True Lithuania

Society of Lithuania

This article is about the economical divisions and personal relations. See also articles on the Ethnic divisions and the Religious divisions.

Socio-economic groups of Lithuania

In the Lithuanian society class divisions are low-key. Members of very different affluence levels more usually than not live in the same neighborhoods, buy at the same shopping malls and send their children to the same public (rather than private) schools. Complex history, where classes were frequently shuffled by various occupational forces, played a part in this.

The influential elite of Lithuania consists of several very different groups. The first group is that of the so-called "Soviet nomenclature". To the dismay of 1990s independence activists many of these remained in powerful positions, continuing their old practice of conformism with whoever is in power and reciprocal cronyism. With the collapse of the Soviet Union many of them have switched their ideals to pro-European Union (as this is where the new winds are blowing). Slow lustration meant that unlike in some other ex-communist countries the people of Lithuania were not informed on who served totalytarian institutions during the Soviet occupation. The former "nomenclature" is typically reluctant to show off its wealth as this would attract unwanted attention and questions.

After independence the Soviet "nomenclature" was joined in the competition for the political power by the former independence activists (mainly intellectuals). In vying for economical power, the "nomenclature" was in some sectors outcompeted by 1990s self-made men who established retail, import/export and other businesses in the late 1980s and early 1990s, as well as privatised those Soviet "businesses" that the "nomenclature" didn't want. As the new opportunities were most eagerly grabbed by people in their 20s and 30s the Lithuanian millionaire community of the era was younger than in many other countries. In the early 1990s people were eager to put their newly acquired wealth into large suburban homes and expensive cars, but with time this trend diminished, although a constant and stable group of Lithuania's rich "elite" publicises their endevours in socialite magazines.

Relative lack of labour-intensive industries means that there are quite few industrial workers in Lithuania. Labor unions are generally weaker than in the western Europe and they suffer a certain image problem as a part of society associates them with the former Soviet regime (when the state was both the only true employee and the real power behind the puppet labour unions). Businessman, on the other hand, are skeptical of the labour unions because of the situations when their leaders mobilize the unions for their own personal gain rather than that of the workers.

Traditional intellectuals may be considered another class that consists of teachers, doctors, scientists and classical artists. Loyal intellectuals were supported by the Soviet regime, moreover, their jobs used to be the most prestigious ones as they offered access to various other people. This access was more important than money in the Soviet society where many goods could have been obtained only through personal relations with some official responsible for distribution. After independence the education and healthcare remained public rather than private (leading to mediocre salaries) while classical art failed to attract enough customers to be commercially viable. Therefore some intellectuals, while deeply critical of the Soviet totalitarism, believe that the current system is treating them unfairly. However, it may be so that a significant part of this group has failed to adapt, with (for example) universities still choosing which research projects to undertake based on personal relations with the scientists, which impedes the will of private companies to fund these projects.

Other significant force in the society are the peasants. Some 12% of the workforce is in agriculture, but this is diminishing as agriculture turns into another form of business, partly funded by the European Union money and impossible without sacrifying workforce numbers for technology and economies of scale. Emotional peasant protests against government policies and roadblocks by farming equipment of 1990s are therefore a thing of the past, replaced by other forms of lobbying.

Historical classes, such as the nobility, are completely meaningless, as they were stripped of their final benefits some 100 years ago. Subsequently the Soviets completely destroyed their culture and remaining landholds.

A certain underclass, so-called asocial people, exits living on benefits and criminal activity. Many of them are dependant on drugs and alcohol. Among the criminals there is their own division into castes, largely inherited from the Russian and Soviet prison system.

Age groups and genders in Lithuania

Retired people are generally less well-off than in the West due to former Soviet policies. There have been no pension funds in Lithuania, meaning that the current workforce (rapidly decreasing due to emigration) is forced to pay the pensions to the entire retiree population (23% of all citizens). The old age pension is therefore relatively small but even this puts a great strain on the economy, pushing the state to borrow money at high costs.

The Soviet clichés imposed on every age group had a person's life neatly divided into distinct "age bands", each with its own duties. For example, playing board games, watching animation and drinking refreshing drinks had been only acceptable to children, only adults were allowed to eat at restaurants, while the pensioners were expected to stay at home (garden) and help rear grandchildren. Many watched with disbelief as president Valdas Adamkus (a Lithuanian-American) drank Coca Cola in the 1990s - "is he still a child?" question lingered.

