Lietuva

Cities






Vilnius

 

The capitol of Lithuania

 

Vilnius was first referred to as the capital of Lithuania in 1323 in the letters of Duke Gediminas.  Vilnius was devastated by the Crusaders numerous times, but once the attacks quieted down after the Battle of Tannenberg (Zalgiris, Grunwald, 1410), the city started to grow rapidly. By the 16th century, there were some 30,000 people living in Vilnius, making it one of the larger cities in Europe. Between 1522-1525, P. Skorina founded a printing house in Vilnius where the first Belarussian books were printed. Vilnius is built around the University of Vilnius, which was founded by the Jesuits in 1579. When Lithuania was handed over to the Russian Empire after the 1795 division of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Vilnius became a provincial center.

It was in Vilnius that the efforts of the Lithuanian people to restore independence began to manifest themselves. This matter was discussed at a Lithuanian conference, which was held on September 17-23, 1917. The participants of the conference planned a program for the restoration of independence and elected the Council of Lithuania. On February 16, 191 B, the 20-member Council declared and signed an Act for the Restoration of Independent Lithuanian Statehood. The house where the historical act was signed (Pilies St. 26) is marked by a memorial plaque.

Poland occupied Vilnius from 1920 to 1939.  Lithuanian independence came to an end that same year with the secret signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact between Germany and the Soviet Union. First occupied by Soviet troops in 1940, Lithuania was taken over by German forces in 1941. During the war, 40% of the residences, as well as many industries were destroyed. In July 1944, the Red Army occupied Vilnius.
During the post-war period (1945-19901, Vilnius was subject to communist ideological dogmas and their consequences. Churches were closed and monuments were torn down. But history could not be erased.

In 1990 Lithuania restored its independence with the capital in Vilnius.