LITHUANIALOCATION, SIZE, AND EXTENT
FLORA AND FAUNA
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Republic of Lithuania
FLAG: Three equal horizontal bands of yellow (top), green, and red.
ANTHEM: Tautiška Giesme (The National Song).
MONETARY UNIT: The Lithuanian lita (LTL) of 100 cents has replaced the transitional system of coupons (talonas) which had been in force since October 1992, when the Soviet ruble was demonetized. There are coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 cents and 1, 2, and 5 litas, and notes of 10, 20, 50, and 100 litas; LTL1 = $0.36364 (or $1 = LTL2.75) as of 2005.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is in force.
HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Day of the Restoration of the Lithuanian State, 16 February; Good Friday (movable); Anniversary of the Coronation of Grand Duke Mindaugas of Lithuania, 6 July; National Day of Hope and Mourning, 1 November; Christmas, 25–26 December.
TIME: 2 pm = noon GMT.
Lithuania is located in eastern Europe, bordering the Baltic Sea, between Latvia and Poland. Comparatively, it is slightly larger than the state of West Virginia with a total area of 65,200 sq km (25,174 sq mi). Lithuania shares boundaries with Latvia on the n and ne, Belarus on the s and se, Poland on the sw, Russia-Kaliningrad Oblast on the w, and the Baltic Sea on the nw. Lithuania's land boundary length totals 1,273 km (791 mi). Its coastline is 99 km (62 mi).
Lithuania's capital city, Vilnius, is located in the southeastern part of the country.
The topography of Lithuania features a central lowland terrain with many scattered small lakes and fertile soil. Moderate high-lands lie to the east and south, with a few hilly regions in the west. The main hill regions are the Zemaical Uplands of the northwest and the Baltic Highlands of the southeast. The highest point in the country is Juozapine, located in the Baltic Highlands. It has an elevation of 292 meters (958 feet). The lowest point is at sea level (Baltic Sea).
There are about 758 rivers in the country that are longer than 10 kilometers; but very few are navigable. The Neman, which cuts through the center of the country from Belarus to the Baltic Sea, is the longest river, with a length of 936 kilometers (582 miles). There are over 2,500 lakes in the country, most of which are in the eastern central regions. The largest is Lake Druksiai, which is located on the northeast border with Belarus and covers an area of 44.5 square kilometers (17.2 square miles).
Lithuania's climate is transitional between maritime and continental. Yearly, the mean temperature is 6.1°c (43°f). The mean temperature in July is 17.1°c (63°f). Rainfall averages from 49 cm (24 in) to 85 cm (33 in) depending on location.
The country is located in the mixed forest zone. The country's vegetation is a mixture of coniferous, broadleaf woodlands, arctic, and steppe species. There are about 68 species of mammals, 203 breeding bird species, 7 reptile species, 13 amphibian species, and about 60 fish species. The country has rabbit, fox, red deer, roe, elk, wild boar, badger, raccoon dog, wolf, lynx, and gallinaceous birds. Roach, ruff, bream, and perch can be found in Lithuania's lakes and streams.
Lithuania's environmental problems include air pollution, water pollution, and the threat of nuclear contamination. In 2000, the total of carbon dioxide emissions was at 11.9 million metric tons. A UN report on Lithuania stated that air pollution has damaged about 68.4% of the nation's forests. Water pollution results from uncontrolled dumping by industries and the lack of adequate sewage treatment facilities.
After the nuclear accident at Chernobyl that contaminated much of Lithuania with excessive radiation, Lithuanians are concerned about nuclear energy development, especially the use of nuclear power generated by plants of the same kind as the one at Chernobyl.
Lithuania's pollution problems have also affected the nation's wildlife. Although 10% of Lithuania's total land area was protected as of 2003, many of the country's original animal and plant species are now extinct. According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included five types of mammals, four species of birds, three species of fish, and five species of invertebrates. Threatened species include the European bison, the asp, the red wood ant, the marsh snail, and the Russian desman. The wild horse has become extinct.
The population of Lithuania in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 3,415,000, which placed it at number 128 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 15% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 18% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 87 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 2005–10 was expected to be -0.3%, a rate the government viewed as too low; the population growth rate fell below zero in the mid-1990s. The projected population for the year 2025 was 3,134,000. The population density was 53 per sq km (136 per sq mi).
The UN estimated that 67% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, but that population in urban areas was declining at an annual rate of -0.49%. The capital city, Vilnius, had a population of 549,000 in that year. Other large cities include Kaunas and Klaipėda.
Many Lithuanians unable to accept Soviet occupation in 1940 were deported to Siberia. However, Russian immigration to Lithuania was never as heavy as to the other Baltic republics. Lithuania has been used as a transit country to western Europe for many years. Government policy was to return asylum seekers to their homelands or detain them indefinitely. However, a Lithuanian refugee law passed 27 July 1997 established an asylum procedure. The total number of migrants living in Lithuania in 2000 was 339,000. In 2004, there were 9,459 persons of concern to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 9,028 stateless, 408 refugees, and 28 asylum seekers. Remittances in 2003 were $30.5 million. In 2005, the net migration rate was an estimated -1.71 migrants per 1,000 population. The government views the migration levels as satisfactory.
According to the 2001 census, Lithuanians form about 83.4% of the population. Russians constituted about 6.3%; Poles made up 6.7%; the remaining minority ethnic groups include Belarussians, Ukrainians, Tatars, and Karaites. There are about 3,000 in the Romani community.
Lithuanian, the official language, is noted for its purity in retaining ancient Indo-European language forms and has some remarkable similarities with Sanskrit. It is highly inflected, with seven noun cases. Like Latvian, it has rising, falling, and short intonations. Its Roman alphabet has many special symbols, including the hacek, dot, and cedilla. The majority (82%) speak Lithuanian for their first tongue. Polish (5.6%) and Russian (8%) are also widely used. Minorities have the right to official use of their languages where they form a substantial part of the population.
The country witnessed extensive suppression of religious activities during the Soviet period. The 2001 census indicated that about 79% of the population were nominally Roman Catholic. The next largest denomination, the Russian Orthodox Church, accounted for about 4.1% of the population. The Old Believers (an Orthodox sect) have about 27,000 members. About 20,000 people are Lutherans, 7,000 are Evangelical Reformed, 4,000 are Jewish, 2,700 are Sunni Muslim, and about 300 are Greek Catholic. About 9.4% of the population claimed no specific religious affiliation.
Lithuania is one of a few countries to have an active community of Karaites. The faith is a branch of Judaism, with tenets based exclusively on a literal interpretation of the Hebrew scriptures. The Karaites have two centers of worship in the country, in Vilnius and Trakia, with a total of about 250 members. The Karaites are considered to be an ethnic community as well. They speak a Turkic-based language and use the Hebrew alphabet.
The constitution allows for freedom of religion, but the government reserves the right to place restrictions on religious organizations with practices that might contradict the constitution or public law. The government recognizes nine groups as "traditional" faiths that are eligible for state assistance: Latin Rite Catholics, Greek Rite Catholics, Evangelical Lutherans, the Evangelical Reformed Church, Orthodox Christians, Old Believers, Jews, Sunni Muslims, and Karaites. Denominations considered "nontraditional" by the government include Jehovah's Witnesses, Baptists, Seventh-Day Adventists, and Pentecostals, as well as about 160 other religious organizations. Certain Christian holidays are celebrated as national holidays.
Lithuania's railroad system in 2004 consisted of 1,998 km (1,241 mi) of broad, standard and narrow gauge lines that were used to provide rail access to the Baltic Sea for Vilnius, Kaunas, and other major urban areas. Of that total, broad gauge lines accounted for the bulk at 1,807 km (1,124 mi) of which, 122 km (76 mi) was electrified. Narrow gauge accounted for another 169 km (105 mi), with standard gauge accounting for the remainder.
As of 2003, Lithuania had 78,893 km (49,071 mi) of roadway, of which 21,617 km (13,446 mi) were paved, including 417 km (259 mi) of expressways. In 2004 there were 600 km (373 mi) of perennial navigable waterways. Sea routes link Klaipėda on the Baltic Sea with 200 foreign ports. Kaunas is the principal inland port. In 2005, the merchant fleet consisted of 54 ships (of 1,000 GRT or over) totaling 296,856 GRT. A railway sea ferry from Klaipėda to Mukran (Germany) began in 1986. As of 2004, there were an estimated 102 airports, of which 33 had paved runways as of 2005. Principal airports include Palanga, Vilnius, and Kaunas International at Kaunas, and one commercial airport in Siauliai. Two international airlines serve Lithuania: Lithuanian Airlines and Lietuva. In 2003, about 329,000 passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international airline flights.
Lithuanians are a branch of the Balts, whose permanent and lasting settlement of modern day Lithuania dates back to 200 BC, much earlier than most of Europe whose people and cultures were still in flux well into the 5th century ad. Lithuanian, along with Latvian, is thus one of the oldest languages in Europe.
The first Lithuanian state was established by Grand Duke and later King Mindaugas in 1236. Grand Duke Gediminas, who ruled from 1316–41, is credited with founding the capital of Vilnius and the Jagiellionian dynasty, whose members would become figures of power in Lithuania, Poland, and Hungary for the next 200 years.
In the late 14th century Lithuania ruled a vast area covering much of modern day Belarus and Ukraine and stretching to the Black Sea. However, the country was constantly threatened by the German Teutonic Order, which occupied the southern Baltic coast. The power struggle had a religious element, since outside of a brief eight-year period, Lithuania remained devoutly pagan until 1386. That year Grand Duke Jogaila (Polish: Jagiello ) wed the Polish queen Jadwiga and thereby converted to Christianity the last remaining European pagans. The combined Polish-Lithuanian armies led by Jogaila and his cousin Vytautas (Polish: Witold ) decisively beat the Teutonic Knights at the battle of Grunwald in 1410.
The marriage of Jogaila to Jadwiga and his ascension to the Polish throne marked the beginning of a political union with Poland, intertwining the histories of the two nations for 400 years. The union was made formal in the 1569 Lublin Agreement, which created a Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth with an elected monarch chosen by the gentry of both states. Although in principle it was a union of two equals, the Polish influence on the culture and politics of the Commonwealth was stronger, due among other things simply to the larger size and population of the Polish state. Lithuania prospered and developed during the Commonwealth's Golden Age in the 16th century with the founding of the region's first university in Vilnius in 1579 and the development of a distinct Lithuanian baroque artistic style.
The 18th century saw the decline of the Commonwealth and occupation by foreign powers. What is now Lithuania was annexed to the Russian Empire in the final partition in 1795. During the 19th century, a Lithuanian nationalist movement arose leading to uprisings against Russian rule and, in turn, to Russian persecutions including the outlawing of the Lithuanian language.
On 16 February 1918, Lithuania proclaimed its independence after the defeat of both Germany and Russia in World War I. The new Bolshevik government in Moscow attempted to establish Soviet power in Lithuania, but failed. After a series of armed border conflicts between Lithuania, Russia and Poland, in 1920 Moscow recognized Lithuanian independence, but Poland annexed Vilnius, and the Lithuanian capital had to be moved to Kaunas. A secret protocol to the 1939 Nazi-Soviet pact assigned Lithuania to the Soviet sphere of influence. Wishing to avoid conflict, the Lithuanian government allowed Soviet forces to be stationed on its territory. The local government was forced to resign in June 1940. Rigged elections created a parliament which proclaimed Lithuania to be a Soviet Socialist Republic in July 1940. Moscow lost control of Lithuania soon after Germany attacked the USSR in June 1941.
Lithuania suffered heavily at the hands of both powers. While the Nazis succeeded in exterminating most of Lithuania's 240,000 Jews, the Soviets deported tens of thousands of Lithuanians to Siberia. Soviet forces recaptured Lithuania in 1944, although armed resistance against Soviet rule continued for several years after World War II.
Forty-five years of Soviet occupation did not erase the Lithuanian national identity. The first open protests against Soviet rule occurred in 1987 and in 1988. Vytautas Landsbergis established the Sajudis anti-Communist political movement which strove to create an autonomous republic and later an independent state. With the crumbling of the Eastern Bloc and fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Soviet pressure eased, and opposition parties were allowed to participate in elections to the Lithuanian Supreme Soviet held on 24 February 1990. Sajudis won a clear majority and Lithuania became the first Soviet republic to proclaim independence on 11 March 1990.
Although Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev's policy of glasnost and perestroika had intended to allow a greater voice to Lithuanian self-determination, full Lithuanian independence from the Soviet Union was not what many in the Kremlin had in mind. The August 1991 coup by hardliners in Moscow was accompanied by a crackdown in Vilnius, with Soviet troops storming the TV tower killing 14 civilians and injuring 700. It was not until the failure of the coup and collapse of the Soviet Union that the government in Moscow fully recognized Lithuanian independence.
Since independence, Lithuania has been preoccupied with reforming its economic and political institutions. Privatization has transformed its economy to a market-oriented one. Politically, a thriving press and open democracy have been established. Former Communists won the first postindependence elections in 1992, but conservatives took back the parliament in 1996 elections, in response to growing allegations of government corruption. Presidential elections the following year were surrounded by controversy over the eligibility for office of candidate Valdas Adamkus, who had lived in the United States for over 30 years following World War II. Adamkus was elected in runoff elections in January 1998.
Parliamentary elections were held on 8 October 2000, resulting in a win for former president Algirdas Brazauskas' Social Democratic Coalition, which won 31.1% of the vote, taking 51 of 141 seats in the Seimas. However, a grouping of four smaller parties formed a new centrist government with Rolandas Paksas as prime minister. Presidential elections were held on 22 December 2002, and Adamkus took the lead in the first round of voting, with 35.3% of the vote, to 19.7% for Paksas. In what surprised many experts, Paksas campaigned vigorously for the run-off vote held on 5 January 2003, and won the second round with 54.9% to 45.1% for Adamkus.
Paksas did not serve out his entire term. When he was impeached in April 2004 for having ties with Russian organized crime and participating in influence peddling, the country was temporarily thrown into disarray. In the early election that followed, the Constitutional Court did not allow Paksas to run again despite his continued popularity, especially in rural regions. Adamkus seized the opportunity to return to office and beat Kazimira Prunskiene, the country's first post-Soviet prime minister, who was supported by those loyal to Paksas.
Given the history of Russian domination of Lithuania, it is understandable that Lithuania's primary foreign policy objective has been to improve relations with the West and especially to gain entrance into NATO and the EU. In November 2002, Lithuania was formally invited to join NATO, and became a member in 2004. In May 2004 Lithuania joined the European Union along with nine other ex-Communist states and Malta. Lithuania supported the 2003 US-led military campaign to disarm and remove Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq.
On 25 October 1992, Lithuanian voters approved a new constitution, which called for a 141-member unicameral legislature (Seimas) and a popularly elected president. The constitution requires whoever is elected as president to sever his or her formal party ties. All who were permanent residents of Lithuania in November 1989 have been granted the opportunity to become citizens, irrespective of their ethnic origins. Members of the Seimas are elected for four-year terms, and the president is directly elected for a five-year term. The prime minister is appointed by the president; all others ministers are nominated by the prime minister and appointed by the president. All ministerial appointments must be approved by the Seimas. Suffrage is universal at age 18.
The majority party in the Seimas since the 1996 parliamentary elections was the conservative Homeland Union Party, or TS, led by Vytautas Landsbergis, which won 70 out of 141 seats. Overall, 28 parties competed for the 141 parliamentary seats in elections held on 20 October 1996 (first round) and 10 November 1996 (second round). The other party of the right wing, the Christian Democrats, also did well, winning 16 seats, and entered into a coalition government with the TS and the Lithuanian Center Union, which won 13 seats. The Democratic Labor Party (composed mostly of ex-Communists), which had been the majority party in the previous parliament, won only 12 seats. Other parties with parliamentary representation included the Lithuanian Social Democratic Party and the Lithuanian Democratic Party.
The Homeland Union-Conservative coalition suffered in the October 2000 parliamentary elections, capturing only nine seats. Former president Algirdas Brazauskas led four leftist parties in a Social Democratic Coalition, winning 51 of the 141 seats in parliament. However, a coalition ("New Policy") composed of the ideologically diverse Liberal Union (33 seats), New Alliance (28), Center Union (2), Modern Christian Democratic Union (3), and two smaller parties formed a new government, bypassing the Social Democratic Coalition. Rolandas Paksas was named prime minister.
In the elections of October 2004, the Labor Party—a recent political formation led by Russian millionaire Voktor Uspaskich—won 39 seats, Homeland Union 25, the Social Democrats 20, Liberal and Center Union 18, Social Liberals 11, Union of Farmers and New Democracy 10, Liberal Democrats 10, Electoral Action 2, and independents claimed 6 seats.
In the presidential elections held in June 2004, Valdas Adamkus beat Kazimiera Prunskiene with 52.2% of the vote. Adamkus will be in office until the next election that was scheduled for June 2009.
For administrative purposes, Lithuania's 10 provinces are divided into 44 regions, there are also urban districts, towns, and rural administrative units called apylinkes. Each level of local government has its own elected officials.
After Lithuania broke away from the Soviet Union, its legal system was transformed from that of the old Soviet regime to a democratic model. The system now consists of a Constitutional Court and a Supreme Court, whose members are elected by the Seimas, as well as district and local courts, whose judges are appointed by the president. A Court of Appeals hears appellate cases from the district courts.
A new civil and criminal procedure code and a court reform law were enacted in 1995. The government has reviewed its laws to bring them into accord with the European Convention on Human Rights.
The judiciary is independent.
In 2005 the active armed forces of Lithuania totaled 13,510, supported by 8,200 reservists. The Army numbered 11,600 active personnel, followed by the Air Force with 1,200 members and the Navy with 710 active personnel. The country also had a paramilitary force of 14,600, that consisted of 5,000 border guards and a 9,600-member Riflemen Union. There was also a 540-person Coast Guard. Army equipment included three reconnaissance vehicles, 137 armored personnel carriers, and 133 artillery pieces. Naval forces operated 2 frigates, 3 patrol/coastal vessels, 2 mine warfare ships and, 1 logistics/support vessel. The Air Force operated 11 transport and 6 training fixed wing aircraft, in addition to 12 support helicopters. Lithuanian forces served in Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia, and Serbia-Montenegro. The defense budget for 2005 was $333 million.
Lithuania was admitted to the United Nations on 17 September 1991; it is a member of several specialized agencies, such as the FAO, IAEA, World Bank, ILO, IMF, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, and the WHO. Lithuania is also a member of the WTO, the OSCE, the Council of Europe, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, and the Council of the Baltic Sea States. It is a member affiliate of the Western European Union. Lithuania joined the European Union and NATO in 2004.
Lithuania has foreign diplomatic missions in 94 countries. The country has offered support to UN missions and operations in Kosovo (est. 1999). It is part of the Australia Group, the Nuclear Suppliers Group (London Group), and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. In environmental cooperation, Lithuania is part of the Basel Convention, Conventions on Biological Diversity and Air Pollution, Ramsar, CITES, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, MARPOL, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea and Climate Change.
Until 1940, Lithuania's economy was primarily agricultural, mainly in the form of dairy farms and livestock raising. The main industries are machine building and metalworking, although light industry and food processing are also well developed. Like the other Baltic states, Lithuania has few natural resources, primarily peat and amber.
Due to modernization that occurred during Soviet dominance, Lithuania built up a large, if somewhat inefficient, industrial sector that in 2001 accounted for 32% of the country's economy. The service sector is 61% while agriculture accounts for about 13% of the economy.
In 1992, Lithuania's GDP fell 21.6%. In that year, the government adopted an IMF-directed program aimed at privatizing the economy, controlling inflation, eliminating price controls, and lowering the budget deficit. In June 1993 Lithuania's convertible currency, the litas, was introduced, setting off another round of inflation, while GDP continued to decline, by 16.2% in 1993 and 9.8% in 1994. In 1994, the government entered into a three-year arrangement with the IMF under its Extended Fund Facility (EFF) aimed primarily at bringing inflation under control. 1995 was the first year of positive growth (3.3%) since independence, although unemployment remained high, at 16.4% in 1995. Inflation, which was still in double digits in 1996 (23%), fell to single digits (5.1%) by 1998 and unemployment fell to 6.4%. The economy registered real growth until 1999—4.7% in 1996, 7.3% in 1997 and 5.1% in 1998—but then was overtaken by the effects of the August 1998 financial crisis in Russia, still one of Lithuania's largest trading partners. Real GDP declined 3.9% in 1999 as unemployment jumped to 8.4%. Inflation remained under control, however, at 0.3%.
Growth returned in 2000, with real GDP up 3.3%, but unemployment continued to soar, peaking at 13.2% in March 2001. Growth in 2001 was 5.9%, above expectations, and in the first half of 2002, growth averaged about 5.6%. In February 2002, the government repegged the litas from the US dollar to the euro, at a rate of 3.4528 litas per euro. Inflation was about 1% for the year and by December 2002, unemployment had moderated to 10.9%. About 80% of Lithuanian's enterprises have been privatized since independence, and by 2002 over 25% of its trade was with countries outside the old Soviet bloc. Lithuania acceded to the WTO 31 May 2001 and was admitted to the EU in 2004.
In 2003, the Lithuanian economy was one of the most dynamic in Europe with a GDP growth rate of 9.7%. Prime factors for this economic expansion have been domestic and foreign investments. Rising fuel costs, as well as a shortage of qualified labor, have slowed down this boom by 2004—the GDP growth rate returned to a more modest, but still respectable, 6.7%, and was expected to continue to decline to 5.7% in 2005. Unemployment went down, from 10.3% in 2003 to 6.8% in 2004, and was expected to continue the decrease in 2005, to 5.8%. Inflation has remained negligible over all this time period, hovering at around 1%.
Overall, the economy in Lithuania is on a healthy path, with the private sector contributing to more than 80% of the country's GDP, with significant inflows of foreign capital, and with a dynamic and increasingly efficient local market.
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Lithuania's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $49.4 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $13,700. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 6.4%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 2.6%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 5.7% of GDP, industry 32.4%, and services 62%.
According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $115 million or about $33 per capita and accounted for approximately 0.6% of GDP. Foreign aid receipts amounted to $372 million or about $108 per capita and accounted for approximately 2.1% of the gross national income (GNI).
The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Lithuania totaled $11.79 billion or about $3,414 per capita based on a GDP of $18.4 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1990 to 2003 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of 5.4%. In 2001 it was estimated that approximately 33% of household consumption was spent on food, 13% on fuel, 4% on health care, and 27% on education.
In 2005, Lithuania's labor force was estimated at 1.61 million. As of 2003, the services sector accounted for 54% of the workforce, with industry employing 28.1% and agriculture the remaining 17.9%. The unemployment rate was approximately 5.3% in 2005.
The constitution recognizes the right for workers to form and join trade unions. Approximately 13% of employees are union members. There are four major trade union organizations. The law also provides the right of workers to strike, except those in essential services in the public sector. Collective bargaining is permitted but only utilized on a limited basis.
The legal minimum wage is periodically adjusted by the government for inflation, but these adjustments lag behind the inflation rate. The minimum wage was $107.50 per month as of 2002, but it is not universally enforced. The legal minimum age for employment is 16 years without parental consent, and 14 years with written parental consent. The 40-hour workweek is standard for most workers. The law stipulates occupational health and safety standards, but these are not effectively enforced and many industrial plants are unsafe.
Out of Lithuania's 6,268,000 hectares (15,488,000 acres) of land area, 47.6% consisted of cropland and permanent pastures. Privatization in agriculture rapidly advanced after 1991; over 70,000 private farms had been established by 1996. In 2003, there were over 272,000 agricultural holdings. However, due to a lack of financial resources and inefficiency in the crediting system, many of these new farmers are only operating at subsistence levels. Agricultural output decreased by a yearly average of 1.1% during 1990–2000. However, during 2002–04, crop production was up 9.5% from 1999–2001. In 2003, the value of crop output was €669.7 million and agriculture accounted for 7% of GDP.
Crops of importance in 2004 included potatoes, 1,021,000 tons; barley, 970,000 tons; wheat, 1,315,000 tons; rye, 180,000 tons; dry beans, 5,200 tons, vegetables and melons, 379,000 tons; and rapeseed, 204,500 tons.
About 8% of the total land area consists of permanent pastureland. Livestock in 2005 included 792,000 head of cattle, 1,074,000 pigs, 8,210,000 chickens, 22,100 sheep, and 63,600 horses. Meat production in 2005 totaled 216,700 tons, of which 28% was beef, 51% was pork, and 21% was chicken. Milk production exceeded 1.7 million tons in 2005, while 50,000 tons of eggs were produced. In 2003, the value of animal and animal product output was €514.9 million.
Klaipeda's fishing port is the center of the fishing industry. In 2003, the total catch was 159,561 tons, down from 470,251 tons in 1991. Principal species in 2003 included mackerel, sardines, and hairtail. Fisheries exports were valued at $115.1 million in 2003. There are two aquacultural facilities operating in Lithuania, consisting primarily of carp.
Forests cover about 32% of Lithuania. The forestry, wood products, and paper industries are some of Lithuania's oldest—furniture, matches, and timber products were manufactured in Kaunas and Vilnius in the mid-1800s, and furniture-making prevailed from 1919–40. Currently, chemical timber processing, and the production of furniture, pulp, paper, wood fiber, wood chips, joinery articles, and cardboard, are the main activities of the forestry sector. Intensive timber processing, as well as the recycling of industrial waste are being expanded. The timber cut yielded over 6.1 million cu m (216 million cu ft) of roundwood in 2004. Sawn wood production that year was 1,450,000 cu m (51 million cu ft); paper and paperboard, 99,000 tons. Exports of forest products amounted to $335.7 million in 2004.
Lithuania's production of nonhydrocarbon minerals in 2003 included cement, limestone, nitrogen (from ammonia) and peat. Other industrial minerals produced included clays, and sand and gravel. Lithuania remained dependent on imports for its metals and fuel needs. Peat was extracted in the Siauliai, Ezherelis, Paraistis, and Baltoyi-Boke regions. Mineral production figures in 2003 included: limestone, 944,600 metric tons, down from 984,300 metric tons in 2002; cement, 596,900 metric tons, compared to 605,800 metric tons in 2002; and peat, 366,900 metric tons, down from 513,000 metric tons in 2002. Following complaints from Lithuania's sole producers of cement and quicklime, the government launched antidumping investigations directed against Belarussian products. If the government were to take steps to protect the domestic construction material market, Lithuania could lose its export market in Belarus.
Lithuania is alone among the three nations that comprise the Baltic States (the other two are Latvia and Estonia) to have any known petroleum reserves. Although it does not have any known reserves of natural gas, it does have a small amount of recoverable coal reserves.
Lithuania had 12 million barrels of proven oil reserves in 2004, but potential onshore and offshore reserves could be much greater. Oil production in 2004 averaged 14,000 barrels per day, with consumption averaging 107,000 barrels per day that same year. As a result, Lithuania imports the bulk of its oil, mostly from Russia. Lithuania is also a net natural gas importer, with consumption of 110 billion cu ft in 2004. Russia's Gazprom is a major source of the country's gas imports.
Lithuania also operates the only petroleum refinery among the Baltic States, the Mazheikiai oil refinery, which has a production capacity of 263,000 barrels per day.
Lithuania has recoverable coal reserves of 4 million short tons, as of 2004. However there is no recorded domestic production or consumption of coal for that year.
In 2004, net electricity generation was 19.8 billion kWh. Consumption in that same year came to 11.6 billion kWh. In 2002, most of Lithuania's electric power came from the Ignalina nuclear plant. Of the 17.121 billion kWh of power generated that year, the Ignalina facility generated 82.6% of the country's power, while only 15% came from conventional thermal plants and the rest from hydroelectric sources. However, as of March 2005, the Lithuanian government was reported to have plans to close down the Ignalina facility in two stages, starting in 2005 and ending in 2009. Total installed generating capacity in 2004 was placed at 5.8 GW.001 was 5.8 million kW.
Lithuania underwent rapid industrialization during the Soviet era and has significant capacity in machine building and metalworking, as well as the textile and leather industries, and agro-processing (including processed meat, dairy products, and fish). The country's diverse manufacturing base also includes an oil refinery and high-tech minicomputer production. Other industrial products include refrigerators and freezers, electric motors, television sets, metal-cutting machine tools, small ships, furniture, fertilizers, optical equipment, and electronic components. Due to a rapid program of privatization, more than 80% of Lithuania's enterprises are privately owned. Most capital investment has gone into the industrial sector. Major infrastructure projects were planned in 2002, including upgrading the oil refinery, the nuclear power plant, construction of a main highway, and the modernization of sea-port facilities. The industrial sector accounted for about 31% of GDP in 2001.
By 2004, the representation of the industrial sector in the GDP increased to 33.4%, while its representation in the labor force was 30%; agriculture composed 6.1% of the economy, and 20% of the labor force; services came in first with 60.5% and 50% respectively. Industry remained an important growth factor in 2004, registering a 12% increase and outweighing the overall growth rate of the economy.
The Lithuanian Academy of Science, founded in 1941, has departments of mathematical, physical, and chemical sciences; biological, medical, and agricultural sciences; and technical sciences. In 1987–97, science and engineering students accounted for 31% of university enrollment. Ten research institutes concerned with medicine, natural sciences, and technology, mostly in Vilnius, and a botanical garden in Kaunas are attached to the academy. Four other institutes conduct research in medicine and forestry. Seven universities and colleges offer degrees in basic and applied sciences.
In 2002, Lithuania had 1,824 scientists and engineers and 430 technicians per one million people engaged in research and development (R&D). In that same year, Lithuania spent $243.617 million, or 0.68% of GDP on R&D. The largest contributor was the government, accounting for 65.1% of expenditures, followed by business at 27.9% and by foreign investors at 7.1%. High technology exports in 2002 totaled $130 million, or 5% of the country's manufactured exports.
Vilnius, Klaipėda, and Kaunas each have shopping areas and several markets; many smaller towns have a central market. Several supermarkets have opened within the past few years. There are also a number of newer privately-owned import businesses taking root. As of 2002, manufacturing accounted for about 23% of the GDP and wholesale/retail sales were up to about 15% and 8.4% respectively. For a time, inflation (estimated at 23% in 1996) severely hindered domestic purchasing power. By 1998, however, inflation was down to 5.1% and the 2002 estimate was at 0.8%. A cash economy still prevails, though some major hotels and restaurants have accepted credit cards.
