Saturday, February 21, 2015

Republic of Lithuania

The Republic of Lithuania is one of the three Baltic countries.  It sits on the Baltic Sea and borders Latvia, Poland, Belarus and Russia (the Russian exclave Kaliningrad).  Lietuva is a little bigger than West Virginia and has a population just over 3.5 million people.  Vilnius is both the capital and its largest city. 

The Kingdom of Lithuania was first established in 1253 under King Mindaugas.  The Grand Duchy of Lithuania, during the 14th century, was the biggest country in Europe.  It consisted of present day Lithuania plus Belarus, Ukraine, and parts of both Poland and Russia.

Lithuania over time

In 1569 the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was established and it lasted for over two centuries.  In the 1700s the Russian Empire annexed most of Lithuania.  At the end of WWI, Lithuania declared independence from the Russian Empire in 1918.  In 1940 the country was annexed and it became the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic.  During WWII it was occupied by the Germans and in 1944 the Soviets reoccupied the country.

In 1990 Lithuania became the first of the 15 Soviet Republics to declare independence.  A full year before the Soviet Union actually broke up.

Today Lithuania is a parliamentary democracy.  It joined the European Union and NATO in 2004.  It is part of the Schengen area and on 1 January 2015 it converted to the Euro.

© Euronews

Lithuanian alphabet
Lithuanian is the official language.  Although, as a Baltic language, it is related to Latvian the languages are not mutually understandable.
Like the other Baltic countries, Lithuania does not allow for dual citizenship.  My friends Vilma (from Lithuania) and Marco (from Italy) just had their first child here in Brno.  Little Johan will only get an Italian passport since Vilma can't register her son as Lithuanian if he also gets Italian papers.
In 2008 the country did away with mandatory military service.  However, due to Russia's annexation of Crimea and concerns over what's going on in Eastern Ukraine the country is reintroducing conscription.

© Euronews

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