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Lithuania

Lithuania
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"Lithuania" (, U.S. usually ; ), officially the "Republic of Lithuania" (; Samogitian: "Lietovas Respoblėka") is a country in Northern Europe, the southernmost of the three . Situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, it shares borders with Latvia to the north, Belarus to the southeast, Poland, and the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad to the southwest.
Across the Baltic Sea to the west lie Sweden and Denmark.
Its population is 3.28 million. Its capital and largest city is Vilnius.

During the 14th century, Lithuania was the largest country in Europe: present-day Belarus, Ukraine, and parts of Poland and Russia were territories of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. With the Lublin Union of 1569, Poland and Lithuania formed a new state, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. The Commonwealth lasted more than two centuries, until neighboring countries systematically dismantled it from 1772 to 1795, with the Russian Empire annexing most of Lithuania"s territory.

In the aftermath of World War I, Lithuania"s Act of Independence was signed on 16 February 1918, declaring the re-establishment of a sovereign state. Starting in 1940, Lithuania was occupied first by the Soviet Union and then by Nazi Germany. As World War II neared its end in 1944 and the Nazis retreated, the Soviet Union reoccupied Lithuania. On 11 March 1990, Lithuania became the first Soviet republic to declare independence.

Prior to the global financial crisis of 2007–2010, Lithuania had one of the fastest growing economies in the European Union. Lithuania is a member of NATO, the Council of Europe, and the European Union. Lithuania became a full member of the Schengen Agreement on 21 December 2007. In 2009, Vilnius was the European Capital of Culture and Lithuania celebrated the millennium of its name.
History


The first people settled in the territory of Lithuania after the last glacial period in the 10th millennium BC. Over a millennium, the Proto-Indo-Europeans, who arrived in the 3rd – 2nd millennium BC, mixed with the local population and formed various Baltic tribes. The first written mention of Lithuania is found in a medieval German manuscript, the Annals of Quedlinburg, on 14 February 1009.

Initially inhabited by fragmented Baltic tribes, in the 1230s the Lithuanian lands were united by Mindaugas, who was crowned as King of Lithuania on 6 July 1253. Tomas Baranauskas. . 2001. After his assassination in 1263, pagan Lithuania was a target of the Christian crusades of the Teutonic Knights and the Livonian Order. Despite the devastating century-long struggle with the Orders, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania expanded rapidly overtaking former Slavic principalities of Kievan Rus".

By the end of the 14th century, Lithuania was the largest country in Europe and included present-day Belarus, Ukraine, and parts of Poland and Russia.Paul Magocsi. "History of the Ukraine". University of Toronto Press, 1996. p.128 The geopolitical situation between the west and the east determined the multi-cultural and multi-confessional character of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The Lithuanian ruling elite practiced religious tolerance and borrowed Slavic state traditions, such as using the Chancery Slavonic language for official documents.

Vytautas the Great. Lithuania reached the height of its power under his reign. (17th century painting)
In 1385, the Grand Duke Jogaila accepted Poland"s offer to become its king. He converted Lithuania to Christianity and established a personal union between Poland and Lithuania. After two civil wars Vytautas the Great became the Grand Duke of Lithuania in 1392. During his reign Lithuania reached the peak of its territorial expansion, centralization of the state was begun, and the Lithuanian nobility became increasingly prominent in state politics. 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, one of the largest battles of medieval Europe.The New Encyclopaedia Britannica: .v. 17, 1998 p.545R. Fawn Ideology and National Identity in Post-communist Foreign Policies. p. 186]

After the deaths of Jogaila and Vytautas, the Lithuanian nobility attempted to break the union between Poland and Lithuania, independently selecting Grand Dukes from the Jagiellon dynasty. However, Lithuania was forced to seek a closer alliance with Poland when, at the end of the 15th century, the growing power of the Grand Duchy of Moscow threatened Lithuania"s Russian principalities and sparked the Muscovite–Lithuanian Wars and the Livonian War.

The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth was created in 1569. As a member of the Commonwealth, Lithuania retained its institutions, including a separate army, currency, and statutory laws.Stone, Daniel. "The Polish-Lithuanian state: 1386–1795". University of Washington Press, 2001. p. 63 However, eventually Polonization affected all aspects of Lithuanian life: politics, language, culture, even national identity. From the mid-16th to the mid-17th centuries culture, arts, and education flourished, fueled by the Renaissance and the Protestant Reformation. From 1573, Kings of Poland and Grand Dukes of Lithuania were elected by the nobility, who were granted ever increasing Golden Liberties. These liberties, especially the "liberum veto", led to anarchy and the eventual dissolution of the state.