This mindset still limits retired people's lifestyle. For example, unlike in the West, it is uncommon for old Lithuanians to travel abroad as many consider themselves to be too old and unhealthy for this. Perhaps due to lack of safety during their lifetimes most retirees are saving a large share of their incomes (in their home rather than in the mistrusted banks). This further reduces the actual disposable incomes of the retirees and leads to sad stories when these savings are stolen by con-artists specializing at this.

The youth is generally more westernized than their parent or grandparent generations and the old social divisions give way to the new ones that are common in the Western Europe. The common way to grow up is to attend kindergarten, attend school 7 to 18 and then immediately seek university education (up to Master's degree). Most people start to seek job only after completing their studies; prior to that they commit their free time to "being students" instead (partying, etc.), save for occasional summer job. While some of this dates back to the Soviet age-group clichés things change: back then universities were reserved only for the most capable while army conscription and vocational education for the rest.

Women are prominent in Lithuanian public life, making up more than 49% of the labour force (a larger share than in every single Western European, Northern European and continental American country). Female suffrage dates to the very first democratic elections in Lithuania (Great Seimas of Vilnius, 1905).

Personal and family relations in Lithuania

The basis of Lithuanian nation is nuclear family. The number of kids have been decreasing recently; today a family of four (two parents and two children) is the social norm. It is now acceptable for couples to forego marriage (see: marriage traditions).

Lithuanian language has a multitude of words to describe obscure family relations (e.g. "kaliboba" - 4th husband, "dieveris" - husband's brother, "laigonas" - wife's brother). This signifies the importance a wider family once had but today these words are largely forgotten. Under Soviet occupation it was common to relocate people - therefore now relatives rarely live nearby and meet only on special occasions if at all.

Housing shortage under the Soviet occupation meant that three generations frequently had to share the same apartment. This changed now and adult children usually move out.

After family an average Lithuanian spends much of his remaining free time with friends. "Friends" include select relatives, (former) classmates, (former) university mates, workmates. Friendships are generally within the same age group.

In Lithuanian villages the "everybody knows everybody else" tenet still holds true. In cities however the neighbor relations essentially have been destroyed by the centrally-planned Soviet urbanization (when very different people used to be moved into the same neighborhoods). Average urban Lithuanian knows very little about those who live next door even for years. Not saying "hello" to one's neighbor is not considered rude. This is somewhat changing in post-independence housing developments where more similar people (in age, salary, education) acquire apartments.

A typical large Soviet residential in Klaipėda. Nearly every such building houses some rich businessmen and poor pensioneers, Lithuanians and Russians, workers and alcohol addicts living of social security. At one time even the acting Prime Minister lived in such apartment. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

On the other hand many keep relations with people far away as massive emigration led to virtually everybody having some relatives and childhood friends abroad (until 2004 mostly USA but now mostly European Union). They come back for holidays and cheaper medicine and may send remittances.

Home and away: Lithuanian public/personal space

A large modern detached family house is the coveted accomodation to many (a popular saying goes that "Every Lithuanian has to plant a tree, raise a child and build a house"). In Vilnius, Kaunas and Klaipėda however a non-Soviet apartment can also be a status symbol. The majority live in old houses (villages/towns) and Soviet apartments (cities).

Nearly every family owns its home, over 90% without any bank credits attached. Rental is considered acceptable only for students and expatriates. Most homes are even self-designed (at least the interiors).

On average every Lithuanian has 26,2 m2 of living space. 36% live in detached homes, 63% live in apartments (the division is 15%-85% in cities/towns and 80%-20% in villages). Main dwelling types are: pre-WW2 detached homes (mostly wooden, lacking amenities; 7,8%), Soviet detached homes (mostly rural, many prefab; 21%), 1990s detached homes (mostly large, self-designed; 2,5%), 2000s detached homes (Western style; 3,1%), apartments in pre-WW2 urban buildings (downtown and prestigious; 5,8%), early Soviet apartments (mainly city downtowns; 3,6%), late Soviet apartments (prefab micro-districts, largely uneconomical; 46,8%), post-independence apartments (modern, ranging from economic to massive, 7,7%).

A great care is taken to keep the home tidy and comfortable. It is not entirely a personal space however and guests are commonly invited (removing shoes is a must). This cherished "home" ends abruptly at the front door (front gate) - the staircases/public yards may be dirty and derelict. In the Soviet apartment blocks this has been a necessity as the inhabittants are simply too different to agree on common rules. In modern housing developments there is more respect for common good.

