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BACKGROUND NOTES: LITHUANIA
PUBLISHED BY THE BUREAU OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Republic of Lithuania
Area: 65,200 sq. km. (26,080 sq. miles); about the size of West
Cities: Capital--Vilnius (pop. 592,500). Other cities--Kaunas
(430,000); Klaipeda (206,000); Siauliai (148,000); Panevezys (129,000).
Terrain: Lithuania's fertile, central lowland plains are separated by
hilly uplands created by glacial drift.
Climate: With four distinct seasons, the climate is humid continental,
with a moderating maritime influence from the Baltic Sea.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Lithuanian(s).
Population: 3.8 million.
Growth rate: -0.4%. Infant mortality--13/1,000.
Ethnic groups: Lithuanian 80%, Russians 10%, Poles 7%, Belorussians
1.7%, Ukrainians 1.2%.
Religions: Catholic (85%), Russian Orthodox.
Languages: Lithuanian (official). Russian and Polish also are spoken
by a large minority.
Education: Years compulsory--9. Literacy--99%.
Health: Infant mortality rate--18/1,000. Life expectancy--66 years
male, 76 female. Work force (1.9 million): Industry--33%.
Agriculture/Forestry--8%. Health care--7%.
Transportation/Communications--7%. Trade and Government--10%.
Type: Parliamentary democracy.
Branches: Executive--popularly elected president (chief of state);
prime minister (head of government). Legislative--Seimas (parliament--
141 members, 4-year term); Judicial--Supreme Court.
Administrative subdivisions: 11 cities, 44 rural districts.
Principal political parties/coalitions:
Democratic Labor Party (75 seats); Landowners Union (0 seats); Social
Democrats (8 seats); Union of Poles (4 seats); "Homeland Concord"
Sajudis (26 seats); Christian Democrats (17 seats); Nationalist Union (4
seats); Democratic Party (2 seats); Political Prisoners (1 seat);
Independence Party (1 seat); Christian Democratic Union (1 seat); Greens
(0 seats); Independent (1 seat).
Suffrage: Universal at 18.
Flag: Horizontal tricolor: yellow, green, red.
GDP: $2.5 billion.
Real GDP growth: -17%.
Per capita GDP (at 1992 prices): $732.
Natural resources: Peat, potential for exploiting moderate oil and gas
deposits offshore and on the coast.
Agriculture/forestry (19% of GNP): Products--cattle, milk and dairy
products, cereals, potatoes.
Manufacturing (58% of GNP): Products--Technological instruments,
energy, textiles and footwear, machinery and spare parts, chemicals,
food processing, wood/paper/pulp products.
Trade: Exports--$1 billion: building materials (36%), services (15%),
chemicals (14%), foodstuffs (14%), consumer goods (9%). Imports--$1
billion: chemicals (52%), heavy machinery (17%); fuels, metals, minerals
(13%). Major partners--Russia (45%), Belarus (13%), Germany (10%),
Exchange rate (July 1994): 3.8 litai=U.S. $1.
The name "Lietuva," or Lithuania, might be derived from the word
"lietava," for a small river, or "lietus," meaning rain (or land of
rain). Lithuanian still retains the original sound system and
morphological peculiarities of the prototypal Indo-European tongue.
Between A.D. 400 and 600, the Lithuanian and Latvian languages split
from the Eastern Baltic (Prussian) language group, which subsequently
became extinct. The first known written Lithuanian text dates from a
hymnal translation in 1545. Written with the Latin alphabet, Lithuanian
has been the official language of Lithuania again since 1989. The
Soviet era had imposed the official use of Russian, so most Lithuanians
speak Russian as a second language while the resident Slavic populace
generally speaks Russian as a first language.
Lithuanians are neither Slavic nor Germanic, although Polish and
Germanic colonization and settlement in the 1300s left cultural and
religious influences. This highly literate society places strong
emphasis upon education, which is free and compulsory until age 16.
Most Lithuanians and ethnic Poles belong to the Roman Catholic Church,
but a sizeable minority are Russian Orthodox.
