Lithuania

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Lietuvos Respublika
Republic of Lithuania
Flag of Lithuania
Coat of arms of Lithuania
flag coat of arms
Official language Lithuanian
Capital Vilnius
State and form of government semi-presidential republic
Head of state President
Gitanas Nausėda
Head of government Prime Minister
Ingrida Šimonytė
area 65,300 km²
population 2,794,000 (January 2019)
Population density 43 inhabitants per km²
Population development   −1.06% (2016)
gross domestic product
  • Total (nominal)
  • Total ( PPP )
  • GDP / inh. (nominal)
  • GDP / inh. (KKP)
  • Debt
2019
  • $ 54.2 billion ( 84th )
  • $ 107.4 billion ( 85th )
  • 19,482 USD ( 45th )
  • 38,587 USD ( 40. )
  • EUR 17.468 billion (Sept. 25, 2017)
Human Development Index   0.882 ( 34th ) (2019)
currency Euro (EUR)
independence February 16, 1918 ( declaration )
March 11, 1990 (recovery)
National anthem Tautiška giesmė
Time zone UTC + 2 EET
UTC + 3 EESZ (March to October)
License Plate LT
ISO 3166 LT , LTU, 440
Internet TLD .lt
Telephone code +370
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Lithuania [ ˈliːta͜uən; ˈLɪta͜uən ] ( Lithuanian Lietuva , officially the Republic of Lithuania , Lithuanian Lietuvos Respublika ) is the southernmost of the three Baltic states . It borders the Baltic Sea to the west and shares borders with Latvia , Belarus , Poland and the Russian Kaliningrad Oblast .

From around 1253 to 1795 Lithuania was a grand duchy, from 1569 as Poland-Lithuania part of a union. With the 3rd partition of Poland , Lithuania became part of Russia in 1795, until it became a sovereign republic in 1918 in the act of Lithuania's declaration of independence . After the Soviet occupation (1940), interrupted by the German occupation (1941–1944), it regained independence in 1990. In the course of the EU enlargement in 2004 Lithuania became a member state of the European Union and a member of NATO . As of January 1, 2015, Lithuania became the 19th member of the euro area .

Lithuania has around 2.8 million inhabitants (as of January 2017). The capital and largest city ​​of Lithuania is Vilnius , other large cities are Kaunas , Klaipėda and Šiauliai .

geography

Lithuania is located in the south of the Baltic region . The allocation of the entire region is in turn controversial and is influenced not only by geographical factors but also by historical, cultural and political aspects. The Baltic states are assigned to Northern Europe , Central Europe ( East Central Europe ), Eastern Europe and Northeastern Europe .

Lithuania borders Latvia to the north and Belarus to the east and south-east . The border with Poland in the south is only about 100 kilometers long; it is considered to be the most important connection to Central and Western Europe. To the southwest, the Russian Oblast Kaliningrad joins as an exclave , the border is partly formed by the Memel . In the west lies the Baltic Sea, to which Lithuania has access via the port of Klaipėda .

Geographers from the Institut Géographique National , France's national geography institute, calculated the geographical center of Europe in 1989 and found a location in the village of Purnuškės a little north of Vilnius .

geology

Topography of Lithuania

Lithuania lies within the Eastern European Platform and has therefore been tectonically relatively calm for a long time geologically. The surface was decisively shaped by the repeated advances of the inland ice during the Ice Age . Therefore, there are only very few older rocks on the earth's surface. In terms of landscape, almost all of Lithuania belongs to the young moraine land , which was covered by the ice of the last, the Vistula Ice Age. 20,000 years ago, at the height of the Vistula glaciation, only a small strip in the extreme south-east remained ice-free.

In the west, the country borders the Baltic Sea with sandy beaches. The Lower Lithuanian Ridge in the western part of Lithuania belongs to the Baltic Ridge . The hill country in the southeast belongs to the Belarusian ridge . Here are the highest elevations in Lithuania with 294 m ( Aukštasis kalnas and Juozapinės kalnas ). The largest rivers are the Memel and Neris , both of which have their source in Belarus. In the northeast is the Lake District of High Lithuania. There are also numerous lakes in the south. In total, lakes take up about 1.5% of the country's area. Part of the Curonian Lagoon and the Curonian Spit also belong to Lithuania.

Most of the country's area is used for agricultural purposes. Just over 30% of the area is covered by forests and over 3% by moors and swamps. The area of ​​Lithuania consists of 62,680 km² of land and 2,620 km² of water.

climate

Kaunas
Climate diagram
J F. M. A. M. J J A. S. O N D.
 
 
39
 
-3
-9
 
 
31
 
-1
-8th
 
 
35
 
4th
-4
 
 
42
 
11
2
 
 
55
 
18th
7th
 
 
69
 
21st
11
 
 
80
 
22nd
12th
 
 
78
 
22nd
12th
 
 
56
 
17th
8th
 
 
45
 
11
4th
 
 
53
 
4th
-1
 
 
47
 
0
-5
Temperature in ° Cprecipitation in mm
Source: Lithuanian Hydrometeorological Service
Average monthly temperatures and rainfall for Kaunas
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Max. Temperature ( ° C ) −2.6 −1.4 3.5 10.7 17.9 21.0 22.2 21.9 16.7 10.8 4.0 0.0 O 10.5
Min. Temperature (° C) −8.5 −7.6 −3.6 1.8 7.3 10.9 12.4 11.8 8.1 4.0 −0.5 −4.9 O 2.6
Precipitation ( mm ) 39 31 35 42 55 69 80 78 56 45 53 47 Σ 630
Rainy days ( d ) 18th 14th 14th 13th 13th 13th 14th 13th 15th 15th 17th 19th Σ 178
T
e
m
p
e
r
a
t
u
r
−2.6
−8.5
−1.4
−7.6
3.5
−3.6
10.7
1.8
17.9
7.3
21.0
10.9
22.2
12.4
21.9
11.8
16.7
8.1
10.8
4.0
4.0
−0.5
0.0
−4.9
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
N
i
e
d
e
r
s
c
h
l
a
g
39
31
35
42
55
69
80
78
56
45
53
47
  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

The climate in Lithuania is a temperate continental climate . The westerly wind prevailing on the coast carries warm and humid air from the Baltic Sea into the interior.

