviet Lithuania and violations of human rights. All these activities made Moscow to soften its grip. With the beginning of the increased openness and transparency in government institutions and activities (glasnost) in the Soviet Union, on June 3 1988, the Sąjūdis was established in Lithuania. Very soon it began to seek country's independence.[46] Vytautas Landsbergis became movement's leader.[47] The supporters of Sąjūdis joined movement's groups all over Lithuania. On 23 August 1988 a big rally took place at the Vingis Park in Vilnius. It was attended by approx. 250 000 people. A year later, on 23 August 1989 celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and aiming to draw the attention of the whole world to the occupation of the Baltic States, a political demonstration, the Baltic Way, was organized.[48] The event, led by Sąjūdis, was a human chain spanning about 600 kilometers across the three Baltic capitals—Vilnius, Riga and Tallinn. The peaceful demonstration showed the desire of the people of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to break away from the USSR.

On 11 March 1990, the Supreme Council announced the restoration of Lithuania's independence. Lithuania became the first Soviet republic to announce its secession from the USSR. But the process was not so simple. On 20 April 1990, the USSR imposed an economic blockade by stopping to deliver supplies of raw materials (primarily oil) to Lithuania. Not only the domestic industry, but also the population started feeling the lack of fuel, essential goods, and even hot water. Although, the blockade lasted for 74 days, Lithuania did not renounce the declaration of independence.

Gradually, the economic relations had been restored. But the tension had peaked again in January 1991. At that time, attempts were made to carry out a coup using the Soviet Armed Forces, the Internal Army of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the USSR Committee for State Security (KGB). Because of the bad economic situation in Lithuania, the forces in Moscow thought the coup d’état will receive a strong public support. But the situation was the opposite.

People from all over Lithuania flooded to Vilnius to defend their legitimately elected Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania and independence. The coup ended with a few casualties of peaceful civilians and caused huge material loss. Not a single person who defended Lithuanian Parliament or other state institutions used a weapon, but the Soviet Army did. Soviet soldiers killed 14 people and injured hundreds. A large part of the Lithuanian population participated in the January Events.[49] Shortly after, on February 1991 Iceland became the first country to recognize the independence of Lithuania.[50] On 31 July 1991, Soviet paramilitaries killed seven Lithuanian border guards on the Belarusian border in what became known as the Medininkai Massacre.[51] On 17 September 1991, Lithuania was admitted to the United Nations.

On 25 October 1992, the citizens of Lithuania voted in the referendum to adopt the current constitution. On 14 February 1993, during the direct general elections, Algirdas Brazauskas became the first president after the restoration of independence of Lithuania. On 31 August 1993, the last units of the Soviet Army left the territory of Lithuania.[52] Since 29 March 2004, Lithuania has been part of the NATO. On 1 May 2004, it became a full-fledged member of the European Union, and a member of the Schengen Agreement on 21 December 2007.

Geography

The Geographic Centre of Europe is in Lithuania

Lithuania is located in northern-eastern EuropeNote and covers an area of 65,200 km2 (25,200 sq mi).[53] It lies between latitudes 53° and 57° N, and mostly between longitudes 21° and 27° E (part of the Curonian Spit lies west of 21°). It has around 99 kilometres (61.5 mi) of sandy coastline, only about 38 kilometres (24 mi) of which face the open Baltic Sea, less than the other two Baltic Sea countries. The rest of the coast is sheltered by the Curonian sand peninsula. Lithuania's major warm-water port, Klaipėda, lies at the narrow mouth of the Curonian Lagoon (Lithuanian: Kuršių marios), a shallow lagoon extending south to Kaliningrad. The country's main and largest river, the Nemunas River, and some of its tributaries carry international shipping.

The Nemunas (Nieman) River between Lithuania and Russia's Kaliningrad Oblast.

Lithuania lies at the edge of the North European Plain. Its landscape was smoothed by the glaciers of the last ice age, and is a combination of moderate lowlands and highlands. Its highest point is Aukštojas Hill at 294 metres (965 ft) in the eastern part of the country. The terrain features numerous lakes (Lake Vištytis, for example) and wetlands, and a mixed forest zone covers over 33% of the country.

After a re-estimation of the boundaries of the continent of Europe in 1989, Jean-George Affholder, a scientist at the Institut Géographique National (French National Geographic Institute), determined that the geographic centre of Europe was in Lithuania, at 54°54′N 25°19′E / 54.900°N 25.317°E / 54.900; 25.317 (Purnuškės (centre of gravity)), 26 kilometres (16 mi) north of Lithuania's capital city of Vilnius.[54] Affholder accomplished this by calculating the centre of gravity of the geometrical figure of Europe.

Climate

Lithuania's climate, which ranges between maritime and continental, is relatively mild. Average temperatures on the coast are −2.5 °C (27.5 °F) in January and 16 °C (61 °F) in July. In Vilnius the average temperatures are −6 °C (21 °F) in January and 17 °C (63 °F) in July. During the summer, 20 °C (68 °F) is common during the day while 14 °C (57 °F) is common at night; in the past, temperatures have reached as high as 30 or 35 °C (86 or 95 °F). Some winters can be very cold. −20 °C (−4 °F) occurs almost every winter. Winter extremes are −34 °C (−29 °F) in coastal areas and −43 °C (−45 °F) in the east of Lithuania.

The average annual precipitation is 800 mm (31.5 in) on the coast, 900 mm (35.4 in) in the Samogitia highlands and 600 mm (23.6 in) in the eastern part of the country. Snow occurs every year, it can snow from October to April. In some years sleet can fall in September or May. The growing season lasts 202 days in the western part of the country and 169 days in the eastern part. Severe storms are rare in the eastern part of Lithuania but common in the coastal areas.

