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1UpTravel - Geography Info and Facts of Countries : . - Lithuania

Lithuania Geography and Facts

Location: Eastern Europe, bordering the Baltic Sea, between Latvia and Russia

Geographic coordinates: 56 00 N, 24 00 E

Map references: Europe

total: 65,200 sq km
land: 65,200 sq km
water: 0 sq km

Area - comparative: slightly larger than West Virginia

Land boundaries:
total: 1,273 km
border countries: Belarus 502 km, Latvia 453 km, Poland 91 km, Russia (Kaliningrad) 227 km

Coastline: 99 km

Maritime claims:
territorial sea: 12 nm

Climate: transitional, between maritime and continental; wet, moderate winters and summers

Terrain: lowland, many scattered small lakes, fertile soil

Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Baltic Sea 0 m
highest point: Juozapines/Kalnas 292 m

Natural resources: peat, arable land

Land use:
arable land: 35%
permanent crops: 12%
permanent pastures: 7%
forests and woodland: 31%
other: 15% (1993 est.)

Irrigated land: 430 sq km (1993 est.)

Natural hazards: NA

Environment - current issues: contamination of soil and groundwater with petroleum products and chemicals at military bases

Environment - international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Hazardous Wastes, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol


Lithuania is situated on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea and covers 65,3 thous. sq. km. It has 99 km of coastline. The capital is Vilnius.

The country is bordered to the North by Latvia (610 km frontier), to the East and south by Belarus (724 km) and Poland (110 km), and to the Southwest by the Kaliningrad Region of the Russian Federation (303 km). Including the coastline, its borders total 1,846 km.


The climate is maritime or continental. The annual temperature is +6.1C,and the average temperature in January being -4.9 C and in July +17.0 C.

The mean annual precipitation is 661 mm.

Lithuania is a European nation that regained its independence in 1991, after more than 50 years of forced annexation to the Soviet Union.

Lithuania lies on the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea.

It had been independent from 1918 to 1940, when the Soviet Union occupied it and made it one of the 15 republics of the Soviet Union.



Formal Name: Republic of Lithuania (Lietuvos Respublika).

Short Form: Lithuania (Lietuva).

Term for Citizen(s): Lithuanian(s).

Capital: Vilnius.

Date of Independence: On March 11, 1990, newly elected Lithuanian Supreme Soviet proclaimed independence; Soviet Union granted recognition September 6, 1991. February 16, Independence Day, national holiday; on this day in 1918, independent Republic of Lithuania proclaimed.


Size: 65,200 square kilometers, approximately size of West Virginia.

Topography: Alternating lowlands and highlands; many lakes, particularly in east, and rivers. Fertile soil. Forest and wood-lands 28 percent; mainly pine, spruce, and birch. Arable land 49 percent; meadows and pastureland 22 percent. Highest ele-vation 297 meters.

Climate: Maritime position moderates otherwise continental climate. Average January temperature 1.6°C on coast and 2.1°C in Vilnius; average July temperature 17.8°C on coast and 18.1°C in Vilnius. Average annual precipitation 717 millimeters on coast and 490 millimeters in east.

Data as of January 1995


The Move Toward Independence, 1987-91

The situation did not change until Mikhail S. Gorbachev came to power in 1985. Even then, Lithuania's communist party leadership hesitated to embrace Gorbachev's program of limited economic reforms under his policy of perestroika . The death of Petras Griskevicius, first secretary of the Communist Party of Lithuania, in 1987 did little to improve the atmosphere for reform. The new first secretary, Ringaudas Songaila, was a conservative functionary. But encouraged by new winds from Moscow, Baltic dissidents began in 1987 to hold public demonstrations in Riga, Tallinn, and Vilnius. In 1988, against the wishes of Songaila's regime, Lithuanian, engaged in widespread celebration of the February 16 Independence Day. Lithuanian intellectuals were pushed into taking more forceful action as well. Meeting at the Academy of Sciences on June 3, 1988, communist and noncommunist intellectuals formed "an initiative group" to organize a movement to support Gorbachev's program of glasnost , democratization, and perestroika . A council composed equally of communist party members and nonparty members was chosen to organize the Lithuanian Reconstruction Movement, which became known subsequently simply as Sajudis (Movement). The Communist Party of Lithuania leadership did not like this independent action but, knowing Gorbachev's limited acceptance of "informal" societies, did not interfere with the effort.