The warmest month is July with an average of 17 ° C, the coldest month is January with an average of −5.1 ° C. The annual average temperature is 6.2 ° C. The mean annual rainfall is 661 mm, in the southwest significantly higher, in the north below.

environment

There are over 200 nature reserves of various destinations and grades in Lithuania. These include five national parks , seven protected areas under the Ramsar Convention , four total reserves and thirty regional parks. Over 14% of the country's area is taken up by nature reserves, such as the Praviršulio tyrelis area . A raised bog that is very well known among bog experts is the Aukštumala bog between Sowetsk and Klaipėda , as it was the first bog in the world to which a special monograph ( CA Weber , 1902) was dedicated. While the western part is still very well preserved, large areas of peat are mined in the eastern part by a subsidiary of the German Klassmann-Deilmann group. The raised bog is part of the Memel Delta Regional Park. Upper Lithuania (Aukštaitija) is partly very hilly and rich in lakes, in the center of this area lies the Aukštaitija National Park .

population

Demographics

Population density according to self-government units
Population development in millions

The Lithuanian population has been decreasing steadily since the end of the Soviet Union in 1990. In 1992 the maximum was reached with just over 3.7 million inhabitants. In 2000 it was 3.5 million and in 2010 it was only 3.32 million. Emigration (see below) contributes to this decline, as does the surplus of deaths . In terms of births, the absolute low point was reached in 2002 with 30,000 births (8.6 per 1000 inhabitants), and since then the rate has increased again slightly: in 2010 there were 35,625 births nationwide (10.8 per 1000 inhabitants). While the west of the country is more fertile than the rest of Lithuania, the death surplus is greatest in the eastern border regions, as they are most affected by aging (over 20 deaths per 1000 inhabitants in the Ignalina , Švenčionys and Zarasai counties , with a national average of 13, 5 for 2007).

On September 28, 2012, the Statistical Office of Lithuania announced that since April of the same year there were fewer than three million people in Lithuania. The main reason here too is emigration . Around 15,100 Lithuanians emigrated to another country between January and August 2012. The majority of them are young adults. They see greater opportunities on the job market abroad than in Lithuania. The target countries are European countries such as the United Kingdom , Ireland or Scandinavia . In 2017, 4.3% of the population in Lithuania was born abroad.

Since the end of World War II , Lithuania has seen rapid change into an urban society. In 1959, three-fifths (60%) of the population lived in rural areas, in 1970 the ratio was balanced, and in 1990 the ratio of two-thirds urban to one-third rural population was reached.

migration

It is estimated that around 200,000 Lithuanians live or work in western countries without the Lithuanian registration authorities being officially aware of this. According to statistics, over 218,000 people have officially left the country since 2005; with an immigration of a good 60,000, a loss of almost 158,000 people, which corresponds to more than 3% of the population. The Lithuanian Statistical Office gives the unofficial emigration rate for 2001 to 2007 as around 112,000 people. Since then, Lithuanians have always made up 85% of emigrants; in 2001, less than half had Lithuanian citizenship . Conversely, since 2005, Lithuanians have made up around 70% of immigrants, compared to only 15% in 2001. As a result of the positive economic development in Lithuania, (official) immigration from neighboring Belarus has increased, but is still well below 1000 people per year, on balance below 500 people. There was a striking difference between 2009 and 2010: In 2009, only 22,000 people left the country, compared to 84,000 in 2010. There was a decline in 2011: 54,000 people left the country, while 16,000 immigrated. In 2013 39,000 people emigrated, the next year 36,600 and in 2015 even 44,500 people. In 2016 51,000 Lithuanians emigrated, in 2017 even 57,200.

The total number of inhabitants fell from 3.7 to 2.8 million between 1990 and 2017 due to emigration (there were 1.4% fewer permanent residents in 2017 and 0.5% fewer permanent residents in 2018).

In 2018, 12,300 people immigrated, 5,700 of them from Ukraine , 26% from Belarus and 6% from Russia .

Destination countries for emigration

To date, the UK has been the most popular destination for Lithuanians to emigrate. 124,000 Lithuanians declared their residence here. In second place is Ireland with 40,000 and in third Norway with 24,000 Lithuanians.

Life expectancy

The country has a surplus of women due to the low life expectancy of men.

The statistical average life expectancy in Lithuania in 2015 was just under 74 years, with a clear unequal distribution according to gender: women live on average 79.3 years old (in Germany 82.9 years), men only 68.5 (in Germany 77.9 years old ) Years). Compared to 1990, both the life expectancy of women (from 76.3 years) and that of men (from 66.4 years) increased. In 2007 there was still a slight decrease in the number of men. Alcohol abuse has clearly negative effects on life expectancy in men. According to the 2014 WHO report, 2,900 men and 950 women die each year as a result of alcohol consumption (30% of all deaths).

Since 2007, however, life expectancy has also increased for men. In 2013 Lithuania had the highest per capita consumption of pure alcohol compared to the 34 member countries of the OECD at the time .

According to the WHO , Lithuania was the country with the highest suicide rate in the world in 2005 with a statistical figure of 38.6 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. Meanwhile, Lithuania still leads the list of suicide rates with an average of 35.6 cases (in 2009) per 100,000 population (61.3 cases in men, 10.4 in women), followed by Russia with 31.7 cases (2006 ) per 100,000 inhabitants. The main reasons for the high suicide rates are high alcohol consumption, pronounced youth unemployment and existential fears. Lithuania also has the highest homicide rate in the EU.

ethnicities

By far the largest part of the population consists of Lithuanians . However, there are also national minorities in the country, predominantly Slavs . The Polish minority in Lithuania , most of which live in the Vilnius district , has been resident for several hundred years.

In contrast to the Baltic Germans, the German minority in Lithuania ("Lithuanian Germans"), which is always small in number, has remained in its long history without any major historical, political, cultural and economic significance. Their complete relocation to Germany in the spring of 1941 was a result of the Hitler-Stalin Pact .

