Ermak Travel Guide

 

The World at your fingertips 

 

 

Lithuania

Lithuania Destinations Travel Guide

 

 

 

Flag of Lithuania

Language: Lithuanian

Currency: Lithuanian litas

Calling Code: 370

 

 

 

 

Lithuania (lit. Lietuva), the official name is the Republic of Lithuania (lit. Lietuvos Respublika) - a state located in the northern part of Europe. The capital of the country is Vilnius.

Area - 65,300 km². The length from north to south is 280 km, and from west to east - 370 km. The population is 2,793,000 people (September, 2019). It has access to the Baltic Sea, located on its east coast. The coastline is only 99 km (the lowest indicator among the Baltic states). In the north it borders with Latvia, in the southeast - with Belarus, in the south-west - with Poland and the Kaliningrad region of Russia.

Member of the UN since 1991, EU and NATO since 2004, OECD since May 2018. Included in the Schengen zone and the Eurozone.

The country's independence was proclaimed on March 11, 1990, and legally registered on September 6, 1991.

 

 

Travel Destinations in Lithiania

 

Aukštaitija National Park

 

Aukštaitija National Park situated in Ignalina region of Lithuania 100 km North of Vilnus. This natural reserve covers an area of 406 sq km.

Biržai Castle

 

Elegant Birzai Castle was constructed between 1586 and 1589 by Duke Kristupas Radvila.

Dzūkija National Park

 

Dzukija National Park is a large protected area in Lithuania that is famous for its natural beauty as well as historic sites.

Hill of Crosses

 

Hill of Crosses is an impressive collection of numerous crosses. It is a place of spiritual and Litguanian national pride.

Kaunas

 

Kaunas is second largest city in Lithuania that stands on the cofluence of Neris and Nemunas.

Kernave

 

Picturesque hills of Kernave are actually remains of military fortifications of the medieval stronghold that stood on the right bank of the Neris River.

Klaipeda

 

Klaipeda is a large Lithuanian city that was found by the Livonian Order in 1252 to guard its newly acquired possessions.

Kuršių Nerija National Park

 

Kursiu Nerija National Park is Lithuanian nature reserve that protects unique biosphere Curonian Spit, a long narrow peninsula along the Baltic Sea.

Panemune Castle

 

Panemune Castle was erected in the 16th century and replaced medieval stronghod that Teutonic Knights built here to conquer Lithuanian lands inhabited by pagan tribes.

Pazaislis Monastery

 

Roman Catholic Pazaislis Monastery is a beautiful Baroque abbey that is surrounded by Kaunas Sea.

Trakai Island Castle

 

Medieval Trakai Castle is a former royal residence situated on an island in the middle of the lake.

Vilnius

 

Old Town of Vilnius is the largest city in Lithuania and also the capital of the country.

Žemaitija National Park

 

Žemaitija National Park is nature preserve that also harbors abandoned Soviet army base.

     

 

 

 

 

Visitor Information

www.tourism.lt

 

Embassies in Lithuania

United States

Akmenu 6, Vilnius

www.usembassy.lt

 

United Kingdom

Antakalnio 2, Vilnius

www.britain.lt

 

Australia

Vilnius 23

Tel. (5) 212 3369

 

Canada

Jogailos 4, Vilnius

www.canada.lt

 

Emergency Numbers

Ambulance 03, 112

Fire fighters 01, 112

Police 02, 112

 

 

History

Ancient history
The territory of modern Lithuania was inhabited by people from the end of the X — IX millennium BC. e. Residents engaged in hunting and fishing, used bows and flint-tipped arrows, scrapers for leather, fishing rods and nets. At the end of the Neolithic (III – II millennium BC), Indo-European tribes entered the territory of modern Lithuania. They were engaged in agriculture and cattle breeding, while hunting and fishing remained the main occupations of local residents until the widespread use of iron tools. The Indo-Europeans, who settled the lands between the mouths of the Vistula and the Western Dvina, stood out in a separate group called the learned Baltic.

It is traditionally believed that the ethnic basis of Lithuania is formed by the bearers of the archaeological culture of the East Lithuanian mounds that developed in the 5th century AD e. in the territory of modern Eastern Lithuania and North-Western Belarus. Around the 7th century, the Lithuanian language separated from Latvian.

