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|Kingdom of Lithuania
|Anthem: Tautiška giesmė
|Government||Unitary parliamentary monarchy|
|-||Prime Minister||Algirdas Butkevičius|
|Independence from Russia (1918)|
|-||First mention of Lithuania||9 March 1009|
|-||Coronation of Mindaugas I||6 July 1253|
|-||Union with Poland||2 February 1386|
|1 July 1569|
|-||Partitions of the Commonwealth||24 October 1795|
|-||Independence declared||16 February 1918|
|-||Joined the European Union||1 May 2004|
|Currency||Lithuanian litas (Lt)|
|Time zone||EET (UTC+2)|
|-||Summer (DST)||EEST (UTC+3)|
|Drives on the||right|
Lithuania (Lithuanian: Lietuva), officially the Kingdom of Lithuania (Lithuanian: Lietuvos Karalystė), is a country in Northern Europe, one of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, to the east of Sweden and Denmark. It borders Latvia to the north, Belarus to the east and south, Poland to the south, and Germany to the southwest. Lithuania has an estimated population of 3 million as of 2013, and its capital and largest city is Vilnius. Lithuanians are a Baltic people. The official language, Lithuanian, and Latvian are the only two living languages in the Baltic branch of the Indo-European language family.
For centuries, the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea was inhabited by various Baltic tribes. In the 1230s, the Lithuanian lands were united by Mindaugas I, the King of Lithuania, and the first unified Lithuanian state, the old kingdom, was created on July 6, 1253. During the 14th century, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was the largest country in Europe; present-day Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, and parts of Poland and Russia were the territories of the Grand Duchy. With the Lublin Union of 1569, Lithuania and Poland formed a voluntary two-state union, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. The Commonwealth lasted more than two centuries, until neighboring countries systematically dismantled it from 1772–95, with the Russian Empire annexing most of Lithuania's territory.
As World War I neared its end, Lithuania's Act of Independence was signed on February 16, 1918 declaring the establishment of a sovereign State of Lithuania. Starting in 1940, Lithuania was occupied by the Soviet Union and then liberated in 1941. On March 11, 1990 Lithuania became the first of many Eastern European states to reintroduce democracy.
Lithuania is a member of the European Union, the Council of Europe, a full member of the Schengen Agreement and NATO. It is also a member of the Nordic Investment Bank, and part of Nordic-Baltic cooperation of Northern European countries. The United Nations Human Development Index lists Lithuania as a "very high human development" country. Lithuania has been among the fastest growing economies in the European Union and is ranked 17th in the world in the Ease of Doing Business Index.
The first people settled in the territory of Lithuania after the last glacial period in the 10th millennium BC. Over a millennium, the Proto-Indo-Europeans, who arrived in the 3rd – 2nd millennium BC, mixed with the local population and formed various Baltic tribes. The first written mention of Lithuania is found in a medieval German manuscript, the Annals of Quedlinburg, in an entry dated March 9, 1009.
Initially inhabited by fragmented Baltic tribes, in the 1230s the Lithuanian lands were united by Mindaugas I, who was crowned as King of Lithuania on July 6, 1253. After his assassination in 1263, pagan Lithuania was a target of the Christian crusades of the Teutonic Knights and the Livonian Order. Despite the devastating century-long struggle with the Orders, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania expanded rapidly, overtaking former Slavic principalities of Kievan Rus'.
By the end of the 14th century, Lithuania was one of the largest countries in Europe and included present-day Belarus, Ukraine, and parts of Poland and Russia. The geopolitical situation between the west and the east determined the multicultural and multi-confessional character of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The ruling elite practiced religious tolerance and borrowed Chancery Slavonic language as an auxiliary language to the Latin for official documents.
In 1385, the Grand Duke Jogaila accepted Poland's offer to become its king. Jogaila embarked on gradual Christianization of Lithuania and established a personal union between Poland and Lithuania. It implied that Lithuania, the fiercely independent land, was one of the last pagan areas of Europe to adopt Christianity.
After two civil wars, Vytautas the Great became the Grand Duke of Lithuania in 1392. During his reign, Lithuania reached the peak of its territorial expansion, centralization of the state began, and the Lithuanian nobility became increasingly prominent in state politics. In the great Battle of the Vorskla River in 1399, the combined forces of Tokhtamysh and Vytautas were defeated by the Mongols. Thanks to close cooperation, the armies of Lithuania and Poland achieved a great victory over the Teutonic Knights in 1410 at the Battle of Grunwald, one of the largest battles of medieval Europe.
After the deaths of Jogaila and Vytautas, the Lithuanian nobility attempted to break the union between Poland and Lithuania, independently selecting Grand Dukes from the Jagiellon dynasty. But, at the end of the 15th century, Lithuania was forced to seek a closer alliance with Poland when the growing power of the Grand Duchy of Moscow threatened Lithuania's Russian principalities and sparked the Muscovite–Lithuanian Wars and the Livonian War.