Lithuania depends heavily on trade, particularly with other republics of the former Soviet Union. In 2000, total imports were valued at $5.5 billion, and exports at $3.8 billion. In the mid-to-late 1990s, Lithuania was trading more with Western nations, and reducing its reliance on trade with former Soviet republics. Trade with the West increased from 15% to 60% between 1990 and 1995, while trade with former Soviet republics fell from 78% in 1990 to 40% in 1995. Since Lithuania's independence in 1990, growing disruptions in trade with Russia and the other former Soviet republics have resulted in a steep decline in import volumes and numerous domestic shortages.
In 2004, exports grew to $8.9 billion (FOB—Free on Board), while imports reached $11 billion. Mineral products make up Lithuania's most beneficial export commodity (23%), followed by textiles and clothing (16%), and machinery and equipment (11%). Other export commodities include chemicals (6%), wood and wood products (5%), and foodstuffs (5%). The most important export partners, in 2004, were Germany (receiving 10.2% of total exports), Latvia (10.2%), Russia (9.3%), France (6.3%), the United Kingdom (5.3%), Sweden (5.1%), Estonia (5%), Poland (4.8%), the Netherlands (4.8%), Denmark (4.8%), the United States (4.7%), and Switzerland (4.6%). The main import commodities were mineral products (21%), machinery and equipment (17%), transport equipment (11%), chemicals (9%), textiles and clothing (9%), and metals (5%); and most of these came from Russia (23.1%), Germany (16.7%), Poland (7.7%), the Netherlands (4.0%), and Latvia (3.8%).
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reported that in 2002 the purchasing power parity of Lithuania's exports was $5.4 billion while imports totaled $6.8 billion resulting in a trade deficit of $1.4 billion.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 1998 Lithuania had exports of goods totaling $4.89 billion and imports totaling $6 billion. The services credit totaled $1.16 billion and debit $700 million.
The exports of goods and services continued to grow in the following years, reaching $9.5 billion in 2003, and $11 billion in 2004. Imports followed a similar path, totaling $10.5 billion in 2003, and $12.4 billion in 2004. The resource balance was consequently negative in both years, at -$1 billion and -$1.4 billion respectively. The current account balance was also negative, dropping to -$1.2 billion in 2003, and -$1.3 billion in 2004. Total reserves (including gold) decreased from $3.5 billion in 2003 to $3 billion in 2004, covering around three months of imports.
Since 1991, Lithuania has reorganized its banking sector numerous times. A myriad of banks emerged after independence, most of them weak. Consequently, consolidations, mergers, and collapses became a regular feature of the country's banking system.
On 3 July 1992 the government adopted a new currency unit, the lita, to replace the ruble. Between 1992 and 1995, six banks lost their licenses and two were merged; as of mid-1996, 16 were either suspended or facing bankruptcy procedures. The first serious crisis centered on Aurasbankas, the eighth-largest bank in the country, and the deposit bank for many ministries. The Bank of Lithuania suspended Aurasbankas's operations in mid-1995 because of liquidity problems caused by bad lending and deposittaking
|(…) data not available or not significant.|
|Balance on goods||1,704.2|
|Balance on services||614.4|
|Balance on income||-482.2|
|Direct investment abroad||-37.2|
|Direct investment in Lithuania||179.2|
|Portfolio investment assets||29.8|
|Portfolio investment liabilities||222.3|
|Other investment assets||-100.9|
|Other investment liabilities||1,377.2|
|Net Errors and Omissions||181.2|
|Reserves and Related Items||-612.7|
|(…) data not available or not significant.|
taking practices. In July 1995, the minimum capital requirement for existing banks was raised from LTL5 million to LTL10 million, the level already established for new banks. By May 1999, only five commercial banks remained. Moreover, foreign investment by Sweden's Swedbank and SE-Banken, helped keep Hansapank-Hoiupank and Uhispank-Tallinna, respectively.
Operations at Lithuania's largest bank, the Joint-Stock Innovation Bank, were suspended on 20 December 1995, and those of the Litimpeks bank, the country's second-largest, two days later. The two were in the process of merging to create the Lithuania United Bank and the fraud was uncovered during pre-merger audits. Due to rumors of a devaluation of the currency, a shortage of foreign exchange throughout the whole banking sector was created.
The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand deposits—an aggregate commonly known as M1—were equal to $1.7 billion. In that same year, M2—an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual funds—was $3.2 billion. The money market rate, the rate at which financial institutions lend to one another in the short term, was 3.37%.
The National Stock Exchange, which opened in September 1993, is the most active in the region, with 245 listed companies. Monthly turnover by the end of 1994 had reached LTL20.8 million. The market gains continued into 1999 as the index rose 15%. As of 2004, there were a total of 43 companies listed on the Vilnius Stock Exchange (VILSE), with a market capitalization of $6.463 billion. In 2004, the VILSE Index rose 68.2% from the previous year to 293.4.
In 1997, a key feature of the new economic framework in Lithuania was the pegging of the lita to a currency basket composed of the dollar and the deutschemark. In 1999, the Bank of Lithuania announced its intention to peg the lita to the euro in 2001.
Lithuania's health insurance system is reminiscent of the Soviet era through a state-run system of coverage for all residents. In 2003, the value of all direct insurance premiums written totaled $266 million, of which nonlife premiums accounted for $196 million. Lithuania's top nonlife insurer in 2003 was Lietuvos Draudimas, with gross written nonlife premiums of $64.7 million. As of 2004, Lithuania's leading life insurer was Hansa Gywybes Draudimus, which had gross written life insurance premiums of $32.5 million.
Lithuania had, of course, a planned economy under the Soviet regime, and the implementation of collective farming ravaged the agricultural sector for over a decade. It was not until the early 1960s and the introduction of chemicals that crop production recovered to pre-WWII levels. The crop boom that followed as a result of the chemical innovations left many ecological problems. Privatization following independence occurred slowly but steadily, and in 1998 it looked like the economy had survived the growing pains of dismantling the socialist system. However, the August 1998 collapse of the Russian ruble reverted Lithuania's economy back to negative growth and refocused the country's trade toward the West. In 1997, exports to former Soviet nations accounted for
|Revenue and Grants||16,091||100.0%|
|General public services||4,345||25.3%|
|Public order and safety||1,088||6.3%|
|Housing and community amenities||1||<1.0%|
|Recreational, culture, and religion||289||1.7%|
|(…) data not available or not significant.|
45% of total exports. By 2002, that number was only 19%, as 71% of exports went to EU member countries and candidates. Privatization was nearly complete as of 2002, except for the energy sector, where energy company privatization was completely on hold and gas company privatization delayed.
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Lithuania's central government took in revenues of approximately $8.4 billion and had expenditures of $9.1 billion. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$674 million. Public debt in 2005 amounted to 21.4% of GDP. Total external debt was $10.47 billion.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2003, the most recent year for which it had data, central government revenues were LTL16,091 million and expenditures were LTL17,192 million. The value of revenues was us$5,257 million and expenditures us$5,585 million, based on an exchange rate for 2003 of us$1 = LTL3.061 as reported by the IMF. Government outlays by function were as follows: general public services, 25.3%; defense, 5.2%; public order and safety, 6.3%; economic affairs, 12.7%; environmental protection, 0.6%; health, 12.1%; recreation, culture, and religion, 1.7%; education, 7.2%; and social protection, 28.9%.
Lithuania has one of the most liberal tax regimes in Europe. The corporate income rate as of 2005 was 15%. Small enterprises with gross income of less than €144,810 (LTL500,000) and which have no more than 10 employees are taxed at 13% of profits. Capital gains are considered part of corporate income and are taxed at the corporate rate. Dividends are generally taxed at 15% but if paid to a nonresident company that owns more than 10% of its voting shares (i.e., its parent company), there is no tax. This provision is not applicable to companies operating in Free Economic Zones (FEZs), which offer 80% reduction in the corporate income tax rate for the first five years, and a 50% reduction for an additional five years. The statutory withholding rates are 15% for dividend income and 10% for interest and royalties. Withholding rates on capital income are often reduced to 10% and 5% in bilateral double tax prevention treaties between Lithuania and other countries.
Personal income as of 2005 was taxed at a flat rate of 33%. However, plans by the government call for this rate to be reduced to 30% in 2006, 27% in 2007 and to 24% in 2008. In addition, certain other types of income are subject to a 15% rate. These include income from distributed profits, the sale or rental of property, creative activities and other types of individual activities. Individuals receiving capital gains from either the sale of property or shares are taxed at 15% on the gains. However, capital gains from shares held for more than a year may be exempt if certain conditions are met. If the gains are derived from the sale of immovable property in Lithuania, they are exempt if the property was held for more than three years. Deductions from income for the primary flat tax include a nontaxable minimum which is higher for disabled persons, single parents and other specified groups, plus all social security and social assistance payments, death benefits, court awards, gifts, allowances for insurance payments, charity donations, and most payments to pension accounts. In 2003 a 1.5% real estate tax was introduced. Gifts and inheritances are taxed at 0%, 5% and 10% depending on the amount involved.
The main indirect tax is Lithuania's value-added tax (VAT) enacted 22 December 1993 and most lately revised in 1 July 2002 for application in 2003. The VAT has a standard rate of 18%, applicable to most goods and services, and three reduced rates of 9%, 5% and 0%. The 9% rate is applied to the renovation and construction of buildings financed from certain sources. The 5% rate is applied to certain foodstuffs, newspapers, books, passenger and luggage transport, drugs and medicines, and hotel accommodations. Exports and some export related services, international transport, ships and aircraft, and European Union related trade or supplies are zero-rated. Exempted from the VAT are educational, healthcare, insurance and financial services, the leasing, sale or transfer of immovable property (including dwellings), and social, sports, cultural, radio and television services, if provided by nonprofit organizations. There are also excise duties on ethyl alcohol and alcoholic beverages, tobacco and fuels. However, by the new Law on Excise Duties of 1 July 2002, excise taxes on jewelry, electrical energy, coffee, chocolate, and other food products were abolished, while turnover taxes replaced excises on sugar, luxury cars, liquid cosmetics containing ethyl alcohol, and publications of an erotic and/or violent nature. In 1999, the government introduced a pollution tax on packets to encourage the recycling of packaging material.
Most foreign imports, including all raw materials, are duty-free. Exceptions include food products (5–10%), fabrics (10%), electronics (10%), cement (25%), and window glass (50%). The average tariff on consumer products is 15%. Alcoholic beverages are subject to duties ranging from 10% for beer to 100% for some liquor. An 18% VAT is also placed on imports. In 1993, Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia formed a free trade area, which eliminated customs duties and quotas between the three Baltic States. In accordance with Lithuania's participation in the European Union, some duties on EU goods have been lowered.
In May 1991, a foreign investment law was passed permitting majority holdings by nonresidents and guaranteeing the full transfer of profits.
Various tax benefits may be granted to foreign investors depending on the type and size of the investment. When purchasing privatized Lithuanian companies or forming joint ventures, foreign investors are usually expected to provide employment guarantees.
Foreigners from European Union and NATO-member nations may own land, while foreigners from all other nations may not. The provision is aimed primarily at foreigners from former Soviet republics who are the main non-Western investors in Lithuania. Foreigners not eligible to own land may rent it for a period of up to 99 years.
In 1998, foreign direct investment (FDI) inflow into Lithuania reached $925.5 million, up from $354.5 million the year before, due largely to the privatization of Lithuania's telecommunications company. From 1999 to 2001, FDI inflow averaged $437 million a year. In 2002, contrary to worldwide trends of decreasing inward FDI flows, FDI in Lithuania rose 21.9% to $543 million.
On 1 July 2004 total foreign direct investment in Lithuania reached $5.7 billion, with most of it coming from the EU. The largest chunk of this capital inflow went to the following sectors: processing (31.1%), trade (17.9%), transportation and communication (17.1%), and financial mediation (15.7%).
Lithuania continues, despite its small size, to be an attractive location for FDI and a competitive center for product sourcing. It boasts a highly skilled labor force, competitive costs, a stable political and economic environment, a strong currency, and the region's most developed infrastructure.
In 1990, the Lithuanian government began a comprehensive economic reform program aimed at effecting the transformation to a market-driven economy. Reform measures include price reform, trade reform, and privatization. By mid-1993, 92% of housing and roughly 60% of businesses slated for privatization had been privatized. By 1996, about 36% of state enterprises and about 83% of all state property had been privatized. International aid agencies committed about $765 million of assistance in 1992–95. Most international aid went either to infrastructure construction or loan credits to business. Citing continued progress toward democratic development, in 1999 the United States announced that it was terminating economic assistance to Lithuania. Having established itself as a democratic society with a market economy, Lithuania was invited to join the EU in 2002, and it became a member in 2004.
In 2001, Lithuania negotiated a 19-month, $119-million standby arrangement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In 2002, the country's GDP grew at a rapid pace (6–6.7%), unemployment was declining, the inflation rate fell to near zero, and there was a lower-than-expected general government deficit. In 2002, the tax system was aligned with EU requirements, the financial situation of municipalities and the Health Insurance Fund was improved, privatization moved forward and the financial sector was strengthened. The privatization program for 2003 included the sale of a second 34% stake in Lithuania Gas, one or two electricity distribution companies, and four alcohol producers.
In 2003, Lithuania was one of the most dynamic economies in Europe, with a 9.7% growth of the GDP, and it continued strongly through 2004 and 2005. Unemployment was on a downward spiral, and inflation was very stable, fluctuating around the 1% mark. However, income levels still lag behind the rest of the EU, and greenfield investments need to be attracted to counteract the effects of a more expensive future market. An inflow of structural funds from the EU is expected to trigger a short-term economic boom.
A national system of social insurance covers all of Lithuania's residents and was most recently updated in 2003. Old age, sickness, disability, and unemployment benefits are paid on an earningsrelated basis, from contributions by both employers and employees. Retirement is set at age 62.5 for men, and age 59 for women, gradually increasing to age 60 by 2006. Family allowance benefits are provided by states and municipalities to families with low incomes. There is a universal system of medical care, and a dual social insurance and social assistance program for maternity and health payments. Unemployment benefits are provided to applicants with at least 24 months of previous contributions and is paid for a period not exceeding six months in a 12-month period.
Legally, men and women have equal status, including equal pay for equal work, although in practice women are underrepresented in managerial and professional positions. Discrimination against women in the workplace persists. Violence against women, especially domestic abuse, is common. It is estimated that 80% of women experience psychological abuse, 35% experience physical abuse, and 17% are victims of sexual abuse. Child abuse is also a serious social problem. Authorities link the upsurge in abuse to alcoholism.
Human rights are generally respected in Lithuania, and human rights organizations are permitted to operate freely and openly. Prolonged detention still occurs in some cases, and poor prison conditions persist. Anti-Semitic incidents increased in 2004.
In 2004, Lithuania had approximately 403 physicians, 797 nurses, 71 dentists, and 65 pharmacists per 100,000 people. Most primary care providers are women. In 1994, the Public Health Surveillance Service was established to oversee control of communicable diseases, environmental and occupational health, and some other areas. Total health care expenditure was estimated at 6.3% of GDP.
One-year-old children were immunized as follows: tuberculosis, 97%; diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 96%; polio, 89%; and measles, 94%. The rates were 93% for DPT and 97% for measles. The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 0.10 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 1,300 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 200 deaths from AIDS in 2003.
Life expectancy was 73.97 years in 2005. The infant mortality rate for that year was 6.89 per 1,000 live births. The maternal mortality rate was 18 per 100,000 live births. As of 2002, the crude birth rate and overall mortality rate were estimated at, respectively, 8.3 and 14.7 per 1,000 people.
In 2001, national statistics indicated that there were about 1,293,029 dwelling units in the country, an average of 356 housing units per 1,000 people. About 32% of all housing units were individual houses; 61% were apartments. About 97% of these units are privately owned. The average living space is about 21.5 square meters per person. About 79% of all conventional dwellings are equipped with piped water, 72% had bath and shower facilities, and 52% had central heating. City governments are being encouraged to take more responsibility for social housing projects. Homeowners associations are being encouraged and new laws are being drafted for residential building associations. The Housing Loan Insurance Company was established in 2000 to provide insurance of loans and to promote housing loans with a low (5%) down payment.
Education is free and compulsory for all children between the ages of 7 and 15 years (for 9 years). While Lithuanian is the most common medium of instruction, children also study Polish, Russian, and Yiddish. Primary school covers four years of study, followed by six years of basic or lower secondary school. Students then move on to either two years of senior secondary school or vocational schools, which offer two- to three-year programs. The academic year runs from September to June.
In 2001, about 55% of children between the ages of three and six were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 91% of age-eligible students. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 94% of age-eligible students. Nearly all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 16:1 in 2003; the ratio for secondary school was about 11:1.
The four main universities are: Kaunas University of Technology (founded in 1950); Vilnius Technical University (founded in 1961); Vilnius University (founded in 1579); and Vytautas Magnus University (founded in 1922). In 2003, about 72% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in some type of higher education program; 56% for men and 88% for women. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 99.6%.
As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 5.9% of GDP.
The National Library at Vilnius has about 9.2 million volumes. Founded in 1570, the Vilnius University Library has over 5.3 million volumes. Vilnius also has the Central Library of the Academy of Sciences, with about 3.66 million volumes. There are dozens of other special collections in the country, including libraries maintained by the Union of Lithuanian Writers, the State Institute of Art, and the Institute of Urban Planning. The Institute of Lithuanian Literature and Folklore in Vilnius contains over 240,000 printed items. The Lithuanian Librarians' Association was established in 1931, disbanded under German occupation in 1941, and reorganized in 1989.
The majority of Lithuania's museums are in Vilnius, and these include the Lithuanian Art Museum (1941), the National Museum (1856), the Museum of Lithuanian Religious History, and, founded in 1991 just after gaining independence from the Soviet Union, the Lithuanian State Museum, dedicated to the country's suffering under and resistance to Soviet occupation. The Mikalojus Konstantinas Ciurlionis National Art Museum, named for a famous native composer and painter, is located in Kaunas; special branches of this museum include the Devil's Museum, a collection of artwork depicting devils, and a Ceramics Museum. The Museum of the Center of Europe, an open-air museum displaying large-scale works by European artists, was opened in Vilnius in 1994. There is also a Park of Soviet Sculptures in Druskininkai. The Lithuanian Theater, Music and Film Museum in Vilnius was founded by the Ministry of Culture. There are several other specialized museums, including the Museum of Genocide Victims (Vilnius), Museum of the History of Lithuania Medicine and Pharmacy (Kaunas), Museum of Ancient Beekeeping (Ignalina), and the Museum of Vilnius Sport History. There are several regional museums associated with secondary schools; these contain materials on local arts and history, as well as the history of the school to which the museum is linked.
In 2003, there were an estimated 239 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people; about 1,300 people were on a waiting list for telephone service installation. The same year, there were approximately 630 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.
Broadcasting is controlled by Lithuanian Television and Radio Broadcasting. Radio Vilnius broadcasts in Lithuanian, Russian, Polish, and English. As of 2001 there were 29 AM and 142 FM radio stations. In 2003, there were an estimated 524 radios and 487 television sets for every 1,000 people. About 76.9 of every 1,000 people were cable subscribers. Also in 2003, there were 109.7 personal computers for every 1,000 people and 202 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet. There were 47 secure Internet servers in the country in 2004.
The most popular daily newspapers are Lietuvos Rytas (Lithuania's Morning, in Russian), with a 2002 circulation of 85,000; Respubliká (55,000); Lietuvos Aidas (The Echo of Lithuania, 20,000); and Kauno Diena (Kaunas Daily, 57,000). There are also several periodicals available.
The constitution provides for free speech and a free press, and the government is said to uphold these provisions. Since independence, the independent print media have flourished, producing some 2,000 newspapers and periodicals, and plans for a number of private radio and television stations are underway.
Important economic organizations include the Association of Chamber of Commerce and Industry, an organization that coordinates the activities of all the chambers of commerce in Lithuania. There are three umbrella trade union organizations in the country: the Lithuania Confederation of Free Trade Unions, the Lithuania Union of Trade Unions, and the Lithuanian Workers' Union. Professional associations exist for a number of fields and occupations.
The Lithuanian Academy of Sciences promotes education and research in a wide variety of scientific fields. The Lithuanian Medical Association promotes research and education on health issues and works to establish common policies and standards in healthcare. There are several other associations dedicated to research and education for specific fields of medicine and particular diseases and conditions, such as the Lithuanian Heart Association.
There are a number of sports associations in the country, representing such pastimes as speed skating, squash, tae kwon do, tennis, badminton, weightlifting, and baseball. There are also branches of the Paralympic Committee. The Council of Lithuanian Youth Organizations helps organize and support a variety of youth groups. Scouting programs and chapters of the YMCA/YWCA are also active for youth. Volunteer service organizations, such as the Lions Clubs and Kiwanis International, are also present. The Red Cross is also active.
The capital city of Vilnius has one of the largest historic districts in Eastern Europe, distinguished primarily by its Baroque churches, many of which have been reclaimed since independence by money and missionaries from abroad. Kaunas, Lithuania's second-largest city, offers the tourist old merchants' buildings and museums. The seaside resort towns are active in the summer. The traveler can participate in tennis, fishing, sailing, rowing, and winter sports. Lithuanians have long distinguished themselves at basketball, and have contributed top players to the Soviet teams. Seven Lithuanians have Olympic gold medals, and the national basketball team won a bronze medal in Barcelona in 1992 and again in Sydney in 2000.
All visitors need a valid passport. Visas are not required for nationals of the European Union states, the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, and some South American countries. Travelers of non-European Union countries must carry proof of medical insurance to cover travel in Lithuania.
About 3.6 million tourists visited Lithuania in 2003. There were 7,694 hotel rooms with 15,142 beds and an occupancy rate of 32%. The average length of stay in Lithuania was two nights. Tourist expenditure receipts totaled $700 million that year.
In 2004, the US Department of State estimated the daily cost of traveling in Lithuania at $205.
President Valdas Adamkus (b.1926) was chief of state from 1998–2003, and then beginning again in 2004.
Lithuania has no territories or colonies.
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"Lithuania." Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations. 2007. Encyclopedia.com. (October 1, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2586700278.html
"Lithuania." Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations. 2007. Retrieved October 01, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2586700278.html
Republic of Lithuania
LOCATION AND SIZE.
An East European country bordering on the Baltic Sea, Lithuania has an area of 65,200 square kilometers (25,174 square miles) and a total coastline of 99 kilometers (62 miles). Lithuania is a mid-size country by European standards and is about the size of West Virginia. Lithuania's border countries are: Belarus, 502 kilometers (312 miles); Latvia, 453 kilometers (282 miles); Poland, 91 kilometers (57 miles); and Russia (Kaliningrad), 227 kilometers (141 miles). Vilnius, Lithuania's capital, is located in the country's southeastern part. Vilnius is also the nation's largest city with a population of about 600,000.
The population of Lithuania was estimated at 3,620,800 in July of 2000 but the population is decreasing, that is the growth rate is negative (-0.29 percent). In 2000, the birth rate stood at 9.77 births per 1,000 while the death rate stood at 12.87 per 1,000, with suicide rates among the highest in the world. The nation's fertility rate is below replacement level with only 1.34 children born to each woman. In addition, Lithuania has an infant mortality rate with 14.67 deaths per 1,000 live births. The nation also loses population to immigration , a loss of 0.16 people per 1,000 members of the population. Life expectancy for males is 63.07 years and 75.41 years for females.
The Lithuanian population is close to 100 percent literate. The official language (Lithuanian) is related to the pre-Indo-European language Sanskrit, very archaic in its structure, and therefore studied around the world for comparative linguistic purposes. Polish and Russian are also widely spoken. Ethnic Lithuanians constitute some 80 percent of the population. The largest national minorities include Russians (9 percent), Poles (7 percent), and Belorussians (1.6 percent). Despite decades of the communist propaganda and persecutions, many religions survived in Lithuania, including Roman Catholicism (dominant), Lutheranism, Russian Orthodoxy, Judaism, and Islam. Reflecting average European levels of urbanization, most Lithuanians (68 percent) live in urban areas. By international standards, Lithuania's population is distributed rather evenly across the country with a population density of 56 per square kilometer (146 per square mile).
OVERVIEW OF ECONOMY
Lithuania is an economy in transition from the communist economic system to a Western-style market economy. During the years of communist control (1944-91), the economy was controlled by the government, and there were restrictions against the private ownership of property and businesses. Since the end of the communist era, Lithuania has become a regional trend-setter by aggressively pursuing economic liberalization programs.
Europe's largest country in the 16th century, Lithuania has a statehood tradition going as far back as the 11th century. However, Lithuania became part of Russia in 1795 and did not regain independence until after World War I (1918). Between World War I and the onset of World War II in 1939, Lithuania made substantial economic progress despite a lack of natural resources except for land. Predominantly based on agriculture, the economy developed rather close trade relationships with the Western world, especially Germany, United Kingdom, and Scandinavia. Lithuania exported agricultural products (mainly hog and poultry products) to these countries and imported advanced machinery and other industrial products from them. Lithuania's economic development level was well below that of the United Kingdom or Germany but was considered at par with some Central European and Scandinavian countries. Even during the Depression of the 1930s, the Lithuanian currency (litas) was strongest or second strongest in Europe. World War II and the Soviet occupation which began in 1940 interrupted Lithuania's independence until it was formally restored in 1990. The Soviets forced industrialization in a heavy, distorted way to the detriment of other economic sectors, especially production of consumer products and services. In 1990, the industry was dominated by 3 major branches: first, machinery and equipment including electronics; second, light industries; and third, food industries. Combined, these produced some 70 percent of the total industry output. Even if it brought some peculiar economic growth, the communist system imposed by the USSR slowed Lithuania's comparative economic development by at least 2 decades.
Postcommunist economies like Lithuania underwent a significant transformation recession coupled with the outburst of corrective inflation . On top of these systemic changes, Lithuania suffered trade disruption caused by the collapse of the Soviet Union which was and remains its main trade partner. In combination with the usual disruption stemming from the radical privatization and other transformation measures, this resulted in a drop in measured output. In all, there was a 40 percent drop in the officially measured GDP that Lithuania suffered in the first half of the 1990s. That loss of GDP was recovered in part by a subsequent growth as a result of radical economic reforms. However, Lithuania suffered again as a result of the Russian financial crisis of 1998. In 2000, economic growth exceeded 3 percent and will probably accelerate to about 5 percent in the near future.
Since independence from the Soviet Union, Lithuania has been attempting to radically transform the economy. This is being done by political and economic liberalization, macroeconomic stabilization, and privatization as the main elements of the transition strategy. In 1997 alone, some 200 state-owned companies were sold to private industry. By 2000, an additional US$725 million in government-owned companies were sold-off. By that same year, some two-thirds of the economy was in private hands and largely working according to the rules of a competitive market economy.
By 1998, Lithuania's economy closely resembled that of most other Western European countries. Agriculture accounted for 10 percent of the GDP, industry for 32 percent, and services for 58 percent. The country's main industries are metal-cutting machine tools, electric motors, television sets, refrigerators and freezers, petroleum refining, shipbuilding, furniture making, textiles, food processing, fertilizers, agricultural machinery, optical equipment, electronic components, and computers.
Over two-thirds of its economy is dependent on foreign markets, and Lithuania has sought to increase its attractiveness to foreign investors. By 1997, foreign capitalists had invested over US$1 billion in the Lithuanian economy, and in 1998, there was an additional US$510 million in new investments. The largest single foreign investor in Lithuania is the United States which accounts for about 18 percent of all foreign investment. The low labor costs and high level of education of the workforce, when combined with the country's geographic location at the crossroads of Northern Europe, account for the attraction that foreign investors have in Lithuania. Among the major foreign companies with operations in Lithuania are Amber Consortium (Sweden-Finland), Motorola (USA), Philip Morris (USA), SEB (Sweden), Williams, Inc.(USA), Royal Dutch-Shell (the Netherlands), and Coca Cola (USA).
Following independence in 1990, the Lithuanian economy grew rapidly during the first part of the decade (with average annual growth rates which exceeded 5.0 percent). However, following an economic crisis in Russia which began in 1998, Lithuania's GDP declined by 3 percent in 1999. Unemployment rose to 10 percent in 1999. In 2000, growth in the GDP returned with a rate of 3.3 percent. Inflation remains low at 3 percent, after reaching a high of 35.6 percent in 1995.
In 1999, the European Union (EU) agreed to initiate the process to allow Lithuania to join the regional trade and political organization, beginning in 2000. By joining the EU, Lithuania will be able to trade freely with the 15 members of the organization (a market of 350 million consumers). This should increase Lithuanian exports and make imports from the EU less expensive since tariffs and duties on imports and exports would be eliminated.
POLITICS, GOVERNMENT, AND TAXATION
After regaining independence and shedding the imposed communist system (1990), Lithuania is a fully functional parliamentary democracy. The chief of state is the president, and the head of the government is the premier (who is formally appointed by the president, subject to approval by the parliament). The president is directly elected by the people and serves a 5-year term. The parliament, known as the Seimas, has 141 members who are elected for 4-year terms. Of these, 71 are directly elected by the people while 70 are elected by proportional vote.
The current president, Valdas Adamkus, had lived in the United States for 30 years after World War II. The Lithuanian political scene is dominated by 3 groups or forces: right, left, and center. Widely credited with dealing a mortal blow to the Soviet Union and restoring Lithuanian independence in 1990, the Lithuanian Independence Movement (Sajudis) was led by the Lithuanian Conservatives with Vytautas Landsbergis at its helm. Landsbergis became the nation's head of state after independence.
In the fall of 1992, Lithuania set a new trend in the post-communist world as the right-wing forces (Conservatives) lost power to the ex-communist left (Lithuanian Democratic Party of Labor, LDLP). The people's hopes for improvements in living standards were dashed by the hard reality of disastrous and development-retarding communist legacies. In another trend set for the region, the Conservatives returned to power in 1996 but were replaced by the centrist New Policy bloc by 2000; in 2001, the left-leaning government was formed with the ex-communist Algirdas Brazauskas as its leader.
