Official Name: Republic of Lithuania
Established: 6 July 1253 (Kingdom of Lithuania), 16 February 1918 (Independence from Russia)
Population: 2,795,334 (2020 estimate)
Religion: 93% Christianity
Language(s): Lithuanian, Polish, Russian
Order of Visit: Twenty-Fourth
First Visit: 17 July 2006
Last Visit: 18 July 2006
Duration: 2 Days
Visit Highlights: Vilnius – Gediminas Square, St Peter and St Paul Church. Trakai – Trakai Castle. The sad but impressive Hill of Crosses.
Places Visited: Trakai, Vilnius
Lithuania Journal Entry
History and Geography
Lithuania is a country in the Baltic region of Europe bordered by Latvia to the north, Belarus to the east and south, Poland to the south. Lithuania covers 65,300 square kilometres.
The first people settled in the territory of Lithuania after the last glacial period in the 10th millennium BC: Kunda, Neman and Narva cultures. Over a millennium, the Indo-Europeans, who arrived in the 3rd – 2nd millennium BC, mixed with the local population and formed various Baltic tribes.
In the 1230s, the Lithuanian lands were united by Mindaugas and the Kingdom of Lithuania was created on 6 July 1253. During the 14th century, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania covered present-day Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, and parts of Poland and Russia.
In 1569, Lithuania and Poland formed a voluntary two-state personal union, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth lasting two centuries with the Russian Empire annexing most of Lithuania’s territory.
As World War I neared its end, Lithuania’s Act of Independence was signed on 16 February 1918, declaring the founding of the modern Republic of Lithuania. During the Second World War, Lithuania was first occupied by the Soviet Union and then by Nazi Germany. As World War II neared its end and the Germans retreated, the Soviet Union reoccupied Lithuania. Massive deportations to Siberia occurred from 1945 until the death of Stalin in 1953.
The Union of Lithuanian Freedom Fighters resisted Soviet Unions integration polices and saw then as occupiers. On 11 March 1990, a year before the formal dissolution of the Soviet Union, Lithuania became the first Baltic state to proclaim its independence, resulting in the restoration of the independent State of Lithuania.
Lithuania is a member of the European Union, the Council of Europe, eurozone, Schengen Agreement, NATO and OECD. It is also a member of the Nordic Investment Bank and participates in the Nordic-Baltic cooperation of Northern European countries.
What I experienced
During my short two days in Lithuania I got to experience a happy people (compared to Belarus) and that locals still have bitter memories of Soviet Union and it was easy to visit museums that explain how Lithuania lost 25% of it’s population during World War 2. In Vilnius the St Peter and St Paul Church was impressive and the visit to Trakai Castle was enjoyable (and colourful). This is a very small country but I suspect it would be worth a longer visit.