|Vilnius or Vilnyus (ˈvɪlnɪʊs)|
|Russian name: Vilna, Polish name: Wilno the capital of Lithuania: passed to Russia in 1795; under Polish rule (1920--39); university (1578); an industrial and commercial centre. Pop: 544 000 (2005 est)|
|Vilnyus or Vilnyus (ˈvɪlnɪʊs, ˈvilna)|
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.