Russians mostly came to Lithuania during and after World War II when the country was part of the Soviet Union . The Russian-speaking population in Lithuania is concentrated in the capital Vilnius (especially the Naujoji Vilnia district ), the port city of Klaipėda ( Memel ), the Mažoji Lietuva region ( Lithuania Minor ) and industrial locations such as Elektrėnai and Visaginas .

Lithuania population by ethnic group 1959–2011
Ethnic group 1959 census 1970 census 1979 census 1989 census 2001 census 2011 census
number % number % number % number % number % number %
Lithuanians 2,150,767 79.3 2,506,751 80.1 2,712,233 80.0 2,924,251 79.6 2,907,293 83.4 2,561,314 84.2
Poland 230.107 8.5 240.203 7.7 247.022 7.3 257.994 7.0 234.989 6.7 200,317 6.6
Russians 231.014 8.5 267,989 8.6 303.493 8.9 344,455 9.4 219,789 6.3 176.913 5.8
Belarusians 30,256 1.1 45,412 1.5 57,584 1.7 63.169 1.7 42,866 1.2 36,227 1.2
Ukrainians 17,692 0.7 25,099 0.8 31,982 0.9 44,789 1.2 22,488 0.6 16,423 0.5
Jews 24,667 0.9 23,538 0.8 14,691 0.4 12,390 0.3 4,007 0.1 3,050 0.1
Tatars 3,020 0.1 3,454 0.1 3,984 0.1 5,135 0.1 3,235 0.1 2,793 0.1
German 11,166 0.4 1,904 0.1 2,616 0.1 2,058 0.1 3,243 0.1 2,418 0.1
Roma 1,238 0.1 1,880 0.1 2,306 0.1 2,718 0.1 2,571 0.1 2.115 0.1
Latvians 6.318 0.2 5,063 0.2 4,354 0.1 4,229 0.1 2,955 0.1 2,025 0.1
Estonians 352 0.0 551 0.0 546 0.0 598 0.0 400 0.0 314 0.0
Lipka Tatars 423 0.0 388 0.0 352 0.0 289 0.0 273 0.0 241 0.0
Other or unspecified 4,425 0.2 6.004 0.2 10,327 0.3 12,727 0.3 40,136 1.2 39,279 1.3
total 2,711,445 3,128,236 3,391,490 3,674,802 3,483,972 3,043,429

In addition, there are still living in Lithuania (2011):

The smallest minority are the Karaites , a Judaized Turkic people who predominantly settle in Trakai and still number around 241 people (1989: 289). Almost 33,000 inhabitants (1% of the respondents) do not indicate ethnicity .

languages

The Polish-speaking minority in Lithuania lives mainly in the area around Vilnius (Polish Wilno )

Lithuanian as a native language speaking about 2,694,000 inhabitants (including the speaker of Samogitian ). Lithuanian is one of the Baltic languages , including Latvian . In many properties it is considered to be particularly archaic and therefore particularly close to the reconstructed Indo-European original language .

In Klaipėda (Memel) and on the Curonian Spit there are still some Lithuanians who speak German . Polish is common in the eastern part, especially in the rural areas around Vilnius and in the area around Dieveniškės , as a large Polish minority has remained there despite the expulsions after the Second World War . Due to the long presence of Russian in Lithuania, the Polish spoken by the Poles has mixed in part with Russian words and expressions that are now spoken as Lithuanian Polish .

While Russian is still the lingua franca for older Lithuanians (> 35 years of age), English now takes on this role for younger people .

religion

The majority of Lithuanians (2011: 77%) are Roman Catholic and belong to the Catholic Church in Lithuania , around 4.1% are Russian Orthodox . About 1.9% belong to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lithuania and 0.2% (7,000 members) belong to the Evangelical Reformed Church in Lithuania . According to a poll from October 2008, a good two thirds of the Catholics surveyed describe themselves as practicing the faith. 10% of all respondents saw themselves as not believing. The overwhelming majority (75–80%, depending on the question) reject the participation of the (Catholic) Church in legislation or speaking on current topics or election recommendations.

Vilnius is the seat of an Apostolic Nuncio , who is the Pope's diplomatic representative for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. There are around 21,000 (0.6%) Muslims in Lithuania and around 3,000  Jehovah's Witnesses . Around 4,000 Lithuanians profess the neo-pagan Romuva movement, which is officially recognized as a religious community.

The proportion of the Jewish population in Lithuania before the Second World War was about 9%. During the German occupation of Lithuania from 1941 to 1944, over 90% of the Jewish population was murdered.

story

First mention of Lithuania as "Litua" 1009 in Quedlinburg annals

Baltic tribes settled the area from the 3rd millennium BC. Lithuania as a state began in the 13th century. Prince Mindaugas , who even had himself crowned king in 1253 with the approval of the Pope , brought the neighboring tribes under his sovereignty by military force. At his death in 1263, his principality / kingdom roughly comprised the area of ​​today's Lithuania. The formation of states took place just in time to be able to successfully resist the knights of the Teutonic Order advancing from the north and south .

At the same time, expansion to the east took place as early as the 14th century. From the disintegration of the old Kievan Rus after the Mongol storm by 1240, several successor principalities had developed. The Teutonic Order prevented Lithuania from pursuing an expansive western policy, while the eastern flank was exposed due to the Tartar invasion . The Grand Duchy of Lithuania advanced into this power vacuum and, with the conquest of Kiev (after 1362), came into competition with the Grand Duchy of Moscow for supremacy among the Russian sub-principalities. Lithuania's eastward expansion reached its peak in the first half of the 15th century.

Grand Duke Jogaila took over the Polish royal crown in 1386 through marriage and conversion to Christianity (after Mindaugas' death in 1263, Lithuania had "become" pagan again) and thus founded the Polish-Lithuanian personal union . Jogaila (Polish: Jagiello) founded the ruling dynasty of the Jagiellonians . After the victorious Battle of Tannenberg in 1410, the threat posed by the Teutonic Order was finally eliminated. This battle had been won by a united Polish-Lithuanian army.