The longest records of measured temperature in the Baltic area cover about 250 years. The data show warm periods during the latter half of the 18th century, and that the 19th century was a relatively cool period. An early 20th century warming culminated in the 1930s, followed by a smaller cooling that lasted until the 1960s. A warming trend has persisted since then.[55]

Lithuania experienced a drought in 2002, causing forest and peat bog fires.[56] The country suffered along with the rest of Northwestern Europe during a heat wave in the summer of 2006.

Climate data for Lithuania
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 12.6
(54.7)
16.5
(61.7)
21.8
(71.2)
31.0
(87.8)
34.0
(93.2)
35.0
(95)
37.5
(99.5)
37.1
(98.8)
35.1
(95.2)
26.0
(78.8)
18.5
(65.3)
15.6
(60.1)
37.5
(99.5)
Average high °C (°F) −1.7
(28.9)
−1.3
(29.7)
2.3
(36.1)
9.4
(48.9)
16.5
(61.7)
19.9
(67.8)
20.9
(69.6)
20.6
(69.1)
15.8
(60.4)
9.9
(49.8)
3.5
(38.3)
−0.1
(31.8)
9.5
(49.1)
Daily mean °C (°F) −3.9
(25)
−3.5
(25.7)
−0.1
(31.8)
5.5
(41.9)
11.6
(52.9)
15.2
(59.4)
16.7
(62.1)
16.1
(61)
12.2
(54)
7.0
(44.6)
1.8
(35.2)
−1.7
(28.9)
6.2
(43.2)
Average low °C (°F) −6.3
(20.7)
−6.6
(20.1)
−2.8
(27)
1.5
(34.7)
7.0
(44.6)
10.5
(50.9)
12.2
(54)
11.9
(53.4)
8.3
(46.9)
4.0
(39.2)
0.1
(32.2)
−3.7
(25.3)
2.7
(36.9)
Record low °C (°F) −40.5
(−40.9)
−42.9
(−45.2)
−37.5
(−35.5)
−23.0
(−9.4)
−6.8
(19.8)
−2.8
(27)
0.9
(33.6)
−2.9
(26.8)
−6.3
(20.7)
−19.5
(−3.1)
−23.0
(−9.4)
−34.0
(−29.2)
−42.9
(−45.2)
Average precipitation mm (inches) 36.2
(1.425)
30.1
(1.185)
33.9
(1.335)
42.9
(1.689)
52.0
(2.047)
69.0
(2.717)
76.9
(3.028)
77.0
(3.031)
60.3
(2.374)
49.9
(1.965)
50.4
(1.984)
47.0
(1.85)
625.5
(24.626)
Source #1: Records of Lithuanian climate[57][58]
Source #2: Weatherbase[59]

Politics

Dalia Grybauskaitė.jpg Saulius Skvernelis.jpg
Dalia Grybauskaitė
President
Saulius Skvernelis
Prime Minister

Since Lithuania declared the restoration of its independence on 11 March 1990, it has maintained strong democratic traditions. It held its first independent general elections on 25 October 1992, in which 56.75% of voters supported the new constitution.[60] There were intense debates concerning the constitution, particularly the role of the president. A separate referendum was held on 23 May 1992 to gauge public opinion on the matter, and 41% of voters supported the restoration of the President of Lithuania.[60] Through compromise, a semi-presidential system was agreed on.[2]

The Lithuanian head of state is the president, directly elected for a five-year term and serving a maximum of two terms. The president oversees foreign affairs and national security, and is the commander-in-chief of the military. The president also appoints the prime minister and, on the latter's nomination, the rest of the cabinet, as well as a number of other top civil servants and the judges for all courts.

The current Lithuanian head of state, Dalia Grybauskaitė was elected on 17 May 2009, becoming the first female president in the country's history, and the second female head of state in the Baltic States after Latvia elected their first female political leader in 1999.[61] Dalia Grybauskaitė was re-elected for a second term in 2014.

The judges of the Constitutional Court (Konstitucinis Teismas) serve nine-year terms. They are appointed by the President, the Chairman of the Seimas, and the Chairman of the Supreme Court, each of whom appoint three judges. The unicameral Lithuanian parliament, the Seimas, has 141 members who are elected to four-year terms. 71 of the members of its members are elected in single member constituencies, and the others in a nationwide vote by proportional representation. A party must receive at least 5% of the national vote to be eligible for any of the 70 national seats in the Seimas.

Seimas — (Parliament of Lithuania)

Administrative divisions

The current system of administrative division was established in 1994 and modified in 2000 to meet the requirements of the European Union. The country's 10 counties (Lithuanian: singular – apskritis, plural – apskritys) are subdivided into 60 municipalities (Lithuanian: singular – savivaldybė, plural – savivaldybės), and further divided into 500 elderships (Lithuanian: singular – seniūnija, plural – seniūnijos).

