Lithuania Travel Information

Photo Independent between the two World Wars, Lithuania was annexed by the USSR in 1940. On 11 March 1990, Lithuania became the first of the Soviet republics to declare its independence, but this proclamation was not generally recognized until September of 1991 (following the abortive coup in Moscow). The last Russian troops withdrew in 1993. Lithuania subsequently has restructured its economy for eventual integration into Western European institutions.

GEOGRAPHY

The largest and most populous of the Baltic states, Lithuania is a generally maritime country with 60 miles of sandy coastline, of which only 24 miles 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 Nemunas River and some of its tributaries are used for internal shipping (In 2000, 89 inland ships carried 900,000 tons of cargo, which is less than 1% of the total goods traffic). Between 56.27 and 53.53 latitude and 20.56 and 26.50 longitude, Lithuania is glacially flat, except for morainic hills in the western uplands and eastern highlands no higher than 300 meters. The terrain is marked by numerous small lakes and swamps, and a mixed forest zone covers 30% of the country.

PEOPLE

The earliest evidence of inhabitants in present-day Lithuania dates back to 10,000 BC. Between 3,000-2,000 BC, the cord-ware culture people spread over a vast region of eastern Europe, between the Baltic Sea and the Vistula River in the west and the Moscow-Kursk line in the east. Merging with the indigenous population, they gave rise to the Balts, a distinct Indo-European ethnic group whose descendants are the present-day Lithuanian and Latvian nations and the now extinct Prussians. The name "Lietuva", or Lithuania, might be derived from the word "lietava," for a small river, or "lietus," meaning rain (or land of rain).

Lithuanians are neither Slavic nor Germanic, although the union with Poland and Germanic and Russian colonization and settlement left cultural and religious influences. This highly literate society places strong emphasis upon education, which is free and compulsory until age 16. Most Lithuanians and ethnic Poles belong to the Roman Catholic Church; Orthodoxy is the largest non-Catholic denomination.

HISTORY

The first written mention of Lithuania occurs in 1009 AD, although many centuries earlier the Roman historian Tacitus referred to the Lithuanians as excellent farmers. Spurred by the expansion into the Baltic lands of the Germanic monastic military orders (the Order of the Knights of the Sword and the Teutonic Order) Duke Mindaugas united the lands inhabited by the Lithuanians, the Samogitians, Yotvingians, and Couranians into the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (GDL) in the 1230s-40s. In 1251 Mindaugas adopted Catholicism and was crowned King of Lithuania on July 6, 1253; a decade later, civil war erupted upon his assassination until a ruler named Vytenis defeated the Teutonic Knights and restored order.

ECONOMY

The Soviet era brought Lithuania intensive industrialization and economic integration into the U.S.S.R., although the level of technology and state concern for environmental, health, and labor issues lagged far behind Western standards. Urbanization increased from 39% in 1959 to 68% in 1989. From 1949-52 the Soviets abolished private ownership in agriculture, establishing collective and state farms. Production declined and did not reach pre-war levels until the early 1960s. The intensification of agricultural production through intense chemical use and mechanization eventually doubled production but created additional ecological problems. This changed after independence, when farm production dropped due to difficulties in restructuring the agricultural sector.

U.S.-LITHUANIAN RELATIONS

The United States established diplomatic relations with Lithuania on July 28, 1922. The Soviet invasion forced the closure of the Legation to Lithuania on September 5, 1940, but Lithuanian representation in the United States continued uninterrupted. The United States never recognized the forcible incorporation of Lithuania into the U.S.S.R. and views the present Government of Lithuania as a legal continuation of the interwar republic. Lithuania has enjoyed most-favored-nation treatment with the United States since December 1991. Since 1992, the United States has committed more than $100 million to Lithuania's economic and political transformation and to address humanitarian needs. The United States and Lithuania signed an agreement on bilateral trade and intellectual property protection in 1994--a bilateral investment treaty in 1997, and in 1998, the United States signed a "Charter of Partnership" with Lithuania and the other Baltic countries. Under this partnership, bilateral working groups focusing on improving regional security, defense, and economic issues were established.

Important: Travel to Lithuania may require a travel visa. Whether a visa is required for travel depends on citizenship and purpose of journey. Please be sure to review Travisa's Lithuania visa instructions for details. Visa instructions for other countries are available on our do I need a visa page.

Country Statistics

Full country name: Republic of Lithuania
Capital city: Vilnius
Area: 65,300 sq km
Population: 3,525,761
Ethnic groups: Lithuanian 84%, Polish 6.1%, Russian 4.9%, Belarusian 1.1%, other or unspecified 3.9%
Languages: Lithuanian
Religions: Roman Catholic 79%, Russian Orthodox 4.1%, Protestant
Government: parliamentary democracy
Chief of State: President Dalia GRYBAUSKAITE
Head of Government: Prime Minister Algirdas BUTKEVICIUS
GDP: 61.6 billion
GDP per captia: 19,100
Annual growth rate: 5.9%
Inflation: 4.1%
Agriculture: grain, potatoes, sugar beets, flax, vegetables
Major industries: metal-cutting machine tools, electric motors, television sets, refrigerators and freezers, petroleum refining, shipbuilding
Natural resources: peat, arable land, amber
Location: Eastern Europe, bordering the Baltic Sea, between Latvia and Russia
Trade Partners - exports: Russia 15.6%, Latvia 9.7%, Germany 8.9%, Poland 6.7%, Estonia 6.3%, Netherlands 5.8%, Belarus 4.8%
Trade Partners - imports: Russia 32.1%, Germany 9.6%, Poland 9%, Latvia 6.5%, Netherlands 4.8%