Since independence, all of the Lithuanian governments and political parties have supported the transition processes to markets and democracy. The right or conservative political parties are the Homeland Union and the Conservatives who have joined together in a coalition. These parties are more pro-business and pro-Western. The main centrist group is also a coalition of parties known as the New Policy bloc which includes the Center Union and the Democratic Party. The New Policy bloc supports policies that seek to balance business growth and social welfare programs. The left is made up of the former communist party, the LDLP, and genuine social democrats.
The LDLP is most resistant to transparent and rule-based privatization efforts, preferring the nomenklatura privatization instead. It has also supported increased taxation in order to expand government programs. Overall, due to privatization and other reforming efforts, the government plays a smaller and smaller role in the lives of Lithuanians. In 1997, the main privatization efforts began when the government sold the state-owned telephone company, Lithuanian Telecom. Additional privatization efforts have included the government-owned electric and utility companies. Overall, some 5,714 government-owned companies have been privatized. Still the government continues to own US$2.5 billion in property and businesses.
The government's budget in 1997 was US$1.7 billion, but it only had revenues of US$1.5 billion. The government deficit amounted to US$200 million or about 2.8 percent of the GDP. This situation marks a dramatic decline from the budget deficit of 9 percent of GDP in 1991. In 1999, the government spent US$181 million on defense or about 1.5 percent of the GDP. Lithuania seeks to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and has worked to participate in NATO-led operations, including the peace-keeping mission in Bosnia. Lithuania receives foreign aid from a number of sources such as the EU and the United States. In 1995, foreign aid amounted to US$228.5 million.
The tax burden (mainly income and value-added taxes ) at some one-third of the GDP is moderate by international standards and will further be reduced as the liberalization progresses. Progress has been made in strengthening and improving the tax administration. This shift will result in the removal of tax arrears and an increase in tax revenue. Further training of staff and improved exchange and processing of information are also needed. While the accession process to the European Union does not involve full harmonization of taxes, still the EU is assisting Lithuania in this process. Tax revenues come from a variety of sources. Goods that are imported into Lithuania face import duties that range from 10 to 100 percent (but average 15 percent on most goods). The highest tariffs are on tobacco, automobiles, jewelry, and gasoline. Corporate tax rates are officially at 24 percent, but incentives designed to draw new companies to Lithuania allow these new firms to reduce their taxes by 70 percent for a period of up to 3 years. The personal income tax level is 33 percent with rates of between 10 to 35 percent on supplemental income from investments or interest dividends.
In an effort to anchor itself in the West and, therefore, ensure its autonomy from Russia, Lithuania has sought to join a number of West European organizations, including NATO and the EU. It is also a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) which has reduced trade barriers and tariffs among member states. As a small country, Lithuania sees membership in these institutions as a way to protect itself from foreign influences and enhance its economy.
INFRASTRUCTURE, POWER, AND COMMUNICATIONS
Lithuania inherited a balanced transportation system (e.g. roads, aviation, merchant marine) from the Soviet period. However, the (broad gauge) railway system was
|Country||Telephones a||Telephones, Mobile/Cellular a||Radio Stations b||Radios a||TV Stations a||Televisions a||Internet Service Providers c||Internet Users c|
|Lithuania||1.048 M 1997)||297,500 (1998)||AM 3; FM 112; shortwave 1||1.9 M||20 (1995)||1.7 M||14||225,000|
|United States||194 M||69.209 M (1998)||AM 4,762; FM 5,542; shortwave 18||575 M||1,500||219 M||7,800||148 M|
|Russia||30 M (1998)||2.5 M (2000)||AM 420; FM 447; shortwave 56||61.5 M||7,306 (1998)||60.5 M||35||9.2 M|
|Latvia||748,000||77,100||AM 8; FM 56; shortwave 1||1.76 M||44 (1995)||1.22 M||42||234,000|
|aData is for 1997 unless otherwise noted.|
|bData is for 1998 unless otherwise noted.|
|cData is for 2000 unless otherwise noted.|
|SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [Online].|
built to keep Lithuania integrated in the USSR and separated from the West. Privatization, modernization, and development of the priority transportation infrastructure is of particular importance for an east-west and north-south transit country like Lithuania, especially in view of the European Union accession process.
Lithuania has 71,375 kilometers (44,352 miles) of roads of which 64,951 kilometers (40,360 miles) are paved. There are 417 kilometers (259 miles) of expressways. All of the 2,002 kilometers (1,244 miles) of railways are broad gauge. Although Lithuania is a small nation, it has a substantial merchant marine fleet with 52 ships, including 23 cargo ships, 2 petroleum tankers, 3 passenger cruise ships, and 11 refrigerated cargo vessels. Lithuania has 600 kilometers (373 miles) of waterways that are navigable year-round. The nation's main ports are Kaunas and Klaipeda. Klaipeda is the largest port in the Baltics and handles 20 percent of all cargo imported to or exported from the region. In 1998, the port handled 16.1 million tons of cargo, and expansions will allow the facility to handle 30 million tons by 2004. There are 96 airports in Lithuania, but only 25 of them have paved runways. Vilnius, Kaunas, and Palanga have international airports. All told, Lithuanian Airlines carried 230,000 passengers in 1997. The United States supplied Lithuania with US$30 million to upgrade the airport at Siauliai which is now one of the largest cargo airports in Europe. Moreover, there are 105 kilometers (65 miles) of crude oil pipelines and 760 kilometers (472 miles) of natural gas pipelines.
The government is engaged in a variety of infrastructure improvement projects. By 2005, some 55 individual projects are scheduled for completion. These projects are in response to dramatic increases in land, sea, and air transport. For instance, since 1994, automobile traffic has increased by an annual rate of 15 to 20 percent per year. The nation's largest airport at Vilnius and the seaport of Klaipeda are both undergoing expansion and renovation projects. The other major project is the construction of the Via Baltica highway which will connect all the Baltic republics (Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia). The EU would like to construct 2 major highways through Lithuania to allow the organization access to Russia and the other countries of the former Soviet Union. Although work has not begun on the road systems, the EU has already pledged aid for the projects.
Lithuania is also in the midst of constructing a power line to supply electrical exports to the West. Lithuania produced 15.58 billion kWh of electricity in 1998. Some 13 percent of this came from fossil fuels and 4.3 percent came from hydroelectric sources, but the overwhelming majority, 82.61 percent, came from nuclear power plants. The nation consumed 7.829 billion kWh of electricity in 1998 and exported 7 billion kWh while it imported 340 million kWh.
Lithuania's energy sector needs modernization as well. Post-Soviet Russia's supply network is unreliable and subject to political manipulations resulting in cuts of oil to Lithuania. The opening of the Butinge oil terminal on the Baltic Sea in 1999 allows Lithuania to diversify its supply of crude oil by sea. Currently, the nation has about 10 million barrels of proven oil reserves. Other sources of power, such as Ignalina nuclear power plant (of the Chernobyl type), are controversial for safety reasons. Electric power generation needs to be modernized and privatized, while new and profitable supply networks to Western Europe via Poland need to be established. Lithuania's power complex experiences substantial problems with generation, distribution, and sales. The capacity in the system is about 2 to 3 times higher than the national demand for power generation and gas distribution. As a result of inherited Soviet-style inefficiencies, losses amounted to about one-third of supply and were made worse by non-payment of debts by some clients, for example, in Belarus.
The telecommunications market in Lithuania is liberalized except for fixed-line telephony where Lietuvos Telekomas enjoys a monopoly until the end of 2002. A national fiber-optic cable system is nearing completion, and rural exchanges are being improved and expanded. By 1997, there were 1.1 million main telephone landlines in use. Mobile cellular systems are functioning and rather widely accessible. In 1997, about 297,500 mobile phones were in use. Access to the Internet is growing, and by 1999, there were 10 Internet service providers.
After regaining independence in 1990, Lithuania underwent tremendous, regionally trend-setting changes in the sectoral structure of its economy as measured by the percentage of the individual sectors' contribution to the GDP and/or employment. As a result of the Soviet occupation and the imposition of the communist central planning, Lithuania's economy was distorted compared to Denmark, Finland, or other comparable, free Western countries. In 1990, agriculture still occupied a special place in the Lithuanian economy, providing about a quarter of jobs and about half of the GDP. Above all, however, Lithuania was industrialized in a heavy, distorted way reflecting the communist orthodoxy and Soviet imperialistic priorities which was to the detriment of services (especially modern services) and the modern welfare-increasing economic development in general. During the independence decade (1990-2000), the normal structure of a modern economy was largely restored in Lithuania, with the services dominating (58 percent) GDP, followed by industry (32 percent) and agriculture (10 percent). About 30 percent of Lithuanian workers are employed by industry, while 20 percent work in agriculture, and 50 percent work in services.
With three-quarters of its labor force employed in agriculture, Lithuania was a predominantly agricultural economy in 1940. Half a century later, agriculture still occupied a special role in the Lithuanian economy, providing about a quarter of jobs and about half the national product. By 1990, Lithuania reached roughly one-fourth of the U.S. labor productivity in agriculture. Generally, Lithuanian agricultural production costs were 2 to 3 times higher than in Western countries at the end of the communist era.
Lithuanian agriculture remains inefficient by Western standards. Most small farmers do not have the capital or resources to acquire new equipment, and few utilize new forms of fertilizer and soil-management techniques. In 1998, agricultural production decreased by 4.3 percent, and in 1999, it decreased by 13.6 percent. However, increasing competition and access to new technology have slowly increased the efficiency of some farms (mainly the larger operations). In 2000, Lithuania had 67,800 family farms and 1,244 corporate-owned farms. Since 1990, about 2,000 family farms have gone out-of-business as unprofitable operations have been unable to survive the free market economy. Currently, the nation loses about 0.03-0.04 percent of its agricultural land each year. Agricultural workers are among the lowest paid laborers in Lithuania. In 2000, on average they only earned US$177 per month while the national average monthly wage was US$267.
About 3.37 million hectares are used for agriculture, and the average farm size is 12.6 hectares. In 1998, agricultural exports had a total value of US$564.1 million while imports totaled US$697.6 million. The main exports were butter, cheese, fish, milk, and pet food. Almost 80 percent of agricultural exports go to Russia. The main imports include processed foods and fruits. The main supplier of agricultural imports is the EU with some 52 percent of imports. The largest crops were potatoes at 1.7 million metric tons, sugar beets at 890,000 metric tons, and wheat at 837,000 metric tons. The main livestock products are beef and veal, chicken, lamb, pork, and horse.
During the period of Soviet control of Lithuania, the government tried to change the economy from one based on agriculture to one based on industry. However, in the post-Soviet era, industry has declined significantly in relation to the other segments of the economy. In 1999 alone, industrial production declined by 14 percent. There have also been deep cuts in employment in industry. For instance, in 1990 there were 25,000 workers in the electronics industry, but by 1997, that number had declined to 10,000. Lithuanian industry suffers from outdated equipment and a reliance on unstable markets in the nations of the former Soviet Union.
Industrial workers on average earn less than the national average of US$267 per month. Workers in manufacturing earn an average of US$260 per month, while construction workers earn about US$242 per month. Ironically, the low wages have been somewhat helpful for Lithuanian industry. Foreign companies have relocated manufacturing plants in the country precisely because labor costs are so inexpensive. Examples of such foreign industrial companies include Siemens of Germany, Sam-sung of Korea, Farimex of Switzerland, Shell Chemical of the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, and Wilhelm Becker of Germany. Hence while most areas of industry are in decline, there are several segments that have grown.
The chemical industry remains one of Lithuania's most profitable sectors. In 1997 it accounted for almost 10 percent of all Lithuanian exports. The main elements of the chemical sector include nitrogen and phosphate fertilizers which in 1997 made-up 41 percent of chemical exports. Other segments of the industry are pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and soap, and glues, oils and resinoids. Most chemical exports (about 50 percent) go to Russia and the former communist bloc nations of Europe. The textile industry also remains profitable. The segment has attracted US$40 million in foreign investment since 1990. In 1997, textiles accounted for 3.3 percent of the GDP and employed some 60,000 people in 100 large companies and 300 medium and small companies. About 75 percent of all textiles are exported. By 2000, almost 90 percent of textile production was done by either international firms or joint ventures between foreign companies and Lithuanian companies. Of the exports, 65 percent go to the EU and 20 percent go to the countries of the former Soviet Union. Although the electronics sector has declined, in 1997 it was responsible for US$120 million in revenue. Among the main electronic products are televisions, electronic measurement equipment, semiconductors, and other computer equipment.
Lithuania also has a significant wood and paper processing industry. In total, Lithuanian plants processed some 3 million cubic meters of timber. These products account for about 5.4 percent of exports. Some of the main wood-based products include furniture, cardboard, and printed boxes. The main export markets are France, Germany, and Denmark. Two international companies, Ochocco Lumber of the United States and Terminal Forest Products of Canada, have established several plants in Lithuania.
The rest of the industry produces diverse goods including consumer durables, e.g. refrigerators, consumer electronics, etc. There are small but growing and technologically advanced biotechnology, computer and Internet industries. Most of the industrial production is exported to the European countries.
Services now account for the bulk of the Lithuanian economy. Workers in this sector are among the highest paid in the country. For instance, workers in the financial service sector earn an average of US$517 per month while workers in general business and real estate earn US$375 per month. The low pay of Lithuanian workers has constrained the retail sector of the economy, since most workers have little excess money to spend on consumer items. However, the renewed economic growth which began in 2000 has already caused an increase of 5 percent in the retail sector.
The first private commercial banks in Lithuania since the period between World War I and II were established in 1989. The nation's banks underwent a period of consolidation in the mid-1990s during which several banks went out of business while others were acquired by larger banks through mergers and acquisitions. In response, the government passed a series of laws which placed additional regulations on banks in an effort to ensure their solvency . A number of international banks have a presence in Lithuania. These include Société Générale of France, Svedfund Financial Markets of Sweden, and DE GmbH of Germany. However, these banks only account for 3.1 percent of the banking market. About 42 percent of total banking assets were controlled by just 2 banks—both of them state-owned (al-though both are scheduled to be privatized by 2002). The nation's largest private bank, Vilniaus Bankas, is the largest bank among the Baltic nations. The insurance sector of Lithuania is vibrant with 31 different firms, including major multinational firms such as Lloyd's of the United Kingdom and Coris of France. From 1997 to 1998, insurance revenues increased by 40 percent.
TRAVEL AND TOURISM.
Since the end of Soviet control in 1990, tourism has increased significantly in Lithuania. Since 1996, tourist revenues have increased by 50 percent to over US$420 million in 1999. That same year, Lithuania received 3.7 million visitors or more tourists than there were people in the population. In 1997, tourism accounted for 4.2 percent of the GDP. The main tourist destination was the nation's capital, Vilnius, which received 58 percent of all visitors. This has led to the construction of 15 new hotels in the capital since 1996, including ones owned by Sheraton and Radisson. The increased number of tourists has led to a doubling of restaurants, clubs, and tourist shops since 1996.
For smaller countries like Lithuania, international trade and economic cooperation in general is of predominant importance for economic development. The forced reorientation of Lithuania's trade after its incorporation into the USSR resulted in a complete destruction of Lithuania's economic ties with the West (mainly United Kingdom and Germany). As a result of occupation, Lithuania was forced to forego multiple benefits flowing from foreign trade in general and the cooperation with the advanced market economies in particular. Only about 2 percent of its trade was with the West at the start of the post-Soviet independence in 1990.
With the international trade-to-GDP ratio at the level of some 90 percent, Lithuania is a strongly outward-oriented economy as of 2000. Its foreign trade is liberalized and regulated largely via market economy instruments known in the West and approved by the World Trade Organization (WTO) of which Lithuania is a member. The earlier licensing and foreign exchange surrender requirements have been repealed. Over two-thirds of the Lithuanian imports enter duty free; the rest face 5 to 15 percent duties, becoming more and more uniform as required by the WTO. By 2000, Lithuania maintained economic relations with over 160 countries. The country has bilateral trade treaties with 22 nations. However, accounting for almost one-quarter of Lithuania's trade turnover , Russia remains a major trade partner. Part of the Lithuanian output decline during transition was due to too slow a reorientation of trade away from the former Soviet Union (FSU) and towards the West. Foreign direct investment into Lithuania is still rather modest due to this and related factors having to do with instability in Russia and elsewhere in the FSU but also shortcomings of the Lithuanian reforms and some communist legacies.
From 1997 to 1999, the nation's imports increased by 27 percent, and its exports increased by 10.6 percent. Lithuania's main exports in 1998 included machinery and equipment (19 percent of exports), mineral products (19 percent), textiles and clothing (19 percent), and chemicals (10 percent). The nation's main export markets were Russia at 17.4 percent, Germany at 15.8 percent, Latvia at 12.7 percent, Denmark at 5.9 percent, and Belarus at 5.2 percent. In 1998, Lithuania's main imports were machinery and equipment at 30 percent, mineral products at 16 percent, chemicals at 9 percent, and textiles and clothing at 9 percent. In 1999, the country's major import partners were Russia with 20.4 percent of imports, Germany with 16.5 percent, Denmark with 3.8 percent, Belarus with 2.2 percent, and Latvia with 2 percent. Lithuania has consistently had a trade deficit . In 1996, the nation imported US$1.2 billion more than it exported, and by 1998 that deficit had increased to US$2.1 billion.
There seems to be a trend to go deeper into external debt . The external debt amounted to over US$2 billion at the end of 2000, balancing around the level of Lithuania's hard currency reserves. However, the increasing levels of foreign investment have helped offset the debt by providing inflows of capital for new investment. The Swedish-Finnish company, Amber Consortium, is the largest single investor in Lithuania with US$510 million in investments, followed by Williams International of the United States with US$150 million and Telia-Sonera, also a joint Swedish-Finnish firm, with US$66 million. By 2000, total foreign investment in Lithuania was US$2.66 billion. Investments in telecommunications accounted for 28.8 percent of total foreign investment while manufacturing accounted for 25 percent, and wholesale and retail trade accounted for 19.5 percent.
In an additional effort to attract foreign trade, in 1995, the Lithuania government established 3 free trade zones , located in Siauliai, Klaipeda, and Kaunas. Companies that locate themselves in these zones receive incentives of up to 30 percent of the cost of building or relocating to the areas.
The entry of Lithuania into the EU will greatly expand the nation's international trade. It will give Lithuania access to the markets of 15 countries which will also be able to use Lithuania as a gateway for entry into the markets of the former Soviet Union. Already, trade between Lithuania and the EU members has dramatically increased. Since 1997, exports to the EU have increased by 21.8 percent. Meanwhile imports from the EU increased by 13.3 percent. Lithuania is also a member of the Baltic free trade zone, a 1994 agreement between the 3 Baltic countries which abolished tariffs on all industrial goods traded among Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.
As a result of Soviet legacies, Lithuania suffered rather severe price and monetary instabilities following independence in 1990. By 1995, inflation had reached 35.6 percent. In response, the Lithuanian government undertook a series of reforms that were assisted by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), an organization that lends money to governments to help them protect their national currency. By 1999, inflation had been reduced to 3 percent.
As part of the post-Soviet macroeconomic transformation, the Bank of Lithuania (B of L) was established as the main financial institution with both the currency exchange rate management and bank supervision functions. In 1994, Lithuania adopted a currency board
|Exchange rates: Lithuania|
|litai per US$1|
|Note: Currency has been at a fixed rate since May 1, 1994; litai is the pluralof litas.|
|SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].|
which means the value of the Lithuanian litas is fixed at the level of US$0.25 or 4 litai per U.S. dollar and guarantied by Lithuania's foreign exchange reserves . So the value of litas travels with the value of the U.S. dollar and no exchange rate policy is currently being conducted.
The Bank of Lithuania's main function is to protect the nation's currency. However, it also regulates the private commercial banks in Lithuania and sets interest rates. It also sells government bonds and treasury bills which help finance the debt. Interest rates vary between 6 to 10 percent per year. High interest rate levels largely reflect higher risk and volatility in the domestic capital markets. Foreign banks must receive approval before they are allowed to purchase more than 10 percent of the shares of a local bank.
Overall, the Lithuanian banking sector is rather small but operating smoothly as of 2000. It consists of 10 commercial banks, 1 special purpose bank, and 3 foreign bank branches. The share of the public sector in the capital of commercial banks continues to decline, to some one-third by 2000. At the same time, the share of domestic privately owned assets rose; the role of foreign private owners increased only slightly. The stability of the nation's banking sector was such that in 1996, Lithuania became the first country of the former Soviet Union to be granted a credit rating by such international firms as Standard & Poor's and Moody's. Because the government's bonds are rated as trustworthy by these firms, these bonds are more attractive to foreign investors.
The role of non-bank financial markets is still rather weak. While a relatively large number of firms are listed on the well-organized National Stock Exchange of Lithuania (NSEL) modelled after the Paris Bourse, trading is rather low and suffers from the shortages of liquidity , a condition affecting most stock exchanges in the post-communist economies.
POVERTY AND WEALTH
The legacy of Soviet control in Lithuania is one of poverty and deep disparities in income. Many Lithuanians have not adjusted well to the market economy. These
|GDP per Capita (US$)|
|SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.|
|Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage Share: Lithuania|
|Survey year: 1996|
|Note: This information refers to expenditure shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita expenditure.|
|SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].|
phenomena left most people of Lithuania quite poor at the beginning of the independence in 1990. True, nomenklatura lived well under the Soviets in the narrow material sense and the social security sense. But even nomenklatura were separated from the world and for that and other reasons were unable to make their lives richer in many respects.
In 1993, the wealthiest 10 percent of the population controlled 28 percent of the country's wealth, while the poorest 10 percent only controlled about 3 percent of the nation's wealth. Increases in Lithuania's unemployment rate have added to the nation's poverty. In 1996, unemployment was 6.2 percent, but by 2000, the rate had increased to 15 percent.
Those in Lithuania who earn or survive on US$28 per week or less are considered to be below the poverty line. In 1999, the poverty rate in Lithuania was 16 percent, but that wealth varies considerably. For instance, the rural poverty rate is 28 percent because of lower pay rates and higher unemployment rates among agricultural workers. Overall, some 55.1 percent of those living in poverty were aged 15 or younger.
The transition period is bringing its own opportunities and problems. An undisputed achievement of the transition period is the equilibrium on the consumer goods markets and the resultant wide choice of imported and domestic consumer goods available to those who can afford them. And the possession of some goods (e.g. cars, phones) increased tremendously compared to the Soviet period. As usual in a market economy, some people (younger, better educated) are able to live financially very well. Newly rich Lithuanians are not numerous but they are able to live lifestyles comparable to those of the average middle class members in the West or even better. However, some of Western ills (e.g. drugs) are making their way to Lithuania as well. Part of new wealth came from shadowy international dealings organized by the KGB (the notorious Soviet political police) and other
|Household Consumption in PPP Terms|
|Country||All Food||Clothing and footwear||Fuel and power a||Health care b||Education b||Transport & Communications||Other|
|Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.|
|aExcludes energy used for transport.|
|bIncludes government and private expenditures.|
|SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.|
post-Soviet mafia. Other people (older, less educated or educated but more influenced by the communist system) suffer from higher levels of unemployment and the shortages of the social safety net. While they are able to subsist on usually rather small plots of land, most people living in rural areas are poor, old, and plagued by social ills (e.g. alcoholism) inherited from the Soviet period. They present one of the gravest problems. The Lithuanian government is trying to help people who find themselves below the poverty line, but the budgetary resources are very limited. The state provides unemployment insurance and both old age and disability pensions. It also provides limited assistance for housing. In addition, the efficiency of social assistance is low by international standards. It will take years of economic growth before the majority of the Lithuanian people are able to feel appreciable and broader-based improvements in their living standards.
There was nominally full employment in Soviet-occupied Lithuania except that there was some hidden unemployment and some forced "employment" characteristic of totalitarian regimes.
The Lithuanian constitution gives workers the right to establish and join unions, although there are limitations on the ability of security and law-enforcement personnel to strike. About 10 percent of businesses are unionized, and about 15 percent of workers belong to unions. Children may work at age 14 with parental consent or at age 16 with or without consent. The nation's minimum wage is US$107.50 per month. However, most workers earn more than the minimum wage, and wages vary considerably. Workers in the financial services sector earn an average monthly wage of US$517, while construction workers earn an average of US$242 per month and retail workers US$181. The standard work week is 40 hours, and there is overtime pay for hours worked in excess of 40. National laws mandate a minimum 28 days of vacation per year.
By 2000, unemployment reached 13 percent and is still growing. In 1999, the Lithuanian workforce numbered 1.8 million. About 18 percent of the workforce has a college degree, while an additional 44 percent have some specialized or technical degrees.
COUNTRY HISTORY AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
200 B.C. Baltic people settle in the area that is now Lithuania.
1200s A.D. The Lithuanian tribes become united in a loose political confederation.
1236. The Lithuanian state is founded by Duke (later king) Mindaugas.
1386-1795. Lithuania and Poland are united as a single country.
1387. Christianity is established in Lithuania.
1410. Teutonic knights are defeated by joint Lithuanian-Polish forces.
1569-1795. The Lithuanian-Polish Commonwealth (Lublin Union) occurs.
1579. The University of Vilnius (the oldest university in the Baltics) is founded.
1795-1915. Lithuania is under tsarist Russian rule.
1915-18. Lithuania is occupied by Germans during World War I.
1918. Modern Lithuania's independence is declared.
1921. Lithuania is admitted to the League of Nations.
1939. The Nazi-Soviet Pact divides Eastern Europe between Germany and the USSR.
1940. Lithuania is occupied by the USSR.
1941-44. Lithuania is occupied by Nazi Germany.
1944. Soviet occupation and re-imposition of the Soviet rule on Lithuania occurs.
1944-56. Armed resistance occurs against the Soviet occupation of Lithuania.
1957-87. Covert resistance occurs against communism with religious and secular dissent.
1990. Lithuania declares re-establishment of independence, a mortal blow to the USSR.
1991. Lithuania is admitted to the United Nations.
1993. Last Soviet troops withdraw from Lithuania.
1994. Lithuania becomes a member of NATO's Partnership-for-Peace Program; the nation becomes an associate member of the EU.
1997. The government undertakes a wide-scale privatization program.
1999. The EU agrees to initiate discussions to allow Lithuania to enter the organization.
Despite a decade of determined and radical efforts at transforming the economy and society away from communism and other USSR-imposed distortions, Lithuania still faces challenges of further transformation to bring it into the European Union and NATO.
The so-called second generation reforms to be undertaken center on the modern role of the state in the European country and especially the interaction of public and private sectors in the process of economic development, given Lithuania's strategic economic interests and the nature of modern global economy.
Thus, further privatization of strategically important enterprises in the energy, transportation, and other infrastructure branches is required. Very important are the processes of enterprise exit of unviable enterprises from the Lithuanian economic system so they do not act as a burden to the state budget and release precious human and other resources for more productive uses, e.g. in the new economy. As of 2000, enterprise exit processes have been rather inefficient as about half of unviable firms in the bankruptcy stage stayed in that stage for 2 to 3 years, prolonging the negative consequences of the Soviet legacies. In the coming years, some 16,000 unviable enterprises will have to go bankrupt, hopefully using much more efficient processes. This will still be painful as some 180,000 employees need to be laid off in the process, temporarily pushing the unemployment rate even higher from its 13 percent level. These people will have to be either retired or trained for new jobs in the emerging modern economy.
The emergence of a modern economy will require liberalization of labor laws and other elements of the business environment so the new investments are attracted, especially from Western countries, and the enterprise entry is facilitated. In the digital age, new business models are emerging, and Lithuania badly needs to re-integrate the global economy using such modern approaches and Western investments. Further development of the Lithuanian market economy institutions (e.g. financial) is needed, especially in light of the transparency (e.g. in public procurement ) and other requirements of the European Union. Development steps should include the improvement of the social security finances and putting them on a more sustainable basis. This and other steps will help improve the efficiency of the social safety net and help fight poverty, a big problem especially in the rural areas. Above all, Lithuania needs to put a major effort into preserving and upgrading its very considerable human resources through appropriate reforms of health care and education. Last but not least, Lithuania needs to develop a strategy for long-term development of its competitive advantages within the European and global (digital) economies.
While during 1990-2000 Lithuania made valiant trend-setting efforts to shed the legacies of communism and the Soviet occupation, the next decade will be marked by no less determined efforts to join and work within the European Union, a totally different kind of union than the USSR.
Lithuania has no territories or colonies.
Samonis, V. The Blueprint for Lithuania's Future: Main Premises. Toronto: University of Toronto, 1997.
—. From Dependence to Interdependence: Transforming Baltic Foreign Economic Relations. Indianapolis: The Hudson Institute, 1991.
—. Lietuvos Reformu Desimtmetis: Keliai, Klystkeliai, Problemos, Perspektyvos (Analize is Strategines Lyginamosios Perspektyvos). A Study for the Parliament of Lithuania, Vilnius, 1999.
—. "Lithuania's Economic Transformation." Osteuropa-Wirtschaft (Munich: Suedost-Institut), No. 2, 1996.
—. "Road Maps to Markets: Issues in the Theory of the Post-Communist Transformation," in Systemic Change in Post-Communist Economies, edited by Paul G. Hare. Houndmills: Macmillan Press Ltd, 1999.
—. State, Market and the Post-Communist Economic Transformation: A Macroanalytical Framework. Brussels: International Institute of Administrative Sciences, 1992.
—. Transforming Business Models in the Global Digital Economy: The Impact of the Internet. Bonn and Toronto: The Center for European Integration Studies and SEMI Online, 2000.
—, editor. Enterprise Restructuring and Foreign Investment in the Transforming East: The Impact of Privatization. New York: The Haworth Press Inc., 1998.
—, editor. Exit for Entry: Microrestructuring in Transition Economies. Amsterdam: Kluwer Academic Publishers, forthcoming.
Shen, Raphael. Restructuring the Baltic Economies: Disengaging Fifty Years of Integration With the USSR. Westport: Praeger, 1994.
U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2001. <http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/index.html>. Accessed September 2001.
