Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. Vilnius is on the Viliya River, in the eastern part of the country, near the border with Belarus. It is an important railway junction and carries on extensive trade in grains and woolens. Industrial products include electrical and electronic equipment, farm machinery, and fertilizer. Vilnius has many old churches, including a 14th-century Roman Catholic cathedral and a 16th-century Eastern Orthodox cathedral. Within the limits of the once walled old city are the ruins of a 14th-century castle. Vilnius University was founded in 1578.
Vilnius was founded in the 10th century. In 1323 it was made the capital of Lithuania. At various times it was under Polish, Swedish, and Russian control. In 1915 it was seized by Germany, but it was regained by Russia in 1919. The Polish army took the city in 1920, and afterwards it was incorporated into Poland, although Lithuania refused to recognize Polish sovereignty over it. Vilnius came under Soviet control in 1939 when Germany and the Soviet Union divided up Poland between them.
In 1940, after the Soviet Union annexed Lithuania, Vilnius became the capital of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic. The Germans held the city from 1941 to 1944 and virtually wiped out the large Jewish population. In 1991 Vilnius once again became the capital of an independent Lithuania.