Lithuania, Republic of, a country in eastern Europe. It is bordered by Latvia, Belarus, Poland, Russia, and the Baltic Sea.
Glaciers formed most of Lithuania's physical features during the last ice age. The surface is generally flat and low. Glacial hills rise gradually to more than 900 feet (270 m) above sea level in the east. Peat bogs and small glacial lakes dot parts of the land. Sand dunes are numerous along the coast.
The Neman (or Nemunas) is the country's principal river. It flows from Belarus and empties into Kurskiy Bay. The lower part of the river is navigable.
Because of the sea's tempering influence, Lithuania's climate is moderately continental. Winters are cold and summers are cool—average temperatures being near 19° F. (-7° C.) in January and 63° F. (17° C.) in July. Precipitation varies from 20 to 24 inches (510 to 610 mm) a year.
|Facts in brief about Lithuania|
|Official language: Lithuanian.|
|Official name: Lietuvos Respublika (Republic of Lithuania).|
|Area: 25,212 mi2 (65,300 km2). Greatest distances—north-south, 175 mi. (280 km); east-west, 235 mi (375 km).|
|Elevation: Highest—Juozapines (hill), 958 ft (292 m). Lowest—sea level along the coast.|
|Population: Current estimate—3,374,000; density, 134 per mi2 (52 per km2); distribution, 67 percent urban, 33 percent rural. 2001 census—3,483,972.|
|Chief products: Agriculture—beef cattle, dairy products, hogs. Manufacturing—chemicals, electrical equipment, electronic products, fabricated metal products, machinery, processed foods, textiles, wood products.|
|Flag and cost of arms: Lithuania's flag has three horizontal stripes. The yellow stripe stands for fields of ripening grain. The green stripe represents Lithuania's evergreen forests. The red stripe represents the blood shed for freedom. Lithuania's coat of arms features a knight on a white horse on a red background.|
|Money: Basic unit—litas. One hundred centas equal one litas.|
In the mid-20th century Lithuania's economy was primarily agricultural. Much industrialization has occurred since then. Agriculture and manufacturing are now the main economic activities.
When Lithuania was a part of the Soviet Union (1940-91), agriculture was organized into a system of state and collective farms. After Lithuania achieved independence, the government began to transfer ownership of farms to private groups and individuals. Main crops include rye, barley, wheat, potatoes, sugar beets, and flax. Dairy farming is one of the nation's main agricultural activities. Hogs are raised in large numbers.
Manufacturing is centered primarily in Vilnius, Kaunas, Klaipeda, Siauliai, and Panevezys. Among the chief manufactured products are machinery, machine tools, precision instruments, home appliances, chemicals, paper, plastics, and textiles. The shipping, woodworking, electronics, and food-processing industries are also important. Lithuania is especially noted for its production of meat and dairy products.
Deep-sea fishing, mainly in the Atlantic Ocean, has made Klaipeda a significant fishing port. Part of the Baltic coast has been developed as a seaside resort.
Rail and road transportation are well developed; trains and buses provide most of the transit service in the country. There are airports at Vilnius, Kaunas, and Klaipeda. Klaipeda is Lithuania's only seaport.
About 80 per cent of the people are Lithuanians, a Baltic people akin to the Letts of Latvia. Russians and Poles are the next largest groups. Vilnius is the capital and largest city. Other major cities are Kaunas, and Klaipeda.
The chief language is Lithuanian, one of the oldest languages in Europe. Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion; other faiths include the Lutheran and the Eastern Orthodox. Education is compulsory and is free at all levels. Nearly all the people are literate. Chief among the institutions of higher learning is Vilnius V. Kapsukas State University. Lithuania also has a number of technical, music, art, teacher-training, and agricultural schools and colleges.
Under the constitution of 1992, Lithuania is a parliamentary democracy with a president elected by the people. The president is the head of state. The Seimas is a one-house legislature made up of 141 members. The prime minister, who is the head of government, is appointed by the president with the approval of the Seimas.