Enduring several border changes, Soviet deportations, a massacre of its
Jewish population, and postwar German and Polish repatriations,
Lithuania has maintained a fairly stable percentage of ethnic
Lithuanians (from 84% in 1923 to 80% in 1993). Lithuania's citizenship
law and constitution meet international standards, guaranteeing
universal human and civil rights.
The earliest evidence of inhabitants in present-day Lithuania dates back
12,000 years. About 5,000 years ago, a culture known to archaeologists
as "the cord-ware culture" spread over a vast region of Eastern Europe,
between the Baltic Sea and the Vistula River in the west and the Moscow-
Kursk line in the east. Merging with the indigenous population, they
gave rise to the Balts, a distinct Indo-European ethnic group whose
descendants are the present-day Lithuanian and Latvian nations and the
The first written mention of Lithuania occurs in A.D. 1009, although
many centuries earlier the Roman historian Tacitus referred to the
Lithuanians as excellent farmers. Spurred by the expansion into the
Baltic lands of the Germanic monastic military orders (the Order of the
Knights of the Sword and the Teutonic Order), Duke Mindaugas united the
lands inhabited by the Lithuanians, Samogitians, Yotvingians, and
Couranians into the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (GDL) in the mid-13th
century. In 1251, Mindaugas adopted Catholicism and was crowned King of
Lithuania on July 6, 1253; a decade later, civil war erupted upon his
assassination until a ruler named Vitenis defeated the Teutonic Knights
and restored order.
During 1316-41, Vitenis' brother and successor, Grand Duke Gediminas,
expanded the empire as far as Kiev against the Tartars and Russians. He
twice attempted to adopt Christianity in order to end the GDL's
political and cultural isolation from Western Europe. To that purpose,
he invited knights, merchants, and artisans to settle in Lithuania and
wrote letters to Pope John XXII and European cities maintaining that the
Teutonic Order's purpose was to conquer lands rather than spread
Christianity. Gediminas' dynasty ruled the GDL until 1572. From the
1300s through the early 1400s, the Lithuanian state expanded eastward.
During the rule of Grand Duke Algirdas (1345-77), Lithuania almost
doubled in size and achieved major victories over the Teutonic and
Livonian Orders. However, backed by the Pope and the Catholic West
European countries, the Orders intensified their aggression.
During this period, Kestutis (Grand Duke in 1381-82) distinguished
himself as the leader of the struggle against the Teutonic Order. The
ongoing struggle precipitated the 1385 Kreva Union signed by Grand Duke
Jogaila of Lithuania (ruled in 1377-81 and 1382-92) and Jadwyga, Queen
of Poland. Upon their marriage, he became King of Poland. A condition
of the union was Lithuania's conversion to Christianity (in 1387). This
intensified Lithuania's economic and cultural development and oriented
it toward the West. The conversion invalidated claims by the Teutonic
Order and temporarily halted its wars against Lithuania.
Lithuania's independence under the union with Poland was restored by
Grand Duke Vytautas. During his rule (1392-1430) the GDL turned into
one of the largest states in Europe, encompassing present-day Belarus,
most of Ukraine, and the Smolensk region of western Russia. Led by
Jogaila and Vytautas, the united Polish-Lithuanian army defeated the
Teutonic Order in the Battle of Tannenberg (Gruenwald or Zalgiras) in
1410, terminating the medieval Germanic drive eastward.
The 16th century witnessed a number of wars against the growing Russian
state over the Slavic lands ruled by the GDL. Coupled with the need for
an ally in those wars, the wish of the middle and petty gentry to obtain
more rights already granted to the Polish feudal lords drew Lithuania
closer to Poland. The Union of Lublin in 1569 united Poland and
Lithuania into a commonwealth in which the highest power belonged to the
Sejm of the nobility and its elected King, who was also the Grand Duke
of Lithuania. Mid-16th-century land reform strengthened serfdom and
promoted the development of agriculture, owing to the introduction of a
regular three-field rotation system.