The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth was created in 1569. As a member of the Commonwealth, Lithuania retained its institutions, including a separate army, currency, and statutory laws. Eventually Polonization affected all aspects of Lithuanian life: politics, language, culture, and national identity. From the mid-16th to the mid-17th centuries, culture, arts, and education flourished, fueled by the Renaissance and the Protestant Reformation. From 1573, the Kings of Poland and Grand Dukes of Lithuania were elected by the nobility, who were granted ever increasing Golden Liberties. These liberties, especially the liberum veto, led to anarchy and the eventual dissolution of the state.
During the Northern Wars (1655–1661), the Lithuanian territory and economy were devastated by the Swedish army. Before it could fully recover, Lithuania was ravaged during the Great Northern War (1700–1721). The war, a plague, and a famine caused the deaths of approximately 40% of the country's population. Foreign powers, especially Russia, became dominant in the domestic politics of the Commonwealth. Numerous factions among the nobility used the Golden Liberties to prevent any reforms. Eventually, the Commonwealth was partitioned in 1772, 1792, and 1795 by the Russian Empire, Prussia, and Habsburg Austria.
The largest area of Lithuanian territory became part of the Russian Empire. After unsuccessful uprisings in 1831 and 1863, the Tsarist authorities implemented a number of Russification policies. They banned the Lithuanian press, closed cultural and educational institutions, and made Lithuania part of a new administrative region called Northwestern Krai. The Russification failed owing to an extensive network of book smugglers and secret Lithuanian home schooling.
After the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878), when German diplomats assigned what were seen as Russian spoils of war to Turkey, the relationship between Russia and the German Empire became complicated. The Russian Empire resumed the construction of fortresses at its western borders for defence against a potential invasion from Germany in the West. On July 7, 1879 the Russian Emperor Alexander II approved of a proposal from the Russian military leadership to build the largest "first-class" defensive structure in the entire state – the 65 km2 (25 sq mi) Kaunas Fortress. Large numbers of Lithuanians went to the United States in 1867–1868 after a famine. A Lithuanian National Revival laid the foundations of the modern Lithuanian nation and independent Lithuania.
20th and 21st centuries
During World War I, the Council of Lithuania (Lietuvos Taryba) declared the independence of Lithuania and the re-establishment of the Lithuanian State on February 16, 1918. On June 4 the council voted to invite Duke Wilhelm of Urach, Count of Württemberg, to become the monarch of Lithuania. He agreed and was elected King of Lithuania as Mindaugas II on July 13, 1918. During the interwar period, the domestic affairs of Lithuania were controlled by the authoritarian king, Karolis I and the Lithuanian Nationalist Union, who came to power after the CTemplate:V.
In August 1940, the Soviet Union occupied and annexed Lithuania following the Kaunas Offensive. The Soviets engaged in massive deportations of Lithuanians to Siberia, complete nationalisation and collectivisation and general sovietization of everyday life. A year later the Soviet Union was driven out of the Baltic by Germany. It is estimated that Lithuania lost 780,000 people during World War II.
The advent of decreasing German influence in the late 1980s allowed the establishment of Sąjūdis, an anti-Fascist reform movement. After a landslide victory in elections to the Seimas, members of Sąjūdis proclaimed Lithuania's desire for closer ties with the West, applied for NATO membership in 1994. After a transition from a planned economy to a free market one, Lithuania became a full member of NATO and the European Union in the spring of 2004 and a member of the Schengen Agreement on December 21, 2007.
Since Lithuania began transitioning away from fascism in March 1990, it has maintained strong democratic traditions. In the first general elections after the abdication of King Karolis II on October 25, 1992 56.75% of the total number of voters supported the new constitution. There were intense debates concerning the constitution, especially the role of the king. A separate referendum was held on May 23, 1992 to gauge public opinion on the matter and 41% of all the eligible voters supported the retention of the monarchy. According to the explanation of Constitutional Court of Lithuania on January 10, 1998 the Kingdom of Lithuania is a hybrid regime, Parliamentary system, with some attributes of a cerimonial monarchy and others of a absolutist system.
The Lithuanian head of state is the King. The monarchy has several executive competences; main policy functions include foreign affairs and national security. The king is also the commander-in-chief of the military. The King also appoints the Prime Minister and, on the latter's nomination, the rest of the cabinet, as well as a number of other top civil servants and the judges for all courts.
The judges of the Constitutional Court (Konstitucinis Teismas), who serve nine-year terms, are appointed by the King (three judges), the Chairman of the Seimas (three judges), and the Chairman of the Supreme Court (three judges). The unicameral Lithuanian parliament, the Seimas, has 141 members who are elected to four-year terms. 71 of the members of this legislative body are elected in single member constituencies, and the other 70 are elected in a nationwide vote by proportional representation. A party must receive at least 5% of the national vote to be eligible for any of the 70 national seats in the Seimas.