Lithuania's expansion to the southeast under the Grand Dukes Mindaugas I. Vytenis , Algirdas and Vytautas - the territorial development during the late Middle Ages

The close political unity of Poland and Lithuania culminated in the Realunion of Lublin in 1569 , which marked the end of independent Lithuania after the Lithuanian nobility had increasingly come under the influence of Polish culture and language in the previous decades. During the Reformation , Lithuania followed the Polish path and remained Catholic, while the northern, German-influenced Baltic states became Protestant. Lithuania remained with the Polish state until the partitions of Poland and then came under Russian rule in 1795. Two Polish-Lithuanian uprisings in 1831 and 1863 were bloodily suppressed by the Russian tsar .

Lithuania during World War I: On August 18, 1915, the city of Kaunas was conquered by the Germans during the summer offensive . This was followed by the German occupation of Lithuania. The territory was placed under the Commander in Chief East . Prince Franz Joseph von Isenburg became head of the administration of Lithuania . First based in Tilsit, this administration was moved to Kaunas in April 1916 and to Vilnius in March 1917.

independence

The end of the First World War with the October Revolution and the subsequent civil war led in February 1918 - still under German occupation - to the proclamation of the independent Republic of Lithuania, which was also enforced after fighting against the Red Army and Polish troops. The capital at this time was not the historic seat of the Grand Duke of Vilnius , but Kaunas , as the Vilnius area was occupied by Poland (1920 to 1939, recognized by the League of Nations in 1923 ). Parliamentary democracy, which had been introduced by the 1922 Constitution , was overturned by the coup of Antanas Smetona in December 1926; Smetona then ruled dictatorially until 1940. New constitutions were introduced that confirmed Smeton's authoritarian leadership, including the 1928 and 1938 Lithuanian Constitutions . After a German ultimatum , Lithuania had to cede Memelland to Germany on March 23, 1939 . The Memelland belonged to the German Reich until 1919, since then it has been controversial between Germany and Lithuania and has therefore been under the administration of the French League of Nations since the Treaty of Versailles . It was occupied by Lithuanian irregulars on January 10, 1923, and then annexed by Lithuania.

Second World War

With the outbreak of World War II , the pressure from the Soviet Union increased . Smetona abdicated in June 1940, and after the invasion of Soviet troops, a pro-Soviet government was brought into office, which declared membership of the Soviet Union (August 3, 1940). After the start of the German-Soviet War , German troops occupied Lithuanian territory until July 1941. Task forces of the Security Police and SD with Lithuanian volunteers and so-called protection teams murdered a large part of the Jewish population in the period that followed until December 1941 , the survivors were concentrated in ghettos . 90% of the country's Jewish population did not see the end of the war.

In the course of their summer offensive in 1944 , the Red Army occupied large parts of Lithuania again. The Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic (LSSR) was re-established. The resistance of the so-called " Forest Brothers " to the Soviet occupation was lost without foreign support and had shrunk to a few partisan units from 1948 onwards . In 1949, in a third large wave of deportations, Stalin had tens of thousands of “subversive elements” deported to Siberia, after large-scale arrests and deportations had already been carried out in 1940/41 and 1945/46. Many of the deportees died in penal camps in the east of the Soviet Union. The deportees also included German “ wolf children ” who had fled the Koenigsberg area to Lithuania from starvation during the chaos of war and who had often found accommodation with farmers.

Lithuanians at the Gorbachev meeting in Šiauliai

By the end of the Second World War, around 65,000 Lithuanian war refugees had fled to Germany .

Regaining independence

In the course of perestroika , the the Baltic Singing Revolution provoked, declared himself Lithuania in 1990 as the first union republic of the Soviet Union to the sovereign state and called the Supreme Soviet in the Constituent Assembly to. Iceland was the first state to recognize independent Lithuania, also in 1990. During the January events in Lithuania on January 13, 1991, pro-Soviet military forces tried unsuccessfully to overthrow the young democracy with tanks; 14 young demonstrators died at the television tower. In response to this, the Lithuanians declared their “yes” to independence in a referendum on February 8, 1991. With a turnout of 84.7%, 90.5% were in favor of independence. After the unsuccessful Moscow coup against Gorbachev in August 1991, the western countries recognized the independence of Lithuania, as did the neighboring countries of Latvia and Estonia . After the initial economic crisis and political instability due to radical privatization, the reform policy increasingly gained momentum, especially after the Russian crisis was overcome in 2000.

Lithuania became a member of the EU and NATO in 2004 . Lithuania has been part of the Schengen area since December 21, 2007 .

politics

Political system

Lithuania is a semi-presidential republic . The capital and seat of government of Lithuania is Vilnius . After the Constitution which Lithuania is a democratic and constitutional republic with separation of powers . Citizens' trust in the realization of democracy is rather low: in the Eurobarometer survey of April 2006 “How satisfied are you with the way democracy works in your country?” Only 23% said it was positive.

Lithuania, like Israel and some other Eastern European and Asian countries, is also described as an ethnic democracy in which “the dominance of an ethnic group is institutionalized”.

In the 2019 Democracy Index of the British magazine The Economist, Lithuania ranks 37th out of 167 countries and is considered an “incomplete democracy”.

president

President Gitanas Nausėda

The head of state is the president , who, in contrast to the German federal president, does not only perform representative tasks. Rather, the President of the Republic of Lithuania is responsible for the country's foreign policy even before the Foreign Minister. In addition, he has extensive veto rights, which enable him to block laws previously enacted by the Seimas. In terms of protocol, he is followed by the chairman of the Seimas and the prime ministers who, according to the constitution, can lead the Republic of Lithuania (domestically) or represent it vis-à-vis foreign state guests in the absence of the president. The incumbent president has been Gitanas Nausėda (* 1964) since July 12, 2019 .

houses of Parliament

The Lithuanian parliament is called the Seimas . The name comes from the Polish name Sejm and refers to the long common Lithuanian-Polish history. The unicameral parliament consists of 141 members of parliament who are elected for four years. The last parliamentary elections took place in October 2016. The chairman of the Seimo is Saulius Skvernelis (* 1970).