The origin of the state
The emergence of statehood on the territory of modern Lithuania dates back to the 13th century, while the very name “Lithuania” was first mentioned in the Quedlinburg annals under 1009 in a report on the murder by pagans of the missionary Bruno on the border of Russia and Lithuania. According to the most common version, the toponym arose from the name of the small river Letauka, a tributary of Nyaris. According to a more modern hypothesis, the name of the country could come from the ethnonym "years" or "leiti", which the inhabitants of the surrounding lands called the warriors of the Lithuanian princes.

At the beginning of the XIII century, the invasion of the German crusader knights began in the lands of the Gentile Baltic pagans. They conquered Prussia and Livonia. At the same time, the expansion of the Galician-Volyn principality began in the south. By the middle of the XIII century, many Lithuanian lands were united under the rule of Prince Mindovg, who received Catholic baptism in 1251 and was crowned in 1253. A few years later Mindovg renounced Christianity and until the beginning of the XIV century the Lithuanian lands remained pagan. Despite the fact that already in 1263 Mindovg was overthrown, his rule marked the beginning of the existence of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania for more than five hundred years.

Grand Duchy of Lithuania
In the XIV - early XV centuries, the territory of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania grew rapidly, mainly due to the annexation of the lands of Western Russia. The inclusion of Slavic lands in the state, many times larger than the actual Lithuanian lands in terms of area and population, led to the adoption by the Lithuanian princes, who took possession of the Russian lands, Orthodox culture and the West Russian language. Over time, the West Russian language became the official language of the office of the Grand Dukes. Actually, the Lithuanian language until the 16th century remained unwritten, although it continued to be used on ethnically Lithuanian lands.

In 1385, the Grand Duke of Lithuania Jagiello concluded the Union of Krev with the Kingdom of Poland. Under the terms of the union, Jagiello undertook to annex the Grand Duchy of Lithuania to the Kingdom of Poland and baptize Lithuanian lands according to the Catholic rite, and he himself became king of Poland and retained the title of Grand Duke of Lithuania. However, he was soon forced to cede power in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania to his cousin Vitovt. The latter, although he recognized himself as a vassal of Jagiello, pursued an independent foreign policy and thus a complete unification of states did not take place. During the reign of Vytautas (1392-1430), the Grand Duchy of Lithuania reached its highest peak, and its territory amounted to approximately 930 thousand km².

In the same period, the Lithuanian princes from the Gediminovich dynasty fought a hard battle with the Teutonic Order, which was defeated in 1410 at the Battle of Grunwald by the combined forces of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of Poland. In 1422, Jemaitia finally entered the Grand Duchy, which for a long time served as the main subject of disputes with the crusaders.

The Grand Duke Casimir, who was also the king of Poland, expanded the influence of the Jagiellonian dynasty - subjugated Prussia, put his son on the Czech and Hungarian thrones. In 1492-1526 there was a political system of the Jagiellonian states, covering Poland (with vassals of Prussia and the Principality of Moldova), the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the Czech Republic and Hungary.

The legal basis of the state was the statute published in three editions (1529, 1566, 1588), reflecting socio-economic and political changes. The statute regulated issues of civil, criminal and procedural law. On the territory of the Grand Duchy, the third edition of the statute was valid until 1840.

In the Commonwealth

In 1569, a new union with Poland was concluded in Lublin, as a result of which the Commonwealth was formed. According to the Act of the Union of Lublin, Lithuania and Poland were ruled by a jointly elected king, and state affairs were decided in the general Sejm. However, legal systems, the army, and officials remained separate.

In the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, a political system, known as gentry democracy, developed in Lithuania according to the Polish model. It was characterized by the presence of broad rights of the gentry (nobility) in government. At the same time, there was a polonization of the gentry, expressed in the adoption by the ruling estate of the Grand Duchy of the Lithuanian Polish language, culture and identity. Polonization did not have such a significant effect on the unprivileged classes.

As part of the Russian Empire
In the 18th century, as a result of devastating wars and a comprehensive state crisis, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth fell into decay and came under the influence of the Russian Empire. In 1772, 1793 and 1795, sections of the Commonwealth took place between Russia, Prussia and Austria. Almost the entire territory of the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania was annexed to the Russian Empire.

