|VILNIUS THE CAPITAL|
All along its long history Lithuania was mostly occupied by foreign powers. The country experiences its third time of freedom when it became independent once more in 1991. Lithuanians have a strong will of survival and it will be good for the country in future.
Lithuania is the largest of the Baltic States. It also lies most southerly. In the north it borders on Latvia, Russia and Poland in the south and Belarus on the east side. It also has a 99km long Baltic coast line. The country shares the line of latitude with Moscow, Newcastle and Belfast. However, the weather is more severe than in the British cities. The country is covered by snow for up to four months. The temperatures drop down to -30oC in the winter and in summer temperature can rise to 29oC. Due to its latitude the days in the summer are long and nights are short which reverse complete in the winter. In the winter there are only six hours of daylight.
Lithuania has a damp climate with most of the rains falling in spring and autumn. This created a network of rivers right across the country and most flowing into the main river, the Nemunas. The Nemunas flows into the Baltic Sea. The rivers flow across uplands and plains and flowing down towards the west from the eastern Zemaitija Uplands. The country also has 3000 lakes mostly in the east and many are shallow and swampy. The conditions are ideal for wildlife and the record shows 200 species of birds. Lithuania has 25 per cent of its country covered with mixed woodlands.
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|TRKAI ISLAND CASTLE|
These woodlands again encouraging mammals such as wolf, fox, pine martin, raccoons, a number of species of deer, wild boars, hedgehogs, shrews and 14 species of bat. Ringed and grey seals are living along the coast. Conservation has a high priority after the Soviet gave independence.
|SAND DUNES AT CURONIA SPIT -- UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE|
40 per cent of the country is used as arable farming. During the 1940 and ‘50s the land was seized and collectivised during the Soviet occupation. Since the independence the farms are being reorganized and returned to the families. Most of them are dairy and pigs farms. They also grow rye, oats, and wheat, potatoes, flax and sugar beet. Food processing is the most important industry. Western Europe and America started to finance industries such a textiles, knitwear, plywood, paper and electrical goods productions.
In Kretinga drilling for oil has started. Lithuania has now its own electricity supply produced from coal and peat-fired plants. Some electricity is still imported from Belarus.
Tourism is also encouraged and cafes, food stores, taxis services and art galleries have started up. It is becoming an important industry.
The people are mostly Lithuanian but the second largest group is Russians who have arrived in the Second World War and were part of the occupation. Another population living in the south are Poles and smaller groups are Ukrainians, Latvians and Tartars.
|ST ANNE'S CHURCH -- OF THE ST BERNADINE MONASTERY IN VILNIUSAdd caption|
The main religion is Roman Catholics and has survived despite of Soviet persecution. 33 per cent of Lithuanian priest were sent to Siberian concentration camps.
Lithuanian’s language was also suppressed and the Russian language was forced onto the people plus the Cyrillic writing. The Russian immigrants were forbidden to learn Lithuanian. However, it survived and today the people speak their own language again. Lithuanian is an Indo-European language.
The area of Lithuania was first mentioned in a German Chronicle in 1009. The country traded with Kievan Rus and other states nearby. The country was established as such in the 13th century.
Their one and only king, Mindaugas, was crowned in 1253. Even today the 6 July is still celebrated each year. He brought Catholicism to the country. He was assassinated and the pagan Lithuanians were blamed. After that a line of Grand Dukes ruled the country and in 1569 it was united with Poland. Soon this alliance was broken and the country came under the harsh rules of the Tsar of Russia during the 18th century. The Russian language and Cyrillic’s script were forced onto the people.
During the First World War the country was occupied by the Germans but received its independence after they left. When the Second World War broke out Russia forced the country to establish Soviet military bases on their ground. In 1940 the independence was once more lost and it became a republic under the USSR rules. Germany conquered Lithuania once more in 1941 and most of the country’s Jews died in concentration camps.
In 1944 Lithuania became again under the Soviet rules until Mikhail Gorbachev’s liberalisation reforms in mid 1980s. Lithuania was aiming once more for independence and when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 their dreams and wishes came true.