U.S. Department of State. Background Notes: Lithuania. <http://www.state.gov/www/background_notes/lithuania_9801_bgn.html>. Accessed September 2001.
—. FY 2000 Country Commercial Guide: Lithuania. <http://www.state.gov/www/about_state/business/com_guides/2000/europe/lithuania_CCG2000.pdf>. Accessed September 2001.
—. 2000 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Lithuania. <http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2000/eur/index.cfm?docid=691>. September 2001.
Litas (Lt). One litas equals 100 centas. There are notes in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500 litas. There are 1, 2, and 5 litas coins, as well as 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 centas.
Food products, textiles, consumer electronics, other manufactured goods.
Oil, gas, machinery, equipment.
GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT:
US$15.5 billion (purchasing power parity, 2000 est.). [CIA World Factbook estimated GDP at purchasing power parity at US$17.3 billion for 1999.]
BALANCE OF TRADE:
Exports: US$4.033 billion (2000). Imports: US$5.043 billion (2000). [CIA World Factbook indicates exports were US$3.3 billion (f.o.b., 1999) and imports were US$4.5 billion (f.o.b., 1999).]
Samonis, Val. "Lithuania." Worldmark Encyclopedia of National Economies. 2002. Encyclopedia.com. (October 1, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3410100215.html
Samonis, Val. "Lithuania." Worldmark Encyclopedia of National Economies. 2002. Retrieved October 01, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3410100215.html
Republic of Lithuania
Kapsukas, Kaunas, Klaipeda, Panevéžys, Šiauliai
This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report dated May 1997. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at http://travel.state.gov/ for the most recent information available on travel to this country.
The Baltic nation of LITHUANIA was one of the republics in the former Soviet Union. Following the end of World War I in 1918, Lithuania was created as an independent republic. Lithuania maintained its independence until 1940, when it was annexed and absorbed into the Soviet Union along with the neighboring countries of Latvia and Estonia. In March 1990, Lithuania became the first Soviet republic to declare its independence. The Soviets responded harshly by imposing an economic blockade in April 1990, but the Lithuanians refused to back down. After several failed attempts to resolve the dispute through diplomatic negotiations, the Soviet Union sent troops into Lithuania's capital city and occupied several government buildings and communications centers. However, the Lithuanians remained defiant. The Soviet Union finally recognized Lithuanian independence on September 6, 1991. The country was also admitted as a member of the United Nations on September 17, 1991.
Vilnius, the capital city, with an estimated population of 553,000, is situated at the confluence of the Neris and Vilnele Rivers, in southeastern Lithuania. Vilnius is 180 miles from the Baltic Sea, and just 21 miles from the Belarusan border. The city comprises an area of 100 sq. miles-of which one third is forests, parks, and gardens. The city is surrounded by wooded hills. Vilnius was founded and established as the capital of Lithuania in 1323 by Grand Duke Gediminas, founder of the Gediminian (later known as the Jogailian) dynasty, which ruled Lithuania, and later Poland, for 250 years. Archaeological findings show that the area was inhabited well over 2000 years ago. Over the centuries it has been ravaged many times by foreign troops.
The interwar fate of Vilnius differed from that of the rest of Lithuania. When the Lithuanians declared independence in 1918, the borders of the state were not precisely defined. This was also true of the newly restored Polish state. Skirmishes with Poland began almost at once and continued during the short but intense Polish-Soviet War of 1920. Following a separate truce and the signing of the Treaty of Suwalki, renegade Polish troops under General Zeligowski, with unofficial approval from the Pilsudski government, invaded Vilnius and the surrounding territory. The League of Nations could not solve the Polish-Lithuanian conflict. The city remained under Polish administration until 1939. During that time the city grew and became a multi-ethnic center with large numbers of Polish, Jewish, and Belarusan inhabitants. In fact, 30 percent of Vilnius' population was Jewish. The city was known as the "Jerusalem of the North" and it was considered one of the world's most important centers of Jewish culture. In 1939, after Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Soviet Union secretly agreed to divide Poland and the Baltic States between themselves, Lithuania signed a treaty with the Soviets whereby, in exchange for the return of Vilnius, Lithuania accepted Red Army bases on its territory. This was followed by the first Soviet occupation in 1940.
One year later, in June 1941, came the German invasion and occupation. This lasted three years until 1944. One-third of the capital's population was killed. Mass executions took place in the nearby forest of Paneriai. Most of the Jewish population of Vilnius was murdered and the rich Jewish culture which had flourished in Vilnius since the Middle Ages was virtually annihilated.
The Soviets reoccupied Vilnius on July 13, 1944. At the end of the war, only half the prewar population remained. The city had no water, electricity, means of transport, or modern communications. All industrial enterprises had been destroyed and 42 percent of the city's residential areas and 20 percent of its architectural monuments were in ruins.
During the following Soviet period, Vilnius was the capital of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic. The population steadily grew as the city was rebuilt. Huge apartment complexes were constructed and new industries were established. Vilnius was home to the only university in Lithuania, as well as to several other institutions of higher education. The city attracted students, artists, professionals, and workers. Many people from other Soviet republics were relocated to Vilnius to work, thus decreasing the indigenous population and associated nationalist tendencies. Vilnius also served as headquarters for units of the former Red Army, including the troops which assaulted the Television and Radio Tower on January 13, 1991.
Today Vilnius is the heart of Lithuania's political, economic, cultural, and public life. The Old Town is one of the largest in Eastern Europe, encompassing 74 blocks, 70 streets and lanes, and over 1200 buildings. These buildings were constructed over the course of five centuries, reflecting many styles of architecture. Unfortunately, the Old Town was severely neglected for many years and many sections are in desperate need of repair. The modern sections of the city, built during the Soviet period, are typical of the planned "microregions" of the Bloc: very large apartment blocks, with stores, schools and recreation areas nearby. The large greenbelts and parks make the city pleasant in the Summer.
The food supply situation in Vilnius has improved markedly, though prices are at Western European levels.
Fresh produce is still sometimes hard to find; most of it is imported. Bring specialty items, like ethnic foods and staples such as sugar, flour, rice and cake mixes.
Lithuania is a northern country with a generally cool climate. As has been said, "There is no such thing as bad weather; only bad clothes." Lithuania is completely dependent on outside sources of fossil fuel, so houses may not be as warm as desired.
Bring winterwear, including thermal underwear from the States, or prepare to pay a premium
Men: Since the summer season is short, fall and winter weight suits and jackets will suffice. Sweaters are a must. In fall and spring, the city steam heat is turned off and homes get cold. Bring comfortable warm clothes to wear in the house during the unheated period. Formal wear is not required. Heavy winter coats and hats, raincoats, boots and socks are mandatory. Casual wear is worn away from the office.
Women: A well rounded wardrobe for all seasons consisting of several cocktail/dinner dresses, suits or skirts with jackets, blouses, sweaters, slacks, and sportswear is appropriate. Most Lithuanian women can knit or sew, and you can find or commission items for less than Western prices. Heavy winter clothing, boots, and rainwear are a must. Also necessary are comfortable warm clothes to wear in the house during the fall and spring when the homes are unheated. Bring a good supply of leotard and pantyhose-especially if you are short or petite. Lithuanian women are fashion-conscious and generally dress more formally than women in the U.S.
Children: Schools do not require uniforms so play clothing is acceptable. Lots of sweaters, foul weather wear, and warm pajamas are a requirement.
Supplies and Services
Supplies: One can get almost any goods available in Western Europe, with some markup for shipping from there. This includes toiletries, cosmetics, etc. Many, but not all prescription drugs are available. For unusual or continuous-use prescription drugs, it is best to have a supplier in the U.S.
Basic Services: Dressmakers and tailors offer satisfactory service. Dry cleaning is available. Barbers and hairstylists are spotty in terms of quality and service.
Lithuania is a predominantly Roman Catholic country. Feast days and holy days are observed with pageantry at churches and cathedrals. In addition, the city has Russian Orthodox, Jewish, Lutheran, and Evangelical services one can attend. Services in English are rare to nonexistent.
The American International School of Vilnius has been growing steadily since it was founded in 1992. It currently has students in grades pre-K through 8.
Private language tutors as well as teachers of dance, music, art, crafts, and sports are readily available at reasonable rates.
There are opportunities for outdoor and indoor sports. Lithuanians are enthusiastic basketball players. They love to stroll in the woods collecting berries and mushrooms. Fishing is possible year round. Good riding stables are located just outside town. Many people enjoy cross-country skiing. Tennis and badminton courts are available. The Hash House Harriers are very active.
Touring and Outdoor Activities
The old town of Vilnius is very attractive. There are exquisite examples of Gothic and Baroque architecture, such as the Church of St. Anne. It is said that when Napoleon passed through Vilnius on his way to Moscow, he was so impressed with the small church that he wanted to "carry the church back to France in the palm of his hand."
The University of Vilnius is a wonderful ensemble of buildings and beautiful courtyards. All of the different architectural styles seen in Vilnius are represented here. The neoclassical Cathedral and its bell tower (a perfect meeting place) stand at the foot of Castle Hill. From the top of that hill, the famous Tower of Gediminas dominates the skyline from Old Town. In October of 1988, the national flag of independent Lithuania was raised above the Tower in place of the Soviet Republic banner.
Trakai, the medieval capital of Lithuania, is 18 miles southwest of Vilnius, situated in a beautiful area of recreational lakes, forests, and hills. This stronghold and former residence of Lithuanian Grand Dukes has been meticulously restored. The whole complex stands on an island. Trakai is also home to a small minority of Karaites (a tribe of Turkic people) who were brought to Lithuania by Grand Duke Vytautas in the 14th Century to serve as his bodyguards.
Kaunas, the second largest city in Lithuania, with a population of 379,000, is 60 miles west of Vilnius at the fork between the country's two largest rivers, the Nemunas and Neris. It is said that Napoleon Bonaparte stood at that fork and said, "Here begin the great steppes of Russia." Eighty-nine per cent of Kaunas' population is ethnically Lithuanian, which, as the interwar capital, is much more homogenous than Vilnius. Kaunas' Old Town is charming and boasts a pleasant Parisian-style walking mall. Museums there include the Ciurlionis Gallery and the Devils' Museum. The former is shrine to an early nationalist composer, the latter chock-full of hundreds of depictions of devils from Lithuania's Christian and pagan folk art past.
An hour from Vilnius on the road to Kaunas is Rumsiskes, location of the open air museum to Lithuanian peasant life. Although Lithuania is a small country, it is divided into four distinct regions: Zemaitija (Lowlands), Aukstaitija (High-lands), Dzukija and Suvalkija (south, near Poland). The Museum's exhibits, brought to Rumsiskes from all over the country, are representative of these four regions. Easter is an especially good time to see the thatched farmhouses, take part in the Easter Egg Roll (like marbles, but with decorated eggs), and sample the simple cooking of Lithuania's past. In Summer, the Rumsiskes Folk Music Ensemble creates an authentic country atmosphere and encourages spectator participation.
For nature-lovers, Lithuania offers the striking contrasts of the Baltic sand dunes of Nida, the seemingly infinite forests and lakes of the East, and the spas of Druskininkiai and Birstonas.
Cultural life in Lithuania is rich and varied. One has only to look at the schedule of events at the Opera and Ballet Theater or the Philharmonic, to plan for an evening well spent. When the weather turns cool, operas and ballets offer respite from cold grey skies. The Academic Theater, State Youth Theater, Russian Drama Theater, and the Little Theater of Vilnius all produce plays by internationally known playwrights. Some knowledge of Lithuanian or Russian is necessary to follow the action.
Folk music lovers will not be disappointed in Lithuania. Every year in May, a week-long celebration of folk music takes place in Old Town. Tangible, lasting expressions of Lithuanian folk culture are captured in ceramic, textiles, and leather goods. "Daile (Art)" galleries are open in Vilnius, Panevezys, and Kaunas.
There are many Americans throughout the country. These include Peace Corps volunteers, USG contractors and grantees, missionaries, and Lithuanian-American businessmen.
Vilnius is home to both Rotary and Kiwanis; informal gatherings of businessmen take place often. Charity events draw from both business and diplomatic communities with impressive results. There is an International Women's Club which meets monthly and organizes different events.
The city of KAPSUKAS is one of Lithuania's industrial centers. Industries in Kapsukas produce textiles, furniture, processed foods, automotive parts, and building materials. Kapsukas has a population over 36, 000.
KAUNAS , located 60 miles (90 kilometers) west of Vilnius, is Lithuania's second largest city. Between 1920 and 1940, Kaunas served as the capital of Lithuania. The capital was transferred to Vilnius following the Soviet annexation of 1940. The city was heavily damaged during World War II, but has been rebuilt. Kaunas is the home of many major industries. These industries manufacture furniture, machine tools, and textiles. The city also serves as a transportation hub for rail and water transportation. Kaunas has two excellent museums. The Museum of Stained Glass and Sculpture features many beautiful exhibits. Another museum, the Ciurlionis Museum, houses the works of famous Lithuanian artist M. K. Ciurlionis. In 2001, Kaunas had an estimated population of 379,000.
KLAIPEDA is Lithuania's most important port. The city's location on the Baltic Sea has led to the development of a large fishing fleet and several shipbuilding and fish canning factories. Klaipeda is also the home of other major industries. These industries manufacture timber, paper, and textiles. Klaipeda's port facilities are an important asset because they remain ice-free during the winter. The city has a Marine Museum and Aquarium that offers tourists many interesting exhibits. Klaipeda had a population of approximately 194,000 in 2001.
The city of PANEVÉŽYS is located in north-central Lithuania. Panevéžys is home to many industries. These industries produce glass, metalwork, and processed foods. The city's Panevéžys Drama Theatre is one of the finest in Lithuania. Panevéžys had a population of 122,000 in 2001. Current population figures are not available.
ŠIAULIAI is a Lithuanian city noted for its leather industry. In addition to leather, Šiauliai industries produce precision tools, furniture, processed foods, and metal products. Several educational institutions, including a medical school and polytechnic institute, are located in Šiauliai. The city had a population of 133,000 in 2001.
Geography and Climate
Lithuania, covering an area of 26,173 sq. miles, is the largest of the three Baltic States, slightly larger than West Virginia. The country lies on the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea at approximately the same latitude as Denmark and Scotland. Lithuania's neighbors are Latvia to the north, Belarus to the east and south, Poland and the Kaliningrad Region of the Russian Federation to the south and southwest. Lithuanians believe that the geographical center of the European continent lies 20 kilometers north of Vilnius, the capital.
A country known for its agrarian and wooded beauty, Lithuania is characterized by flat plains and rolling hills. The highest, Kruopine, is only 900 feet above sea level. Roughly one-fourth of the territory is covered by woodlands, consisting mainly of pine, spruce, and birch. One of the oldest oak trees in Europe, found in eastern Lithuania, is said to be about 1500 years old. The forests are home to a variety of animals including elk, bison, and wild boar; hunting is a popular pastime. Lithuanians especially enjoy mushroom collecting and berry picking.
More than 700 rivers and creeks crisscross Lithuania. The largest, the Nemunas, was once a strategically important shipping route through Lithuania. Its banks are dotted with castles and fortresses. There are numerous lakes, especially in eastern Lithuania where the Ignalina National Park is located. This region is home to the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant which exports electricity to other countries in the region.
Lithuania's climate is moderate. Summer brings average temperatures of 65°F (afternoon highs in the 70's and 80's) and plentiful rain. July is the warmest month. Summer days are long with only a few hours of darkness. Winters tend to be cold, damp, and overcast. Temperatures average about 30°F and days are very short. Average annual precipitation amounts to about 26 inches.
The Republic of Lithuania is home to 3,699,000 people, approximately 81 percent are ethnically Lithuanian; 9 percent Russian or Russian-speaking; 7 percent Polish; and the remaining 3 percent Belarusans, Ukrainians, Latvians, Germans, and other nationalities.
The capital, Vilnius, with 553,000 inhabitants, has a multi-ethnic flavor as many residents are ethnic Russians and Poles. Other major cities include Kaunas, the interwar capital (379,000 inhabitants), the port city of Klaipeda (194,000); Siauliai (133,000) and Panevezys (122,000).
On the leading edge of the processes which led to the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Lithuania today faces great challenges as it builds a democratic state and struggles to rid itself of the legacy of 50 years of Soviet domination.
Lithuanians have a long historical memory. They recall the glorious medieval Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which reached its zenith under the rule of Grand Duke Vytautas the Great. It was he and Jagiello (Jogaila in Lithuanian), King of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, respectively, who led the joint Polish-Lithuanian troops to victory against the Teutonic Knights in the Battle of Tannenberg/Gruenwald (Zalgiris, in Lithuanian) in 1410, and stopped the medieval German drive Eastward. Under Vytautas, the territory of the Grand Duchy extended from the Baltic to the Black Sea.
After Vytautas' death, the political importance of the Grand Duchy slowly declined. In 1569, to counter the growing strength of the Russian state, the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy were formally united in a Commonwealth. The head of that union was elected king by the nobility. Following a series of partitions in the 18th Century, this Commonwealth was wiped off the European map in 1795 as Russia, Austria, and Prussia partitioned its lands. Most of Lithuania fell under Russian rule while a smaller portion near the Baltic coast was appropriated by Prussia.
For the next 123 years, Lithuania experienced intense repression and Russification. Vilnius University was closed (1832) and the Latin alphabet was banned (1864). But as repression increased, so did the determination of a growing Lithuanian intelligentsia to retain Lithuanian culture, language, and traditions.
Taking advantage of the political turmoil in Russia near the end of the First World War, Lithuania declared independence on February 16, 1918. Wars to affirm this independence were fought against the Red Army, the Polish Army, and combined German-Russian mercenary forces which plundered broad areas in the Baltic states. Polish occupation of the Vilnius region in 1920 was a breach of the Treaty of Suwalki with Poland which confirmed Lithuanian rights to Vilnius. This step hopelessly strained Polish-Lithuanian relations between the wars. It rendered cooperation in the face of greater menaces, in 1939, impossible.
During the interwar years of independence, Kaunas became the provisional capital. Lithuania reached a living standard equal to that of Denmark and had one of the most stable currencies in the world.
Lithuanian independence was to be short-lived. The secret Molotov-Ribbentrop protocols between Germany and the USSR led to Soviet occupation in June 1940. During this first occupation, large-scale repression took place and about 40,000 people were exiled to Siberia. When Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, the Lithuanians attempted to reestablish an independent republic by revolting against the Soviets. In the face of the German Occupation, this effort failed. Under Nazi control, more than 200,000 Jews were murdered, 95 percent of the Jewish population, the highest proportion in Europe. This wiped out a major center of Jewish culture and learning which had thrived in Vilnius (the "Jerusalem of the North") since the Middle Ages. Tens of thousands of Lithuanians were deported to the Reich for manual labor.
Soviet troops and terror returned in 1944. Another 250,000 Lithuanians were deported to the Siberian Gulag. Over 100,000 lives were lost in a guerrilla war against the Soviets which lasted until 1953. Virtually no family was left untouched by the horrors of the Second World War and the Soviet Occupation.
Lithuania spent the next 45 years as a Soviet republic. The Soviets restored lands occupied by Poland and Germany in the interwar and wartime years. Lithuanian exiles in the West, especially the U.S. kept the flame of an independent nation alive, along with Lithuania's culture and traditions. The Lithuanian diplomatic service continued to function in countries (including the U.S.) which refused to recognize its incorporation into the USSR. Inside Lithuania, many Lithuanians attempted to resist Sovietization. Armed resistance (the so-called "forest brothers") continued sporadically until the early 1950s. Lithuania resisted much of the Soviet-imposed industrialization, sparing the large influx of Russian workers which occurred in Estonia and Latvia. Despite these modest successes, life under the Soviets was hard. Moscow repressed any expression of Lithuanian national aspirations. Travel to the West was very difficult.
In the late 1980s, Gorbachev's policy of perestroika allowed deeply hidden aspirations of the Lithuanian nation to surface. "Sajudis," a movement which began in support of perestroika, quickly snowballed into a full-fledged drive for independence. Despite warnings and threats from the Kremlin, the Lithuanians, led by a distinguished musicologist, Vytautas Landsbergis, reclaimed their independence when the new, democratically-elected Supreme Council voted on March 11, 1990 to reestablish the Lithuanian Republic.
The country persevered in its independence movement despite an economic blockade imposed by Moscow and Soviet Army operations which left 23 dead in 1991. The collapse of the Moscow coup in August of 1991 led to international recognition of Lithuania's independence, including by Russia. Foreign embassies began to open in the fall of that year.
The United States plus others never recognized Lithuania's forced incorporation into the USSR and maintained continuous ties with representatives of the interwar government in exile. The United States resumed diplomatic relations with an in-country government in September 1991.
Lithuania's present struggle to transform itself into a free-market democracy has shown considerable progress but is still incomplete. As in other Central and Eastern European countries, the society has been buffeted by economic dislocation, weak markets, a crumbling infrastructure, a bloated public sector, and a shallow understanding of working democracy.
In the Fall of 2000, Lithuanians elected a new Seimas (parliament). The Social Democratic Coalition, consisting of the Lithuanian Democratic Labor Party, the Social-Democratic Party, the New Democratic Party, and the Lithuanian Russian Union, won the largest percentage of votes and the majority of seats in the new Seimas. In February 1998, Vladas Adamkus narrowly won the race for the position of President. The prime minister, appointed by the president, is Algirdas Brazauskas.
Arts, Science, and Education
"Folk art is the foundation of a nation's artistic tradition," said Mykolajus Ciurlionis (1875-1911), Lithuania's most renowned painter and composer. Since Lithuania has traditionally been an agrarian society, most of its folk art has been created by peasants. It has a rich tradition of music and dance, folklore and architecture, as well as wooden sculpture and applied folk arts. Currently, there is intense interest in research on authentic folk culture. Many ethnographic ensembles, both professional and amateur, perform the music and songs that accompanied the simple people throughout life.
Song and music remain important means of expression for the Lithuanian people today. The struggle for independence from the Soviet Union was characterized by many as the " Singing Revolution." Unarmed, the people faced down the military might of the Soviets by standing side by side, drawing strength from the lyrical songs of their forebears.
During the Soviet period, cultural life was subsidized and censored by the government. However, performance excellence was achieved in many fields, including classical music, opera, ballet and theater. Released from the censor's shackles and responding more directly to the public's tastes and needs, the fine arts and music scene has developed in new, different directions. Especially notable for excellence are the Lithuanian State Youth Theater, the Vilnius Little Theater, the Vilnius Academic Theater, and the Kaunas Academic Theater.
Lithuania has a very high literacy rate and the nation reveres its poets and writers. The situation in publishing reflects an intense interest in translations of internationally known authors and genres, which once were forbidden.
Lithuania was at the forefront of science and technology in the former Soviet Union. Although much of the work in these fields was a part of the Soviet military industrial complex, the achievements by certain specialists in certain fields (mainly mathematics, physics, and natural science) were notable.
The educational system is broken down into preschool, elementary (4 years), middle school (up to 9-or 12-year programs); trade schools; and schools of higher education. Vilnius also has numerous Polish and Russian general education schools. Children enter elementary school at age 6 and education is compulsory until age 16. There are more than a dozen schools of higher education, including universities, technical schools, pedagogical institutes, and art schools.
Vilnius University, founded in 1579 by Jesuits, is the oldest and largest higher education institution in the country. Broad educational reform is underway.
Commerce and Industry
During the 50 years of Occupation, the economy was completely integrated into and subordinated to the centralized Soviet system. In 1991, the economy went into a tailspin as old ties dried up, payment systems broke down, and new markets were slow in emerging.
Historically, Lithuanians were a farming people. The Soviets forced the collectivization of agriculture and excessively rapid industrialization in the 1950's and 60's. The Supreme Council passed legislation in 1992, to privatize agriculture and implement a system of restitution for property seized during the Soviet Era. As a result, there were 134,000 private farmers in 1994. They farm about 32 percent of arable land. Production dropped as a result of dislocation due to the changes and uncertainty among farmers about markets for their produce. Under Soviet rule, Lithuania overproduced domestic needs for meat and dairy products by 150 percent and exported the surplus to the Moscow and Leningrad market.
The dominant sectors in industry are chemicals and food processing. Machine-building and metal works have been developed. Light industry includes textiles, knitwear, electronics, furniture, plywood, building materials, and paper production.
Lithuania produces enough electrical power for its own needs and exports about 40 per cent of its output. In addition to the Ignalina power plant, there are other facilities for producing electricity with oil, gas, and hydropower. The Mazeikiai oil refinery produces refined petroleum products for domestic use and export. Crude oil is imported almost exclusively from Russia.
In addition to electricity and refined oil products, Lithuania's exports include food (mainly meat and dairy products), machinery and parts, and light industrial products. Major imports include crude oil, gas, metals, chemicals, machinery, consumer goods, and feed grain. Trade has shifted dramatically to the West, which accounts for about 60 percent of Lithuania's foreign commerce.
Lithuania became a member of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in 1992. Together with Latvia and Estonia, Lithuania is a member of the Baltic Council. Lithuania has close ties with the Nordic Council and most international and regional economic organizations.
Lithuania's economy continues to undergo a structural transformation. More than 86 percent of enterprises have been privatized, including companies in the energy and telecommunications sectors. Foreign investment remains modest, although the U.S. has been one of the largest sources. Major U.S. companies active in Lithuania include Philip Morris, McDonald's, IBM, and US West.
Lithuania has made efforts to ease its difficult transition from a command economy to a free market system. The country has signed free trade agreements with 20 countries. Lithuania has worked on restructing its financial sector, which helped keep the country safe from the 1998 Russian financial crisis. High unemployment and low consumption, however, have hindered economic growth.
The local transportation system includes electric trolley buses and diesel buses. They run regularly during the day throughout the city, but there are drawbacks: they are slow, often break down, and are terribly overcrowded at rush hours. Radio-dispatched cabs are still relatively inexpensive.
The main roads and highways between major cities are serviceable. One must take considerable care while driving off the intercity highways, as slow horse-drawn vehicles and large potholes are common hazards. During the winter months, snow and freezing conditions add to the driving hazards as the roads are not well plowed.
Intercity buses and trains are not geared for the comfort-or speed-oriented, except the express train between Kaunas and Vilnius. The overnight train to St. Petersburg is acceptable; reserving the entire compartment is recommended. Trains to Warsaw depart throughout the day.
Lithuanian Airlines, LOT (to Warsaw), Lufthansa, SAS, Finnair, and Austrian Air offer regular service to major European destinations. Ticket prices are high except to Eastern European destinations and the U.S. Two ferries connect Klaipeda with the German ports of Kiel and Mukran. Baltic Air and Estonian Air serve Riga, Tallinn, and Helsinki; a Denmark to Klaipeda ferry service is also available. Riga and Tallinn have ferry service to Scandinavia. The two other Baltic capitals are 3 and 7 hours away by car, respectively.
No visa is necessary for American citizens spending less than 90 days in Lithuania.
Telephone and Telegraph
International direct dial from residences is possible.
Radio and TV
There are now both Lithuanian (PAL system) and Russian television channels. Independent radio and TV stations have multiplied in recent years. Satellite television (CNN, British Sky News, CNBC, BBC, the Cartoon Network and numerous Scandinavian channels which carry English-language movies and series, as well as French, German and Italian stations) and some cable are available at moderate cost.
Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals
The major daily newspapers are Lietuvos Rytas, Respublika, Lietuvos Aidas (the Opposition paper), and Tiesa (the Labor Party press). Weeklies of the above press are published in Russian. Additionally, there is the Russian-language Echo Litvy and the Polish language Kurier Wilenski. A few English Language weeklies are available, including the Baltic Times. Some Western newspapers and periodicals are available at major hotels or by subscription.
Health and Medicine
The German Pharmacy stocks and sells most Western European medicines and treatments and most local drugstores (apteka) carry a wide assortment of West-European medicines. A number of spas and personal hygiene/cosmetology businesses have opened in the last year.
Periodic outbreaks of serious infectious illness strike the Lithuanian population. Hepatitis is a concern, especially when traveling. Consumption of shellfish should be avoided in the warmer months. All travelers should make arrangements to bring their shot records up to date before arrival.
Fluoride supplements are recommended for children as the city water is not fluoridated. Vitamin supplements are beneficial, especially in the Winter months.
The city water carries a burden of iron and other minerals from the well south of town, and an aging distribution system. While biological contamination in Vilnius is rare, drinking the water is not recommended because of the heavy mineral and metal content. Individuals are encouraged to filter or distill water prior to drinking or cooking. Bottled water is a must outside the capital area.
It should be noted that veterinary care falls below U.S. standards and "routine" operation in the U.S. are difficult, if not impossible, to carry out successfully in Lithuania. Care should be take to ensure that pets are fully immunized against the standard diseases (most of which are required for entry to Lithuania). Pet food is easily available in the country.
NOTES FOR TRAVELERS
There are no direct flights from the U.S. to Lithuania. Several European airlines, SAS, Lufthansa, Finnair and a few others serve Vilnius from most major European air hubs. Make sure your travel plans comply with the Fly America Act.
There are strict controls on the export of items more than 30 years old. To avoid difficulties in reexporting any things that fall into this category, a detailed list of such items should be presented to Lithuanian customs. Items declared upon entry can be freely exported.
There is no limit on the amount of currency which can be brought into Lithuania. Unofficial travelers must declare the amount of currency brought into the Country to expedite problem-free export.
Americans do not need visas to enter the Baltic States or Poland. Separate visas are necessary for travel to the Commonwealth of Independent States, or Russian Federation. Travelers should bring 6 passport-sized photos of self and family members for various ID cards. Passport photos are available locally.
Lithuania does not quarantine animals that are apparently in good health and are accompanied by a recent (no older than a month) veterinarian's certificate and proof of recent rabies vaccination.
The unit of currency is the Lithuanian Litas which, since 1993, has been fixed at 4-1 to the dollar under a currency board arrangement. Plans to peg the currency to the euro are underway. Credit cards are expanding in usefulness with many restaurants, hotels and some supermarkets accepting virtually any common card, but in general the country has a cash economy. Lithuania uses the metric system.