The movement supported Gorbachev's policies, but at the same time it promoted Lithuanian national issues such as restoration of the Lithuanian language as the "official" language. Its demands included revelations of the truth about the Stalinist years, protection of the environment, cessation of construction on a third nuclear reactor at the Ignalina nuclear power plant, and disclosure of secret protocols of the Nazi-Soviet Nonaggression Pact. Sajudis used mass meetings to advance its goals. At first, party leaders shunned these meetings, but by mid-1988 their participation became a political necessity. Thus, a Sajudis rally on June 24, 1988, was attended by Algirdas Brazauskas, then party secretary for industrial affairs.

In October 1988, Brazauskas was appointed first secretary of the party to replace Songaila, and Sajudis held its founding conference in Vilnius. It subsequently elected as its chairman Vytautas Landsbergis, a professor of musicology who was not a member of the communist party. In the elections to Moscow's newly authorized Congress of People's Deputies in March-May 1989, Sajudis was victorious. From the communist party, the voters elected only Brazauskas and Vladimiras Beriozovas, his associate, whom Sajudis did not oppose. From that time, Brazauskas cooperated fully with Sajudis. Lithuanian sovereignty--as distinguished from Lithuanian independence, which had been declared on February 16, 1918--was proclaimed in May 1989, and Lithuania's incorporation into the Soviet Union was declared illegal. In August a human chain from Tallinn to Vilnius commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of the Nazi-Soviet Nonaggression Pact. In December Brazauskas forced the Communist Party of Lithuania to secede from the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and to give up its monopoly on power.

But even the separation of the Communist Party of Lithuania from Moscow did not save it in the electoral contest for the Supreme Soviet of the republic in March 1990. In the election, the Communist Party of Lithuania won only twenty-three of the 141 seats. On March 11, the newly elected parliament voted unanimously for independence. Brazauskas lost the election for chairman of the presidium of the Supreme Soviet to Landsbergis.

Moscow did not accept the legality of the independence vote, however; in April 1990, it imposed an economic blockade that lasted for three months, until the Lithuanian legislature, now known as the Supreme Council, agreed to a six-month moratorium on its independence declaration. Later, Moscow obstructed Lithuanian efforts to gain Western recognition, and on January 13, 1991, attempted to use force to remove the Lithuanian government in Vilnius and to reestablish Soviet rule. Although this attempted coup ended in a massacre of civilians--thirteen died, and hundreds were wounded--by the Soviet army, Lithuania's determination did not change. Finally, the failure of the August 1991 coup in Moscow permitted Lithuania to regain self-determination and prompted the international community to recognize it as an independent state. The United States extended recognition on September 2, and the Soviet Union did so on September 6. Lithuania was admitted to the United Nations on September 16, 1991.

Physical Environment

Lithuania is situated on the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea. Lithuania's boundaries have changed several times since 1918, but they have been stable since 1945 . Currently, Lithuania covers an area of about 65,200 square kilometers. About the size of West Virginia, it is larger than Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, or Switzerland.

Lithuania's northern neighbor is Latvia. The two countries share a border that extends 453 kilometers. Lithuania's eastern border with Belarus is longer, stretching 502 kilometers. The border with Poland on the south is relatively short, only ninety-one kilometers, but is very busy because of international traffic. Lithuania also has a 227-kilometer border with Russia. Russian territory adjacent to Lithuania is Kaliningrad Oblast, which is the northern part of the former German East Prussia, including the city of Kaliningrad. Finally, Lithuania has 108 kilometers of Baltic seashore with an ice-free harbor at Klaipeda. The Baltic coast offers sandy beaches and pine forests and attracts thousands of vacationers.