During the Northern Wars (1655–1661), the Lithuanian territory and economy were devastated by the Swedish army. Before it could fully recover, Lithuania was again ravaged during the Great Northern War (1700–1721). The war, plague, and famine resulted in the loss of approximately 40% of the country"s inhabitants.". Lithuania in the World. Foreign powers, especially Russia, became dominant players in the domestic politics of the Commonwealth. Numerous factions among the nobility used the Golden Liberties to prevent any reforms. Eventually, the Commonwealth was partitioned in 1772, 1792, and 1795 by the Russian Empire, Prussia, and Habsburg Austria.

The largest area of Lithuanian territory became part of Russia. After unsuccessful uprisings in 1831 and 1863, the Tsarist authorities implemented a number of Russification policies, including a ban on the Lithuanian press and the closing of cultural and educational institutions, and Lithuania became part of a new administrative region called Northwestern Krai. After the Russian – Turkey war in 1877-1878, when intervention of the German diplomacy withdraw from Russia fair winnings for the benefit of Turkey, the relationship between Russia and the German Empire became complicated. The Russian Empire resumed the construction of fortresses at its western borders for defence against a potential invasion from Germany in the West. On the 7 July, 1879 the Russian Emperor Alexander II approved of a proposal from the Russian military leadership to build the largest "first-class" defensive structure in the entire state - Kaunas Fortress. }} Between 1868 and 1914, approximately 635,000 people, almost 20% of the population, left Lithuania. Large numbers of Lithuanians went to the United States first in 1867-1868 after a famine in Lithuania. Nevertheless, a Lithuanian National Revival laid the foundations of the modern Lithuanian nation and independent Lithuania.
20th century ===The original 20 members of the Council of Lithuania after signing the Act of Independence of Lithuania, 16 February 1
During World War I, the Council of Lithuania declared the independence of Lithuania on 16 February 1918, and the re-establishment of the Lithuanian State. Lithuania"s foreign policy was dominated by territorial disputes with Poland and Germany. The Vilnius Region, and Vilnius, the historical capital of Lithuania, (and so designated in the Constitution of Lithuania) were seized by the Polish army during Żeligowski"s Mutiny in October 1920 and annexed two years later by Poland. For 19 years Kaunas became the Temporary capital of Lithuania. The Polish occupation of Vilnius was greatly resented by Lithuania, and there were no diplomatic relations between the two states for most of the period between the two world wars.

Acquired during the Klaipėda Revolt of 1923, the Klaipėda Region was ceded back to Germany after a German ultimatum in March 1939. Domestic affairs were controlled by the authoritarian President, Antanas Smetona and his party, the Lithuanian National Union, who came to power after the coup d"état of 1926.

Map showing changes in the territory of Lithuania from the 13th century to the present day.

The Soviet Union returned Vilnius to Lithuania after the Soviet invasion of Eastern Poland in September 1939.J.Lee Ready (1995), "World War Two. Nation by Nation", London, Cassell, page 191. ISBN 1-85409-290-1 Lithuania was, however, to cease its existence as an independent state less than nine months later. In June 1940, the Soviet Union occupied and annexed Lithuania in accordance with the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact.I. Žiemele. Baltic Yearbook of International Law, 2001. 2002, Vol.1 p.10K. Dawisha, B. Parrott. The Consolidation of Democracy in East-Central Europe. 1997 p. 293. A year later Russia was attacked by Nazi Germany leading to the Nazi occupation of Lithuania. The Nazis and their Lithuanian collaborators murdered around 190,000 Lithuanian Jews. Retrieved 2009-02-11. (91% of the pre-war Jewish community) during the Holocaust.

After the retreat of the German armed forces, the Soviets re-established the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1944. From 1944 to 1952 approximately 100,000 Lithuanian partisans fought a guerrilla war against the Soviet system. An estimated 30,000 partisans and their supporters were killed and many more were arrested and deported to Siberian gulags. It is estimated that Lithuania lost 780,000 people during World War II.