Jan. 1…New Year's Day
Jan. 13…Freedom Fighters' Day
Feb. 16…Independence Day
May 1…Labor Day
July 6…Mindaugas Coronation Day
Aug. 15…Assumption Day
Nov. 1…All Saints' Day
Dec. 26…Boxing Day
The following titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country:
Fike, Linus R. Svetur (Away from Home). New York: Carlton Press, 1992.
Gordon, Harry. The Shadows of Death: The Holocaust in Lithuania. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 1992.
Lerner Geography Department Staff, ed. Lithuania. Minneapolis, MN: Lerner Publications, 1992.
Lown, Bella. Memories of My Life: A Personal History of a Lithuanian Shtetl. Malibu, CA: Joseph Simon, 1991.
Senn, Alfred E. Lithuania Awakening. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1990.
Suziedelis, Saulius. The Sword & the Cross: A History of the Church in Lithuania. Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, Publishing Division, 1988.
Willerton, John P. Patronage & Politics in the U.S.S.R. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992.
"Lithuania." Cities of the World. 2002. Encyclopedia.com. (October 1, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3410700138.html
"Lithuania." Cities of the World. 2002. Retrieved October 01, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3410700138.html
|Official Country Name:||Republic of Lithuania|
|Compulsory Schooling:||9 years|
|Public Expenditure on Education:||5.4%|
|Foreign Students in National Universities:||370|
|Educational Enrollment:||Primary: 225,701|
|Educational Enrollment Rate:||Primary: 98%|
|Student-Teacher Ratio:||Primary: 16:1|
|Female Enrollment Rate:||Primary: 96%|
History & Background
Located on the Baltic Sea, Lithuania is bordered by Latvia to the north and Belorussia to the east and south. Poland is situated to the southwest of the country. The territory of Lithuania encompasses 65,200 square kilometers, 99 kilometers of which is located on the coastline. It is divided into 44 regions and 52 districts, with 92 cities and 22 urban-type settlements. The capital city is Vilnius.
The climate of Lithuania is considered to be transitional in nature, fluctuating between maritime and continental. It is a wet country, with moderate winters and summers. Lithuania makes up a lowland area comprised of many scattered lakes and very fertile soil. The lowest point of elevation is located at the Baltic Sea (0 kilometers), the highest point at Juozapines/Kalnas (292 kilometers).
According to statistics from July 2000, Lithuania's estimated population stands at 3,620,756, some 67 percent of which is between the ages of 15 to 64; 1.17 million are female and 1.26 million are male. The population growth rate is decreasing at .29 percent. The ratio of men to women is 0.88:1 respectively, with an average of 1.34 children born per woman.
The country is predominantly Lithuanian, with the natives making up nearly 81 percent of the country's population. Other represented nationalities include Russian (8.7 percent), Polish (7 percent), Belorussian (1.6 percent), and other (2.1 percent). The official language of the country is Lithuanian; however, because of the makeup in population, the Polish and Russian languages do hold a presence. Lithuania is astoundingly literate, with 98 percent of the population (15 and over) possessing the ability to read and write (CIA 2000).
In terms of the country's history, archeological evidence shows that the Baltic region, home to Lithuania, has been inhabited since the late Stone Age. By 1600 B.C., the area was linked by well-developed trade routes, predominantly used for the export of amber. Lithuania emerged as a state in the thirteenth century, shortly after the union of the main lands. In 1240, Mindaugas was named the Grand Duke of Lithuania, and by the end of the fourteenth century Lithuania emerged as one of the most powerful states in Europe. The successful defeat of their enemies resulted in an era of domination and territorial expansion.
German crusaders invaded the pagan state for almost two whole centuries. Despite the German effort, the country remained unconquered. As an example of their quest for independence, the Lithuanians built castles that are continually admired today for their defensive construction. In 1410, Lithuania, with the help of neighboring Poland, battled the Teutonic Knights in defense of their liberty. In addition, Lithuania was also able to withstand attacks by the Mongols-Tatars from the West and assist other European nations with their fight against the Golden Horde (CIA 2000).
In 1569, the Union of Lublin sealed the Poland-Lithuania Union into a commonwealth (Rzecspospolita); later in the seventeenth century, Lithuania became one of its three provinces. Following the partitioning of the Commonwealth in 1795, Lithuania was incorporated into Russia and spent more than 100 years battling tsarist rule. It was not until February 16, 1918 that Lithuania proclaimed its independence and moved to restore its statehood. Through establishment of diplomatic relations, the country was soon recognized by Europe and some of the largest states in the world. It remained independent for only 22 years, before it was once again occupied by the Soviet Union. Lithuania fought bravely for its independence against the Soviet occupiers, despite being drastically outnumbered. Their desire for independence was not subdued even after 50 years of occupation. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union on March 11, 1990, Lithuania proclaimed its statehood once again. The old clock of the Cathedral tower strikes, counting the hours of freedom in order to remind the Lithuanians of their struggle. The sounds are transmitted by radio to the nation every morning.
Constitutional & Legal Foundations
The supreme legislative authority now resides with the Parliament (Seimas), as a result of the Republic of Lithuania reclaiming its statehood on March 11, 1990. It no longer recognizes itself as the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic. Political life was unstable for more than a year following Lithuania's independence because of the delineation of powers within the parliament.
The Parliament contains 141 seats, 71 of which are directly elected by popular vote, 70 of which are elected by proportional representation; each member serves a four-year term. The Supreme Court judges, as well as the Court of Appeals judges are appointed by the Parliament. Laws can be adopted by either referendum or a vote in the Council of Ministers. The prime minister, deputy prime minister, and cabinet are all accountable to this council. For administrative purposes, Lithuania is divided into 10 districts.
In this parliamentary democracy, there is a chief of state, President Valdas Adamkus (since February 26, 1998). The executive branch is comprised of a premier, Andrius Kubilius (since November 12, 1999) and a council of ministers that is appointed by the president on the nomination of the premier. The premier of Lithuania is appointed by the president contingent upon the approval of the Parliament. The most recent election (1997) resulted in Valdas Adamkus receiving 50.4 percent of the vote, narrowly defeating Arturas Paulauskas and consequently becoming Lithuania's current president.
Lithuania houses a wide range of political parties some of which include the Christian Democratic Party (LKDP), the Democratic Labor Party of Lithuania (LDDP), the Democratic Party (DP) and the Homeland Union/Conservative Party (TS) (CIA 2000).
Russia's military continues to be a dominant force in Lithuania. Thus, the government's most pressing foreign policy issue remains the quest to diminish Russia's presence in the country. The antiaircraft network that extends from Estonia to Lithuania is the only base of strategic importance to the Russians. However, an estimated 23,000 officers and soldiers, as well as Russia's only paratroop training base remain near Kaunas, Lithuania. In addition, Russia's only access to their military region of Kaliningrad is via the 188 mile (303 kilometers) border they share with Lithuania.
Lithuania's recent political history begins with the approval of a constitution by 53 percent of eligible voters in a national referendum on October 25, 1992. As a result of this election, the majority of parliamentary seats were handed to the Democratic Labor Party (LDDP), headed by leader Algirdas Brazauskas. Brazauskas won the presidential election of February 1993 over a non-LDDP coalition led by the independent candidate, Stasys Lozoraitis.
Since that time, Lithuania's government has worked diligently to become more congruent with Western requirements. A populist referendum in favor of the indexation of peoples' savings was defeated in August 1994 by the successful lobbying of the LDDP government. Democratic Labor Party candidates were defeated, however, by the opposition in the nationwide elections of March 1995. The significant issues leading to the defeat were noted as the lack of effort in promoting prosperity and combating corruption and organized crime.
Lack of supervision and regulation over the banking sector of Lithuania were the primary causes of the bubbling financial crisis in December 1995. This consequently led to the resignation of Adolfas Slezevicius as Prime Minister and LDDP Chairman in February 1996. The replacement, Mindaugas Stankevicius, spearheaded the comprehensive banking sector bailout plan. However, these measures were not enough to convince voters in the 1996 rounds of parliamentary elections. The Conservative Party gained 70 of the 141 seats, with another 16 seats going to its coalition partner, the Christian Democrats. This coalition established a new government in early December 1996 and won a sizeable majority in the nationwide elections held in March 1997. The President, Valdas Adamkus, elected by popular vote, was sworn in on February 25, 1998. The president is elected for a five-year period, with a maximum of two consecutive terms. The next elections will be held in 2003 (U.S. Department of State 1998).
The people of Lithuania are highly educated. Nearly the entire population between the ages of 15 to 39 has completed basic schooling. A major overhaul of Lithuanian education practices followed the country's restoration of independence in 1991. The system of primary-secondary-higher education was developed between the two world wars with the Soviets further expanding this to adult education. The Soviets highly politicized philosophy of education was evaluated and replaced. Independent Lithuania no longer adheres to the "Soviet school" philosophy. It now focuses on an ideology based on Lithuanian history and culture. However, the system still utilizes some Soviet organizational methods (U.S. Department of State 1998).
Education between the ages of 7 and 16 is compulsory and free of charge at all levels, as a result of the 1992 Constitution. The three levels of Lithuanian education include: comprehensive (from 7 to 16 years of age), vocational and schools of further education (from 16 to 18), and higher education. Furthering this delineation, there are three types of comprehensive schools: primary (grades 1 to 4), principal (grades 5 to 9), and secondary (grades 10 to 12). There are over 2,000 schools across these levels. Preschool is also available should parents wish to enroll their children.
Schools are located in all cities, towns, and villages. The more remote schools generally begin with first grade and end with fifth or ninth grade. Students are likely to attend a public institution for primary and secondary school, where they are commonly enrolled in art and music courses in addition to their academic schedule. Following secondary education (grade 12), the majority of students go on to vocational schools; the next largest percentage of students attend college-like institutions. The remaining students continue at polytechnical institutions.
Following Lithuania's independence from the Soviet Union, more than 67 percent of Lithuanian students now attend religious classes in general schools. In addition to the religious courses, students also study history, mathematics, science, ethics, Lithuanian, and Lithuanian literature. Foreign language study includes English, German, Russian, French, and Latin for accelerated classes. Foreign language study begins in the fifth grade, with English as the primary language of study.
Teachers now offer a wider variety of subjects and de-emphasize the teaching of Russian history and the Russian language. Teachers are beginning to attend summer workshops, where they can learn new teaching practices (Kudirka 1991).
The academic year runs for 10 months from September through June. There is a summer break from July 1 to September 1. Classes are primarily taught in Lithuanian, although in closed communities of ethnic minorities, the state does provide support for education in the native language. Parents are permitted to choose the school of general education according to its language of instruction (EuroEducation Net 1996) (NAFSA 1991).
Ethnic minorities that do not live in an established closed community are provided with optional classes, as well as Sunday school should they like to improve upon their native language skill. Lithuanian language and literature are taught in all non-Lithuanian educational institutions.
Lithuania has established goals for its educational system. They are as follows:
- To develop mental and physical abilities; to lay firm the foundations of morality and a healthy way of life; and to develop intellect while providing conditions for the further development of individuality
- To offer children both general and professional education corresponding to the current level of science and culture
- To provide the opportunity for the residents of Lithuania to continue their education
- To clarify personal rights and to instill a sense of civic duty to the family, nation, society, and the State of Lithuania, as well as the need to participate in the cultural, social, economic, and political life of the Republic (NAFSA 1991).
Preprimary & Primary Education
According to the Law on Education for the Republic of Lithuania, children under the age of seven are permitted to enroll in nursery school and kindergarten upon the request of the parent or guardian, whereas orphans and neglected children are enrolled in childcare institutions. Lithuania encourages education in the home for children under the age of seven and provides benefits to those who comply through methodological, diagnostic, and consultation assistance.
Additionally, general secondary education is acquired in three stages over a period of twelve years. The three stages of schooling are divided into separate administrative units: primary, principal, and secondary schooling. The secondary school of general education establishes the duration of study for these schools (NAFSA 1991).
The primary school works to create a concrete and integrated view of the world for the child. During the primary school years, students become acclimated to their surroundings and learn basic reading, writing, and arithmetic skills. The basics of a foreign language are taught and artistic expression is encouraged. The children's main methods of learning are through example, experience, activity, and direct contact. One teacher generally teaches all the basic subjects, while cooperating closely with the students' families.
The system changes for grades 5 through 8, where different instructors teach different subjects. Students gain a deeper understanding of the native language and literature, mathematics, and natural science, while the learning of a second foreign language commences. Social studies are introduced into the curriculum, with compulsory and elective subjects making up the remaining of the set of courses. Students begin to specialize at the seventh to eighth grade level.
Secondary schools comprise grades 10 to 12. There is an increased emphasis on promoting abstract thinking. Previously taught material is reviewed in order to ensure that the students meet the necessary standard. Students have the ability to choose from a wider variety of courses, and either the basic or advanced level of each course. Upon completion of the tenth grade, students receive a certificate that lists the completed subjects, and the level of the courses taken.
Teaching becomes more specialized in the eleventh and twelfth grades. Pupil's interests are taken into consideration and courses in liberal arts, natural science, technology, economics, and commerce are offered. Emphasis is also placed on independent study.
A secondary school leaving diploma is granted following the completion of five to seven examinations. These compulsory exams include the native language and literature, mathematics, a foreign language, and one of the chosen electives. Students are able to choose basic or advanced levels at the time of the examination. The leaving diploma signifies the completion of comprehensive schooling (Barrett 1995/96).
General education may also be acquired at the appropriate vocational schools. There are vocational schools (i.e., part-time or evening schools) for adults who wish to complete their general education. Technical education is also available through vocational institutions. This vocational training is coordinated with general education regulations and upon completion, may be furthered at advanced training and retraining facilities. The vocational institutions can develop technical and agricultural skills, as well as the skills needed in the commercial and trade sectors. Persons over the age of 14 are permitted to attend these institutions to complete their comprehensive schooling, while learning a vocation.
School is conducted in hospitals for children who are in need of care. These children, in addition to those schooled in the home, are educated in accordance with the procedures established by the Ministry of Culture and Education. Special schools of general education are established for children with antisocial behavioral traits (NAFSA 1991).
Lithuania provides higher education through its state-run, private universities and nonuniversity establishments. The completion of secondary education is a prerequisite for enrollment in one of these institutions of higher learning. Lithuania is home to six independent universities; three are general universities, and the other three are specialized. Additionally, there are 29 research institutions conducting fundamental research on university campuses. Applied research is predominantly conducted in nonuniversity institutions. The Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania established the Law on Science and Studies in February of 1991. This law set the tone for the reformation of the higher education system. It moved to define the guidelines for a transition towards a more western approach to higher education (EuroEducation Net 1996).
There are various stages of higher education studies administered through several organizational facilities. Higher vocational and technical studies schools train skilled workers (technical, agricultural, commercial, and trade) at several levels of proficiency. Courses taken at the Aukstesnioji moykla (postsecondary vocational schools) last two years.
There are different levels of university study. Level one is referred to as the Bakalauras stage, with a bachelor's degree program that lasts up to four years. This includes general theory, specialty theory, and practical subject modules, which can lead to a professional qualification. The second stage is referred to as the Magistras. This master's program entails a more in-depth theory and special subject module, as well as interdisciplinary courses. These studies can last up to three years with a submission of a thesis required. The third stage, Daktaras, is a doctoral program that is generally completed in five years, the first three being reserved for course-work. The final stage, Habilituotas Daktaras, is considered the highest of academic research qualifications and is awarded to holders of doctoral degrees by institutes of science and research (EuroEducation Net 1996).
Lithuania's leading institute of higher learning is Vilnius University. Other Lithuanian universities include Vytautas Magnus in Kaunas and the new university in Klaipeda. These establishments were founded based on the American model by Lithuanians in the United States. Lithuanian universities differ from their Soviet counterparts in that they are completely self-governing and are guaranteed their independence by law (U.S. Department of State 1998).
Higher education has maintained a significant role in Lithuania's history. The scientists, intelligencia, writers, and authors have always been considered the jewel of Lithuania. The first school of higher education was established in Lithuania in 1539 with help from reformist Abraomas Kulvietis and the approval of Queen Bona. However, religious differences between the Catholics and the Protestants resulted in King Sigismund the Elder closing the doors of the school in 1542.
A Jesuit college was established in the capital city of Vilnius in 1570. The success of this university led to the creation of the University of Vilnius, Alma Mater Vilnensis, in 1579. The history of the University of Vilnius coincides with the history of Lithuania. Until the closing of the university in 1832, the institution was one of the most authoritative institutions of higher learning throughout eastern and central Europe. It was the only source of science education for not only Lithuania but its northern neighbors as well. Lithuania's education and science were concentrated in Kaunas between the two world wars. Many institutions of higher learning were established there; whereas in Polish-occupied Vilnius, the old university was revived and named after King Stephan Bathroy.
Lithuania maintains 15 establishments of higher learning: 6 universities, 7 academies, and 2 institutes. The number of enrolled students reached a record high in 1980, with 17,000 students, although as of 1996 that number decreased to 10,000 students. The prestige of a university degree began to decline when Lithuania declared its independence in 1991. However, in 1996 that idea was reversed and Lithuania witnessed three applicants for each university spot. Despite the difficulties one can face upon acceptance to an institute of higher learning, approximately 40 percent of all secondary graduates continue on to university.
Lithuania joined UNESCO (convention on the recognition of studies, diplomas, and degrees concerning higher education in countries belonging to the European region) in 1994. University studies now cover over 200 specialties. Approximately 7 percent of the state budget is dedicated to education, which enables 75 percent of university education to be subsidized by the government. Lithuania also has educational support through the Lithuanian Open Society founded by American philanthropist, George Soros in 1990. Several scientific research centers now work on the basis of private initiative or Western foundations (Education in Lithuania 2000).
Administration, Finance, & Educational Research
The educational administration of Lithuania is organized in accordance with Article 26 of the Republic of Lithuania's Law on Education.
Educational institutions of the Republic of Lithuania shall function according to plans and programs approved by the Ministry of Culture and Education or in coordination with the order established by the Ministry. The contents and methods of teaching must correspond to the given tasks of educational institutions, as well as to the needs of society. At educational institutions, it shall be prohibited to propagandize hostility (racial, ethnic, religious, or social) or superiority, which runs counter to the universally recognized principles of international law and humanism.
Schools of general education of ethnic minorities may be supplemented by the elements of ethnic culture.
At secondary schools of general education, languages other than Lithuanian shall be taught depending on the preference of the parents and the capacity of the school.
Militaristic subjects shall not be taught at a school of general education.
Article 28 of the Law on Education details the regulations of the activities of educational institutions:
In their activities, State educational institutions shall guide their activities in accordance with the regulations of the institution as approved by their local government. These regulations shall contradict neither the other laws of the Republic of Lithuania nor the general regulations of the activities of educational institutions.
The regulations of private educational institutions shall be coordinated in accordance with the order established by the Ministry of Culture and Education and shall be registered with local governments.
Public schools of general education, vocational schools, and colleges of the Republic of Lithuania are free of cost. Institutions of education that are maintained or assisted by the state, in addition to public preschool institutions (with the exception of childcare institutions) are partly funded by the Lithuanian government. The payment for private educational facilities is arranged by individual agreements, with the state providing stipends for those students in need of financial aide.
There are three primary sources of educational funds in Lithuania. They are as follows:
- Voluntary payments of persons, organizations, and enterprises
- Income from the activities of the fund
- Funds and materials donated by foreign state organizations and citizens, as well as by international institutions (NAFSA 1991).
Lithuania continues to maintain some aspects of the Soviet system, with the separation of research and teaching functions in education. Research is primarily conducted at the 17 institutes of the Academy of Sciences. Activity remains weak in the humanities and social sciences but excels in other areas, with the most notable research conducted in the study of Baltic linguistics. Studies in probability theory at Vilnius University are internationally known with other notable advances made in semiconductor physics and chemistry, biochemistry, and genetics. Lithuania is most notably recognized throughout the world because of its contributions to the area of biotechnology (U.S. Department of State 1998).
Distance learning and adult education serve as Lithuania's most prominent forms of nonformal education. Lithuania's distance higher education consists of programs that are conducted by way of transmitting specially prepared learning materials for the student through the postal service. The Ministry of Education also has licensed 90 institutions to offer nonformal studies. There are nearly 700 institutions listed in the Register of the Ministry of Economy for adults. Sixty-three state-owned, 288 joint-stock companies, 271 individual companies, and 46 foreign investment companies comprise these institutions. Additionally, the universities have set up special departments to help nontraditional students with training and retraining in the fields of pedagogy, psychology, and special education (EuroEducation Net 1996).
Preprimary and other basic level instructors are trained for three to four years at various pedagogical colleges and universities, including Vilnius Pedagogical University, Klaipeda University, and Siauliai Pedagogical Institute. Secondary school instructors are trained at many of the institutes mentioned, in addition to Vilnius University and Vytautas Magnus University (in Kaunas). Four-year programs are available and admission to such a program is based on a bachelor's degree and at least one year of teaching experience. However, a master's degree guarantees an instructor a position at the secondary level. (EuroEducation Net 1996).
A doctorate is required for anyone wanting to achieve full professor status at an institute of higher learning. A master's is required to begin a career as a lecturer. There are four distinctions of staff in the universities of Lithuania. The lowest teaching position is that of the Asistentas (Assistant). A master's degree is required and research activity is preferred to obtain this position. The second type of instructor is known as the Vyresnysis Asistentas (Senior Assistant). This senior position of teaching is held without a doctorate and can be occupied for two terms. There is no opportunity to teach master's students in this position and research activity is required. A docent (Associated Professor) should hold a Docentas (doctorate) or educational award. The highest level of teaching position is known as the Professorius (Professor). A person holding this position must obtain the highest scientific degree or highest educational award available. A number of publications are required, in addition to a leading position in a branch of investigation performed at the department of study (Profile of the Lithuanian Higher Education System 2000).
The Law on Education has established a six-part set of rights for its educators. According to Article 23, teachers have the right to:
- Freely choose the manner of organization of teaching activities
- Improve their qualification and receive a corresponding salary in accordance with the established order
- Suitable working conditions
- Yearly prolonged vacations (48 working days)
- Take part in the self-government of state educational institutions provided that they are not employees of the administration of that institution
- Join social organizations
In addition to the set of rights a teacher possesses, the educator is also bound by a set of duties. Teachers must:
- Develop the students' norms of morality and guarantee safe and sound development of their personal abilities
- Aim to make development programs comprehensive for the pupils
- Adhere to the principles of pedagogical ethics
- Participate in activities outside of school in order to further develop the cultural and personal interests of the pupils
- Improve their qualifications
- Cooperate with the parents and guardians in settling questions of a child's education (NAFSA 1991)
As Lithuania regained its independence in 1990, it became the front-runner among post-Soviet states to reform its education system. Vaiva Vebra, the Deputy Minister of Education, stated in December 1999 that much effort had been devoted to transforming the educational system because of the country's belief in the Jeffersonian maxim, "Education is the anvil upon which democracy is forged." She also stated that the key component to successful reform is the introduction of critical thinking into the system. Preparing students for "independent decision making as adults in a civil society and market based economy" has become the new goal for the educational system. There are newly written textbooks or textbooks translated from Western sources, as well as "break-through schools" that are encouraged to "pull away from the mainstream."
Economic difficulties have hindered Lithuania's progress. The government was forced to cut educational spending by 17 percent in 1999, but Vebra maintains that the teachers' commitment to education will enable the momentum of educational reform to persevere, despite the system's lack of funds ("Lithuania in the Vanguard of Education Reform" 1999).
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Kudirka, Juozas. The Lithuanians. Vilnius, Lithuania: Lithuania Folk Culture Center, 1991.
"Lithuania in the Vanguard of Education Reform." Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. December 13, 1999.
LITNET. Academical and Research Network Lithuania. 2000. Available from www.litnet.lt.
NAFSA: Association of International Educators, Republic of Lithuania: Law on Education (Vilnius, 1991) No. I-1489.
Profile of the Lithuanian Higher Education System. NHES, 18 December 2000. Available from http://ortelius.unifi.it/.
Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of State. U.S. Government Printing Office, 1998.
—Mara Iutcovich and Mark Iutcovich
Iutcovich, Mara; Iutcovich, Mark. "Lithuania." World Education Encyclopedia. 2001. Encyclopedia.com. (October 1, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3409700132.html
Iutcovich, Mara; Iutcovich, Mark. "Lithuania." World Education Encyclopedia. 2001. Retrieved October 01, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3409700132.html
|Official Country Name:||Republic of Lithuania|
|Region (Map name):||Europe|
|Language(s):||Lithuanian, Polish, Russian|
|Area:||65,200 sq km|
|GDP:||11,314 (US$ millions)|
|Number of Daily Newspapers:||99|
|Total Newspaper Ad Receipts:||73 (Litai millions)|
|As % of All Ad Expenditures:||39.60|
|Number of Television Stations:||20|
|Number of Television Sets:||170,000|
|Television Sets per 1,000:||47.1|
|Number of Cable Subscribers:||330,040|
|Cable Subscribers per 1,000:||89.2|
|Number of Satellite Subscribers:||50,000|
|Satellite Subscribers per 1,000:||13.8|
|Number of Radio Stations:||116|
|Number of Radio Receivers:||1,900,000|
|Radio Receivers per 1,000:||526.2|
|Number of Individuals with Computers:||240,000|
|Computers per 1,000:||66.5|
|Number of Individuals with Internet Access:||225,000|
|Internet Access per 1,000:||62.3|
Background & General Characteristics
Lithuania, the largest of the Baltic nations, has experienced and been influenced by numerous foreign occupations. The name Lithuania was first mentioned in the Latin chronicle Annales Quedlin burgenses in AD 1009, and it was thought that the Lithuanian peoples were descendants of ancient Roman settlers. However, it is more likely that the original people came from Asia about 4,000 to 10,000 years ago. Lithuania's development as a nation was not linear: it has existed as an independent state only intermittently throughout its history of invasions and occupations. However, even when the national language, Lithuanian, was banned and reading or writing books in the native tongue was forbidden, the people were determined to preserve their heritage and traditions for future generations. This strong attachment to their culture remains a characteristic of Lithuanians in the twenty-first century.
Lithuania adopted Christianity at the end of the fourteenth century and has remained predominantly Roman Catholic. During the Soviet domination and ban on religion, Catholicism was never totally suppressed. It was ready for a revival when independence was achieved. Religion always played a significant role in Lithuanian publications and the initial books to be published in Lithuanian were religious ones. The first book, Catechism, was written by Mazvydas and published in 1547 in the town of Karaliaucius. The first publishing house was founded in Vilnius.
In the fourteenth century, Lithuania and Poland formed a confederation that lasted almost two hundred years and became one of medieval Europe's largest empires. In the eighteenth century Lithuania came under Russian rule and Russia attempted unsuccessfully to eradicate the Lithuanian culture and language. The religious emphasis of the publications changed, and secular literature became more widespread. By the early twentieth century, most writing was linked to the independence movement.
The occupation of Lithuania by imperial Russia lasted until 1915, and from 1864 to 1904, the Russian alphabet was introduced, and the press in Latin was banned. Nonetheless, the people of Lithuania protected their identity and rights and successfully rallied against the larger country of Russia. The ban on the press was lifted in 1904. In 1905, the Vilnius Seimas (legislative body) urged the people to stop paying taxes and to refuse to send their children to Russian schools. After World War I, on February 16, 1918, the country proclaimed its independence; it adopted its first permanent constitution on August 1, 1922. The second permanent constitution was adopted on May 12, 1938.
Lithuania was an independent nation between World War I and II and maintained its religious affiliation to Catholicism. From this religious group emerged a cadre of progressive individuals who played an important role in the intellectual life of the country, including the press. However, in 1940 Lithuania was once again annexed to the USSR and the Soviets undermined the creativity of the writers. With the arrival of the occupying Soviet troops, the intellectuals were arrested, or if they were able, they migrated to the West. Those who remained continued to write in secret. On July 21, 1940, the national Seimas proclaimed the country a Soviet Socialist Republic, and on August 3, 1940, Lithuania became the fourteenth member of the Soviet Union. This event minimized the country's ties to the West and the influence of its media, thus essentially leaving Lithuania in a news vacuum.
The Soviet regime decimated the entire economy of the country; all financial establishments were nationalized. Local culture became sovietized. The only respite came at the end of 1941 when the Soviets became more involved in their war with Germany and withdrew their troops. With the withdrawal of the Communists, there was a resurgence of hope for freedom, and the Lithuanians strove to regain their independence by proclaiming a provisional government. However, the Germans did not recognize this administration and it was abolished. Nonetheless, major resistance newspapers were published, the anti-Nazi movement flourished, and consequently the Germans failed to organize a local SS legion.
On July 13, 1944, the Soviets re-entered Vilnius, and the entire country was once again under Soviet domination. Although Lithuania attempted to resist the occupation, the Soviets destroyed the economy, and the rights that had been established by the Republic of Lithuania were eroded. Any signs of independence and national identity were extinguished. For the next 40 years Lithuania was subjugated to the political, economical, and cultural goals of the Soviet Union, including press censorship. This strict control continued until the 1980s when the Soviet policy changed and people were given more freedom to speak out against the government without fear of reprisals. By the end of the 1980s, economic chaos in the Soviet Union forced the Soviet president, Mikhail Gorbachev, to institute reforms: glasnost was declared. Also during this period, Lithuania established many democratic changes, and the press became more and more independent. In 1988 the Lithuanian Communist Party (LCP) was forced to relinquish its monopoly on the press and by 1989 censorship ceased. This angered Gorbachev who then tried to curb the media. In January 1991, Soviet forces occupied the LCP in Vilnius and took control of the newspaper presses. The troops also occupied the Committee of Radio and Television and the TV tower. This move revealed the magnitude of Gorbachev's fear of the influence of the press and the extent to which he would go to curb its power. However, although he had considerable success against the broadcast media, he could not control the print press. The final collapse of the Soviet Union gave Lithuania the freedom to govern itself for the first time since 1940. On March 11, 1990, it became the first of the Soviet republics to declare its independence. This proclamation was officially recognized in September of 1991.