Data as of January 1995


Topography, Drainage, and Climate

Lithuania lies at the edge of the East European Plain. Its landscape was shaped by the glaciers of the last Ice Age. Lithuania's terrain is an alternation of moderate lowlands and highlands.The highest elevation is 297 meters above sea level, found in the eastern part of the republic and separated from the uplands of the western region of Zemaiciai by the very fertile plains of the southwestern and central regions. The landscape is punctuated by 2,833 lakes larger than one hectare and an additional 1,600 ponds smaller than one hectare. The majority of the lakes are found in the eastern part of the country. Lithuania also has 758 rivers longer than ten kilometers. The largest river is the Nemunas (total length 917 kilometers), which originates in Belarus. The other larger waterways are the Neris (510 kilometers), Venta (346 kilometers), and Sesupe (298 kilometers) rivers. However, only 600 kilometers of Lithuania's rivers are navigable.

The country's climate, which ranges between maritime and continental, is relatively mild. Average temperatures on the coast are 1.6°C in January and 17.8°C in July. In Vilnius the average temperatures are 2.1°C in January and 18.1°C in July. Average annual precipitation is 717 millimeters on the coast and 490 millimeters in the eastern part of the country. The growing season lasts 202 days in the western part of the country and 169 days in the eastern part.

Once a heavily forested land, Lithuania's territory today consists of only 28 percent woodlands--mainly pine, spruce, and birch forests. Ash and oak are very scarce. The forests are rich in mushrooms and berries.

The Environment

Concerned with environmental deterioration, Lithuanian governments have created several national parks and reservations. The country's flora and fauna have suffered, however, from an almost fanatical drainage of land for agricultural use. Environmental problems of a different nature were created by the development of environmentally unsafe industries, including the Ignalina nuclear power plant, which still operates two reactors similar to those at Chornobyl' (Chernobyl' in Russian), and the chemical and other industries that pollute the air and empty wastes into rivers and lakes. According to calculations by experts, about one-third of Lithuanian territory is covered by polluted air at any given time. Problems exist mainly in the cities, such as Vilnius, Kaunas, Jonava, Mazeikiai, Elektrenai, and Naujoji Akmene--the sites of fertilizer and other chemical plants, an oil refinery, power station, and a cement factory. Water quality also is poor. The city of Kaunas, with a population of more than 400,000, still has no water purification plant. Only one-quarter of sewage-contaminated water in the republic is processed because cleaning facilities are not yet available. River and lake pollution also is a legacy of Soviet carelessness with the environment. The Kursiu Marios (Courland Lagoon), for example, separated from the Baltic Sea by a strip of high dunes and pine forests, is about 85 percent contaminated. Beaches in the Baltic resorts, such as the well-known vacation area of Palanga, are frequently closed for swimming because of contamination. Forests affected by acid rain are found in the vicinity of Jonava, Mazeikiai, and Elektrenai, which are the chemical, oil, and power-generation centers.

As a Soviet republic, Lithuania was among the first to introduce environmental regulations. However, because of Moscow's emphasis on increasing production and because of numerous local violations, technological backwardness, and political apathy, serious environmental problems now exist.

Data as of January 1995


Natural Resources

Lithuania's landscape is pleasing to the eye but modest in natural resources. The republic has an abundance of limestone, clay, quartz sand, gypsum sand, and dolomite, which are suitable for making high-quality cement, glass, and ceramics. There also is an ample supply of mineral water, but energy sources and industrial materials are all in short supply. Oil was discovered in Lithuania in the 1950s, but only a few wells operate, and all that do are located in the western part of the country. It is estimated that the Baltic Sea shelf and the western region of Lithuania hold commercially viable amounts of oil, but when exploited this oil will satisfy only about 20 percent of Lithuania's annual need for petroleum products for the next twenty years. Lithuania has a large amount of thermal energy along the Baltic Sea coast, however, which could be used to heat hundreds of thousands of homes, as is done in Iceland. In addition, iron ore deposits have been found in the southern region of Lithuania. But commercial exploitation of these deposits probably would require strip mining, which is environmentally unsound. Moreover, exploitation of these resources will depend on Lithuania's ability to attract capital and technology from abroad.

Data as of January 1995

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