The 16th century saw a rapid development of agriculture, growth of
towns, spread of ideas of humanism and the Reformation, book printing,
the emergence of Vilnius University in 1579, and the Lithuanian Codes of
Law (the Statutes of Lithuania), which stimulated the development of
culture both in Lithuania and in neighboring countries.
In the 16th-18th century, wars against Russia and Sweden weakened the
Polish-Lithuanian Republic. The end of the 18th century saw three
divisions of the commonwealth by Russia, Prussia, and Austria; in 1795
most of Lithuania became part of the Russian empire. Attempts to
restore independence in the uprisings of 1794, 1830-31, and 1863 were
suppressed and followed by a tightened police regime, increasing
Russification, the closure of Vilnius University in 1832, and the 1864
ban on the printing of Lithuanian books in traditional Latin characters.
Because of his proclamation of liberation and self-rule, many
Lithuanians gratefully volunteered for the French army when Napoleon
occupied Kaunas in 1812 during his catastrophic invasion of Russia.
After the war, Russia imposed extra taxes on Catholic landowners and
enserfed an increasing number of peasants.
A market economy slowly developed with the abolition of serfdom in 1861.
Lithuanian farmers grew stronger, contributing to an increase in the
number of intellectuals of peasant origin, which, in turn, led to the
growth of a Lithuanian national movement. In German-ruled Lithuania
Minor (Konigsberg or Kalinin-grad), Lithuanian publications were printed
in large numbers and then smuggled into Russian-ruled Lithuania. The
most outstanding leaders of the national liberation movement were J.
Basanavicius and V. Kudirka. The ban on the Lithuanian press finally
was lifted in 1904.
During World War I, the German army occupied Lithuania in 1915, and the
occupation administration allowed a Lithuanian Conference to convene in
Vilnius in September 1917. The conference adopted a resolution
demanding the restoration of an independent Lithuanian state and elected
the Lithuanian Council, a standing body chaired by Antanas Smetona
In 1919 and 1920, Lithuania fought what is known as its war for
independence against three factions: the Red Army, which in 1919
controlled territory ruled by a Bolshevist government headed by V.
Kapsukas; the Polish army; and the Bermondt army, composed of Russian
and German troops under the command of the Germans. Lithuania failed to
regain the Polish-occupied Vilnius region.
In the Moscow Treaty of July 12, 1920, Russia recognized Lithuanian
independence and renounced all previous claims to it. The Seimas
(parliament) of Lithuania adopted a constitution on August 1, 1922,
declaring Lithuania a parliamentary republic, and in 1923 Lithuania
annexed the Klaipeda region, the northern part of Lithuania Minor.
By then, most countries had recognized Lithuanian independence. After a
military coup on December 17, 1926, Nationalist Party leader Antanas
Smetona became President and gradually introduced an authoritarian
Lithuania's borders posed its major foreign policy problem. Poland's
occupation (1920) and annexation (1922) of the Vilnius region strained
bilateral relations, and in March 1939 Germany forced Lithuania to
surrender the Klaipeda region (after World War II, the Nuremberg trials
declared the treaty null and void). Radical land reform in 1922
considerably reduced the number of estates, promoted the growth of small
and middle farms and boosted agricultural production and exports,
especially of livestock. In particular, light industry and agriculture
successfully adjusted to the new market situation and developed new
The interwar period gave birth to a comprehensive system of education,
with Lithuanian as the language of instruction and the development of
the press, literature, music, arts, and theater. On August 23, 1939,
the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact pulled Lithuania under German domination
until the Soviet-German agreement of September 28, 1939, brought
Lithuania under Soviet domination. Soviet pressure and a complicated
international situation forced Lithuania to sign an agreement with the
U.S.S.R. on October 10, 1939, by which Lithuania was given back the city
of Vilnius and the part of Vilnius region seized by the Red Army during
the Soviet-Polish war; in return, some 20,000 Soviet soldiers were
deployed in Lithuania.