Municipalities have been the most important unit of administration in Lithuania since the system of county governorship (apskrities viršininkas) was dissolved in 2010.[62] Some municipalities are historically called "district municipalities" (often shortened to "district"), while others are called "city municipalities" (sometimes shortened to "city"). Each has its own elected government. The election of municipality councils originally occurred every three years, but now takes place every four years. The council appoints elders to govern the elderships. Mayors have been directly elected since 2015; prior to that, they were appointed by the council.[63]

Elderships, numbering over 500, are the smallest administrative units and do not play a role in national politics. They provide necessary local public services—for example, registering births and deaths in rural areas. They are most active in the social sector, identifying needy individuals or families and organizing and distributing welfare and other forms of relief.[64] Some citizens feel that elderships have no real power and receive too little attention, and that they could otherwise become a source of local initiative for addressing rural problems.[65]

County Area (km²) Population(thousands) in 2015[66] Nominal GDP billions EUR in 2016[66] Nominal GDP billions USD in 2016[66] Nominal GDP per capita EUR in 2016[66] Nominal GDP per capita USD in 2016[66]
Alytus County 5,425 149 1.2 1.3 8,500 9,100
Kaunas County 8,089 585 7.7 8.5 13,500 14,900
Klaipėda County 5,209 328 4.3 4.7 13,300 14,600
Marijampolė County 4,463 153 1.2 1.3 8,000 8,800
Panevėžys County 7,881 237 2.3 2.5 9,900 10,900
Šiauliai County 8,540 284 2.7 3.0 10,000 11,000
Tauragė County 4,411 104 0.7 0.8 7,400 8,100
Telšiai County 4,350 145 1.3 1.4 9,400 10,300
Utena County 7,201 141 1.1 1.2 8,400 9,200
Vilnius County 9,729 807 16.1 17.7 20,000 22,000
Lithuania 65,300 2907 38.7 42.6 13,500 14,900

Foreign relations

Lithuania became a member of the United Nations on 18 September 1991, and is a signatory to a number of its organizations and other international agreements. It is also a member of the European Union, the Council of Europe, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, as well as NATO and its adjunct North Atlantic Coordinating Council. Lithuania gained membership in the World Trade Organization on 31 May 2001, and currently seeks membership in the OECD and other Western organizations.

Lithuania has established diplomatic relations with 149 countries.[67]

In 2011, Lithuania hosted the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Ministerial Council Meeting. During the second half of 2013, Lithuania assumed the role of the presidency of the European Union.

The stamp is dedicated to Lithuania's presidency of the European Union. Post of Lithuania, 2013.

Lithuania is also active in developing cooperation among northern European countries. It has been a member of the Baltic Council since its establishment in 1993. The Baltic Council, located in Tallinn, is a permanent organisation of international cooperation that operates through the Baltic Assembly and the Baltic Council of Ministers.

Lithuania also cooperates with Nordic and the two other Baltic countries through the NB8 format. A similar format, NB6, unites Nordic and Baltic members of EU. NB6's focus is to discuss and agree on positions before presenting them to the Council of the European Union and at the meetings of EU foreign affairs ministers.

The Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) was established in Copenhagen in 1992 as an informal regional political forum. Its main aim is to promote integration and to close contacts between the region's countries. The members of CBSS are Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Germany, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Russia, and the European Commission. Its observer states are Belarus, France, Italy, Netherlands, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Ukraine.

Lithuania was recently a member of the United Nations Security Council

The Nordic Council of Ministers and Lithuania engage in political cooperation to attain mutual goals and to determine new trends and possibilities for joint cooperation. The Council's information office aims to disseminate Nordic concepts and to demonstrate and promote Nordic cooperation.

Lithuania, together with the five Nordic countries and the two other Baltic countries, is a member of the Nordic Investment Bank (NIB) and cooperates in its NORDPLUS programme, which is committed to education.

The Baltic Development Forum (BDF) is an independent nonprofit organization that unites large companies, cities, business associations and institutions in the Baltic Sea region. In 2010 the BDF's 12th summit was held in Vilnius.[68]

In 2013, Lithuania was elected to the United Nations Security Council for a two-year term,[69] becoming the first Baltic country elected to this post.

Military

The Lithuanian Armed Forces is the name for the unified armed forces of Lithuanian Land Force, Lithuanian Air Force, Lithuanian Naval Force, Lithuanian Special Operations Force and other units: Logistics Command, Training and Doctrine Command, Headquarters Battalion, Military Police. Directly subordinated to the Chief of Defence are the Special Operations Forces and Military Police. The Reserve Forces are under command of the Lithuanian National Defence Volunteer Forces.

Lithuanian soldiers on the international NATO mission in Afghanistan
Lithuanian Army soldiers marching with their dress uniforms in Vilnius

The Lithuanian Armed Forces consist of some 15,000 active personnel, which may be supported by reserve forces.[70] Compulsory conscription ended in 2008 but was reintroduced in 2015.[71] The Lithuanian Armed Forces currently have deployed personnel on international missions in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Mali and Somalia.[72]

In March 2004, Lithuania became a full member of the NATO. Since then, fighter jets of NATO members are deployed in Zokniai airport and provide safety for the Baltic airspace.

Since the summer of 2005 Lithuania has been part of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan (ISAF), leading a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in the town of Chaghcharan in the province of Ghor. The PRT includes personnel from Denmark, Iceland and USA. There are also special operation forces units in Afghanistan, placed in Kandahar Province. Since joining international operations in 1994, Lithuania has lost two soldiers: 1st Lt. Normundas Valteris fell in Bosnia, as his patrol vehicle drove over a mine. Sgt. Arūnas Jarmalavičius was fatally wounded during an attack on the camp of his Provincial Reconstruction Team in Afghanistan.[73]

The Lithuanian National Defence Policy aims to guarantee the preservation of the independence and sovereignty of the state, the integrity of its land, territorial waters and airspace, and its constitutional order. Its main strategic goals are to defend the country's interests, and to maintain and expand the capabilities of its armed forces so they may contribute to and participate in the missions of NATO and European Union member states.[74]

The defense ministry is responsible for combat forces, search and rescue, and intelligence operations. The 5,000 border guards fall under the Interior Ministry's supervision and are responsible for border protection, passport and customs duties, and share responsibility with the navy for smuggling and drug trafficking interdiction. A special security department handles VIP protection and communications security.

