Lithuania: Truth, Knowledge, History Of This Eastern European Nation


(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Lithuania

Introduction Lithuanian lands were united under MINDAUGAS in 1236; over the next century, through alliances and conquest, Lithuania extended its territory to include most of present-day Belarus and Ukraine. By the end of the 14th century Lithuania was the largest state in Europe. An alliance with Poland in 1386 led the two countries into a union through the person of a common ruler. In 1569, Lithuania and Poland formally united into a single dual state, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. This entity survived until 1795, when its remnants were partitioned by surrounding countries. Lithuania regained its independence following World War I, but was annexed by the USSR in 1940 – an action never recognized by the US and many other countries. On 11 March 1990, Lithuania became the first of the Soviet republics to declare its independence, but Moscow did not recognize this proclamation until September of 1991 (following the abortive coup in Moscow). The last Russian troops withdrew in 1993. Lithuania subsequently restructured its economy for integration into western European institutions; it joined both NATO and the EU in the spring of 2004.
History The first mention of Lithuania is found in a medieval German manuscript, the Quedlinburg Chronicle, on 14 February 1009. The Lithuanian lands were united by Mindaugas in 1236, and neighbouring countries referred to it as “the state of Lithuania”. The official coronation of Mindaugas as King of Lithuania was on July 6, 1253, and the official recognition of Lithuanian statehood as the Kingdom of Lithuania.

During the early period of the Gediminids (1316–1430), the state occupied the territories of present-day Belarus, Ukraine, and parts of Poland and Russia.[5] By the end of the fourteenth century, Lithuania was the largest country in Europe, and was also the only remaining pagan state.[6] The Grand Duchy of Lithuania stretched across a substantial part of Europe, from the Baltic to the Black Sea. Lithuanian nobility, city dwellers and peasants accepted Christianity in 1386, following Poland’s offer of its crown to Jogaila, the Grand Duke of Lithuania. Grand Duke Jogaila was crowned King of Poland on February 2, 1386. Lithuania and Poland were joined into a personal union, as both countries were ruled by the same Gediminids branch, the Jagiellon dynasty.

In 1401, the formal union was dissolved as a result of disputes over legal terminology, and Vytautas, the cousin of Jogaila, became the Grand Duke of Lithuania. Thanks to close cooperation, the armies of Poland and Lithuania achieved a great victory over the Teutonic Knights in 1410 at the Battle of Grunwald, the largest battle in medieval Europe.

A royal crown had been bestowed upon Vytautas in 1429 by Sigismund, the Holy Roman Emperor, but Polish magnates prevented his coronation by seizing the crown as it was being brought to him. A new crown was ordered from Germany and another date set for the coronation, but a month later Vytautas died as the result of an accident.

As a result of the growing centralised power of the Grand Principality of Moscow, in 1569, Lithuania and Poland formally united into a single state called the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. As a member of the Commonwealth, Lithuania retained its institutions, including a separate army, currency and statutory law which was digested in three Statutes of Lithuania.[7] In 1795, the joint state was dissolved by the third Partition of the Commonwealth, which forfeited its lands to Russia, Prussia and Austria, under duress. Over ninety percent of Lithuania was incorporated into the Russian Empire and the remainder into Prussia.

Many Jews fled Lithuania following persecution and followed opportunities that lay overseas.

After a century of occupation, Lithuania re-established its independence on February 16, 1918. The official government from July through November 1918, was quickly replaced by a republican government. From the outset, the newly-independent Lithuania’s foreign policy was dominated by territorial disputes with Poland (over the Vilnius region and the Suvalkai region) and with Germany (over the Klaipėda region or Memelland). Most obviously, the Lithuanian constitution designated Vilnius as the nation’s capital, even though the city itself lay within Polish territory as a result of a Polish invasion. At the time, Poles and Jews made up a majority of the population of Vilnius, with a small Lithuanian minority of only 1%. In 1920 the capital was relocated to Kaunas, which was officially designated the provisional capital of Lithuania. (see History of Vilnius for more details).

In June 1940, around the beginning of World War II, the Soviet Union occupied and annexed Lithuania in accordance with the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.[9][10] A year later it came under German occupation. After the retreat of the German armed forces (Wehrmacht), Lithuania was re-occupied by the Soviet Union in 1944.

From 1944–1952 approximately 100,000 Lithuanians participated in partisan fights against the Soviet system and the Red Army. More than twenty thousand partisans (“forest brothers”) were killed in those battles and many more were arrested and deported to Siberian GULAGs. Lithuanian historians view this period as a war of independence against the Soviet Union.

During the Soviet and Nazi occupations between 1940 and 1944, Lithuania lost over 780,000 residents. Among them were around 190,000 (91% of pre-WWII community) of Lithuanian Jews, one of the highest total mortality rates of the Holocaust. An estimated 120,000 to 300,000[11] were killed by Soviets or exiled to Siberia, while others had been sent to German forced labour camps and/or chose to emigrate to western countries.

