Main facts about the country
Geography: Lithuania takes up 65,300km², a similar size to Ireland, a bit more than Switzerland or Denmark, but a bit less than Austria. It is situated in the northern part of Eastern Europe. Lithuania borders four countries: Latvia to the north (588 km), Belarus to the east and south (660 km), Poland to the south (103 km) and the Kaliningrad region of Russia to the southwest (273 km).
Seashore: The Baltic Sea washes the lovely 99km coastline in the west of the country, which is covered with majestic pines, long beaches and dunes.
Population: 3.48 million (81.5% Lithuanian, 8.1% Russian, 6.9% Polish, 1.2% Belarusian; there are also Ukrainians, Germans, Latvians, Jews, Tartars, Armenians, Roma and other nationalities).
Religion: According to the most recent population census, 2.8 million Lithuanian citizens consider themselves Catholic. Other faiths are also to be found, including Russian Orthodox, Evangelical Reformers and Lutherans. Karaims and Tartars, who were originally brought to Lithuania as guards and fighters for the Lithuanian Grand Duchy in the 15th century, have kept their Muslim-based religious identity. Jews, persecuted across Europe throughout the Middle Ages, found shelter in Lithuania, as did many of the Old Believers of the Russian Orthodox faith.
Language: Lithuanian is an archaic language derived from Sanskrit, with 32 letters. Some people in the larger cities also speak Russian, Polish, English and German as their native tongue.
Capital: Vilnius (533,900 people)
Other cities: Kaunas (373,700), Klaipėda (201,800), Šiauliai (133,900), Panevėžys (119,000), Alytus (71,600), Marijampolė (52,100).
Administrative divisions: 10 regions, 60 municipalities.
Ethnographic areas: Aukštaitija (in the centre and north of the country), Dzūkija (south), Suvalkija (south-west), Žemaitija (north-west).
Climate: Summers are generally warm and sunny with an average temperature of +17 C. The highest known temperature, +37.5 C, was registered in 1994. Winters, however, are white and cold. The average winter temperature is – 4.9 C, but the lowest recorded temperature was a bone-shattering – 42.9 C in 1956.
Local time: GMT+2 hrs.
Currency: The litas (LTL) consists of 100 centas. It was introduced in 1922 and restored in 1993. The currency rate is connected to the euro at 3.4528 Lt = 1 €. Exchange rates are available at www.lb.lt
State system: Lithuania is an independent, democratic republic. The main principles of modern democracy and the country’s political and social system are sealed in the Constitution, which was ratified on 25 October 1992. The Lithuanian Parliament is called the Seimas. It is the highest body of state power and consists of 141 members of Parliament. The head of the state is the president, elected directly by the citizens. The prime minister is appointed or dismissed by the president with the approval of the Seimas. The government consists of 13 ministers.
National flag: Three horizontal stripes equal in width – strong yellow, rich green and crimson red. The yellow symbolises prosperity, the green means hope, the red represents life.
State emblem: Known as the Vytis – a mounted knight in silver armour holding a sword with a golden handle. This was the old flag of the Lithuanian Grand Duchy until the 18th century.