Lithuanians are especially attached to location; many spend entire lifes (or at least entire adulthood) in a single home. Even when buying a new apartment most prefer improving size/quality but not the neighborhood (this helps city districts to remain socially heterogenous). However the historical fondness of location has found its limits: many (especially the youth) "improve status" by moving from towns to cities, from non-capital cities to Vilnius, from city apartments to suburban houses or emigrating abroad. While Lithuanians used to build homes "for generations" until 1990s today they increasingly take the new mobility into account.

Many older Lithuanians are fond of gardening. This was condoned by the Soviets who allowed urban dwellers to own suburban gardens in exetensive "garden districts". Some families move to these gardens for summertime; others have built permanent homes there. Nearly all village dwellers own some crops or cattle, even if they have other jobs. Urban relatives may come to help in harvests.

After independence (and scrapped Soviet travel limitations) an annual or more frequent foreign holidays became a norm. Middle-aged and small-town people prefer package holidays in the same Turkish or Egyptian resorts. Young generation increasingly travels independently. Still, Lithuanians love their own seaside and the local resorts get extremely crowded in summer weekends (even if nearly everyone agrees that they have far too little sun).

A car is a kind of obligatory "home away from home" and well cared for. Intra-city public transport is thus used mainly by the poor and those unable to drive. Used prestigious cars are prefered to new(er) small ones.

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History & Today – Facts and figures

Lithuanian nation has been forged by its history of seemingly eternal invasions, occupations and genocides, and a few long-remembered "glorious" periods inbetween.

Lithuanian society and social norms thus have strong influences from both East and West. However, there is always an undercurrent of free-thinking and independence. It is characterized (among other things) by respecting Lithuanian symbols and luminaries of ages gone-by.

Lithuanian politics and law tend to be especially complex as the usual leftist-rightist divisions are joined by many others related to views towards various periods of Lithuanian past.

Despite of this, Lithuanian economy has been improving nearly constantly since independence (and adoption of capitalism) in 1990. While 25 years were too little to close the gap behind the "First world", Lithuania already left the "Third world" far behind.

See also: Maps of Lithuania.

Main facts about Lithuania

Population: ~3 000 000
Area: 65 300 sq. m
Population density: 46 inhabittants / sq. m
Altitude: Between -4 m and +294 m
Bordering countries: Russia (Southwest), Poland (South), Belarus (East), Latvia (North), Baltic Sea (West).

Ethnicities: Lithuanians 85,08%, Poles 6,65%, Russians 5,88%, Others 2,39%
Religions: Roman Catholic 85,9%, Russian Orthodox 4,6%, Other Christians 2,3%, religious non-Christians 0,7%, Irreligious 6,8%
Native languages: Lithuanian [official] 85%, Russian 8,2%, Polish 5,8%, Others 1%
Langauges spoken: Lithuanian [official] 96%, Russian 70%, English 30%, Polish 14%, German 8%

Historical periods: Grand Duchy of Lithuania until 1569, Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth 1562-1795, Russian Empire 1775-1915, Republic of Lithuania 1918-1940, Soviet occupation 1940-1990, Republic of Lithuania 1990-
National holidays: February 16th, March 11th, July 6th

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Society of Lithuania: Introduction

Lithuania is a cohesive society of 3 million people with no serious internal conflicts. The local Baltic culture has been influenced by both the West and the East.

Lithuanians are quite introverted and speak little to people they don't know. The nuclear family is the most important (further relatives and childhood friends may be far away due to migration). Own home is a kind of shrine for a Lithuanian, both as a secure location and for self-expression. Modern fashions are largely inspired by the West but the restrictive Soviet past (and the post-Soviet freedom) left its marks. Lithuanian virtues, ethics, and morale includes Christian, Soviet and Western influences. The same can be said about etiquette as well; Lithuanians plan their time in advance and are relatively cold tempered, but both are not the extremes.

The importance of social classes is negligible and there are few districts or institutions exclusively for "the rich" or "the poor"; save for a few extreme cases they intermingle. However, the age-related expectations for a person to fulfill some roles tend to be more stringent than in the West, coinciding with a great generational divide.

Once *the* definition of a person, religion lost some of its importance under the Soviet atheist regime. Roman Catholic (~85,9%) practices and holidays are generally considered mainstream, while Russian Orthodox (~4,6%) is the most visible minority. Interfaith relations are cordial; religious (93,2%) vs. irreligious (6,8%) may pose a bigger divide.

Religion has been replaced by ethno-linguistic groups as the most prominent self-identification even before the Soviet occupation. Lithuanians are the majority (85%). Prime minorities are the conservative Poles (6,65%) and mostly urban Russians/Russophones (8%).

