Lithuania (i/ˌlɪθuːˈeɪniə/ or /ˌlɪθjuːˈeɪniə/; Lithuanian: Lietuva), officially the Republic of Lithuania (Lithuanian: Lietuvos Respublika) is a country in Northern Europe, the biggest of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea.
Lithuania is the largest and southernmost of the 3 Baltic states and has a population of 3.2 million. The Capital is Vilnius and the country also contains the Port of Klaipėda in the City of Klaipėda, Klaipėda district municipality.
On 11 March 1990, the year before the break-up of the Soviet Union, Lithuania became the first Soviet republic to declare independence and Iceland became the first country to recognise Lithuanian independence on 4 February 1991.
Prior to the global financial crisis of 2007–2010, Lithuania had one of the fastest growing economies in the European Union, but this has slowed impart due to the economic crisis in Latvia. Lithuania is a member of NATO, the Council of Europe, UN, Schengen Agreement and the European Union. The United Nations Human Development Index lists Lithuania as a "Very High Human Development" country
Lithuania was once a Viking fiefdom. The Germanic Teutonic Knights also invaded the region in the 13th century. During the 14th century, Lithuania was united with Poland as the largest country in Europe and occupied parts most of present-day Belarus, Ukraine, and parts of Poland and Russia were territories as the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The Lublin Union of 1569, Poland and Lithuania formed a new state, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth until neighboring countries systematically dismantled it from 1772 to 1795, with the Russian Empire annexing most of Lithuania's territory and the rest going to Prussia.
Lithuania's Council of Lithuania (Lietuvos Taryba) singed it's Act of Independence on 16 February 1918, declaring the re-establishment of a sovereign state. The early 1920's saw a brief skirmish with Bolshevik Russia and short war over the fate of the Republic of Central Lithuania and an invasion of the The Memmeland, the later being lost to Germany from March 1939 to 1945.
The Soviet Union returned Vilnius to Lithuania after the Soviet invasion of Eastern Poland in September 1939 and annexed Lithuania in the June of 1940, the Soviet Union acted in accordance to the secret protocols of Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. World War II saw the Germans occupied the country in 1940 and the Soviet Union reoccupied Lithuania in 1944. It was merged in to the other Baltic states and part of Byelorussia to form the Reichskommissariat Ostland. It is estimated that Lithuania lost 780,000 people during World War II.
The Nazis and their Lithuanian collaborators (many of whom gladly joined even the SS to help fight Russians, Jews and/or communism at the time) murdered around 190,000 Lithuanian Jews (91% of the pre-war Jewish community died or fled the country) during the Holocaust, along with many other groups including Poles, Roma and communists. Many now regret the anti-Jewish policies of that era. One of the German's last stand battles was in the The Battle of Memel during 1944.
General Povilas Plechavičius (1890-1973) was an Imperial Russian and then Lithuanian military officer and statesman rose to the rank of General of in the Lithuanian army during the interwar years. He is well known for fighting in the Lithuanian Wars of Independence, for organizing the 1926 Lithuanian coup d'état and for leading a Lithuanian self-defence force during the Nazi German occupation of Lithuania.
After the Nazis retreated and the Soviets re-established the annexation of Lithuania in 1944. This followed with the massive deportations of uncooperative, dissenting and 'trouble-making' citizens to Siberian gulags and parts of Kazakhstan. From 1944 to 1952 approximately 100,000 Lithuanian partisans fought a guerrilla war against the Soviet system. An estimated 30,000 partisans and their supporters were killed, and many more were arrested and deported to Siberian gulags. The complete nationalization, political indoctrination and collectivization and general Sovietisation of everyday life the occurred on mass until the 1980's. this was to come to the fore as history lessons, there were 2 types of official lessons, a reasonably accurate on for life before 1939 and a highly politicized account of life after 1938, The latter is known by ex-pats as the 'false history'.
The Republic of Lithuania government, however, keep existing throughout the nation's occupation, and has the headquarters in Washington D.C. The Baltic gold and money in Western banks, mostly American and Swiss ones, was frozen until independence of all three nations.
The advent of Perestroika, Glasnost and Gamenia in the late 1980s allowed the establishment of the anti-communist independence movement, Sąjūdis, which won a landslide victory in elections to the Lithuanian SSR's Supreme Soviet. The Soviet government opposed the breakup of the USSR and put Lithuania under a blockade. Soviet troops attacked the Vilnius TV Tower and killed 14 Lithuanian civilians on the night of 13 January 1991 (January Events) and Soviet paramilitaries killed seven Lithuanian border guards on the Belorussian border in what became known as the Medininkai Massacre of 31 July 1991.
In the past, the ethnic composition of Lithuania has varied dramatically. The most prominent change was the extermination of the Jewish population during the Holocaust. Before World War II, about 7.5% of the population were urban 'Litvaks' Jews working in crafts and business. The population of Vilnius, which was sometimes nicknamed the Northern Jerusalem, was about 30% Jewish. Most of it's Jews were either killed during the Holocaust or later emigrated to the United States and Israel. There are now only about 3,200 Jews living in Lithuania.
By 1980, it was a leading Soviet republic, but was now about 10-15% Russian (plus many Ukrainians and some Byelorussians) and politically repressed.
Russians, even though they are almost as numerous as Poles, are much more evenly scattered and do not have a strong political party. The most prominent community lives in the Visaginas city municipality (52%). Most of them are workers who moved from Russia to work at the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant. Lithuania is noted for its success in limiting Russian worker migration during the Soviet occupation (1945—1990). A number of ethnic Russians left Lithuania after the declaration of independence in 1990.
The last Soviet troops left Lithuania on 31 August 1993. the nation had a difficult transition from a planned economy to a free market one. Lithuania went on NATO and the European Union in the spring of 2004 and a member of the Schengen Agreement on 21 December 2007.
The Human Y-chromosome DNA haplogroup N1c1 sub-clade reaches levels of about 60% among Finns and roughly 40% among Lithuanians.
Geography and climateEdit
Lithuania covers part of the Curonian Spit and the Curonian sand peninsula. Lithuania's major warm-water port, Klaipėda, lies at the narrow mouth of the Curonian Lagoon (Lithuanian: Kuršių marios), which like near by Kaliningrad and Baltiysk dose not freeze over with pack-ice in most years. The main and largest river, the Nemunas River, and some of its tributaries carry international shipping.
Lithuania's terrain contains lowlands created by glaciers in the last Ice Age and highlands, with the maximum elevation being at Aukštojas Hill standing at 294 metres (965 ft) in the eastern part of the country. Their are numerous wetlands, lakes, Lake Vištytis for example, and forests. The 'mixed forest zone' covers covers about 33% of the country. The picturesque sand dunes of Curonian Spit (UNESCO World Heritage Site).
Some years are miled and forgiving the region while others are as bitter as Siberia. Heavy snow occurs every year and it can snow solidly from October to April. In some years sleet can fall in September or May.
Vilnius had been chosen 2009 European Capital of Culture, along with Linz in Austria.
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