Lithuania

Lithuania voted for independence from the Soviet Union on February 9, 1991. Read this country profile to learn more about the geography, government, and history of Lithuania.
Grades:
9 |
10 |
Map of Lithuania
Map of Lithuania
Republic of Lithuania

National name: Lietuvos Respublika

President: Valdas Adamkus (2004)

Prime Minister: Gediminas Kirkilas (2006)

Total area: 25,174 sq mi (65,200 sq km)

Population (2008 est.): 3,565,205 (growth rate: –0.2%); birth rate: 9/1000; infant mortality rate: 6.5/1000; life expectancy: 74.6; density per sq km: 54

Capital and largest city (2003 est.): Vilnius, 543,500

Other large cities: Kaunas, 379,800; Klaipéda, 193,400

Monetary unit: Litas

Languages: Lithuanian 82% (official), Russian 8%, Polish 6% (2001)

Ethnicity/race: Lithuanian 83.4%, Polish 6.7%, Russian 6.3%, other or unspecified 3.6% (2001)

Religions: Roman Catholic 79%, Russian Orthodox 4%, Protestant (including Lutheran, evangelical Christian Baptist) 2%, none 10% (2001)

National Holiday: Independence Day, February 16

Literacy: 100% (2003 est.)

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2007 est.): $59.64 billion; per capita $17,700. Real growth rate: 8.8%. Inflation: 5.8%. Unemployment: 3.5%. Arable land: 45%. Agriculture: grain, potatoes, sugar beets, flax, vegetables; beef, milk, eggs; fish. Labor force: 1.61 million; industry 30%, agriculture 20%, services 50% (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 jewelry. Natural resources: peat, arable land, amber. Exports: $10.95 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.): mineral products 23%, textiles and clothing 16%, machinery and equipment 11%, chemicals 6%, wood and wood products 5%, foodstuffs 5% (2001). Imports: $13.33 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.): mineral products, machinery and equipment, transport equipment, chemicals, textiles and clothing, metals. Major trading partners: Germany, Latvia, Russia, France, UK, Sweden, Estonia, Poland, Netherlands, Denmark, U.S., Switzerland (2004).

Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 1.142 million (2001); mobile cellular: 500,000 (2001). Radio broadcast stations: AM 29, FM 142, shortwave 1 (2001). Radios: 1.9 million (1997). Television broadcast stations: 27; note: Lithuania has approximately 27 broadcasting stations, but may have as many as 100 transmitters, including repeater stations (2001). Televisions: 1.7 million (1997). Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 32 (2001). Internet users: 341,000 (2001).

Transportation: Railways: total: 1,998 km (2002). Highways: total: 75,243 km; paved: 68,697 km; unpaved: 6,546 km (2000). Waterways: 600 km perennially navigable. Ports and harbors: Butinge, Kaunas, Klaipeda. Airports: 87 (2002).

International disputes: in May 2003, the Russian Parliament ratified a 1997 land and maritime boundary treaty with Lithuania, which had ratified the treaty in 1999, legalizing limits of former Soviet republic borders; the Latvian Parliament has not ratified its 1998 maritime boundary treaty with Lithuania, primarily due to concerns over oil exploration rights; discussions are still ongoing among Russia, Lithuania, and the EU concerning a simplified transit document for residents of the Kaliningrad coastal exclave to transit through Lithuania to Russia.

Flag of Lithuania

Geography

Lithuania is situated on the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea and borders Latvia on the north, Belarus on the east and south, and Poland and the Kaliningrad region of Russia on the southwest. It is a country of gently rolling hills, many forests, rivers and streams, and lakes. Its principal natural resource is agricultural land.

Government

Parliamentary democracy.

History

The Liths, or Lithuanians, united in the 12th century under the rule of Mindaugas, who became king in 1251. Through marriage, one of the later Lithuanian rulers became the king of Poland (Ladislaus II) in 1386, uniting the countries. In 1410, the Poles and Lithuanians defeated the powerful Teutonic Knights at Tannenberg. From the 14th to the 16th century, Poland and Lithuania made up one of medieval Europe's largest empires, stretching from the Black Sea almost to Moscow. The two countries formed a confederation for almost 200 years, and in 1569 they formally united. Russia, Prussia, and Austria partitioned Poland in 1772, 1792, and 1795. As a consequence, Lithuania came under Russian rule after the last partition. Russia attempted to immerse Lithuania in Russian culture and language, but anti-Russian sentiment continued to grow. Following World War I and the collapse of Russia, Lithuania declared independence (1918), under German protection.

The republic was then annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940. From June 1941 to 1944, it was occupied by German troops, with whom Lithuania served in World War II. Some 240,000 Jews were massacred in Lithuania during the Nazi years. In 1944, the Soviets again annexed Lithuania.

The Lithuanian independence movement reemerged in 1988. In 1990, Vytautas Landsbergis, the non-Communist head of the largest Lithuanian popular movement (Sajudis), was elected president. On the same day, the Supreme Council rejected Soviet rule and declared the restoration of Lithuania's independence, the first Baltic republic to take this action. Confrontation with the Soviet Union ensued along with economic sanctions, but they were lifted after both sides agreed to a face-saving compromise.

Lithuania Embarks on Independence and Democracy

Lithuania's independence was quickly recognized by major European and other nations, including the United States. The Soviet Union finally recognized the independence of the Baltic states on Sept. 6, 1991. UN admittance followed on Sept. 17, 1991. Successful implementation of structural and legislative reforms in Lithuania attracted greater direct foreign investments by the mid-1990s.

In late 2002, Lithuania was accepted for membership in the EU and NATO, and it joined both in 2004. In Jan. 2003 Rolandas Paksas defeated the incumbent, Valdas Adamkus, in the presidential election. It was a surprising upset, given that Adamkus had helped bring about his country's entry into NATO and the European Union. In April 2004, President Paksas was removed from office after his conviction for dealings with Russian mobsters. It was Lithuania's worst political crisis since independence from the Soviet Union. In July 2004, Valdas Adamkus was again elected president.

On Oct. 12, 2008, in parliamentary elections turnout was 48.5%. The Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats won 19.7% of the vote (18 of 70 seats). The National Revival Party came in second with 15.1% (13) of the vote, and the Order and Justice was third with 12.7% (11) of the vote.

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