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History of Lithuania: Introduction

First known habitation of Lithuania dates back to the final ice age, 10 000 BC. The hunter-gatherers were slowly replaced by farmers. The origin of Baltic tribes in the area is disputed but it probably dates to 2500 BC. These forefathers of Lithuanians were outside the main migration routes and thus are among the oldest European ethnicities to have settled in approximately the current area.

These Baltic peoples traded amber with Romans and then fought Vikings. In the era, only one small tribe from the area around Vilnius was known as Lithuanians but it was this tribe that consolidated the majority of other Baltic tribes. This process accelerated under king Mindaugas who became a Christian and received a crown from the Pope in 1253. After his death, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania fell back to pagan ways leading to a centuries-long conflict with Teutonic Knights.

The eventual adoption of Christianity by Grand Duke Jogaila (1387) did not stop the knights. Lithuanians forged a long-lasting alliance with Poland that eventually extinguished the Teutonic threat. Ruled by Grand Duke Vytautas Lithuania became the largest state in Europe, stretching from Baltic to the Black sea in the 15th century.

Battle of Žalgiris (Grunewald) by Jan Matejko. This vanquishing of the Teutonic knights is seen as the main medieval triumph of Poles and Lithuanians by romanticist historians. Streets and sports franchises are named after Žalgiris.

A new threat came from the east with Moscow rapidly gaining power and conquering lands. In response, Lithuania and Poland formed a Commonwealth in 1569. Initially, it was successful in deterring enemies. However, the political union led to gradual Polonization of the Lithuanian nobility as Lithuanians of the time regarded Polish culture to be superior.

By the 17th century, Poland-Lithuania was weakened due to a unique yet hard-to-manage political system of "Noble democracy" where a consensus was a prerequisite for any important decision. The Commonwealth lost a series of wars that wiped out its great power position. In the late 18th century (1772-1795) the country was completely partitioned and annexed by Prussia, Austria, and Russia with the main Lithuanian lands falling under the Russian rule.

The Russians banned Lithuanian language and suppressed Catholic religion. There were two unsuccessful revolts to restore Poland-Lithuania (1831 and 1863) but eventually the National Revival established a goal for Lithuania independent of both Russia and Poland. The restoration of statehood finally became possible after both the crumbling Russian Empire and the Germans surrendered in World War 1.

Limited industrial revolution and urbanization took place in late 19th century but the newly independent Lithuania was still an agricultural society. The short period of prosperous freedom was cut short again by the World War 2 (1940). Lithuania was occupied once by the Nazi Germany and twice by the Soviet Union, both powers perpetrating genocides. The brutal Soviet occupation lasted for 45 years and only ended in 1990. In this era hundreds of thousands of people, including the entire intellectual elite, were murdered, tortured or expelled to Siberia in cattle carriages. This has left deep economical, psychological and spiritual scars within the Lithuanian nation.

Guerilla campaigns of 1940s-1950s were crushed and any resistance persecuted but the massive Sąjūdis movement (established 1988) made it clear that not even the Soviet machine was able to suppress Lithuanian will for freedom. On 1990 March 11th Lithuania became the first Soviet-controlled country to restore independence and despite Soviet aggression in 1991 that left some 20 people dead, the independence was not reversed. In fact, it (amongst other reasons) led to the total collapse of the Soviet Union in late 1991.

In the 1990s Lithuania swiftly readopted capitalist economy and saw a massive economic growth, with modern skyscrapers, malls, detached homes, cars and renovated downtowns reaching Vilnius, Klaipėda, Kaunas and other cities, in that order. But the Soviet years left the economy decades behind that of the West. Disillusioned by unfulfilled hopes of getting rich quick many Lithuanians emigrated. This emigration reached epic proportions after Lithuania joined the European Union in 2004: the country lost up to 20% of its people to the newly accessible labor markets of the West.

See also: History of Vilnius, History of Kaunas, History of Klaipėda, History of Šiauliai, Ethnic relations history of Lithuania

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Economy of Lithuania

The average Lithuanian is richer than 83% people in the world. He or she earns more than an average person in every nation of Africa, Latin America and most of the countries in Asia. However, Lithuania is lagging behind countries like those of Western Europe, the United States, Canada, Japan or Australia.

Countries richer than Lithuania (GNP per capita 2013) are green in this map while those poorer than Lithuania are red. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Among the member-states of the European Union and NATO Lithuania is one of the poorer countries. But it is richer than or on par with other Eastern European members of the said international organizations with the exception of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Slovenia.