On June 14, 1940, the Soviet Government issued an ultimatum to
Lithuania, demanding the formation of a new Lithuanian Government and
permission to station additional Red Army troops. Lithuania succumbed to
the Soviet demand, and 100,000 Soviet troops moved into the country the
Arriving in Kaunas, the Soviet Government's special envoy began
implementing the plan for Lithuania's incorporation into the U.S.S.R.
On June 17, the alleged People's Government, headed by J. Paleckis, was
formed; one month later, parliamentary elections were held, whereupon
Lithuania was proclaimed a Soviet Socialist Republic on August 3.
Totalitarian rule was established, Sovietization of the economy and
culture began, and Lithuanian state employees and public figures were
arrested and exiled to Russia. During the mass deportation campaign of
June 14-18, 1941, about 7,400 families (12,600 people) were deported to
Siberia without investigation or trial; 3,600 people were imprisoned;
and over 1,000 were massacred.
Lithuanian revolt against the U.S.S.R. soon followed the outbreak of the
war against Germany in 1941. Via Radio Kaunas on June 23, the rebels
declared the restoration of Lithuania's independence and actively
operated a provisional government, without German recognition, from June
24 to August 5. Lithuania became part of the German occupational
administrative unit of Ostland. People were repressed and taken to
forced labor camps in Germany. The Nazis and local collaborators
deprived all Lithuanian Jews of their civil rights and massacred about
200,000 of them. Together with Soviet partisans, supporters of
independence put up a resistance movement to deflect Nazi recruitment of
Lithuanians to the German army.
Forcing the Germans out of Lithuania by 1944, the Red Army re-
established control, and Sovietization continued with the arrival of
communist party leaders to create a local party administration. The
mass deportation campaigns of 1941-52 exiled 30,000 families to Siberia
and other remote parts of the Soviet Union. Official statistics state
that over 120,000 people were deported from Lithuania during this
period, while Lithuanian sources estimate the number of political
prisoners and deportees at 300,000.
In response to these events, thousands of resistance fighters
participated in unsuccessful guerilla warfare against the Soviet regime
from 1944 to 1953.
In attempted integration and industrial development, Soviet authorities
encouraged immigration of other Soviet workers, especially Russians.
Until mid-1988, all political, economical and cultural life was
controlled by the Lithuanian Communist Party (LCP). First Secretary
Antanas Snieckus ruled the LCP during 1940-74. The LCP, in turn, was
responsible to the Communist Party of the U.S.S.R.
Lithuanians comprised only 18% of total party membership in 1947 and
continued to represent a minority until 1958; by 1986, they made up 70%
of the party's 197,000-strong body. During the Khrushchev thaw in the
1950s, the leadership of the LCP acquired limited independence in
The political and economic crisis that began in the U.S.S.R. in the mid-
1980s also affected Lithuania, and Lithuanians as well as other Balts
offered active support to Gorbachev's program of social and political
Under the leadership of intellectuals, the Lithuanian reform movement
Sajudis was formed in mid-1988 and declared a program of democratic and
national rights, winning nationwide popularity. On Sajudis' demand, the
Lithuanian Supreme Soviet passed constitutional amendments on the
supremacy of Lithuanian laws over Soviet legislation, annulled the 1940
decisions on proclaiming Lithuania a part of the U.S.S.R., legalized a
multi-party system, and adopted a number of other important decisions.
A large number of LCP members also supported the ideas of Sajudis, and
with Sajudis support, Algirdas Brazauskas was elected First Secretary of
the Central Committee of the LCP in 1988. In December 1989, the
Brazauskas-led LCP split from the Soviet Union's Communist Party and
became an independent party, renaming itself the Lithuanian Democratic
Labor Party in 1990.
In 1990, Sajudis-backed candidates won the elections to the Lithuanian
Supreme Soviet. On March 11, 1990, its chairman, Vytautas Landsbergis,
proclaimed the restoration of Lithuanian independence, formed a new
cabinet of ministers headed by Kazimiera Prunskiene, and adopted the
Provisional Fundamental Law of the state and a number of bylaws.