The advent of perestroika and glasnost in the late 1980s allowed the establishment of Sąjūdis, an anti-communist independence movement. After a landslide victory in elections to the Supreme Soviet, members of Sąjūdis proclaimed Lithuania"s renewed independence on 11 March 1990, becoming the first Soviet republic to do so. The Soviet Union attempted to suppress this secession by imposing an economic blockade. Soviet troops attacked the Vilnius TV Tower and killed 13 Lithuanian civilians on the night of 13 January 1991."

On 4 February 1991, Iceland became the first country to recognize Lithuanian independence. After the Soviet August Coup, independent Lithuania received wide official recognition and joined the United Nations on 17 September 1991. The last Soviet troops left Lithuania on 31 August 1993 – even earlier than they departed from East Germany, which had not seen repression in recent times on the same level as the 1991 Vilnius massacre. Lithuania, seeking closer ties with the West, applied for NATO membership in 1994. After a difficult transition from a planned economy to a free market one, Lithuania became a full member of NATO and the European Union in spring 2004.
Geography
Topographic map of Lithuania.

Lithuania is situated in Northern Europe. It has around of sandy coastline, of which only about face the open Baltic Sea and which is the shortest among the Baltic Sea countries; the rest of the coast is sheltered by the Curonian sand peninsula. Lithuania"s major warm-water port, Klaipėda, lies at the narrow mouth of the Curonian Lagoon (Lithuanian: "Kuršių marios"), a shallow lagoon extending south to Kaliningrad. The main river, the Neman River, and some of its tributaries carry international shipping.

The Lithuanian landscape has been smoothed by glaciers. The highest areas are the moraines in the western uplands and eastern highlands, with the maximum elevation being Aukštojas Hill at . The terrain features numerous lakes, Lake Vištytis for example, and wetlands; a mixed forest zone covers nearly 33% of the country. The climate lies between maritime and continental, with wet, moderate winters and summers. According to one geographical computation method, Lithuania"s capital, Vilnius, lies only a few kilometres south of the geographical centre of Europe.

Phytogeographically, Lithuania is shared between the Central European and Eastern European provinces of the Circumboreal Region within the Boreal Kingdom. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, the territory of Lithuania can be subdivided into two ecoregions: the Central European mixed forests and Sarmatic mixed forests.

Sand dunes of Neringa.
Climate

Lithuania"s climate, which ranges between maritime and continental, is relatively mild. Average temperatures on the coast are -2.5 °C in January and 16 °C in July. In Vilnius the average temperatures are -6 °C in January and 16 °C in July. Simply speaking, 20 °C is frequent on summer days and 14 °C at night although temperatures can reach 30 or 35 °C. Some winters can be very cold. -20 °C occurs almost every winter. Winter extremes are -34 °C in coastal areas and -43 °C in the east of Lithuania.

Pūčkoriai outcrop near Vilnius.

The average annual precipitation is 800 millimeters on the coast, 900 mm in the Samogitia highlands and 600 millimeters in the eastern part of the country. Snow occurs every year, it can snow from October to April. In some years sleet can fall in September or May. The growing season lasts 202 days in the western part of the country and 169 days in the eastern part. Severe storms are rare in the eastern part of Lithuania but common in the coastal areas.

The longest measured temperature records from the Baltic area cover about 250 years. The data show that there were warm periods during the latter half of the 18th century, and that the 19th century was a relatively cool period. An early 20th century warming culminated in the 1930s, followed by a smaller cooling that lasted until the 1960s. A warming trend has persisted since then.

Lithuania experienced a drought in 2002, causing forest and peat bog fires. The country suffered along with the rest of Northwestern Europe during a heat wave in the summer of 2006.

Reported extreme temperatures in Lithuania by month are following:


Politics
Dalia Grybauskaitė has been the President of Lithuania since 12 July 2009.

Since Lithuania declared independence on 11 March 1990, it has maintained strong democratic traditions. In the first general elections after the independence on 25 October 1992, 56.75% of the total number of voters supported the new constitution. , Microsoft Word Document, Seimas. Retrieved 4 June 2006. There were intense debates concerning the constitution, especially the role of the president. A separate referendum was held on 23 May 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.Lina Kulikauskienė, Lietuvos Respublikos Konstitucija (Constitution of Lithuania), Native History, CD, 2002. ISBN 9986-9216-7-8

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, 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.
Administrative divisions

The current administrative division was established in 1994 and modified in 2000 to meet the requirements of the European Union. Lithuania has a three-tier administrative division: the country is divided into 10 counties (Lithuanian: singular – "apskritis", plural – "apskritys") that are further subdivided into 60 municipalities (Lithuanian: singular – "savivaldybė", plural – "savivaldybės") which consist of over 500 elderships (Lithuanian: singular – "seniūnija", plural – "seniūnijos").

