Facts About Lithuania
Background: Independent between the two World Wars, Lithuania
was annexed by the USSR in 1940. On 11 March 1990, Lithuania became the
first of the Soviet republics to declare its independence, but this
proclamation was not generally recognized until September of 1991
(following the abortive coup in Moscow). The last Russian troops withdrew
in 1993. Lithuania subsequently has restructured its economy for eventual
integration into Western European institutions.
Geography of Lithuania
Location: Eastern Europe, bordering the Baltic Sea, between Latvia and Russia
People of Lithuania
The name "Lietuva" or Lithuania, might be derived from the word "lietava," for a small river, or "lietus," meaning rain (or land of rain). Lithuanian still retains the original sound system and morphological peculiarities of the prototypal Indo-European tongue and therefore is fascinating for linguistical study. Between 400-600 AD, the Lithuanian and Latvian languages split from the Eastern Baltic (Prussian) language group, which subsequently became extinct. The first known written Lithuanian text dates from a hymnal translation in 1545. Written with the Latin alphabet, Lithuanian has been the official language of Lithuania again since 1989. The Soviet era had imposed the official use of Russian, so most Lithuanians speak Russian as a second language while the resident Slavic populace generally speaks Russian as a first language.
Lithuanians are neither Slavic nor Germanic, although the union with Poland and Germanic colonization and settlement left cultural and religious influences. This highly literate society places strong emphasis upon education, which is free and compulsory until age 16. Most Lithuanians and ethnic Poles belong to the Roman Catholic Church, but a sizable minority are Russian Orthodox.
Enduring several border changes, Soviet deportations, a massacre of its Jewish population, and postwar German and Polish repatriations, Lithuania has maintained a fairly stable percentage of ethnic Lithuanians (from 84% in 1923 to 80% in 1993). Lithuania's citizenship law and constitution meet international and OSCE standards, guaranteeing universal human and civil rights.
Population: 3,596,617 (July 2005 est.)
SOURCES: The World Factbook, U.S. Department of State
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