In 2017, Lithuania made to the list among the eight NATO countries, which fund their defense sector the best (comparing the size of the economy). According to NATO, in 2017 Lithuania allocated 1.77% of its GDP to the national defense. By spending slightly more than 31% of the total defense budget for acquisitions, Lithuania takes the third place in the Alliance. For a long time Lithuania lagged behind NATO allies in terms of defense spending, but in recent years it has begun to rapidly increase the funding. In 2018 Lithuania intends to allocate 2.06% of its GDP to the defense sector and reach the required funding standard for NATO[75].

Economy

GNI per capita[76]
Labour productivity level of Lithuania is one of the lowest in EU. OECD, 2015[77]
Confirmed state budget revenue projections in EUR per capita for 2016 in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
Average monthly gross salaries in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Time period: 2016, 2nd quarter.
Graphical depiction of Lithuania's product exports in 28 color-coded categories.

Lithuanian GDP experienced very high real growth rates in the decade before 2009, peaking at 11.1% in 2007. As a result, the country was often termed as a Baltic Tiger. However, 2009 marked a dramatic decline in GDP at −14.9% attributed to overheating of the economy. The economy resumed growth in the following years at a lower but more sustainable pace, driven by domestic demand and exports rather than housing and financial bubbles.[78] The unemployment rate was 9.1% at the end of 2015, down from 17.8% in 2010.[79]

Lithuania is part of a monetary union, the eurozone (dark blue), and of the EU single market.

Lithuania has a flat tax rate rather than a progressive scheme. According to Eurostat,[80] the personal income tax (15%) and corporate tax (15%) rates in Lithuania are among the lowest in the EU. The country has the lowest implicit rate of tax on capital (9.8%) in the EU. Lithuania also has the lowest overall taxation as a percentage of GDP (27.2) in the European Union.[80]

Lithuanian income levels are somewhat lower than in older EU Member States but higher than in most new EU Member States that have joined in the last decade. According to Eurostat data, Lithuanian GDP per capita(PPP) stood at 75% of the EU average in 2015.[81] Average annual wage (before taxes, for full-time employees) in Lithuania is about $12,000,[82] around 1/4 of that in the United States.[83] As of 2016, Lithuania had average wealth per adult, at $22,411(and the median of $10,915).[84]. Lithuania is also classified as high-income economy by the World Bank.

Structurally, there is a gradual but consistent shift towards a knowledge-based economy with special emphasis on biotechnology (industrial and diagnostic). The major biotechnology companies and laser manufacturers (Ekspla, Šviesos Konversija) of the Baltics are concentrated in Lithuania. Also mechatronics and information technology (IT) are seen as prospective knowledge-based economy directions.

In 2009, Barclays established Technology Centre Lithuania – one of four strategic engineering centres supporting the Barclays Retail Banking businesses across the globe.[85] In 2011, Western Union officially opened their new European Regional Operating Centre in Vilnius.[86] The stated position of the Lithuanian government is that the focus of Lithuanian economy is high added-value products and services.[87] Among other international companies operating in Lithuania are: PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, Societe Generale, UniCredit, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Phillip Morris, Kraft Foods, Mars, Marks & Spencer, GlaxoSmithKline, United Colors of Benetton, Deichmann, Statoil, Neste Oil, Lukoil, Tele2, Hesburger and Modern Times Group. TeliaSonera, ICA and Carlsberg respectively own local telecommunications company Omnitel, retailer Rimi and beer breweries (Švyturys, Kalnapilis and Utenos Alus). Lithuanian banking sector is dominated by the Scandinavian banks: Swedbank, SEB, Nordea, Danske Bank, DNB ASA.

Among the biggest private owned Lithuanian companies are: ORLEN Lietuva, Maxima Group, Achema Group, Lukoil Baltija, Linas Agro Group, Indorama Polymers Europe, Palink, Sanitex.[88][89] Corporate tax rate in Lithuania is 15% and 5% for small businesses. The government offers special incentives for investments into the high-technology sectors and high value-added products. Most of the trade Lithuania conducts is within the European Union and Russia.

The litas was the national currency until 2015, when it was replaced by the euro at the rate of EUR 1.00 = LTL 3.45280.[90] Litas had been pegged to the euro at this rate since 2 February 2002.[91]

Infrastructure

Communication

According to the Speedtest.net website, as of 30 October 2011 Lithuania ranks first in the world by the internet upload speed and download speed, schools and corporations ignored.[92][93] The high speeds are largely due to Lithuania having the EU's and Europe's most available FTTH network. According to a yearly study published by the FTTH Council Europe in 2013,[94] the country has connected 100% of households to the FTTH network. 31% of these households are subscribers to this network at the time of publishing. Lithuania has thus Europe's most available fibre network and also has the highest FTTH penetration. Sweden has the next highest FTTH penetration with 23%.

Transport

Major highways in Lithuania
Construction of the dual-gauge railway track in Lithuania (Rail Baltica project)

The country boasts a well-developed modern infrastructure of railways, airports and four-lane highways. Lithuania has an extensive network of motorways. The best known motorways are A1, connecting Vilnius with Klaipėda via Kaunas, as well as A2, connecting Vilnius and Panevėžys. One of the most used is the European route E67 highway running from Warsaw to Tallinn, via Kaunas and Riga.

The Port of Klaipėda is the only commercial port in Lithuania. In a record year for the port, in 2011 45.5 million tons of cargo were handled (including Būtingė oil terminal figures), making it one of the biggest in the Baltic Sea.[95]

Vilnius International Airport is the largest airport. It served 3.8 million passengers in 2016.[96] Other international airports include Kaunas International Airport, Palanga International Airport and Šiauliai International Airport.