The U.S.S.R. demanded revocation of the act and began employing
political and economic sanctions against Lithuania as well as
demonstrating military force. On January 10, 1991, Soviet authorities
seized the central publishing house and other premises in Vilnius and
unsuccessfully attempted to overthrow the elected government by
sponsoring a local "National Salvation Committee." Three days later the
Soviets forcibly took over the TV tower, killing 14 civilians and
During the national plebiscite on February 9, over 90% of those who took
part in the voting (76% of all eligible voters) voted in favor of an
independent, democratic Lithuania. Led by the tenacious Landsbergis,
Lithuania's leaders continued to seek Western diplomatic recognition of
its independence. Soviet military-security forces continued forced
conscription, seized buildings, attacked customs posts, and sometimes
killed customs and police officials.
During the August 19 coup against Gorbachev, Soviet military troops took
over several communications and other government facilities in Vilnius
and other cities but returned to their barracks when the coup failed.
The Lithuanian Government banned the Communist Party and ordered
confiscation of its property.
Despite Lithuania's achievement of complete independence, sizeable
numbers of Russian forces remained on its territory. Withdrawal of
those forces was one of Lithuania's top foreign policy priorities.
Lithuania and Russia signed an agreement on September 8, 1992, calling
for Russian troop withdrawals by August 31, 1993. These have been
completed in full, despite unresolved issues such as the question of
Russian military transit to and from the Kaliningrad enclave.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
For over a year after independence, political life was fettered by an
unclear delineation of powers between parliament and government.
Political polarization increased, and name recognition played a much
more significant role in politics than party affiliation. Sajudis
remained part of an unofficial ruling coalition with two other
politically right-wing parties, but rivalries were heightened by
personally divisive political attacks and bureaucratic gridlock.
In an effort to reduce the size and recalcitrance of a government
bureaucracy allegedly impeding reform, in April 1992 then-Prime Minister
Vagnorius unsuccessfully attempted to enact a measure permit-ting the
dismissal of former Communist Party members and of those unwilling to
enforce government decrees. Two deputies and a minister unsuccessfully
tendered resignations in support of Vagnorius, but the rest of the
cabinet wrote a letter to President Landsbergis complaining of the Prime
Minister's confrontational governing style. Vagnorius, in turn,
unsuccessfully submitted his resignation effective in May.
With the failure of the May 23 referendum on establishing a permanent
office of the president (based on the French model), President
Landsbergis threatened to resign. Right-wing parliamentarians boycotted
legislative sessions to delay attempts to form a quorum and successfully
forestalled Vagnorius' resignation until mid-June, when a quorum passed
a no-confidence motion. Aleksandras Abisala, another Landsbergis
favorite, became the new Prime Minister.
A constitution was approved by 53% of eligible voters (85% of those who
actually voted) in an October 2, 1992, referendum. The results of the
October 25 and the November 15 runoff elections handed the Democratic
Labor Party (LDP), headed by former Communist Party boss Algirdas
Brazauskas, a plurality of votes and a clear majority of parliamentary
Subsequent presidential elections on February 14, 1993, gave Brazauskas
victory over a non-LDP coalition led by independent candidate Stasys
Lozoraitis, Lithuania's former ambassador to the U.S. Economic
mismanagement and collapse, fueled by chronic energy shortages and
political factionalism, played a decisive role in the election results.
The Seimas (parliament), a unicameral legislative body, is the highest
organ of state authority. It initiates and approves legislation
sponsored by the prime minister. The prime minister has full
responsibility and control over his cabinet.
Lithuania's defense system is based upon the Swedish-Finnish concept of
a rapid response force composed of a mobilization base and a small group
of career professionals. The defense ministry is responsible for combat
forces, border control, customs, civil defense, search/rescue, and
intelligence operations. The army consists of three battalions of 850
troops each, and there is a mandatory one-year active-duty draft period.