The arrival of independence and the end of censorship presented newspapers with very different but nonetheless difficult problems. Lithuania was faced with enormous economic, political, and social challenges. The economic crisis that confronted this newly independent country included increasing inflation: the once plentiful and subsidized Soviet newsprint became ten times more expensive. The once state-owned centrally located printing plants were outmoded, and there were problems with distribution. Editors were forced to move deadlines back and often morning papers were not delivered until the next day. In February, 1992, in the lobby of a hotel in Vilnius, more than 30 dailies and weeklies were stacked on the counter and remained unsold for the rest of the day as did thousands of others in the kiosks throughout the city. Inflation forced the public to choose between a newspaper or bread and milk. Also owing to a lack of funds, Lithuanian television and radio failed to produce programs of interest to the public. Yet some dailies survived this crisis, namely, the Respublika (Republic) andLieutuvos Rytas (Lithuania's Morning), which were published in Vilnius and remained in circulation as of 2002.
In addition, competent, objective journalists were scarce. Most journalists were educated under the Soviet system; instructed that the function of journalist is to interpret determined events, they did not strive to present accurate and unbiased articles that encouraged readers to form their own opinions. Lack of training and experience in the newer philosophy caused these people to replace the Soviet papers with hundreds of new papers that were equally opinionated and short on facts.
Lithuania, like other countries of post-communist Europe, was also plagued with weak and questionable government officials. The unstable infrastructure created a void that was quickly filled by a criminal element. The crime rate in the 1990s in Lithuania tripled from the rate in 1988. Organized crime posed a serious threat to journalists and investigative reporters. The sophisticated crime rings exceeded police effectiveness, thus leaving little insurance of protection for journalists. At the end of 1995, a bomb explosion in the offices of the Lieutuvos Rytas newspaper was connected to the Kaunas Mafia, who were thought to have swindled the state of its property during the privatization process.
Given the prevalence of crime in the late 1990s, the Lithuanian media obliged with an anti-crime and corruption effort. However, apparently crime had begun to actually infiltrate the very newspapers that were reporting and campaigning against it. Allegations were made that money was being exchanged between the journalists and police for news and information; on October 21, 1997, Saulius Stoma, the former editor-in-chief of the Lietuvos Aidas (Echo of Lithuania) daily newspaper was convicted of stealing money from the publication's account. He was convicted and sentenced to five years imprisonment.
Another serious defect of the press during the late 1990s was the lack of any serious and accurate international coverage. Only ten percent of both state and private prime time television newscasts was devoted to international affairs.
Nature of Audience
The estimated 2002 population of Lithuania is approximately 3.6 million, which is composed of the following ethnic groups: Lithuanian (80.6 percent); Russian (8.7 percent); Polish (7 percent); Byelorussian (1.6 percent); and other (2.1 percent). The literacy rate of the country, defined as the ability to read at 15 years of age, is high with a total of 98 percent (99 percent for males and 98 percent for females). While the official language is Lithuanian, Polish and Russian are also spoken. Newspapers are printed in Lithuanian, but some of them produce editions in Russian.
The three most popular newspapers, with circulations between 50,000 to 100,000, and considered the most influential are Kauno Diena (Kaunas Daily), Respublika (Republic), and Lietuvos Rytas (Lithuania's Morning). Kauno Diena, founded in 1945, has a circulation of 50,000 and is available in Lithuanian six times a week. Respublika, established in 1988, was the first independent Lithuanian daily newspaper. It has a circulation of 55,000 and is available six times a week in Lithuanian, with five Russian editions per week. Lietuvos Rytas, founded in 1990, reports on news and investigations of events in Lithuania and worldwide. It has a circulation of 85,000 copies on weekdays and 135,000 copies on Saturdays, and is available six times a week in Lithuanian, with two weekly Russian editions. Smaller newspapers with a circulation between 10,000-25,000 include: Lietuvos Aidas (Echo of Lithuania), 20,000, in Vilnius, available five times a week in Lithuanian only; Vakarines Naujienos (Evening News), 15,000, in Vilnius, available five times a week in Lithuanian and Russian; and Vakaru Ekspresas (Western Express), 15,000, in Klaipeda, available six times a week in Lithuanian only. The Kurier Wilenski (Vilnius Express) is a Polish language newspaper available five times a week with a circulation of 8,000. There are also several periodicals available. Lietuvos Spauda (Lithuanian press) is the largest commercial periodical publisher in Lithuania.
Lithuania has few natural resources and was primarily an agricultural country prior to 1940. During the period of Soviet domination, 1940 to 1990, a large but inefficient industrial sector was established. After independence in the 1990s, Lithuania began a comprehensive economic reform toward a market-driven economy, including price reforms, privatization of enterprises, and encouragement of foreign investments. However, 50 years of Soviet occupation had had a devastating economic impact on the country and it was slow to rebound. There was high unemployment, estimated at 10.8 percent, coupled with a slow rate at which new jobs were created. The cost of living increased but salaries and pensions were not commensurate with the escalation. People had trouble maintaining even a minimal standard of living. Lithuania saw a growth in soup kitchens and charitable organizations. Lithuanians spent about 50 percent of their income on utilities and the rest for rent and other necessities. Crime increased and was increasingly emphasized in the press throughout the 1990s.
An important factor that has a direct financial effect on the status of the media is advertising or the lack of it. This aspect of the economic system remained undeveloped at the end of the twentieth century. The total advertising expenditure was estimated at 0.2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). The print media accounted for 50 percent of this expenditure with the daily Lietuvos Rytas, the dominant newspaper. Television accounted for 30 percent of the expenditure, radio 10 percent, and outdoor media the remainder. Western brand goods dominated television airtime, but local advertisers expanded their presence and hoped to steadily increase their presence.
The Lithuanian Constitution, adopted on October 25, 1992, guarantees the freedom of speech, information, and the press as stated in the following articles. Chapter 1 Article 25 specifically states:
- Individuals shall have the right to have their own convictions and freely express them.
- Individuals must not be hindered from seeking, obtaining, or disseminating information or ideas.
- Freedom to express convictions, as well as to obtain and disseminate information, may not be restricted in any way other than established by law. when it is necessary for the safeguard of the health, honor and dignity, private life, or morals of a person, or for the protection of constitutional order.
- Freedom to express convictions or impart information shall be incompatible with criminal actions—the instigation of national, racial, religious, or social hatred, or violence, or discrimination of slander, or misinformation.
- Citizens shall have the right to obtain any available information which concerns them from State agencies in the manner established by law.
Article 44 states:
- Censorship of mass media shall be prohibited.
- The State, political parties, political and public organizations, and other institutions or persons may not monopolize means of mass media.
Censorship was enforced during the fifty years of Soviet occupation but the press in Lithuania, since independence, has been heralded as among the most free in the former Soviet states. The constitution provides for free speech and a free press and is essentially free from any overt governmental influence. However, the same article that guarantees this freedom also states that it can be limited if it is necessary to protect the "health, honor and dignity, private life, or morals of a person, or for the protection of constitutional order."
There is another apparent contradiction between the Lithuanian legal code and the Constitution. Article 33 of the Constitution states that "Each citizen shall be guaranteed the right to criticize the work of State Institutions and their officers, and to appeal their decisions. It shall be prohibited to persecute people for criticism." Yet, the Penal Code provides for punishment of up to six months imprisonment or a fine for a public insult, in print or other means of dissemination of information, of a State officer in connection with the duties fulfilled by this person. Precedence was established for this law in 1998 with case against the publishers of Europa. In addition to these constitutional discrepancies intimidation by organized crime groups resulted in increased fear among journalists and even incidents of murder.
The press is no longer subsidized as it was under the Soviet occupation, and most newspapers and distributors are privately owned. However, because of the serious problems that faced the nation after independence, the relationship between the media and the government was not always friendly. The newspapers staged a strike in 1991 when the government decided to confiscate media property formerly owned by the Communists. In addition, the government banned foreign investments.
In 1997, Lithuania was the only country in the Baltic region that was self-regulating. It had no state commission for press control. Also at the end of the 1990s, the Lithuanian Parliament amended the law on the media and removed the ceiling for compensation for libel and slander. This change caused journalists to fear an increase in unwarranted and frivolous lawsuits and limitations in their press freedoms. On November 22, 2001, the Lithuanian parliament passed a bill that placed a nine percent value-added tax on mass media.
Attitude toward Foreign Press
Lithuanian reporters criticized the western media for using what they considered to be a double standard. The incident that provoked this outcry involved the kidnapping and murder of a photographer from Itar-Tass in 1999 and the failure of the western press to consider the event newsworthy. The arrest, at the same time, of Andrei Babitsky of Radio Liberty was given extensive coverage by the western press.
There are two News Agencies in Lithuania: Lithuanian News Agency (ELTA) which is available online in Lithuanian and English, and the Baltic News Agency (BNS). The BNS is the largest and only news agency that covers all the Baltic States. It employs 140 people and provides news six to seven hundred times per day in five different languages. It has its headquarters in Tallinn, Estonia, but has larger regional office in Vilnius, Lithuania, and Riga, Latvia.
The state owns part of the National Radio and Television public broadcasting company but the majority of the mass media is privately owned. The top television station is LNK, whereas the national broadcasting station ranks fourth and last. However, the national radio broadcasting station ranks at the top for listeners. There are approximately 1.9 million radios in Lithuania with three AM stations and one hundred and twelve FM. There are twenty television broadcast stations with thirty repeaters and 1.7 million televisions. The leading private media are financially viable, but the National Radio and Television owed its creditors 15 million litas in 2001. The majority of Lithuanians receive their news from radio and television.
Electronic News Media
In 1996, there were more than 240,000 personal computers, and in 1998 there were 24 Internet hosts per 1,000 population in Lithuania. In 2000, Internet users rose to 225,000; in 2001 there were approximately 25 Internet Service Providers (ISPs). In 2001 an estimated 2 percent of the population was connected to the Internet. There are no restrictions or regulations on the use of the Internet and the law affecting the market, the one granting Lithuanian Telecom a monopoly, expires in 2003.
Education & TRAINING
The press in Lithuania, similar to the other Baltic States, is probably among the world's youngest. News-room and magazine offices find eager but miscast persons in their twenties. Those few journalists who worked during the Soviet period when all publications were owned by the state and controlled by the Communist Party have not been asked to continue with news agencies, leaving few experienced and qualified journalists. Education and training remains a high priority for upgrading and improving the media.
The press in Lithuania has emerged from its censorship under Soviet domination and has expanded and made many improvements. Nonetheless, at the beginning of the twenty-first century it was encountering problems that detracted from its competency. By contrast to the Latvian and Estonian press, there is an increasing sensationalism in the news that mars the Lithuanian media and journalists continue their role of scandal-hunters. In 2001 scholars and intellectuals complained publicly and wrote to the president about the ten-year decline of moral principles that was widespread in the media. This trend was especially disturbing since the news media ranks among the most trusted institutions, despite its generally low level of talented journalists. In 2001 the media in Lithuania had a 70 percent public confidence rating, the highest of all institutions.
As of 2002, the majority of mass media was privately owned and the leading private media were financially stable. The newspaper distribution system was privately owned, and the media were editorially independent. A number of the privately owned newspapers and some of the independent television stations were editorially diverse. These were progressive steps. However, there were signs that also threatened to limit the freedom of the media and were causing great concern among journalists. Assessing both the positive and negative aspects of the media in Lithuania may extend through the first decade of the twenty-first century during which time the Lithuanian media may well establish a strong new journalistic tradition.
- 1997: A Conference for East European journalists held in Vilnius concluded that the Lithuanian media is freer than elsewhere in the former Soviet Union.
- 1998: The Swedish media concern, Marieberg, acquired the majority shareholding in the independent LNK television in September. They purchased a forty-four percent shareholding. On April 13, 1998, for the first time in Lithuanian media history, the publishers of the newspaper, Europa, were sentenced for defamation and insult.
- 1999: Polls in Lithuania indicated that the public's trust in the media was at 60 percent whereas their trust in the parliament was only 20 percent.
- 2000: In January, the state-run Lithuanian Radio and Television (LRTV) suspended broadcasts from Radio 2 (culture and education) and Radio 3 (classical and jazz) because of funding problems. On July 27, 2000, President Valdas Adamkus vetoed a new Law on Mass Media that proposed the establishment of a Mass Media Controller financed by the state budget. Journalists were opposed to the idea. In December, the pan-Baltic IT company Tilde Group launched Internet TV portals in all three Baltic States with the Lithuanian TV considered the best.
- 2001: Reuters announced that it would reduce its coverage of the Baltic States in April 2002 because of decreasing interest in the area. Finnish business daily Kauppalehti bought Baltic News Service (BNS).
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Jean Boris Wynn
Wynn, Jean Boris. "Lithuania." World Press Encyclopedia. 2003. Encyclopedia.com. (October 1, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3409900128.html
Wynn, Jean Boris. "Lithuania." World Press Encyclopedia. 2003. Retrieved October 01, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3409900128.html
ETHNONYMS: Lietuva, Litawen, Litva, Litwa
Identification. Lithuania is a Baltic nation bounded on the west by the Baltic Sea, on the north by Latvia, on the east and south by Belarus, and on the southwest by Poland and Russia. The ethnonym "Lietuva" is the Lithuanian term for "Lithuania" and "Litva" is the Russian term.
Location. Lithuania lies at 54° to 56° 30′ N by 21° to 26° 30′ E and covers an area of 64,445 square kilometers. It is a low plain with glacial moraines and is covered by meadows, forests (25 percent of the land), peat bogs, and swamps (7 percent of the land). Lithuania has 3,000 lakes, and its rivers drain into the Baltic Sea. The country's major natural resources include dolomite, gypsum, peat, limestone, gravel, sand, clay, and amber. Its climate is quite moderate, owing to its proximity to the Baltic Sea—the average January temperature is -4.8° C, and the average July temperature is 17.2° C. Annual precipitation normally varies between 58 and 79 centimeters, peaking in August.
Demography. The Lithuanian population has undergone significant fluctuations owing to two world wars and to Nazi and Soviet occupations. By 1939, when the Soviets took control, the Nazis had deported or caused the emigration of 200,000 to 300,000 of the approximately 3,000,000 people in Lithuania. Fear of the Soviets caused many Lithuanians to emigrate to the West during World War II. The Soviets implemented large deportations in 1940-1941 and 1946-1950; dispersals, killings, and concentration camps were used to gain obedience. This policy resulted in a decline of 500,000 in the population of Lithuania. By 1970, the Lithuanian population had rebounded to 3,100,000, though only 80.1 percent of these were ethnic Lithuanians—the balance were Russians, Poles, Byelorussians, Gypsies, and others who had entered from the Soviet Union. In 1992 the population was estimated at 3,700,000, of whom 79.6 percent were ethnic Lithuanians. The average annual rate of natural increase is 0.4 percent, and the birth rate is 15 per 1,000 people. Approximately 70 percent of the population is urban, a percentage that is increasing annually; many people are moving to the planned cities of Alytus, Kapsukas, Plunge, Utena, and others. The capital, Vilnius, has a population of 587,000.
Linguistic Affiliation. The Lithuanian language belongs to the Baltic (or Letto-Lithuanian) Branch of the Indo-European Language Family. The close relationship of this language to Latvian mirrors an overall similarity of the Lithuanian and Latvian cultures. In common with all Baltic languages, Lithuanian preserves several Proto-Indo-European language characteristics, including the distinction of dual number for nouns and verbs.
The Lithuanian language is written using the Roman alphabet and additional diacritical marks. After the 1863 rebellion, the Russians retaliated by forbidding the printing of anything in the Roman alphabet (1864-1904), and the use of the Cyrillic script was encouraged instead. The Lithuanians responded by printing most of their literature during that period with the Roman alphabet in the Prussian-dominated region of Lithuania and by smuggling books and publications across the border.
Lithuania has had a literary language since the sixteenth century. The first of these was used only for religious writings until the end of the eighteenth century; it differed from later standards in grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation. By the early nineteenth century, three literary dialects had emerged, each used in a different part of the country.
Language and Literacy
Formal education is important to Lithuanians, who had a 98.5 percent literacy rate in 1959 (up from 77 percent in 1939). There are three official languages of instruction in Lithuanian schools: 84 percent of the students study in Lithuanian, 12 percent in Russian, and 4 percent in Polish—recently the percentage in Russian has decreased greatly. Education in the country's one university in Vilnius is almost entirely in Lithuanian. In 1971 there were 581,000 students attending school in Lithuania, and 15,826 of those attended the university.
Lithuania leads most other former Soviet republics in the publication of books, pamphlets, and periodicals. In 1970, 2,186 books and pamphlets were published, approximately 60 percent of which were in Lithuanian. In that year as well, ninety-one newspapers were published, seventy-four of which were in the Lithuanian language. Lithuania has numerous radio and television stations, and its people, because of contacts with the West, are better supplied with receivers than people in many other parts of the former USSR.
History and Cultural Relations
For much of their history, Lithuanians have been dominated or have tried to avoid domination by other peoples. By the early thirteenth century, the Lithuanians were united under the feudal control of five families. Though at first protected by the heavy forests, the Lithuanians were eventually threatened by the Teutonic Order. In response, they united under Mindaugas, who was crowned in 1253. Gediminas, who ruled from 1315, expanded Lithuanian control into Byelorussian regions and made Vilnius the capital by 1323. He divided the empire among his seven sons, although in relatively little time only two were still in power—Algirdas, who controlled the Lithuanian empire and defended it against the Tatars and the Russians, and Kestutis, who controlled ethnic Lithuania and defended it against the Teutonic Order. Algirdas died in 1377 and left the empire to his son Jogaila. In 1381 Kestutis took the empire from Jogaila, but Jogaila retook it and imprisoned Kestutis until the latter died. In 1385 Jogaila married Jadwiga, Poland's queen, and became king of Poland; he united Poland, Kievan Russia, and all parts of Lithuania by 1392. Jogaila was baptized in 1386. His forces roundly defeated the Teutonic Order in 1410. The Lithuanian-Polish union survived for more than three centuries, during which the Belarussian and Lithuanian nobility was almost assimilated into the Polish culture, whereas the peasants retained their native languages and customs.
Russia's power was growing: in 1772 and 1793 it annexed two major portions of the grand principality of Lithuania, and in 1795 it annexed ethnic Lithuania, with the exception of the province of Suwalki (Suvalkai), which was joined to the kingdom of Prussia. Suwalki later became part of the Duchy of Warsaw, which the Russians annexed in 1815. Poles and Lithuanians rebelled together in 1830-1831 and in 1863, but both times the Russians put down the rebellions; in 1863 the suppression was particularly brutal. Lithuanians pushed to regain some rights, including freedom of religion and of speech. In 1905 they were granted the right of free speech and of instruction in the Lithuanian language in schools.
Germans controlled much of Lithuania during World War I. Following the war, the Lithuanians, Poles, and Russians vied for control of various parts of ethnic Lithuania. Józef Pilsudski, the leader of Poland, disputed with the Lithuanians about the borders of the Lithuanian state, wanting some Polish control over Vilnius, which at that time had a mostly Polish population. In 1919 Pilsudski took Vilnius from the Russians, and Kaunas became the substitute capital of Lithunaia. The Lithuanians entered into a treaty with the Soviet state in 1920, in which the former received Vilnius and other areas. The Lithuanians controlled Vilnius for a few months until the Polish army retook it. In 1921 Lithuania became a member of the League of Nations; in 1923, the Council of the League of Nations decided that Vilnius was to remain part of Poland. The Lithuanians adopted a constitution in 1922, and held elections to the Seimas (parliament). The mix of parties represented in the Seimas led to political instability, however. A moderate to right-wing coalition held power until 1926, when Kazys Grinius was elected president, representing, in part, a coalition of Polish, Jewish, and German minorities. Antanas Smetona, who had been Lithuania's first president, reacted to the leftist government by taking dictatorial control of the country in a military coup in December 1926 and banning opposition parties. Smetona was fiscally conservative, kept a balanced budget, and encouraged agricultural development at the expense of industrial development.
In 1938 Lithunaia normalized diplomatic relations with Poland. During the 1930s, Nazis attempted to take control of the Klaipeda region of Lithuania, and in 1938 they won a majority of seats in the Klaipeda Landtag. In March 1939 Nazi Germany demanded and received Klaipeda, and this cost Smetona's government so much support that he was compelled to form a new and politically more moderate cabinet.
Although Lithuania had chosen a course of neutrality in World War II, a secret protocol to the German-Soviet treaty of nonaggression of 23 August 1939 placed Lithuania within the Soviet sphere of influence. In October 1939 Lithuania signed a mutual assistance treaty with the USSR, which gave the latter the right to place military bases on Lithuanian soil. On 15 June 1940 Lithuania was occupied by Soviet military forces and compelled to form a government that would rule in accordance with Soviet wishes. Large numbers of Lithuanians fled to the West, but tens of thousands were caught and sent to Siberia. In August of that year Lithuania became a Soviet republic. In June 1941, 30,455 Lithuanians of political importance were sent to Siberia and about 5,000 political prisoners lost their lives. But by the end of the month, Lithuania was in Nazi hands. In October 1944 it was retaken by the USSR. Some 80,000 Lithuanians attempted to escape to the West, but tens of thousands were captured in the eastern zone of Germany and returned. In order to Russify the Lithuanians, secure their submission, and force the acceptance of collective agriculture, Stalin deported about 145,000 people in 1945-1946, and in 1949 about 60,000 more were sent various places in Siberia.
Lithuanian partisans fought guerrilla wars against the Soviets until at least 1955. Although guerrilla warfare ended at that time, Lithuanian opposition to Soviet rule did not. Lithuanians often refused to speak or understand Russian. In 1956 people in the Kaunas region supported the uprising in Hungary by rioting. Educators were purged in 1959 for nationalism. In 1968 samizdat publications appeared and later became more numerous. At the same time, Catholic priests began to send letters to Soviet and church leaders protesting the restrictions on the numbers of priests who could be trained. In 1970 the first priests were arrested. As priests were tried, parishioners began to send letters and petitions to the Soviet government protesting the removal of their priests. Eliciting no response, over 17,000 Lithuanian Catholics sent a petition of protest to Secretary General Kurt Waldheim of the United Nations in January 1972, along with instructions to send it on to CPSU General Secretary Brezhnev; the signatures on the petition included full addresses and some were even accompanied by telephone numbers. In 1972 there were three self-immolations in protest, after which large riots took place. Two of the three attempted hijackings of Soviet planes in 1969-1970 were made by Lithuanians, one successfully.
The Lithuanian independence movement gathered momentum in 1988. On 12 February 1990 the Lithuanians elected Vytautas Landsbergis, previously the head of the large Sajudis popular movement, to parliament, and on 11 March 1990, to the presidency. It was also on 11 March that the Lithuanian parliament unanimously declared independence from Soviet rule. On 2 September 1991 the United States gave full diplomatic recognition to Lithuania and the other two Baltic countries, Estonia and Latvia. The USSR recognized Lithuanian independence on 6 September 1991, and Lithuania became a member of the United Nations on 17 September of that year. Since then, Landsbergis's attempts at economic reform have been stymied by leftist members of parliament and a legacy of forty-five years of Soviet rule.
Traditionally an agrarian land, Lithuania became extensively industrialized as a result of Soviet programs in the 1960s. By 1989 it had a labor force of 1,853,000. Forty percent of workers are employed in industry and 20 percent in agriculture and forestry.
During the nineteenth century, industrialization was hampered by a shortage of natural resources and absence of good port facilities. Much of the land was held in large estates given to the raising of grain, flax, and horses. Much of what industry had developed was destroyed during World War I. During the period of independence between the world wars, the government emphasized the production of high-quality meats, dairy products, and eggs, and it pursued a vigorous program of land reform that resulted in greater productivity. This emphasis on animal husbandry in agriculture remains today.
The imposition of Soviet rule, which led to guerrilla warfare against the Soviets and forced collectivization of the farms, caused a marked decline in agricultural productivity that lasted until 1955. Prior to Lithuanian independence in 1991, there were approximately 310 state and 740 collective farms. Farm production today is geared toward raising pigs and dairy cattle; half of the crops raised are for fodder. Lithuanian farms also produce significant quantities of flax, sugar beets, potatoes, and vegetables. In recent decades, farms have been expanded through land reclamation and swamp drainage. Most of the country's farming is done in the northern and southern regions.
Following the establishment of Soviet control, and especially during the 1960s and after, industrial production grew rapidly. Lithuania produces electricity from several plants, including a hydroelectric and a nuclear plant. It makes ships, machine tools, chemicals, building materials, petroleum products, cement, welding equipment, plastics and synthetic fibers, chemical fertilizers, cotton cloth, knitted garments, and electronic devices. Lithuanian factories also process meat, fish, sugar, and butter. In addition, there is significant light industry, including metalworking and woodworking, and Lithuania boasts several large resorts. Most of Lithuania's shipbuilding and fish processing is done in the west, metalworking and light industry are primarily concentrated in the east, and most of the hydroelectric generation and food processing is done in the south. There is a Chernobyl-type nuclear reactor in Ignalina in the north, which presents a great danger to the entire region.
Eighty percent of Lithuania's trade is with countries belonging to the Commonwealth of Independent States. Other important trading partners are Germany, Great Britain, Denmark, Belgium, Poland, Cuba, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Italy. Goods transported by ship usually go through the port of Klaipeda, and Vilnius has the major airport, but most of the country's goods move by rail.
Lithuanian kinship is bilateral and follows the Eskimo kinship system. In earlier times a quite extensive system of kin terms distinguishing categories based on marriage and sex (e.g., dédiené, father's brother's wife) existed. These terms varied regionally. Today kin terms have been reduced, reflecting the predominance of the nuclear family.
Marriage and Family
In preindustrial Lithuania, marriage was arranged by matchmakers. Especially for the landholding classes, it was largely an economic union with the bride providing a bargained dowry. During Lithuanian independence, arranged marriages slowly disappeared and were replaced by love matches. The extended family was especially important in rural areas in these periods. In Soviet times, family size was reduced to one or two children per family, and the nuclear family became the norm. These changes took place due to urbanization, collectivization of farms, alcoholism, and the high divorce rate. Eight percent of adult women worked outside the home, in addition to bearing the brunt of the household work. Furthermore, there were extreme housing shortages, and ideological considerations made women unwilling to send children to large, state-run nurseries. In the last twenty years, many couples have married at a younger age, either to register for the very scarce housing or because of premarital pregnancy owing to the lack of birth control. Separate housing was available only to married couples—after an average wait of fifteen years. Abortion was the main means of population control; the typical woman had eight in her lifetime. Divorce rates increased to six out of every ten marriages. Since the turbulent political and economic changes following the reestablishment of independence, marriage and familial trends seem to parallel those of the proximate western European nations-cohabitation and a further decline in the birthrate.
Lithuania is a democracy governed by a parliament, known as the Seimas; its president, the head of state, selects the prime minister (subject to the approval of parliament).
Religion and Expressive Culture
Religious Beliefs and Practices. Lithuania was pagan, worshiping forces of nature, until 1387, and was the last country in Europe to accept Christianity. Today ethnic Lithuanians in Lithuania are 94 percent Catholic. Most of the other 6 percent are Lutheran descendants of Germans and Austrians who immigrated after the Great Plague (1710); Lutheran worship also reflects residence in areas under German control. Catholic clergy regulated the educational system when Lithuania was under Russian control in the nineteenth century, and the Catholic political parties held considerable power during the period of Lithuanian independence between the two world wars. Clergy frequently supported anti-Soviet warfare. In more recent times, popular opinion opposed Soviet harassment of Catholic clergy. Radio Vatican is received in Lithuania and was opposed by the Soviet regime. Catholicism is an inseparable and vital part of Lithuanian culture.
Arts. Lithuanian arts, both folk and fine, have been strongly influenced by Western art traditions. Traditional folk arts include ceramic work, woodcuts, embroidery, and amber work. Characteristic Lithuanian decorations include geometric and floral motifs, and the use of natural colors is preferred. Lithuanians are famous for their melodious folksongs (dainos ), a genre shared with the Latvians. The Lithuanians hold dancing and singing festivals throughout the country each summer, and every five years there are national singing competitions that draw up to 40,000 contestants. Each generation hands down to the next a large number of traditional folktales, proverbs, and aphorisms.
Lithuanian fine arts traditions have been and continue to be influenced by the Vilnius school of drawing, established at the university in 1866. Lithuania's most famous artist is Mykolas Čiurlionis (1875-1911), a forerunner of the abstractionist and surrealist schools. There were many abstract artists in Lithuania during its domination by the Soviets, but they rarely had the opportunity to show their work publicly. Lithuanian architecture has its own character, which may be seen not only in newer buildings but also in the older Gothic and neoclassical structures. Lithuania has eleven professional theaters—including drama, ballet, and opera theaters—as well as thirty-three museums. The Lithuanian Film Studio has produced feature films since 1952.
Lithuanian literary figures include several renowned novelists, short-story writers, and poets. Its literature is considered to have begun with the works of Kristijonas Donelaitis (1714-1780); his The Seasons is a story of peasant life. Many consider Adam Mickiewicz (1798-1855) Lithuania's greatest poet, despite the fact that he wrote in Polish. In the first half of the nineteenth century a movement to invent a new Lithuanian literary language and to write about the early history of Lithuania arose, a movement that was influenced by Western countries after the French Revolution. Many writers during the second half of the nineteenth century pushed the development of a nationalist, anti-Russian trend; some of these were members of the Catholic clergy, including the important writers Antanas Baranauskas (1835-1902) and Maironis (1862—1932). Following liberation in 1918, many Lithuanian authors were concerned with promoting a national culture. Most Lithuanian literature has not been critically acclaimed because of Soviet influence and domination that began in the 1940s. Notable exceptions to this generalization are the following: the 1962 poetry collection Žmogus (Man) by Eduardus Mieželaitis, the 1957 novel Parduotos vasaros (Bartered Summers) by Juozas Baltušis, and the 1960 poem "Kraujas ir pelenai" (Blood and Ashes) by Justinas Marcinkevičius.
Butkus, T. (1964). Take a Look at Soviet Lithuania. Vilnius: Mintis.
Gerutis, Albertas, et al. (1969). Lithuania: 700 Years. New York: Manyland Books.
Jurgela, Constantine R. (1948). History of the Lithuanian Nation. New York: Lithuanian Cultural Institute.
Stukas, Jack J. (1966). Awakening Lithuania. Madison, N.J.: Florham Park Press.
