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
total: 1,273 km
border countries: Belarus 502 km, Latvia 453 km, Poland 91
km, Russia (Kaliningrad) 227 km
Coastline: 99 km
territorial sea: 12 nm
Climate: transitional, between maritime and continental;
wet, moderate winters and summers
Terrain: lowland, many scattered small lakes, fertile soil
lowest point: Baltic Sea 0 m
highest point: Juozapines/Kalnas 292 m
Natural resources: peat, arable land
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
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
+6.1°C,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
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).
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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