In attempts to restore statehood, the Polish-Lithuanian nobility took Napoleon's side in 1812, and also repeatedly raised revolts (1830–1831, 1863–1864), which, however, ended in defeat. In an effort to eliminate Polish influence in Lithuania, the Russian authorities launched a broad campaign of depolonization and Russification. In 1864 the Lithuanian Latin alphabet was banned. The Lithuanian population, especially the Catholic clergy, resisted Russification: Cyrillic editions were ignored, and books printed in Latin letters were smuggled from neighboring Prussia. In 1904, the ban on Lithuanian Latin letters was canceled.

During the first world war
The outbreak of World War I quickly spread throughout Lithuania; by the end of 1915, all ethnically Lithuanian lands were controlled by Germany. Lithuanians have lost all political rights. In the beginning, Lithuanian periodicals were even banned. However, the Lithuanian intelligentsia tried to take advantage of the geopolitical situation and began to look for opportunities to restore the independence of Lithuania. On September 18-22, 1917, the Lithuanian Conference was held in Vilnius, during which the Lithuanian Tariba (“Council of Lithuania”) was elected. During the conference, a decision was made on the need to create an independent Lithuanian state within ethnographic borders and with the capital in Vilnius. A. Smeton was elected Chairman of the Council.

On December 11, 1917, the restoration of the State of Lithuania was proclaimed. On March 23, 1918, Emperor William II recognized the independence of Lithuania. On the basis of the act recognizing Lithuanian statehood, Tariba was transformed into the State Council of Lithuania.

On July 13, 1918, the Council of State decided to establish a constitutional monarchy in Lithuania and propose a crown to Prince Württemberg Wilhelm von Urach. However, on November 2, 1918, this decision was withdrawn. The main provisions of the Interim Constitution of Lithuania were adopted. On November 11, 1918, the Presidium of the State Council approved the first interim government of Lithuania out of six ministers under the leadership of Augustinas Voldemaras, thereby initiating the creation of the Lithuanian state apparatus.

Republic of Lithuania
After the departure of the main German units and the start of battles with the Bolshevik Red Army, the Lithuanian Soviet Republic was formed on December 16, 1918. February 27, 1919 in Vilnius, a joint meeting of the CECs of Lithuania and Belarus was held, where the formation of the Lithuanian-Belarusian SSR (Litbel) was proclaimed.

In February - March 1919, the troops of the Lithuanian Tariba, supported by German garrisons, began military operations against Litbel, in April 1919 the Polish army joined them. As a result, the territory of Litbel was occupied by Polish units. In order to fight Poland, Soviet Russia required neutrality of Lithuania, for which July 12, 1920, a Soviet-Lithuanian treaty was concluded in Moscow. Litbel ceased to exist, Soviet Russia recognized the independence of Lithuania and the transfer of the disputed Vilna Territory to it.

After the defeat of the Red Army near Warsaw and the Soviet retreat, the Polish units under the command of General L. Zheligovsky staged a rebellion and allegedly arbitrarily occupied the territory of the Vilnius Region. On October 12, 1920, it was announced that Middle Lithuania was created on the territory of the territory of the region, but already in 1922 it became part of the Polish Republic as a voivodship. The Lithuanian authorities continued to consider Vilnius the capital of Lithuania, although in fact the leadership was from Kaunas.

 

In 1919, the post of president was introduced in Lithuania, A. Smeton was elected the first president of the state. On May 5, 1920, the first meeting of the democratically elected Constituent Assembly was held. In 1921, the country was admitted to the League of Nations. In 1922, a permanent constitution was adopted. Reforms in the field of land resources, finance and education are presented, the Lithuanian currency (lit) is introduced, the University of Lithuania is opened.

Klaipeda region (Memelland), populated mainly by Prussian Lithuanians and Germans, was decided by the League of Nations under the temporary control of the French administration. In 1923, as a result of an uprising of local Lithuanians and with the secret participation of the Lithuanian police, Klaipeda Territory was annexed to Lithuania on the basis of autonomy. The French administration did not take any steps to combat the uprising; on February 16, 1923, the Entente countries recognized the accession of Klaipeda Krai to Lithuania.

In December 1926, a military coup took place in Lithuania, which returned the nationalist leader A. Smetonu to power. The so-called authoritarian phase of government has begun. In 1928, a constitution was adopted that expanded presidential powers. Opposition parties were banned, censorship tightened, and the rights of national minorities cut back.