Alternative service for conscientious objectors is available. The navy
and coast guard use patrol boats and small Russian frigates for coastal
surveillance; the air force operates 30 planes used for reconnaissance
and border patrol.
The 5,400 border guards fall under the interior ministry's supervision
and are responsible for border protection and passport and customs
duties and share responsibility with the navy for smuggling/drug
trafficking interdiction. A special security department handles VIP
protection and communications security. The "SKAT," or national guard,
consists of over 700 professionals and 5,000 volunteers.
Key Government Officials
Prime Minister--Adolfas Slezevicius
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Povilas Gylys
Lithuania maintains an embassy in the United States at 2622 16th Street,
Washington, DC 20009 tel: 202-234-5860.
The Soviet era brought Lithuania intensive industrialization and
economic integration into the U.S.S.R., although the level of technology
and state concern for environmental, health, and labor issues lagged far
behind Western standards. Urbanization increased from 39% in 1959 to
68% in 1989. From 1949 to 1952, the Soviets abolished private ownership
in agriculture, establishing collective and state farms. Production
declined and did not reach pre-war levels until the early 1960s. The
intensification of agricultural production through intense chemical use
and mechanization eventually doubled production but created additional
Industry is Lithuania's largest economic sector. It is being
privatized, and most small firms are now under private ownership. Large
industries, accounting for the bulk of Lithuania's capital investment,
are still mainly under state control. Food-processing and light
industries dominate, but furniture, footwear, and textile manufacturing
Machine industries (tools, motors, computers, consumer durables) account
for over one-third of the industrial work force but generally suffer
from outdated plants and equipment. In agriculture, Lithuania produces
cattle, hogs, and poultry for export. The principal crops are wheat,
feed grains, and rye. Farm production dropped in 1992 as a result of
difficulties with agricultural privatization and poor weather.
The transportation infrastructure is adequate. Lithuania has one ice-
free seaport with ferry services to German ports. There are operating
commercial airports with scheduled international services at Vilnius and
Kaunas. The road system is good, but border crossings may be difficult
due to inadequate border facilities at checkpoints with Poland.
Telecommunications have improved greatly since independence as a result
of heavy investment. The banking/financial sector is weak but
Lithuania had a slightly negative trade balance in 1993. Its main
trading partners are Eastern Europe and the New Independents States
(NIS) of the former Soviet Union. The main categories of imported
products are energy, vehicles for transport and machinery. Exports
consist mainly of machinery and food products. Trade with Western
countries rose from 8% of the total in 1992 to over 24% in 1993.
Although gross domestic product (GDP) accounts comparable to Western
figures are not yet fully available, real GDP has been declining since
1990. In 1992, it fell by about 40% and continued to fall this year,
albeit at a less dramatic rate. Inflation is also high due to price
deregulation and higher costs of imported energy and other inputs from
the traditional suppliers in the NIS. The consumer price index rose by
1,200% in 1992, and monthly retail price increases in 1993 have been
generally above 10%. This year, however, there are indications of
improvement. The spread of private sector activity, not always
reflected in national accounts statistics, is creating productive jobs
and boosting consumer spending. Also, the introduction in mid-1993 of a
stable national currency has stimulated investment.
The government focuses its efforts on stabilizing the economy, taking
measures to secure supplies of energy and other vital inputs, providing
a social safety net to alleviate the worst consequences of the economic
depression, and combating economic crime. It has enacted legislation
providing a reasonably transparent and favorable regulatory regime for
In 1993, Lithuania exported $16 million in goods to the U.S. and
imported $57 million, much of the latter being agricultural commodities
under concessional programs. U.S.-Lithuanian firms registered 235 of
3,674 foreign joint ventures, and of $115 million in total foreign
investment, the U.S. holds a $35 million share.
Over 55,000 private, personally owned companies now exist in Lithuania,
including an additional 19,000 corporations and 600 foreign-controlled
businesses. To date, the state privatization agency has privatized
3,800 companies. State companies are now authorized to sell up to 50%
of their shares for hard currency without cabinet approval, and many of
more than 20 commercial banks offer a full range of international
banking services. Monthly inflation remains in the single digits, and
the new currency remains stable. Lithuania recorded a trade surplus in
1992 and has discussed creation of six "free economic zones" offering
tax, customs, and tariff breaks for foreign investors.