Lithuania received its first railway connection in the middle of the 19th century, when the Warsaw – Saint Petersburg Railway was constructed. It included a stretch from Daugavpils via Vilnius and Kaunas to Virbalis. The first and only still operating in the Baltic states Kaunas Railway Tunnel was completed in 1860. Lithuanian Railways' main network consists of 1,762 km (1,095 mi) of 1,520 mm (4 ft 11.8 in) broad gauge railway of which 122 km (76 mi) are electrified. They also operate 115 km (71 mi) of standard gauge lines.[97] The Trans-European standard gauge Rail Baltica railway, linking HelsinkiTallinnRigaKaunasWarsaw and continuing on to Berlin is under construction.

Energy

Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant was a Soviet-era nuclear station. Unit No. 1 was closed in December 2004, as a condition of Lithuania's entry into the European Union; the plant is similar to the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in its lack of a robust containment structure. The remaining unit, as of 2006, supplied about 70% of Lithuania's electrical demand.[98] Unit No. 2 was closed down on 31 December 2009. Proposals have been made to construct another – Visaginas Nuclear Power Plant in Lithuania.[99] However, a non-binding referendum held in October 2012 clouded the prospects for the Visaginas project, as 63% of voters said no to a new nuclear power plant.[100]

The country's main primary source of electrical power is Elektrėnai Power Plant. Other primary sources of Lithuania's electrical power are Kruonis Pumped Storage Plant and Kaunas Hydroelectric Power Plant. Kruonis Pumped Storage Plant is the only in the Baltic states power plant to be used for regulation of the power system's operation with generating capacity of 900 MW for at least 12 hours.[101] As of 2015, 66% of electrical power was imported.[102]

Demographics

Population of Lithuania (in millions), 1950–2016
Population density

Since the Neolithic period the native inhabitants of the Lithuanian territory have not been replaced by any other ethnic group, so there is a high probability that the inhabitants of present-day Lithuania have preserved the genetic composition of their forebears relatively undisturbed by the major demographic movements,[103] although without being actually isolated from them.[104] The Lithuanian population appears to be relatively homogeneous, without apparent genetic differences among ethnic subgroups.[105]

A 2004 analysis of MtDNA in the Lithuanian population revealed that Lithuanians are close to the Slavic and Finno-Ugric speaking populations of Northern and Eastern Europe. Y-chromosome SNP haplogroup analysis showed Lithuanians to be closest to Latvians and Estonians.[106]

According to 2014 estimates, the age structure of the population was as follows: 0–14 years, 13.5% (male 243,001/female 230,674); 15–64 years: 69.5% (male 1,200,196/female 1,235,300); 65 years and over: 16.8% (male 207,222/female 389,345).[107] The median age was 41.2 years (male: 38.5, female: 43.7).[108]

Lithuania has a sub-replacement fertility rate: the total fertility rate (TFR) in Lithuania is 1.59 children born/woman (2015 estimates).[109] As of 2014, 29% of births were to unmarried women.[110] The age at first marriage in 2013 was 27 years for women and 29.3 years for men.[111]

Ethnic groups

Residents of Lithuania by ethnicity (2015)[1]
Lithuanians
86.7%
Poles
5.6%
Russians
4.8%
Belarusians
1.3%
Ukrainians
0.7%
Others
0.9%

Ethnic Lithuanians make up about five-sixths of the country's population and Lithuania has the most homogenous population in the Baltic States. In 2015, the population of Lithuania stands at 2,921,262, 86.7% of whom are ethnic Lithuanians who speak Lithuanian, which is the official language of the country. Several sizable minorities exist, such as Poles (5.6%), Russians (4.8%), Belarusians (1.3%) and Ukrainians (0.7%).[1]

Poles in Lithuania are the largest minority, concentrated in southeast Lithuania (the Vilnius region). Russians in Lithuania are the second largest minority, concentrated mostly in two cities. They constitute sizeable minorities in Vilnius (12%)[112] and Klaipėda (19.6%),[113] and a majority in the town of Visaginas (52%).[114] About 3,000 Roma live in Lithuania, mostly in Vilnius, Kaunas and Panevėžys; their organizations are supported by the National Minority and Emigration Department.[115] For centuries a small Tatar community has flourished in Lithuania.[116]

The former "Solidarity" leader and Polish President Lech Wałęsa criticized the government of Lithuania over discrimination against the Polish minority, which included the enforced Lithuanization of Polish surnames (e.g. Liszkowska to Liškovska or Liškauskienė, Kleczkowski to Klečkovski or Klečkovskis),[specify] and the removal of bilingual Polish language street signs in municipalities predominantly inhabited by the Polish speaking population.[117][specify]

The official language is Lithuanian, other languages, such as Polish, Russian, Belarusian and Ukrainian, are spoken in the larger cities, and several municipalities such as Šalčininkai District Municipality, Vilnius District Municipality and Visaginas Municipality, but are not legally recognized by the Lithuanian government. Yiddish is spoken by members of the tiny remaining Jewish community in Lithuania. According to the Lithuanian population census of 2011,[113] about 85% of the country's population speak Lithuanian as their native language, 7,2% are native speakers of Russian and 5,3% of Polish. According to the Eurobarometer survey conducted in 2012, 80% of Lithuanians can speak Russian and 38% can speak English. Most Lithuanian schools teach English as the first foreign language, but students may also study German, or, in some schools, French or Russian. Schools where Russian or Polish are the primary languages of education exist in the areas populated by these minorities.