Parliament has the power to amend the constitution by a two-thirds majority .

government

The head of government of Lithuania is the prime minister . He has the authority to issue guidelines for the policy of the government . Saulius Skvernelis (* 1970) has been head of government since December 2016 .

The administration of Lithuania is led by the line ministers , who are at the head of the ministry and other subordinate authorities.

Law

The temporary constitution of November 1918 granted all Lithuanians, regardless of wealth, the right to vote and stand for election in parliamentary elections. On November 20, 1919, the electoral law was passed by the constituent parliament. From 1919 onwards, Lithuanian women could vote and be elected under the same conditions as men. This right was then applied for the first time in the first constituent parliamentary election of 1920. Even under Soviet administration, the active and passive right to vote for women remained legally protected. The right was implicitly confirmed in the Lithuanian declaration of independence and explicitly institutionalized by the constitution.

The country caused an international stir in 2009 when a “moral law” was passed that promoted discrimination against homosexuality . The then head of state Dalia Grybauskaitė also rejected the law, but she was constitutionally obliged to sign it.

Party landscape

The Lithuanian party landscape is fragmented. Due to the frequent government crises and changing majorities in parliament, the smaller parties have a not inconsiderable influence on parliamentary decision-making

Apart from the conservatives ( Tėvynės Sąjunga ) and social democrats ( Lietuvos socialdemokratų partija ) , most parties do not have a distinct party hierarchy. In determining their practical positions, they are more dependent on their political leaders and their personal interests than on party programs or fixed ideological views.

Several parties were founded with the purpose of offering individuals a party platform: for example, the New Union for Artūras Paulauskas in 1998 , Order and Justice (Liberal Democrats) for Rolandas Paksas in 2002, the Labor Party for Viktoras Uspaskichas in 2003 and the Liberal Movement for Petras Auštrevičius in 2006 . The named party leaders could not prevail in their main party before and without further ado founded a new party to give their interests more weight. The most recent successful establishment of the People's Resurrection Party (since April 2008) is determined more by its popular chairman Arūnas Valinskas than by its programmatic statements.

Almost all parties pursue a market economy concept, most openly the Liberals of the Liberal and Central Union and the Liberal Movement as well as the Conservatives - with some restrictions also the Social Democrats, the Labor Party and the Liberal Democrats. Conservatives and liberals are more likely to find their electorate among the educated and “winners” of the last ten years, while Social Democrats, Labor and Liberal Democrats use populist promises to seek support from the common people who have benefited little from the economic boom in recent years. Geographically, the liberal parties are almost exclusively represented in the cities, while the Peasant Party and the Christian Democrats rely on the rural population.

After the affair surrounding the former president Rolandas Paksas, part of his electorate defected to the newly founded Labor Party. Paksas had won over many of the less affluent voters by promising to defend their interests, the interests of the runkeliai ("turnips") against the country's power-political elites . With the decline of the Labor Party, the Liberal Democrats were able to consolidate their position. Alongside social democrats and conservatives, they are equally well represented in town and country.

After the fragmentation of the party landscape after the elections in 1996, a certain periodic consolidation has been observed in recent years before the upcoming elections in order to improve the electoral prospects in a coalition, for example the coalition of the Liberal Union , Center Union and Modern Christian Democrats for Liberals and center Union in 2003. the social Democrats formed with the social Liberals in 2004 in the face of devastating election forecasts an electoral alliance A. Brazausko ir A. Paulausko koalicija "Už darba Lietuvai" (A. Brazauskas 'and A. Paulauskas' coalition "work for Lithuania") , here however, only for voting on the basis of two independent parties. Most recently, the Christian Democrats merged with the Fatherland League.

Lobbying

Interest groups do not play as important a role in the political system as they do in other countries. The trade unions are of very little importance in political and social life. The delimitation of the parties from one another is low and hardly hindered by ideological barriers. In contrast, personal acquaintance plays a major role and is therefore asserted at the various levels of political decision-making.

Foreign policy

Signing of the Lisbon Treaty in 2007

Lithuania is a member of many international organizations. The most important guidelines of Lithuania's foreign policy are ties to the West, transatlantic and European integration, and regional stability in Europe. Membership in NATO , which Lithuania joined on March 29, 2004, is a central aspect of security policy and an expression of its ties to the West .

During the conflict over the presidential elections in Ukraine in November / December 2004, the Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus, together with the Polish President Aleksander Kwaśniewski, acted as mediator between the conflicting parties. The media in both countries supported Viktor Yushchenko .

Lithuania has been a member of the EU since May 1, 2004 . The introduction of the euro , which was planned for January 1, 2007 , has been postponed. It took place on January 1, 2015.

With the expansion of the Schengen area in 2007, Lithuania also joined it. The border controls at the border with EU countries, d. H. Latvia and Poland were abolished on December 21, 2007.

The relationship between Lithuania and Russia is tense. Among other things, the Russian government banned the import of dairy products from Lithuania in 2013. In return, the Lithuanian government took a Russian television station out of its programming; at the beginning of 2018, entry bans for 49 Russian officials were imposed in November 2017 for alleged human rights violations, money laundering and corruption.

It joined the OECD on July 5, 2018.

European politics

Lithuania has been a member state of the European Union since May 1, 2004

The accession negotiations between Lithuania and the EU made important progress in 2001, mainly under the then Swedish EU Council Presidency . Lithuania voted in a referendum in May 2003 with over 90% approval for membership (from May 2004) in the European Union. For the first time since the start of monetary union , the European Commission refused to allow a member state to introduce the euro in 2006. Lithuania was not allowed to join the euro zone due to excessive inflation in the litas . The country has only been part of the euro currency area since January 2015 , making the euro the national currency in Lithuania.

In the second half of 2013 (July to December 2013) Lithuania took over the EU Council Presidency , followed by Ireland (January to June 2013). Lithuania was replaced by Greece (January to June 2014).

health

military

In the course of NATO's eastward expansion , Poland , the Czech Republic and Hungary became members of NATO in 1999. Then came the invitation of Bulgaria , Estonia , Latvia , Lithuania, Romania , Slovakia and Slovenia , which joined NATO on March 29, 2004.