Vardys, Stanley, ed. (1965). Lithuania under the Soviets. New York: Praeger.
DANIEL STROUTHES AND KRISTINA KELERTAS
Strouthes, Daniel; Kelertas, Kristina. "Lithuanians." Encyclopedia of World Cultures. 1996. Encyclopedia.com. (October 1, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3458001010.html
Strouthes, Daniel; Kelertas, Kristina. "Lithuanians." Encyclopedia of World Cultures. 1996. Retrieved October 01, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3458001010.html
POPULATION: 3.7 million (total population of country; 80 percent are ethnic Lithuanians)
RELIGION: Roman Catholicism; Old Believers; Russian Orthodox Church; Lutheranism; Judaism
1 • INTRODUCTION
It is likely that the first people to live in the area now known as Lithuania came from Asia around 4,000 to 10,000 years ago. During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Lithuania and Poland were part of a large empire that dominated eastern Europe. By 1795, Russia had taken over all of Lithuania. During World War I (1914–18), the German army occupied Lithuania. Lithuania was recognized as a sovereign (self-governing) state following the war, but independence did not last long.
During World War II (1939–45), Germany occupied Lithuania, and sent about 160,000 Lithuanians to die in concentration camps. After the war, the Russians returned to Lithuania and claimed it as a part of the Soviet Union. (At that time Russia was one of the states of the Soviet Union.)
When the Soviet Union fell apart in late 1991, the Lithuanians were finally free to govern themselves for the first time since 1940. The last foreign army units left Lithuania on August 31, 1993.
2 • LOCATION
Lithuania, along with Estonia and Latvia, is one of the Baltic States that border the Baltic Sea. It is located in the western part of eastern Europe, along the basin of the Nemunas River. Water travel has long been an important means of transportation in Lithuania. The 2,833 lakes in Lithuania occupy about 1.5 percent of the surface area of the nation. The rivers and lakes are frozen over for about three months each winter.
3 • LANGUAGE
The Lithuanian language was formalized at the end of the nineteenth century. There are many dialects (variations on the language) spoken throughout Lithuania.
Lithuanian first names for males end in as or us. Typical first names include Algimantas, Jonas, Darius, and Vytautas. Female first names often end in the letter a and include Rasa, Daiva, Laima, Ruta, and Aldona.
Family names reflect gender, and for females, their position. For example: Antanas Butkus is the husband and father. His wife, Birute, uses a feminine variation of his family name—Butkiene—to indicate that she is his wife. His unmarried daughter, Ruta, uses another variation—Butkute—to indicate her status. His sons are entitled to use the name Butkus.
Examples of everyday Lithuanian words include:
|Good-bye||sudiev (literally "with God")||SU-dyo|
4 • FOLKLORE
The old Lithuanian dainos (songs) are famous for their beauty and variety. The dainos were created by women doing farm work or celebrating festivals. They were also created to mark mournful occasions. Romantic love and leave-taking are important themes.
Many folk songs have been harmonized or used in compositions by modern composers. Folk song festivals and performances by choral groups are an important part of cultural life. Folk music is played solo or by instrumental groups. Popular instruments include kankles (zither), skuduciai (pan-pipe), lamzdelis (recorder), ragas (horn), smuikas (fiddle), birbyne (folk clarinet), and skrabalai (cow bells).
5 • RELIGION
The ancient Lithuanians worshiped many gods and believed that forests and fires were sacred. The most popular gods that they worshiped were Perkūnas (god of thunder), Velnias (the devil, the guardian of wizards), Medeina (goddess of forests), and Zvorūne (goddess of hunting).
About 80 percent of Lithuanians who have religious beliefs are Roman Catholic. Most of the rest are Russian Orthodox, Old Believers (a seventeenth century breakaway Russian Orthodox sect), Lutheran, and Jewish.
6 • MAJOR HOLIDAYS
Independence Day commemorating the 1918 declaration of independence is February 16. The Day of Independence Restored, celebrated on March 11, commemorates the date in 1990 when Lithuania declared its independence from what was then the Soviet Union.
Easter is the most important religious holiday among Lithuanians. Lithuanians begin celebrating Easter by attending a church service before sunrise with their immediate family. The service is followed by a festive breakfast. Beginning in the late afternoon and on Easter Monday, groups of young men call on their neighbors, singing and asking for marguciai (decorated Easter eggs). It is considered inhospitable to refuse the carolers' requests. General merrymaking on the second day of Easter includes the rolling of Easter eggs, games to test one's strength, and swinging on swings. Adults travel to visit relatives and friends. On the third day of Easter, the dead are remembered and cemeteries are visited.
7 • RITES OF PASSAGE
Traditionally, couples to be married participated in a series of pre-wedding rituals and customs. Most of these placed great emphasis upon the bride's leaving her parents and her childhood home. Customary ceremonial songs, dances, and verse accompanied each of these events. They included vakarynos (the last evening) when the bride's friends braided her hair for the last time. They also sang to her of past happiness and future worries.
Jaunojo sutiktuves (greeting the bridegroom) included the exchange of gifts. During the svocios pietūs (dinner for the bride), the bride's wreath was exchanged for a married woman's headdress. At the nuotakos išleistuves (taking leave of the parental home), the bride kissed the table, the crucifix, and a loaf of bread and bid farewell to her parents and other family.
8 • RELATIONSHIPS
An old greeting still used in some rural areas of Lithuania is Garbe Kristui (Praise Christ). The traditional response is per amzius amen (forever amen). It was also customary to greet someone working in the fields or in gardens with Dieve padek (May God help you).
Lithuanians have long prided themselves on their hospitality. A visit to a Lithuanian home is sure to include a warm response, a richly laid table, and perhaps storytelling and singing.
9 • LIVING CONDITIONS
The Lithuanian government is developing a new health-care program to improve health conditions. Cancer is the leading cause of death in Lithuania, and diseases related to alcoholism are also common. The average life expectancy for a Lithuanian born now is about seventy-two years, which is relatively high among eastern European and former Soviet nations.
During World War II (1939–45), many Lithuanian towns and villages were completely destroyed. After the war, many standardized housing projects were constructed. They were often built in large sections from prefabricated materials. Many of these units today are in poor condition.
10 • FAMILY LIFE
Large families, with ten to twelve children, were historically common in Lithuania. Though traditionally the father was the head of the family, the mother also commanded respect within the family structure. Roman Catholicism was the fundamental force in family life.
Modern Lithuanian families tend to be much smaller, with one or two children the norm. In the 1990s, women outnumber men in Lithuania, leaving more women unmarried than in the past. It typically takes a young couple fifteen to twenty years to save enough money to buy a house or an apartment. A young couple must often turn to their parents for financial help. The number of single-parent families is on the rise, as is alcoholism. Two-income households have become common. The divorce rate has increased as well, having reached about 20 to 25 percent of all marriages. Alimony is awarded to a woman only if the children are minors at the time of the divorce.
11 • CLOTHING
Lithuanians dress in modern, Western-style clothes. Traditional clothing is worn only for festivals. A traditional costume for women consists of a woven, colorful full skirt, embroidered blouse, vest, and head-piece with ribbons. Jewelry made from amber found on the shores of the Baltic Sea is treasured.
- 1 Cup Flour
- 2 Egg Yolks Plus 1 Whole Egg
- ¼ Cup Butter
- 1 Cup Honey
- 1 Cup Brown Sugar
- 1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
- 2 Tablespoons Sour Cream
- ½ Teaspoon Cinnamon
- ¼ Teaspoon Each Of Allspice, Ground Cloves, And Ground Ginger
- For Icing
- 1 Cup Powder Sugar
- 1 Egg White
- Pinch Of Creme Of Tartar
- 2 Teaspoons Cocoa Or Chocolate Powder
- Combine Cookie Ingredients In A Mixing Bowl. Stir With A Wooden Spoon Until A Thick Dough Forms.
- Divide The Dough In Half. With One Half, Form Mushroom Caps From Walnut-Sized Pieces Of Dough By Making A Ball And Flattening One Side. Make A Small Indentation On The Flat Side For The Mushroom Stem. Put The Mushroom Caps, Flat Side Down, On Cookie Sheet.
- With The Other Half Of The Dough, Form Mushroom Stems About The Thickness Of A Finger And 1½ Inches Long. Place Stems On Cookie Sheet.
- Preheat Oven To 325°f. Bake For 25 To 30 Minutes. Turn Off The Oven.
- Make Icing. Beat Egg White With Powdered Sugar And Creme Of Tartar.
- Assemble Mushrooms By Using The Icing To Glue The Caps And Stems Together. Frost The Stems With Icing.
- When The Stems Are Frosted, Tint The Remaining Icing Brown With The Cocoa Powder. Frost The Caps With The Brown Icing.
- Return The Frosted Cookies To A Warm Oven For 15 Minutes To Harden And Dry The Icing.
12 • FOOD
Food has always been treated with great respect by Lithuanians. It is seen as a gift from God. Until the early 1900s, eating was a very serious and even holy act. The family dinner table was not the place for talking or child's play. In traditional Lithuanian culture, meals were presided over by the male head of the household. He led the family in a short prayer before dividing the bread and meat. Other dishes would then be served by the wife.
Sour cream is an important part of Lithuanian dishes. Varske (curd or dry cottage cheese) is also important. It is used as a filling in such dishes as varskeciai (rolled pancakes with sweetened curd), cepelinai (large, blimp-shaped potato dumplings), and virtinukai (ravioli-like dumplings). The latter two dishes commonly feature a filling of meat and are topped by a large mound of sour cream or fried bacon bits.
A very popular summer dish is the refreshing saltibarsciai, a cold soup of sour cream and buttermilk or sour milk, with sliced beets, cucumbers, green onions, boiled eggs, and parsley. It is usually eaten with a hot boiled potato. Among the large variety of pancakes, potato pancakes form a separate category. Roasts of pork, veal, beef, or poultry, as well as pork chops, are more common on Lithuanian home and restaurant tables than are beef steaks. The seasoning of Lithuanian dishes is mild.
13 • EDUCATION
Education starts at age six. There are three types of public schools: elementary (grades one through four), nine-year (grades one through nine), and secondary (up to grade twelve). There are also professional, technical, and specialized secondary schools. Higher education in Lithuania is available at sixteen institutions.
14 • CULTURAL HERITAGE
The oldest known folk songs are the dainos, which were sung by Lithuanian women during the Middle Ages. The most popular instruments for playing Lithuanian folk songs are skrabalai (cow bells), dambrelis (jaw harp), kankles (zither), smuikas (fiddle), skuduciai (panpipe), lamzdelis (recorder), ragas (horn), daudyte (long trumpet), and the birbyne (folk clarinet).
Musical elements of the traditional folk songs are often used in modern compositions as well. Choral singing is an important part of cultural festivals in Lithuania. Every five years, Vingis Park in Vilnius is the site of a huge folk music festival. The stage is big enough to hold 20,000 performers. The costumed performers demonstrate ancient Lithuanian folk songs and dances.
In 1706, Aesop's fables became the first nonreligious work published in Lithuanian. Antanas Baranauskas was a famous poet of the mid-nineteenth century, whose lyrical romantic poem Anykšciu šilelis (The Forest of Anykšciai) is a milestone in Lithuanian literature. Lithuanian literature has long been linked with nationalism and the liberation movement, especially the literature of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
15 • EMPLOYMENT
During the decades of Soviet rule, the government controlled the economy. The independent Lithuanian government has begun to replace that inefficient system with one that allows businesses and individuals to make their own decisions. However, the transition toward a market economy has been difficult for many workers.
16 • SPORTS
Lithuanians are sports enthusiasts. Riding and hunting are traditional activities. A popular traditional game is ripkos, involving the throwing and hitting of a wooden disk. Over fifty types of sports are practiced and played in Lithuania, including rowing, boxing, basketball, track and field, swimming, hand-ball, and table tennis.
Basketball is the most popular sport in Lithuania today. It was introduced by a Lithuanian American named Stasys Darius after World War I (1914–18). The sport caught on rapidly, and the Lithuanian team won the European basketball championship twice before World War II (1939–45). Today, two Lithuanian players in particular, Arvydas Sabonis and Sarunas Marciulionis, have found success in the American National Basketball Association. Sabonis and Marciulionis also helped lead the Lithuanian team to Olympic bronze medal victories in 1992 and 1996.
Other popular sports in Lithuania include cycling and canoeing. Soccer is also very popular. Most recently, baseball and field hockey have entered the Lithuanian arena of sports as new favorites. Vilnius, Klaipeda, and Kaunas have the largest of Lithuania's forty-one stadiums.
17 • RECREATION
From the ancient past until today, Lithuanians have maintained a love of traditional song and dance. The arts are especially supported in the capital city, Vilnius.
Lithuanians also enjoy the outdoors. In summer, beaches along the Baltic Sea, seaside resort towns, and lakes, forests, and campgrounds in the countryside are visited by vacationing Lithuanians. Health resorts are equally popular. Time spent in a sauna or steam bath is considered a necessary luxury by Lithuanians. World travel for the citizens of Lithuania was forbidden until 1993, but by the late 1990s it had become a popular activity.
Local cafes, movie theaters, and video arcades attract young people, as do nightclubs and rock concerts. Numerous health clubs have opened their doors since 1993 and are gaining in popularity. There are few carnival rides or amusement parks in Lithuania.
18 • CRAFTS AND HOBBIES
Lithuanian folk art frequently involves the decoration of common household items. Bed and table linens, towels, window treatments, wooden trim, and ceramics are objects that are often decorated. Themes in paintings and sculptures typically focus on religion, work, and everyday life.
19 • SOCIAL PROBLEMS
After Lithuania gained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1993, many large factories closed, creating a sudden rise in the unemployment rate. Young people are often tempted to seek work in other countries.
Crime has increased in Lithuania. Mugging, robbery, car-jacking, and murder have become more commonplace. Prisons and juvenile detention centers are overcrowded.
20 • BIBLIOGRAPHY
Bindokiene, Danute Brazyte. Lithuanian Customs and Traditions. Chicago: Lithuanian World Community, Inc., 1989.
Chicoine, Stephen. Lithuania: The Nation That Would Be Free. New York: Cobblehill Books, 1995.
Lithuania. Minneapolis, Minn.: Lerner Publications Co., 1992.
Kagda, Sakina. Lithuania. New York: Marshall Cavendish, 1997.
Stasys, Yla. Lithuanian Family Traditions. Chicago: Lithuanian Library Press, Inc., 1978.
Tamošaitis, Anatas, and Anastasia Tamošaitis. Lithuanian National Costume. Toronto: Time Press Litho Ltd., 1979.
Embassy of Lithuania, Washington, D.C. [Online] Available http://www.ltembassyus.org/, 1998.
World Travel Guide. Lithuania. [Online] Available http://www.wtgonline.com/country/lt/gen.html, 1998.
"Lithuanians." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures. 1999. Encyclopedia.com. (October 1, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3435900289.html
"Lithuanians." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures. 1999. Retrieved October 01, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3435900289.html
Lithuania (lĬthōōā´nēə), Lithuanian Lietuva, officially Republic of Lithuania, republic (2005 est. pop. 3,597,000), 25,174 sq mi (65,201 sq km), N central Europe. Lithuania borders on the Baltic Sea in the west, Latvia in the north, Belarus in the east and southeast, Poland in the south, and the Kaliningrad oblast (a Russian exclave; formerly East Prussia) in the southwest. Vilnius is the capital, largest city, and an important rail and highway center.
Land and People
Lithuania is a flatland, drained by the Nemen River. In addition to the capital, other important cities are Kaunas, Klaipeda (Memel), and Siauliai. About 84% of the population is Lithuanian; there are Polish, Russian, and other minorities. The major religion is Roman Catholicism and there are Russian Orthodox and Lutheran minorities. The Lithuanians speak a Baltic language (see Balts), which is the official language; Russian and Polish are also widely spoken.
In the 1990s, Lithuania benefited from its adherence to strict fiscal and monetary policies, as it followed a program of privatization and increased foreign investment. The country also benefited from joining the European Union (2004), but it subsequently was among the nations hardest hit by the 2008–9 global recession, and the government instituted both a stimulus plan and an austerity budget. Dairy farming and stock raising are carried on extensively, and grains, potatoes, sugar beets, flax, and vegetables are grown. Primarily agricultural before 1940, Lithuania has since developed considerable industry, including food processing, shipbuilding, petroleum refining, and the manufacture of machinery and machine tools, metal products, major appliances, electronic components, motors, textiles, and electrical equipment. Minerals, textiles and clothing, machinery, chemicals, wood and wood products, and foodstuffs are exported, while mineral products, machinery, transportation equipment, chemicals, clothing, and metals are imported. Russia, Germany, Poland, and Latvia are the main trading partners.
Lithuania is governed under the constitution of 1992. The president, who is the head of state, is elected by popular vote for a five-year term and is eligible for a second term. The prime minister, who is the head of government, is appointed by the president, as is the cabinet. The unicameral Parliament (Seimas) has 141 members; 71 are elected by popular vote and 70 by proportional representation, all for four-year terms. Administratively, the country is divided into 10 counties.
Early History to the Nineteenth Century
The pagan Liths, or Lithuanians, may have settled along the Nemen as early as 1500 BC In the 13th cent. the Livonian Brothers of the Sword and the Teutonic Knights conquered the region now comprising Estonia, Latvia, and parts of Lithuania. To protect themselves against the Knights, who pressed them from the north and the south, the Lithuanians formed (13th cent.) a strong unified state.
The grand dukes Gedimin (1316–41) and Olgerd (1345–77) expanded their territories at the expense of the neighboring Russian principalities, which were weakened by the Mongol invasion. Lithuania became one of the largest states of medieval Europe, including all of what is now Belarus, a large part of Ukraine, and sections of European Russia; at its furthest extent it touched the Black Sea. Olgerd's son, Jagiello, became king of Poland in 1386 as Ladislaus II by his marriage with Jadwiga, daughter of Louis I of Poland and Hungary. He accepted and introduced Christianity.
The union between Lithuania and Poland had at first the character of an alliance between independent nations. Witowt, a cousin of Ladislaus II, ruled Lithuania independently (1392–1430) and brought it to the height of its power and expansion. In 1410 the Polish-Lithuanian forces severely defeated the Teutonic Knights at Tannenberg and Novgorod.
After Witowt's death, decline set in. The Belarusians, who had retained their Greek Orthodox faith, inclined toward the rising grand duchy of Moscow. In 1569, hard pressed by the Russians under Ivan IV, Lithuania was joined with Poland by the Union of Lublin to form a commonwealth. The Lithuanian aristocracy and burghers became thoroughly Polonized. By the three successive partitions of Poland (1772, 1793, 1795) Lithuania disappeared as a national unit and passed to Russia.
A Lithuanian linguistic and cultural revival began in the 19th cent., inspired largely by the Roman Catholic clergy and accompanied by frequent anti-Russian uprisings. World War I and the consequent collapse of Russia and Germany made Lithuanian independence possible. Proclaimed (Feb., 1918) an independent kingdom under German protection, Lithuania became (Nov., 1918) an independent republic.
It resisted attacks by Bolshevik troops and by volunteer bands of German adventurers, but in 1920 Vilnius was seized by Poland. Lithuania remained technically at war with Poland until 1927. In 1923, Lithuania seized the Memel Territory. The virtual dictatorship (1926–29) of Augustine Voldemaras was succeeded (1929–39) by that of Antanas Smetona, and an authoritarian constitution on corporative (fascist) lines became effective in 1938.
Vilnius passed to Lithuania after the Soviet-German partition of Poland in 1939, but a German ultimatum forced the restitution of Memel. In 1940 the USSR, which had obtained military bases in Lithuania, occupied the country. After a Soviet-sponsored "election," Lithuania became a constituent republic of the USSR. When Germany invaded Lithuania in June, 1941, there was an insurrection against the Soviets and a provisional government was established, but Germany refused to recognize Lithuanian independence, and the government was disbanded. During the German occupation (1941–44) of Lithuania in World War II, the considerable Jewish minority was largely exterminated. In 1944 the Communist government returned. An anti-Communist guerrilla movement was active in the late 1940s and early 1950s; meanwhile, there were massive deportations of intellectuals and farmers to European Russia, Central Asia, and Siberia. After the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953, repression eased somewhat, and ethnic Lithuanians became prominent in the Communist elite.
In Mar., 1990, the Lithuanian parliament declared independence from the Soviet Union. Sajudis, a non-Communist coalition, won control of the Lithuanian parliament, and Vytautas Landsbergis became Lithuania's president. The Soviet Union responded with an oil embargo and troop actions in which civilians were killed. A referendum on independence passed in Feb., 1991, and Lithuania's independence was recognized by the Soviet Union on Sept. 6, 1991. In 1992, the Democratic Labor (formerly the Communist) party defeated Sajudis, and Algirdas Brazauskas, a former Communist, was elected president in 1993. Also in 1993, the last Russian troops were withdrawn, and Lithuania signed a free-trade agreement with fellow Baltic states Estonia and Latvia.
Valdas Adamkus, an emigrant from the United States, was elected president in 1998, but lost in a runoff in 2002 to Liberal Democratic party candidate Rolandas Paksas. Charges of corruption and links to Russian organized crime led the parliament to initiate impeachment proceedings against Paksas in Dec., 2003, and he was narrowly removed from office the following April. Parliament speaker Arturas Paulauskas became acting president. The same month Lithuania joined NATO; both events and others led to tensions with Russia in early 2004. Lithuania also became a member of the European Union in 2004. The poorest member of the EU, Lithuania experienced significant emigration to other EU nations in subsequent years, especially during the financial crisis of 2008–11.
In new elections in June, 2004, Adamkus won a second term as president, after a runoff. In October former president Paksas was acquitted of leaking state secrets, one of the three charges on which he was impeached. Adamkus was succeeded as president by Dalia Grybauskaite, who had been serving as the European Union's budget commissioner and ran as an independent; elected in May, 2009, she became the first woman to hold the presidency. She was reelected in May, 2014. In Jan., 2015, the country adopted the euro.
See A. E. Senn, The Emergence of Modern Lithuania (1959); R. J. Misiunas and R. Taagepera, The Baltic States: Years of Dependence, 1940–1980 (1983); T. Oleszczuk, Political Justice in the Soviet Union: Dissent and Repression in Lithuania (1988).
"Lithuania." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. 2016. Encyclopedia.com. (October 1, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1E1-Lithuania.html
"Lithuania." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. 2016. Retrieved October 01, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1E1-Lithuania.html
Official name: Republic of Lithuania
Area: 65,200 square kilometers (25,174 square miles)
Highest point on mainland: Juozapinẹ (292 meters/958 feet)
Lowest point on land: Sea level
Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern
Time zone: 2 p.m. = noon GMT
Longest distances: 276 kilometers (172 miles) from north to south; 373 kilometers (233 miles) from east to west
Land boundaries: 1,273 kilometers (791 miles) total boundary length; Belarus 502 kilometers (312 miles); Latvia 453 kilometers (281 miles); Poland 91 kilometers (57 miles); Russia 227 kilometers (141 miles)
Coastline: 99 kilometers (62 miles)
Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)
1 LOCATION AND SIZE
Lithuania, the largest of the Baltic States, is located in eastern Euroh2, east of the Baltic Sea. It shares land borders with Belarus, Latvia, Poland, and the Kaliningrad Oblast, which belongs to Russia. With a total area of about 65,200 square kilometers (25,174 square miles), the country is slightly larger than the state of West Virginia. Lithuania is administratively divided into forty-four regions and eleven municipalities.
2 TERRITORIES AND DEPENDENCIES
Lithuania has no outside territories or dependencies.
Although its climate is continental, Lithuania's proximity to the Baltic Sea provides a moderating maritime influence with mild winters and cool summers. In the east, however, conditions may vary from this pattern. The west has a growing season of 202 days, while in the east it lasts 169 days. Overall, the climate is mild. In January, temperatures average 2°C (35° F). In summer, temperatures average 18°C (64°F).
Western Lithuania receives more rain than the rest of the country, with an average annual precipitation of 85 centimeters (33 inches), compared to 49 centimeters (24 inches) in the central plains and 72 centimeters (28 inches) on the east coast.
4 TOPOGRAPHIC REGIONS
The topography of Lithuania is characterized by alternating regions of highlands and lowlands, but the primary feature is a low-lying central plain. Like that of other nations in the region, continental glaciers formed the Lithuanian landscape during the Pleistocene ice age. No elevation is greater than 305 meters (1,000 feet). Highlands lie to the east and southeast of the central plain, while to the west the land is hilly but becomes low again along the coast. The plains of the southwestern and central regions are noted for their fertile soil.
Lithuania is situated on the Eurasian Tectonic Plate.
5 OCEANS AND SEAS
Seacoast and Undersea Features
Lithuania has a western coast along the Baltic Sea, which is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean. The coastline is only about 108 kilometers (67 miles) long.
Sea Inlets and Straits
A long, narrow sandbar forms an offshore lagoon along the southern half of the coastline called Kuršiu Marios (Courland Lagoon).
6 INLAND LAKES
Lithuania has 2,833 lakes that each are larger than one hectare (two acres). In addition, there are 1,600 ponds smaller than one hectare. Most are located in eastern Lithuania. Lake Druksiai, the largest lake, covers about 44.5 square kilometers (17.2 square miles). The deepest lake is Lake Tauragnas, with a depth of about 61 meters (200 feet). The longest lake, Asveja Lake, stretches for 22 kilometers (14 miles).
7 RIVERS AND WATERFALLS
Lithuania is notable for its many rivers as well as its numerous lakes; the country has 758 rivers that each are longer than 10 kilometers (6 miles). Only 600 kilometers (372 miles) of the country's rivers are navigable, however. The Neman is the longest river, entering the country from Belarus in the south and flowing for roughly 475 kilometers (295 miles) within Lithuania before entering the Baltic Sea. The total length of the Neman River is 936 kilometers (582 miles). It forms the border with Russian Kaliningrad along its lower course.
Other significant rivers include the Neris, 510 kilometers (316 miles); the Venta, 346 kilometers (215 miles); and the Šešupẹ, 298 kilometers (185 miles).
Like its northern neighbor, Latvia, Lithuania has many marshes and swamps. Most of the country's original wetlands, however, have been drained for agriculture. Remaining wetlands are located mostly in the north and west.
There are no desert regions in Lithuania.
9 FLAT AND ROLLING TERRAIN
About 28 percent of Lithuania's land was still covered by forest as of 2002, with patches of woodlands scattered throughout the country. The coastal region and the south favor pines, while oak trees predominate in the central region, although they are relatively scarce. Mushrooms and berries are abundant. Lithuania has set aside large forested areas as nature reserves, which support many species of wildlife. Mammals living here include elk, deer, wolves, foxes, and wild boar; bird species include white storks, herons, geese, ducks, and hawks.
There are hills and uplands on either side of Lithuania's central plain. In the west is the Žemaičai Upland. To the southeast are the Baltic Highlands, including the Ašmena Highland. None of these hills are very tall. The highest elevation, Juozapinẹ (292 meters/958 feet), is situated in the southeast region on the border of Belarus.
10 MOUNTAINS AND VOLCANOES
There are no major mountain ranges or volcanoes in Lithuania.
11 CANYONS AND CAVES
Lithuania has no major caves or canyons.
12 PLATEAUS AND MONOLITHS
There are no plateau regions in Lithuania.
DID YOU KNOW?
In the northern Birzai region of Lithuania, a high gypsum and limestone content in the local terrain, plus the existence of numerous underground rivers, has caused the occurrence of over two thousand sinkholes. The water underground erodes the soil and rock above, causing the ground to cave in. The sinkholes range in size from very small holes to large, deep craters. The larger sinkholes may be filled with water from the underground rivers. Scientists are studying the sinkholes in this area to determine possible ways to counteract such erosion.
13 MAN-MADE FEATURES
The Kaunas Dam was built on the Neman River to provide hydroelectric power. Construction of the dam created a reservoir called the Kaunas Sea. Several other dams have been built throughout the country for water storage, irrigation, and flood control. The reservoirs created by these dams are also used for fishing and recreation.
DID YOU KNOW?
Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, three countries located on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea, are often politically referred to as the Baltic States. These three nations became independent countries in 1918, after World War I, but were involuntarily incorporated into Russia as provinces in 1940. They became fully independent again in 1991. Although Sweden, Finland, and Poland also border on the Baltic Sea, Sweden and Finland are culturally and socially grouped as Scandinavian countries, while Poland is more closely associated with eastern Europe.
14 FURTHER READING
Bite, Vita. "Lithuania: Basic Facts." CRS Report for Congress. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1992.
Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Lithuania. Lonon: The Economist, 1995.
Grabowski, John F. The Baltics. San Diego: Lucent Books, 2001.
Lithuania: An Economic Profile. Washington, DC: United States National Technical Information Service, August 1992.
World Bank. Lithuania: The Transition to a Market Economy. Washington, DC: World Bank, 1993.
Pakalnis, Romas. "The Future of Lithuanian Nature Is the Future of Lithuania." Science, Arts, and Lithuania, No. 1(1991): 16-21.
Lithuanian Folk Culture Center, The Lithuanians. http://www.lfcc.lt/publ/thelt/node4.html (accessed April 24, 2003).
"Lithuania." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of Physical Geography. 2003. Encyclopedia.com. (October 1, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3425900162.html
"Lithuania." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of Physical Geography. 2003. Retrieved October 01, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3425900162.html
65,200sq km (25,200sq mi) 3,483,972
Lithuanian 80%, Russian 9%, Polish 7%, Belorussian 2%
Roman Catholic 80%, Russian Old Believers
Litas = 100 centai
Land and ClimateLithuania is a mostly lowland country with se highlands. Ice-Age moraine covers most of Lithuania and includes more than 2800 lakes. The longest river is the Neman, which rises in Belarus and flows through Lithuania to the Baltic Sea. Winters are cold: average January temperature, –5°C (23°F). Summers are warm: average July temperature 17°C (63°F). Average rainfall is c.630mm (25in). Farmland covers c.75% of Lithuania, and forests only 16%.
