The Republic of Lithuania is a republic in Northeastern Europe. One of the three Baltic States along the Baltic Sea, it shares borders with fellow Baltic State Latvia to the north, Belarus to the southeast, Poland to the south and Russia to the southwest, via the Kaliningrad Oblast.
|National motto: None|
|Prime minister||Algirdas Myk. Brazauskas[?]|
- % water
|Ranked 120th |
- Total (2000)
|From the Soviet Union
February 16, 1918
July 12, 1920
|Time zone||UTC +1|
|National anthem||Tautiska Giesme[?]|
First mentioned in 1009, Lithuania grew to be a significant nation in the Middle Ages. Christanised in the 13th century after the arrival of and conflict with the German Teutonic Knights, Lithuania became an independent Grand Duchy that eventually stretched across much of Eastern Europe. It subsequently entered a union and later commonwealth with Poland in the 14th century, that remained until it was partitioned in the 18th century and Lithuania became part of Russia.
A smaller Lithuania established its independence as a kingdom in February 1918, in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, and then as a republic in November, after Germany's defeat in World War I. The republic was plagued by territorial disputes with Poland (over Vilnius) and Germany (over Klaipeda) and became a dictatorship in 1926. It was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940 during World War II.
Communist rule ended after the advent of glasnost and Lithuania proclaimed its renewed independence on March 11, 1990, the first Soviet republic to do so, though Soviet forces unsuccessfully tried to suppress this until September 1991. Lithuania has since sought closer ties with the West and is expected to become a member of NATO and the European Union in 2004.
The Lithuanian head of state is the president, elected directly for a five-year term, who also functions as commander in chief overseeing foreign and security policy. The president, on the approval of the parliament, also appoints the prime minister and on the latter's nomination the rest of the cabinet, as well as a number of other top civil servants and the judges for all courts, including the Constitutional Court (Konstitucinis Teismas).
The unicameral Lithuanian parliament, the Seimas, has 141 members that are elected for a four-year term. About half of the members of this legislative body are elected in single constituencies (71), and the other half (70) are elected in the nationwide vote by proportional representation. A party must receive at least 5% of the national vote to be represented in the Seimas.
Lithuania consists of 10 counties (apskritys, singular - apskritis), each named after their principal city:
The largest and most populous of the Baltic states, Lithuania is a generally maritime country with about 100 km of sandy coastline, of which only 38 km face the open Baltic Sea. Lithuania's major warm-water port of Klaipeda lies at the narrow mouth of Kursiu Gulf[?], a shallow lagoon extending south to Kaliningrad. The main river Nemunas[?] and some of its tributaries are used for internal shipping.
The Lithuanian landscape is glacially flat, except for morainic hills in the western uplands and eastern highlands no higher than 300 meters, with the highest point being the Juozapines[?] at 292 m. The terrain is marked by numerous small lakes and swamps, and a mixed forest zone covers 30% of the country. The climate lies between martitime and continental, with wet, moderate winters and summers. According to some geographers, Lithuania's capital, Vilnius, lies at the geographical centre of Europe.
Lithuania, the Baltic state that has conducted the most trade with Russia, has been slowly rebounding from the 1998 Russian financial crisis. High unemployment, at 12.5% in 2001, and weak consumption have held back recovery. Trade has been increasingly oriented toward the West. Lithuania has gained membership in the World Trade Organisation and has moved ahead with plans to join the European Union in 2004. Privatisation of the large, state-owned utilities, particularly in the energy sector, is underway. The litas[?], the national currency, has been pegged to the euro since February 2, 2002.
Over 80% of the Lithuanian population is ethnically Lithuanian and speaks the Lithuanian language, one of the two remaining living members of the Baltic language group, which is also the only official state language. Several sizable minorities exist, such as Russians (8%), Poles (7%) and Belarusians (1.5%), and each respective language is also spoken in Lithuania.