In the absence of modern fighter aircraft of its own, a squadron of NATO allies' fighter pilots is permanently stationed at Zokniai near Šiauliai .

Lithuanian troops take part in international peace operations in Kosovo and Afghanistan . When George W. Bush applied to allied or friendly states for support in the Iraq War (Third Gulf War) in early 2003 , some Eastern European states (including Lithuania) agreed to help. From the beginning, Lithuania was a country of the coalition of the willing ; it provided support troops (medical personnel, logistics) for use in Iraq. In June 2006 there were 150 Lithuanians in Iraq.

In the search for sea ​​mines ( Baltic Sea ), the armed forces of Lithuania are working closely with Belgium, Estonia , Germany, France, Great Britain, Latvia , the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden.

After the threat from neighboring Russia in the course of the annexation of Crimea and the war in Ukraine , which was perceived as increasing , the Lithuanian parliament reintroduced general conscription in 2015. After analyzing the Russian actions in Ukraine, television reports and campaigns in the social media spreading the idea of ​​parts of Lithuania belonging to Russia historically and information about the alleged oppression of ethnic Russians in today's Lithuania were interpreted as an attempt by the government of the Russian Federation to prepare the Russian public for a confrontation. The presence of a combat group of around 1,000 soldiers from other European countries in Lithuania is therefore necessary as a deterrent, according to the Lithuanian Defense Minister's assessment in March 2017. Military spending has also increased significantly. Lithuania spent just under 1.7% of its economic output or $ 0.8 billion on its armed forces in 2017.

Administrative structure

Administrative division of Lithuania

Since the administrative reform of the 1990s, Lithuania has only had one level of local government with elected councils and elected mayors. These are the 60 Savivaldybės (self-governments) . In terms of shape and function, they lie between German communities and German districts. One differentiates:

  • 7 municipalities
  • 2 self-managed health resorts
  • 43 Rajongeminden (emerged from earlier districts / Rajonen)
  • 8 genuine communities

Below the self-government there are more than 600 municipal districts, with administrative tasks but without self-government bodies. Most cities and villages are not regional authorities, but only statistical units.

There is also an administrative level above the self-government. The ten administrative districts (lit. apskritis , pl.apskritys ):

Alytus Marijampolė Kaunas Vilnius Utena Panevėžys Šiauliai Tauragė Klaipėda Telšiai Polen Russland Lettland Weißrussland
The former ten districts of Lithuania
  1. Alytus District ( Alytus )
  2. Kaunas District ( Kaunas )
  3. Klaipeda County ( Klaipeda )
  4. Marijampolė District ( Marijampolė )
  5. Panevėžys District ( Panevėžys )
  6. Šiauliai District ( Šiauliai )
  7. Tauragė District ( Tauragė )
  8. Telšiai District ( Telšiai )
  9. Utena District ( Utena )
  10. Vilnius District ( Vilnius )

Until July 1, 2010, the districts were equipped with prefects appointed by the government without elected bodies, but with administrations (civil servants).

Regions

Historic regions of Lithuania in the existing national borders

Lithuania is traditionally divided into four historical regions: These are: Aukštaitija ( Upper Lithuania ) in the northeast down to the capital Vilnius, the largest of the four regions, Žemaitija ( Lower Lithuania ) , the traditionally prosperous Suvalkija or Sūduva in the southwest and the traditionally poor Dzūkija in the south. A fifth region, which in Lithuania is mostly regarded as part of Lower Lithuania, is Little Lithuania (Mažoji Lietuva) , which forms the westernmost strip of Lithuania, until 1918 it belonged to the German Empire as part of East Prussia and was then called Memelland . However, it is only a part of historical Lithuania Minor .

economy

General

Lithuania has been part of the
European single market since 2004

A structural change was associated with the transition from the planned to the market economy . This has worsened since the country joined the EU in 2004. The Lithuanian economy has been growing for a number of years (around 3% annually). The gross domestic product (GDP) in 2015 was 37.2 billion euros, the GDP per capita was 13,282 euros. In the Global Competitiveness Index , which measures a country's competitiveness, Lithuania ranks 41st out of 137 countries (as of 2017-2018). In 2017, Lithuania ranked 16th out of 180 countries in the Economic Freedom Index .

The most important export items from Lithuania are machines, electrical goods, textiles and food.

Key figures

All GDP values ​​are given in US dollars.

year 1995 2000 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
GDP
(purchasing power parity)
24.63 billion 33.66 billion 54.56 billion 60.40 billion 68.89 billion 72.08 billion 61.87 billion 63.65 billion 68.90 billion 72.85 billion
GDP per capita
(purchasing power parity)
6,786 9,618 16,422 18,472 21,319 22,539 19,562 20,552 22,752 24,382
GDP growth
(real)
... 3.8% 7.7% 7.4% 11.1% 2.6% −14.8% 1.6% 6.0% 3.8%
Inflation
(in percent)
... 1.0% 2.7% 3.8% 5.8% 11.2% 4.2% 1.2% 4.1% 3.2%
Unemployment
(in percent)
... 16.4% 8.3% 5.8% 4.2% 5.8% 13.8% 17.8% 15.4% 13.4%
Public debt
(as a percentage of GDP)
... 23% 18% 17% 16% 15% 29% 36% 37% 40%
year 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
GDP
(purchasing power parity)
76.72 billion 80.75 billion 83.29 billion 86.33 billion 91.24 billion
GDP per capita
(purchasing power parity)
25,904 27,537 28,671 30.097 32,298
GDP growth
(real)
3.5% 3.5% 2.0% 2.3% 3.8%
Inflation
(in percent)
1.2% 0.2% −0.7% 0.7% 3.7%
Unemployment
(in percent)
11.8% 10.7% 9.1% 7.9% 7.1%
Public debt
(as a percentage of GDP)
39% 41% 43% 40% 37%
Tourist destination in Lithuania: the moated castle in Trakai

labour market

The unemployment rate was 6.8% in June 2018, which is slightly below the EU average. In 2017, youth unemployment was 13.5%. In 2015, 9.1% of all workers worked in agriculture, 25.2% in industry and 65.8% in the service sector. The total number of employees is estimated at 1.47 million for 2017; 50.6% of them are women.

tourism

The country had 1.79 million foreign tourists in 2011; the largest group by country of origin were Russians.

