Lithuania is a country that enjoys nature and a peaceful life. During their history they struggled to become a place where people could live freely and enjoy a better economy after their hardships with Russia.
Today it is a place to visit if you enjoy forests and small lakes that are scattered across the countryside.
Key Cities: Kaunas, Klaipėda, Šiauliai
Official Language: Lithuanian
Major religions: Roman Catholic
Bordering countries: Latvia, Belarus, Poland, Kalingrad
Size: 65 300 km2
Lowest Point: Baltic Sea 0m
Highest Point: Mt Aukstojas 294m
Lithuania is mostly a flat country with morainic hills in the west. These hills are ridges made by deposits left after the Ice Age. In the East there are higher regions but no higher thatn 300m.
Mixed forests cover 33% of the land. There are many small lakes and swamps. Limestone, clay and sand are the main natural resources. Throughout the country there are three main vegetation areas, coastal pine forests, and bushy plants growing on sand dunes.
Lithuania has all kinds of wild life. Foxes, wolves, deer, beavers, mink and hundreds of birds.
Along the 262 kms of coastline there is a warm water port at Klaipėda. The Newman River and some smaller rivers are used for internal shipping.
The first known people living in Lithuania were part of the Ice Age. They were hunter gathers but were taken over by the Baltic tribes. Later they traded amber with the Romans and fought with the Vikings.
A tribe known as the Lithuanians united the other tribes and they became Christians with a King called Mindaugas who received his crown from the pope in 1253. After the king’s death the country returned to paganism.
During the fifteenth century the Lithuanians joined Poland in an alliance and were ruled by Duke Vytautas. They become the largest state in Europe stretching from the Baltic sea to the Black Sea. They wanted protection from Russia.
Unfortunately, by the seventeenth century the country was getting hard to control. After several wars that made the country weak, it was divided between Prussia, Austria and Russia and the main land of Lithuania became part of Russian rule.
Russia would not allow the Lithuanians to speak their language and they tried to stop Catholics practising their religion. There were some unsuccessful riots, but it was only after World War I that Lithuania was freed from Russia.
Their independence did not last long and during the Second World War Lithuania was occupied by Russia and Nazi Germany. The occupation by the Soviets was a brutal time for the country.
It lasted for forty-five years. People were murdered, tortured or sent to Siberia. This left economical scars on the country and psychological scars on the people.
A political group called the Sąjūdis was determined to gain independence and Lithuania became the first Soviet controlled country to get their freedom back.
Lithuania needed to improve their economy, so they adopted a capitalist economy policy and the country was modernised.
Unfortunately, Soviet rule left the country far behind other countries in the west and many people left Lithuania to find their fortune elsewhere.
The population of the country dropped from 3.5 million people to 3 million over a period of ten years. Today Lithuania is growing rapidly, and their economy is called one of the fastest growing in the world.
Lithuanian economy is making a speedy recovery and improving the business section with better working conditions for people. The country wants to encourage young people to stay in Lithuania and to keep skills in the country.
Lithuania needs foreign markets and outside investors to improve the finances of the country. They have some fine industries making metal cutting machine tools, electric motors, televisions, and fridges.
Ship building, Furniture manufacturing, food processing, Agricultural machinery and electronics as well as computers are part of their industries.
The currency of Lithuania is the Euro, but they have the Lithuanian Litas too.
The people of Lithuania are fond of nature. They take pride in their country and in the fact that they survived oppression. The national symbol of the country is a white knight on a horse with a sword.
This symbol recognises the country’s struggles.
The food of Lithiuania is very simple and not exotic. This shows how poor they have been in the past. Cold beet soup with buttermilk and pork with sour cream are traditional dishes.
The Christmas Market and the Kaziukus Fair attract people from all over the world. The Lithuanians enjoy dressing up in their national costume on festival occasions.
Charles Bronson, the actor who studied drama in the Pasadena Playhouse California has starred in movies like the Dirty Dozen and the Great Escape.
Ruta Sepelys an American Lithuanian author wrote several novels. Three of them are New York Times best sellers. Her stories include tales of Lithuanian children and the country’s difficult history.
Jascha Heifetz is considered to be the finest violinist of modern times.
Arvydas Sabonis is known as one of the greatest basketball players of all time. He played in America for the NBA Portland Trail Blazers and is a member of the FIBA Hall of Fame.
Easter eggs in Lithuania are not brought by an Easter bunny. Traditional Granny Velyku Bobute brings the eggs with the bunnies help. She uses a sun beam whip to drive the pony cart and get the pony moving to deliver the eggs.
An oak tree in Lithuania that survived the Crusades is said to be the oldest oak tree in Europe.
The Hill of Crosses is a pilgrimage site in Lithuania that has been visited for hundreds of years. Each pilgrim takes a cross and leaves it on the hill. There are over 200 00 crosses there that have been placed by the visitors.
More European Geography.