Lithuania (Republic of), independent country bordering on the Baltic Sea, surrounded by Poland (south), Russia (exclave Kaliningrad), Byelorussia (east), and Latvia (north).
Land and climate
The country exists of a low-lying plain, with numerous rivers and lakes. The east has a continental climate, the west has a more moderate climate.
Roman Catholicism is the traditional religion. Lithuanian, a member of the Baltic branch of the Indo-European family, is the main language. About 80% of the population is Lithuanian; Russians and Poles are the largest minorities.
Although timber and agricultural products remain important, Lithuania is now mostly urban. As such, shipbuilding, and the manufacture of machinery and building materials have taken over as the most important industries. The chief cities and industrial centers are Vilnius (the capital), Kaunas, and Klaipeda, the main port.
Fourteenth-century Lithuania, which included Byelorussia and parts of the Ukraine and Russia, was central Europe's most powerful state. In 1386 Lithuania and Poland were united under Grand Duke Jagiello. In 1795 the partition of Poland brought Lithuania under Russian rule. In 1918 independence was declared, and Lithuania, like the other Baltic republics, became a separate state, although Poland occupied Vilnius from 1920 to 1939. In 1940 the Soviet Union invaded Lithuania and the other Baltic republics, and after World War II all 3 were incorporated in the Soviet Union. Nationalist sentiment grew in the late 1980s, and in 1990 the Lithuanian republican government declared independence from the USSR, a declaration not recognized by the Moscow government until 1991. After the independence, Lithuania sought affiliation with western countries and organisations.
See also: Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.