Urbanization

There has been a steady movement of population to the cities since the 1990s, encouraged by the planning of regional centres, such as Alytus, Marijampolė, Utena, Plungė, and Mažeikiai. By the early 21st century, about two-thirds of the total population lived in urban areas. As of 2015, 66.5% of the total population lives in urban areas.[107] The largest city is Vilnius, followed by Kaunas, Klaipėda, Šiauliai, and Panevėžys.

 
Largest cities or towns in Lithuania
Statistics Lithuania (2015)[118]
Rank Name County Pop. Rank Name County Pop.
Vilnius
Vilnius
Kaunas
Kaunas
1 Vilnius Vilnius 542,990 11 Kėdainiai Kaunas 25,107 Klaipėda
Klaipėda
Šiauliai
Šiauliai
2 Kaunas Kaunas 299,466 12 Telšiai Telšiai 24,855
3 Klaipėda Klaipėda 155,032 13 Tauragė Tauragė 24,681
4 Šiauliai Šiauliai 103,676 14 Ukmergė Vilnius 21,981
5 Panevėžys Panevėžys 94,399 15 Visaginas Utena 20,028
6 Alytus Alytus 55,012 16 Kretinga Klaipėda 19,999
7 Mažeikiai Telšiai 38,120 17 Radviliškis Šiauliai 18,882
8 Marijampolė Marijampolė 37,914 18 Plungė Telšiai 18,717
9 Jonava Kaunas 28,719 19 Vilkaviškis Marijampolė 16,707
10 Utena Utena 27,120 20 Šilutė Klaipėda 16,686
Map of the 20 largest cities or towns in Lithuania

Functional urban areas

Functional urban areas in Lithuania:[119]

Functional urban areas Population(thousands)
2015
Vilnius 696
Kaunas 390

Health

As of 2015 Lithuanian life expectancy at birth was 73.4 (67.4 years for males and 78.8 for females)[120] and the infant mortality rate was 6.2 per 1,000 births. The annual population growth rate increased by 0.3% in 2007. At 33.5 people per 100,000 in 2012, Lithuania has seen a dramatic rise in suicides in the post-Soviet years, and now records the fourth highest age-standardized suicide rate in the world, according to WHO.[121] Lithuania also has the highest homicide rate in the EU.[122]

Religion

As per the 2011 census, 77.2% of Lithuanians belonged to the Roman Catholic Church.[123] The Church has been the majority denomination since the Christianisation of Lithuania at the end of the 14th century. The Reformation did not impact Lithuania to a great extent as seen in Estonia or Latvia as generally only local Germans in the Klaipėda/Memel area turned Protestant, while Lithuanians and Poles remained Catholic, and Russians, Belarusians and Ukrainians—Eastern Orthodox. Some priests actively led the resistance against the Communist regime (symbolised by the Hill of Crosses).

Residents of Lithuania by religion (2011)[123]
Roman Catholic
77.2%
Orthodox
4.1%
Orthodox (Old Believers)
0.8%
Lutheran
0.6%
Reformed
0.2%
Others
0.9%
No religion
6.1%
Did not specify
10.1%

4.1% are Eastern Orthodox, mainly among the Russian minority. This group is distinguishable into the Eastern Orthodox Church and Old Believers.

Protestants are 0.8%, of which 0.6% are Lutheran and 0.2% are Reformed. According to Losch (1932), the Lutherans were 3.3% of the total population;[124] they were mainly Germans in the Memel territory (now Klaipėda). There was also a tiny Reformed community (0,5%)[124] which still persists. Protestantism has declined with the removal of the German population, and today it is mainly represented by ethnic Lithuanians throughout the northern and western parts of the country, as well as in large urban areas. Believers and clergy suffered greatly during the Soviet occupation, with many killed, tortured or deported to Siberia. Newly arriving evangelical churches have established missions in Lithuania since 1990.[125]

Lithuanian Tatars maintained Islam as their religion. 6.1% of Lithuanians have no religion.

Lithuania was historically home to a significant Jewish community and was an important center of Jewish scholarship and culture from the 18th century until the eve of World War II. Prior to the war, the Jewish population, outside of the Vilnius region (which was then in Poland), numbered about 160,000. In September 1939, tens of thousands of Polish Jews became Lithuanian subjects when the Soviets transferred the Vilnius region (of the former Polish state) to Lithuania and additional Jewish refugees arrived in Lithuania during the period prior to June 1941. Of the approximately 220,000 Jews who lived in the Republic of Lithuania in June 1941, almost all were entirely annihilated during the Holocaust.[126][127] The community numbered about 4,000 at the end of 2009.[128]

Wooden church in Palūšė. Lithuania has strong Roman Catholic traditions.
Choral Synagogue of Vilnius, the only synagogue in the city to survive the Nazi Holocaust.

According to the most recent Eurobarometer Poll in 2010,[129] 47% of Lithuanian citizens responded that "they believe there is a God", 37% answered that "they believe there is some sort of spirit or life force", and 12% said that "they do not believe there is any sort of spirit, god, or life force".

Education

Vilnius University, one of the oldest universities in Eastern and Central Europe

The first documented school in Lithuania was established in 1387 at Vilnius Cathedral.[130] The school network was influenced by the Christianization of Lithuania. Several types of schools were present in medieval Lithuania – cathedral schools, where pupils were prepared for priesthood; parish schools, offering elementary education; and home schools dedicated to educating the children of the Lithuanian nobility. Before Vilnius University was established in 1579, Lithuanians seeking higher education attended universities in foreign cities, including Kraków, Prague, and Leipzig, among others.[130] During the Interbellum a national universityVytautas Magnus University was founded in Kaunas.

The Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Lithuania proposes national educational policies and goals. These are sent to the Seimas for ratification. Laws govern long-term educational strategy along with general laws on standards for higher education, vocational training, law and science, adult education, and special education.[131] County administrators, municipal administrators, and school founders (including non-governmental organizations, religious organizations, and individuals) are responsible for implementing these policies.[131] By constitutional mandate, ten years of formal enrollment in an educational institution is mandatory, ending at age 16.[132]

Raudonė Basic School, located in Raudonė Castle

14.7% of the 2014 state budget was allocated to education expenses.[133] Primary and secondary schools receive funding from the state via their municipal or county administrations. The Constitution of Lithuania guarantees tuition-free attendance at public institutions of higher education for students deemed 'good'; the number of such students has varied over the past decade, with 53.5% exempted from tuition fees in 2014.[134]

The World Bank designates the literacy rate of Lithuanian persons aged 15 years and older as 100% [135] and, according to Eurostat Lithuania leads among other countries of EU by people with secondary education (93.3%).[136] As of 2012, 34% of the population aged 25 to 64 had completed tertiary education; 59.1% had completed upper secondary and post-secondary (non-tertiary) education.[137] According to Invest in Lithuania, Lithuania has twice as many people with higher education than the EU-15 average and the proportion is the highest in the Baltic. Also, 90% of Lithuanians speak at least one foreign language and half of the population speaks two foreign languages, mostly Russian and English.[138]

As with other Baltic nations, in particular Latvia, the large volume of higher education graduates within the country, coupled with the high rate of spoken second languages is contributing to an education brain drain. Many Lithuanians are choosing to emigrate seeking higher earning employment and studies throughout Europe. Since their inclusion into the European Union in 2004, Lithuania's population has fallen by approximately 180,000 people.[139][140]

As of 2008, there were 15 public universities in Lithuania, 6 private institutions, 16 public colleges, and 11 private colleges.[141] Vilnius University is one of the oldest universities in Northern Europe and the largest university in Lithuania. Kaunas University of Technology is the largest technical university in the Baltic States and the 2nd largest university in Lithuania. Other universities include Lithuanian University of Health Sciences, Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre, Lithuanian University of Educology, Vytautas Magnus University, Mykolas Romeris University, Lithuanian Academy of Physical Education, Vilnius Gediminas Technical University, The General Jonas Zemaitis Military Academy of Lithuania, Klaipėda University, Lithuanian Veterinary Academy, Lithuanian University of Agriculture, Šiauliai University, Vilnius Academy of Art, and LCC International University.

Culture

Lithuanian language

The Lithuanian language (lietuvių kalba) is the official state language of Lithuania and is recognized as one of the official languages of the European Union. There are about 2.96 million native Lithuanian speakers in Lithuania and about 0.2 million abroad.

Lithuanian is a Baltic language, closely related to Latvian, although they are not mutually intelligible. It is written in an adapted version of the Roman script. Lithuanian is believed to be the linguistically most conservative living Indo-European tongue, retaining many features of Proto Indo-European.[142]

Literature

The first Lithuanian printed book Catechism of Martynas Mažvydas (1547, Königsberg)

There is a great deal of Lithuanian literature written in Latin, the main scholarly language of the Middle Ages. The edicts of the Lithuanian King Mindaugas is the prime example of the literature of this kind. The Letters of Gediminas are another crucial heritage of the Lithuanian Latin writings.

Lithuanian literary works in the Lithuanian language started being first published in the 16th century. In 1547 Martynas Mažvydas compiled and published the first printed Lithuanian book The Simple Words of Catechism, which marks the beginning of printed Lithuanian literature. He was followed by Mikalojus Daukša with Katechizmas. In the 16th and 17th centuries, as in the whole Christian Europe, Lithuanian literature was primarily religious.

The evolution of the old (14th–18th century) Lithuanian literature ends with Kristijonas Donelaitis, one of the most prominent authors of the Age of Enlightenment. Donelaitis' poem The Seasons is a landmark of the Lithuanian fiction literature.[143]

With a mix of Classicism, Sentimentalism and Romanticism, the Lithuanian literature of the first half of the 19th century is represented by Maironis, Antanas Baranauskas, Simonas Daukantas and Simonas Stanevičius.[143] During the Tsarist annexation of Lithuania in the 19th century, the Lithuanian press ban was implemented, which led to the formation of the Knygnešiai (Book smugglers) movement. This movement is thought to be the very reason the Lithuanian language and literature survived until today.

20th-century Lithuanian literature is represented by Juozas Tumas-Vaižgantas, Antanas Vienuolis, Bernardas Brazdžionis, Vytautas Mačernis and Justinas Marcinkevičius.

Arts and museums

Jonas Mekas is regarded as godfather of American avant-garde cinema

The Lithuanian Art Museum was founded in 1933 and is the largest museum of art conservation and display in Lithuania.[144] Among other important museums is the Palanga Amber Museum, where amber pieces comprise a major part of the collection.

Perhaps the most renowned figure in Lithuania's art community was the composer Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis (1875–1911), an internationally renowned musician. The 2420 Čiurlionis asteroid, identified in 1975, honors his achievements. The M. K. Čiurlionis National Art Museum, as well as the only military museum in Lithuania, Vytautas the Great War Museum, are located in Kaunas.

Music

Lithuanian folk music belongs to Baltic music branch which is connected with neolithic corded ware culture. Two instrument cultures meet in the areas inhabited by Lithuanians: stringed (kanklių) and wind instrument cultures. Lithuanian folk music is archaic, mostly used for ritual purposes, containing elements of paganism faith. There are three ancient styles of singing in Lithuania connected with ethnographical regions: monophony, heterophony and polyphony. Folk song genres: Sutartinės, Wedding Songs, War-Historical Time Songs, Calendar Cycle and Ritual Songs and Work Songs.

Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis is the most renowned Lithuanian painter and composer. During his short life he created about 200 pieces of music. His works have had profound influence on modern Lithuanian culture. His symphonic poems In the Forest (Miške) and The Sea (Jūra) were performed only posthumously. Čiurlionis contributed to symbolism and art nouveau and was representative of the fin de siècle epoch. He has been considered[by whom?] one of the pioneers of abstract art in Europe.

Vytautas Miškinis (born 1954) is a professor, composer and choir director of the famous Lithuanian boys' choir Ąžuoliukas. He is very popular in Lithuania and abroad. He has written over 400 secular and about 160 religious works.

In Lithuania, choral music is very important. Vilnius is the only city with three choirs laureates (Brevis, Jauna Muzika and Chamber Choir of the Conservatoire) at the European Grand Prix for Choral Singing. There is a long-standing tradition of the Lithuanian Song and Dance Festival (Dainų Šventė). The first one took place in Kaunas in 1924. Since 1990, the festival has been organised every four years and summons roughly 30,000 singers and folk dancers of various professional levels and age groups from across the country. In 2008, Lithuanian Song and Dance Festival together with its Latvian and Estonian versions was inscribed as UNESCO Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

Marijonas Mikutavičius is famous for creating unofficial Lithuania sport anthem "Trys milijonai" (English: Three million).[145]

Cuisine

Cepelinai, a potato-based dumpling dish characteristic of Lithuanian cuisine

Lithuanian cuisine features the products suited to the cool and moist northern climate of Lithuania: barley, potatoes, rye, beets, greens, berries, and mushrooms are locally grown, and dairy products are one of its specialties. Since it shares its climate and agricultural practices with Northern Europe, Lithuanian cuisine has some similarities to Scandinavian cuisine. Nevertheless, it has its own distinguishing features, which were formed by a variety of influences during the country's long and difficult history.

Because of their common heritage, Lithuanians, Poles, and Ashkenazi Jews share many dishes and beverages. Namely, similar versions of: dumplings (koldūnai, kreplach or pierogi), doughnuts spurgos or (pączki), and blynai crêpes (blintzes). German traditions also influenced Lithuanian cuisine, introducing pork and potato dishes, such as potato pudding (kugelis or kugel) and potato sausages (vėdarai), as well as the baroque tree cake known as Šakotis. The most exotic of all the influences is Eastern (Karaite) cuisine, and the dishes kibinai and čeburekai are popular in Lithuania. Torte Napoleon was introduced during Napoleon's passage through Lithuania in the 19th century.

Sports

Rūta MeilutytėOlympic, multiple World and European champion.

Basketball is the most popular and national sport of Lithuania. The Lithuania national basketball team has had significant success in international basketball events, having won the EuroBasket on three occasions (1937, 1939 and 2003), as well a total of 8 other medals in the Eurobasket, the World Championships and the Olympic Games. The men's national team also has extremely high TV ratings as about 76% of the country's population watched their games live in 2014.[146] Lithuania hosted the Eurobasket in 1939 and 2011. The historic Lithuanian basketball team BC Žalgiris, from Kaunas, won the European basketball league Euroleague in 1999. Lithuania has produced a number of NBA players, including Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductees Arvydas Sabonis and Šarūnas Marčiulionis[147] and current NBA players Jonas Valančiūnas, Domantas Sabonis and Mindaugas Kuzminskas.[148]

Lithuania has won a total of 25 medals at the Olympic Games, including 6 gold medals in athletics, modern pentathlon, shooting, and swimming. Numerous other Lithuanians won Olympic medals representing Soviet Union. Discus thrower Virgilijus Alekna is the most successful Olympic athlete of independent Lithuania, having won gold medals in the 2000 Sydney and 2004 Athens games, as well as a bronze in 2008 Beijing Olympics and numerous World Championship medals. More recently, the gold medal won by a then 15-year-old swimmer Rūta Meilutytė at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London sparked a rise in popularity for the sport in Lithuania.

Druskininkai Snow Arena

Lithuania has produced prominent athletes in athletics, modern pentathlon, road and track cycling, chess, rowing, aerobatics, strongman, wrestling, boxing, mixed martial arts, Kyokushin Karate and other sports.

Few Lithuanian athletes have found success in winter sports, although facilities are provided by several ice rinks and skiing slopes, including Snow Arena, the first indoor ski slope in the Baltics.[149]

International rankings

The following are links to international rankings of Lithuania from selected research institutes and foundations including economic output and various composite indices.

Index Rank Countries reviewed
Human Development Index 2016 37th 188
Inequality adjusted Human Development Index 2016 30th 151
Ease of Doing Business Index 2017 21st 190
Index of Economic Freedom 2017 16th 180
Corruption Perceptions Index 2015 32nd 175
Global Peace Index 2016 37th 163
Globalization Index 2015 35th 207
Privacy International 2007 34th 45
Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index 2016 35th 180
Networked Readiness Index 2015[150] 31st 148
Legatum Prosperity Index 2016[151] 42nd 149
EF English Proficiency Index 2015[152] 26th 70
Logistics Performance Index 2016[153] 29th 160

See also

Notes

^ Various sources classify Lithuania differently for statistical and other purposes. For example, United Nations[154] and Eurovoc,[155] among others, classify it as northern Europe, the CIA World Factbook[107] classifies it as eastern Europe, and Encyclopedia Britannica locates it in northeastern Europe.[156] Usage varies greatly, and controversially,[157] in press sources.

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