On March 17, 1938, Poland presented an ultimatum to Lithuania demanding that the Vilnius Region be recognized as an integral part of the Polish state. A year later, on March 20, 1939, Lithuania received an ultimatum from Germany demanding that Klaipeda Territory be returned to it. Lithuania was forced to accept both ultimatums.

World War II and accession to the USSR
According to the secret protocol to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact concluded in August 1939, Lithuania was included in the sphere of interests of Germany. On September 1, Germany launched an invasion of Poland, and on September 17, the USSR liberated the lands conquered by Poland during the Soviet-Polish war, which resulted in the return of the western lands of Belarus and Ukraine, including Vilnius.

On September 25, the USSR initiated negotiations on Germany’s refusal of claims for Lithuania in exchange for the territory of the Warsaw and Lublin Voivodeships of Poland. On October 10, 1939, an “Agreement on the transfer of Lithuania to the city of Vilnius and the Vilnius region and on mutual assistance between the USSR and Lithuania with a confidential protocol thereto” was signed for a period of 15 years, which provided for the introduction of a 20,000-strong contingent of Soviet troops into Lithuania. On July 14-15, 1940, after the adoption of the Soviet ultimatum and the introduction of an additional Soviet military contingent, elections were held in Lithuania for the People’s Diet, in which only the pro-Soviet “Bloc of the working people” was allowed to participate. On July 21, the People’s Sejm proclaimed the formation of the Lithuanian SSR; on August 3, 1940, it was accepted into the USSR. In 1940, already being part of the USSR, Lithuania received part of the territory of Soviet Belarus.

June 22, 1941, after the German attack on the USSR, anti-Soviet actions in Lithuania followed. In Kaunas, the Provisional Government of Lithuania was proclaimed, maintaining close contacts with the Germans. However, after the start of the actual German occupation, this Provisional Government was dissolved, and the territory of Lithuania was included in the Reichskommissariat Ostland (general district of Lithuania), under which it was granted some autonomy. The occupation administration was led by General P. Kubiliunas.

In 1944, the Nazis were expelled by the Red Army from the territory of the Lithuanian SSR (see Belorussian operation (1944)).

Post-war period
In 1944-1953, clashes occurred between law enforcement agencies and armed nationalist groups. The "Forests" or "Greens," as they were called in Lithuania, carried out terror against representatives of the Soviet government, military personnel, as well as civilians, including children. The main backbone of the "Forests" was made up of people who stained themselves by collaborating with the German occupation regime, participated in armed formations created by the Nazis, participated in punitive actions in Lithuania, Belarus and Russia, destroying the Jewish population. They were also joined by former large landowners who lost property.

Later, the Soviet authorities encountered non-violent resistance from the local nationalist intelligentsia and the Catholic clergy.

During the years of perestroika, the Lithuanian independence movement intensified significantly and was increasingly supported by local authorities. In 1989, the Baltic Way campaign was organized. Residents of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, expressing their desire to secede from the USSR, built a live chain with a length of almost 600 km.

Restoration of independence

On March 11, 1990, the Supreme Council announced the restoration of independence of Lithuania. Lithuania became the first Soviet republic to announce its withdrawal from the USSR.

On April 20, 1990, the USSR imposed an economic blockade, cutting off oil supplies. The blockade lasted 74 days, but the Lithuanian authorities continued the course towards independence. Gradually, economic relations were restored. Tension reappeared in January 1991, when Soviet separate parts of the army, police and the KGB tried to seize power by force. The peaceful resistance of the Lithuanian population led to the defeat of the putsch, 14 were killed and 900 wounded civilians. Soon after, in February 1991, Iceland became the first country to recognize the independence of Lithuania.

On September 6, 1991, the USSR State Council recognized the independence of Lithuania. On September 17 of the same year, Lithuania was admitted to the United Nations.

On October 25, 1992, citizens of the Republic of Lithuania voted in a referendum to adopt the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania. On February 14, 1993, Algirdas Brazauskas was elected president of the country by universal suffrage. On August 31 of the same year, the last units of the Soviet army left Lithuania.

On March 29, 2004, Lithuania joined the NATO bloc, and on May 1, 2004 became a full member of the European Union. On January 1, 2015, Lithuania entered the eurozone.