The counties are ruled by county governors (Lithuanian: "apskrities viršininkas") appointed by the central government. They ensure that the municipalities adhere to the laws of Lithuania and the constitution. County government oversees local governments and their implementation of the national laws, programs and policies. , Seimas law database, 15 December 1994, Law no. I-707. Retrieved 3 June 2006. As the counties have limited functions, there are numerous proposals to reduce their number and organize the new counties around the ethnographic regions of Lithuania Dr. Žilvytis Bernardas Šaknys , The Council for the Protection of Ethnic Culture, Seimas, 12 December 2002. Retrieved 4 June 2006. or five major cities with population over 100,000. Dr. Antanas Tyla, , The Council for the Protection of Ethnic Culture, Seimas, 16 May 2001. Retrieved 4 June 2006.

Municipalities are the most important administrative unit. Some municipalities are historically called "district municipalities", and thus are often shortened to "district"; others are called "city municipalities", sometimes shortened to "city". Each municipality has its own elected government. In the past, the election of municipality councils occurred once every three years, but it now takes place every four years. The council elects the mayor and appoints elders to govern the elderships. There is currently a proposal for direct election of mayors and elders, however that would require an amendment to the constitution. Justinas Vanagas, , Delfi.lt, 5 September 2005. Retrieved 3 June 2006.

Elderships, numbering over 500, are the smallest units and they do not play a role in national politics. They provide necessary public services close to their homes; for example, in rural areas the elderships register births and deaths. They are most active in the social sector: they identify needy individuals or families and distribute welfare or organise other forms of relief. , Seimas law database, 12 October 2000, Law no. VIII-2018. Retrieved 3 June 2006. While the elderships have a potential of becoming a source of local initiative to tackle rural problems, complaints are made that elderships have no real power and receive too little attention. Indrė Makaraitytė, , Atgimimas, Delfi.lt, 16 December 2004. Retrieved 4 June 2006.
Foreign relations

Lithuania became a member of the United Nations on September 18, 1991, and is a signatory to a number of its organizations and other international agreements. It is also a member of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, NATO and its adjunct North Atlantic Coordinating Council, the Council of Europe, and the European Union. Lithuania gained membership in the World Trade Organization on May 31, 2001. It also seeks membership in the OECD and other Western organizations.

Lithuania maintains foreign diplomatic missions in 94 countries on six continents and consular posts in two countries that are not represented by an embassy. Lithuania"s liberal "zero-option" citizenship law has substantially erased tensions with its neighbors. Lithuania"s suspension of two strongly ethnic Polish district councils on charges of blocking reform or disloyalty during the August 1991 coup had cooled relations with Poland, but bilateral cooperation markedly d with the holding of elections in those districts and the signing of a bilateral Friendship Treaty in 1994. Although a similar bilateral friendship agreement was signed with Belarus in 1995, Lithuania has joined the United States and other European nations in urging the Government of Belarus to adopt democratic and economic reforms.

Lithuania has established diplomatic relations with 149 countries.
Military
Soldier of the Lithuanian National Defence Volunteer Forces.

The Lithuanian Armed Forces consist of ~15,000 active personnel (~2,400 of them - civilian) "Ministry of National Defence" and are supported by 100,000 reserve forces. Conscription was ended in September 2008.

Lithuania"s defence system is based on the concept of "total and unconditional defence" mandated by Lithuania"s national Security Strategy. The goal of Lithuania"s defence policy is to prepare their society for general defence and to integrate Lithuania into Western security and defence structures. The defence ministry is responsible for combat forces, search and rescue, and intelligence operations.

The 5,400 border guards fall under the Interior Ministry"s supervision and are responsible for border protection, passport and customs duties, and share responsibility with the navy for smuggling / drug trafficking interdiction. A special security department handles VIP protection and communications security.
Economy
Vilnius Financial Centre

In 2003, before joining the European Union, Lithuania had the highest economic growth rate amongst all candidate and member countries, reaching 8.8% in the third quarter. In 2004 – 7.4%; 2005 – 7.8%; 2006 – 7.8%; 2007 – 8.9%, 2008 Q1 — 7.0% growth in GDP reflects the impressive economic development.Department of Statistics to the Government of the Republic of Lithuania. ", p. 20" Most of the trade Lithuania conducts is within the European Union.

