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Tuesday 24th October
Lithuania Information - Page 2
History
The first mention of Lithuania was in 1009 in chronicles called the Annals of Quedlinburg.

In the thirteenth century German Crusader knights began to conquer Lithuanian tribes. Duke Mindaugas fought the Crusaders and united the people of Lithuania becoming Lithuania's first and only king.

In 1386 the Archduke of Lithuania married Queen Jadwiga of Poland unifying Lithuania with Poland.

By the fifteenth century the territory of Poland-Lithuania included Belarus, part of Ukraine and part of western Russia. Wars followed with Russia and Sweden and by the end of the eighteenth century the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was economically and politically weak. Austria, Prussia and Russia divided up Polish lands and Lithuania went to Russia.

Lithuania longed for independence but it was not until after the First World War that independence was declared. However independence was not secured until 1920 and only lasted until the Second World War when Soviet Russia retook Lithuania (1940).

In the following War years many Lithuanians were exiled, jailed or killed. At the end of the Second World War Lithuania became a Republic of the USSR.

Lithuania remained a Soviet Republic until 1990 when Lithuania became the first Soviet Republic to declare independence. Independence was recognised at the end of 1991 and the last Russian soldiers left in 1993.

In December 2002 Lithuania took part in EU accession negotiations with nine other countries (Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia). The Accession Treaty was signed on 16 April 2003 with 1 May 2004 the formal entry date. EU enlargement meant the unification of twenty-five countries after over half a century of political division and the "Cold War" which followed World War II.

Economy
Privatisation of state-run businesses began soon after Lithuania broke away from the Soviet Union. Lithuania is a full EU Member State.

The agricultural sector provides a relatively small amount of the Gross Domestic Product but is still a significant employer. Agricultural products are grains, potatoes, sugar beets, vegetables and dairy products. Livestock is reared. Other primary industries are flax and fishing.

Industry includes petroleum refining, fertilizers, shipbuilding (small ships), agricultural machinery, machine tools, electric motors, refrigerators and freezers, televisions, electronic components, computers, optical equipment, furniture, amber jewellery, textiles, food processing and alcoholic beverages.

Lithuanian Tourism aims to expand the tourist industry, promoting a variety of holidays including visits to areas of scenic beauty and cultural holidays. (2008)

Arts
"Metai" (The Seasons), the eighteenth century poem, by Kristijonas Donelaitis is the first Lithuanian work recognised as an important contribution to world literature. Vilkutaitis Keturakis was the first playwright to use the Lithuanian language.

National song is an integral part of Lithuanian culture. Towards the end of the 1980s thousands of Lithuanians attended singing rallies, a series of non-violent mass demonstrations, which expressed the wish for independence from the USSR.

Sport
Many Lithuanians belong to sports clubs. The most popular sports are basketball, football, track and athletics.

Lithuania has won Olympic medals for basketball, discus and shooting.

Holidays
Independence Day from Soviet Russia (1918) is celebrated on 16 February and the Restoration of Lithuania's Statehood is celebrated on 11 March (1990).

The Day of Statehood (6 July) marks the crowning of Mindaugas (1236 - 1263) who was Lithuania's only king.

New Year, Christmas and Easter are holidays. Saint Casimir's Day is on 4th March and All Saint's Day is on 1 November.

News
News from Lithuania is available from Newslink.

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