Lithuania became a member of the United Nations on September 18, 1991,
and participates in a number of its organizations and is a signatory to
other international agreements. It also is a member of the Conference
on Security and Cooperation in Europe, the North Atlantic Cooperation
Council, and the Council of Europe. Lithuania is unaffiliated directly
with any political alliance but welcomes further cooperation and
integration with NATO, the European Union, and other Western
Lithuania maintains embassies in the United States, Sweden, Finland, the
Vatican, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Poland, United Kingdom, and
Venezuela. It also operates missions in Estonia, Latvia, Russia, Czech
Republic, Italy, Ukraine, and in New York City, to the United Nations
and a consulate. Honorary consuls are located in Argentina, Australia,
Canada, Iceland, South Korea, Greece, Norway, Philippines, and in the
United States in Los Angeles and Chicago.
Lithuania's liberal citizenship law has substantially eased tensions
with its neighbors. Lithuania's suspension of two strongly ethnic
Polish district councils on charges of blocking reform or disloyalty
during the August 1991 coup had cooled relations with Poland, but
bilateral cooperation has markedly increased with the holding of
elections in those districts and the signing of a bilateral friendship
treaty. A long-standing border dispute with Belarus is being
The United States established diplomatic relations with Lithuania on
July 28, 1922. U.S. representation accredited to Lithuania served from
the legation in Riga, Latvia, until May 31, 1930, when a legation in
Kaunas was established. The Soviet invasion forced the closure of the
legation in Kaunas on September 5, 1940, but Lithuanian representation
in the United States has continued uninterrupted for over 70 years. The
U.S. never recognized the forcible incorporation of Lithuania into the
U.S.S.R. and views the present Government of Lithuania as a legal
continuation of the interwar republic. Lithuania has enjoyed most-
favored-nation (MFN) treatment with the U.S. since December 1991.
Through 1993, the U.S. has committed over $66 million to Lithuania's
economic and political transformation and to address humanitarian needs.
Food grain and feed grain assistance totals $46 million of this figure.
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Economic Officer--John Stepanchuk Political Officer--Algis Avizienis
Administrative Officer--Matthew Johnson
Consular Officer--Steven Wangsness
AID Director--John Cloutier
Public Affairs Officer--Victor Sidabras
The U.S. embassy in Lithuania is located at Akmenu 6, Vilnius tel. (370-
Customs: Lithuanian tourist visas still may be obtained at Western road
border crossings and at Vilnius Airport, but the U.S. Embassy strongly
recommends that all visitors obtain visas from the Lithuanian Embassy in
Washington DC (or in major Western European capitals) before departure.
The Embassy and its Consulates charge a $25 visa processing fee. Polish
border crossings have expanded and improved, but one can expect delays.
Visitors are encouraged to register at the U.S. Embassy. Latvian visas
are also valid for entry into Lithuania.
Duty-free items include humanitarian aid, foreign currency and
securities, goods and valuables unsuitable for consumption, and items
temporarily brought into Lithuania and brought back without "reworking
or processing." Besides internationally banned or regulated items
requiring special permission, 10-25% percent duties and restrictions are
imposed on a number of imports and exports, particularly alcohol,
tobacco, foodstuffs and nonferrous metals. The government has lifted
restrictions on the export of hard currency.
Climate and clothing: Vilnius's climate is temperately continental,
with seasons of almost equal length. Summers are pleasant, but winters
inland are very cold and snowy.
Health: Medical care does not meet Western standards, facing a severe
shortage of basic medical supplies, including disposable needles,
anesthetics, and antibiotics. Bring personal medication. Sometimes
heat and hot water are unavailable because of the occasional disruption
of energy supplies. Raw fruits and vegetables are safe to eat, but
avoid drinking unpasteurized milk and tapwater.