By UN classification, Lithuania is a country with high average income. The country boasts a well developed modern infrastructure of railways, airports and four-lane highways. As of October 2008, the unemployment rate is 4.7%. Less than 2% of the population live beneath the poverty line.. According to officially published figures, hip fueled a booming economy, d outsourcing into the country, and boosted the tourism sector. The litas, the national currency, has been pegged to the euro since 2 February 2002 at the rate of EUR 1.00 = LTL 3.4528," and Lithuania is expecting to switch to the euro on 1 January 2014.

Lithuania is part the EU single market.

Structurally, there is gradual but consistent shift towards a knowledge-based economy with special emphasis on biotechnology (industrial and diagnostic) – major biotechnology producers in the Baltic countries are concentrated in Lithuania – as well as laser equipment. Also mechatronics and information technology (IT) are seen as prospective knowledge-based economy directions in Lithuania.

Lithuania has a flat tax rate rather than a progressive scheme. Lithuanian income levels are lower than in the older EU Member States. According to Eurostat data, Lithuanian PPS GDP per capita stood at 61 per cent of the EU average in 2008. Lower wages have been a factor that in 2004 fueled emigration to wealthier EU countries, something that has been made legally possible as a result of accession to the European Union. In 2007, personal income tax was reduced to 24% and a reduction to 21% was made in January 2009.

Corporate tax rate in Lithuania is 15% and 5% for small businesses. The government offers special incentives for investments into the high-technology sectors and high value-added products. Lithuania has the highest rating of in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s quality of life index.
Infrastructure ===Port of Klaip
Major highways in Lithuania

* Klaipėda port is the only port in Lithuania.
* Vilnius International Airport is the largest airport. It served 2 million passengers in 2008. Other airports include: Kaunas International Airport and Palanga International Airport.
* Lithuania has an extensive network of motorways. The best known motorways are A1, connecting Vilnius with Klaipeda via Kaunas, as well as A2, connecting Vilnius and Panevėžys. One of the most used is the European route E67 highway running from Warsaw to Tallinn, via Kaunas and Riga.
* Lithuania received its first railway connection in the middle of the XIX century, when the Warsaw – Saint Petersburg Railway was constructed. It included a stretch from Daugavpils via Vilnius and Kaunas to Virbalis. The first and only still operating in the Kaunas Railway Tunnel was completed in 1860. Lithuanian Railways" main network consists of 1749 km of 1,520 mm (4 ft 11 5⁄6 in) broad gauge railway of which 122 km are electrified. They also operate 22 km of standard gauge lines. The Trans-European standard gauge Rail Baltica railway, linking Helsinki – Tallinn – Riga – Kaunas – Warsaw and continuing on to Berlin is under construction now and by the end of 2013 will reach Kaunas.
* Ignalina Nu Power Plant was a Soviet-era nu station.
** Unit #1 was closed in December 2004, as a condition of Lithuania"s entry into the European Union; the plant is similar to the Chernobyl Nu Power Plant in its lack of a robust containment structure. The remaining unit, as of 2006, supplied about 70% of Lithuania"s electrical demand.
** Unit #2 was closed down on December 31, 2009. Proposals have been made to construct another nu power plant in Lithuania.
* Kruonis Pumped Storage Plant is the only in the power plant to be used for regulation of the power system’s operation with generating capacity of 900 MW. Other primary sources of Lithuania"s electrical power are Elektrėnai Power Plant and Kaunas Hydroelectric Power Plant.
* According to Speedtest.net website, as of 01 December 2010 Lithuania ranks second in the world by the internet upload speed and download speed, schools and corporations ignored.
Demographics

Since the Neolithic period the native inhabitants of the Lithuanian territory have not been replaced by any other ethnic group, so there is a high probability that the inhabitants of present day Lithuania have preserved the genetic composition of their forebears relatively undisturbed by the major demographic movements,Česnys G. Anthropological roots of the Lithuanians.
Science, Arts and Lithuania 1991; 1: p. 4-10. although without being actually isolated from them.Daiva Ambrasienė, Vaidutis Kučinskas The Lithuanian population appears to be relatively homogeneous, without apparent genetic differences among ethnic subgroups.

