|General background: Independent between the
two World Wars, Lithuania was annexed by the USSR in
1940. On 11 March 1990, Lithuania became the first of
the Soviet republics to declare its independence, but
this proclamation was not generally recognized until
September of 1991 (following the abortive coup in Moscow).
The last Russian troops withdrew in 1993. Lithuania
subsequently has restructured its economy for eventual
integration into Western European institutions.
Area comparative: Slightly larger than West
Climate: Transitional, between
maritime and continental; wet, moderate winters and
Terrain: Lowland, many scattered
small lakes, fertile soil
Population: 3,601,138 (July 2002 est.)
Ethnic groups: Lithuanian 80.6%, Russian 8.7%,
Polish 7%, Belarusian 1.6%, other 2.1%
Religions: Roman Catholic (primarily), Lutheran,
Russian Orthodox, Protestant, Evangelical Christian
Baptist, Muslim, Jewish
Language: Lithuanian (official), Polish, Russian
Government type: Parliamentary democracy
Legal system: Based on civil law system; legislative
acts can be appealed to the constitutional court.
Economic overview: Lithuania, the Baltic state
that has conducted the most trade with Russia, has
been slowly rebounding from the 1998 Russian financial
crisis. High unemployment, at 12.5% in 2001, and weak
consumption have held back recovery. Trade has been
increasingly oriented toward the West. Lithuania has
gained membership in the World Trade Organization
and has moved ahead with plans to join the EU. Privatisation
of the large, state-owned utilities, particularly
in the energy sector, is underway.
Communication/Telephone system: Inadequate,
but is being modernized to provide an improved international
capability and better residential access.
Places of interest: The strange Hill of Crosses
to the urban pleasures of Vilnius, the historic, lively