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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.
Government type: parliamentary democracy
Capital: Vilnius
Currency: 1 Lithuanian litas = 100 centas

Geography of Lithuania

Location: Eastern Europe, bordering the Baltic Sea, between Latvia and Russia
Geographic coordinates: 56 00 N, 24 00 E
total: 65,200 sq km
land: 65,200 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Land boundaries:
total: 1,273 km
border countries: Belarus 502 km, Latvia 453 km, Poland 91 km, Russia (Kaliningrad) 227 km
Coastline: 99 km
Maritime claims:
territorial sea: 12 nm
Climate: transitional, between maritime and continental; wet, moderate winters and summers
Terrain: lowland, many scattered small lakes, fertile soil
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Baltic Sea 0 m
highest point: Juozapines/Kalnas 292 m
Natural resources: peat, arable land
Land use:
arable land: 35%
permanent crops: 12%
permanent pastures: 7%
forests and woodland: 31%
other: 15% (1993 est.)
Irrigated land: 430 sq km (1993 est.)
Natural hazards: NA
Environment – current issues: contamination of soil and groundwater with petroleum products and chemicals at military bases
Environment – international agreements:
party to:  Biodiversity, Climate Change, Hazardous Wastes, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol
Geography – note: fertile central plains are separated by hilly uplands that are ancient glacial deposits

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.)
Age structure:
0-14 years:  18.75% 
15-64 years:  67.69% 
65 years and over:  13.56% 
Population growth rate: -0.27% 
Birth rate: 10 births/1,000 population 
Death rate: 12.86 deaths/1,000 population 
Net migration rate: 0.15 migrant(s)/1,000 population 
Infant mortality rate: 14.5 deaths/1,000 live births 
Life expectancy at birth:
total population:  69.25 years
male:  63.3 years
female:  75.5 years 
Total fertility rate: 1.37 children born/woman 
noun: Lithuanian(s)
adjective: Lithuanian
Ethnic groups: Lithuanian 80.6%, Russian 8.7%, Polish 7%, Byelorussian 1.6%, other 2.1%
Religions: Roman Catholic (primarily), Lutheran, Russian Orthodox, Protestant, evangelical Christian Baptist, Muslim, Jewish
Languages: Lithuanian (official), Polish, Russian
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 98%
male: 99%
female: 98% (1989 est.)

History of Lithuania

Lithuanians belong to the Baltic group of nations. Their ancestors moved to the Baltic region about 3000 B.C. from beyond the Volga region of central Russia. In Roman times, they traded amber with Rome and around A.D. 900-1000 split into different language groups, namely, Lithuanians, Prussians, Latvians, Semigallians, and others. The Prussians were conquered by the Teutonic Knights, and, ironically, the name “Prussia” was taken over by the conquerors, who destroyed or assimilated Prussia’s original inhabitants. Other groups also died out or were assimilated by their neighbors. Only the Lithuanians and the Latvians survived the ravages of history.

Traditions of Lithuanian statehood date from the early Middle Ages. As a nation, Lithuania emerged about 1230 under the leadership of Duke Mindaugas. He united Lithuanian tribes to defend themselves against attacks by the Teutonic Knights, who had conquered the kindred tribes of Prussia and also parts of present-day Latvia. In 1251 Mindaugas accepted Latin Christianity, and in 1253 he became king. But his nobles disagreed with his policy of coexistence with the Teutonic Knights and with his search for access to western Europe. Mindaugas was killed, the monarchy was discontinued, and the country reverted to paganism. His successors looked for expansion toward the Slavic East. At that early stage of development, Lithuania had to face the historically recurring question dictated by its geopolitical position–whether to join western or eastern Europe.

At the end of the fourteenth century, Lithuania was already a large empire extending from the Baltic Sea to the shores of the Black Sea. Grand Duke Jogaila (r. 1377-81 and 1382-92) of the Gediminas Dynasty faced a problem similar to that faced by Mindaugas 150 years earlier: whether to look to the East or the West for political and cultural influences. Under pressure from the Teutonic Knights, Lithuania, a kingdom of Lithuanians and Slavs, pagans and Orthodox Christians, could no longer stand alone. Jogaila chose to open links to western Europe and to defeat the Teutonic Knights, who claimed that their mission was not to conquer the Lithuanians but to Christianize them. He was offered the crown of Poland, which he accepted in 1386. In return for the crown, Jogaila promised to Christianize Lithuania. He and his cousin Vytautas, who became Lithuania’s grand duke, converted Lithuania to Christianity beginning in 1387. Lithuania was the last pagan country in Europe to become Christian. The cousins then defeated the Teutonic Knights in the Battle of Tannenberg in 1410, stopping Germanic expansion to the east.