A 2004 analysis of MtDNA in a Lithuanian population revealed that Lithuanians are close to (Indo-European) and Finno-Ugric-speaking populations of Northern Europe. Y chromosome SNP haplogroup analysis showed Lithuanians to be closest to Latvians, Estonians, and Finns.

According to 2009 estimates, the age structure of the population was as follows: 0–14 years, 14.2% (male 258,423/female 245,115); 15–64 years: 69.6% (male 1,214,743/female 1,261,413); 65 years and over: 16.2% (male 198,714/female 376,771). The median age was 39.3 years (male: 36.8, female: 41.9).
Ethnic groups
The population of Lithuania stands at 3,349,900, 84.0% of whom are ethnic Lithuanians who speak Lithuanian which is the official language of the country. Several sizable minorities exist, such as Poles (6.1%), Russians (4.9%), and Belorusians (1.1%).Department of Statistics to the Government of the Republic of Lithuania.

Ethnic composition of the Lithuanian population (2009 estimate by the Statistical Department)

* Lithuanians – 84 % (2,815,700)
* Poles – 6.1 % (205,500)
* Russians – 4.9 % (165,100)
* Belorusians – 1.1 % (36,100)
* Ukrainians – 0.6 % (20,000)
* Germans - 0.1 % (3,100)
* Jews – 0.1 % (3,000.)
* Tatars - 0.1 % (2,500)
* Latvians – 0.1 % (2,200)
* Roma - 0.1 % (2,300)
* Other ethnic group - 0.2 % (7,600)

Poles are the largest minority, concentrated in southeast Lithuania (the Vilnius region). Russians are the second largest minority, concentrated mostly in two cities. They constitute sizeable minorities in Vilnius (14%) and Klaipėda (28%), and a majority in the town of Visaginas (52%). About 3,000 Roma live in Lithuania, mostly in Vilnius, Kaunas, and Panevėžys; their organizations are supported by the National Minority and Emigration Department..

According to the Lithuanian population census of 2001, about 84% of the country"s population speak Lithuanian as their native language, 8.2% are the native speakers of Russian, 5.8% – of Polish. More than 60% are fluent in Russian, while only about 16% say they can speak English. According to the Eurobarometer survey conducted in 2005, 80% of Lithuanians can speak Russian and 32% can speak English. Most Lithuanian schools teach English as a first foreign language, but students may also study German, or, in some schools, French or Russian. Schools where Russian and Polish are the primary languages of education exist in the areas populated by these minorities.
Urbanization

Health ===Kaunas University of Medicine Hospital – the largest medical institution in Lithu

As of 2009 Lithuanian life expectancy at birth was 66 years for males and 78 for females – the largest gender difference and the lowest male life expectancy in the European Union. As of 2008 the infant mortality rate was 5.9 per 1,000 births.. The annual population growth rate d by 0.3% in 2007. At 30.4 people per 100,000, Lithuania has seen a dramatic rise in suicides in the post-soviet years, and now records the third highest suicide rate in the world, down from the first in 1995, when it had the highest suicide rate of 45.6 per 100,000 of population in recorded world history. Lithuania also has the highest homicide rate in the EU.
Religion
Hill of Crosses near Šiauliai.

In 2005, 79% of Lithuanians belonged to the Roman Catholic Church.Department of Statistics to the Government of the Republic of Lithuania. ". Updated in 2005. The Church has been the majority denomination since the Christianisation of Lithuania in the end of fourteenth century and beginning of fifteenth century. Some priests actively led the resistance against the Communist regime (symbolised by the Hill of Crosses).

Wooden church in Palūšė. Lithuania has strong Roman Catholic traditions.
St. Anne"s Church, Vilnius

In the first half of 20th century, the Lutheran Protestant church had around 200,000 members, 9% of total population, although Lutheranism has declined since 1945. Small Protestant communities are dispersed throughout the northern and western parts of the country. Believers and clergy suffered greatly during the Soviet occupation, with many killed, tortured or deported to Siberia. Various Protestant churches have established missions in Lithuania since 1990. 4.9% are Eastern Orthodox (mainly among the Russian minority), 1.9% are Protestant and 9.5% have no religion.

The first noticeable presence of Islam in Lithuania began in the 14th century. From this time it was primarily associated with the Lipka Tatars (also known as Lithuanian Tatars), many of whom settled in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania while continuing their traditions and religious beliefs.