Forty-six years of Soviet occupation ended with the advent of perestroika and glasnost in the late 1980s. Lithuania, led by Sąjūdis, an anti-communist and anti-Soviet independence movement, proclaimed its renewed independence on March 11, 1990. Lithuania was the first Soviet republic to do so, though Soviet forces unsuccessfully tried to suppress this secession. The Red Army attacked the Vilnius TV Tower on the night of January 13, 1991, an act that resulted in the death of 13 Lithuanian civilians. The last Red Army troops left Lithuania on August 31, 1993 — even earlier than they departed from East Germany.

On February 4, 1991, Iceland became the first country to recognize Lithuanian independence. Sweden was the first to open an embassy in the country. The United States of America never recognized the Soviet claim to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Russia currently refuses to recognize the occupation of Lithuania, claiming that Lithuanians decided to join the Soviet Union voluntarily, although the Russia signed a treaty with Lithuania prior to the disintegration of the USSR which acknowledged Lithuania’s forced loss of sovereignty at the hands of the Soviets, thereby recognizing the occupation.

Lithuania joined the United Nations on September 17, 1991 and on May 31, 2001 it became the 141st member of the World Trade Organization. Since 1988, Lithuania has sought closer ties with the West, and so on January 4, 1994, it became the first of the Baltic states to apply for NATO membership. On March 29, 2004, it became a NATO member, and on May 1, 2004, Lithuania joined the European Union.

Geography Location: Eastern Europe, bordering the Baltic Sea, between Latvia and Russia
Geographic coordinates: 56 00 N, 24 00 E
Map references: Europe
Area: total: 65,200 sq km
land: NA sq km
water: NA sq km
Area – comparative: slightly larger than West Virginia
Land boundaries: total: 1,613 km
border countries: Belarus 653.5 km, Latvia 588 km, Poland 103.7 km, Russia (Kaliningrad) 267.8 km
Coastline: 99 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
Climate: transitional, between maritime and continental; wet, moderate winters and summers
Terrain: lowland, many scattered small lakes, fertile soil
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Baltic Sea 0 m
highest point: Juozapines Kalnas 293.6 m
Natural resources: peat, arable land, amber
Land use: arable land: 44.81%
permanent crops: 0.9%
other: 54.29% (2005)
Irrigated land: 70 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 24.5 cu km (2005)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 3.33 cu km/yr (78%/15%/7%)
per capita: 971 cu m/yr (2003)
Natural hazards: NA
Environment – current issues: contamination of soil and groundwater with petroleum products and chemicals at military bases
Environment – international agreements: party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: fertile central plains are separated by hilly uplands that are ancient glacial deposits
Politics Since Lithuania declared independence on March 11, 1990, it has maintained strong democratic traditions. In the first general elections after the independence on October 25, 1992, 56.75% of the total number of voters supported the new constitution. There were heavy debates concerning the constitution, especially the role of the president. Drawing from the interwar experiences, many different proposals were made ranging from a strong parliamentary government to a presidential system similar to the one in the United States. A separate referendum was held on May 23, 1992 to gauge public opinion on the matter and 41% of all the eligible voters supported the restoration of the President of Lithuania. Eventually a semi-presidential system was agreed upon.

The Lithuanian head of state is the President, elected directly for a five-year term, serving a maximum of two consecutive terms. The post of president is largely ceremonial; main policy functions however include foreign affairs and national security policy. The president is also the military commander-in-chief. The President, with the approval of the parliamentary body, the Seimas, also appoints the prime minister and on the latter’s nomination, appoints the rest of the cabinet, as well as a number of other top civil servants and the judges for all courts. The judges of the Constitutional Court (Konstitucinis Teismas), who serve nine-year terms, are appointed by the President (three judges), the Chairman of the Seimas (three judges) and the Chairman of the Supreme Court (three judges). The unicameral Lithuanian parliament, the Seimas, has 141 members who are elected to four-year terms. 71 of the members of this legislative body are elected in single constituencies, and the other 70 are elected in a nationwide vote by proportional representation. A party must receive at least 5% of the national vote to be represented in the Seimas.

People Population: 3,565,205 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 14.5% (male 264,668/female 250,997)
15-64 years: 69.5% (male 1,214,236/female 1,263,198)
65 years and over: 16% (male 197,498/female 374,608) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 39 years
male: 36.4 years
female: 41.6 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: -0.284% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 9 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 11.12 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: -0.72 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.96 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.53 male(s)/female
total population: 0.89 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 6.57 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 7.86 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 5.21 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 74.67 years
male: 69.72 years
female: 79.89 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.22 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: 0.1% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 1,300 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: less than 200 (2003 est.)
Major infectious diseases: degree of risk: intermediate
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea and hepatitis A
vectorborne diseases: tickborne encephalitis (2008)
Nationality: noun: Lithuanian(s)
adjective: Lithuanian
Ethnic groups: Lithuanian 83.4%, Polish 6.7%, Russian 6.3%, other or unspecified 3.6% (2001 census)
Religions: Roman Catholic 79%, Russian Orthodox 4.1%, Protestant (including Lutheran and Evangelical Christian Baptist) 1.9%, other or unspecified 5.5%, none 9.5% (2001 census)
Languages: Lithuanian (official) 82%, Russian 8%, Polish 5.6%, other and unspecified 4.4% (2001 census)
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99.6%
male: 99.6%
female: 99.6%

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