|Also called: Lithuanian Republic, Lithuanian name: Lietuva a republic in NE Europe, on the Baltic Sea: a grand duchy in medieval times; united with Poland in 1569; occupied by Russia in 1795 and by Germany during World War I; independent Lithuania formed in 1918, but occupied by Soviet troops in 1919 and then by Poland; became a Soviet republic in 1940; unilaterally declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1990; recognized as independent in 1991; joined the EU in 2004. Official language: Lithuanian. Religion: Roman Catholic majority. Currency: litas. Capital: Vilnius. Pop: 3 422 000 (2004 est). Area: 65 200 sq km (25 174 sq miles)|
Republic on the Baltic Sea, bordered by Latvia to the north, Belarus to the east and southeast, Poland to the south, and by an isolated segment of Russia to the southwest. Its capital and largest city is Vilnius.
Note: Lithuania was one of the largest and most powerful states in Europe from the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries, at which time it merged with Poland. In the late eighteenth century, it was absorbed by Russia. A nationalist movement that grew in strength throughout the nineteenth century finally bore fruit when the Russian empire collapsed during World War I. Lithuanians achieved their desired goal of an independent state during the interwar years, but their country was occupied and annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940, as were the neighboring countries of Estonia and Latvia.
Note: Occupied by German forces during World War II, at which time thousands of Lithuanian Jews were exterminated.
Note: As the communist system began to collapse and the Soviet Union began to dissolve, Lithuania became the first of the Baltic republics to reject Soviet rule, declaring its independence in March 1990.