Attempts by Vytautas to separate Lithuania from Poland (and to secure his own crown) failed because of the strength of the Polish nobility. Lithuania continued in a political union with Poland. In 1569 Lithuania and Poland united into a single state, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, whose capital was Kraków, and for the next 226 years Lithuania shared the fate of Poland. During this period, Lithuania’s political elite was dominated by the Polish nobility and church, resulting in neglect of the Lithuanian language and introduction of Polish social and political institutions. It also opened the doors to Western models in education and culture.

In 1795 an alliance between the Germanic states–Prussia and Austria–and the Russian Empire ended Poland’s independent existence. Lithuania became a Russian province. Two insurrections, initiated by the Poles in 1831 and again in 1863, failed to liberate the country. The Russian Empire eliminated Polish influence on Lithuanians and introduced Russian social and political institutions. Under tsarist rule, Lithuanian schools were forbidden, Lithuanian publications in the Latin script were outlawed, and the Roman Catholic Church was severely suppressed. However, the restrictive policies failed to extinguish indigenous cultural institutions and language.

A national awakening in the 1880s, led by the secular and clerical intelligentsia, produced demands for self-government. In 1905 Lithuania was the first of the Russian provinces to demand autonomy. Independence was not granted because the tsar firmly reestablished his rule after the Revolution of 1905. But the demand, articulated by the elected Grand Diet of Vilnius, was not abandoned. World War I led to the collapse of the two empires–the Russian and the German–making it possible for Lithuania to assert its statehood. Germany’s attempt to persuade Lithuania to become a German protectorate was unsuccessful. On February 16, 1918, Lithuania declared its full independence, and the country still celebrates that day as its Independence Day.

Lithuania Economy

Economy – overview: Lithuania, the Baltic state that has conducted the most trade with Russia, has been slowly rebounding from the 1998 Russian financial crisis. High unemployment and weak consumption have held back recovery. GDP growth for 2000 – estimated at 2.9% – fell behind that of Estonia and Latvia, and unemployment is estimated at 10.8%, the country’s highest since regaining independence in 1990. For 2001, Lithuanians forecast 3.2% growth, 1.8% inflation, and a fiscal deficit of 3.3%. In early 2001, the Lithuanian Government announced that it will repeg its currency, the litas, to the euro (the litas is currently pegged to the dollar) some time in 2002. Lithuania must ratify 25 agreements along with other legal documents and obligations by 1 May 2001 before gaining World Trade Organization membership. Lithuania was invited to the Helsinki summit in December 1999 and began EU accession talks in early 2000. Privatization of the large, state-owned utilities, particularly in the energy sector, remains a key challenge for 2001.

GDP: purchasing power parity – $26.4 billion (2000 est.)
GDP – real growth rate: 2.9% (2000 est.)
GDP – per capita: purchasing power parity – $7,300 (2000 est.)
GDP – composition by sector:
agriculture:  10%
industry:  33%
services:  57% (1999 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 3.1%
highest 10%: 25.6% (1996)
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 1% (2000 est.)
Labor force: 2 million (2000 est.)
Labor force – by occupation: industry 30%, agriculture 20%, services 50% (1997 est.)
Unemployment rate: 10.8% (2000)
revenues: $1.5 billion
expenditures: $1.7 billion (1997 est.)
Industries: metal-cutting machine tools, electric motors, television sets, refrigerators and freezers, petroleum refining, shipbuilding (small ships), furniture making, textiles, food processing, fertilizers, agricultural machinery, optical equipment, electronic components, computers, amber
Industrial production growth rate: 2.3% (2000 est.)
Electricity – production: 13.567 billion kWh (1999)
Electricity – production by source:
fossil fuel:  23.89%
hydro:  3.43%
nuclear:  72.68%
other:  0% (1999)
Electricity – consumption: 9.817 billion kWh (1999)
Agriculture – products: grain, potatoes, sugar beets, flax, vegetables; beef, milk, eggs; fish
Exports: $3.7 billion (f.o.b., 2000)
Exports – commodities: machinery and equipment 22%, mineral products 15%, chemicals 12%, textiles and clothing, foodstuffs (1999)
Exports – partners: Germany Latvia 12.6%, Russia 6.9%, Belarus 5.8%, Denmark (1999)
Imports: $4.9 billion (f.o.b., 2000)
Imports – commodities: machinery and equipment 18%, mineral products 16%, chemicals 10%, textiles and clothing 10%, transport equipment 7% (1999)
Imports – partners: Russia 20.4%, Germany 16.5%, Denmark 3.8%, Belarus 2.2%, Latvia 2% (1999)
Debt – external: $2.5 billion (2000 est.)
Economic aid – recipient: $228.5 million (1995)
Currency: litas (LTL)

Map of Lithuania