Transportation: SAS, LOT, Malev, Swissair, Austrian Air, Lithuanian
Airlines and Lufthansa provide service between Vilnius Airport and
European cities. Two trains depart daily for Warsaw without crossing
into Belarus, but take 12 hours. A bus line connects Warsaw, Vilnius,
Riga and Tallinn. Bus and taxi services within the capital and its
environs are good. Taxis are inexpensive and available at stands or may
be ordered by phone. Rental cars are available. Gasoline prices are
reaching market rates, and rationing is in effect.
Telecommunications: Improved telephone and telegraph services are
readily available at standard international rates. Vilnius is 7 hours
ahead of Eastern Standard Time.
Tourist attractions: Over 550,000 tourists visited Lithuania in 1989.
As Europe's geographic epicenter, Vilnius is the leading attraction,
featuring beautiful Baroque churches and estates, 16 museums, fortress
towers, and historic medieval castles nearby in Trakai and Medininkai.
The seaside resorts of Palanga and Kursiu Nerija are famous for clean
beaches and natural sand dunes. Ethnographic parks and museums
depicting Lithuanian life through the centuries abound, as do scenic
national preserves. Historic churches and castles dating to Lithuania's
Great Power era are also readily accessible.
Currency, Weights and Measures: The national currency, the litas, is
convertible with major Western monies, but some vendors still accept
Western cash for purchases. Major credit cards can be used primarily at
large banks and Western hotels in Vilnius, but traveler's checks are
rarely accepted yet. Lithuania uses the metric system.
These titles are provided as a general indication of material published
on this country. The Department of State does not endorse unofficial
Gordon, Harry. The Shadow of Death: The Holocaust in Lithuania.
Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1991.
Jurgela, Constantine R. History of the Lithuanian Nation. New York:
Lithuanian Cultural Institute.
Kantautas, Adam, and Kantautas, Filomena. A Lithuanian Bibliography: A
Checklist of Books and Periodicals Held by the Major Libraries of Canada
and the United States. Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 1975;
Kaslas, Bronis J. The U.S.S.R.-German Aggression Against Lithuania.
New York: Robert Speller & Sons, 1973.
Koncius, Joseph B. Vytautas the Great: Grand Duke of Lithuania.
Miami: The Franklin Press, 1964.
Olcott, Martha Brill. "The Lithuanian Crisis." Foreign Affairs (Summer
Olesczuk, Thomas A. Political Justice in the Soviet Union: Dissent and
Repression in Lithuania, 1967-1987. New York: Columbia University
Press/East European Monographs, 1988.
Remeikis, Thomas. Opposition to Soviet Rule in Lithuania, 1945-1980.
Chicago: Institute for Lithuanian Studies Press, 1980.
Rodgers, Mary M., and Streissguth, Tom, eds. Lithuania: Then and Now.
Minneapolis: Lerner Publications Company, 1992.
Senn, Alfred Erich. Lithuania Awakening Berkeley: University of
California Press, 1990
Silbajoris, Frank R. "Lithuania: A Question of Identity." Cross
Currents, 10 (1991), 31-38.
Urdzins, Andrejs and Vilks, Andris, editors. The Baltic States: A
Reference Book. Vilnius: Encyclopedia Publishers, 1991.
Williams, Roger, ed. Baltic States: Insight Guides. Boston:
Houghton-Mifflin Company, 1993.
For information on economic trends, commercial development, production,
trade regulations, and tariff rates, contact the International Trade
Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, Washington, DC 20230 at
(202) 482-4915, or any Commerce Department district office. For
information on business opportunities, call the Commerce Department's
East European Business Information Center at (202)482-2645.
Published by the United States Department of State -- Bureau of Public
Affairs -- Office of Public Communication -- Washington, DC -- August
1994 -- Managing Editor: Peter A. Knecht -- Editor: Peter Freeman
Department of State Publication 10196 -- Background Notes Series
For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing
Office, Washington, DC 20402.
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