General Information


LITHUANIA is one of three countries located on the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea. To the north, Lithuania shares a border with Latvia; to the south-east lies Belarus; and to the south-west are Poland and the Kaliningrad Region (Russia). The territory of Lithuania covers an area of 65,200-sq. km. (40,513-sq. miles). In size, it is similar to Ireland whose territory is 107.6% that of Lithuania. Belgium is 2.7 times smaller than Lithuania, Holland is 1.6 times and Switzerland is 1.5 times smaller.

The current population is 3.48 million, with 53.3 people residing per square kilo metre on the average. Urban dwellers make up 66.9% of the population and rural dwellers, 33.1 %.47.3% of the total population is male.

85.5% of the residents are Lithuanians. Poles, who make up the largest minority group, are 6.7% of the population. During the last decade, the Russian population decreased from 9.4% to 6.3%. This decrease is definitely associated with the Russian Army's departure from Lithuania. From 1989, the time of the last census, the general population decreased by 5%. This is attributed to first, the yearly average of births is 5,000-8,000 less than the number of deaths, and second, since independence, lithuanian citizens con travel freely throughout Europe. It is estimated that about 10,000 - 25,000 people emigrate from Lithuania every year.

Capital - Vilnius.

Largest cities - VILNIUS, KAUNAS, KLAIPEDA, SIAULIAI and PANEVEZYS, but the resorts of NERINGA, PALANGA, DRUSKININKAI and BIRSTONAS also deserve mention.

Length of the Baltic Sea shoreline - 90.6-km. (56.2-miles).

Relief - plains with small hills prevail. The highest hill, reaching 294-m. (964.6-feetJ above sea level, is situated not far from the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius.

Climate - transitional between maritime and continental. The average temperature in January is -4.80( (23.3F), while in July it is 17.2( (63F).

Largest rivers - Nemunas and Neris. The city of Kaunas is situated at their confluence.

Lakes - numbering about 2500. They were formed after the retreat of the last glaciers from Lithuania about 10,000 years ago. Water sports and recreation are popular in these areas.

Forests - mainly of a mixed type. They cover about 30.1 % of the land. State ownership of forests prevails. Private forests make up about one third of the forests in Lithuania. Hunting areas take up 5.6 million hectares (18 million acres).

 Language - attributed to the group of Baltic languages that, together with Hindi, Greek, Armenian, Albanian .., German languages, belong to the Indo-European family. Of the Baltic languages, only Lithuanian and Latvian remained alive up to now.

Lithuanian written language began to form in the middle of the 16th century. Its initiator is Mortynos Moivydos, published the first Lithuanian book in 1547.

Religion - according the 2001 census, 79% said they were Roman Catholic, 4.1 % Russian Orthodox, 1 % Evangelicals.  There are also Jews, Muslims, Karaites and other organized religious groups.

Money - the national currency of Lithuania, the Litas, was introduced an June 25, 1993. Denominations of one, two and five are coins and 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 are bills. In the beginning of the year 2002, the Litas was pegged to the Euro, instead of to the US dollar.



Lithuania is traditionally viewed as an agrarian country with an economy based on farm produce and on
products made of processed raw materials. During the Soviet Era, "Big Brother" appointed Lithuania the role of collective farming. The Lithuanian S.S.R. farm produce and food products fed about 10-12 million people, approximately three times the population of the country. Moscow and St. Petersberg were supplied with Lithuanian dairy and meat products. Sausages, meat stuffed intestines (skilandis), or a tub of sour cream so thick, so rich, that a spoon con stand in it on its own: these became Lithuanian symbols from that era. Moving forward in time, 117% of the Lithuanian population now still works in rural areas but disproportionately contributes barely 7% of the gross national product. When contemplating entry into the European Union (EU), this percentage will have  to shift and farming will have to undergo agrarian reform. On average, barely 3-4% of the population in EU countries lives in rural areas. Having rid itself of the USSR's ruling force, Lithuania is gradually adapting itself to the global economy.  Lithuania, like all post-Soviet countries, went into shock upon gaining back its independence (1990): the Russians created an economic blockade, banks went under, and the formerly state-owned businesses needed to be privatized. Compared to 1990, the gross national product fell by 20% in 1992. Then most of the large income generating enterprises and communal farms were closed down. They simply did not have a viable market for their production. The big break come in 1995 when the GNP began to grow and it continues to do so at the rate of 5-6% annually. This rate of growth should continue for another 10 years at which time it will level out to the GNP of the EU,