Lithuania is an independent nation in Northern Europe. With the capital city of Vilnius, Lithuania 2020 population is estimated at 2,722,300 according to countryaah. About 4,000 years ago, Baltic tribes settled around the southeastern Baltic Sea. In the Middle Ages, the population fought against German Crusaders, but in 1386 Christianity was adopted through a union with Poland. In the 15th century, a Lithuanian Grand Principality extended from the Baltic to the Black Sea. It was incorporated into the Russian Empire during the 18th century. In 1918 the country became independent but was occupied by the Soviet Union in 1940, by Germany in 1941 and again by the Soviet in 1944.
- AbbreviationFinder.org: Comprehensive guide to and popular abbreviations of Lithuania, covering history, economy, and social conditions.
Researchers estimate that the area that today constitutes Lithuania was populated around 9,000 BC. The Balts migrated in around 7,000 years later. They are mentioned in Roman chronicles and in 1009 AD the name Lithuania is found for the first time in a chronicle in the annals of the Prussian city of Quedlinburg. For Lithuania political system, please check computerminus.
Around 1200, the ancestors of today’s Lithuanians, Letters and Esther were exposed to the expansion of German Order Knights in the area. To protect themselves against this conquest policy, the Lithuanian clans united under King Mindaugas (1236–1263) and thus avoided being subjugated and enslaved by German landlords as their neighbors.
During the following two centuries, the state of war prevailed between the Lithuanians and the knights of Prussia and Livland (now Estonia and Latvia), with constant raids into the opponent’s territory. At the same time, Lithuania expanded eastward. Important parts of ancient Kiev-Russia (areas of present-day Belarus and Ukraine) recognized the supremacy of the Lithuanian princes. This laid the foundation for the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The Great Prince Gediminas (1316–1341) founded the capital Vilnius in 1323.
Personnel union with Poland
In order to avoid a two-front war – with the German knights in the west and the expansive Moscowite Grand Principality in the east – Lithuania entered into a personnel union with Poland. It happened when the Lithuanian Grand Duke Jogaila (in Polish Jagiełło) married the Polish Queen Jadwiga in 1386. At the same time, the Roman Catholic faith was adopted. United Lithuanian and Polish armies defeated the Germans in the Battle of Grünwald-Tannenberg (in Lithuanian Žalgiris) in 1410, marking the end of medieval German expansion eastward.
During Jogaila’s cousin, Vytautas the Great (1385–1430), the Grand Duchy of Lithuania reached its greatest extent, from the Baltic to the Black Sea. The kingdom was ruled as an independent state, and Vytautas the Great has in modern times become an important symbol of Lithuanian independence. In 1569 the ties between Lithuania and Poland were strengthened through the so-called Lublin Union.
The Polish influence over Lithuania grew stronger during the 16th and 16th centuries, although Lithuania maintained its own state apparatus and army. The kingdom was weakened by internal divisions and external interference, among others from Sweden, and came to disappear completely through three divisions in 1772, 1793 and 1795. The Grand Duchy of Lithuania was incorporated into the Russian Empire.
From the 1820s, the Russian rulers tried to lush Russian Lithuania. Two Lithuanian uprisings, 1830-1831 and 1863, failed and were followed by increased Russian repression. The existence of the Lithuanian language was threatened. In 1865 it was forbidden to print Lithuanian literature with the Latin alphabet and Lithuanian disappeared as a language of instruction in schools.
Declaration of independence
However, the refreshment policy strengthened Lithuanian national self-awareness. Books in Lithuanian were printed in Ostpreussen, where many Lithuanians lived, and were smuggled into the country. In 1883 the first magazine was published in Lithuanian, Aušra (Dawn). Around the turn of the century, many Lithuanians emigrated, mainly to North America.
During World War I, Lithuania came under German occupation. The German military, which supported everything that could weaken Russia, allowed in 1917 a Lithuanian conference to be convened in Vilnius. Representatives of several Lithuanian organizations elected a council of 22 members under the leadership of Antanas Smetona. The Council demanded Lithuanian independence.
Lithuania declared its independence on February 16, 1918 – now the country’s national day. However, self-proclaimed independence became reality only after Germany’s capitulation in November of that year.
In 1919, the Soviet Red Army invaded Lithuania to support local communists who proclaimed a government in Lithuania and Belarus. But the Lithuanians managed, with some support from Germany, to drive out the attackers. A year later, the country was attacked by the resurrected Poland, which claimed the Vilnius area. The issue was raised in the United Nations’ forerunner of the League of Nations, where it was decided in favor of Lithuania. Despite the annexed Poles Vilnius and the Government of Lithuania, they were forced to relocate to Kaunas, which became the capital during the interwar period. In 1923, Lithuania occupied the German Memel area (Klaipėda).
Occupations – Soviet Sub-Republic
During the interwar period, Lithuania was a fairly undeveloped agricultural country, whose exports of bacon, butter, eggs and flax nevertheless gave the population some wealth. Reconstruction was begun, but fragile Lithuanian democracy ended as early as 1926 when Antanas Smetona, then leader of a small nationalist party, came to power after a military coup. Smetona, the “People’s Leader,” introduced an authoritarian one-party dictatorship, allowed to arrest communists and execute their leaders.
In March 1939, the German Nazi leader and dictator Adolf Hitler again incorporated the Memel area with Germany. When Germany and the Soviet Union, through a non-aggression pact, the so-called Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, split the influence over Eastern Europe in August of that year, Lithuania first got into Germany’s sphere of interest, but was later transferred to the Soviet. In October 1939, Lithuania was forced to accept Soviet military bases on its territory. In return, Soviet leader Josef Stalin “donated” the Vilnius area to the Lithuanians since he conquered it from Poland.
In June 1940, the Soviet Union invaded Lithuania, under the pretext that the Soviet bases had not been adequately protected. President Smetona fled abroad. The imprisoned leader of the banned Communist Party in Lithuania, Antanas Sniečkus, was released and became security chief. Sniečkus led a terror campaign before the election staged by the Soviet power, in which only the Communist Party was allowed to participate. In August 1940, Lithuania formally became a Soviet republic, and arrests and executions of “anti-Soviet elements” followed.
Sniečkus initiated mass deportations. In June 1941, thousands of people were brought from Lithuania to Siberia. When Germany attacked the Soviet Union later that month, Lithuania fell under German occupation. With the help of Lithuanians, the German Nazis massacred some 200,000 Lithuanian Jews. In the Red Army’s counter-offensive against Germany, Soviet troops again occupied Lithuania in 1944.