Lithuania is a post-industrial society with some two-thirds of the population working in the service sector. The society is relatively egalitarian with healthcare, primary and secondary education being funded by the state. Undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate education is also state-funded for the better students.

However, corruption is a major problem in the healthcare sector as many doctors expect bribes to be paid to them by patients so that they would receive preferential treatment. Corruption is rampant in other sections of the society as well, especially traffic police and government purchases (e.g. road construction for taxpayers' money). These practices are largely a legacy of the Soviet regime. However, Transparency International places Lithuania at some 50th place of 182 countries in its Corruption Perception Index (the higher the place - the less corruption there is), ahead of all states formerly behind the Iron Curtain save for Estonia and Poland (but far behind the West, Japan or Australia).

The largest employer in Lithuania is the MAXIMA group that owns a chain of retail shops well visible in Lithuania as well as Latvia, Estonia, and Bulgaria. This is the largest company in Lithuania and its owner Nerijus Numavičius is the country‘s richest person. Just like many Lithuanian businesses MAXIMA is primarily owned by a single person (or a single family) rather than being a publically traded company.

Largest industries in Lithuania are oil refinement (Mažeikių Nafta in Mažeikiai; 36,2% of total 2011 exports) and fertilizer manufacturing (Lifosa in Kėdainiai and Achema in Jonava; 8,9% of exports). Processed and unprocessed food amount for 16,9% of exports. Traditionally strong clothing industry has been hit by outsourcing to Asia.

The agricultural sector now employs only some 12 percent of the population but they are good at lobbying. Therefore the government generally subsidizes agriculture. The European Union adds to this although the European Union subsidies are significantly lower than for farmers in countries like France. Typically Lithuanian farmers grow grain, pigs, chicken, and cows. The "traditional agriculture" where a family owns a single cow, a single pig and some pastures (rather than combining land to form a large business) is declining but still well entrenched in the Lithuanian countryside. Village tourism offers a new opportunity for Lithuanian farmers and tourists alike.

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Symbols of Lithuania (Anthem, Flag, Coat of Arms)

Lithuanian coat of arms, known as the Vytis, depicts a mounted soldier with raised sword on a red field. Dating back to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania it is among the Europe's oldest emblems. Atypically its source is Grand duke's seal rather than a dynastic coat of arms.

As the Grand Duchy spanned far beyond modern Lithuania the Vytis inspired many other symbols. Between 1991 and 1994 it (in a slightly different form) served as the coat of arms of Belarus and it is also included in some municipal and regional coats of arms in Poland.

A flag with Vytis had also been used in the Grand Duchy but today it is designated "Historic flag" and is masted only in a few historically important places.

Modern Lithuanian flag is a 20th-century creation. As the reestablished Lithuanian state (1918) was a republic a tricolor design was adopted. Since the French Revolution (1789) most European republics used similar flags.

Lithuanian coat of arms (left) and the tricolor flag (right).

Lithuanian anthem "Tautiška giesmė" (National hymn) has been created in 1898 by Vincas Kudirka, one of the heroes of Lithuanian National Revival (adopted in 1920). It is notable for having each verse to follow a different melody and therefore should never be shortened (trimming the anthem in some sports events triggers discontent). A peculiar tradition calls every Lithuanian to sing the anthem on July 6th.

Tautiška giesmė
by Vincas KudirkaLietuva, Tėvyne mūsų,
Tu didvyrių žeme,
Iš praeities Tavo sūnūs
Te stiprybę semia.

Tegul Tavo vaikai eina
Vien takais dorybės,
Tegul dirba Tavo naudai
Ir žmonių gėrybei.

Tegul saulė Lietuvoj
Tamsumas prašalina,
Ir šviesa, ir tiesa
Mūs žingsnius telydi.

Tegul meilė Lietuvos
Dega mūsų širdyse,
Vardan tos Lietuvos
Vienybė težydi!

National hymn
English translation ©Augustinas Žemaitis.Lithuania, our homeland,
Land of great heroes!
May your sons draw their strength
From the past.

May your children follow
Only paths of virtue,
May them work for your benefit
And the good of human beings.

May the sun over Lithuania
Spread the darknesses away
May both light and truth
Guide our steps.

May the love of Lithuania
Burn in our hearts.
In the name of this Lithuania
Let unity blossom.