* Roman Catholic - 79,0 % (2 752,5 thousand)
* Orthodox - 4,1 % (141,8 thousand.)
* Old Believers - 0,8 % (27,1 thousand.)
* Evangelical Lutherans - 0,6 % (19,6 thousand.)
* Reformed Church - 0,2 % (7,1 thousand.)
* Jehovah"s Witnesses - 0,1 % (3,5 thousand.)
* Muslim sunni - 0,1 % (2,9 thousand.)
* Charismatics - 0,06 % (2,2 thousand.)
* Pentecostalism - 0,04 % (1,3 thousand.)
* Judaism - 0,04 % (1,3 thousand.)
* Old Baltic religion - 0,04 % (1,3 thousand.)
* Other religions - 0,3 % (11 thousand.)

According to the most recent Eurobarometer Poll 2005, 12% said that "they do not believe there is any sort of spirit, god, or life force" , 36% answered that "they believe there is some sort of spirit or life force" and 49% of Lithuanian citizens responded that "they believe there is a God".
Education
The great yard of Vilnius University, one of the oldest universities in Northern Europe. About 70% of Lithuanian high school graduates continue their studies in universities and colleges.

The first documented school in Lithuania was established in 1387 at Vilnius Cathedral. The school network was influenced by the Christianization of Lithuania. Several types of schools were present in medieval Lithuania - cathedral schools, where pupils were prepared for priesthood; parish schools, offering elementary education; and home schools dedicated to educating the children of the Lithuanian nobility. Before Vilnius University was established in 1579, Lithuanians seeking higher education attended universities in foreign cities, including Cracow, Prague, and Leipzig, among others. During the Interbellum a national university - Vytautas Magnus University was founded in Kaunas.

The Lithuanian Ministry of Science and Education proposes national educational policies and goals. These are sent to the Seimas for ratification. Laws govern long-term educational strategy along with general laws on standards for higher education, vocational training, law and science, adult education, and special education. County administrators, municipal administrators, and school founders (including non-governmental organizations, religious organizations, and individuals) are responsible for implementing these policies. By constitutional mandate, ten years of formal enrollment in an educational institution is mandatory, ending at age 16.

26 percent of the 1999 state budget was allocated to education expenses. Primary and secondary schools receive funding from the state via their municipal or county administrations. The Constitution of Lithuania guarantees tuition-free attendance at public institutions of higher education for students deemed "good"; the number of such students has varied over the past decade, with 68 percent exempted from tuition fees in 2002.

Raudonė Basic School, located in Raudonė Castle.
The World Bank designates the literacy rate of Lithuanian persons aged 15 years and older as 100%. As of 2008, 30.4% of the population aged 25 to 64 had completed tertiary education; 60.1% had completed upper secondary and post-secondary (non-tertiary) education. According to "Invest in Lithuania", Lithuania has twice as many people with higher education than the EU-15 average and the proportion is the highest in the Baltic. Also, 90% of Lithuanians speak at least one foreign language and half of the population speaks two foreign languages, mostly Russian and English.

As of 2008, there were 15 public universities in Lithuania, 6 private institutions, 16 public colleges, and 11 private colleges. Vilnius University is one of the oldest universities in Northern Europe and the largest university in Lithuania. Kaunas University of Technology is the largest technical university in the Baltic States and the second largest university in Lithuania. Other universities include Kaunas University of Medicine, Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre, Vilnius Pedagogical University, Vytautas Magnus University, Mykolas Romeris University, Lithuanian Academy of Physical Education, Vilnius Gediminas Technical University, The General Jonas Zemaitis Military Academy of Lithuania, Klaipėda University, Lithuanian Veterinary Academy, Lithuanian University of Agriculture, Siauliai University and Vilnius Academy of Arts.
Culture

Culturally Lithuania (and some of neighboring territory) is divided into the following regions:
*Aukštaitija – literally, the "Highlands"
*Samogitia (Lithuanian: "Žemaitija", Samogitian: "Žemaitėjė") – literally, the "Lowlands"
*Dzūkija (Lithuanian: "Dzūkija" or "Dainava")
*Suvalkija (Lithuanian: "Suvalkija" or "Sūduva")
*Lithuania Minor also known as "Prussian Lithuania" – (Lithuanian: "Mažoji Lietuva" or "Prūsų Lietuva"). The region was part of Prussia from the Middle Ages until 1945. Most of it today is part of Russia (Kaliningrad Oblast).
Art and museums ===Lithuanian National Museum has the largest collection of written materials and artifacts in Lithu

The Lithuanian Art Museum was founded in 1933 and is the largest museum of art conservation and display in Lithuania.. Lithuanian Art Museum. Retrieved on 10 October 2008. Among other important museums is the Palanga Amber Museum, where amber pieces comprise a major part of the collection.

