Europe

Lithuania country profile

Map of Lithuania

Lithuania is the largest and most southerly of the three Baltic republics.

Not much more than a decade after it regained its independence during the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990, Lithuania was welcomed as a Nato member in late March 2004.

The move came just weeks before a second historic shift for the country in establishing its place in the Western family of nations as it joined the EU in May 2004. These developments would have been extremely hard to imagine in not-so-distant Soviet times.

Russia, anxious about the implications of the eastward advance of the EU and Nato to include the three Baltic republics, has a particular eye on Lithuania which has an important border with the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.

FACTS

Republic of Lithuania

Capital: Vilnius

  • Population 3.3 million

  • Area 65,300 sq km (25,212 sq miles)

  • Languages Lithuanian (official), Russian, Polish, Belarusian

  • Major religions Christianity

  • Life expectancy 67 years (men), 78 years (women)

  • Currency euro

Getty Images

LEADERS

President: Dalia Grybauskaite

Image copyright Getty Images

Dalia Grybauskaite was voted in as Lithuania's first woman president with an emphatic election victory in May 2009.

She was re-elected in May 2014, in a presidential runoff held amid widespread apprehension over a resurgent Russia.

Ms Grybauskaite is sometimes dubbed the "Iron Lady", the nickname of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, a steely free-marketeer she describes as one of her political models.

Prime Minister: Saulius Skvernelis

Image copyright AP
Image caption Salius Skvernelis has a reputation of being tough on corruption

Former national police chief Saulius Skvernelis became prime minister after voter anger at the established political parties propelled his centrist Peasant and Green Union (LVZS) to a surprise victory in parliamentary elections in 2016.

Mr Skvernelis formed a coalition with the Social Democrats of outgoing Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius, which came third, and promised to curb social inequality, boost sluggish growth, limit emigration to Western Europe and boost defence spending in the face of a resurgent Russia.

Previously a minor agrarian party led by farming tycoon Ramunas Karbauskis, the LVZS campaigned on Mr Skvernelis's reputation as a corruption fighter, as well as on promises for a more interventionist economic policy.

MEDIA

Image copyright Getty Images

Lithuania's private TV and radio stations compete with public networks run by Lithuanian National Radio and Television (LRT).

The media are free and operate independently of the state. There are no government-owned newspapers.

TIMELINE

Some key dates in Lithuania's modern history:

1915 - Lithuania occupied by German troops during World War I.

1918 - Lithuania declares independence.

1920 - Soviet Russia recognises Lithuania's independence under Treaty of Moscow.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A view of Vilnius cathedral

1939 - The Soviet Union compels Lithuania to accept Soviet military bases.

1940 - Soviet army invades. Smetona flees. Lithuania incorporated into USSR.

1941 - Thousands of Lithuanians deported to Siberia. Nazis invade USSR and occupy Lithuania.

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Parade to mark the 25th anniversary of independence from the Soviet Union held in Vilnius in 2015

1944 - Soviet army returns, presaging further deportations and repression of resistance.

1989 - Parliament approves declaration of Lithuanian sovereignty, stating that Lithuanian laws take precedence over Soviet ones.

1991 - Following failed coup in Moscow the previous month, USSR recognises Lithuania's independence. Lithuania joins OSCE and UN.

1992 - New constitution introduces presidency. The former Communist Party, renamed Lithuanian Democratic Labour Party, wins more seats than Sajudis in general election. Coalition government formed.

1993 - Lithuania joins Council of Europe. New national currency, the litas, introduced. Soviet troops complete withdrawal.

2004 - Lithuania is one of 10 new states to join the EU. Lithuania also joins Nato.

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