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Other symbols strongly associated with Lithuania are the Columns of Gediminas (or Pillars of Gediminas) and the Cross of Vytis (a.k.a. Cross of Jogaila), both named after medieval Lithuanian rulers. They are repeatedly used in many other symbols. For instance Cross of Vytis forms a part of Lithuanian Coat of Arms and the air force ensign whereas the Pillars of Gediminas were used for the trademark of Eurobasket 2011 event held in Lithuania and political party symbols.

In Dzūkija where there is a strong presence of Polish speakers ethnic Lithuanians traditionally erect crosses of Vytis instead of traditional crosses in churchyards and roadsides to signify their ethnicity.

Cross of Vytis and Pillars of Gediminas in their typical forms (left) and their modern uses: a churchyard cross of Vytis in Dzūkija and the Pillars of Gediminas as architectural elements in Kaunas (on the Officer's club and a bridge). ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Other things and practices held as "national" by significant parts of society (none of these - except for language - are enshrined in law so that's purely traditional):

National bird: White stork (ciconia ciconia)
National tree: Oak
National flower: Rue
National language: Lithuanian
National religion: Roman Catholicism
National sport: Basketball
National meal: Cepelinai (a.k.a. Didžkukuliai)
National alcoholic beverage: Beer
National "mineral" (jewelry): Amber
National saints: St. Casimir and St. George

Bird/tree/flower are based on their prevalence in folklore. Sport/religion/language are the most popular ones, followed by the majority of the population. Meal/beverage/mineral are based on popular opinion. Saints are recognized by the Catholic church.

A band in national clothes performs folk music. Lithuanian folk costume consists of plain white elements and colorful patterns (stripes, tiles, etc.) and cover all the body except for palms and head. Women wear skirts and men wear trousers. Currently, the national clothes are used only in folk art performances, historical re-enactments and (by some people) during national holidays. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Common abbreviations (country codes) for Lithuania are LT and LTU.

As Lithuania became a member state of the European Union and NATO, the European Union flag is waving near nearly every Lithuanian government institution or embassy next to the Lithuanian flag, while the NATO flag is waiving at some institutions.

Flags as they appear in the main hall of the Lithuanian government. Lithuanian and European Union flags stand side-by-side while the table hosts the flags of all the member states. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

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Maps of Lithuania

Demographic maps

Ethnic map of Lithuania

Ethnic map of Lithuania. The minorities are largely concentrated in the east. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

See also: Ethnicities in Lithuania

Religious maps of Lithuania

Map of Lithuanian religious communities. In most municipalities 90%+ people are Roman Catholic. Significant religious minorities are concentrated in particular areas. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Map of religious minority houses of worship in Lithuania. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

See also: Religions in Lithuania

Transportation maps

Lithuania road distance map

Lithuanian road network scheme with distances in kilometers marked. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

More info: Getting around Lithuania

Lithuania passenger rail map

Lithuanian passenger railway services scheme with times necessary to get between stations marked. The times are approximate but fast and slow trains in Lithuania do not deviate that much from each other, so you shouldn't expect the real travel time to be more than 20% longer or shorter than specified here. The train routes are normally quite long (100-400 km) so you would not need to change trains if going in one direction. This map is extensive, however, a few less-than-daily and suburban routes are not marked. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

More info: Getting around Lithuania

Lithuania air routes map

A map of available air routes and frequencies from Lithuania and the most popular ways to transfer further on.

More info: Getting to and from Lithuania

Political and economic maps

Countries richer and poorer than Lithuania

Countries richer than Lithuania (GNP per capita 2013) are green in this map while those poorer than Lithuania are red. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

More info: Economy of Lithuania

Map of Lithuanian visa policy

Citizens of the green countries do not need visa to Lithuania.
Citizens of the red countries need a Lithuanian visa.
Citizens of light green countries do not need visa if they have biometric passports.
2013. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

More info: Lithuanian Visas and Entry Requirements

Historical maps

Map of Grand Duchy of Lithuania expansion (13th-15th centuries)

Establishment an expansion of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, superimposed on modern European state boundaries. The areas enclosed by black dotted lines indicates regions both acquired and lost before 1430. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

More info: Grand Duchy of Lithuania (until 1569)

Map of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth at its largest extent (~1630)

Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth at its highest territorial extent (1616-1657) superimposed on modern European state boundaries. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

More info: Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (1569-1795)

Map of Lithuanian National Revival (19th century)

Simplified map of the ethnic-linguistic situation of Lithuania ~1900. It could not depict the mixed areas, numerous ethno-linguistic enclaves, diglossia and dual identities that prevailed alongside ethno-linguistic boundaries. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

More info: The rule of Russian Empire in Lithuania (1795-1918)

Map of Interwar Lithuania (1920s-1930s)

A map of interwar Lithuania with some new information for clarity. Klaipėda region and Vilnius region are marked.