Perhaps the most renowned figure in Lithuania"s art community was the composer Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis (1875–1911), an internationally renowned musician. The 2420 Čiurlionis asteroid, identified in 1975, honors his achievements. The M. K. Čiurlionis National Art Museum, as well as the only in Lithuania military Vytautas the Great War Museum are located in Kaunas.

A future museum, Vilnius Guggenheim Hermitage Museum, will present exhibitions of new media art, parts of the New York City anthology film archive, and Fluxus art. The museum is scheduled to open in 2011.
Literature
First printed Lithuanian book by Martynas Mažvydas

A wealth of Lithuanian literature was written in Latin, the main scholarly language in the Middle Ages. One of the first instances of such, was the edicts of Lithuanian King Mindaugas. Letters of Gediminas is another important monument of Lithuanian Latin writings.

Lithuanian literary works in the Lithuanian language were first published in the 16th century. In 1547 Martynas Mažvydas compiled and published the first printed Lithuanian book "The Simple Words of Catechism", which marks the beginning of printed Lithuanian literature. He was followed by Mikalojus Daukša in Lithuania Propria with his Katechizmas. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Lithuanian literature was primarily religious. Development of the old Lithuanian literature (14th–18th centuries) ends with Kristijonas Donelaitis, one of the most prominent authors of the Age of Enlightenment. Donelaitis poem "The Seasons" is a national epos and is a cornerstone of Lithuanian fiction literature.Institute of Lithuanian Scientific Society.. Retrieved on 2009-02-16

Lithuanian literature of the first half of the 19th century with its mix of Classicism, Sentimentalism, and Romanticism features is represented by Antanas Strazdas, Dionizas Poška, Silvestras Valiūnas, Maironis, Simonas Stanevičius, Simonas Daukantas, and Antanas Baranauskas. During Tsarist annexation of Lithuania, Lithuanian press ban was implemented, which lead to a formation of the Knygnešiai (Book smugglers) movement.

20th century Lithuanian literature is represented by Juozas Tumas-Vaižgantas, Antanas Vienuolis, Bernardas Brazdžionis, Vytautas Mačernis and others.
Music
Lithuanian musical tradition traces its history to pagan times, connected with neolithic corded ware culture. Lithuanian folk music is archaic, evolved for ritual purposes.
* Lithuanian mythology
* Symbols of Lithuania
Sports
A monument celebrating the achievements of the Lithuanian basketball, located in Vilnius close to the Siemens Arena.

Basketball is one of the most popular sports in the country. The country has both professional and developmental leagues, and its national basketball team has had success in international play, ranked fifth in FIBA standings. It has produced several NBA players past and present. Arvydas Sabonis, Šarūnas Marčiulionis, Linas Kleiza, Šarūnas Jasikevičius, and Žydrūnas Ilgauskas have played on the national team, as well as in the NBA and in European basketball.

More popular individuals are professional ice hockey players Darius Kasparaitis, a defenseman, and Dainius Zubrus, an attacking right wing, have both had stellar NHL careers.

The most famous Lithuanian sportsman is Žydrūnas Savickas. He is one of the world"s foremost strongmen having won a number of major strongman competitions, also currently nominated as the Strongest Man in the World.

Other notable Lithuanian athletes are Ignatas Konovalovas in professional cycling, and Marius Zaromskis of mixed martial arts.

Virgilijus Alekna, one of world top discus throwers, by world recognition is probably surpassed only by Arvydas Sabonis and Zydrunas Savickas. Virgilijus Alekna holds Olympics record and won two Olympic gold medals.

Ričardas Berankis is a Lithuanian professional tennis player.He is ranked No. 85 by the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP)and is the top ranked Lithuanian tennis player.
See also

* List of Lithuanians



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References
External links
; Government
* – Official site of the President of the Republic of Lithuania
* – Official site of the Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania
* – Official site of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania
*
* – Official site of Department of Statistics to the Government of of Lithuania
* - Lithuanian Development Agency
; General information
*
* from "UCB Libraries GovPubs"
*
*
* – Lithuanian internet gates
*
; Travel
*
*
* – The Official Lithuanian Travel Guide

*
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