The Republic of Lithuania (in Lithuanian, Lietuva) is a republic in Northeastern Europe. One of the three Baltic States along the Baltic Sea, it shares borders with fellow Baltic State Latvia to the north, Belarus to the southeast, Poland to the south, and the Kaliningrad Oblast of Russia to the southwest.
Vilnius is a capital of Lithuania since 1940 (as well as for centuries from 1323 to 1919). Between 1919 and 1940, its capital was at Kaunas, though until March 1938 Lithuanian authorities did not recognize Poland's control of Vilnius at the time and considered Kaunas a "temporary capital".
Main article: History of Lithuania
First mentioned in February 14 1009, Lithuania grew to be a significant nation in the Middle Ages. The date of statehood is counted from the official crowning of Mindaugas as a King of Lithuania in July 6 1253 in Voruta. Mindaugas managed to unite warring dukes into a single nation and state. Later, in course of Gediminas' conquers, Lithuania became a part of an independent multi-ethnic Grand Duchy of Lithuania, that also united lands of modern Belarus and Ukraine. Grand Duchy stretched across much of Eastern Europe from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea in 15th century. Since February 2, 1386, when Grand Duke Jogaila was crowned the King of Poland, Grand Duchy was joint with Poland in a personal union under one monarch. In 1569 Poland and Grand Duchy formally merged into the new state of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. This union remained in force until the May Constitution of 1791, which abolished all the subdivisions of the states and merged into Kingdom of Poland. However, the new state was annexed soon afterwards by Imperial Russia, Prussia and Austria in the effect of the Partitions of Poland of 1795.
Lithuania re-established its independence in severely limited territory on February 16th, 1918. It subsequently lost most of its previous grounds to Soviet Union and was plagued by territorial disputes with Poland (over Central Lithuania and Suvalkija/Suwałki) and Germany (over Klaipėda/Memel). It was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940 during World War II in line with the secret clauses of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact signed in Moscow on August 23, 1939.
Communist rule ended after the advent of glasnost and Lithuania, lead with anti-communist and anti-soviet movement for independence Sajūdis, proclaimed its renewed independence on March 11, 1990. Lithuania was the first Soviet republic to do so, though Soviet forces unsuccessfully tried to suppress this until August 1991, which finally led to crack of Soviet Union itself. The last Russian troops left on 31 August 1993 - even earlier than from East Germany.
On February 4, 1991 Iceland became the first country to recognise Lithuanian independence and Sweden first country to open its embassy in the country. The United States of America never recognized the U.S.S.R.'s claim on Lithuania.
Lithuania was admitted into the United Nations on September 17, 1991. On May 31, 2001, Lithuania became 141st member of the World Trade Organization. Lithuania has since 1988 sought closer ties with the West and so on January 4, 1994, it became the first of the Baltic States to apply for NATO membership. On November 21, 2002 Lithuania was invited to start membership negotiations with NATO and on March 29, 2004 it became a full and equal NATO member. On February 1, 1998 it became an Associate Member of the EU and on April 16, 2003 it signed the EU Accession Treaty. 91% of Lithuanians backed EU membership in a referendum held on May 11, 2003 and on May 1, 2004 Lithuania became a member of the European Union.
Main article: Politics of Lithuania
The Lithuanian head of state is the president, elected directly for a five-year term, who also functions as commander in chief overseeing foreign and security policy. The president, on the approval of the parliament, 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, including the Constitutional Court (Konstitucinis Teismas).
The unicameral Lithuanian parliament, the Seimas, has 141 members that are elected for a four-year term. About half of the members of this legislative body are elected in single constituencies (71), and the other half (70) are elected in the nationwide vote by proportional representation. A party must receive at least 5% of the national vote to be represented in the Seimas.
Main article: Counties of Lithuania
Lithuania consists of 10 counties (apskritys, singular - apskritis), each named after their principal city. The counties are subdivided into 56 municipalities, both cities and districts (see: List of municipalities in Lithuania). This administrative division was created in 1994.
Main article: Geography of Lithuania
The largest and most populous of the Baltic states, Lithuania is a partly maritime country with about 100 km of sandy coastline, of which only 38 km face the open Baltic Sea. Lithuania's major warm-water port of Klaipėda lies at the narrow mouth of Kuršių Marios (Curonian Lagoon), a shallow lagoon extending south to Kaliningrad. The main river Nemunas and some of its tributaries are used for internal shipping.
The Lithuanian landscape is glacially flat, except for morainic hills in the western uplands and eastern highlands no higher than 300 m, with the highest point being the Juozapinės at 292 m. The terrain is marked by numerous lakes (e.g. Lake Vištytis) and swamps, and a mixed forest zone covers 30% of the country. The climate lies between maritime and continental, with wet, moderate winters and summers. According to some geographers, Lithuania's capital, Vilnius, lies a few kilometres south of the geographical centre of Europe.
Lithuania consists of historical and cultural regions:
Aukštaitija (literally the Highlands).
Samogitia, (also known as Žemaitija, or literally the Lowlands).
Lithuania Minor (Mažoji Lietuva) also known as Prussian Lithuania (Prūsų Lietuva).
Dzūkija (Dzūkija or Dainava).
Sudovia (Sūduva or Suvalkija).
Main article: Economy of Lithuania
In 2003 Lithuania had the highest economic growth ratio among all European Union candidates, reaching 8.8% in the third quarter. In 2004, Lithuania's 6.6% growth in GDP reflects impressive economic development. Prior to 1998 Lithuania was the Baltic state that conducted the most trade with Russia; however, the 1998 Russian financial crisis forced the country to orient toward the West. Lithuania has since gained membership in the World Trade Organization, and joined the European Union on 1 May 2004. Accession to the EU has reduced previously high unemployment to 10.6% in 2004. Lithuania has nearly completed its privatization of the large, state-owned utilities, with one of two power distribution networks and railways left. The litas, the national currency, has been pegged to the euro since 2 February 2002 at a rate of EUR 1.00 = LTL 3.4528 and country is expected to switch to the euro and thus become one of the first among the new EU members to do so in 2006.
Main article: Demographics of Lithuania
83.5% of the Lithuanian population are ethnically Lithuanian and speak Lithuanian language (one of two remaining living members of the Baltic language group), which is also the official language of the state. Several sizable minorities exist, such as Russians (6%), Poles (6%) and Belarusians (1.5%), and each respective language is also spoken in Lithuania.
The predominant religion is Roman Catholicism, but Eastern Orthodoxy, Protestantism and Judaism also exist as minority religions.
Main article: Culture of Lithuania
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