State budget

The state budget included expenditures in 2016 of the equivalent of 15.1 billion US dollars , which were income equivalent to 14.6 billion US dollar against. This results in a budget deficit of 1.0% of GDP .
The national debt was 40.0% of GDP in 2016.

In 2006 the share of government expenditure (as a percentage of GDP) was as follows:

Infrastructure

energy

The Ignalina nuclear power plant in Drūkšiai

In Lithuania in the 1990s and 2000s, in some cases more than 75 percent of the electricity required was provided by the Ignalina nuclear power plant (type: RBMK as in Tschornobyl ). During this period, Lithuania, alongside France, had the highest percentage of nuclear power in the world. After the first reactor was shut down at the beginning of 2005, the second (and last) reactor went offline on December 31, 2009 due to obligations under the EU accession agreement . A referendum put to the vote by the Lithuanian government in the parliamentary elections in 2008 on the extension of the lifetime of the Ignalina nuclear power plant was approved by over 90% of those who voted, but failed due to the low turnout (48.4%). In any case, the EU Commission would probably not have approved an amendment to the accession treaty.

The gas and heavy fuel oil power plant of Lietuvos energija in Elektrėnai , which currently only peak load covers, will be able to ensure the Lithuanian self-supply of electricity to the 2015th However, this results in a high dependency on supplies of fossil fuels ( gas , heavy oil ) from Russia . In order to reduce this dependency again for the foreseeable future, the construction of the Visaginas nuclear power plant is planned. In the referendum on the return of Lithuania to the use of nuclear energy on October 14, 2012, 64.8% of voters spoke out against the power plant.

Renewable energies have been used more and more in recent years, especially energy generation from biomass . This is ensured in particular by EU funding as well as non-governmental organizations and associations of energy producers. In Lithuania, 68 wind turbines were in operation in 2009  , with an installed capacity of 91.2 MWe and an annual capacity utilization of 21.89%. There is no state funding.

telecommunications

Lithuania has the best-developed fiber optic network in the EU and Europe . According to an annual study published by the FTTH Council Europe in 2013, around 32% of households in the country are supplied with FTTH . Of these, around 31% have signed a corresponding contract. This means that Lithuania leads the way in a European comparison. Sweden has the next highest FTTH penetration in Europe with almost 23%.

The connection to the landline network is to be financed by the subscriber, so that, especially in rural areas, landline connections are usually only available where they were already built under Soviet occupation. The Lithuanian mobile network (telephone and internet) is therefore very well developed, even in rural areas and in the forest there are seldom dead spots. In 2016, 77.2% of the population used the internet.

traffic

Vilnia River near Vilnius

Lithuania is of great importance as a transit country between Central and Northern Europe , between the Kaliningrad Oblast and the Russian heartland and between Belarus and Scandinavia . Lithuania also has an important function as an oil transit country.

The capital Vilnius is located in a kind of "dead angle" due to its proximity to the strongly sealed-off EU external border to Belarus. Therefore, Kaunas, the second largest city, is more important for Lithuania than Vilnius in terms of traffic planning.

With an average of 219 road deaths per million inhabitants each year, traffic in Lithuania is the most dangerous in the entire EU.

Streets

The Lithuanian European road network

In 2012, the entire road network comprised around 84,166 km, of which 72,297 km were paved. Lithuania's road network is still being developed. The most important connections are the highways Vilnius - Kaunas - Klaipėda (German: Memel ) and Vilnius - Panevėžys as well as the trunk road E 67 " Via Baltica " from Warsaw via Kaunas and Riga to Tallinn and Helsinki , which is to be expanded into a full motorway in the long term. Motorways around Šiauliai and in the Telšiai region are also under construction .

shipping

In Klaipėda there is an important sea ​​port with ferry connections to the entire Baltic Sea area (including to Kiel ) and increasing importance for freight traffic. In addition, the Memel and Neris are navigable for inland waterways .

Airlines

Lithuania has four international airports: Vilnius , Kaunas (in Karmėlava ); Palanga and Šiauliai are served rarely or only seasonally . There are connections to numerous European countries. The catchment area of Riga Airport in Latvia extends to Lithuania.

Cheap flights with Air Baltic , Ryanair and Wizz Air are also offered from German cities such as Frankfurt am Main , Hahn , Berlin , Bremen , Hamburg , Hanover , Munich , Düsseldorf , Dortmund and Karlsruhe .

railroad

Up until 1990, the fast direct train services between Vilnius and Warsaw passed through Belarus, which had been part of the Soviet Union. To avoid the resulting border formalities,  an alternative branch line is operated via Šeštokai (LT) and Suwałki (PL) with the reopened Mockava railway border crossing. Since June 2016 there are direct train connections from Poland to Lithuania ( Białystok - Kaunas ) on weekends ; there is no need to change trains in Šeštokai , as the route has been switched to standard gauge.

The direct night traffic was served by an IC bus connection until 2011 , operated by the Polish state railway PKP . This bus connection replaced the direct night train that ran between Vilnius and Warsaw until 2004.

Lithuania's railways (as in the entire former Soviet Union and Finland ) run on a gauge of 1520 mm ( Central Europe : 1435 mm), which is why the trains from Poland to the Baltic states have to be re-gauged. To some extent, modern gauging systems such as the Polish SUW-2000 system are used.

buses

Bus traffic (e.g. the long-distance bus routes from Eurolines , Ecolines or Lux-Express ) also plays an important role in national and international passenger transport .

Culture

Traditional old Lithuanian house

Lithuania is shaped by many different cultural influences. On the one hand there is the long independence and maintenance of a non-Christian state religion, the long common history with Poland, relations with the Hanseatic League and in the Baltic Sea area, membership of the Russian Empire. This is where the Orthodox churches, which cannot be overlooked in the big cities, come from. In the west of the country, the Hanseatic - Northern European tradition with strong German, Danish and Swedish influences can be seen. B. ( brick Gothic , half-timbered houses ). In the east, especially in Vilnius, Polish cultural elements are often present.

