- Accession to the EU: 2004
- Accession to the Council of Europe: 1993
- Surface area: 65 300 km2
- Population: 2,94 million inhabitants (2014)
- Capital city: Vilnius (580 000 inhabitants)
- Official languages: Lithuanian
- Listen to Lithuanian
- Main religion: Catholic
- Currency: Litas
- Political system: Republic
- Head of state: Dalia Grybauskaite was re-elected President of the Republic of Lithuania on 25 May 2014
- Head of government: Saulius Skvernelis, new Lithuanian Prime Minister since November 22th, 2016
- International code: + 370
- National holiday: February 16
- The Lithuanian members of the European Parliament
- 1915 Germany occupies the country during the First World War.
- 1918 Lithuania proclaims its independence. It is only recognised by Russia in 1920, following a war of independence.
- 1940 The country is invaded by Soviet troops during the Second World War. Lithuania becomes a federated Republic within the USSR. This period of Soviet rule is interrupted only during the three-year period of German occupation.
- 1988 The reforms initiated by Gorbachev in the Soviet Union (with his policy of Glasnost), led to a reawakening of Lithuanian national consciousness. The Sajudis movement leads a struggle for independence.
- 1991 Proclamation of Lithuanian independence.
- 2004 Lithuania joins NATO and the European Union.
- 2004 The outgoing left-wing government reaches an agreement with the Labour Party of the Russian-born billionaire Viktor Uspaskich (the winner of the parliamentary elections in October) to form a coalition. The former Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas heads the new coalition government.
- 2006 M. Gediminas Kirkilas is nominated for prime minister after a governmental crisis.
- 2008 Andrius Kubilius (Conservative) becomes Head of a coalition-government.
- 2009 Dalia Grybauskaitė becomes Head of state.
Vilnius is located in the southeast of Lithuania, not far from the Byelorussian and Polish borders. As the national capital, Vilnius is also a major communications hub. The city is home to the country’s main institutions, including the national parliaments, the Seimas. The town’s history dates back to the 10th century and bears witness to the political upheavals of this region. Lithuania’s capital was Polish in the 16th century, and Russian in the 18th century, before suffering successive occupations by Germany, Poland, and the USSR in the 20th century. The Lithuanian capital is a religious center and the seat of the Catholic archdiocese, but it is also a cultural and artistic center. Since 1579, the city has had a university, which was founded by the Jesuits and is famous the world over. The old town includes a number of architectural treasures, such as Saint Stanislas Cathedral (14th century), and the baroque church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, in addition to its Gothic and Renaissance style buildings. As a result of these buildings, the town was included on UNESCO’s World Heritage List from 1994 onwards.
Vue to Vilnius © Lithuanian State Department of Tourism
The Lithuanian Baltic coast is rich in what has become known as “the light of the world” or “the tears of the seabirds”: amber. Thirty million years ago, the sea covered the conifer forests of the Baltic lands. The resin (capturing the insects and plants in the process) became fossilised, thereby conserving traces of the distant past. After several million years, this resin turned into amber. This mineral is a great asset for the Baltic coast. It represents a precious heritage for Lithuania which, over the centuries, was the starting point for a number of “amber routes,” crossing Poland and Germany to reach the Mediterranean and sometimes reaching as far as China. The Lithuanians are masters in crafting amber and use it in particular to fashion superb items of jewellery. The biggest amber museum is also located in Lithuania. Situated in Palanga, it features permanent displays of almost 4,500 amber items. More than 7 million people have already visited the Palanga Museum, demonstrating people’s continuing fascination with amber today.
No, Alsace is not the only region for storks in Europe! The white stork, found in Lithuania, is a bird which is both admired and protected. As the jewel in the crown of the Lithuanian ecosystem, the stork enjoys the marshland, and the 3,000 lakes and 700 waterways of this Baltic Republic. The birds can be seen gliding with their two-meter wingspan through the Lithuanian skies, or admired along the small country lanes. The relatively cold weather in winter forces them to migrate to Central and Southern Africa, but they are back again in summer, taking up their favourite positions on the rooftops of Lithuania’s many churches. This is the country in Europe with the highest density of stork pairs. According to an old Lithuanian saying, wherever you find a nest of storks, the people are honest. The stork has been the national bird since 1973, and it is the symbol of Lithuania.
© Dumoulin/Région Alsace, Stork