More info: Interwar independent Lithuania

Decline of Lithuanian language (200-1990 AD)

The decline of Lithuanian language and other Baltic languages over the centuries, stemmed by Lithuanian and Latvian national revivals and independence. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

More info: Lithuanian language

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Politics in Lithuania: Introduction

Lithuania is a democratic country since 1990. Its directly elected president may be its best known and most popular politician, but the real power is vested in Seimas (parliament) and the government. Lithuania is a unitary country, its municipalities controlling only minor local affairs.

Ideologically Lithuania is divided along several lines: leftist vs. rightist economic viewpoints; pro-Western vs. pro-Local vs. pro-Eastern value systems; authoritarian vs. libertarian opinions about personal freedoms. Moreover, a significant part of locals proudly lacks an opinion on these matters and claims to be "apolitical".

Lithuanian political parties range from "ideological" ones contesting every election (the Homeland Union, Socialdemocrats, Liberals) to sometimes ephemeral "personal" ones created, merged and folded at will by famous star politicians whose names become eponymous to such parties.

Lithuanian foreign policy aims to integrate with Western Europe into a tight European Union and keep friendly relations with USA (the "leader of NATO"). Much of this is to repulse Russia, seen as a threat because of the occupations and Genocide it perpetrated. Lithuania also seeks to consolidate Central and Eastern Europe, help the region (and itself) become completely independent of Russia and more Western-oriented. Lithuanian military is aimed to help Western allies in their battles elsewhere to secure their help should Lithuania be attacked.

Lithuanian law is largely modeled after that of continental Central Europe, although it differs on some key matters.

The tax system in Lithuania is characterized by a relatively high tax burden, especially labor taxes.

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Foreign Relations of Lithuania

The foreign relations of Lithuania since the restoration of independence may be summed up in a sentence: “To leave the East and to (re)join the West”. However, the true situation is somewhat more complicated and not as stable.

In the early 1990s, Lithuania passionately broke ties with the former Soviet regime. It eagerly adopted capitalism and one of the few successful referendums ever (due to very strict referendum laws) requested Russia to compensate damages of the occupation. With the rise of Vladimir Putin in Russia (1999) the aims of restoring justice stalled as Russia failed to try the Soviet war criminals who murdered Lithuanians, attempted to whitewash the Soviet Genocide and refused to compensate its victims.

Initially summed up by the neologism “Euroatlantic integration” the Lithuania’s alignment to the west divulged into pro-European and pro-US stances as the agendas of the former Cold War allies separated. Under former US citizen president Valdas Adamkus (1998-2009) Lithuania was staunchly pro-American but later drifted to a more and more pro-European stance.

Plaques on Vilnius City Hall mark the city's World Heritage status (2002) and cites G. W. Bush speech he said to a crowd here during his 2002 visit to a pro-American Lithuania. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Lithuanian relations with the neighbors varies. While cordial with Latvia and Estonia, the Lithuanian-Polish relations are frequently marred by the issues of Polish minority in Lithuania and the Lithuanian minority in Poland. Despite this, Poland remains a close ally of Lithuania, unlike Belarus. Lithuania harbors emigrant opposition against the Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko, popularly known in Lithuania as the “Last dictator of Europe”. Belarus, similarly to Russia and Israel, has failed to try the people who participated in the Soviet Genocide of Lithuanians.

Under president V. Adamkus Lithuania supported the pro-democracy rallies in post-Soviet countries like Georgia and Ukraine. Remarkable relations with Georgia were developed and Lithuania positioned itself as the bridge between the Europe's East and West. Under the president Grybauskaitė (2009) this was initially supplanted by a so-called “pragmatic policy” that evaluated other countries by their economic importance rather than democracy record. The hopes that this would improve economy were left unfulfilled. Not surprising, knowing that Lithuania’s GNP per capita surpasses that of every single pro-Russian post-Soviet country, in some cases by 500%. After the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2014, Lithuania re-adopted a policy more critical of Russia.

Būtingė oil terminal, one of several massive Lithuanian projects to ensure the energetic independence. Before the terminal was built, the only way for Lithuania to acquire oil was via a pipe from Russia, that would have been regularly shut by the Russians for political reasons. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Regardless of political leanings, most politicians support the goal of "energetic independence", which means costly projects to connect Lithuanian gas, power and other networks to Western Europe. For decades, many networks were integrated into the ex-Soviet system, making Russia a nearly-monopolist supplier able to sell at above-market rates as a form of political pressure.