The baroque old town of Vilnius is a UNESCO World Heritage Site , as are the dunes on the Curonian Spit (Neringa) peninsula and the Kernavė archaeological site .

music

literature

Movie

Jonas Mekas has often been called "the godfather of American avant-garde cinema"

The first Lithuanian films were made by Lithuanians who emigrated to America as early as 1909. In the early 1940s, the Lietuvos kino studija was founded, which was under state control during the Soviet Union and became the sole headquarters for the Lithuanian film industry. About three to four feature films and thirty to forty documentaries were produced annually.

After independence in 1990, the number of Lithuanian films fell sharply and private companies took over the film industry. Filmmakers like Arūnas Matelis and Šarūnas Bartas receive attention at international film festivals, and Algimantas Puipa is commercially successful, especially in Lithuania.

Museums and galleries

There are numerous museums and galleries in Lithuania. Not only in the larger cities, but also in some remote homesteads where famous Lithuanian personalities have lived.

  • National Museum
    • The National Museum is located in Vilnius next to the cathedral. Other branches are spread across the city. The exhibition is rich in archaeological and ethnographic exhibits.
  • Devil Museum in Kaunas
    • In Lithuanian mythology and as a symbol in everyday life, the devil plays an important role. In contrast to central European ideas, he is not considered to be the embodiment of absolute evil, but more like a kind of trickster who also helps people. That is why there are relatively many devil statues and images in public.
  • The amber museum in the spa town of Palanga on the Baltic Sea , in the castle of Count Tiškevičius, offers unique collections of amber . There is also a smaller amber museum in Nida.
  • KGB Museum

In the heart of Vilnius is the former KGB prison , which serves as a museum. Various cells and firing chambers can be viewed.

Symbols and saints

  • The national coat of arms shows a rider riding to the west (lit. vytis , zu vyti ; dt. "Hunt, pursue"). The Lithuanian coat of arms has been documented since 1366.
  • The patron saint of Lithuania is Saint Casimir . The Kasimirsmesse held every year the weekend before 3 March in the Old Town of Vilnius instead. Products of traditional and handicrafts are offered and ancient arts and crafts are shown.
  • A sculpture of the Man of Sorrows (lit. Rūpintojėlis ; dt. "The caring") is often found . This shows Jesus Christ in a sitting position, his chin resting on his hand in a pensive position. It is not canonical, which is why an origin from the pre-Christian religion is being considered. Small sculptures can be bought as souvenirs in many Lithuanian galleries.
  • Amber is also a typical, frequently offered souvenir for travelers to the Baltic States, even if most of the stones come from Kaliningrad Oblast.
  • The Hill of Crosses (lit. Kryžių Kalnas ) is located near the town of Šiauliai (dt. Schaulen ). It also symbolizes the struggle against Soviet power and occupation.
  • The rue , although not native to Lithuania, is considered the national flower. It was (and is) indispensable, especially in wedding practice. So now she can still be found in village gardens and cemeteries.

society

Since Lithuania gained independence in 1991, which was supported by broad sections of the population, support for democracy has been high. Correspondingly, relatively stable institutions have developed. In Lithuania, more and more socially anchored interest groups emerged, but the role of the trade unions is rather insignificant. In general, there is more skepticism towards state institutions and the decisions of parliament.

The Church's influence in Lithuania has increased significantly since the country gained independence in 1991. Homosexuality was legalized in 1993, but it is still largely a taboo.

media

In the 2017 press freedom list published by Reporters Without Borders , Lithuania was ranked 36th out of 180 countries. The country's media are largely free and independent.

Several nationally distributed daily newspapers appear in Lithuania , including Lietuvos Rytas and the German-language Baltic Rundschau .

Sports

Basketball is the national sport in Lithuania. The Lithuanian basketball team is one of the best teams in Europe and has won the European Championship three times. Lithuania won the European championships in this sport as early as 1937 and 1939 . This tradition was continued in the Soviet era when Lithuanian players were repeatedly part of the Soviet selection teams. Well-known names are Kazys Petkevičius , Modestas Paulauskas , Sergejus Jovaiša , Arvydas Sabonis , Rimas Kurtinaitis and Šarūnas Marčiulionis . Together with Sabonis, Marčiulionis belongs to the golden generation of Lithuanian basketball players who, from the early 1980s, earned numerous successes , initially for the Soviet Union and from 1991 for the again independent Lithuania . Both were inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (Sabonis in August 2011, Marčiulionis 2014).

At the first Olympic Games after regaining independence, the Lithuanian men's basketball team surprisingly won bronze in 1992 in Barcelona, ​​a success that was repeated in 1996 and 2000 . After silver in 1995 , the new generation around Šarūnas Jasikevičius and Arvydas Macijauskas became European champions in 2003 .

Among the basketball teams, “ Žalgiris Kaunas ” and “ Lietuvos rytas Vilnius ” have long been among the top addresses in Europe.

In contrast, other team sports lead a shadowy existence. The country's largest football stadium in Kaunas has a capacity of just 20,000 spectators.

In Olympic sports , Lithuania has a tradition of good throwers ( Romas Ubartas and Virgilijus Alekna ), as well as cyclists and rowers.

The Lithuanian tennis player Ričardas Berankis reached number one in the junior world rankings in 2007 and was the first Lithuanian to move into the top 100 in the world rankings in November 2010 . With Laurynas Grigelis there is another tennis player from Lithuania who is currently in the top 300.

In 2011 the European basketball championship took place in Lithuania.

public holidays

See also

Portal: Lithuania  - Overview of Wikipedia content on Lithuania

literature

  • Jonas Balys : Lithuanian folk legends. Kaunaus 1940 ( Publication of the Lithuanian Folklore Archives. Volume 1).

Web links

Wiktionary: Lithuania  - explanations of meanings, origins of words, synonyms, translations
Commons : Lithuania  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Lithuania  - Sources and full texts
Wikivoyage: Lithuania  travel guide

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Coordinates: 56 °  N , 24 °  E