History and PoliticsThe first independent, unified Lithuanian state emerged in 1251. By the 14th century, it expanded e as far as Moscow. In 1386, Lithuania entered into a dynastic union with Poland. In 1569, the two countries unified as a Commonwealth. The final partition of Poland saw Lithuania become part of the Russian Empire in 1795. In February 1918, Lithuania declared its independence. Russia briefly regained control, but retreated in 1919. In 1920, Poland captured Vilnius. In 1926, a military coup established Antanas Smetona as dictator. In 1940, the Soviet Union annexed Lithuania as a Soviet republic. In 1941, German troops occupied Lithuania and the Nazis murdered many Lithuanian Jews. In 1944, Soviet troops recaptured the country. In 1990 the Lithuanian Communist Party conceded to multi-party elections, which the nationalists won and Lithuania proclaimed independence. In January 1991, Soviet troops fought nationalist forces on the streets of Vilnius. A referendum voted overwhelmingly in favour of independence, and the Soviet Union recognized Lithuania as an independent republic in September 1991. In 1993, Soviet troops completed their withdrawal. In 1996, Lithuania signed a treaty of association with the European Union (EU). Valdas Adamkus, a US citizen who left Lithuania in 1949, became president in 1998 elections. In the immediate post-independence era, Lithuania alternated between right-wing governments, led by Vytautas Landsbergis, and the reformed Communist Party, the Lithuanian Democratic Labour Party, led by Algirdas Brazauskas. Rolandas Paksas was elected as President in 2003. In 2004, Lithuania joined the EU. Economy Lithuania is a developing country (2000 GDP per capita, US$7300). Under Russian control, it rapidly industrialized. Since independence, it experienced many problems of transition from a command economy into a mixed economy. It lacks natural resources and depends on Russian raw materials. Manufacturing is the most valuable export sector: major products include chemicals, electronic goods, and machine tools. Dairy and meat farming and fishing are also important activities.
"Lithuania." World Encyclopedia. 2005. Encyclopedia.com. (October 1, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O142-Lithuania.html
"Lithuania." World Encyclopedia. 2005. Retrieved October 01, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O142-Lithuania.html
Lithuanian (lĬth´ōōā´nēən), a language belonging to the Baltic subfamily of the Indo-European family of languages (see Baltic languages). The official language of Lithuania since 1918, Lithuanian is spoken by approximately 3 million people there and by an additional half-million elsewhere in the world, chiefly in the Western Hemisphere. The importance of Lithuanian in linguistic studies stems from its designation as the most ancient of the living Indo-European languages. It is also the language closest to Proto–Indo-European, the ancestral tongue from which all the Indo-European languages evolved. Currently, Lithuanian uses a modified Roman alphabet for writing.
See L. Dambriunas et al., Introduction to Modern Lithuanian (1980).
"Lithuanian." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. 2016. Encyclopedia.com. (October 1, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1E1-Lithuanian.html
"Lithuanian." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. 2016. Retrieved October 01, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1E1-Lithuanian.html
Identification. Lithuanians are fond of nature and have a strong feeling of a shared culture that begins as early as primary school, where folk music, national traditions, and holidays play an important role. Among those who remember life under the Soviet regime, pride in surviving a period of repression and difficulty is a focal point of the national culture.
The most noticeable distinction between regions is the change in dialects as one travels across the country. To an outsider, a different dialect can sound like a completely different language and in some cases—particularly in border towns—may incorporate elements of the neighboring country's language.
Location and Geography. Lithuania is on the coast of the Baltic Sea. Just over 40,500 square miles (65,000 square kilometers) in area, it shares borders with Poland and Kaliningrad (Russian Federation) in the southwest, Belarus in the east, and Latvia in the north. The country is divided into four regions: Aukštaitija, the highlands in the northeast and central portion of the country; Žemaitija, the lowlands in the west, stretching from the Baltic coast to the Nevėžis river; Dzūkija, in the southeast; and Suvalkija, in the southwest. The climate is maritime along the coast and continental in other areas. The physical environment varies from sandy terrain spotted with pine trees on the coast and the Curonian Spit, to flatlands and low, rolling hills farther inland. There are more than eight thousand lakes, mostly in the uplands.
The capital, Vilnius, lies in the southwestern part of the country at the confluence of the Neris and Vilnia rivers. Vilnius has been the capital since the fourteenth century, except for the period from 1919 to 1939 during Poland's annexation of southern Lithuania, when it was temporarily moved to Kaunas.
Demography. In 2000, the population was 3.8 million, of which approximately 80 percent were ethnic Lithuanians, 9 percent Russians, 7 percent Poles, 2 percent Belarussians, and 2 percent were of other nationalities. Lithuania is 70 percent urban, with the largest cities being Vilnius (population 600,000), Kaunas (population 430,000), Klaipėda (population 210,000), Šiauliai (population 150,000), and Panevėžys (population 130,000).
Linguistic Affiliation. The official language is Lithuanian, one of two remaining languages in the Baltic branch of the Indo-European languages. Dialects vary by region, and their distinctiveness often depends on the distance from the nearest big city or the proximity to borders, where incorporation of neighboring countries' words is common. The language has survived despite a history of domination by foreign powers and serves as a focal point of cultural identity.
Lithuanian is spoken by nearly everyone in the country except for a few Russians and Poles in Vilnius and in the extreme east and south. It is a language with many words to describe a single idea. There is an abundance of nature words, probably because the people are so fond of the outdoors. This is particularly evident in traditional personal names such as Rūta ("Rue"), Aušra ("Dawn"), and Giedrius ("Dew"). Lithuanian often makes use of diminutives to soften the connotation of words or make them more personal.
Symbolism. The national symbol is Vytis, the white knight, sitting astride his horse and brandishing a sword; he symbolizes the nation's struggle to defend itself from intruders. The national plant is rue, and the national bird is the stork. The flag consists of horizontal stripes in yellow, green, and red; the colors symbolize nature (sun and trees) and traditional values such as solidarity and national pride.
History and Ethnic Relations
Emergence of the Nation. The origin of the nation and the development of its culture were strongly influenced by foreign occupation of the country and are the result of the perceived need of the people to preserve something of their own. Even when the national language was banned and reading or writing of books in the native tongue was forbidden, people were determined to spread their heritage and share their traditions.
The first Lithuanian state was established in 1230 after Duke Mindaugas united the tribes and lands in the area. His crowning in 1252 marked the beginning of a cultural identity focused on solidarity. Further credit for the early development of this character goes to Gediminas, the principal unifier of the territory from the Baltic to the Black Sea. He was one of the first leaders to instill in the people the spirit of nationhood, and the main street of Vilnius, with the parliament building at one end and the national cathedral at the other, bears his name. In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the marriage of Jogaila, the grand duke of Lithuania, to Queen Jadvyga of Poland created the formal confederation Rzeczpospolita; extensive development of the Lithuanian cultural identity took place during that period. While at several points in history this camaraderie could not overcome the presence of occupiers (in 1569 an attempt to defend against an expanding Russian state failed, and attempts at independence in 1795, 1830–1831, and 1863 were also unsuccessful), the resolute nature of the national character was not undermined.
National Identity. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, literacy became a valuable tool in the development of cultural and national identity. Although it was illegal, people continued to read the literature of the national movement. Literacy rates were considerably higher than those in Russia and contributed greatly to the rise of a national identity.
In 1905, when over two thousand delegates representing different sectors of the society gathered at the Great Lithuanian Assembly to discuss the Lithuanian nation, representatives of different political backgrounds agreed that the country should fight for and be granted autonomy, whether within Czarist Russia or independent of it. The intelligentsia, with help from the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences, drafted a document making demands for the future of the Lithuanian state. Among those demands were autonomy, equal rights for aliens within Russia, the construction of Lithuanian schools, freedom of worship, and the return of Suvalkija, which was controlled by the Poles.
In 1918, Lithuania formally declared independence, which was granted by both Germany and the Soviet Union. While lasting independence would not come until nearly a century later (the Soviet Union occupied the nation in 1940, and the Nazis in 1941), the fact that schools resumed teaching in Lithuanian, folk dance groups began meeting more freely, and people around the country assembled more readily to discuss their views was significant.
The period from 1941 to 1944 saw the countryside destroyed and almost all of the Jewish population (up to 250,000) annihilated. The period under Stalin, from 1945 to 1953, made the people more determined to put an end to the repression their country had experienced for so long. Tens of thousands of people, including most intellectuals, were deported to Siberia for being educated or being involved in intellectual circles, and many others fled. Those who remained were determined to change the system. Groups of "forest fighters" fled to the woods to avoid deportation and maintain nationalist resistance. It is said that some of these fighters remained in the forests until 1960, seven years after Stalin's reign ended.
At the beginning of 1989, the popular movement Sajūdis announced a platform for the complete restoration of Lithuanian sovereignty. This led to closer monitoring by the Soviet Union and increased Soviet troop movements in Lithuania in an effort to maintain order. The remainder of 1989 and most of 1990 were marked by deliberations both between the Soviet government and the Lithuanian popular movement and among different parties within those constituencies. In March 1990, Lithuania declared full reestablishment of independence from the Soviet Union, based on the argument that the occupation and annexation of the country by the Soviet Union was a result of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939 and its secret protocols and thus were illegal. In response, the Soviet Union imposed an economic blockade.
In late 1990 a popularist rally to help Lithuanians evade the Red Army draft was organized, and the Soviet government decided to deal with "the Lithuanian problem" once and for all. The Lithuanian Communist Party secretary had claimed that the human rights of non-Lithuanian citizens in the country were being violated and encouraged Soviet intervention. In January 1991, KGB plants posing as Russian workers stormed the parliament. A few days later, in what were described as precautionary measures to protect the human rights of Soviet citizens, Soviet troops gathered around the Parliament, the Lithuanian Press House, and the Vilnius television tower. Soldiers abused bystanders with little or no provocation, and several people were wounded.
The culmination of the Soviet campaign occurred on 13 January at the base of the Vilnius television tower, where thousands of nonviolent protestors had gathered. Irritated by Lithuanian persistence, Soviet forces attacked the crowd. Tanks crushed those who got in the way, and soldiers fired into the crowd. Thirteen people died at the television tower.
Two weeks after the episode, Mikhail Gorbachev appointed a delegation to negotiate with Baltic leaders. Although troop movements continued for much of the year, especially in Vilnius and along the border with Kaliningrad, it was obvious that the Soviet presence was finished. In September 1991, the Soviet Union recognized Lithuania as an independent republic. Later that month, Lithuania became a member of the United Nations—three months before the demise of the Soviet Union. In 1993, the first directly elected president, Algirdas Brazauskas, was chosen; the last Russian soldiers left the country; and Lithuania became a member of the Council of Europe.
Ethnic Relations. Historically, relations with other ethnic groups have been amicable; this is perhaps because over 80 percent of citizens are ethnic Lithuanians. While relations with minority groups, especially Russians, were strained during the period immediately preceding the reestablishment of independence, ethnic strife is not a matter of grave concern.
Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space
Styles of architecture reflect the sociopolitical and religious past of the country. While most people in urban areas live in Soviet-era blocks of concrete apartment buildings, the countryside is dotted with traditional wooden churches and houses. Also present are fortlike structures and castles built in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as residences for the local nobility. The Old Town of Vilnius has been restored and was named a UNESCO World Heritage Monument.
Present-day government buildings are often old brick edifices left over from the Soviet period. The propagandistic statues in many of the main squares were removed in the early 1990s and have been replaced with more nationalistic monuments.
Among the 70 percent of people who reside in urban areas, many live in small two- or three-room apartments with sitting rooms that double as bedrooms. Kitchens are generally small, and toilets are often separate from washrooms. Most of these apartments were distributed during the Soviet period, and many are owned or rented by the original recipients.
Among those who live in towns, it is common to have a garden just outside the city limits, often as part of a collective. In the summer, families tend these gardens and grow produce to be canned and consumed in the winter. Many families live in garden houses for extended periods during the summer to escape cramped accommodations at home.
Food and Economy
Food in Daily Life. The typical diet consists of items that are readily available and not expensive. National dishes reflect the economic situation and the fact that the weather is cold for much of the year, creating a shortage of vegetables in the winter and a desire to prepare and eat warm, wholesome food. Pork, smoked meats, cabbage, beets, and potatoes are staples. Two favorite traditional dishes are šaltibarščiai, cold beet soup with buttermilk, and cepelinai, boiled potato dumplings filled with meat or curd and served with fried pork fat or sour cream. Eating in restaurants has become more popular, and there are many different types of restaurants in the larger cities; how frequently a family dines out is determined by its income.
Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. Food plays an important role in celebrations, and a long table full of tasty fare is considered a sign of hospitality and affluence. It is customary for all guests to sit at a common table that fills most of the room, and for the hosts to ensure that no guest leaves the table hungry. These meals start with salads, cold meats, and bread, accompanied by kompotas (cold fruit tea) or juice, vodka, wine, or gira, a carbonated soft drink made from grain. This is followed by a hot course, singing and conversation, and perhaps dessert and coffee.
The Christmas Eve meal,kučios, is the most symbolic meal of the year. Twelve meatless dishes are prepared, including several types of herring, grain porridge, and often pickled mushrooms. Hay sometimes is sprinkled under the tablecloth to represent the manger where Jesus was born. People often eat kučiukai (bite-sized biscuitlike cakes) with poppy milk (poppy seeds boiled with water and sugar) for dessert. They also break symbolic Christmas wafers (Dievo pyragai ) which were once acquired in churches but are now available in local shops at Christmas, to bring the family closer together and wish for a healthy and successful year. If a family member has died in the past year, a plate and chair are placed at the table, along with a small candle, to welcome the spirit to participate in one last family gathering.
Basic Economy. The economy is mainly agricultural, but in recent years the government has attempted to distribute commercial activity. Light industry, metalworking, and woodworking, along with petroleum refining, are part of the commercial profile. Livestock breeding, primarily pigs, and dairy farming are an important sector of the economy, and cereals, flax, beets, and potatoes are the primary crops. Lithuania's unit of currency is the litas, pegged at fourlitas per U.S. dollar.
Lithuania is dependent on other nations for fuel and raw materials. The main economic problems are job insecurity, high unemployment, and poor labor protection laws.
Land Tenure and Property. Reestablishment of independence in 1991 led to the abandonment of the strict Soviet system of property and land allocation, and a need for new laws on restoration of ownership rights. There is has been a movement to accelerate the restoration process, clarify the property registration system and the role of government ministries therein, and develop a national strategy on property security and management.
Commercial Activities. Commercial activity is determined largely by geography. On the coast, where tourism and fishing are prevalent, fish products and the shipping of equipment are the major commercial endeavors. In the south, where the soil is fertile and mineral springs are predominant, wild mushrooms and farm products are the major products. The east is known for wooden handicrafts and metalworking, and the north for wheat, flax, and beets.
Major Industries. Metalworking, manufacturing, woodworking, and light industry are widespread in the east; water power, metalworking, manufacturing, food processing, farming, and livestock rearing are predominate in the south; and shipbuilding, fish processing, and tourism in the West. The north does not have any major industries.
Trade. In the past, Lithuania traded mainly with Russia, exporting foodstuffs, especially dairy products, and textiles. It also exported machinery and light industrial products to other countries of the former Soviet Union. Since 1991, exports have shifted more to the west, and close to 50 percent of exports are to the European Union. Major imports are fuel and raw materials, primarily from the European Union and Russia.
Division of Labor. The division of labor is by law determined by ability, certification, education, and training, but age, gender, and social connections continue to play a role in career advancement. The coming of independence ended the institutional guarantee of a job.
Classes and Castes. There is not a highly defined caste system in Lithuania. Society is primarily middle class, and there is a large income gap between the wealthy and the very poor. Low salaries, high unemployment rates, and a poor social security system make it difficult for pensioners to meet their basic needs.
Symbols of Social Stratification. Owning a private home or new car is a symbol of wealth, but there is not a traditional system of social stratification in Lithuania.
Government. Lithuania is a parliamentary democracy, with a constitution that was adopted in 1992. The Parliament, or Seimas, is unicameral with 141 seats and is the highest legislative body. Seventy-one members are elected directly by popular vote, and seventy by proportional representation from single seat districts, to four-year terms.
The head of state is the president, who is elected to a five-year term by universal, equal, direct suffrage. The president is responsible for approving and publishing laws adopted by the Seimas and appoints and dismisses the prime minister with approval of the Seimas. Ministers are appointed by the president upon recommendation by the prime minister.
The government is actively involved with international organizations, including the United Nations and the World Trade Organization, and its continual membership in both the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Leadership and Political Officials. The political system includes a central government, and forty-four regions with eleven municipalities. Public opinion toward political officials and their effectiveness and trustworthiness is mixed, and corruption is a problem in some governmental bodies.
The major political parties are the conservative Homeland Union Party, the Christian Democrat Party, the New Union Party, the Center Party, the Social Democrat Party, the Liberal Party, the Democratic Labor Party, and the Lithuanian Women's Party. All major parties promote integration into the European Union and NATO. The constitution provides "guarantees for the activities of political parties and political organizations" and mandates that state personnel, judges, prosecutors, and investigators may not be active members of political parties.
Social Problems and Control. The judicial branch of the government includes the Constitutional Court and Supreme Court, plus district and local courts whose judges are all appointed directly or indirectly by the Seimas. The most common crimes are theft, domestic and public violence, and corruption.
Public opinion of social control often reflects dissatisfaction with the system. Bribery, which has been present since the Soviet era and may stem from the low salaries of public servants, is widespread among police officers. Some people argue that "taking of the law into one's own hands" is a natural response to and means of closing the gap between public sector salary levels and the value of the public sector's contribution to the national economy.
Military Activity. The military is composed of ground forces, air and air defense forces, a navy, security forces (internal forces and border guards), and a national guard. All male citizens over the age of eighteen are required to complete one year of mandatory military service unless exempted for academic or professional reasons. Alternative service is available.
Social Welfare and Change Programs
There are social welfare and change programs at all levels of society, including several national youth clubs and peer support groups, as well as societies for recovering alcoholics and members of marginalized groups. Local and national environmental and conservation groups have begun participating in international projects to reduce pollution in the Baltic Sea and the region as a whole.
The involvement of governmental and nongovernmental organizations is a key factor in the success of these programs. While many social programs are in the beginning stages because only scientific organizations could legitimately address "controversial" issues in the Soviet era, increased interest in schools and by the international donor community has contributed to social progress.
Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations
There are several thousands of organizations and associations, which by law are divided into four distinct types: societal organizations, associations, charity and sponsorship funds, and public institutions. Regulations regarding the establishment of and guidelines for various organizations are confusing.
The Vilnius NGO Information and Support Centre serves as a central clearinghouse for nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), provides links to other organizations around the world, and attempts to establish dialog between the two groups. Also, 1998 amendments to NGO laws, which resulted from cooperation among NGOs, the government, the United Nations Development Programme, the Information Centre for Not-for-Profit Law, and the NGO Information and Support Centre, have brought in outside help for this sector. Current policies endorse tax breaks for NGOs, further clarification of NGO laws, and the redefinition of charity versus sponsorship, along with greater flexibility in administrative matters.
Gender Roles and Statuses
Division of Labor by Gender. Gender discrimination in employment is illegal, and control mechanisms and ombudsman institutions ensure that the law is observed. Nevertheless, while the workforce has seen an increase in female participation, division of labor by gender still exists. Jobs traditionally done by women are often lower-paid positions such as teaching and public service jobs. The majority of doctors are women because of the low salaries for public servants; the health, social service, and education sector also are characterized by high concentrations of female employees. Although women now constitute 50 percent of the labor force and close to 90 percent of working-age women work or study, this female presence is not reflected in pay rates. As the private sector becomes more prominent, the workforce is shrinking, and women are being squeezed out regardless of their educational level.
The Relative Status of Women and Men. Obvious discrepancies exist with regard to pay rates, and increased unemployment and decreased real wages affect women in particular.
Marriage, Family, and Kinship
Marriage. Marriages typically have two components: religious and legal. Couples must register at the municipal wedding hall and often have a religious union in a church, followed by an elaborate party that can last for three days. While on the average people marry younger than do their Western counterparts, this has changed with the increasing popularity among women of higher education. There has been a sharp decrease in the number of marriages since the Soviet period. The ending of a woman's surname changes to reflect her marital status, and people may look skeptically upon older women who have never married.
Domestic Unit. The primary domestic unit is the nuclear family based on a marital relationship. Households are often run by women, who have traditionally been the cooks and cleaners. This has changed because more women are discovering that if they stay home, they miss out on opportunities to make money and can lose their competitive status in the job market.
Families usually have close ties with parents and immediate relatives, and much of everyday life focuses on this relationship. Lithuanians often use the term "acquaintance" and grant the title of "friend" only to someone who is very close and like a member of the family.
Kin Groups. Membership in groups helps some people improve their standard of living. Strong social networks and extended relationships with family and friends are an important part of life. Often family members are assisted by relatives who live abroad and send money, clothing, and other goods.
Infant Care. Infants usually are cared for by their mothers or grandmothers. Children go to nursery school or kindergarten as early as three years old and stay until they start elementary school. Younger children with working parents often stay at nursery school or kindergarten until the early evening.
Child Rearing and Education. Child rearing is traditionally the responsibility of the mother. Although the law allows fathers to take paternal leave and receive paternal pay, it is not common for men to do this. Children are required to complete nine years of formal schooling, but most finish twelve grades. The number of specialized schools has increased as higher education has become more popular. Many children also attend music, art, or athletics schools.
Higher Education. There are fifteen institutions of higher education: six universities, seven academies, and two institutes. Most higher education is free or very inexpensive, as the state subsidizes 75 percent of university education. A university education is becoming increasingly important for getting a good job.
Studying abroad has become very popular, although complications with visas and high foreign tuition present problems for many students. Foreign donor programs make it possible for many students to overcome these financial difficulties.
The largest universities are Vilnius University, Vytautas Didysis University, Kaunas Technological University, Klaipėda University, Klaipėda Christian College, and Šiauliai University. Vilnius University, established in 1579, is the oldest university in Central Europe and the most prestigious in the country. The majority of university students are women, primarily majoring in education. Male students are more likely to study business or computers.
Lithuanians are a reserved people with respect for tradition. They generally will not go out of their way to greet someone they do not know; people on public conveyances do not look directly at someone else unless they are friends and generally give up their seats to their elders.
People often bring a small gift of candy or flowers when they visit someone (always an odd number of flowers unless someone has passed away). Hosts are generous and do anything they can to make a guest comfortable.
Men always shake the hands of male friends when they meet in a café or on the street but never inside a door. This is one of many superstitions, which include not whistling indoors for fear of calling little devils and not sitting at the corner of a table if one wishes to marry soon.
Religious Beliefs. Lithuania is mainly Roman Catholic (90 percent), with some Lutherans and a few members of other churches. The Jewish population, was almost completely erased between 1941 and 1944.
Religious Practitioners. The Catholic Studies Academy has over eight hundred members in Lithuania, and there are several seminaries and monasteries. Klaipėda University has a Lutheran Evangelical Theology Center that hosts about thirty monks. The Lithuanian Lutheran Youth Center and various Bible studies organizations serve religious practitioners and their patrons.
Rituals and Holy Places. One of the most significant holy places is the Hill of Crosses just north of Šiauliai on the road to Rīga, Latvia. The hill has hundreds of thousands of crosses brought by believers from throughout the country and around the world. Although the Soviets bulldozed the hill several times for its open violation of their anti-religious policy, the crosses always reappeared.
Medicine and Health Care
The health care system, many of whose elements are left over from the Soviet regime, is a system of state hospitals, clinics, and smaller doctors' offices, with a growing number of private practitioners. People who go to public health clinics often face long lines and complain about the high prices of prescription drugs, but visits to the doctor are free.
Economic conditions have a significant influence on health; some families cannot afford to buy healthy foods or pay for prescription medicines. Doctors often are not paid on time because of lack of funds or cutbacks. While there are many doctors, they often face the problem of scarce resources. As a result, it is customary for patients to take a "gift" to the doctor to thank him for his services and ensure that he makes an effort to get the patient what he or she needs.
Many people prefer to use traditional home remedies that have been passed down for generations. Hot tea with honey or lemon, vodka, chamomile, and mustard plasters on the back are considered a sure cure for the common cold or the flu and cost far less than products available in pharmacies. Doctors make house calls, especially for older people and those living on the countryside.
The Day of Remembrance of the Television Tower incident is celebrated on 13 January. Shrove Tuesday (Užgavėnės ), the second Tuesday in February, is a Catholic feast day forty days before Easter, that has become popular with the nonreligious and is the Lithuanian equivalent of trick or treating. Children wear masks and go door to door singing a song that asks for pancakes and coffee. More elaborate celebrations involve the burning of an effigy of winter to welcome the spring. Independence Day is celebrated on 16 February. Saint Kazimier's Day on 4 March, originally was a religious holiday but now provides a reason to hold annual fairs at which vendors sell handicrafts. Every five years a national folk music festival takes place in honor of Saint Kazimier's Day. Reestablishment of Independence Day is celebrated on 11 March. Midsummer's Eve (Saint John's Day) on 24 June, celebrates the arrival of summer. The tradition includes running into the forest at night to search for fern blossoms. Legend holds that Midsummer's Eve is a night for young people to find a mate, and finding a fern blossom is a sign of great luck. Women and girls make wreaths of flowers to be worn on their heads or floated down the river with candles. Celebrants dance around a campfire and jump over it to bid farewell to the cold season. Crowning of Mindaugas Day occurs on 6 July. The Day of Remembrance of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact is celebrated on 23 August.
Death and the Afterlife. Funeral practices in Lithuania take place in three phases. First, the deceased is formally dressed and laid out for a three-day, three-night viewing either at home or in a public venue. Family and friends keep watch and ensure that candles stay lit as people come to bring flowers—always in even numbers—and pay their respects. This is followed by a burial ceremony at a cemetery (cremation is not common), and a sitdown luncheon for all funeral attendants. The luncheon is a time for friends and family to share their memories of the deceased. It is common to visit the graves of loved ones at birthdays and on 1 November (All Souls' Day), when most cemeteries overflow with flowers and burning candles.
The Arts and Humanities
Support for the Arts. Many artists are self-supporting, but limited funding is available from the government. Some apply for foreign grant money, and many spend time in foreign countries studying or practicing their trade. There are strict laws on exporting cultural properties, and anyone who wishes to purchase or move cultural properties more than fifty years old must follow a detailed registration procedure.
Literature. Chronicles of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania , a historical treatise, marks the beginning of the national literature. Works in the Middle Ages were primarily religious, the first in Lithuanian being Katekizmas (the catechism). From the sixteenth to the eighteenth century, literature increased in popularity; Konstantinas Sirvydas printed the first Lithuanian language dictionary, and the Bible was translated into Lithuanian during that period.
Secular literature became more widespread in the eighteenth century. Kristijonas Donelaitis, considered the founder of Lithuanian literature, wrote MetNA Laikai (Seasons). at that time.
Literature in the early twentieth century was linked to the national independence movement. Writings were characterized by symbolism, romanticism, and existentialism. The Soviet occupation undermined the creativity of writers, many of whom fled to the West and wrote in secret. After World War II, there emerged a collection of literature describing experiences during the war. The most famous is DievNA Miskas (Forest of the Gods) by Balys Sruoga,which describes life in a concentration camp.
Poetry has also served as a means of expressing and sharing cultural heritage and has played a role in preserving the national identity.
Graphic Arts. Graphic and decorative art have been part of the cultural heritage for centuries. The Vilnius School of Art was established at the end of the eighteenth century, but handicrafts and religious art date much further back. Large carved wooden crosses and statues are seen throughout the countryside. They sometimes mark the boundaries of towns but often are set up for decoration or to mark the spot of the death of a loved one. Large collections of wooden statues appear in sculpture parks across the country.
Many towns have art galleries, museums, and handicraft shops to exhibit or sell works. Several international artist unions have Lithuanian branches, and artists often arrange personal shows outside the country.
Performance Arts. There are thirteen professional theaters, a National Opera Theater, several youth theaters, puppet theaters, state orchestras, and hundreds of choral groups. The Vilnius Quartet and the Rinkevičius Orchestra are well known throughout the country, and the Nekrošius Theater has won international acclaim. Folk music and dancing are the most popular performance arts, and there are thousands of folklore groups. Often schools and towns have their own groups that dress in traditional costume, travel, and perform or compete with groups from other locations. Attending theatrical and musical events is a reasonably priced and popular cultural activity.
The State of Physical and Social Sciences
The Lithuanian Academy of Science is a major force in the physical and social sciences and was actively involved in the preservation of the national identity when scientific organizations were the only groups permitted to investigate and criticize existing social policies. It was a principal agent in the fight against opening an additional nuclear reactor at the Ignalina Power Plant in eastern Lithuania. The Academy of Science promotes physical and social science around the country. Twenty-four of the country's twenty-nine scientific institutes were founded by the academy, and scientists trained there work in all scientific fields.
Institutes of higher education play an important role in the development of the physical and social sciences and provide training and instruction for scientists. The Academy of Science and other institutions of higher learning receive funding from the state, but have become increasingly reliant on foreign grants and foundations.
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Antanas Smetona (äntä´näs smĕ´tōnä), 1874–1944, Lithuanian dictator. A lawyer, he became a leader of the Lithuanian autonomists under the czarist regime. He was provisional president (1919–20) of Lithuania when it gained independence. After the military coup (Nov., 1926) against the Socialist government, Smetona was elected president with Augustin Voldemaras as premier. Parliamentary government was suspended, and in 1929 Smetona forced Voldemaras to resign and assumed full dictatorial power. He was reelected in 1931 and 1938. After Lithuania was incorporated (1940) into the USSR, Smetona fled to Germany and then (1941) to the United States, where he died.
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The people of Lithuania are called Lithuanians. The native-born population is about 80 percent of the total. Russians are about 9 percent; Poles, 7 percent; Belarusans, 2 percent; and Ukrainians, 1 percent. For more information on these groups, consult the chapters on Russia and Poland in Volume 7; the chapter on Belarus in Volume 1; and the chapter on Ukraine in Volume 9.
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Lith·u·a·ni·an / ˌli[unvoicedth]əˈwānēən/ • adj. of or relating to Lithuania or its people or language. • n. 1. a native or citizen of Lithuania, or a person of Lithuanian descent. 2. the Baltic language of Lithuania.
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