Relations with other countries than named here are negligible, but Lithuania maintains embassies in Japan, Egypt, South Africa and the People’s Republic of China for economic ties.

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Law of Lithuania

Lithuania has a Roman legal system based on laws. Legal precedents are subordinate to laws but also recognized. Laws are drafted and adopted by the Parliament. Other institutions (including municipalities) may adopt bylaws which could not contradict the laws.

Laws of Lithuania

Nearly every law and bylaw in Lithuania has been adopted post-1990 as the country completely reversed its course after dropping the Soviet shackles. Much of the legal system has been modeled on various long-standing laws of Western European countries as the pre-occupation (1940) Lithuanian laws were deemed too dated to reinstate.

The Constitution has been adopted by referendum in 1992.

There is no single Lithuanian Code in a way there is a US Code. Instead, there are multiple codes for different spheres of law, the most important of them are the Civil Code (includes commercial law), Criminal Code, Civil Procedure Code, Criminal Procedure Code, Administrative Penalties Code and the Labour Code.

There are also many shorter laws that govern particular areas which are not covered by the Codes. For example, in the intellectual property sphere, there are separate laws for patents, trademarks, copyright/related rights, plant breeds, topographies, and designs.

Sometimes the same issues are governed by several laws in which case the least abstract one typically holds precedence.

After Lithuania joined European Union (2004) it has to adopt certain European Union-wide measures. These are set in the EU treaties (which are applicable directly), EU directives (which must be incorporated into Lithuanian laws to become fully applicable) and EU regulations (applicable directly). If the EU measures conflict with Lithuanian laws typically the EU measures apply.

Lithuanian judicial system

In Lithuania, there are two systems of courts.

Criminal and civil cases are heard by the Common courts of which there are three instances. 49 district (apylinkės) courts are the first instance for minor cases. The district court decisions may be appealed to five county (apygardos) courts which also serve as the courts of first instance for major cases. These major cases may then be appealed to the single Appellate Court (Apeliacinis teismas). And finally, there is the Supreme Court (Aukščiausiasis teismas) which is the third (cassation) instance for all cases.

The second court system is that of Administrative courts (administracinis teismas) which solve disputes against administrative (usually governmental/municipal) institutions. There are two instances: regional administrative courts and the Highest Administrative court (Vyriausiasis administracinis teismas) the later hosting appeals.

The Constitution is safeguarded by Constitutional court the decisions of which are largely political and have been criticized for limiting democracy when popular opinion oppose that of the establishment. Whenever some court or other major institution thinks a law might be in breach of Constitution it applies to the Constitutional Court for an answer.

In a similar fashion, European Court of Justice in Luxembourg may be addressed to explain the European Union law.

In addition to courts, there are prejudicial institutions which are in some cases voluntary, in others a required step in dispute resolution.

The litigation time in Lithuania largely depends on the case and varies greatly. Arbitrage may be stipulated in contracts but it is not popular even in business spheres.

See also: Lithuanian laws on major issues, Lithuanian ethics, virtues, and morale is an English website on Lithuanian law.

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Famous Lithuanians: Introduction

Just like every nation, Lithuanians have certain national heroes who have many streets and institutions named after them, who were depicted on banknotes and are immortalized in statues. This is a short introduction to the stories that are hidden behind the names you will undoubtedly see frequently while in Lithuania.

The earliest and some of the best-known figures are the largely pagan Lithuanian leaders of 13th-16th centuries who made Lithuania the Europe's largest country. That mighty Grand Duchy eroded over the centuries and was completely destroyed by Russian invasion in 1795 however. Therefore the 19th century National Revival is another era where many famous Lithuanians hail from (almost all Litas banknotes have their faces on the obverse).

Other groups well represented in street names include artists, writers and other wise men of Lithuania Minor, writers and artists of the early 20th century, heroes of interwar independent Lithuania and controversially some Soviet writers. Religious (Christian) and mythological figures are also represented.

Modern Lithuanian celebrities (post 1990) are not yet honored by street names but they dominate newspapers, magazines, and TV shows.

Take note that Lithuanian is a synthetic language, therefore the final letters of a name are written differently when that name appears different contexts. For instance, a street named after Grand Duke Gediminas would be called “Gedimino” (nominative case).

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